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By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Pirates, Lawyers and Terminators




PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (A-2, PG-13): British Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce) and his daughter, Elizabeth (Keira Knightly), are traveling to Port Royal in the Caribbean. Their ship comes upon a young boy, Will Turner (later played by Orlando Bloom), who is unconscious and floating on debris. When they see the wreckage of a ship and recognize the work of pirates, Elizabeth steals a pirate's gold medallion from Will's neck before he wakes.

Several years later, Elizabeth is courted by the debonair Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) and Will has become an expert blacksmith who specializes in sword-making. His love for Elizabeth remains undeclared but his devotion is obvious.

On the day Norrington gets a promotion, the renowned pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) swaggers into port, looking for a ship to steal (or as he puts it, "commandeer"). His ship, the Black Pearl, has been stolen by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who left Jack stranded on an island.

Captain Barbossa and his crew attack Port Royal looking for the pirate's medallion so they can get a curse on the crew of the Black Pearl lifted. When they kidnap Elizabeth because she is wearing the medallion, Jack and Will commandeer a royal ship to rescue the girl.

From this point on, the action moves back and forth among the pirate captains, pirate ghosts, Will and Elizabeth with much swashbuckling, sword fighting and outright humor.

The curse has to do with the 822 medallions that were struck from gold stolen by Cortez from the Mayan people. They must all be returned to the pirates' chest and blood offered in a kind of atonement for the curse to be lifted.

Pirates seems right out of the Disney theme parks and includes the song, "A Pirate's Life for Me." The film truly belongs to Johnny Depp, whose Oscar-worthy performance borders on brilliant.

The mindful adult viewer will notice that there are lots of things to talk about with young people, such as history and social justice (the theft of gold from Mexico and Latin America, and its role in sustaining European economies for centuries), increased marketing through video games and hamburger sales, integrity (what it is and who is a person of integrity in the film) and law. (Is a Pirate's Code binding or just guidelines?) Entertaining fun with action-adventure violence; not for young children.


LEGALLY BLONDE 2: RED, WHITE AND BLONDE (A-3, PG-13): Pretty as ever in pink, Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) returns with her dog, Bruiser (a former stray), to champion animal rights. As Elle prepares for her wedding to Harvard law professor Emmett (Luke Wilson), she hires a private detective to track down Bruiser's birth mom so she can come to the wedding, too. The detective finds Bruiser's mom in a cosmetics lab in Boston. When Elle begins a rescue effort for animal rights, she gets fired from her law firm.

Thus, she heads to Washington, D.C., all decked out in red, white and blue, ready to take on the establishment. Elle lands a job with Representative Victoria Rudd (Sally Field), who is willing to back a bill to stop using animals to test cosmetics.

Alas, Elle's new co-workers do not take her seriously, but she makes friends with Sidney (Bob Newhart), the doorman at her Watergate-like apartment complex. Indeed, Elle's goodness, idealism and optimism are challenged when she suffers political betrayal.

Though Legally Blonde 2 lacks much of the crisp writing and timing of its predecessor, the charming Legally Blonde of 2001, this sequel also has a message that is not so much about animal rights and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) as it is about the simplicity of democracy couched in Elle-speak: "If we let those who speak for us compromise our voice, we're in for a bad haircut!"

Elle admits she forgot how to use her own voice because "one honest voice can be louder than a crowd." Hear, hear. Never underestimate the power of pink. Some mild sexual humor; a movie for those who believe in democracy and are willing to question the power-brokers.


TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (O, R): In the first film from this very profitable franchise, The Terminator (1984), the rogue defense system, Skynet, sends the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a cyborg organism, to destroy Sarah Connor even before she gives birth to John. John is to be the future leader of the resistance to Skynet's machines. (Skynet is the evil and alien self-aware computer-defense system built by humans but now battling its creators.) Sarah is saved by Reese, who was sent back from the future to save her. They sleep together, before he is killed defending her from the Terminator. John is born nine months later.

In Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), the Terminator returns to save John, now 12, and his mother from Skynet's machines and prevent Judgment Day, a violent, cataclysmic event that will destroy the human race.

In the new Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, John Connor (Nick Stahl) is in his 20s and his mother has died. Though Judgment Day was supposedly thwarted through the combined efforts of Sarah, young John and the Terminator, John lives "off the grid" so no one can find him and rides his motorcycle from town to town. He carries the weight of the future on his shoulders.

Then, in what seems like a coincidence, John meets an old friend from junior high, Kate Brewster (Claire Danes).

Now Skynet sends T-X (a Terminatrix, played by Kristanna Loken) to destroy John and anyone who will be associated with him in the future—including Kate. The Terminator (still played by Schwarzenegger), an outdated model, reappears again—this time sent from the future by the leader of the human resistance to Skynet and its machines—and it's not John.

Film critic Roger Ebert expressed disappointment with Terminator 3 because it doesn't seem to explore the "big ideas" that helped make Terminator 2 a worthy film. It dealt thoughtfully with the consequences of violence breeding violence, law and order and parenting issues.

But the script for Terminator 3 suffers from too many writers trying too hard to make sense out of another convoluted storyline. Sci-fi action and special effects cannot make up for the lack of coherent writing and a weak plot. Besides, the only character in the story with a moral dilemma is a cyborg.

Rather than ideas per se, Terminator 3 focuses on images of the American flag (as did Legally Blonde 2), the irrelevance of the police, invasion by aliens (the machines invented by American humans), and woman as devil and savior. The destruction of the world (Judgment Day), John realizes, is inevitable. But we (Americans) are meant to survive. There may be more in this excessively violent film to talk about than meets the Terminator's eyeball.


JOAN OF ARCADIA: CBS's new "supernatural drama" is about Joan Agnes Girardi (Amber Tamblyn), a 16-year-old "baptized Catholic" girl who encounters God in her everyday life in not-so-everyday ways. At their first "meeting" she tells God, "I'm not religious," and God says, "It's not about being religious; it's about fulfilling your true nature."

One would think the writers have been reading John Paul II from this kind of dialogue because it's not sentimental religiosity but theologically informed, mature and contemporary. The conversation about "other worldly" things such as the nature of God and divine providence entertains. You never know where or in what human gender, race or age God will show up next.

Joan's father (Joe Mantegna), Arcadia's chief of police, is involved in grisly police work. Mom (Mary Steenburgen) cares for the family that includes 19-year-old Luke (Michael Welch), who is confined to a wheelchair because of a car accident, and 15-year-old science nerd Kevin (Jason Ritter), who experiments with light and logic. During a conversation with Joan he quotes physicist Michael Faraday (1791-1867), who once said, "Nothing is too wonderful to be true."

Like St. Joan of Arc, Joan of Arcadia hears voices and God wants her for a mission. Just what that mission is, we will have to wait and see. This series looks like an evocative and promising drama by Barbara Hall, one of Judging Amy's executive producers and developers. 


Film Capsules

ALEX & EMMA (A-3, PG-13): Lightweight romance loosely based on Dostoyevsky's The Gambler. Kate Hudson is charming and Luke Wilson a good watch, but their talents are not served by a poor script. Wait for the video. Sexual situations.

28 DAYS LATER (A-4, R): A sci-fi thriller/horror movie about the struggle of three people to survive the worldwide outbreak of a blood virus. It's Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick meeting The Omega Man. The film scores some points about man's inhumanity to man and the environment, but it was about 28 days too long for me. Extreme violence, frontal nudity.

Catholic Classifications

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
A-4 Adults, with reservations
O Morally offensive

USCCB Movie Review Line: 1-800-311-4222,

At, readers can search Sister Rose's and hundreds of other film reviews.

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