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In the Beginning
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

Inception
Toy Story 3
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
CBS Sunday Morning
Film Capsules
Catholic Classifications



Inception

INCEPTION (A-3, PG-13): Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island) is an expert at corporate espionage. He induces dreams in his subjects so that he can steal their ideas. It's more complicated than this, however. He needs the help of an architect to build shape-shifting subconscious versions of reality to extract those secrets. This line of work has cost Cobb dearly. He has lost his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard, Nine), and children. Cobb seems harshly adrift in a world between dreams and reality, beyond time in an ever-present now.

Previously, Cobb had relied on his father, Miles (Michael Caine, The Dark Knight), for architectural help. But when Cobb is offered a chance to get his wife back and be reunited with his children, he needs a team and a new architect who can bend reality. Miles introduces him to a gifted and visionary student, Ariadne (Ellen Page, Juno). Cobb asks her to build a conceptual maze as a way to plant an idea through inception rather than extract one.

If Cobb succeeds, the industrialist Saito (Ken Watanabe, Memoirs of a Geisha) will be able to induce a competitor, Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy, The Dark Knight), to sell off a company he has just inherited, to Saito's benefit. The reward for success is that Cobb will get his life back.

Writer/director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) spent 10 years crafting the script for Inception. Not only does it evoke comparisons with his back-and-forth 2000 film Memento but also with the Wachowski brothers' The Matrix trilogy.

Memento is about amnesia, regret and revenge, and The Matrix deals with how we know reality, among many other themes. <i>Inception</i> seems to take visual and special-effects cues from The Matrix as well. A unique aspect of Inception, however, is that Nolan controls the narrative by disrupting the concept of linear time by stacking time in simultaneous descending and ascending levels of dream and nightmare reality.

One of my Facebook friends said the film made him compare living in reality to a dream world. Another friend went deeper: "To me, Inception explores how the mind creates reality through perceptions and projections, and questions the nature of reality. Once ideas are planted, those ideas lead to actions with consequences that play out to their inevitable end, unless there is some disruption, some twist, some improvisation, a choice."

The Swiss psychologist of dreams, Carl Jung (1875-1961), once said, "All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination?" Inception is about regret, change and the attempt to return home, in the hope that things will be different. One question I had is about the violence in the film. Dreams can be nightmares, of course, and therefore violent in nature—a contest to figure out experience, fear and anxiety. I wonder if the film could have been even cleverer without so much blood and violence.

Inception is a science-fiction roller-coaster ride through the subconscious and conscience, and if you cannot figure it out or follow its path, no worries. When you wake up, you won't remember most of it nor will you be able to unravel what it all means. Some movies are just that: dreams. Violence and some crass language.

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Toy Story 3

TOY STORY 3 (A-1, G): In the original Pixar/Disney CGI animated Toy Story (1995), Woody (voice of Tom Hanks), one of Andy's toys, is afraid of being replaced when Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen) lands on Andy's bed. Buzz's presence threatens the complacency of Andy's entire toy community.

In Toy Story 2 (1999), Woody, Buzz and the other toys fear being sold, and in Toy Story 3 Woody and the others fear being given away and abandoned. (In all three films John Morris is the voice of Andy and Laurie Metcalf is the voice of Andy's mom.)

Andy is on his way to college and his mom wants to give his toys to a preschool. To the dismay of all the toys, Andy chooses to take Woody with him to college—and he is happy to be going. But all the toys end up in a kind of playroom hell dominated by a purple stuffed bear that smells like strawberries.

Andy's toys are creative problem-solvers who believe in teamwork to escape their fate. They find solutions to all the conflicts in the film and thus offer audiences of all ages valuable lessons in peacemaking, community and family.

The theme of abandonment goes deep, however. A friend told me that the film mirrored her own experience of being adopted, a perspective I had not thought of before. Toy Story 3 is more emotional than the previous films.

One of the most delightful things about Toy Story 3 is the translation of Randy Newman's Oscar-nominated song "You've Got a Friend in Me" into Spanish: "Tienes un amigo en mí." Just as Andy's toys form a community of diversity, rendering the song in Spanish not only broadens the audience for the film but also acknowledges that growing numbers of filmgoers in the United States speak Spanish. Some intense scenes may frighten young children.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE (A-2, PG- 13): Best-selling author Stephenie Meyer's vampire empire continues to grow with the success of each new Twilight film. In this third installment, the love triangle among Bella (Kristen Stewart), vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) intensifies and further complicates life for the characters and their human-vampire-wolf families.

Bella is still in danger from the Volturi—aggressive vampires who almost killed her and Edward in last year's New Moon. So the wolves, natural enemies of vampires, form an alliance to protect Bella. The drama in this continuing adolescent love story ultimately culminates in the desire that Bella and Edward have for one another—the attraction of Jake's sculptured physique and love for Bella notwithstanding.

Meyer has stated, however, that the stories are about love, not lust. In fact, though Bella wants to have sex with Edward, he refuses, preferring to wait until they are married. This plot point makes some viewers happy because it affirms family and Christian values. But the deeper reality is that Edward controls the relationship and, ultimately, it is Bella who bears the burden of its success because she will have to change.

Edward, a century-old vampire, is incapable of transformation. It is true that Bella "chooses" to be with Edward, but one wonders how an authentic relationship can be built when only one person is willing or able to change, and therefore grow. When Meyer's fourth novel in the series, Breaking Dawn, is released in two parts in 2011 and 2012, we will find out. Meanwhile, the deep, sexual longing between the characters is kept alive through heavy breathing, camera close-ups of beautiful people and heated glances. Fantasy violence.

CBS SUNDAY MORNING: This 90-minute Sunday morning newsmagazine has been on the air since 1979 and it deserves recognition. It was created by Robert Northshield and Charles Kuralt, who hosted the show until 1994, and Charles Osgood, the current host. I began watching CBS Sunday Morning soon after Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet the Press, died suddenly in 2008. Sunday mornings just weren't the same anymore. So I changed channels and was immediately taken by CBS Sunday Morning's gentle approach to national and world news, current events, Americana and rich human-interest stories from places near and far.

The show is a refreshing break from the scrapes and bruises of political debate and rhetoric (all of which you can record and watch later if you have a digital video recorder, and you can find them on www.Hulu.com as well). While all television—indeed, all forms of information and entertainment media—requires our thoughtful inquiry and analysis, CBS Sunday Morning gives viewers a chance to take a breath of fresh air.

 

KNIGHT AND DAY (A-3, PG-13): Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz reunite (Vanilla Sky in 2001 was their last collaboration) in a spy caper that is high on action and low on the characters who are attractive and witty. Unfortunately, the unlikely human story is overwhelmed by endless crashes and chases, including the running of the bulls in Spain. It could have been so much more, but was an enjoyable enough romantic comedy. Action violence, language.

RESTREPO (not yet rated, R): Directors Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger made this heartbreaking documentary about Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. They and their crew were embedded with the unit on assignment to the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan in 2007. It is very difficult to find purpose in their heroic efforts to counter the Taliban and build a road for trade in the area. This may be the best documentary of the year. Language, war violence.

JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK (not yet rated, R): I am not a fan of comedienne Joan Rivers. I find her an annoying presence to be endured. This documentary, however, shows her sharp intelligence, sometimes hilarious and often biting wit, and her vulnerability as America's premier female comic. The film also showcases her relentless work ethic, brass vulgarity and, in stark contrast, her kind heart and personal tragedies. The film won't make my award list, but it does offer insight into the ironic insecurity that drives funny people to make a living off of human foibles and pain. Language and sexual humor.

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
L Limited adult audience
O Morally offensive

The USCCB's Office for Film and Broadcasting gives these ratings. See www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm.

Find reviews by Sister Rose and others at www.CatholicMovieReviews.org.

 


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