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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Super 8

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Perhaps a fitting alternative title for "Super 8" (Paramount) -- writer-director J.J. Abrams' able blend of nostalgia, drama and sci-fi thrills -- might be "Stand By Me Meets Godzilla."

Like its 1986 predecessor, in which a quartet of boys from rural Oregon set off through the woods in search of a rumored corpse, this is a look at youthful enthusiasm and the ties of friendship set against a background of ominous events.

Here the friends are a half-dozen teens from a rustbelt town in 1979 Ohio whose love of movies has prompted them to use the eponymous technology to produce a zombie flick they hope eventually to enter in a local festival.

Presiding over their endearingly amateur endeavor is would-be auteur Charles (Riley Griffiths). Charles' dictatorial tendencies on set are echoed in everyday life by his bossiness toward his best buddy (and makeup artist) Joe, played by Joel Courtney.

Joe's involvement in the project helps distract him from his strained relationship with his recently widowed father Jack (Kyle Chandler), the deputy sheriff of the area's police force, as well as from his own unresolved grief over the loss of his thoroughly devoted mom.

Charles' relentless search for "production values" leads his team—which also includes withdrawn but comely fellow student Alice (Elle Fanning) in the role of heroine—to a nearby railroad station for a clandestine midnight shoot. But things take an unexpected turn when they witness -- and their camera captures -- a mysterious train accident.

Though the military arrives in force the next morning, trying to conceal the truth about the incident, the wreck sets in motion a series of odd and portentous happenings Jack is determined to investigate.

Gently handled themes of bereavement, first love and family reconciliation, meanwhile, add depth to this wry horror homage as Joe and Alice (the latter, we learn, has domestic troubles of her own) form a touching bond through their shared vulnerabilities.

These romantic elements are kept enjoyably innocent. But the steady saltiness of the onscreen ensemble's vocabulary makes "Super 8" unsuitable viewing for their real-world contemporaries. That's too bad because there's much on offer here from which younger viewers might otherwise profit.

The film contains much action violence with some gore, drug use and references, several instances of profanity as well as at least one rough and many crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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