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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Straw Dogs

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Dreary Southern stereotypes and grotesque, by-rote violence devalue "Straw Dogs" (Screen Gems), a pointless remake of the 1971 Sam Peckinpah film.

The setting in this version (also an adaptation of the novel "The Siege of Trencher's Farm"), directed and written by Rod Lurie, has been moved from England to deepest Mississippi. David Sumner, the pacifist played by Dustin Hoffman at the center of the original, is now an amiable Beverly Hills screenwriter played by James Marsden.

Sumner and actress wife Amy (Kate Bosworth), recently the star of a TV series, move to her old family home in Blackwater, Miss., so that he can work on a screenplay about the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II. Blackwater is filled with leering drunks with short fuses, and the couple hires Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard), Chris (Billy Lush). Norman (Rhys Coiro) and Bic (Drew Powell) to repair their barn roof. Charlie is Amy's embittered high school sweetheart, resentful of her success and her marriage.

All of this sets the stage for her sexual assault by Charlie and Norman and a hyperviolent extended showdown when Tom Heddon (James Woods), the surly high school football coach, finds that the Sumners are concealing Jeremy (Dominic Purcell), a slow-witted boy his teenage daughter, Janice (Willa Holland), has been pursuing. He and the four roofing boys speed to the house on a pickup truck, and the only question after that is how long it will take for David to "man up" and take them on.

The original film's violence, shocking for its time, was intended to make a statement about what pacifists, or really any person at all, can become when reverting to primitive urges to defend their territory. This version is more like "Deliverance" without the banjo music.

The film contains two violent rapes, implied upper female nudity, frequent sexual banter, gun violence, pervasive gore, pervasive rough and crude language and fleeting profanity. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R —restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service



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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 
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