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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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Peter Chrysologus: A man who vigorously pursues a goal may produce results far beyond his expectations and his intentions. Thus it was with Peter of the Golden Words, as he was called, who as a young man became bishop of Ravenna, the capital of the empire in the West. 
<p>At the time there were abuses and vestiges of paganism evident in his diocese, and these he was determined to battle and overcome. His principal weapon was the short sermon, and many of them have come down to us. They do not contain great originality of thought. They are, however, full of moral applications, sound in doctrine and historically significant in that they reveal Christian life in fifth-century Ravenna. So authentic were the contents of his sermons that, some 13 centuries later, he was declared a doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIII. He who had earnestly sought to teach and motivate his own flock was recognized as a teacher of the universal Church. </p><p>In addition to his zeal in the exercise of his office, Peter Chrysologus was distinguished by a fierce loyalty to the Church, not only in its teaching, but in its authority as well. He looked upon learning not as a mere opportunity but as an obligation for all, both as a development of God-given faculties and as a solid support for the worship of God. </p><p>Some time before his death, St. Peter returned to Imola, his birthplace, where he died around A.D. 450.</p> American Catholic Blog What gives manners their social weight? More than simple etiquette, it’s their message: I am treating you with courtesy because I believe you deserve it. Manners talk respect. It’s not a stretch to hear manners as a small piece of kindness.

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