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Project X

John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Put religion in retreat, erode ethics and let materialism run rampant, and what kind of entertainment will you get? The short answer is "Project X" (Warner Bros.).

More troubling than mere trash, and pornographic in a way that goes well beyond its frequent displays of flesh, this profoundly irresponsible undertaking — a would-be comedy — concerns three Los Angeles teens: meek, easily misled Thomas (Thomas Mann), overweight nebbish JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and pleased-with-himself provocateur Costa (Oliver Cooper).

Desperate to become popular and, of course, to have animalistic sex with random strangers, the trio throws a decadent party that eventually morphs into a destructive riot. That last word is not used metaphorically. The proceedings — which we're supposed to be viewing through the camera of another adolescent, gloomy Goth Dax (Dax Flame) — eventually involve a flamethrower, a fire department helicopter and a police SWAT team.

The outcome of it all? Not only do the lads gain the admiration of their high school peers, at least one of their parents, surveying the devastation they've wrought the morning after, implicitly congratulates his son, whom he had earlier labeled a loser.

If that sounds harsh, it's because the only bond of affection that means anything to these characters is that which unites Thomas and his dog. Naturally, Thomas is also given a love interest in the person of his friend-turned-hook-up-partner Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). But Thomas' capability for committed relationship building seems to run about as deep as Kirby's diaphanous good looks.

Still, Thomas is at least marginally sympathetic. Not so the leering, acerbic Costa. Though he makes reference, in passing, to his Jewish heritage, Costa is the embodiment of neopagan barbarism — a swilling, drug-loving 18-year-old lout anxious to pillage and fornicate, if not rape, his way through Left Coast suburbia.

Indeed, taken as a whole, Nima Nourizadeh's first feature serves as a collective portrait of soulless, over-privileged zombies wandering a world of sterile secularism, enslaved by their basest passions. As such, it's anything but funny; in reality, it's grotesquely tragic.

The film contains perverted values; strong sexual content, including voyeurism, underage casual sex and same-sex kissing as well as upper female and rear nudity; drug use; a few instances of profanity; and pervasive rough and crude language. 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.

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog I discovered that my sins had created a spiritual racket that drowned out the gentle whispers of God to my soul; God had never actually abandoned me, but I needed repentance and sacramental grace to reawaken all that was good and beautiful in me.

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