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To Do Good Again
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

THE KITE RUNNER
THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE
INTO THE WILD
RENDITION
48 HOURS
THE NATIVITY STORY
THE NEW NETWORK SEASON
AWAKE MY SOUL
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



THE KITE RUNNER

THE KITE RUNNER (A-3, PG-13): Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada), the son of the family’s servant, are childhood friends in Afghanistan, before the Soviet invasion. Amir loves writing stories, as his deceased mother did. But his father, Baba (Homayon Ershadi, Color of Friend), disapproves and wants Amir to be a doctor.

When Amir and Hassan are confronted by Assef (Abdul Salam Yusoufzai), Hassan scares off the bully. But Assef gets revenge on Hassan after a kite competition, with a frightened Amir watching. Hassan is never the same after the attack, and Amir is ashamed of his cowardice. Then when the Soviets advance, Amir and his father flee to the United States.

Years later, during the time of the Taliban, Amir (Khalid Abdalla, United 93) has married and sold his first novel. Rahim Kahn (Shaun Toub, Crash), his father’s former business partner, invites Amir to come back to Afghanistan to rescue Hassan’s son, Sohrab (Ali Dinesh), as a way “to do good again.”

Directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) and based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, this film is a flawless adaptation. Homayon Ershadi as Baba deserves Oscar attention. The child actors (in particular Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada as Hassan) are wonderful.

The themes (friendship, reconciliation with self, neighbor and God, restitution, the struggle to integrate being good and doing good, the influence of uncontrollable social class and social forces), combined with interesting cinematography, good direction and a fine screenplay, make this one of the year’s best films. (Mostly in Farsi, with English subtitles.) Non-graphic rape scene, violence, peril.

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THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE

THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE (A-3, R): Steve Burke (David Duchovny, The X-Files) is a prosperous real-estate developer, the loving father of two and happily married to Audrey (Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball). When Steve encounters a man hitting a woman, he intervenes and is killed.

The devastated Audrey sends her brother, Neal (Omar Benson Miller, Shall We Dance?), to find Jerry Sunborne (Benicio del Toro), Steve’s friend since childhood. Jerry, a former lawyer, is now a heroin addict living in squalor. Audrey knows that Steve, who never gave up on Jerry, would want Jerry at his funeral.

Audrey invites Jerry to live in their newly renovated garage that had burned. He gets along well with the children and neighbors, and begins to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

This is a touching, intimate film. The closeups reveal the inner strength that people can frequently show in coping with tragedy and personal failure. They may have lost things in a long-ago fire, but Steve’s family and friends have one another. Problem language and drug use.

INTO THE WILD (A-3, R) is based on the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch, The Emperor’s Club), who graduated in 1990 from Emory College in Atlanta, gave away $24,000 in savings and disappeared.

He sets off on an odyssey, giving up most of what he owns as he hikes west, kayaks down the Colorado River to Mexico, hitchhikes north to the Dakotas, working toward his goal: spiritual freedom and Alaska. Along the way, he burns his driver’s license and takes a new name: Alexander Supertramp.

He becomes friends with many people, including aging hippies and Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook, The Firm), a lonely widower who is a practicing Catholic.

In Alaska, McCandless goes into the wilderness with the desire to live off the land. He lives in an abandoned bus and is, at first, blithely happy with his freedom, faithfully keeping his journal. He dies tragically.

Director Sean Penn (Mystic River) has created a striking, spiritual film that evokes the ethos of the 1960s. The film is based on the best-selling book by Jon Krakauer (Under the Banner of Heaven) who, in my opinion, is the finest nonfiction writer in America today. Hal Holbrook’s performance is Oscar-worthy.

The McCandless family cooperated with the filmmakers, perhaps as a cautionary tale for other parents. As a child of the 1960s, I felt this film deeply.

This is a thought-provoking road trip about one man’s search for freedom and what he learned along the way: True happiness is achieved only when we share goodness with others. Rough language and some nudity.

RENDITION (A-3, R) is a chilling political thriller from director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi). A permanent resident of the United States who is originally from Egypt is selected for extraordinary “rendition” (torture for information in a foreign jail by foreign military or police while the C.I.A. observes).

This film focuses on the cold horror of political inquisition that has been a reality since the Clinton Administration. It asks: “Do the ends ever justify the means?” Not according to Catholic teaching. Torture and drug use.

48 HOURS (PG-13) is the story of a young Irish lad who has a fatal illness. He sets out on a journey of faith looking for God and a miracle. He meets another boy and a young man who are on their own journeys. An exceedingly quiet, extended meditation on living and dying; some violence and problem language.

THE NATIVITY STORY, including special features, will be available for Christmas. (For more information about this 2006 film, see www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Dec2006/Feature1.asp.)

THE NEW NETWORK SEASON: My favorite new television program is Moonlight (CBS, Fridays), a genre-blend of the ever-popular police procedural and supernatural thriller about a benevolent vampire (Alex O’Loughlin). Its premise explores the meaning of the struggle of good and evil and engages viewers.

My next favorite is Life (NBC, Wednesdays), about a wrongly convicted police officer (Damian Lewis) who is vindicated and reinstated in his job after 12 years in prison. His peculiar way of solving crimes is engaging and different.

Life Is Wild (CW, Sundays) is about a veterinarian (D. W. Moffett) who moves with his family from New York to South Africa for a year. It’s filmed on location. Although I’ve seen only one episode so far, I enjoyed it.

Private Practice (ABC, Wednesdays) is the spin-off from the hugely popular Grey’s Anatomy. The setting is an expensive clinic in Santa Monica, California. The ensemble cast is solid but it’s not on my “must-see” list yet.

Pushing Daisies (ABC, Wednesdays) is a brightly illustrated fantasy-comedy, a CSI-kind of show about a pie-maker (Lee Pace) with the dubious and complicated gift of bringing people back to life, solving the mysteries of their deaths and, hopefully, collecting the rewards. It’s quirky and different.

AWAKE MY SOUL (PBS, check local listings): This documentary focuses on sacred harp singing, the oldest surviving form of American music (www.awakemysoul.com). “Sacred harp” refers to the unaccompanied human voice, the instrument given by God, as featured in the films Cold Mountain and Gangs of New York. Fascinating.

THE GAME PLAN (A-1, PG): Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays a professional football player who discovers he has a young daughter, charmingly played by Madison Pettis. I liked the respect the film gives the ballet-vs.-football theme. It avoids the “chick flick” slur often used to characterize films that show strong women—and girls. Unexpectedly entertaining family viewing with a positive message for fathers.

EASTERN PROMISES (L, R): Viggo Mortensen is a chauffeur to London’s Russian mob boss. David Cronenberg’s latest drama once again explores extreme violence and great goodness within a man and between people (A History of Violence). Riveting and intelligent but not everyone’s preference; brutal violence and explicit sexuality.

SHOOT 'EM UP (O, R) is a way-over-the-top violent, convoluted black comedy that questions gun control. Clive Owen (Children of Men) goes up against bad cop Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man). Owen proves he could have been James Bond. Smart enough but very bottom-drawer entertainment. Graphic violence, sexuality and problem language.

PRIMO LEVI’S JOURNEY (not rated): Based on Primo Levi’s The Truce, this documentary traces the writer and scientist’s journey back to Italy after he was liberated from the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945. The film asks the audience to reflect on the end of the latest geopolitical truce, which began with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, and ended on September 11, 2001. When will the next truce come and what will it mean for humanity?

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

USCCB Movie Review Line: 1-800-311-4222, www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm

At www.CatholicMovieReviews.org, readers can search Sister Rose's and hundreds of other film reviews.

 


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