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by Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP


The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Cindy Green (Jennifer Garner) is a guide at a pencil museum. Her husband, Jim (Joel Edgerton), is a manager at the small midwestern town’s key industry: a pencil factory. They meet with adoption counselors to express why they would make good parents.

When Cindy and Jim learn that their efforts to have a child fail, they are crushed. To heal, they write the characteristics of their dream child on small pieces of paper, place them in a box, and bury it in the garden. Now they can move on. But during a thunderstorm that very night, a young boy appears covered in mud. His name is Timothy (played by CJ Adams), and he has green leaves growing from his legs.

Cindy and Jim are astonished and accept Timothy as a gift, despite the challenges of explaining his origins and the green leaves to family and friends. Kids bully Timothy, but he makes friends with Joni (Odeya Rush), who is also different. Timothy loves nature and thrives in the sunlight.

The film, written and directed by Peter Hedges, is a charming fantasy parable about life, adoption, and care for the earth. It is crafted with gentle humor, love for humanity, respect for creation, and parenting—all rich themes for catechesis.

Not yet rated, PG ■ Thematic elements.

The Dark Knight Rises
After eight years, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) has finally rid Gotham of its criminal element, but he conspired to cover up deceased District Attorney Harvey Dent’s crimes and implicated Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in his murder. Bruce has spent these years as a recluse at Wayne Manor. Now, Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked mercenary, has come to rid Gotham of the dominance of Wayne Enterprises and replace the city’s new civic order with anarchy.

Bane targets a nuclear reactor that Fox (Morgan Freeman) has been keeping for a peace project along with other weapons to prevent them from ill use. Against the wishes of his faithful butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), Bruce returns to Wayne Enterprises. But when he is voted off the board, he asks Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a humanitarian, to take his place. Meanwhile Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), makes a pact with Bane to obtain information she needs.

Director/writer Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is one of the most dramatic renditions in the comic book-into-movie genre. He fills each moment of the almost three-hour film, but the emphasis is on action over the drama that we have come to expect. There is no real character development.

The shooting last July at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, has marred the experience of this film for many. The film employs violence to resolve conflict—albeit bloodless.

This continual failure to show the consequences of violence—even in a fantasy genre, whether on film, TV, or in video games—may prevent vulnerable audiences from seeking other ways to solve problems and to realize their actions can hurt people.

A-III, PG-13 ■ Action violence, peril, mature themes.

The Amazing Spider-Man
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) grows up with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) because his parents disappeared when he was a baby. When Peter comes across his father’s briefcase, he learns of his scientific work to crossbreed species. Peter contacts his dad’s old partner, the one-armed Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), head of the research company Oscorp Industries.

A lab spider bites Peter and this begins his transformation into Spider-Man. He and a fellow student, Gwen (Emma Stone), share an interest in science, but her dad, Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), does not approve. When Dr. Connors decides to cross his genes with a lizard to regenerate his arm, the scene is set for Spider-Man to emerge.

This most recent Spider-Man movie is a coming of age story. Peter struggles with adult issues, such as taking responsibility for his own actions and choosing to act to solve crimes and protect the city’s people. His changing body stands in for the many changes adolescents go through as they strive to define themselves.

The emphasis on character, so well developed in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 (2004), continues in this latest installment. I liked the story, and the performances were solid. I was disappointed in the ending, but we can expect a sequel or two that may offset that final scene.

A-III, PG-13 ■ Action violence and peril; mature themes.

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

The USCCB's Office for Film and Broadcasting gives these ratings. See www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm.

Find reviews by Sister Rose and others at www.CatholicMovieReviews.org.

Thank you for your comments. Editors will review all posts before they are visible on the website.

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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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