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Won't Back Down View Comments
by Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP


Won't Back Down
Jamie (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a single mom in urban Pittsburgh, struggling to support her 7-year-old daughter, Malia (Emily Alyn Lind). At Malia’s new school, Jamie learns that while some teachers are very effective, not every teacher or administrator has the best interests of students at heart.

There is no extra help for Malia, whose teacher is the highest paid but with the lowest job performance for the past several years. Overall, the school is failing. Jamie tries to enroll Malia in private school, but she cannot afford it.

Nona (Viola Davis) is a mom and a teacher at the school whose marriage is failing. While she is concerned about the level of teaching, she is reluctant to take action. Jamie and Nona evoke the “parent trigger law” to take over the school’s administration and form a charter school.

The two women and the other teachers they engage in their cause run up against every administrative hurdle possible. The head of the teachers’ union, Oscar-winner Holly Hunter, tries to bribe Jamie to send Malia to private school. The school board puts up every block possible and has a history of denying petitions on the smallest pretext.

Won’t Back Down is a movie with a message and a mission. Walden Media co-produced the very important Waiting for Superman (2010), an unflinching documentary that examined failing public education in the United States as well as successful innovations. Now the education-centered company wants to bring the debate about public education to mainstream America by putting the good of children firmly at the center of this story.

Won’t Back Down has a brilliant cast. While the script employs everything we’ve heard about the reasons for our failing schools, it deftly pushes away every excuse for change in order to motivate audiences— and citizens—to pay attention and act for the sake of children.

Not yet rated, PG--Thematic elements.

The Bourne Legacy
Jason Bourne has gone underground and exposed two possibly illegal Department of Defense “black” operations. At the same time, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), part of the secret project “Operation Outcome,” makes his way across the state of Alaska. He is almost a superman because he takes special chemicals that enhance his physical and mental abilities through genetic manipulation.

Aaron pretends he has lost his medication in view of obtaining extra when he reaches the operational outpost. When a government drone destroys it, Aaron heads to Washington, DC, to obtain more little blue pills from the source.

But the Department of Defense has set in motion a self-destruction protocol for those involved in these black ops, including the lab workers who developed them. Aaron tracks down a research doctor, Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), and convinces her to go to Manila to survive and to obtain the pills from the manufacturer.

The film asks—in typical heart-pounding Bourne technique—if the ends justify the means in today’s ethical quagmire of world events created by the powerful. Considering this makes the film worth seeing.

A-3, PG-13--Action violence, peril, mature themes.

Sparkle
Three sisters, Sparkle (American Idol-winner Jordin Sparks), Sister (Carmen Ejogo), and Dee (Tika Sumpter), live on the fringe of the waning music scene in 1968 Detroit. Sister is now 30 and just returned home after disappointment in New York. Dee wants to be a doctor, and Sparkle writes lyrics.

The group performs one of Sparkle’s songs and impresses a music executive, Stix (Derek Luke), who is attracted to Sparkle. A ladies’ man and sometime comedian, Satin Struthers (Mike Epps), and Sister are attracted to each other and later marry with devastating results.

Emma (the late Whitney Houston) is mother to the sisters and disapproves of their being anywhere near the music industry. She was a singer and is a recovering alcoholic, now dedicated to the church and Bible study, certain that this is the only way for her daughters to succeed.

Sparkle is a message movie that promises music but doesn’t really deliver until the very end.

This film seems more like a cautionary tale about the life of Whitney Houston herself, who died earlier this year, and whose one song in the film appears to confirm this.

A-3, PG-13--Mature themes, drug use, domestic violence.

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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