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Les Misérables View Comments
by Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP


Les Misérables
Director Tom Hooper, who won an Academy Award in 2011 for The King’s Speech, has created a musical masterwork in bringing the famed London musical to the screen. Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel has been made into more than 70 motion pictures since the Lumière Brothers’ 1897 silent version. The novel once had a place on the Vatican’s “Index of Forbidden Books” but was granted a reprieve in 1959 and lives again in theaters everywhere.

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) has spent 19 years in prison, condemned to hard labor for stealing bread for his sister’s family. Just before Valjean’s release, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) tells him he must report monthly or his parole will be revoked and he will be sent back to prison.

Once free, the angry Valjean accepts hospitality from a bishop and then steals the silver. When police capture him, the bishop says he gave the silver as a gift. This act of mercy puts Valjean on a path of righteousness, but he skips parole and becomes a factory owner and mayor of a town.

A young, unmarried woman, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), is cast out of his factory though she is supporting a young daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen as a child; Amanda Seyfried in later years). Valjean promises to care for her as Fantine is dying. Javert shows up again, and in a series of events, Valjean flees with Cosette to Paris to live in solitude until the revolution is revived.

Les Misérables is a profoundly Christian story bursting with themes from the Gospels, the sacraments, the creed, and morality. The actors sing live, and we see every emotion through intimate camera shots. At almost three hours in length, fans of the musical will be pleased, and my guess is there will not be a dry eye in the house.

A-3, PG-13 ■ Battle and gun violence, prostitution, mature themes.

Zero Dark Thirty
In the years immediately following the 9/11 attacks, the CIA uses enhanced interrogation methods to break men suspected of being part of al-Qaeda’s network in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. At a secret location, CIA analyst Maya (Jessica Chastain) looks on as Dan (Jason Clarke) uses waterboarding and other means to get a man to talk.

Maya is new at the US Embassy in Pakistan and spends years tracking people until a file clerk discovers a link that had been overlooked years before. After Maya survives the explosion at a Marriott hotel and an assassination attack, she returns to Washington, DC, where she tries to get her superiors to act on the information she has developed. A team of Navy SEALs is finally dispatched in May 2010.

Director Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win a best director Oscar, for 2008’s The Hurt Locker, is very comfortable making tough movies about aspects of life and human behavior that are difficult, if not unnerving, to ponder.

The cinematography in Zero Dark Thirty gives the impression of being in the war zone, though this is not a documentary. It is fascinating to follow the thread of discovery to bin Laden’s location and to learn the new post-9/11 “craft” of pursuit and evasion. It is less thrilling to watch as bin Laden and several others are killed.

The psychological letdown for both the military and Maya is palpable. Bigelow and writer Mark Boal tell a good story, but, in the end, I think they may be saying that peace is more elusive than ever.

Not yet rated, PG ■ Torture, violence, disturbing images, war, language.

Parental Guidance
Artie Decker (Billy Crystal) loves his job as a sports announcer for the minor league baseball team in Fresno, California, but dreams of working for the San Francisco Giants. When he’s suddenly let go from his job, he and his wife, Diane (Bette Midler), are asked by their daughter, Alice (Marisa Tomei), to babysit for their three grandkids in Atlanta while she and her husband, Phil (Tom Everett Scott), are on a trip.

Alice and Phil live in a modernized house and raise their kids with a lot of rules. The grandparents arrive, but Alice doesn’t trust them and returns from the airport just in time to see chaos erupt.

The previews make this film look like a silly comedy, but it is actually a warm, rich story about parenting, reconciliation, forgiveness, and love that transcends generations. It’s also about baseball. The windup is a little on the slow side, but, by the end, the film hits a grand slam. I am very happy to call Parental Guidance a true family film.

A-1, PG ■ Some rude humor.

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.

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Ansgar: The “apostle of the north” (Scandinavia) had enough frustrations to become a saint—and he did. He became a Benedictine at Corbie, France, where he had been educated. Three years later, when the king of Denmark became a convert, Ansgar went to that country for three years of missionary work, without noticeable success. Sweden asked for Christian missionaries, and he went there, suffering capture by pirates and other hardships on the way. Fewer than two years later, he was recalled, to become abbot of New Corbie (Corvey) and bishop of Hamburg. The pope made him legate for the Scandinavian missions. Funds for the northern apostolate stopped with Emperor Louis’s death. After 13 years’ work in Hamburg, Ansgar saw it burned to the ground by invading Northmen; Sweden and Denmark returned to paganism. 
<p>He directed new apostolic activities in the North, traveling to Denmark and being instrumental in the conversion of another king. By the strange device of casting lots, the king of Sweden allowed the Christian missionaries to return. </p><p>Ansgar’s biographers remark that he was an extraordinary preacher, a humble and ascetical priest. He was devoted to the poor and the sick, imitating the Lord in washing their feet and waiting on them at table. He died peacefully at Bremen, Germany, without achieving his wish to be a martyr. </p><p>Sweden became pagan again after his death, and remained so until the coming of missionaries two centuries later.</p> American Catholic Blog Every vocation is a vocation to sacrifice and to joy. It is a call to the knowledge of God, to the recognition of God as our Father, to joy in the understanding of His mercy.

 
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