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Men With Wings
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

FLYBOYS
JESUS CAMP
HOLLYWOODLAND
COLOR OF THE CROSS
THOU SHALT LAUGH
CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD
SURVIVOR: COOK ISLANDS
VANISHED
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



FLYBOYS

FLYBOYS (A-3, PG-13): This film is inspired by the story of the Lafayette Escadrille: During World War I, before the United States entered the war, some Americans were flying for the French military.

At the time, the average life expectancy of a pilot in war was six weeks. The film explains what happened to the pilots who survived: One of them was among the first pilots for the U.S. Postal Service.

The Americans who risked their lives include Blaine Rawlings (James Franco, Spider-Man), who heads to France to avoid jail, and an African-American named Eugene Skinner (Abdul Salis), who encounters prejudice.

Today, many of us know little about U.S. involvement in World War I (1914-1918), when the role of aviation in war was in its infancy. The film itself is historical: It’s the first to be shot completely with a Panavision Genesis 35mm digital camera (no film stock was used), although Scary Movie 4 (2006) was the first to be released in this format. This change in technology means more highly defined images and special effects. The average filmgoer may not notice the difference.

Like many war films, Flyboys makes a statement about the meaninglessness of war. By 1916, one million people had already died during this conflict and millions more would follow. Flyboys shows that these men fought for their friends more than an ideology.

If high-altitude battle scenes appeal to you, Flyboys will have you at the edge of your seat. Some inspiration but a challenge to watch; wartime violence, suicide, some profanity.

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JESUS CAMP

JESUS CAMP (not yet rated, PG-13): This documentary by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (The Boys of Baraka) follows the ministry of Becky Fischer, an evangelical Pentecostal pastor. When Fischer noticed how enthusiastic children were to be involved in evangelism, she started a camp to train them. One of the children the film follows is a homeschooled girl who wants to become a foreign missionary; another homeschooled girl plans to use her gift of prophecy to speak out against abortion.

When the film was completed, Fischer expressed disappointment in the way the filmmakers slanted it. Although Fischer doesn’t think her ministry links Christianity and religious-right politics, the film seems to view it differently: It is rather disconcerting to see a youth leader hold up a life-sized image of President George W. Bush and then encourage the children to cry out to God in praise of the president because of his anti-abortion stance.

Fischer’s evangelism is, at its heart, theologically pessimistic. At the end of the film, she talks about how much she loves America, even though things are so bad and sinful here that God might just as well come and put an end to it all. This Armageddon perspective makes the viewer wonder what speaking in tongues and quoting the Bible really mean if, instead of trying to transform the world for Christ, it would be better for him to destroy it.

This film is compelling viewing for anyone involved in ecumenism. A revealing look at an aspect of evangelical fundamentalism, one of America’s strongest religious movements; mature subject matter.

HOLLYWOODLAND (L, R): I was crushed as a child when told that George Reeves, television’s Superman, had killed himself in 1959. But not everyone was convinced that it was suicide. This film explores several theories and shows the complexities in the life of the actor who played the powerful Man of Steel.

Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) is a low-level private investigator who checks out some of the rumors after the police close the file on Reeves (Ben Affleck). Was Reeves shot by his new girlfriend, Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney)? What about Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), who had been having an affair with Reeves, or her husband, Eddie (Bob Hoskins), a powerful MGM executive? Or was Reeves so despondent about his career that he shot himself? And what’s the meaning of the holy cards found under a throw rug in the victim’s bedroom?

Brody and Affleck give strong performances in this movie, directed by Allen Coulter. But the New York accents give the film a clichéd feel.

The interest level of audiences may have been stretched because Hollywoodland arrived in theaters just before Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia, about the mysterious and brutal 1947 murder of would-be actress Elizabeth Short. Baby boomers may feel some nostalgia tinged with sadness.

COLOR OF THE CROSS (not yet rated): Some of the characters in this limited-release film are black, including Jesus (Jean-Claude LaMarre, who also wrote the script and directs) and Mary (Debbi Morgan). Jacinto Taras Riddick, who plays Peter, is far and away the best actor in this film.

The biblical theology is confused, sometimes taking creative license with the timeline and who did what, but the focus on Holy Thursday is unique in the Jesus-film genre. Family sermonettes are sprinkled throughout. Intended to appeal to the African-American Christian audience.

THOU SHALT LAUGH is an extremely funny comedy show, hosted by Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond). The comedians are a diverse cast of Christian believers. Although some of the sets seem to go on a little long, thou shalt really laugh.

CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD is the title of this DVD in addition to the name of a series of best-selling books by Neale Donald Walsch. This slow, low-budget film illustrates that as Walsch’s image of God changed from an uncaring divinity to a loving father through prayer, the author was able to climb out of homelessness and despair to a faith-filled, if not prolific, life.

SURVIVOR: COOK ISLANDS (CBS, Thursdays): The reality show that created a genre just six years ago appears to want to use division by racial groups as a way to provoke controversy and garner viewer interest. But when host Jeff Probst asked one of the contestants if race was an issue for him, the man replied, “No. We’re just people.” Duh.

Division by racial groups as a ratings ploy felt false and fell flat because all competitors were American-born except one. It would have been interesting if the show’s producers had brought together people of diverse ages from various countries who spoke different languages. Communication challenges as a human experiment are far more interesting than whatever might arise from the indignity of artificially created racism.

VANISHED (Fox, Mondays): When the wife (Joanne Kelly) of a senator (John Allen Nelson) disappears at a dinner that is held in her honor, all kinds of family and political secrets are revealed but not unraveled as the F.B.I. seeks to find the missing woman. I am not sure how the network will sustain the story long enough for it to become syndicated (100+ episodes). But, so far, its diverse cast and plot make the show riveting.

 

INVINCIBLE (A-3, PG): When this film started, I thought, Who needs another football movie? But by the end, I was cheering with the rest of the audience. The film is based on a true story about Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg), an out-of-work substitute teacher in South Philadelphia who tries out for the down-and-out Philadelphia Eagles and makes the team. Greg Kinnear portrays Dick Vermeil. Football violence; some crude language.

THE ILLUSIONIST (A-3, PG-13): Edward Norton (Keeping the Faith) plays Eisenheim, a magician in late 19th-century Vienna who tries to win the hand of Sophie (Jessica Biel, 7th Heaven), who is engaged to the emperor’s son. Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man) gives a solid performance in this mystery as Chief Inspector Uhl, who is enthralled by and suspicious of Norton’s magic. Suicide, domestic violence and brief sexuality.

CHRISTMAS AT MAXWELL’S (A-2, PG): When a mom falls gravely ill during the holidays, her children and husband find faith. If you see this limited-release movie, filmed in Cleveland, Ohio, stay to the end. A low-budget aura and slow pace.

THE PIANO TUNER OF EARTHQUAKES (not yet rated): A mad 19th-century doctor kidnaps a singer and transforms her into a mechanical bird. This dark story was written and directed by the overly imaginative Quay brothers (Stephen and Timothy) and financed by Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame). A bizarre fairy tale.

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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