Friday, May 19, 2006

Da Vinci Code, The

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Da Vinci Code Statement by SIGNIS

World Catholic Association for Communication


“Media for a Culture of Peace”



“The Da Vinci Code”: A film which, finally, the Church has little to be concerned about.

Cannes, 17 May 2006 (SIGNIS) – Much ado about very little… Many Christians from different backgrounds and sensibilities were anxious about the release of the film of The Da Vinci Code, directed by Ron Howard.  However, far from being a cinema masterpiece, the film is simply a popular entertainment.  While the early scenes set us on an exciting treasure hunt, the wordiness of the drawn out twists of the later part of the film will disappoint many cinemagoers.

A film is something that no one need be afraid of. It is a personal or a commercial venture. The novel attempted to persuade its readers that some dubious hypotheses and some mumbo-jumbo theories, the film wants rather to please everyone and not upset them too much.  The writers have added quite a number of dialogue exchanges which downplay the more controversial statements of the novel about the Church, the divinity of Jesus, the role of Mary Magdalene and even Opus Dei. 

The media controversy which followed the publication of the novel has led to an enormous impact from the promotion campaigns for the film.  We hope that the Church can benefit from this phenomenon in explaining the theological foundations of faith and the hopes of all Christians.

Further information:

Akeelah still free to teachers




WHAT:           With teachers swarming their local AMC theatres this past weekend and AKEELAH AND THE BEE holding strong in the top ten, AMC Entertainment and Lionsgate are extending the offer for every teacher in the United States to receive one free ticket to the film Friday, May 19 through Thursday, May 25, 2006.  The offer is valid exclusively at all theatres in the AMC system including: Loews Theatres, Star Theatres and Magic Johnson Theatres. 


WHEN:           Friday, May 19 thru Thursday, May 25, 2006

Simply present a school issued ID card and a valid photo ID or a pay stub and a valid photo ID to your local AMC theatre playing the film.

                        (Check local listings for participating theatres.)


WHY:              In an effort to reward teachers at the end of the school year for their hard work and encourage them to see the inspiring education-themed movie AKEELAH AND THE BEE, AMC Entertainment and Lionsgate are extending the unprecedented offer for every teacher in the United States to receive one free ticket to the film.  


A motivating drama, AKEELAH AND THE BEE is the story of Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer), a precocious eleven-year-old girl from south Los Angeles with a gift for words. Despite the objections of her mother Tanya (Angela Bassett), Akeelah enters various spelling contests, for which she is tutored by the forthright Dr. Larabee (Laurence Fishburne); her principal Mr. Welch (Curtis Armstrong) and the proud residents of her neighborhood. Akeelah’s aptitude earns her an opportunity to compete for a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee and in turn unites her neighborhood who witness the courage and inspiration of one amazing little girl. A Lionsgate, 2929 Productions and Starbucks Entertainment Presentation of an Out of the Blue Entertainment and Reactor Films Production in association with Cinema Gypsy Productions, Inc, AKEELAH AND THE BEE was written and directed by Doug Atchison. 

 This is on Sister Rose's top film list of 2006 so far...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Goal! (The Dream Begins)


Goal! Or Goal! The Dream Begins is a very good film that is filled with the kindness of strangers. It is about a young llegal immigrant to the United States from Mexico who makes his away to soccer (football) stardom with the Newcastle United team in England.


The film opens with the Munez family crossing the border under the cloak of night. They end up in Los Angeles. Ten years later, Santiago’s mother has deserted the family, but his father (the ever-dependable Latino actor Tony Plana), his little brother, and grandmother (Miriam Colon), live respectable, hard-working lives. Santiago works two jobs and plays soccer in whatever his free time he has.


One day Santiago is spotted by a former football (soccer) player and scout from the UK, Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane). He believes in Santiago from the start and gets the promise of an “audition” with the team if Santiago can get himself to Newcastle.


Despite his father’s best efforts and depressing view of his son’s future, Santiago’s grandmother finds a way to get Santiago back to Mexico so he can travel to England legitimately. He arrives, gets to play for Newcastle’s owner and makes a poor showing. When given the chance to play in the reserves for a month, he lies about his asthma, an untruth that comes back to haunt him. He spends a lot of time getting ground into England’s mud.


This is a sport’s film so you pretty much know how it’s going to turn out. Goal! is very timely, too, given the currentdebate about undocumented immigrants from Mexico going so strongly  and the fact that this year’s World Cup competition is fast approaching. The whole issue of immigrant team members is hotly contested in Europe where soccer games (football) is a religion (ritualized by violence; I lived in the UK from 1993 – 1995 and the topic of “football violence” was on the agenda for almost every class from educational psychology to ideology and the media. Why the violence? No one has yet done the research that yields a definitive reason.)


There is no violence in this film at all, however. If anything, it's about peace in families and being a good person no matter where you are.


Who knows the greatness and genuine humanity that is latent and emerging in our undocumented immigrant population?


Kindness is not only one way in Goal! Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola), the bad-boy top paid player of the team, puts in a good word for Santiago and gets him re-instated on the reserve team. The team’s owner (Marcel Iures) is the wisdom character who can see through the faults of his players to their potential for greatness – which he does over and over for Harris. But it is not the owner who saves Harris; nor is it Harris who completely saves Santiago. Santiago does save Harris, however, through an unwise but sacrificial act of friendship (he refuses to name Harris in a public relations disaster for the team and risks his own future.)


A thread of Catholic spirituality runs lightly through the film and contributes to Santiago’s sense of identity and family. Despite his Mexican passport, he always says he is from Los Angeles. His love and respect for his grandmother feels authentic, and makes the audience want to celebrate Abuelitas everywhere. Santiago meets a nurse, Roz, and by the end they seem to have a future together. She, like Santiago, is not into the party scene.


Goal! - whetherlife’s goal, personal goals or the goal to live as a decent human being and contribute to family and society – is the multi-layered theme of this heartfelt film. Danny Cannon (CSI writer and director) directs the film well enough but I would have liked to see more field work during games. David Beckham makes a brief appearance and Stephen Dillane who scouts Santiago and becomes a father-figure to him, gives a performance that makes us want to care about him, as well as Santiago. Kuno Becker, by the way, is a fine actor – and very easy on the eyes.


For all the people out there who complain about Hollywood, get yourselves to this movie, and to Akeela and the Bee as well. There's so much hype over some movies and these smaller screen gems can sneak into DVD limbo before we get a chance to savor them - if we don't go to see them. Treat yourself. There are some good movies out there. Remember Whale Rider?


By the way, there are two sequels to Goal! in production.

Da Vinci Code Radio Interview on Sunday

This press release is from Barry Gordon's office:

Sunday, May 21, from about 3:00 to 3:30 p.m., Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP, of the Pauline Center for Media Studies, in Culver City, CA, will discuss the newly released movie "The Da Vinci Code" and the likewise controversial book "The End of Faith" with Barry Gordon, former candidate for Congress and president of the Screen Actors Guild, on "Barry Gordon From Left Field," broadcast on KCAA 1050 AM in the Inland Empire of California and webcast throughout the Internet on For more information as well as for a podcast of the show that you may listen to or download after airtime, visit

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mission: Impossible III

In an almost perfect blending of the MI film franchise and the soon-to-be-retired-into-syndication Alias television show, the multi-talented J.J. Abrams delivers another manic-paced adrenalin rushing full-tilt workout thriller without a point. Not that it matters.


For fans who are along just for the ride, what they get is a genuine run-along with the Tom Cruise character Ethan Hunt, who, with his new wife Julia (Katie Holmes look-alike Michelle Monaghan), is threatened by the newly minted Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman as the really bad guy, Owen Davian.


When Ethan is lured back into active duty to the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) to rescue Lindsey (Keri Russell, star of Felicity fame, a show created by Abrams), an agent that Ethan still seems to have feelings for from the days he trained her. Davian is at the center of her kidnapping and Ethan tracks him down at a charity fund-raiser at the Vatican. The search for an artifact called the “Rabbit’s Foot” becomes the axis on which the action pivots.


I think it is interesting that so much of the action takes place in mainland China - the big new audience for U.S. films.


Someone told me that the whole attraction of the original television series was how well the IMF team worked together. But in MI III, we get another new team except for Ving Rhames who returns as Luther. Sure, the team works in a highly choreographed fashion as we would expect but neither the team nor its handler (played by the underappreciated Billy Crudup) or superior (played by the ever-better Lawrence Fishburn – if you have a chance, see him in Akeelah and the Bee) never answer the question: why all the fuss? I think that we never find out is part of the film franchise’s charm (and Alias television show which I like much more) and the lead into the sequel if MI III makes it at the box office. MI was about discovering a traitor agent, MI II was about finding and destroying a potentially devastating disease, and MI III is about a Rabbit’s Foot, a canister with secrets, something like the Rambaldi Artifact of Alias.


All the other reviewers and critics are talking about Tom Cruise so I will take a pass.


This may seem like a short review, but in a film (franchise) like Mission: Impossible III, it’s all about style. If the style IS the content, then it’s about entertainment (or recreation, diversion) for its own sake. This opens up a whole arena for conversation about the role of entertainment (as well as recreation and leisure) in modern life.


Mission: Impossible III is a pointless ride to enjoy - for those who can. Meanwhile, we mourn the passing of Alias, my guilty pleasure for these past five years. I kept expecting Sydney Bristow - Jennifer Garner - to appear in MI:III.


What is it about conspiracy theories and hidden messages hidden in old artifacts (and the Vatican) that so engages us? Enter The Da Vinci Code. I am seeing it at the press screening on Wednesday. Watch this space.


Friday, May 12, 2006

Teachers: Akeelah and the Bee for Free

I just want to pass on the message to all teachers who may read this that if you go to any AMC theater this weekend where Akeelah and the Bee is playing, bring your I.D. and get in for free. The studio, Lionsgate, is offering this as a gift for you.

It is an irresistible film that will validate your dedication to education and offer you support and hope - and an entertaining two hours.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Akeelah and the Bee

Akeelah Anderson (Kete Palmer) is an 11 year-old seventh grader with the amazing ability to spell almost every word she hears. She doesn’t know the etymologies or even the meanings of all the words at first, but has the power to absorb and recall a word once she hears or sees it. Her father died when she was very young and her mother (Angela Bassett) struggles to keep her family together.



She goes to Crenshaw Middle School in South Los Angeles, an area known for gangs and racial unrest. When her principal Mr. Welsh (Curtis Armstrong) suggests that she could win the district spelling bee and thus represent her school well, she says, “Why should I stand up for a school that doesn’t even have doors for the toilet stalls?” With the help of a reclusive UCLA professor, Mr. Larabee (Lawrence Fishburn) who coaches her over many months, Aleelah wins the district bee, barely makes the cut for the Southern California bee, but becomes a finalist for the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.


You’ll just have to see the film if you want to know how the results. And I recommend this film with all my heart.


Spelling is treated as a sport in the U.S. according to the film (it’s shown on ESPN), but no other country has such competitions. The BBC tried to launch an interest through a television program in 2004, but I couldn’t find any follow up to this information. I thought the 2002 documentary Spellbound about a few kids from different geographic places and social backgrounds in the United States who become finalists in the national spelling bee competition was wonderful. I didn’t see Bee Season (2005); it garnered terrible reviews and was in and out of theaters in the blink of an eye, but I think I might like to see it just the same.


What’s so engaging about Akeelah and the Bee is the charm of its unsophisticated young actress Kete Palmer and the other young actors. Set in South Los Angeles we can experience a little of the social-cultural context that Akeelah has to struggle with just enough to let us know how hard life is in the ghetto. We also witness racial diversity as well as bias, the immigrant experience, parent-child relationships, and 50,000 coaches who can help us learn if we let them. The film also focuses our attention once again on “sports dads” or parents who live their successes and failures vicariously through their children, and the negativity this produces all around.


Lawrence Fishburn as Akeelah’s spelling coach Professor LaraBEE let’s us see that spelling bees are about life, not about just letters and the small words that make bigger words.  Professor Larabee is brought in to the school by Mr. Welsh to observe and identify any of the students with academic potential. Larabee witnesses Akeelah’s performance at the school bee that day, and he knows she is special. Over the months that he coaches her we find out that spelling for him is about life’s burdens and triumphs as well.


Personally, I am not a good speller. None of my seven siblings are good spellers. We come by this flaw naturally – our Mom was a terrible speller but she had beautiful penmanship. (Now, thanks to computers, none of us can even claim this talent or skill, depending on how you look at it. Literally.  What’s worse is when we forget to use the spell check feature, a personal lapse.) I think this is why I am so fascinated by children who can spell - this film is about so many kinds of “smarts”!


Dr. Howard Gardner developed a theory of “multiple intelligences” in the mid-1980’s. And though disputed by some, the theory has gained popularity in the field of educational methodology; once a teacher can identify how a child is smart he or she can engage that intelligence for both book learning and life. I saw every one of Gardner’s “eight kinds of smart” in Akeelah and the Bee, and this is why I think every teacher and kid would find something to treasure in Akeelah and the Bee.


Multiple Intelligences according to Gardner:


Linguistic intelligence - is about words; verbal abilities; the love for words; the strength of words. Spelling is made of words, and smallwords make big ones as Larabee demonstrates visually to Akeelah. Larabee also uses the power of Nelson Mandela’s words to help Akeelah understand her fears and her power as a human person.



Logical/mathematical intelligence – is about numbers and reasoning. If there’s one thing Akeelah learns it’s about reasoning in the film.


Spatial intelligence - is about visual smarts or being able “to picture” something. Akeelah has to use a map to get from South Los Angeles to the upper middle class Woodland Hills to visit Javier (J.R. Villarreal) a friend she makes at the district bee. She also has to imagine how she learned a word to be able to spell it.


Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence – This is about the use of the body to learn. We see Akeela tapping her hand on her leg from the beginning of the film but it is Larabee who realizes it is a mnemonic, that is, Akeelah’s way of associating one thing with anotherto remember.


Musical – As it says, this intelligence is about learning through music. When Akeelah has a conversation with her brother’s gang banger, she finds out he once wrote a poem. When her brother scoffs at the idea of this cool, tough guy writing a poem, he says, “Where do you think rap comes from?”


Interpersonal – This intelligence is   about being smart about people. Certainly Larabee is; he can see what others cannot. But Akeelah is as well, and because she connects what she learns from and about people, she is able to project meaning into and for the community, not just herself.


Intrapersonal – This form of intelligence is about self, that is, the ability to have personal insight; to look within, to reflect, to connect life experience and learning. I am reminded here of something John Henry Cardinal Newman once wrote about the educated person: one who is able to learn something in one area and integrate it, that is, apply it across the entire curriculum of the university and life. Although Akeelah is young, she learns this way, as do most of the key characters in the film.


Naturalist – Learning from nature, or throughthe natural world about us is a true gift. Larabee plants flowers; he tends a garden. It is a metaphor for his life as well as a way to expiate his grief. Nature can heal all of us.


Akeelah and the Bee may not win an Academy Award; it is predictable; the acting is sometimes amateur; the dramatic arc seems too simple to work. But these are minor elements. I hope this film will be a sleeper hit, the same way Whale Rider was a few years ago. We have too few young female heroines in our movies.


This film has a charm that reaches deep inside of you and makes you want to stand up and cheer for these kids who have Scrabble tournaments at birthday parties. Now that was funny. Maybe Gardner should add humor to his list of multiple intelligences. If you haven’t yet seen Akeelah and the Bee: bee smart and see it.


Attributed to Nelson Mandela:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Ice Age: The Meltdown

I will keep this one short, too.

There's wasn't much to add to the first Ice Age that more or less said it all about soon-to-be extinct animals in comedic ways. This sequel isn't very funny because Denis Leary's Diego is just too reformed. Queen Latifa is the voice of a female wooly mammoth with severe identity problems, but even that doesn't save the film.

But the squirrel and the acorn makes the films so darned funny; keep your eye on the acorn.


Wild, The

I will keep this short...

The Wild is a mildly entertaining highly animated film that will remind you of last year's Madagascar and Finding Nemo. Certainly technically more than competent, I found it made me laugh more than Madagascar (that except for the penguins made me snooze)and sure, it has the usual suspect family themes. Some parts might be seen as scary for little kids.

There's not a lot that's new here but if you like to take young kids to the movies, and they like this kind of film, then they will probably like this one, too.


Bob Munro (Robin Williams) is a Los Angeles executive for a soft drink/snack company whose job is threatened by new talent. He will do anything to please his boss and safeguard his job. So when his boss wants him to give a presentation at a meeting in Colorado in a few days, right during the Hawaii vacation he has promised his family, he decides to rent a big, ugly, RV, and scam his wife Jamie (Cheryl Hines), daughter Cassie (Jo Jo Levesque) and Carl (Josh Hutcherson) into a vacation that will help them grow closer.


In ways that will remind you of the 1970 Out of Towners (Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis), everything goes wrong and catastrophe is around every corner because Bob has to prepare a presentation for his boss in hiding, he cannot drive the RV, the potty has to be drained from the previous RV renters, and the Munro’s, who are not a very likeable family, is rescued and heartily befriended by professional, singing RV’ers, the Gornicke’s (Jeff Daniels and Kristen Chenoweth) and their three kids – and they  like the Munro’s a lot!


From the previews I was not prepared to like this film that looked like a slap stick comedy. But in reality it shows Robin Williams in his typical manic comedian mode but then as a fumbling father, and a wise man who finally realizes what’s important is not what you do, but the meaningful reasons that motivate a man in the middle season of his life.




I compared the movements of the film as an encounter with the Last Things: death, judgment, purgatory, hell, and heaven. If you think of these when you see the movie, you’ll see how Bob practically goes through Dante’s poem… and so do we. Have you ever been in the car with a driver who won’t listen? Tried to get someplace on time and agonized when you hit every red light (or obstacle possible)?


This a fun film for kids and parents because it deals with all kinds of issues in maddeningly and ultimately fun ways. The Gornicke’s home schooling is shown in a respectful way (I am not particularly in favor of home schooling but here it sounds like a serious adventure for a family that gets what’s important in life), and the film confronts corporations that place soda and sugar-snack machines in schools as if that’s a good thing for kids (which is a huge problem since the profits provide the same schools with money for their sports programs – but to what end?). RV also examines a family in which each member is plugged into their own listening device in ways that disconnects them from each other. Finally, it is about slowing down and being in the presence of nature’s beauty that rounds out the Munro’s adventure.


Bob has to give two presentations to the board of the new company in Colorado that Bob’s larger corporation wants to buy out. Williams acting range is evident, and he doesn’t mess up the scenes with overboard humor but instead, presents a thoughtful and intelligent character that you like by the end of the movie.


The Munro’s name the RV “Turd” (to be expected in films that wants to appeal to young adolescents), but the RV is not the problem. The problem is the people who haven’t figured out the meaning of their lives and the RV provides the way to do that… on a road trip! Sure, part of it is predictable, but the story is put together in a way that engaged me and made the agony real and funny.


In RV there’s much to laugh and groan at and plenty to talk about. Enjoy.