Friday, November 30, 2007

The Maldonado Miracle (2003)

It's funny how some movies stick with me in surprising ways - they keep coming up in conversation, there's a part that my brain keeps turning over and over on the back burner or they seem to apply to various conversations and areas of our study.

The Maldonado Miracle has been doing that to me lately - particularly when topics relating to the Church's position on Faith and Reason come up (as happened in our teen catechism discussion last night).

I don't think I can go into all the rabbit trails that this movie brought up, I'll just give you a starting point so you can check it our for yourself.

Peter Fonda plays a parish priest in the process of getting a transfer out of a has-been former mining town in California. The people left in town mourn over each family that moves out. Their world changes dramatically when blood is found on the crucifix in the local church and people come from all over to witness the "miracle" for themselves.

One of the most interesting things (which doesn't seem like a stretch within the movie, but still surprises us in some ways) is that it is the good priest who is most reluctant to proclaim a miracle. He pushes for testing first and even locks the doors of the Church at one point. Some non-believing townspeople, however, see this as a benefit for the community and even go so far as to hide information from the priest.

I won't say more about the plot, except that it's wonderfully ironic and true in unexpected, but delightful ways.

We found this to be appropriate viewing for the entire family, though parents might want to preview it for more sensitive children (there is one violent, though not particularly scary scene and there are a fair number of dramatic chase scenes and such).
The behavior of the woman who first proclaims (and practically takes credit for) the miracle provides some good fodder for discussion - particularly in the context of the ending. Don't give up on the movie on her account!

This made for TV movie was directed by Salma Hayek and originally aired on Showtime.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My impressions on Bella

Here are some of my thoughts, as posted to our homeschool group:
  • Bella is essentially a pro-life movie, set all in or near New York City. It's about a young man with a traumatic past who is able to help a girl who is contemplating abortion. They are not romantically related.
  • It is very different from the usual Hollywood fare, be prepared. The camera angle is difficult to watch at times, the pace of the dialog is unusual. There are parts that are not pleasant, and then there are wonderful, funny parts, of gorgeous photography.
  • Personally, I would remove the camera at least about two meters away from the subjects -- the intense close-ups bothered me, but our Number Two, who watched it with us in TX during Thanksgiving holidays, thought they did a good job of bringing up the intimate, personal dimension of the story. She loved it.
  • I loved its pro-life stance, and the fact that the turning point for the young woman was the exposure to his healthy, warm, loving family. We know this conceptually, but it's wonderful to see a film celebrating family life as a redeeming catalyst.
  • Age? I believe the PG 13 rating is appropriate, although the worst is really a painful scene of a child being run-over, and very well done too. I don't remember offensive language and certainly no nudity etc. So, I believe, depending on the child you could take a younger-than-13 child to see it.
  • I *highly* recommend that you watch this 6 minute clip before you go! It's the main actor/producer telling of his own life and pro-life motives. (Besides, he's gorgeous!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Favorite Christmas Movies

What are your favorite Christmas movies?

Here are some we've enjoyed:

It's a Wonderful Life (naturally)

White Christmas

Holiday Inn

Come to the Stable

Christmas in Connecticut

Joyeux Noel (just discovered this one this year - some mature content)

A Christmas Carol (various versions)

Miracle on 34th Street

Christmas with the Kranks

and last, but certainly not least...

A Charlie Brown Christmas

DVD Stocking Stuffers

What are your recommendations for movies worth re-watching that would make great Christmas gifts? I'll put Christmas movies in a separate post.

Here are a few of our favorites of all sorts:

Marx Brothers Comedies
Bringing Up Baby
The Philadelphia Story
The Princess Bride
Groundhog Day (older teens and adults)
You Can't Take it With You
Going My Way
Bells of St. Mary's
Pope John Paul II
Pride and Prejudice (BBC/A&E)
Sense and Sensibility (the one with Emma Thompson)
Spanglish (older teens and adults)
The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima
Babette's Feast
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Incredibles
Prince of Egypt
Joseph King of Dreams
Finding Nemo
Ever After

Monday, November 26, 2007

Darwin Catholic Top 100 Films Meme

Saw this on Darwin Catholic...

Go to the AFI Top 100 list and pick:

1) Your favorite five movies that are on the list.
  1. Gone with the Wind (1939)
  2. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
  3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  5. The Sound of Music (1965)
2) Five movies on the list you didn't like at all.
  1. The Godfather (1972)
  2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  3. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  4. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  5. Dances with Wolves (1990)
3) Five movies on the list you haven't seen but want to.
  1. Schindler's List (1993)
  2. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  3. The Birth of a Nation (1915)
  4. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
4) Five movies on the list you haven't seen and have no interest in seeing.
  1. Taxi Driver (1976)
  2. M*A*S*H (1970)
  3. The Deer Hunter (1978)
  4. Fargo (1996)
  5. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
5) Your favorite five movies that aren't on the list.

I can only think of foreign fare and this is an American list, I believe.

Tagging: readers of the Love2Learn Movies Blog.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Evan Almighty

This is a movie that I wanted to watch. However, I never got around to it when it was in the theaters. The other evening my family and I went to Blockbusters to get some new movies for the long weekend. We each got to choose one movie and I chose this one.

Evan Almighty is a good and relatively clean family movie. Steve Carell plays the lead role of Evan. He is quite popular now starring in the hit TV show The Office and also starring in Dan in Real Life. In this movie he reprises his original role he had in Bruce Almighty, where he played a newscaster.

According to Wikipedia neither Jim Carrey nor Jennifer Aniston wanted to reprise their roles for this sequel to the movie Bruce Almighty. We should be grateful to them for that decision.

Even though Bruce Almighty was a movie about a man's relationship with God, it had many scenes and topics that were quite sinful...crude language, a couple living together without the benefit of marriage, etc. Even though it had a good message, it was hard to watch the movie as a family, because of the inappropriate scenes. This is not the case in the sequel.

Here we have a happily married man, his loving wife and their three children, all boys. Evan is elected a congressman and moves to Virginia. It is there that God chooses him to do His work.

It is a very humorous yet interesting story with an actual modern day twist on an Old Testament tale.

I recommend this movie for all ages. My DH and DS actually thanked me for choosing the movie. They really enjoyed it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sarah, Plain and Tall

SarahOne of my family's favorite ways of finding affordable movies is to go to our local Blockbuster and buying the used movies. One of the ones we bought on VHS was Sarah, Plain and Tall starring Glenn Close and Christopher Walken. This is a family made for TV movie, based on a book by Patricia MacLachlan by the same name.

This movie turned out to be one of my all-time favorites. Although, I was not a big fan of either of the two main actors, I thought they did an exceptional job of portraying the main characters. After the movie was over, I really ended up admiring both of them.

Instead of offering another detailed movie review, I direct you to Parents Preview's review

If you haven't had the opportunity to watch this one yet, please so do. BTW, there are a couple more sequels that were made following the success of this 1991 movie.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bride and Prejudice

Another version of Pride and Prejudice!

Wikipedia has a table with equivalent characters.

I watched it the other night. Very well done, in classic Bollywood style. Fun entertainment! Our 12 year old, well versed in P&P by now, watched it also and enjoyed it!

The colors, music and dancing of the production were bright, nicely done and very different to what we are used to!

More about it here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


If you have not been exposed to Bollywood yet-- films made in India-- this will be a very good first choice.

Lagaan has it all: romance, history, music and dancing.

The last part of the film--the cricket match between the unjustly-treated Indian farmers and the pedantic Brits is very, very well done!

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952)

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima is a movie I've loved since I was about ten years old and first saw it at our local Marian shrine. How delightful that it's now available on DVD! In a reverent, and yet engaging way, it tells the story of the apparitions of Our Lady to three children in Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

The score, by Academy Award winning composer Max Steiner (who also was nominated for an Academy Award for the music in this film) is particularly noteworthy. Beautiful!

The movie is sometimes unfavorably compared with its Academy Award winning predecessor, Song of Bernadette (another family favorite and certainly an excellent film). My feeling is that there's plenty of room for a somewhat lighter-toned, family friendly feature on a similar topic.

A couple of side notes (for those who may be interested in such things):

The story is slightly fictionalized for entertainment purposes. A friendly agnostic was created for comic relief and, as I understand it, Lucia's mother comes out better (more loving and sympathetic) and her father comes out worse (more troubled and inaccessible) than they were in real life. A silly little mistake in the beginning claims the date to be May 15th, but ends up being incidentally corrected a little later in the movie.

For more information on this film:

IMDB Entry

Decent Films Review

1952 New York Times Review

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Spotlight on Actor: Eduardo Verastegui

Mahalo to Barbara of Praying for Grace
The star of Bella tells us in his own words how he became involved in the prolife movement. Very touching video.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Golden Compass: A Concern for Christian Families?

The Catholic League is issuing warnings against this soon-to-be released movie which stars Nicole Kidman. The blogosphere is also alive with warning posts about it. Today Good News Film Reviews posted the following. The trailer of the movie can be seen there.
On December 6th The Golden Compass, based on the first book of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, hits theaters. This has many Christians concerned. Why? The books begin innocently enough, but as the trilogy moves forward the story twists into a venomous attack on Christianity. Will the film follow suit?
Is the Golden Compass a Concern for Christians?

Also see the Snopes page on this movie.


Steve Greydanus' review at Decent Films

News and other info on the controversies surrounding the books and film from Ignatius Insight

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Comparing three film versions of Pride & Prejudice

Many years ago, in Stowe, Vermont, I watched a documentary film about the real Maria Von Trapp. We were visiting Trapp Family Lodge with its Alpine European flavor and Sound of Music history permeating everywhere.

The most surprising to me was Maria's opinion on the film. I had always wondered what she thought about the movie, especially since reading her autobiography. She liked it and said the film kept all of the main important things.

I would venture to say, I am sure to the surprise of many, that Jane Austen would say something quite similar of the newest (2005) version of Pride & Prejudice. Is it perfect? Heavens, no. But I would propose here that it does indeed keep the main elements of this best known of Jane Austen's stories: that intelligent, educated girls are much more sensible than superfluous, silly ones, and that love, true love, has the power of transforming people.

I have recently led a discussion of this age-old favorite in class with 12-14 year olds, and one of the students remarked yesterday that Pride & Prejudice will never seem the same again after our discussion. I, of course, believe that discussing good books is truly rewarding! It brings joy, it challenges the mind, and most of all it brings discoveries that shed light on our reading!

I should add here that it is a known fact that the BBC production under the same title is the most faithful to the novel, of course. It is indeed, and Colin Firth is a very believable Darcy! But, alas, it is made for TV with its obvious limitations.

Pride & Prejudice is a most beloved book for me and I was very pleased with the interest and enthusiasm the kids showed for this classic. Some of them were simply astounded to discover so much in there-- and how it is ultimately a story of how love can transform us and push us toward letting go of our vices and faults and become better Christians.

My favorable opinion on the 2005 Pride & Prejudice version was crystallized recently when I watched the 1940 version with Lawrence Olivier and Greer Garson. Oh, my-- if you think the newest one detracted from the book, you'll be mortified with the 1940 one! As if the novel didn't offer enough, the scriptwriter decided on adding more! Darcy teaching Elizabeth to shoot bow and arrows? Lady Catherine De Burgh telling Darcy her interview with Lizzy was a set up to test her a suitable wife for him? Nah, no wonder you had never heard of that version.

The 2005 Pride and Prejudice, as I stated before, is obviously not perfect: I don't like the way they make Mr. Collins' stature something to be laughed at. His affected and self-centered behavior is what Austen ridiculed. And the gratuitous scene in the church is predictable in this anti-religion age, albeit very well done in the movie. Lady Catherine looked like she had just arrived from a tanning salon, and Miss Bingley's dresses were a bit too modern. But Charlotte was perfect, and so was Col. Fitzwilliam. Mrs. Bennett was impeccable, and her human, good side well explored, as when Lizzy is lovingly consoling her when Lydia departs with Wickman. So were the younger Bennetts. And Darcy... I dare to say he is the best Darcy ever.

The newest version brings Jane Austen again with her main elements, and I for one rejoice in being able to watch a movie with girlfriends and teens/kids that portrays appropriate courtship!

The Crusades

The director of this 1935 movie, The Crusades the legendary Cecil B. de Mille, known for his historical epics. It stars Loretta Young and Henry Wilcoxon.

The story takes place during the Third Crusade. We have King Richard the Lion-Hearted setting off to this crusade. He is doing this not so much as for the honorable thing in fighting the good fight, but instead as a way of getting out of an arranged marriage. The king's plans backfire when he is forced to marry another princess, whose father will only provide food for the king's starving men if he agrees to this arranged marriage.

Richard the Lion-Hearted is really so adverse to marriage that he does not even have the decency to attend his own wedding. Instead, the poor princess is forced to be married by proxy to the king's sword.

As the movie continues onward, the couple's feelings will change and much of this change has to do with the quest they are on. The are there to save the Holy Land and Christianity.

It has been awhile since I have seen this old movie. But one that I look forward to watching again soon. It is one that my dad had highly recommended. I think everyone, young and old alike will enjoy the movie as it has something for everyone: humor, romance, adventure, and for Catholic families, it is a testament to the Faith and a noble cause that is worth fighting for.