Monday, January 28, 2008

A reader's comments on PBS' Mansfield Park last Sunday

My daughter really liked this "Mansfield Park" especially compared to the movie version. I thought Edmund and Mary were exceptional, but I didn't like Fanny running after some little child so often. It seemed out of place; too much running. I liked the Henry Crawford actor, although he's a terrible personality in the book. Not a very good Mrs. Norris, I'm afraid. I was glad that they put in the bit about the necklace gift from Fanny's brother William. Overall it was a good rendition! Wonder what the others thought?
Candise L.S.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Emma and Emma, a comparison

With all of the Jane Austen film renditions hype, and with a very poor quality reception on our own TV set, I am enjoying picking up film versions of her literary oeuvre from the library.

This past week it was Emma: the film version with Gwyneth Paltrow, and the BBC made-for-TV version. As I watched and compared, I remember that about 4 years ago I did the same comparison--and arrived at the same conclusion. The BBC version is better! Even the production-- photography, lighting, colors, costumes. Granted, the film version is also well done--but disappointedly so, as viewers should expect more in production quality from a big screen version.

There are many similarities: both scripts fall short of bringing Jane Austen to life as the masterfully done Pride and Prejudice does. Both fail to spend enough time developing Emma's and Knightley's characters for us to get to know and care enough for them. Both have carefully done period costumes and settings, although I'd say Gwyneth's Emma is at the same time too rude for the period's manners and more likable to the viewer who hasn't read the novel.

What I enjoyed most in the BBC version, however, and what makes it definitely the superior of the two in my eyes, is the moral depth with which the viewer is left: that mingling on others' personal affairs is wrong. Also, Knightley comes forth as a just, kind man, just as Darcy revealed himself to the reader when Lizzie visited Pemberley, through the words of his old nurse.

Mostly I applaud the BBC version for including the last scene, when reformed Emma happily hosts a party for the genteel and farming families alike, dancing and rejoicing together. Very well done: Jane Austen would be proud, because in her portrayal of her own world, the kind and just shine and are rewarded with true happiness.

For the readers who are further interested in reading on this comparison, I found here a rather negative, but still interesting, comparison of the two. Worth reading as well are some of the reviews on Amazon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Please Pray...

for Hollywood actor, Heath Ledger, who died today at age 28 (a drug overdose is suspected).

Random Harvest

Random Harvest
The other evening Turner Classic Movies paid tribute to Greer Garson, who also starred in the beautiful and touching movie Mrs. Miniver.

The movie my husband and I watched was Random Harvest starring Ronald Colman (who also starred in A Tale of Two Cities) and of course Greer Garson.

This 1942 movie was based on a book by James Hilton who also wrote Lost Horizon. It is a story set during World War I. Mr. Colman plays Smithy a soldier suffering from amnesia and recently released from an asylum. Ms. Garson plays Paula, a vivacious stage entertainer who has a soft spot of the ailing "Smithy". When Smithy is in danger of being returned to the asylum and in order to protect him, Paula runs away with him.

The two inevitably fall in love, marry and have a child.

One day, Smithy has a chance for a good employment position and goes to Liverpool for an interview. However, an accident prevents him from keeping that appointment but it helps restore his memory.

The tale now gets complicated for all involved.

I had never seen this movie before the other night. It captivated both my husband and me with the beauty of the storyline. It is now on my list of the top love stories of all times.

"She's My Daisy" video.

Oscar Nominations are Out

Nice to see Juno on the list!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Review: Faith and Family Flix: An Alternative to Netflix and Blockbuster

Review by Mary C. Gildersleeve

We don’t watch much television in our house – we haven’t had cable for the past 10 years, we avoid network television except when there is an important news or sporting event scheduled, and we read-aloud to the kids during week-nights. That said, we do avail ourselves of all the amazing DVDs, videos and audio-books available which enhance our home-learning environment.

We also have twice-weekly “family movie nights”. Friday and Saturday evenings can find the kids ensconced in sleeping bags, binkies and pajamas, dad with his feet up, and mom with her knitting – all ready to embark on an adventure to a distant place, live the life of a saint or battle on the line of scrimmage. We watch old movies and new movies, classics and “sleepers”, mysteries and comedies. The only criterion we use is that the movie be good, true and beautiful. Additonally, the movie must be what we deem a “family” movie: a movie that has suitable content for our five year old as well as enjoyable subject matter for the adults and all those in-between.

One new resource, and the subject of this review, is a newly organized family movie resource called Faith and Family Flix ,a web-based DVD-rental site. Faith and Family, started by a few Christian families in the Chicago area, prides themselves on renting only family-friendly movies. This is a membership service – you can enroll for one DVD at a time or up to six DVDs at one time, paying a monthly fee that starts at $9.99. There are no late fees; your family can keep a DVD as long as you want. The shipping back to Faith and Family is included with your rental.

We subscribed to the two-at-a-time plan ($16.99) so as soon as we watch one DVD, we place it in the mail, and wait for another to come in its place – we’re able to see many more than two movies in a month for the $17. Netflix and Blockbuster have the same rental plan.

This service is set up in direct competition to Netflix and Blockbuster’s monthly rental programs. Focused on bringing great family movies into homes, Faith and Family Flix is a wonderful alternative to these other national programs. However, Faith and Family Flix does have a limited selection – especially as they’re buying policy is pretty strict concerning what justifies a “family movie”. They are adding new titles every month and willingly seek suggestions for additions to their selections. I like that many of their movies are not obtainable at my public library – many that I see only in catalogs such as Ignatius Press. Many of these movies we don’t want to own, but want to see (or, more importantly, have the children watch) and a rental service like Faith and Family is perfect for this.

The selections are listed by genre – biography, documentary, mystery, TV show, etc. You can add or edit your rental queue throughout your subscription; the queue is used for sending your next selection as your DVD is returned. We’ve been members for just a few weeks and have already seen: a fabulous documentary about Solanus Casey, a classic adventure movie called El Cid (with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren), and a high school football team movie called Facing the Giants. We’re now awaiting our next selections: Diary of a Country Priest and Faces of Jesus in Art.

So, pop some popcorn, layout the sleeping bags and comfy pillows, and have your own “family movie night” using Faith and Family Flix rental service or just borrow something from your public library -- just make sure it's a fun movie for the whole crew. Your kids will thank you for creating such joyful memories for and with them!

Saturday, January 19, 2008


On the O'Reilly Factor yesterday, Bill O'Reilly picked 90 year young Ernest Borgnine as the American Icon of the Week. Mr. Borgnine certainly deserved that honor. I am so happy I watched that segment because a wonderful movie that I had just about forgotten about, was highlighted. That movie was Marty which was released in 1955.

I remember first watching the movie as a young girl and I really enjoyed it. It was a movie that was set in a city. I don't recall if it was New York City or not but that is one reason I remember deciding to watch it. I have a penchant for New York City based movies.

Ernest Borgnine played a single guy who was a butcher by trade and who lived with his mother, (an actress by the name of Esther Minciotti). His mother unintentionally put pressure on him to get married and have a family. He was a lonely guy who felt no girl would want to date him because he wasn't attractive. He did have a bunch of friends who he hung around with for company.

One day, he meets a lonely and shy teacher, (beautifully portrayed by actress Betsy Blair), and eventually they hit it off. Unfortunately, jealously drives Marty's mother and his friends to tell him that she is not good enough or attractive enough for him.

This becomes a problem that Marty has to face. Does he please his mother ? Does he please his friends, and therefore submit to peer pressure? Or, does he go to the woman he is falling in love with?

I highly recommend it.

My Favorite circa 1930s Comedies

Continuing with my recent theme...

I discovered a number of these movies from a Crisis Magazine article on the Vatican Movie List a number of years back. I couldn't find the original article online, but vaguely remember that it expanded on certain themes in the original list with additional suggestions. I remember looking for You Can't Take it With You for years, before our library finally purchased it (this was obviously well before Netflix came into the picture).

I would consider these appropriate at least for my teenager (though often the whole family will enjoy it, even if they don't understand the whole thing), you might want to preview them to decide age level beyond that...

The Philadelphia Story (1940) - Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant - This is kind of the reverse side of Holiday - The rich have their problems too, but even the hard-working newly "made it" can be overly star-struck and insincere. There's also a musical based on this story called High Society starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly and Louis Armstrong.

Holiday (1938) - reviewed here

The Awful Truth (1937) - Cary Grant and Irene Dunne are a married couple who decide to split up after a spat - this a comedy about the breakup of the wife and her new boyfriend. I love the upside-downness of it - in a good way!

It Happened One Night (1934) - One of Frank Capras earlier movies and the original road trip film. Claudette Colbert is a rich heiress on the run from her father who meets Clark Gable on a bus trip from Florida back to her home in New York. When we had the subtitles on here, we noticed a little mature content in the lyrics of a song (that we had never noticed before). Also a few slightly risque scenes.

You Can't Take it With You (1938) - Classic Frank Capra - Jean Arthur, Jimmy Stewart, Lionel Barrymore star in this outrageous comedy about money, family, and what really matters. Great fun for the whole family.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) - Gary Cooper is a plainspoken man from the sticks who arrives in New York City because he's inherited a large fortune from a long-lost uncle. Jean Arthur is a reporter who feigns interest in him to get the insight scoop on his "odd" ways. A lot of fun and a great one for the whole family.

Bringing Up Baby (1938) - Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn are taking care of a very tame leopard who brings them into all sorts of hilarious situations. Another family favorite.

Bachelor Mother (1939) - Ginger Rogers is a young working mother who is mistakenly believed to be the mother of a baby left at an orphanage. When her employer is contacted (who kindly wants to help her keep the baby and her job) she feels she has to keep the baby.

We also enjoy some of the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy movies, but I couldn't tell you off the top of my head which were our favorites. We watched a Marx Brothers movie last night called Horse Feathers which was outrageously funny and clever, but not the kind I'd like my kids to see all the time.

Maggie’s Quick Picks

The movie Facing the Giants is as wholesome, exciting and inspiring as a family movie could be. The acting is great, the southern accents are darling, and the comic relief between the two assistant coaches is most enjoyable. Yes, this David vs. Goliath tale is a little bit predictable, though in an unpredictable way. Your kids won’t care and I’m fairly certain that you won’t, either. You will, however, find yourself wanting to pray more & more by the time the credits roll, and for that reason alone this movie’s worth it.

This film is rated PG for some thematic elements.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

And Speaking of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant

The Anchoress just posted on another of my favorite old movies (not quite in the thirties, but almost) here.

Not quite intended to be a family movie, but the more complex stuff tends to be subtle enough to make it manageable. Better understood by teens and parents.

Holiday (Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn)

I'm a sucker for comedies from the 1930s and I should probably admit that some of my friends don't quite get that but... with that warning... here's a little about one of my favorites.

Holiday is a quirky slightly-romantic comedy with a serious side. It strikes the Chesternerds in our family as being rather Chestertonian as it's filled with fun paradoxes and looking at things up-side-down.

Johnny Case is a hard working man who meets Julia, the apparent girl of his dreams, at a ski resort. Back in New York City, he looks up the address Julia wrote on the back of envelope for him. Arriving at a palatial estate, he concludes that his girlfriend works at this house, and knocks at the back door, where he is let in by the embarrassed butler, who is without his jacket and was expecting a visitor at the front door, thank you very much. We of course discover that Julia is a wealthy heiress from a family filled with and interested in "important people".

I won't tell you the conclusion, but it's a fun story that shows the wrong-headedness of the snooty rich (particularly by showing how a member of the family who is perfectly normal and level-headed is, in this context, the black sheep of the family). Though the story is at times a little complex (and it touches upon some sad issues - particularly a brother who is trapped by family fortune and expectations and finds way too much solace in alcohol), my children really enjoyed the truthiness of the story and the many laugh-out-moments.

(photo from IMDB)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Movie Juno: a Review

The movie Juno is being called a mini-blockbuster and took third in box-office sales this past weekend. I’m not surprised; I dragged my husband to it a couple weeks ago (It was our anniversary; he was feeling amenable) and we both loved it.

Well, “love” is a strong word for my patent attorney husband. He did really like it, though, as far as I can tell, and as far as I could tell (based on my sidelong glances), he even swiped at his eyes once or twice by the end of it.

But don’t tell him I told you.

Anyway. I’m giving the movie one more shout-out because it’s really very good. Clever, quirky, engaging, cute…you’ll laugh and you’ll fall in love with the leading actress for all her sassy smartness. She’s coping as best as she can and I commend her.

You may also be uncomfortable a couple of times—there is a scene of brief but discreet intimacy at the beginning, and the would-be adoptive father (played by Jason Bateman) has some issues—but hey, life can be uncomfortable and teenage pregnancy is certainly out there for us to deal with.

Better a movie that celebrates one teenager’s pregnancy (and her responsible decision-making regarding it) then one that promotes abortion.

That’s why I’m telling ya.

Go to this movie.

PS. This is my first review for Love2learn at the Movies so go easy on me! Also, I do not yet have teenagers so I'm not all that certain on how to go about recommending the ages for this film. I'm going to say ages 16 and up, but feel free to leave a comment and offer your opinion.

*This review has been cross-posted at Minnesota Mom.

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Love2learn Site and Book Giveaways

Thanks to the help of some wonderful volunteers (and especially Suchi Myjak - our new technical adminstrator), our parent site, has been totally revamped to facilitate regular updating and includes nearly 1000 reviews and lots of other well-organized information for Catholic Homeschoolers and others who "love to learn".

To celebrate our 10th anniversary and the opening of the renovated website, we're doing a series of book giveaways at the Love2learn Blog:

Please spread the word!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The World Needs Heroes - Theatrical Trailer

Pope Benedict XVI
Responding to a decline in interest in the priesthood, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York has launched a campaign to find recruits in the most unlikely of places — the movie house.

In a slick, 60-second movie trailer, the church proclaims "The World Needs Heroes," accompanied by dramatic music and an array of images: the Statue of Liberty against an American flag, a funeral procession of firefighters and the battlefield.


Theaterical Trailer

The NYPRIEST Theatrical Trailer will be shown in select New York theatres to promote the NYPRIEST Campaign. The aim of the campaign is to build up a "Culture of Vocations" in the Archdiocese of New York, to increase awareness of the diocesan priesthood and to draw young men whom God is calling to respond generously to service in the Church as Priests after the Heart of Jesus Christ.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

National Treasure: Book of Secrets
My family and I had been looking forward to this sequel because of how much we enjoyed the movie National Treasure. We went three days after it opened because we wanted to avoid the crowds of this reportedly highly successful box office hit.

From the beginning the movie was intriguing. It starts off with Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) and his dad played by Jon Voight, giving a lecture about the elder Gates' grandfather during the time of President Lincoln's assassination.

No sooner do they finish their talk than the character played by Ed Harris, dispels the image of the grandfather by proving he was in fact an accessory to the president's assassination.

Well, then the adventure begins.

One clue leads to another and soon they are traveling the world trying to clear the Gates' name by finding the lost city of Cibola.

This movie is geared for everyone's entertainment. It was produced by Disney so for the most part it is good family fun. Except for the fact, that the main character and his girlfriend lived together. Living together without the sacrament of marriage is never a very good message to send to children or teens. Anyway, you would think that since the original movie was released in 2004, this couple would be married and have children by now, instead of still dating...but I digress...

The are interesting little factoids that come up during the movie such as there are actually three statues of liberty; there are identical desks at the White House and Buckingham Palace; there is an underground passage in one of the nation's monuments, etc. If your children are anything like my son, he or she will do a little research via the internet to find out if these tidbits about American history are true or not.

And, don't worry if you haven't seen the original National Treasure. Even though all the characters are the same and I believe all the original main actors return for this sequel, it is a new adventure.

I didn't go into too much detail here because I wanted to leave you with the SciFi Catholic's entertaining review of the movie. The review can be found at the following link.

Can I still have fun if I can't understand it?

For those of you interested and have not seen the movie yet, you can check out the trailer and visit at the Official Website

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Brideshead Revisited

Apparently there is a new film version of Brideshead Revisited in the works. It is scheduled to come out in the fall of this year in Britain, but not scheduled yet to come out in the US. From what I can tell, there are well known parties involved both as actors and directors, so it has the potential to be quite good. However, the Internet rumors have mentioned that the film will be taking an Anti-Catholic slant. How is this even possible of Brideshead? It would be quite sad if this beautiful story were to be distorted in this way. I'm sure as the release date draws nearer more info will become available.

In the meantime, the 1981 BBC version, though very long, is excellent. The book of course is better, but for those who enjoy a good book-turned-movie, the BBC version is well done. Most public libraries have it on DVD. Though not appropriate for young viewers, mature teens and young adults will enjoy this very much in these bitter cold days of winter.

Rod Bennett on Frank Capra

I stumbled across this article last summer, but have been very neglectful of posting it here until I noticed it making its rounds of the blogosphere. It's an excellent piece on Frank Capra, and in particular Capra's most well-known film, It's a Wonderful Life.

Since it's still Christmas, I'll post this anyway and you might have time to watch timeless classic one more time. :)

I had no way of knowing at the time that this was supposed to be a corny old Christmas "feel-good" movie. It began to make me feel pretty bad, in fact. Certainly I saw that It's A Wonderful Life is full of wonderful things: charm and humor and unforgettable characters that have since become like a second family to me. But the longer the movie went on, the bleaker and blacker things got. George Bailey, the hero (played by James Stewart), the dreamer who was going to see the world and lasso the moon, struggles to get out of the dead end job that keeps him chained to the hick town where he was born. It soon becomes obvious, to us and to him, that he never will get out of it. And yet, somehow, with every commercial break, that announcer kept repeating It's A Wonderful Life. I myself had dreams very like George Bailey's: dreams of accomplishment, dreams of romance. But the plain reality was that I was failing in school, my first real romance was ten years away, and I was lonely, alienated, and ugly with that unique ugliness only possible to fourteen year olds. And yet with every commercial break, over and over at eight-minute intervals, the "Armchair Theatre" man insisted It's A Wonderful Life. Before long, George Bailey (because of a meaningless accident—his lovable, doddering old uncle has destroyed his business by absentmindedly losing a packet of money) stands on a frigid overpass ready to drown his whole thwarted, aborted dream in an icy black river and we're not so sure we blame him. I stood there with him—my own dreams seemed (and sometimes still seem) just as hopeless. And still the man says It's A Wonderful Life.

Read the rest here.