Pete’s Dragon

petes dragon

This summer we had the good fortune to see a number of movies on the big screen. A surprising favorite was Pete’s Dragon. I have to admit that I did not have great expectations of this movie. I did not much like the original. But I was impressed.

New Story Line

Bryce Dallas Howard (Grace Meacham) and Robert Redford (Mr. Meacham) are enchanting as father and daughter who help Pete, an orphan boy, save Elliot, a dragon, from capture and captivity. Hunters pursue Elliot, in hopes of financial gain and Pete is discovered and taken in by the Meachams. As Pete struggles to choose between his desire for a loving family and his loyalty and love for Elliot, Elliot also realizes that he is now endangering Pete. Secure in the knowledge that Pete will have a good home with the Meachams, Elliot leaves his forest to find a safe place for himself.

The story line differs significantly from the 1977 original. Elliot, as the dragon, is rather clunky, considering today’s CGI capabilities, but he is cute and endearing and believable as a cuddly friend to a young boy. Pete’s Dragon is an all-around uplifting, feel-good movie, perfect for all ages. And don’t worry, Pete and Elliot find each other again, in the end.

Pete’s Dragon is available from Amazon.com and many other retailers.

If you click on the Amazon link to buy the movie, I might get a few pennies. Otherwise, I did not get compensated for this review. So thanks.

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Ben Hur

Ben-Hur riding on a chariot with the slogan "Brother Against Brother. Slave Against Empire."

Yup. Have to. Because I loved this movie and I have to shout it out. First of all, don’t listen to the negative reviews. Who knows what the critics are thinking? Maybe they’re as tired of remakes as I am. But this is more a new interpretation of the novel. The novel? Yeah, I didn’t know…

With Roma Downey and Mark Burnett as producers, you can pretty well expect an uplifting message. A few of the actors are celebrities here in the States, but it was refreshing to see so many fresh faces in the cast.

In case you are unfamiliar, Ben Hur is the story of a Jewish prince, at the time of Christ. Judah Ben-Hur’s family adopts a Roman orphan, Mesalla. They grow up as brothers and best friends. Due to his orphan past, Mesalla becomes increasingly restless, as he ponders his place in the world. His love for Judah’s sister is frowned upon by their mother, so he eventually sets out to join the Roman legion and pursue his fortune.

When Mesalla returns, he asks for Judah’s help in keeping the peace for the arrival of the new Roman governor. Instead, Judah protects a Jewish assassin, by taking the blame for an attempt on the life of the governor. An angry Mesalla betrays Judah to a long, slow death as a galley slave.

There is plenty of action. Judah’s escape from the galleys and near drowning; Mesalla’s battle exploits; the chariot race.

The chariot race. Possibly the highlight of the entire film. Even though you know how it turns out, getting there keeps you on the edge of your seat. The horses are fantastic and every precaution was taken to ensure their safety during filming. The actors insisted on performing nearly all the race scenes themselves, instead of letting the stuntmen have all the fun. The Roman Circus was a place of blood and violence, and the chariot race delivered. Even without fake blood spurting on the screen, there was plenty of gory death as charioteers were systematically ejected and trampled.

In the end, hatred and revenge give way to forgiveness and reconciliation, largely due to chance meetings with Jesus. As it should be.

Go see it today and support good, clean, uplifting filmmaking!

Currently in theaters.

 

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Bella – Review

http://www.bellamoviesite.com/

Bella, released in 2006 at the Toronto International Film Festival, is one of those movies that I really meant to see, but never got around to it.  Thanks to Netflix, I finally did, and wow, what a great movie!

The story, which takes place in one day, may get a little confusing as the backstory unfolds in flashbacks.  Jose, a soccer star who has just signed a lucrative contract, accidentally kills a small child and serves time in prison.  After his release, he works in his brother’s restaurant as a chef, where he meets Nina, a waitress who has a brief affair (not with Jose) which ends in an unplanned pregnancy.  Nina’s solution is to end the pregnancy, but Jose has other ideas, and Nina changes her plans (as shown in flash-forwards, confused yet?).  The subtle anti-abortion message is so powerful, that I can see why pro-life groups adopted this movie and helped to heavily promote it.  

I enjoyed the portrayal of Jose’s family and particularly his interaction with his brother Manny, whose compulsive reactions Jose responds to with calm dismissal.  Such as when Manny fires Jose, who simply walks out the back door of the restaurant, then returns the next morning and cooks Manny breakfast as if nothing happened.

My favorite scene has to be Jose, sitting with a rosary in his hand, while Nina is taken into the back of the abortion clinic.  It’s something you might miss, if you weren’t Catholic, but to me, it screamed the power of Our Blessed Mother’s intercession.

Bella is a story about imperfect people, living sometimes difficult lives and facing complicated choices.  It’s about the power of God bringing awesome good out of our human weakness.

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The Blind Side

Typical upper middle class (is there still such a thing?) soccer mom meets underpriviledged, homeless youth. Recognizes hidden talent and alternataive learning style. Takes child into home to shock and dismay of friends and relatives. Sound like an overused storyline? Possibly, but The Blind Side is based on actual people and events. The names are not changed, but of course the actors are more “Hollywood” than the real people.

Family and child adopt each other and love brings out the best on both sides. Child garners attention of college football recruiters. “Non-governmental-organization” tries to foil child’s chances at a college scholarship, “in his best interests”. Child defies non-governmental-organization and chooses to go to college he picks, despite the fact that it is the college his “white” family endorses. All ends well.

How often do special interest groups become enforcers “in the best interests” of a child, a monority group, the environment, (add your pet peeve here), while really serving only their own best interests? As Catholic Christians we are called to the Works of Mercy – shelter the homeless, instruct the uninformed, feed, clothe, give drink. We are not necessarily called to form NGO’s with boards of directors and large staffed offices to carry out these duties for us. All of which require money to operate. I liked The Blind Side because it shows people doing what people should. Feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating those less fortunate. Not asking for a grant to do it with. Not sending out fundraising letters or taking up a collection at church. Not calling social services and pushing the job off on someone else. Just seeing a child in need, and quietly doing what needed to be done. Amen.

The Blind Side is availabe in several formats at http://www.theblindsidemovie.com//.
No compensation was received for this review. I borrowed the movie from our church library.

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The Human Experience – Dignity in the Midst of Poverty

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Two young men from Brooklyn, New York set out to find out what it means to live the gospel in misery and poverty.  From the homeless in New York, to the forgotten orphans of Peru, to modern day leper colonies in Africa, we are presented with the powerful drama that is “the rest of the world”.  The masses living on the outskirts of the comfort zone that we know as modern daily life.

The creators of The Human Experience attempt “By spotlighting heartwarming stories from around the world, (to) show viewers that every single person, no matter his or her lot in life, is beautiful.”

This award winning documentary is brought to us by Grassroot Films, which also produced Fishers of Men, to inspire vocations to priestly service and God in the Streets of New York City.   Grassroots Films strives to “make great films that inspire true change”.  The Human Experience has won over 30 awards since its release last year and emphasizes this year’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development theme:  Fight Poverty. Defend Human Dignity.

A truly inspiring film for private or group viewing, highly recommended by Catholic Traveller’s A Simple Catholic.

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