‘Chaplains’ documentary looks into lives of chaplains, NASCAR, military ….

Tyson Foods Chaplain Melissa Brannan walks the production line at a food processing plant in Springdale, Ark. (Journey Films)

"Chaplains" is a two-hour look at the vocation, lives and ministries of chaplains in the United States that begins airing on PBS stations on November 3 and continues throughout the month. The film opens with U.S. military chaplains, men and women from various faiths. I think beside hospital chaplains the first thing people think of when they hear "chaplain" is connected to the military. The film goes back to World War II with the sinking of the USS Dorchester in 1943 and the story of four … [Read more...]

‘The Armor of Light’: Guns – Second Amendment or Second Commandment? You choose


  There are many Christians who are arming themselves because they are fearful, terribly fearful. God's people are in bondage to fear and I think we pastors, shepherds of souls should be concerned. I asked pastors where and they get their information on gun issues and most tell me Fox News or the NRA. Brothers and sisters, Fox News and the NRA are not spiritual authorities. I am concerned that the NRA promoting the idea that the best way to solve the most vexing problems in our society is … [Read more...]

Are horror films C(c)atholic?


 (Back in 2013 I posted this on Reel Spirituality's website and since there is always conversations about whether or not we should even watch horror movies, I think it's a good time to post in on my blog. Enjoy! Right on time for Halloween....)The first horror film I ever saw at age eight, indeed the first film I ever saw in a theater, was the 1959 House on Haunted Hill. It starred Vincent Price, and I now know it was directed by William Castle, called “the poor man’s Hitchcock,” who … [Read more...]

‘Room’ is a story of crime and survival but also of family and reconciliation

Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, in a scene from "Room," directed by Lenny Abramson and released Oct. 16, 2015. (Caitlin Cronenberg/courtesy of A24)

 It is Jack’s (Jacob Tremblay) 5th birthday and he wakes his mother, whom he calls “Ma” (Brie Larson), sleeping next to him. Ma has a present for him and they bake a cake together in a small one-room apartment where they live. Jack, however, is very unhappy that Ma doesn’t have any candles for the cake. The television, with fuzzy reception, plays in the background. Jack loves “Dora the Explorer.” There are a few books on a shelf that Ma reads to Jack and he knows Alice in Wonderland very … [Read more...]

‘The Assassin’ is a stunning martial arts with a female hero


“Wuxia” is the name of the Chinese dramatic martial arts genre and Taiwan’s legendary filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien’s latest film “The Assassin” is a stunningly beautiful example of the art form. The film won “Best Director” for Hou Hsiao-hsien at Cannes earlier this year and musician/composer Giong Lim’s soundtrack was also awarded at Cannes. “The Assassin” is Taiwan’s official entry for the 2016 Academy Awards.The film opens in ninth century China where treachery and corruption are rife. Nie Yi … [Read more...]

‘Dukhtar’ showcases Pakistan’s fledgling independent film industry


First time Pakistan producer and director Afia Nathaniel tells a harrowing yet tender story of one woman’s journey to save her ten year-old daughter from marriage to an old man as part of a peace deal between opposing village leaders in Pakistan’s mountainous hinterland. Inspired by a true story “Dukhtar” illustrates primitive cultural practices of rigid patriarchy on the one hand and the growing empowerment of women who are willing to risk even life itself to become fully human and free. … [Read more...]

‘He Named Me Malala’ deserves an Oscar (see Stephen Colbert’s interview with Malala, too)


  There is a legend in Pakistan that goes something like this. During the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80), a young woman named Malala (or Malalai) was tending to the injured when the Afghan army started to retreat. She called out to her husband to stand firm and, taking off her veil, she used it as a flag to rally the troops. They turned back and defeated the British that day, but the heroic Malala was killed.“He Named Me Malala” is Oscar-winning producer/director Dav … [Read more...]

‘Captive’ is a compelling, moving drama


 I've been traveling so I am just now able to post my review of CAPTIVE as it appears in the October 2015 issue of St. Anthony Messenger.But I want to add that this is an inspiring film. And it is gritty and does not hide the violence. It's a truthful film about something that really happened and the power of a book to make a huge difference in the choices the characters make. Inspiring films can be compelling - they do not have to be Sunday school lessons. The filmmakers did this … [Read more...]

’90 Minutes in Heaven’ cannot be saved


"90 Minutes in Heaven" is based on Dan Piper's 2004 New York Times best-selling real-life experience story.Director Michael Polish's new film, simply put, is no match for the book and is proof that some books should never, ever be made into films.Don Piper (Hayden Christensen) is on his way home from a Christian conference in Texas in 1989 when he's involved in a terrible accident on a bridge. He flatlines and by the time he is in the hospital and resuscitated, he has spent 90 minutes in … [Read more...]

‘Black Mass’ ‘Everest’ and 33 Films at the Venice Film Festival

black mass

 VENICE, ITALY As most people know, Venice, Italy, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The very first world cinema festival was held there in 1932, with Moscow, Cannes, Locarno and others following. The Venice “Biennale” missed the war years, reconvening in 1947. At that time, the very first of the now numerous independent juries was established: the International Catholic Organization for Cinema (O.C.I.C.), now called SIGNIS, the international Catholic organization for com … [Read more...]