‘Phoenix’ is a haunting post-Holocaust mystery

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In the still-growing canon Holocaust cinema, its victims and survivors, it's impact on history and humanity, there are fact-based stories such as “Schindler’s List” and fictional stories such as “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.” There are also searing documentaries such as “Memories of the Camps” filmed by the allied troops that liberated the death camps at the end of World War II.“Phoenix,” opening this weekend (July 24, 2015) in Los Angeles, is a fictional tale, though it could certainly ha … [Read more...]

‘Samba’ reminds viewers what it means to be human

From left, actor Omar Sy and directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano discuss a scene on the set of "Samba." (Broad Green Pictures/David Koskas)

While illegal immigration grabs political headlines in the United States, it is a major global human and social concern for those caught between borders while escaping war and poverty to seek a better life. The 2013 U.S. film "A Better Life" took a sensitive look at a Mexican father and son in Los Angeles. Now, French filmmakers turn a light on their county's reality in the thoroughly engaging film "Samba."Samba (Omar Sy) is an undocumented immigrant from Senegal who lives with his uncle in … [Read more...]

‘The Look of Silence’ exposes Indonesia’s present day legacy of genocide

Adi questions Commander Amir Siahaan, one of the death squad leaders responsible for his brother’s death during the Indonesian genocide, in Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary "The Look of Silence." (Courtesy of Drafthouse Films and Participant Media)

 Beginning in October 1965, an anti-Communist purge, rather conveniently instigated by a failed coup, led to the ousting of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno. This was followed by the U.S.-supported presidency of Suharto, who held office for 31 years. It is estimated that the purge, that lasted into 1966, and carried out by local militias under the direction of local and regional leaders, resulted in the brutal torture and deaths of at least 500,000 people.Many of the people who c … [Read more...]

‘Mad Max: Fury Road” & “Tomorrowland” both prophecy and fantasy

Britt Robertson stars in a scene from the movie "Tomorrowland." (CNS/Disney)

This summer’s “Tomorrowland” from Disney and director Brad Bird and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a “reboot” of the original Mad Max trilogy from the 1970s and ’80s from Australian director George Miller, go together better than you might think at first glance. Seeing them in tandem makes all the difference. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is the typical post-apocalyptic dystopian flick with themes of hope and redemption and regeneration. The lead characters are courageous, violent fighters and hope is a mirage. I … [Read more...]

‘Batkid Begins’ – a wish with a life of its own

Eric Johnston as Batman and Miles Scott as Batkid in "Batkid Begins." (Warner Bros. Entertainment Co.)

As news of the terrible shootings at the AME Church in Charleston, S.C., broke Wednesday, a couple hundred people were gathered at the Landmark Theater on Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles for the premiere of the documentary film “Batkid Begins.” “Batkid Begins” is the epitome of what a great community that America can be and is, the antithesis of the havoc a lone mass shooter wreaked on a group of people studying the Bible in their church.“Batkid” is Miles Scott, a little boy from a small town in No … [Read more...]

‘Jurassic World’ – No dinosaurs with pink feathers, but questionable ethics

The Indominus rex readies her attack in “Jurassic World."

 Below is the feature article I wrote on the science and philosophy in "Jurassic World" but I want to add a couple of things. First, the engineering science of Dallas Bryce Howard's high heeled shoes ought to have been mentioned. She wore them throughout and I think she even walked backwards sometimes. This feat defied nature. I would have mentioned the dinosaur brain science but I was not able to hear everything that Professor Horner said about this at the press day event. But it was … [Read more...]

‘Flannery O’Connor: Faith Fired by Fiction’ my book review

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 “Flannery O’Connor: Fiction Fired by Faith”By Angela Alaimo O’DonnellLiturgical Press, 2015Paperback, 138 pages$12.95 My copy of “Flannery O’Connor: Fiction Fired by Faith” by Fordham University English professor Angela Alaimo O’Donnell arrived a few days ago and I just finished devouring it. It’s part of the “People of God” series published by Liturgical Press. After a read of the scholarly and analytical Introduction and Chapter One, the book takes flight … [Read more...]

‘A.D. The Bible Continues’ kicks off with a familiar story

Juan Pablo Di Pace as Jesus in "A.D. The Bible Continues" (CNS/Courtesy Arenas Group)

"A.D. The Bible Continues" Premieres 9 p.m./8 p.m. Central, Sunday, April 5, NBC The NBC website for this new miniseries on the New Testament says: "The epic story picks up where 'The Bible' left off, exploring the aftermath of events following the Crucifixion."Actually, this is a somewhat misleading statement. The opening episode of the 12-part series that premieres on Easter Sunday begins with Pilate's words "Truth? What is truth?" and images of the nails being forged that … [Read more...]

The Good Samaritan: Stories from the Los Angeles Catholic Worker on Skid Row

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BOOK REVIEWTHE GOOD SAMARITAN: STORIES FROM THE LOS ANGELES CATHOLIC WORKER ON SKID ROW By Jeff Dietrich Published by Marymount Institute Press, $19.95 When I reviewed Catholic Worker Jeff Dietrich's 2011 book Broken and Shared: Food, Dignity, and the Poor on Los Angeles' Skid Row, I wrote, "To read Broken and Shared, you need intentionality and the willingness to step into Jeff Dietrich's shoes and see the world, church, government -- indeed, the institutions of power wherever they exist … [Read more...]

‘METALHEAD’ is a Good Friday film with an Easter ending

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Out of Iceland comes an extraordinary story of grief and understanding, violence and forgiveness, isolation and community, family and church, despair and hope, art and grace. Hera Karlsdottir is about twelve years old and is outside playing with her friends when her mother, Droplaug, calls to her to come in for dinner and to summon her older brother, Baldur, to come in as well. Baldur is about seventeen and is on the tractor, harvesting hay for their dairy cows. He motions to Hera but keeps on … [Read more...]


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