Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Media Watch:
High praise for 'The Terminal,' 'Spider-Man 2'

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the July 29, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

The Terminal, now in theaters, is the best Hollywood movie of the year so far. Steven Spielberg does it again with an old-fashioned movie in the Frank Capra tradition that talks of virtue and goodness in an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable way. I haven’t laughed as much in months as Tom Hanks superbly plays a Chaplinesque character with lovable sincerity. The Terminal is the feel-good movie of the year.

Viktor Narvorski arrives at JFK Airport in New York City just as there is a revolution in his fictional home country of Krakozhia. The Eastern European country sounds like it was formerly part of the Soviet Union.

As he lands Viktor finds his passport and visa confiscated because his country is no longer recognized by the United States. Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), the airport security officer, tells Viktor, who speaks just a few words of English, that he, Viktor, can stay in the airport until things get worked out. But soon Dixon wants Victor out of his hair and in a hilarious scene tries to get Victor to escape when the police are gone for five minutes. Dixon’s purpose is to get another governmental agency to pick him up outside the airport and take Victor to a new holding area far from the airport.

But Viktor, slowly but surely, with lots of physical comedy, turns lemons into lemonade. His attempt the first night to make a bed out of old airline seats in reminiscent of Jack Nicholson getting on his first water bed in About Schmidt.

Viktor finds inventive ways to earn money and obtain gourmet dinners left over from first class flights. His nemesis, Mr. Dixon, is always shown eating pretty basic sandwich lunches.

The subplots are wonderful, with extremely interesting characters. Eventually Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a beautiful flight attendant slips on a newly mopped floor and loses one of her high heels. Victor is there to help her. He is smitten from his first meeting. But Amelia has a long-term relationship with an older married man that at times is very rocky. The continuing meetings of Viktor and Amelia when she arrives back from her overseas flights are beautifully portrayed. Amelia believes Viktor is on his way to a flight every time she meets him.

But hold your horses: The Terminal has lots of surprises and does turn the romantic comedy genre upsides down. The reason Viktor came to America finally comes out. It is a surprise. Loyalty to family and honesty stand out in Viktor’s character. He becomes an icon for people who work at the airport. The Terminal is about people helping people. It is a love song to the basic goodness of human beings. It is designed to drive melancholy away.

Tom Hanks gives another award-winning performance. He is totally believable as Everyman who, through wit and ingenuity, breaks through an impossible situation. He learns English by comparing a guide book written in his language with the exact same book written in English. His accent, his movement, his pathos, and his joy are perfect.

Stanley Tucci is best at the beginning of the film, before he becomes such an unrelenting villain. Catherine Zeta-Jones is wonderful as the flight attendant searching for more meaning in her life than she presently has. The Indian custodian (Kumar Pallana) who does a heroic act in the Tiananmen Square tradition is both funny and charming. Food-service worker Enrique (Diego Luna), who is a guardian angel to Viktor, is lovable.

For some, Spielberg may be too cute, or tell too many tall tales in his execution of the film. But he gives us a memorable story that lightens our lives. Trust me: You do not want to miss this masterful film.

The Terminal is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned.) There are some mild sexual references and a little strong language which I somehow didn’t hear.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates The Terminal A-II - for adults and adolescents.

*****

The most financially successful movie of the summer season so far is Spider-Man 2. Director Sam Raimi has returned with an action-adventure film with lots of relational issues that is thought-provoking and a wonderfully entertaining movie. Here we have an action movie where the actors get to act. Spider-Man 2 is much better than the initial Spidey movie.

Spider-Man 2 is a story of a young man, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), who has an identity crisis over whether he should just be an ordinary guy and express his love to Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) or take on the responsibility of his alter ego, Spider-man, in helping ordinary people in danger.

Early on in the movie we see Peter lose several jobs and fall into financial trouble. His beloved aunt, May Parker (Rosemary Harris), is also going through a financial setback. Peter would love to help Aunt May keep her small home in the Bronx. But he is unable to help her. Peter fails to make it to Mary Jane’s starring role in the off-Broadway production of The Importance of Being Earnest. He was busy as Spider-Man, helping someone in need. Mary Jane begins a new relationship with an astronaut.

As part of a school project in one of his science classes at Columbia University, Peter meets the scientific genius Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), who is showing off his new effort of sustained fusion. The demonstration, funded by Harry Osborn (James Franco), the son of the first film’s villain, goes awry. The good doctor turns into a mind-controlled, violent Dr. Octopus – “Doc Ock” – who becomes a danger to the entire city.

Half-way through the film, Peter, after seemingly losing his powers, decides to throw away his Spider-Man suit and just become an ordinary young college student who loves Mary Jane.

But in the process of trying to renew his relationship with Mary Jane and telling Aunt May of his feelings of guilt over the death of Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson, in the first Spider-Man film), Peter finds himself called to be the hero again. This leads to the dramatic set piece of Spider-Man fighting Doc Ock on an elevated mass transit train which would in all likelihood be more naturally found in Chicago rather than Manhattan. A little movie license makes for a tremendous action sequence. When Spider-Man finally stops the runaway train and is wounded on his right side, the grateful people carry him overhead with his arms extended. His hood is off and now people know he is Peter Parker. The director certainly seems to give us a Christ-figure symbol.

At different times in the film Aunt May and Mary Jane are in mortal danger at the hands of Doc Ock. Just like old time movie serials Spider-Man goes through virtually impossible actions to save them.

The end of the movie is very satisfying, as Peter makes a compromise with Mary Jane’s complete support.

The acting is first-rate in Spider-Man 2 because time is given for us to really get to know the characters. This is one action movie where the action is built on the relationships of the characters. Tobey Maquire is perfect as the conflicted youth who in some ways just wants to be an ordinary kid who falls in love and leads a normal life. Kirsten Dunst is excellent as Peter’s next door neighbor whom he deeply loves, but has lots of trouble expressing that love. At age 75, Rosemary Harris lets her years of stage acting show through. Even when she hangs from the top of an extremely tall skyscraper from an umbrella we still find her portrayal of Aunt May very believable.

Classy acting and superb storytelling make Spider-Man 2 the action movie Hollywood will try to top in the future.

Spider-Man 2 is rated PG-13 (Parents strong cautioned). There is stylized action violence. The USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting rates Spider-Man 2 A-III – for adults.

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane and pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney. His reviews often appear in the Cheney Free Press.)


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