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:
Great viewing at the movies: ‘The Incredibles,’ ‘Ray’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Dec. 2, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

The new Pixar-Disney animated feature The Incredibles is packing them in at the multiplexes. I saw this lively film recently with an audience of families with lots of children. The Incredibles is a film for adults.

It is a very interesting story, spectacularly told. Personally, I think parents should take the Parental Guidance rating very seriously. The movie violence is intense. The beginning of the film is a little slow as it gives us the background on how a family of superheroes has been relocated to a suburban rancher because there have been too many lawsuits against them. During this part of the film a small boy behind me said to his Dad, “When is this going to end?”

Fifteen years after relocation, Mr. Incredible (also known as Bob Parr, and voiced by Spokane’s own Craig T. Nelson) is going through a mid-life crisis after being consigned to a dead-end job at an insurance company.

Helen Parr (Holly Hunter), his wife formerly known as Elastigirl, is quite happy as she raises three lively children in suburbia. Sure, middle son Dash (Spencer Fox) is having some problems in school: placing tacks on one of his teacher’s chair using his super-powers. But on the whole family life is what Helen has longed for.

After Bob loses his temper and beats up his boss at the insurance company, he seeks to return to his old life. The boss had accused Bob of being too kind to patrons who sought fair insurance rewards.

Without telling his wife, Bob responds affirmatively to an offer from a mysterious woman named Mirage (Elizabeth Peña) that requires him to use his super-powers on a tropical island where there is a violent robot with many long arms.

But first he visits fashion designer Edna “E” Mode (voiced by director Brad Bird) to get a new super-hero costume. Edna is based on the movie fashion designer Edith Head, who won many an Academy Award.

Eventually the whole family gets involved on the tropical island after Helen finds out what is happening. She is very concerned that Bob is in danger. So the older children Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash are finally able to use their super powers that they have had to avoid using back in suburbia. Sarah has the ability to encircle those in danger with a protective shield. Dash is able to out-run any one.

The evil antagonist in all this is Syndrome (Jason Lee) who wants to destroy Mr. Incredible and launch a horrific attack on a major city.

The music and the action remind the viewer of the old TV series Mission: Impossible and the James Bond movies. The last half hour of the film is heart-pounding, non-stop action.

The voice work by Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter is absolutely wonderful. It could not be better.

Writer and director Brad Bird should get lots of credit for this extraordinary film. The computer-generated animation is of the highest quality. The jokes about mid-life are very good. The call to use our talents as completely as we can is a fine moral principle. The themes of the movie reminds me of the recent live-action football movie Friday Night Lights.

The ending credits are creatively done.

The Incredibles is rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested), for movie violence, by the Motion Picture Association of America. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates the film A-II – adults and adolescents.

*****

Director Taylor Hackford has been trying for 15 years to find backing for a biographical account of the great musical artist Ray Charles. Finally, after the death of Ray Charles this past summer, Universal Pictures is releasing the completed film that is certainly among the best films of the year. Jamie Foxx gives the performance of a lifetime as the talented piano player and song stylist. The film Ray is a thoroughly entertaining and an enlightening cinematic experience.

Ray begins with Ray Charles Robinson taking a long bus ride from the South to Seattle, where the jazz scene is alive in 1948. As he gets off the bus he meets a young Quincy Jones. At a Seattle bar, while just 17 years old, Ray begins his long journey to musical greatness.

Throughout the film there are flashbacks to Ray’s childhood in Florida, where his mother struggles to make a living doing laundry. He has a younger brother whose tragic death haunts Ray throughout his life. The flashbacks are done in a rich brown and red color. We learn how Ray becomes blind as a young boy and how his mother teaches him to live without a cane.

As we cover Ray’s life in detail from the late ’40s mid-’60s we follow a very talented man who does not let his blindness prevent him from taking care of himself. For example as a young musician Ray always asks to be paid in one dollar bills so he knows exactly how much he has received.

Ray marries Delia Bea (Kerry Washington), the beautiful daughter of a preacher. They begin to have children. But on the road he is a womanizer who even plays the female singers in his band one against another.

One of the unique gifts of the film is showing the viewer how many of Charles’s memorable songs come out of his real life experiences, such as his love or mistreatment of his woman vocalists. Sometimes even an event like having 20 minutes extra needed to live up to a contract results in Ray extemporizing, with a major musical hit as the result.

The film faces head-on into Charles’s use of drugs. Even when he says he is not hurting anyone we see the damage he is doing to those whom he has loved. The scenes when Ray attempts to go “cold turkey” in a clinic after long years of abusing heroin are traumatic.

Ray’s slow move to fight for desegregation in the South is told as he eventually listens to a protester in Atlanta and refuses to play before a segregated audience.

The ensemble acting that supports Jamie Foxx’s stunning portrayal of an American icon is outstanding.

Regina King as backup singer Margie Hendricks is convincing as she breaks up with Ray with a strong speech from her heart. The result of the breakup is the song “Hit the Road, Jack.”

Ray is a wonderful film because Jaime Foxx is so good. But director Taylor Hackford’s vision of a talented artist living at an important time in American history comes through time and time again.

Even if you are not familiar with Ray Charles’s music you will still enjoy the story of an extraordinary man’s life journey. And if you are familiar with Ray’s music you are in for an unforgettable treat. I can’t recommend Ray highly enough.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates Ray PG-13, for some profanity, sex, and drugs. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates Ray A-III – adults.

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


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