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:
This week: movies, books, and a Catholic children’s magazine

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Oct. 20, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

At the movies

Jodie Foster’s new thriller, Flightplan, has been number one at the box office for two weeks running. She is an especially fine actress, but in this movie she is pretty much walking through it with various histrionics as she desperately looks for her lost daughter on a new double-decker jet she helped design.

The movie sails along for the first hour as the crew of the plane, flying from Berlin to New York, comes to believe that the Jodie Foster character is suffering from mental illness. The last half hour asks the viewer to go beyond plausibility and turns into a cartoonish “let’s blow everything up” adventure.

Sean Bean as the captain is superb. Peter Sarsgaard as the safety guard on the plane is really bad. But the main disaster for Flightplan is the goofy script that should have not made it by the script readers. Go at your own risk.

Flightplan is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), for violence and intense material. The Office for Film and Broadcasting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) rates the film A-III – for adults.


I’m not much of a science-fiction fan, but the new si-fi Western film Serenity is a delight. Serenity makes the last chapter of Star Wars really seem boring.

Serenity is the very clever creation of writer-director Joss Whedon, who based it on a television series called Firefly that was on the Fox network for 11 episodes. On DVD the series became a huge hit and Universal Pictures came forward for the film version.

The film’s title comes from the name of a renegade spaceship 500 years in the future that is being sought by huge government that doesn’t want individual expression. Shades of 1984. It also has overtones of Jack Armstrong, Roy Rogers, Billy Jack, Indiana Jones, and Robin Hood. Of course, it owes lots to Star Trek and Star Wars.

A young woman named River (Summer Glau) is made by the central government into a secret weapon. She is rescued by her brother, a doctor who brings her on the claptrap independent space ship Serenity. A series of adventures takes place under the tutelage of the Captain, named Mal (Nathan Fillion). The central government does not want River in anyone’s hands but its own. There are lots of quips and philosophic banter as our enjoyable crew gets through impossible odds. There is quite a discussion about good and evil and the word sin is used several times. One character, named Shepherd, who eventually dies for others, speaks often of Christian faith. In the end, the key to the movie is whether free will is of the essence of man and woman.

Serenity is a creative joy. For pure popcorn fun with a philosophic keystone, Serenity is a movie for people who have been staying away from movies.

Serenity is rated PG-13 by the MPAA; there are some intense fight scenes and some graphic violence. The USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting rates the film A-III – for adults.


The Canadian director David Cronen-berg critiques the American culture of violence in his new film A History of Violence. He does this in stunning ways that are extremely violent. It is not just so-called movie violence. The acting and direction in this film are stunning. But in the end, it is fair to ask the question: When you say violence is destructive, and say that by using stark violence, aren’t you letting the audience have its cake and eat it, too?

Viggo Mortensen has the role of a lifetime as small Midwestern cafe owner, Tom Stall. He is portrayed as an absolutely wonderful husband and father living in a pristine Norman Rockwell world with a beautiful wife, Edie (Maria Bello) and two wonderful children.

Into Tom Stall’s world come two criminals who attempt to rob and kill in his diner. Tom dramatically kills them both and becomes a Midwestern hero.

Later, a thug from Philadelphia (Ed Harris) with two associates begins to chase and scare the Stall family. They charge that Tom is not who he claims to be. The rest of the film is a Hitchcockian thriller that is better than if the master directed it.

If you are able to survive the violence that is being starkly criticized, A History of Violence is a memorable film you will not soon forget.

The MPAA rates A History of Violence R, for intense violence and several adult sex scenes. There is also strong language. The USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting rates the film L – for limited audiences, because some may find the film troubling because of problematic content.

News Notes

• The Daughters of St. Paul are publishing a first-rate glossy monthly magazine for kids ages 7-12, titled My Friend: The Catholic Magazine for Kids. It reminds me of the old Treasure Chest Catholic comic book of the 1950s and ’60s.

My Friend includes news, comic strips, articles and stories with religious themes in a colorful and creative style. Each month there is a special section on a good movie for young people. The October issue had a section explaining the rating systems of the Bishops’ Conference and the Motion Picture Association of America. There is a coloring page and several puzzle pages.

My Friend would make a good gift to a child from a grandparent or godparent. The price for a year of 10 issues is $24.95 and is available by calling 1-800-598-9750 or going to the magazine's web site.

• When I was visiting my sister in Minnesota recently, we saw the very enjoyable documentary of a competition between 60 schools involving 6,000 students in New York City. The students have 10 weeks to learn various types of ballroom dancing. This wonderful film, titled Mad Hot Ballroom, is now out on DVD. For a delightful evening, rent this feel-good film. It is rated PG.

• Eastern Washington University’s alumni magazine has changed its name from Perspective to Eastern. The magazine has had a first rate make-over. An interesting fact I learned is that the Social Work Program at Eastern is the fourth largest in the United States. With 625 students, it follows Fordham, Columbia and the University of Maryland-Baltimore. To receive the magazine, call 1-800-359-4701.

• The Oct. 2 issue of The New York Times Book Review reports that the new biography Mother Angelica, by Raymond Arroyo, is already tied for 15th place in the nonfiction list. Raymond Arroyo, the news director and lead anchor of EWTN, has written an extensive 371-page biography of the determined Sister who has built up a religious cable network that is said to reach over 100 million people world-wide. The book, published by Doubleday in hardcover, is available for $23.95.

• Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser’s new book is titled Forgotten among the Lilies. It is based on his previously published newpaper columns that appeared in Catholic papers throughout the English-speaking world (including the Inland Register). Father Rolheiser’s recent talks in the diocese remind us of what a bridge-builder in the Church he is.

With its short chapters, Forgotten among the Lilies is perfect to be used for daily spiritual reading or prayer. It is published by Doubleday in hardcover at $21.95.

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Officer as well as archivist for the Diocese of Spokane, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)

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