New movie “respects Christianity”

Renee Zellweger and Siobhan Fallon Hogan star in a scene from the movie "New in Town." (CNS/Lionsgate)

Renee Zellweger and Siobhan Fallon Hogan star in a scene from the movie "New in Town." (CNS/Lionsgate)

There’s a new movie out called “New in Town” featuring Renee Zellweger that by all reports might be worth seeing. The National Catholic Register posted a blog item about it earlier this week headlined “New Film Respects Christianity.” You can read the review of the movie here from the U.S. bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting, plus we had a story this week about one of the co-stars, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, the mother of three children in a Catholic school in New Jersey.

“Benjamin Button” pro-life and pro-death, but in a good way?

I’ve been catching up on movies lately.

Mostly I’ve been renting films that I missed last year (“The Visitor,” “Dark Knight,” “In the Valley of Elah” — all definitely worth the rental, though a bit depressing to watch in close sequence). In theaters, I appreciated “Frost/Nixon” for the entertaining back story on the first political scandal I followed in the news, and I am anxious for more friends to see “Doubt” to be able to discuss it.

So I was interested in this take on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” that I saw in the Catholic New World, the Chicago archdiocesan newspaper, by Sister Helena Burns, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul.

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a pro-death movie. Let me explain. We’re all terminal. We’re all dying. And “CCBB” says that’s OK. Death isn’t glorified or dressed up pretty (because, as one of the Fathers of the Church said, “death is a cosmic obscenity”). Death is just is what it is, a member of the human family. Not banished, not locked up, not thrown in the river. Death has its place at the table of life and is mentioned, talked of, thought of, expected, accepted.

“CCBB” is also a pro-life fairy tale. The characters are in each other’s keep. They take care of each other whether they’re white or black, young or old, healthy or deformed. Irregular babies and messy old people all belong and are loved by someone.

She goes on to flesh out those points, making the film sound like I’ll move it from “maybe” to the “must see” list.

‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian’ review now posted

Ben Barnes and Warwick Davis in a scene from the movie. (CNS/Disney)The review of “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” by the U.S. bishops’ Office for Film & Broadcasting is now posted in our movie review section. You’ll see that, for rather obvious reasons, the film is classified A-II — adults and adolescents.

Charlton Heston’s other ‘holy’ roles

Charlton Heston, portraying Moses, holds up the Ten Commandments in Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 epic. (CNS file photo)Just about everyone familiar with cinema knows that Charlton Heston, who died April 5 at age 84, played Moses in the 1956 Hollywood classic “The Ten Commandments.”

But it would take a real film buff to remember the other “holy” roles Heston played, including St. Thomas More in a 1988 TV remake of “A Man for All Seasons,” St. John the Baptist in 1965’s “The Greatest Story Ever told,” Sistine Ceiling painter Michelangelo in “The Agony and the Ecstasy” (also made in 1965), Cardinal Richelieu in the 1973 film version of “The Three Musketeers,” and Judah Ben-Hur in 1959’s “Ben-Hur,” for which he won the Oscar for best actor.

But he topped all of those characters by playing God in an uncredited appearance in the 1990 movie “Almost an Angel.”

In an interview with Catholic News Service to promote the movie, Heston said he told Paramount Pictures, which produced the film, that he didn’t want any billing: “It really is ridiculous to say ‘God — Charlton Heston.'”

In negotiating with studio execs, Heston added, he told them, “God doesn’t need billing.” Heston said the studio replied, “God doesn’t need to be paid either.” Ultimately, Heston and Paramount worked out a deal in which the studio didn’t have to pay the actor an almighty sum.

Harry Forbes interviewed on “Golden Compass” controversy

Harry Forbes (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)If you have been following the controversy over the review of “The Golden Compass” by the U.S. bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting, you’ll likely be interested in reading this story in the Fairfield County Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn. Headlined “Film office under fire for doing its job,” the story interviews director Harry Forbes about the controversial review and its subsequent withdrawal, the difference between “The Golden Compass” and “The Da Vinci Code,” how the office’s review process works, the earlier controversy over the review of “Brokeback Mountain,” and the separate controversy over how New Line Cinema used the “Golden Compass” review in its advertising.

USCCB withdraws review of “The Golden Compass”

Today the U.S. bishops withdrew the review of the film “The Golden Compass,” which opened in theaters in the United States Dec. 7. The review was written by Harry Forbes and John Mulderig, the director and staff reviewer respectively of the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The review was released and posted on the CNS Web site Nov. 29. The USCCB gave no reason for withdrawing the review.

Since CNS is a distributor of media reviews of the OFB, it must respect the office’s withdrawal of its review. Effective Dec. 10, the review of “The Golden Compass” will not be available on the CNS Web site. It will not be included in subsequent listings of USCCB film reviews and classifications.

CNS stories about the film remain available to clients. These include:

Author of book behind ‘Golden Compass’ criticized as anti-Christian

Critics debate merits of ‘The Golden Compass’ movie

Nun-critic offers media literacy guide for ‘The Golden Compass’

“The Golden Compass” as seen in the Catholic press

Also, since our last post on the CNS News Hub, there’s also this item of interest: ‘Compass': Challenging believers to articulate faith, values, by Sister Rose Pacatte.

UPDATE on Dec. 11: Comments on the review of “The Golden Compass” or its withdrawal by the USCCB can be sent to

“Golden Compass,” Part 2

(CNS photo/New Line)Or maybe this is Part 3, if you count both the brief post here from last month and our comprehensive look two days ago of Catholic press coverage on both sides of the issue.

More items found since Wednesday:

– Bishop Jerome E. Listecki of La Crosse, Wis., asked in a letter to pastors in his diocese that they avoid “The Golden Compass” and caution parishioners “against this pernicious attack on the foundations of our Christian faith and on the innocence of our children.”

– Joe Towalski, in an editorial in this week’s edition of The Catholic Bulletin in St. Paul, Minn., says he got a “sneak peak” screening of the movie last weekend,  defends the controversial review by the U.S. bishops’ film office, but also says the problem is “the agenda that may lurk behind it” and credits the Catholic League with providing a valuable service to parents in its booklet on the movie.

– Catholic Digest magazine offers an analysis of the controversy surrounding the books and the movie in a Q-and-A format titled “Should our family watch ‘The Golden Compass?'” It’s conclusion? Families should make “a prayerful, informed decision whether or not to see the movie or read the books” and, if they do so, have a serious discussion “to engage children in a better understanding of why we as Catholics believe what we believe.”

– The National Catholic Reporter examines the controversy as well, focusing primarily on the books that are behind the film.

There is no way this is everything. We’ll probably have more links to more viewpoints next week.


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