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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Movie review: All the Money in the World

By turns suspenseful, darkly comic and stridently moral, this slightly fictionalized account of the famous 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), the grandson of his billionaire namesake (Christopher Plummer), makes a strong case that immense wealth not only can't buy happiness, it also imposes depths of misery that few ever know. As scripted by David Scarpa from John Pearson's 1995 book "Painfully Rich," it traces the efforts of the victim's divorced mother (Michelle Williams) and the ex-CIA agent (Mark Wahlberg) aiding her to out-negotiate both the miserly oil tycoon — who refuses to pay the $17 million ransom — and the lad's captors.

The film has mature themes, fleeting gore and frequent rough language.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
 
  • Published in Reviews

Ephipany festival in Rome

Fifteen-year-old show choir member Molly Biggs of Topeka, Kansas, thought her biggest singing break would be performing in Kansas City.
 
As the New Year dawned, she wasn't in Kansas anymore.
 
She was standing in St. Peter's Square Jan. 3 -- surrounded by Bernini's colossal stone colonnade, a splashing fountain and an ancient Egyptian obelisk -- getting ready to perform with 33 other Kansans in St. Peter's Basilica, with the Sistine Chapel choir, at Mass celebrated by Pope Francis for the feast of the Epiphany Jan. 6.
 
Before she fully understood what the choir trip to Rome was really about, "I thought maybe we would come to Rome to watch" the Sistine Chapel Choir sing, "but no, were going to go sing with them. My mind was blown," she told Catholic News Service.
 
The mastermind behind the choral odyssey was Chris Hubbard, who is the music teacher at St. Matthew's Catholic school and the director of music ministries at St. Matthew Catholic Church and Mother Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Church in the city of Topeka.
 
Hubbard, who had earlier experiences of the thrill of taking choir trips to different countries, said he wanted the children, teens and adults he taught or directed "to branch out, experience music in a different light and use the gifts given to us."
 
The choirs he works with, Hubbard said, only sang at Masses at their local parishes, and the majority of those who came with him had never left the United States, much less visited Italy.
 
People's initial doubts or fears meant "at first they didn't think it could happen" and a few pep talks were necessary, he said, to encourage them that "if you believe in God, then anything is possible."
 
Joan Atkins joined the choir at Mother Teresa after her husband passed away in November. The trip was special for her, she said, because she brought with her his rosary, "which he always called, 'my beads,'" to be blessed by the pope.
 
Hubbard said that once he got people on board, all that was left to do was raise the money for the trip. Cinnamon roll sales, garage sales, BBQ and spaghetti dinners and other events brought in about $30,000 -- enough to pay for one choir and split what was left equally among the others, he said.
 
After researching choir tour options, Hubbard said he chose an itinerary with Peter's Way Tours, a Jericho, New York-based company that specializes in arranging performances for choirs at the Vatican.
 
The weeklong trip Hubbard led included: singing an evening concert with the children's choir from the Diocese of Orange, California, in Rome's Church of St. Ignatius Jan. 3; Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi Jan. 4; Mass celebrated by U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien in St. Peter's Basilica Jan. 5; and the papal Mass with the Sistine Chapel Choir Jan. 6.
 
Molly's 16-year-old sister, Emma, said at first their parents didn't want them to go because of security concerns given past terrorist attacks in Europe. "But then our mom heard a voice in her head and she let us start fundraising."
 
Emma said she loves the added knowledge music gives her, "like knowing notes, pitch, melody, rhythm." Music also "makes people feel more comfortable" and open to new or faith experiences; it is universal and "people of any language can understand it," she said.
 
The Vatican shares the teen's view of the value of music, said Msgr. Vincenzo De Gregorio, who heads the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome.
 
"The language of art, culture and music" can bring people together in a way that "the language of politics, economics and management" often fail to do, he said.
 
And, he said, by opening up churches, chapels and other sacred spaces at the Vatican and in Rome, singers from around the world experience their craft at "a whole new level."
 
Imagine, the monsignor said, the kind of excitement and emotion these visitors experience when they perform in a space "surrounded by the works of Michelangelo" or other iconic artists.
 
Still, 11-year-old Praizjha Farrant from St. Matthew's School and the choir at Mother Teresa, was not completely convinced.
 
She said that even though she has a beautiful voice and loves to sing, she hates singing in front of people and planned to "not sing that loud" during the papal Mass.
 
When asked why she sang in the choir, she said, "My mom made me," which made her "mad," but just this one time it was OK "because I get to go to Rome."
 
Gathered with group members after seeing Pope Francis at the general audience Jan. 3, Hubbard said, "I'm so thrilled they decided to take a trip outside of Topeka. It's so rewarding for our faith and we are learning from each other, what we are capable of doing."
 
  • Published in World

Movie review: 'Father Figures'

About the funniest joke in the threadbare comedy "Father Figures" (Warner Bros.) concerns the fact that, in childhood, its two main characters -- now-grown and estranged fraternal twins Kyle (Owen Wilson) and Peter (Ed Helms) Reynolds -- had a pet cat named Chairman Meow.
 
That historical pun aside, though, there's precious little that's revolutionary about the film that surrounds this duo.
 
Reluctantly reunited by the second wedding of their supposedly widowed mother, Helen (Glenn Close), bored-with-his-life proctologist Peter and carefree beach bum Kyle are in for a surprise. The man Helen long ago told them was their deceased father was, it seems, just a friend of hers.
 
So their real dad may, in fact, still be alive -- though Helen's promiscuous past makes it impossible for her to identify for sure which of many candidates he might be. This discovery launches the siblings on a road trip during which they visit a series of contenders, the first being famed football star Terry Bradshaw, playing himself.
 
As Terry and the lads toss the old pigskin around on a Florida beach, director Lawrence Sher's formulaic feature debut quickly sinks into a stupor from which only an energetic turn from Katt Williams as a hitchhiker can it briefly emerge.
 
Predictable developments include, most obviously, the gradual repair of the breach between the temperamentally diverse brothers. But subplots concerning Kyle's money troubles and divorced Peter's efforts to get back on track romantically are equally easy to anticipate.
 
Kyle's interest in serving as Peter's "wingman" by facilitating a casual encounter is symptomatic of the fact that the movie's distasteful premise is matched by a worm's-eye view of human sexuality throughout. The resolving plot twist can, however, be seen as vaguely pro-life.
 
The film contains pervasive sexual and some scatological humor, an incest theme, a premarital bedroom scene, about a dozen uses of profanity, a couple of milder oaths and constant rough and crude language.
 
The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
 
  • Published in Reviews

Movie review: 'The Greatest Showman'

The life of pop entertainment pioneer P.T. Barnum provides the subject matter for the big, brash musical "The Greatest Showman" (Fox).
 
Ironically, the film arrives in theaters almost seven months to the day after the demise of the 19th-century impresario's most lasting legacy, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
 
Though unlikely to engage the youngest viewers, an emphasis on marital fidelity and family values in general, together with the virtual absence of objectionable material, makes this screen biography appropriate for most others. Moviegoers' appreciation of it, however, will likely depend on their taste for the Lloyd-Webber style of Broadway and West End theater, whose approach it imitates.
 
Hugh Jackman leads with his chin in playing Barnum with bring-on-the-lions enthusiasm. Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon's script, meanwhile, traces its protagonist's rise from impoverished beginnings to worldwide fame with the kind of occasionally challenged, but ultimately unquenchable, optimism that might have appealed to novelist Horatio Alger.
 
Barnum gains support in his ascent from his childhood sweetheart, Charity (Michelle Williams), who eventually turns her back on her wealthy and well-bred parents to marry him. Also shunning a genteel background to bolster Barnum's career is his unlikely business partner, New York socialite Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron).
 
Assembling an ensemble of such unusual figures as Lettie Lutz, aka the Bearded Lady (Keala Settle) and dwarf "General," Tom Thumb (Sam Humphrey), Barnum turns a large profit by exciting the curiosity of the masses. Tensions arise, though, when he shifts his focus away from these loyal performers and friends to concentrate on backing the American premiere of Swedish diva Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson).
 
Barnum risks his fortune in the effort to promote Lind, hoping thereby to gain the elite standing that has previously eluded him. The fact that this breakthrough may require him to shun those on whom he has built his success fails, initially at least, to deter him.
 
He is equally blind to the danger his absence on the road with Lind poses to his bond with Charity and their children -- not to mention the foreseeable temptation arising from the beautiful soprano's prolonged company.
 
There is an implicitly pro-life message underlying director Michael Gracey's feature debut since its treatment of the social outsiders with whom Barnum surrounded himself strongly vindicates their inherent dignity and entitlement to respect. The picture's portrayal of Carlyle's convention-defying romance with African-American trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) is equally in line with Christian morals.
 
Both these aspects of the plot, however, betray historical naivete in projecting a contemporary outlook backward onto Victorian-era America. The audience is left with the impression that all the gaping inequalities of Barnum's day might easily have been effaced by a few brassy songs delivered with the requisite zest.
 
Still, parents on the lookout for wholesome holiday fare will probably refrain from such nitpicking as, perhaps with teens in tow, they take in a love and success story that's old-fashioned in the best sense.
 
The film contains some nonlethal violence, a mild oath and a racial slur. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
 
  • Published in Reviews
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