Movie Picks and Tips

‘Of Gods and Men’

Audience:
A-III - adults
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Drama of Algerian Trappists released as DVD

Brilliant 2011 dramatization of real events, recounting the fate of a small community of French Trappists (led by Lambert Wilson and including Michael Lonsdale) living in Algeria during that nation’s civil war in the 1990s.

Targeted by violent Muslim extremists, the monks must decide whether to continue their medical and social work for the local population or abandon them by fleeing to safety. Using the tools of the monastic life itself, director Xavier Beauvois finds a path to the heart of the Gospel through simplicity, a compassionate sense of brotherhood and an atmosphere of prayer enriched by sacred music and potent silence. The result, a profound meditation on the cost of discipleship, is a viewing experience from which every adult as well as many mature teens can expect to profit.

In French. Subtitles. Brief gory violence, some unsettling images and a single instance each of rough and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray.)

(Review: Catholic News Service)

‘Winnie the Pooh’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage
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What better spot for a summer outing than A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood, territory familiar and dear to generations of the kid-lit giant’s faithful readers? Thanks to the delightfully innocent, predominantly animated adaptation “Winnie the Pooh” (Disney), moviegoers will find just such an excursion awaiting them.

With its messages about friendship and putting the interests of others first, directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall’s visually and spiritually faithful screen version of incidents drawn from Milne's classic books is family fare of the highest quality and widest appeal.

Free not only of problematic material but of tiresome potty humor as well – no pooping Mr. Popper’s penguins here – this is an entirely welcome break for conscientious parents. Better yet, it’s a jaunt they themselves can enjoy, thanks in no small part to the amusingly recognizable personality types on display among Milne’s anthropomorphized menagerie.

Exhibit A: Pooh Bear himself (voice of Jim Cummings). Gentle, endearing, devoid of intellectual pretensions – “I am a bear of very little brain,” he frankly admits – Pooh's love of stoutness-inducing honey is his primary motivation in life. What a bother, then, to wake up one morning and discover that breakfast will have to be postponed because he’s fresh out of the sweet, sticky stuff.
 
As Pooh, his tummy growling, goes off in pursuit of renewed rations, his quest is interrupted by the latest crisis in the perpetually woebegone Eeyore (voice of Bud Luckey). The downcast donkey, it seems, has lost his tail.

Things go from bad to worse, and Pooh is further distracted when a note from Christopher Robin (voice of Jack Boulter) is misinterpreted by Owl (voice of Craig Ferguson) to mean that the boy has fallen into the clutches of a monster called the Backson. (As viewers conversant with their ABC’s can tell, that’s Owl’s misreading of Christopher Robin’s cheerful assurance “Back soon.”)

Naturally, all of Christopher Robin’s friends – which is to say, everyone in the Wood – drops everything to find and rescue him. Besides the aforementioned trio, the search party includes exuberant Tigger (also Cummings), timorous Piglet (voice of Travis Oates) and sensible, resourceful Rabbit (voice of Tom Kenny).

The proceedings are further enhanced by narration from Monty Python-vet John Cleese and songs by the husband-wife team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. The movie’s brief 69-minute running time is unlikely to tax the attention of even the smallest audience members, and will surely leave true fans of various ages wanting more.

“Winnie the Pooh” is being shown in conjunction with the animated short “The Ballad of Nessie,” an amusing, eco-friendly take on the origins of Scotland’s most famous monster.
The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G – general audiences.

(By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service)

‘The Wizard of Oz’

Audience:
A-II – adults and adolescents
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The Wicked Witch and Toto, too

On the Vatican’s Top 45 list, this classic may scare the little ones while teaching the wholesome lesson that “there’s no place like home.” Dorothy rides her cyclone to the magic land over the rainbow in director Victor Fleming’s classic that skyrocketed Judy Garland’s career and has given generations of families prime entertainment again and again. The 50th anniversary edition has 17 minutes of material not included in the original release. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G – general audiences. (MGM/UA, $24.98)