Eight Below

A geologist, David McLaren (Bruce Greenwood), arrives at the National Science Foundation’s base in Antarctica to find a meteorite he knows is in the vicinity.  Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker) is the survival guide for the base and it is with great reluctance that he obeys the orders of Dr. Harrison (Gerard Plunkett), the base director, to hitch up his team of dogs to take McLaren where he wants to go. The dog team is made up of six Siberian huskies and two Malamutes: the leader Maya, then Old Jack, Shorty, Dewey, Truman, Shadow, Buck and the huskie-in-training, Max.

McLaren finds his meteorite but the men and dogs barely make it back to base because of a terrible storm. McLaren suffers severe frostbite and must be evacuated, indeed everyone has to go. Winter is setting in, and pilot Katie (Moon Bloodgood; she and Jerry used to be very close), urging them to depart in her small plane, they must leave the dogs behind. Even though Harrison promises Walker they can return the next day for the team, it doesn’t happen because of weather.

Just before leaving, Jerry and Charlie Cooper (Jason Biggs) secure the dogs so they will not run off in the storm. When they are prevented from returning, this is the thought that burdens Jerry the most.

Everyone returns to the states. More than 150 days go by, and the film cuts back and forth between the dogs struggle to survive and Jerry’s struggle to get the funding to go back and rescue them.

Eight Below is “suggested” by a 1983 Japanese film that was itself based on the experience of two Japanese men and their dogs in the 1950’s. That expedition did not end as happily as this Disney version.

However, Eight Below is a very good film. It never gets sentimental, the dogs, though each with its own personality (so to speak), are never cute. They are smart and loyal as are Jerry and his friends who are finally able to return (you knew this was how the film would end; this is Disney, folks). Jerry really has to work hard to get back to New Zealand to find a boat that will take him and his friends back to Antarctica.

Eight Below is an adventure that compliments last year’s fascinating March of the Penguins. Nature can be harsh, and that same nature gives creatures and people the strength to survive against all odds. At its heart, Eight Below is about character and the care of creation. I enjoyed it very much (though it’s not going to win any Academy Awards.)

When they get back to Antarctica the team borrows a huge snowmobile from the Italian base; the name translates to Seabiscuit.

From a Media literacy persepctive:

Many viewers will notice that the one thing that is confusing about this adventure film is that it gets the seasons mixed up. In the Southern Hemisphere the seasons are opposite of the Northern Hemisphere. Maybe the writer got confused because all the filming was done in Canada and Norway. One more cross-curricular theme to talk about with kids is the title: Eight Below. It refers of course to the eight dogs below the equator, However, people who live “below” the equator may very well think that they are at the top of the world instead of those of us in North America. The title also refers to the treacherous and awesome environment of a continent that is always below freezing.



After a hurricane hits the west coast of Florida, two young teen girls, Claire (Emma Roberts, Julia’s niece) and Hailey (JoJo Levesque) discover a mermaid in the swimming pool of Claire’s grandparents’ motel. Her name is Aquamarine (Sara Paxton).

It’s the last week of summer; Hailey’s mom got a job in Australia and the two best friends are about to be separated. They pray for a miracle, and Aquamarine seems to be it.


Claire and Hailey are sweet on the local lifeguard, and since Aquamarine got permission for her mer-dad to go beyond the sea to see if real love between males and females really exists, she grows legs during the day and then falls for the same lifeguard.


Based on a novel by Alice Hoffman, and poorly compared to other mermaid movies by film critics and reviewers, Aquamarine actually has a lot going for it.


I was in the middle of reading Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, God is LoveDeus Caritas Est (I bet you didn’t expect to find a reference to this here!) when I went to see Aquamarine. The Pope frames his essay by defining the three kinds of love that exist in the world: Eros the love between a man and a woman (“…a love which is neither planned or willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings”), Philia (“the love of friendship”), Agape (“… the new vision of love” that points “to something new and distinct about the Christian understanding of love” – “the biblical notion of love… that becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice.”)


I was delighted to see that all of these kinds of love are found to some degree or another in Aquamarine. The thoughtful catechist, religious educator, and parent will find these themes to be rich fonts from which to draw when talking or teaching about the ways faith and life come together.


True, this is a film for young teens and pre-teens, and I dare say, the target audience is mostly girls (there should have been more cultural diversity in the film, however) and it is very tastefully produced. Aquamarine is still playing in theaters in the L.A. area, but if you can’t get to the cineplex, be sure to watch for the DVD. There’s more here than meets the eye.


(You can order God Is Love/Deus Caritas Est by Pope Benedict XVI from www.pauline.org, $6.95)

Shaggy Dog, The

In far off Tibet, in the foothills of the Himalayas, a Buddhist monastery is home to a 300 year-old shaggy dog. A biogenetic company, headed by Dr. Kozac (Robert Downey, Jr.) manages to steal the dog, supposedly to provide a way for the company’s owner to live longer. Actually, he wants to find a way to make himself a very rich man.

The smart dog (at 300 years and counting, he must have a lot of life experience!) escapes from the lab where genetic testing goes on.  Lawyer Dave Douglas’ (Tim Allen) family find it, but Dave doesn’t like dogs. He calls the dog pound and the dog manages to bite him. Soon, Dave is drooling, barking, growling, and running across front yards on all fours. And the chase is on.

The Shaggy Dog franchise has been around for awhile, beginning with the classic 1959 film (based on a novel by Feliz Salten) that starred Fred MacMurray, and grew into forgettable sequels, a remake, and TV offshoots.

This 2006 version, directed by Brian Robbins (One Tree Hill), is pleasant enough. It’s very much a family film with positive messages supporting communication in the family and the dangers of messing around in genetics for profit.

The Shaggy Dog is not the funniest film I have ever seen, but as re-makes go, it’s entertaining enough.

You’ve know how studios often put the funniest parts of a weak comedy in the previews that lead to much disappointment after paying beaucoup bucks to go to the theater – only to discover those are the only funny parts of the film?  At least the new The Shaggy Dog has more comedy that the previews show; at best, your younger children will enjoy the movie and you will have something to talk together about afterwards.

Failure to Launch

This will be a short review because the story is short even though it lasts 97 minutes ($8.50 for the matinee here in L.A.!). I can only give the basic premise of the movie or I’d give away the ending (yeah, right.)


A gorgeous, blonde, successful thirty-five year old man, Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) still lives at home. His parents (played by Kathy Bates who provides some maternal insight, and former football player Terry Bradshaw) know it’s the end of every relationship Tripp has with a girl when he finally brings her home and she discovers he still lives at home. So the parents hire a gorgeous, blonde, sucessful life coach (Sarah Jessica Parker) to lure him from the nest to life in the real world. You can pretty much write the rest of the script.


On the back page of today’s New York Times Book Review section there is a quote from Harper Lee’s wonderful 1960 book, To Kill a Mockingbird: “Remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (This original from Bauman’s Rare books, inscribed by Lee, sells for $35,000.00)  If you want to enjoy Failure to Launch, forget McConaughey and Parker, set aside the always great Kathy Bates and Bradshaw who bares his bum to no special effect (is he trying to say when you shed your kids it’s like walking around naked? Maybe). Forget McConaughey’s two pals, played by Justin Bartha and Bradley Cooper, even though they are likeable enough.


The real treat of this film is Zooey Deschanel who plays Parker’s roommate, Kit. Kit is tormented by a mockingbird that lives in the garden. In her pursuit to rid her world of that mockingbird (i.e. launch it elsewhere), in the midst of a film that gives you the ending from the get-go, emergesthe film’s true comedy and evokes deep laughter.


Wait for the DVD on this one, unless you want to enjoy America’s next best comedienne on the big screen.

Ten Commandments: Lights, Camera…Faith! New Book

Hi everyone,

Pauline Books & Media is pleased to announce a new book by Rev. Peter Maolne, MSC and I on movies and the Ten Commandments. You can order from www.pauline.org  . To “search” for the book on the web site, look under “browse all categories” and click on Social Communications Resources.

Here’s a description of the book. We are currently working on “Lights, Camera…Faith: The Beatitudes and Seven Deadly Sins.” Publication date has not yet been set.

This is a great book for Lent and catechesis/religious education and scripture study. The Foreword is by Micheal Flaherty, the president of Walden Media that just co-produced “The Chronicles of Narnia” with Disney.

Blessings to all~


Lights, Camera…Faith!
The Ten Commandments

Rose Pacatte, FSP and Peter Malone, MSC

Enliven your study of the Christian faith by discovering movies as a moral laboratory.

In this volume of Lights, Camera…Faith!, Rose Pacatte, FSP and Peter Malone, MSC, offer an exciting approach to adult faith formation by creating a dialogue between Scripture, the Ten Commandments, and film. By exploring the drama of the moral life through movies, Lights, Camera…Faith! The Ten Commandments grapples with the reality of temptation, choices, motivation, and consequences, and the faith-filled and informed Christian response to life’s situations. Three movies are offered for each commandment, providing material for different viewers: a film appropriate for a general adult audience, a film with themes calling for more in-depth discussion, and a film that treats more difficult issues.

With fresh insight into God’s covenant of love, this is a valuable resource for catechetical leaders, adult faith-formation programs, parish discussion groups, young adult groups, film educators and professionals—and anyone who appreciates deeper meaning in movies.

  • Movie synopsis
  • Film commentary
  • Film dialogue with the Scriptures and the Decalogue
  • Points for reflection and conversation
  • Suggested prayers
  • Cross-references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
  • Complete index

“Peter Malone and Rose Pacatte once again bring film and faith together with their customary spiritual integrity and biblical wisdom.”
–James M. Wall, Senior Contributing Edtior,
The Christian Century Magazine, Chicago

Paperback / 360 pages / Dimensions: 7″ x 9″ / ISBN: 0819845205
Retail Price: $29.95

Media Need More Praise, Says Vatican Official

I was so very pleased to read this article from www.zenit.org today and I look forward to reading Archbishop Foley’s complete remarks.

Archbishop Foley’s ideas emerge from the consistent teaching of the Church since the 1930’s when the media (those then in existence) were considered gifts of God. Vatican Council II reaffirmed this with the document Inter Mirifica – which always ends up at the bottom of the list of Council documents, even though it was released first.

Our former superior general, Sister Giovannamaria Carrara, FSP, is taking part in this meeting at the Vatican, as is Fr. Peter Malone, MSH, co-author with me of the Lights, Camera…Faith! A Movie Lectionary Series (Pauline Books &Media) and our newest book, Lights, Camera…Faith! The Ten Commandments, just released by Pauline Books & Media, www.pauline.org.)


Media Need More Praise, Says Vatican Official
Archbishop Foley Calls for Less Criticism of Communicators

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican official says people in the media should be praised more and criticized less by the Church.

Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, made that appeal as he marked the opening of the dicastery’s plenary assembly.


He delivered his message during the homily of a Mass concelebrated in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse.

In his homily the U.S.-born archbishop commented on a Gospel passage, Luke 6:36-37, when Jesus told his disciples: “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

“As many of us know all too well,” Archbishop Foley said, “the communications community has often expected and too often received from the Church more condemnation than commendation, more negative criticism than positive affirmation.”

“The fact that the Church has often been correct in its criticisms has not diminished their sting,” he observed. “The fact that many good productions have gone unrecognized has intensified the hurt from the criticisms.”

Light of Christ

About 60 participants, including members and consultors of the pontifical council, are attending the plenary assembly at the Vatican.

Archbishop Foley, 70, quoted one of the patrons of communications, St. Francis of Sales, who said: “You can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.”

“Let us continue not so much to curse the darkness as to offer the light of Christ through the communications media to those searching for purpose in life and love — because ‘Deus Caritas Est,’ God is love,” said Archbishop Foley.

Among the main objectives of the plenary assembly, which ends Saturday, is to study the reception and implementation of Pope John Paul II’s last apostolic letter, “The Rapid Development.”


Oscars 2006


My hopes vis-à-vis  the winners!

Best Actor – Phillip Seymour Hoffman  *****

Best Supporting Actor – Paul Giamatti (This was a difficult call because George is great, but I’d still vote for Paul Giamatti)

Best Actress – Reese Witherspoon: Walk the Line *****

Best Supporting Actress – Rachel Weisz: Constant Gardener *****

Best Animated Feature: Corpse Bride

Best Cinematography: The New World

Costume Design: Memoirs of a Geisha *****

Best Direction: Crash

Best Documentary Feature: March of the Penguins *****

Best Foreign Language Film: Between Tsotsi (seeing it tonight) and Joyeux Noel (excellent)  ***** (I should have updated this; Tsotsi deserves the Oscar)

Best Original Score: Munich

Best Original Song: In the Deep: CRASH

Documentary Short: God Sleeps in Rwanda

Art Direction: Good Night and Good Luck

Make-Up: The Chronicles of Narnia *****

Film Editing: Walk the Line

Visual Effects: King Kong

Screenplay Adapted: Capote

Screenplay Original: Crash *****

Sound Mixing: Walk the Line

Short Film – Live Action:?

Best Picture: Crash YES!!! *****

Short Film Animated: ?