Bishop’s Ball honors St. Dominic leaders, offers dining, dancing, bidding

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – More than 300 Supporters of Catholic Charities of Jackson gathered at the Jackson Country Club on Saturday, June 9 for the Bishop’s Ball, a gala fund-raising event. In addition to a silent and live auction, attendees are treated to dinner, dancing and live music.
Catholic Charities uses the gathering to honor those who have made a lasting impact on the organization. This year, Claude Harbarger and Lester Diamond were recognized with the Good Samaritan Award. Harbarger is president of St. Dominic’s Health Services while Diamond is president of St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital Both men have been very supportive of the work and mission of Catholic Charities since they began working at the Catholic hospital, a ministry of the Dominican Sisters.
In another month, Catholic Charities will welcome film producer, actor and philanthropist Jim Caviezel to Thala Mara Hall in Jackson. Tickets available here.

Summer movie season starts with spring kick-off

By Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) – The following are capsule reviews of movies recently reviewed by Catholic News Service.
“Can we please stop saying sex?” a character asks in the ensemble romantic comedy “Book Club” (Paramount). The answer, in a word, is no.
In fact, there’s hardly a line of dialogue in director and co-writer Bill Holderman’s film, penned with Erin Simms, that doesn’t contain an innuendo, a smutty pun or some other tiresome joke. A listless cat’s visit to a veterinarian and the refurbishment of a motorcycle are both made the occasion for extended off-color wordplay, while the use of Viagra in ill-chosen setting results in a series of cringe-worthy visuals.
Such elements are all the more embarrassing given the movie’s stellar veteran cast. That these pros are going to find themselves flailing around in a morass of bad taste becomes apparent as soon as the premise is known: A group of friends, all ladies of a certain age, find their interest in amour renewed after their book club takes on E.L. James’ sadomasochistic “Fifty Shades” trilogy.
And so, they’re off to the races, each in her own way. Timid recent widow Diane (Diane Keaton) who suffers from fear of flying, falls, ironically enough, for wealthy pilot and aeronautics researcher Mitchell (Andy Garcia). But Diane’s path to happiness is blocked by the patronizing attitude of her duo of over-solicitous daughters, Jill (Alicia Silverstone) and Adrianne (Katie Aselton).
Promiscuous, emotionally detached hotel owner Vivian (Jane Fonda) reconnects with Arthur (Don Johnson), the ex whose proposal she long ago turned down. Though she increasingly regrets her decision, reintegrating the physical and emotional aspects of love may take some work.
Buttoned-up federal judge Sharon (Candice Bergen) has yet to get over her divorce from Tom (Ed Begley Jr.), despite the fact that it’s been 18 years since they split. But, apparently inspired by the kinky connection she and the others have been reading about, she tries an online dating service and promptly meets George (Richard Dreyfuss). He’s so obviously her soulmate that they follow up their first meal together by going for it in the back seat of her car.
Meanwhile, married couple of many years Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) struggle to reignite the faltering flames of their mutual passion.
“Book Club” crusades relentlessly for an aging woman’s to satisfaction in the bedroom – or the back seat – without regard to marital status or any other circumstance. Only Vivian’s tilt away from her licentious past and Carol and Bruce’s commitment to fidelity partially retrieve the lowminded proceedings.
The film contains a misguided view of human sexuality, an offscreen premarital encounter, implied cohabitation, pervasive sexual humor, including an extended tasteless sight gag, several profanities and milder oaths and at least one rough and a couple of crude terms. 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 PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

“Black Panther” (2018)
Sprawling, energetic but ultimately overlong Marvel Comics adaptation from director and co-writer Ryan Coogler. The young sovereign (Chadwick Boseman) of an imaginary – and secret – African kingdom where the use of a super-powerful mineral has enabled the population to achieve both prosperity and a range of technological wonders unknown to the outside world must cope with two principal threats to his realm. The first involves a South African arms dealer (Andy Serkis) who has managed to infiltrate the nation and make off with a stock of the mineral which he aims to sell to the highest bidder. The second concerns the ongoing consequences of a long-ago family conflict (involving Michael B. Jordan). The king is aided by his tech-savvy sister (Letitia Wright), the woman (Lupita Nyong’o) he would like to make his queen, the leader (Danai Gurira) of his army’s band of fierce female warriors and, eventually, by a CIA agent (Martin Freeman). Real-world political preoccupations are incorporated into this sci-fi tinged action adventure while plot developments weigh vengeance against justice and violent revolution against peaceful reform. Possibly acceptable for older teens. Nonstructural religious ideas and practices, much stylized violence with minimal gore, several crude and at least one crass term, an obscene gesture. Spanish language and titles options. 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. (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)

“Mastermind” (1976)
Comedy misfire filmed in Japan with Zero Mostel as a Kyoto police inspector investigating a series of murders involving an android doll (Felix Silla), Nazi war criminals, Israeli agents, an American spy (Bradford Dillman) and a nightclub owner (Keiko Kishi). Directed by Alex March, the disjointed proceedings make little sense, the comedy is flat and the inspector’s recurring daydream of being a samurai superwarrior is tiresome. Stylized violence and sexual innuendo. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G — general audiences. All Ages Admitted. (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)

“Samson” (2018)
Spirited biblically based drama in which the super-strong champion (Taylor James) of the oppressed Israelites skylarks with his younger brother (Greg Kriek), romances a Philistine gal (Frances Sholto-Douglas) but also tangles with the wicked prince (Jackson Rathbone) who embodies that people’s tyrannical and exploitative rule over the occupied Promised Land. As Samson mows down his foes, with femme fatale Delilah (Caitlin Leahy) waiting in the wings, director Bruce Macdonald follows the formula of golden-age Hollywood adaptations of the Good Book with large-scale battles, a love angle and an effete villain. Though some of the necessary expansion on the Old Testament account fails to convince, this is generally an enjoyable riff on the Hebrew he-man’s story. While not suitable for the youngest viewers, it can provide a fine introduction to the subject for teens. Much combat violence with little gore, a scene of torture, references to prostitution and womanizing. Spanish language and titles options. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)

“First Reformed” (A24)
This drama about a Protestant minister (Ethan Hawke) in upstate New York has quite a bit to say about religious belief, environmentalism, grieving, alienation, rage, the power of love and the corruption of religion by money and power. Writer-director Paul Schrader does not condescend to belief, but is interested in launching discussions about what faith means and what actions best express it. Some gore, mature themes, fleeting scatological references. 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.

“Life of the Party” (Warner Bros.)
Anemic comedy in which middle-aged mom Melissa McCarthy (who also co-wrote the script) is dumped by her husband (Matt Walsh) in favor of the hard-edged real estate agent (Julie Bowen) with whom he has been having an affair and decides to get a fresh start by returning to the university she dropped out of in order to have her now-grown daughter (Molly Gordon) who is also currently a student there. Her kindly, upbeat manner makes her the toast of her daughter’s sorority and wins her the heart of a handsome fraternity brother (Luke Benward). Everything about director and co-writer Ben Falcone’s star vehicle for his wife McCarthy rings false, including its affirmations of maternal and filial affection and its rounds of mutual feminine confidence building. Frivolously treated offscreen nonmarital and marital sexual activity, some of it in semi-public places, unintentional drug use, comic brawling, sexual and anatomical humor, a couple of crude and numerous crass terms. 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.

St. Patrick school’s Irish Festival

MERIDIAN – A volunteer helps St. Patrick School student John Henry Wilkinson play one of the many games at Irish Fest. The annual event was held on Saturday, April 21. Students and community members could “dunk” their pastor, play games and enjoy a day together. (Photos by Helen Reynolds)

Photos by Helen Reynolds)

Charlie Brown hits the stage in Greenville

GREENVILLE – Saint Joseph school Presented “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” April 25-29. Charles Schulz’s beloved comic became a broadway musical written by Clark Gesner. Two casts of students alternated at performances, bringing the whole gang from the comics to life: bossy Lucy was hopelessly in love with piano prodigy Schroeder; perfectionist Sally mocking blanket-toting Linus; Snoopy was in the doghouse, and “blockhead,” himself, Charlie Brown. In photo above, Linus, played by J.R. Duncan, extolls the virtues of his beloved security blanket. The cast also included Zack Woodard as Charlie Brown, Olivia DeAngelo (pictured) and Cecilia Azar, both playing Snoopy, Rebecca Jones (pictured) and Gracie McGaugh as Sally, Carsen Mansour( pictured) and Sarah Tonos as Lucy and Ethan Morales as Woodstock. (Photos by Missi Blackstock)

Photos by Missi Blackstock

St. Thomas Aquinas meets bluegrass in best-selling album by Dominicans

By Kelly Sankowski
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Bluegrass music may not be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Dominicans, but for the 10 Dominican brothers and priests at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington who recently released their debut album, “The Hillbilly Thomists,” the two have a lot in common.”The life of holiness is the happiest life. It is the good life,” said Brother Jonah Teller, who plays guitar on the album. “I was drawn, and I think a lot of men are drawn, by the joy the brothers exhibit … to be living this life, to be saving our souls, to be drawing closer to Jesus, and to do it with brothers.”
Likewise, while listening to bluegrass music, “there is a real happiness that is just drawn out of you,” he said. “So I think that we’re geared to be happy, and bluegrass lets you be happy in a really expressive way.”
That happiness was tangible as six of the Hillbilly Thomists played to a standing-room-only crowd April 11 at the Catholic Information Center in Washington. Middle-age men tapped their feet and babies clapped their hands to the tunes. The musicians laughed with each other as they created the proper setting for bluegrass music, which they said is usually played informally around a kitchen table.
Brother Simon Teller, who plays the fiddle in the new album, is Brother Jonah’s brother. They grew up in Cincinnati, attending St. Gertrude Parish, where Dominicans in the religious order’s Eastern province go for their novitiate year.
Looking through old family photos, Brother Simon found one of himself as a 13-year-old, playing the fiddle alongside now-Father Thomas Joseph White, who had begun playing the bluegrass mandolin after his novice master told all novices to take up a hobby.
Little did the 13-year-old know that he would later wear a similar white habit and again play the fiddle alongside Father White, who is now an associate professor of systematic theology at the Dominican House of Studies.
Father White and Father Austin Litke founded the Hillbilly Thomists in the early 2000s. They chose the name from a quote by Catholic author Flannery O’Connor, who said: “Everybody who has read ‘Wise Blood’ thinks I’m a hillbilly nihilist, whereas … I’m a hillbilly Thomist.”
Brother Justin Bolger was a professional touring musician and a sound engineer before entering the Dominican order. Brother Joseph Hagan and others had studied music in college. Brother Simon had spent summers as a street musician in Asheville, North Carolina.
“The different skills we brought fit well together,” said Brother Joseph, who plays the drums. “Obviously, we came together primarily for God. … We aren’t just people who have skills and (who) use each other to make an album.”
Unless they are practicing for a specific gig, the Hillbilly Thomists’ schedule of playing together is pretty fluid.
“It is a true extension of our fraternal life,” Brother Jonah told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.
The product of the brothers’ fun pastime has received a response that none anticipated. It was in the top 10 of the bluegrass Billboard charts for about 10 weeks, at one point reaching the No. 3 spot, and it also reached the top 20 of all albums on Amazon. People from around the world are listening to it, reviewing it and often learning about St. Thomas Aquinas in the process, as they Google, “What is a Thomist?”
Country and bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs stopped by the Dominican House of Studies to visit the Hillbilly Thomists and, before playing bluegrass with them, joined them for prayer and lunch.
The impetus for the album was as a fundraiser, since the album’s proceeds go to the Dominican House of Studies, but the album also is a form of preaching, said Brother Simon. The Dominicans also are known as the Order of Preachers.
The songs are “about Christ and grace and about very human things like death,” he said. The themes are found in tracks such as “What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul?” inviting the listener to contemplate dying and meeting God; “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” reflecting the experience of pilgrimage; and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” invoking an image of relying on God.
People have told the brothers that they see the album as something that they can send to their children who have fallen away from the Church or share with their non-Catholic friends, said Brother Simon. It is considered “cultural, but at the core of it is Christianity,” he said.
While the songs have deep and complex theological themes, part of the beauty of the bluegrass is its simplicity, said Brother Joseph.
“The lyrics are very prayerful, if not just simply prayers,” he said.
Since they take vows of obedience, Brother Simon said it is difficult to talk about the future of the band, but added, “We’re all excited to see where the Lord takes it.”

(Sankowski is on the staff of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.)

The Hillbilly Thomists perform at the Catholic Information Center in Washington April 11. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) See HILLBILLY-THOMISTS April 19, 2018.

The Hillbilly Thomists' song list is seen prior to the start of their show at the Catholic Information Center in Washington April 11. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) See HILLBILLY-THOMISTS April 19, 2018.

A hi-hat cymbal is seen prior to the start of the Hillbilly Thomists' show at the Catholic Information Center in Washington April 11. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) See HILLBILLY-THOMISTS April 19, 2018.

Spoons, sticks and photos are seen near the Hillbilly Thomists' drum set prior to the start of their show at the Catholic Information Center in Washington April 11. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) See HILLBILLY-THOMISTS April 19, 2018.

The Hillbilly Thomists' album cover is seen prior to the start of their show at the Catholic Information Center in Washington April 11. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) See HILLBILLY-THOMISTS April 19, 2018.

New Testament prof sorts out plausible, implausible in new ‘Paul’ movie

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Don’t take everything you see in the new movie “Paul, Apostle of Christ” as, well, gospel. Even the filmmakers have said much of what is on screen is conjecture.
Compared to today’s information-saturated age, little is definitively known about St. Paul and St. Luke, the film’s two main characters. A bit more is known about the time of Roman Emperor Nero, under whose rule the movie is set.
Even the identity of those credited with writing more than half of the books of the New Testament is up for grabs, according to Dominican Sister Laurie Brink, an associate professor of New Testament studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
How much of Paul’s letters can be attributed to him “depends on who you ask,” Sister Brink told Catholic News Service in a March 7 telephone interview. “There are disputed ones and undisputed ones.”
In the undisputed category are Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians and Philemon. The others, she said, are “variously dated much later than we know Paul lived,” although they originated “from a later Pauline community.” Scholars can make that distinction, Sister Brink said, based on vocabulary, sentence structure and the topics that are addressed.
As for the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, both of which are attributed to St. Luke, “that’s a larger question,” she said. “Who was St. Luke? Tradition has the person named as Luke, and tradition suggests he was a companion of Paul, from a citation based on Colossians.” But beyond that, the trail grows murky.
“In order to understand the historical author of any of our texts, the only thing we have to go by is the texts themselves. What can we know about this person based on what they wrote?” said Sister Brink, adding that learning about a person based mainly on their writings is akin to “looking at it in a mirror.”
“The person who wrote Luke is very well-educated,” Sister Brink said. “He’s Greek, his diction is very good, his use of the language is very good. He improves on Mark’s Gospel, which he uses as his source. He seems to be familiar with the patron-client system.” Theophilus, who is mentioned in both Luke and Acts, was Luke’s patron.
“Paul, Apostle of Christ,” which is to be released in theaters nationwide March 23, has Luke visiting Paul in a prison in Rome. “That makes good cinematography, but since we don’t know the identity of Luke – we just know that tradition has named him that. We don’t see that (prison visit) in the text,” Sister Brink said.
Paul is jailed in the movie after having been accused of setting the blaze that destroyed a good chunk of Rome.
The fire in Rome, according to Tacitus, a Roman historian, was likely started by the minions of Nero, who had his eye set on a particular piece of property,” Sister Brink said. “But everybody already had all that property. The only way to get that was to burn the property, accuse the Christians, make them scapegoats, and acquire the property.”
Another fire-related element in the film is solid fact: Christians were burned alive to bring light to the dark city. “Yes, that is true!” Sister Brink told CNS. “They were crucified and they were set on fire. They were like lamplights on the side of the road. Now, this is according to Tacitus, and Tacitus didn’t like Nero.”
A small, beleaguered Christian community is shown hiding in an otherwise-deserted Roman compound in “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” One thing of which moviegoers can be sure, Sister Brink said, is that they didn’t live in the catacombs.
“That’s a long trope that the Christians were hiding in the catacombs,” she said. “None of that is true. Christians were buried in the catacombs and they often had worship there,” Sister Brink added, but they did not use it as a hideout from the Roman Empire.

Joanne Whalley as Priscilla, Jim Caviezel as Luke and John Lynch as Aquila are seen in the film “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” In an interview with Catholic News Service, Dominican Sister Laurie Brink, an associate professor of New Testament studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, sorts out the plausible and the implausible in the movie, to be released nationwide March 23. (CNS photo/Sony Pictures) See PAUL-BRINK March 9, 2018.

But by this point in history, though, one plot point in the film rings true: “The Our Father would have been known to this community,” according to Sister Brink.
Some scenes in the film mimic events elsewhere in the Bible.
Luke’s healing of the Roman prison warden’s daughter, while not miraculous, is reminiscent of Jesus’ healing of Roman centurion Jairus’ daughter. The warden and Paul, by this point a condemned prisoner, have an extended chat in the warden’s courtyard; by the end of Acts, Sister Brink said, “Paul is under house arrest. He is staying in some rental property, and there is a soldier guarding him.”
“They didn’t have prisons” as we know them today, she noted. Also, a band of younger, agitated Christians stages a raid on the prison to free Paul, but he refuses to leave; in the New Testament, an earthquake wrecks Paul’s jail, but he declined to escape.
Sister Brink, who had not seen the film at the time of the interview, said, “Some of this (drama) is probably coming from ‘The Acts of Paul and Thecla’ and ‘The Martyrdom of Paul.’ They are not canonical texts but they are great reads. They’re kind of like early Christian novels.”
Still, she gave the filmmakers credit. “Even if it’s not biblically or historically accurate, it gives people an opportunity to think about Paul, to know about Paul,” Sister Brink said. “For too long, Catholics have not paid any attention to Paul. Catholics have been Jesus-focused, and that’s good, but the apostle of Paul is a pretty significant figure in our faith history. So good on them for trying.”

(Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.)

St. Joe state champions

JACKSON – Greenville St. Joseph football players hoist the MAIS championship trophy after the game on Thursday, Nov. 16. This is the first state championship for the Fighting Irish. (Photo by Chris Todd of the Clarion Ledger)

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Greenville St. Joseph’s football team won its first MAIS state championship on Thursday, Nov. 16 in Jackson. The Fighting Irish beat Tri-County Academy 44-14. The team dominated all of their playoff opponents.
The honors don’t stop there. Three our seniors. Brice Johnson (QB), Jonathan Jordan (WR) and JoQuez Sanders (LB) were selected for the 2017 MAIS All Star Game. The boys reported to Jackson on Tuesday, Nov 28, to be honored at an awards banquet Thursday, Nov 30 and participate in the MAIS All-Star Game Friday, Dec 1 at Jackson Preperatory School.
Congratulations to the Greenville community on the big win.

Entertainment

Thank You for Your Service

By Joseph McAleer
NEW YORK (CNS) – For many soldiers returning from war, a brand-new battle for survival begins at home. That struggle is depicted in “Thank You for Your Service” (Universal), a powerful drama about the devastating impact of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Writer-director Jason Hall, inspired by David Finkel’s eponymous nonfiction book, chronicles fact-based stories of veterans of the Iraq War as they work to reconnect with their civilian lives and seek healing, with mixed results.
At the heart of the film is Sgt. Adam Schumann (Miles Teller), who arrives in Kansas with his squad after their latest tour of duty. Outward appearances deceive: Schumann’s smiling demeanor masks an inner turmoil.
He is haunted by the recent death of fellow Sgt. James Doster (Brad Beyer), and the near-fatal wounding of squad member Michael Emory (Scott Haze), felled by a sniper’s bullet. Schumann feels responsible for Doster’s death, and is unable to face his grieving widow, Amanda – played by Amy Schumer, in a less-than-successful departure from her comedic persona – who demands to know how her husband died.

Miles Teller, Beulah Koale and Joe Cole star in a scene from the movie “Thank You for Your Service.” 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.(CNS/Universal)

Schumann reunites with his wife, Saskia (Haley Bennett), and his two small children. But despite the horrors of war, he misses his old life and the camaraderie of his men.
“I was a good soldier. I had purpose, and I loved it,” he says.
As Schumann bottles up his emotions, Saskia tries to break down the barrier between them. “Don’t spare me the details,” she pleads. “I can take anything but quiet.”
Meanwhile, another member of the unit, Tausolo Aeiti (Beulah Koale), is in even worse shape, coping with a brain injury sustained during a bomb explosion. As his world falls apart, Aeiti drifts into crime and drugs.
Both Schumann and Aeiti know they need help, and turn to the local Veterans Affairs hospital. But that institution is swamped with requests and low on resources. With waiting lists extending for weeks, returning soldiers are often forced to fend for themselves.
Hall, who wrote the screenplay for another Iraq War drama, 2014’s Best Picture-nominee “American Sniper,” offers a brutally honest portrayal with an emotional intensity that is at times difficult to watch. He evokes sympathy for the veterans and their plight as well as outrage at a bloated bureaucracy seemingly unable to cope with the PTSD crisis at hand.
The film contains graphic wartime violence and bloodshed, a suicide, drug use, a glimpse of full female nudity, sexual banter, a couple of uses of profanity and pervasive rough and crude 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.
(McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.)

A Bad Moms Christmas

By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) – Aggressive vulgarity is the incongruous hallmark of this holiday-themed sequel. As the trio of mothers (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) featured in the 2016 original deal with the wholly unrealistic problems caused when their own moms (Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon) show up for Christmas, with or without an invitation, the only thing more tiresome than their sex-obsessed wisecracking is their self-important resolve to take the feast back and celebrate it in their own fashion. Since that approach includes ogling male strippers dressed as “sexy Santas,” for one of whom (Justin Hartley) Hahn’s character falls, to say they’ve lost touch with the reason for the season is an understatement. Ditto returning co-writers and directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Mila Kunis and Jay Hernandez star in a scene from the movie “A Bad Moms Christmas.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.(CNS photo/STX Entertainment)

Blasphemy, cohabitation, drug use, strong sexual content including partial nudity and much obscene humor, several uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
(Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.)

Novitiate

By Sister Hosea Rupprecht
NEW YORK (CNS) – “Novitiate” (Sony Classics)
At a time when the reforms of Vatican II caused some nuns to leave the convent, a wide-eyed young woman (Margaret Qualley) decides to enter, having fallen in love with God.

Melissa Leo stars in a scene from the movie “Novitiate.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Sony Pictures Classics)

There a rigid tyrant of a mother superior (Melissa Leo) lords it over her new charges, making it her mission to scrutinize them to see if they are up to the rigors of life in the order. Writer-director Margaret Betts follows the novices as they struggle with faith, sexuality, and the effects of change in the church. An artistic drama with compelling performances, the film nonetheless reveals its creator’s lack of familiarity with Catholicism and ultimately takes a stand viewers of faith are bound to reject. Strong sexual content, including full nudity, same-sex kissing, implied masturbation and lesbian sexual activity, one use of profanity, several instances of rough language, at least one crude term. The Catholic News Service classification is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

(Sister Rupprecht, a Daughter of St. Paul, is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.)

American Assassin: morals surface in revenge thriller

By Joseph MCaleer

Shiva Negar, Michael Keaton, Neg Adamson and Dylan O’Brien star in a scene from the movie “American Assassin.” 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. (CNS photo/CBS Films and Lionsgate) 

NEW YORK (CNS) – The award for the most obvious film title of the year goes to “American Assassin” (CBS Films), an action thriller about – you guessed it – a professional killer from the United States, specifically Rhode Island. This adaptation of the 2010 novel by Vince Flynn opens with a bang (multiple bangs, actually) and proceeds at a breakneck pace, leaving in its wake a veritable tsunami of bullets, blood and bodies. It’s a gory revenge fantasy reminiscent of the “Death Wish” films, requiring a strong stomach and extreme patience. But the movie does finally come to its senses, and good triumphs over evil. The story opens on a happy note before spiraling downhill. Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) has just proposed to his girlfriend, Katrina (Charlotte Vega), on a crowded beach in Ibiza. As he strolls off to get celebratory cocktails, gunmen burst onto the sand and open fire, killing just about everyone in sight, including Katrina. Flash forward two years, and Mitch has transformed himself into a lean, mean, fighting machine, a baby-faced version of Jason Bourne. He is driven by one desire: to avenge Katrina’s death by killing the terrorists responsible. This means learning Arabic, studying the Quran and joining shadowy chat rooms on the internet. Unbeknown to Mitch, the CIA is watching his every move, and deputy director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) is impressed. “I like your agenda,” she says. “I know exactly what to do with you.” And so Mitch is recruited for a new black-ops program to infiltrate Iranian terrorists seeking to unleash nuclear war in the Middle East. First he must be trained, and that responsibility falls to Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), a grizzled Cold War veteran. To his credit, Stan tries to temper Mitch’s rage, and the hothead’s belief that “we kill people who need to be killed.” “We need a higher cause,” Stan counters, discouraging Mitch’s vigilantism. “As soon as it starts feeling good, that’s when you stop being a professional.” As the Iranian plot unfolds, Batman and Robin – make that Stan and Mitch – join forces with Annika (Shiva Negar), a comely Turkish agent who has her own scores to settle. Director Michael Cuesta, channeling a Robert Ludlum thriller, keeps the audience guessing and the body count rising as the trio zips across Europe in search of a mysterious ringleader named Ghost (Taylor Kitsch), who just happens to be an old buddy of Stan’s. The film contains a vigilante theme, constant bloody violence, including torture and gunplay, brief upper female nudity, several uses of profanity and pervasive rough as well as much 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. (McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service).