Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Film Flash: Chip 'N Dale - Rescue Rangers Movie (Disney+)


15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

This spiritual successor to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is way better than it should be.


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

New Evangelizers Post: From Transformers to Transubstantiation: The Conversion of Shia LeBeouf



I have a new article up at  

By the grace of God, many people come to miraculous conversion to the Gospel. One such person is actor Shia LaBeouf. As a child actor, LaBeouf grew up in film and television and is best known for his roles in the Transformers movies and the fourth Indiana Jones film.

In recent years, LaBeouf became a kind of meme, with his increasingly unpredictable and outrageous behavior confounding people. His strange “motivational speech” made the rounds of the internet as well as the stunt where wore a bag on his head to a red carpet event. But these were overshadowed by legal issues of assault accusations and arrests.

LaBeouf saw many of his roles dry up, though he would turn up in small but moving films like The Peanut Butter Falcon. With his career on the wane, he came into contact with a director who was developing a movie about St. Padre Pio. Looking to simply to land a prestigious acting gig, LaBeouf agreed to research the part by spending time with the Franciscan Capuchin friars. Little did he know that this was the path that would change his life.

The conversion of any soul is a miracle. It is not more or less miraculous because that person is a celebrity. However, because the person is in the spotlight, it presents an opportunity to bring a wider spotlight on God’s grace and the beauty of the Church.

Any conversion story is a story of God’s saving power. We can learn from any conversion story that we encounter. Here are a few things that I have been able to glean from Mr. LeBeouf’s journey.

The first thing I noticed was how God comes to us in our brokenness. LaBeouf talked about how is life had it a kind of rock bottom. He said in an interview with Bishop Robert Barron, “I had a gun on the table. I was outta here. I didn’t want to be alive anymore when all this happened. Shame like I had never experienced before — the kind of shame that you forget how to breathe. You don’t know where to go. You can’t go outside and get like, a taco.”

I love this description because it is very concrete and earthy. He was so lost that he was forced to face the emptiness inside himself.

The second thing I noticed was how God reaches us however He can. LaBeouf did not seek God as his way out His despair. As written above, he was looking for a job to bring him back to the A-List. God used that as an opportunity to bring LaBeouf into greater friendship.

This brings me to the third thing that struck me: the power of love and friendship. The more time LaBeouf spent with the friars the more he found himself changed. He said that he was surrounded by people who didn’t want anything from him. He was not a means to their own agenda. They folded him into their fellowship and embraced him in their friendship.

I am someone who has been incredibly blessed with deep and abiding friendships that have endured for decades. Someone pointed out how there are so many people in this world who have never experienced this. It sounded like the unconditional friendship of the friars was something he had never experienced. As a Hollywood celebrity there are a lot of people who cling to you as a means to live off of your borrowed glory. But the friars were only interested in LaBeouf’s well-being. It does not seem that his conversion was a condition of their care.

The fourth thing that I noticed was the effect of the Gospel. LaBeouf says that he read the Gospel of Matthew for the first time and he encountered the real Jesus, no the one that has been filtered down through popular culture. He encountered a strong, masculine presence that showed him an idealized manhood while at the same time encounter a universal savior.

The fifth and final reflection is on the richness of the Catholic faith. In his discussion with Bishop Barren, together they noted that the Catholic Church is a truly universal religion in that it appeals to all aspects of the human person. The Church appeals to reason, emotion, beauty, tradition, charity, and every other ennobling aspect of the person.

You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Sunday Best: Summer Box Office Review 2022

 Summer Movie Season has come and gone once again.  And what is our conclusion?

In terms of box office success, the numbers were much better than last year.  In the Summer of 2021, no movie made over $200 million domestic.  This year, half of the Top 10 made over $300 million domestic.  So it appears as though the COVID slump is gone.  

Below are my predictions along with the actual box office numbers:

Thor: Love and ThunderTop Gun: Maverick
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessDoctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Top Gun: MaverickJurassic World Dominion
LightyearMinions: The Rise of Gru
Jurassic World: DominionThor: Love and Thunder
Minions: The Rise of GruElvis
DC: League of Super-PetsLightyear
Bullet TrainNope
ElvisThe Black Phone
NopeWhere the Crawdads Sing

So as you can see, I did not do as well at predicting the box office as I did last year.  I correctly predicted one more than last year, but I wildly missed the order

-I predicted 8 out of the Top Ten.  There is still a small chance that Bullet Train and DC: League of Super-Pets could inch their way up, but it is highly unlikely.
-I only correctly predicted one movie in its correct spot: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
-I had The Black Phone in my wild card spot, but Where the Crawdads Sing was nowhere on my radar.

So here are my conclusions.

1. Tom Cruise
There are a lot of people who are responsible for the success of Top Gun: Maverick.  But I think that the lion's share of the credit has to go to Cruise.  He wisely waited patiently for the right script and right director.  As producer on the film, he helped give the movie its non-CGI real-life thrill.  Cruise also has been a reliable star who delivers crowd-pleasing hits like the Mission: Impossible franchise.  Cruise used this cache to get people to see Top Gun and then word-of-mouth made this the highest grossing movie of the year, making it the 6th highest grossing movie of all time.  This is the biggest hit of Cruise's career and has cemented his film legacy (if it had not already been).

2. Universal Pictures
While Paramount has taken the top spot with Top Gun: Maverick, four of the Top Ten are Universal films: Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Nope, The Black Phone.  There is an opportunity going forward for Universal to regain box office dominance with Marvel and PIXAR movies underperforming.


Lightyear made it to #7, but a movie in the Toy Story franchise should have performed much better.  Compared to the budget, this movie was a bomb.  There were so many reasons why this movie failed, including inserting mature content into a kids film.  But the main reason, based on my conversations with parents, is that kids did not think that this movie was about the "real" Buzz.  

2.  Marvel
I hesitate to label them as "losers," but there is a clear drop in box office returns.  I predicted Thor: Love and Thunder would be the biggest hit of the summer.  But its mediocre execution and sloppy story-telling made it slip to number 5.  It still earned a respectable $333 million.  But Marvel has not had a phenomenal hit since Spider-Man: No Way Home and that is technically a Sony movie.  This summer's box office may be why Kevin Feige has announced the quick end to Phase 4 so that they can course correct in Phase 5.


An observation also is the gap between the top 5 and the bottom 5.  Take a look at these numbers from

Top Gun: Maverick$687,812,857
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness$411,331,607
Jurassic World Dominion$374,253,690
Minions: The Rise of Gru$352,710,635
Thor: Love and Thunder$333,870,158
The Black Phone$89,003,295
Where the Crawdads Sing$80,213,348

There is a nearly $200 million gap between #5 and #6.

The total revenue for the top 5 is $2.16 billion.  The total revenue for the bottom 5 is $550 million.  So you can see that the top half made 4 times as much as the bottom half.  


Friday, August 26, 2022

TV Review: She-Hulk (Disney+) Episodes 1-2


This show would be much better without the Hulk-sized chip on the main character's shoulder.

She-Hulk: Attorney At Law is the latest MCU television show to be released on Disney+.  The story revolves around Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany)  the cousin of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo).  At the beginning of the series, she gets into a car accident with Bruce and their blood mixes.  As a result, she can transform into a She-Hulk.  Most of the first episode involves Bruce helping train Jen and attempting to have her come to terms with her new situation.  The second episode looks at what Jen's life is like back in the real world, where she tries to maintain a law career while navigating her newfound powers and fame.

Tonally, this is meant to be the most comic of any previous MCU story.  Jen will often break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience like Deadpool.  The situations she finds herself in are awkward and absurd and the supporting characters are flat comedy tropes.

The concept of the show is not a bad one.  I am not opposed to a comedy show set in the MCU and it could be mined with great reward.  The main conceit of the show is that it is a legal procedural comedy involving super powers.  That could lead to some fun and fascinating stories.

The main problem revolves around Jen herself and the worldview she brings you into.  At her introduction, she is not very likable.  This is a common trope in the hero's journey.  Tony Stark is a jerk at the beginning of his movie and Loki starts his show as a unrepentant villain.  Part of the problem with Jen is the fourth-wall break.  When Tony or Loki behave badly, we feel like we some moral distance from them.  But Jen talks to us like we are best friends and confidants.  She assumes that I, the viewer, look at the world the same way.  

The problem is that I don't.

In the trailers, the played a clip where she said that fear and rage are the baseline emotions of every woman.  This is an incredibly dour world-view.  As a man, I acknowledge that there is something to female experience that is different for me.  But even this seemed a bit much.  I asked my wife if Jen's perspective was universal to women.  She said that it was the view of certain types of women.

That is where the problem rests: it assumes the universal of something particular.  There are many women whose lives are peace and joy.  There are also many men whose lives are marred by fear and rage.  Jen seems to want to monopolize her negative emotions on behalf of her gender.  IMDB recently shared out the clip of Jen yelling at Bruce telling him that she is great at controlling her anger because she does it "infinitely more" than him.  This makes Jen seem very self-centered and lacking empathy.  Bruce saw father murder his mother, he has loved two women with whom he was separated, and he spent years on the run from the military.  The writers of the show want to say something about the differing experiences of men and women, but it feels awkwardly plastered on the characters.

In the course of the episodes, I hope Jen grows as a character.  She seems constantly green (pun intended) with envy.  She is hired at a law firm that requires her to appear as She-Hulk.  She is understandably concerned with how people will think she was hired for her immutable qualities and not her skills.  But then she complains about how a bunch of men in a nearby conference room never had to feel the way she does.  How does she know this?  I don't know.  She assumes that none of them can relate to her struggle.  This robs some of the audience of the chance to see themselves in what she is going through.  If the character explicitly says that certain types of people are cut off from her experience, then this cuts off the certain members of the audience.  This is not simply a matter of the gulf between men and women.

Think about how different that is from the presentation of Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs: she is a female navigating the male-dominated world of law-enforcement where she deals with subtle and not-so-subtle sexism.  And yet all audience members, male and female, can place themselves in her shoes and empathize with her feeling like an outsider.  Jen does not invite you to empathy.  Instead, she invites you to greater disdain for the things that annoy her.

Jen is also vulgar in a way that is off-putting.  Deadpool is also like this and is also distasteful at times, but Maslany does not have the charisma of Ryan Reynolds.  I found it particularly galling the way Jen was obsessed with the sex life of Captain America.  She seemed to take glee in dragging down one of the most morally virtuous MCU characters in a way that just seemed mean-spirited.  Bruce is also cut down to size.  At one point, Jen is able to push him with a Jeep.  This may seem like a small point, but that is a horrible subversion of his power levels.  It feels like they need to bring Bruce low to raise Jen up.

As I said, most of the characters are flat.  As I wrote, Maslany is no Reynolds, but she is not bad.  Ruffalo's performance as Banner/Hulk has deteriorated a great deal since his first great take on the character in Avengers.  Tim Roth seems to be having a lot of fun as Emil Blondsky/Abomination.  And veteran comic actor Mark Linn-Baker is pitch-perfect as Jen's doting father. 

I have not given up on the show, though my optimism is waning.  There is still a great deal of room for character growth.  I like the drama of Jen being hired to defend the villain who tried to kill Bruce.  I am very curious as to the MCU's legal philosophy.

But if the quality does not improve from the first two episodes, then this will be the worse MCU movie or show to date. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

TV Review: Severance (AppleTV)


This show messed with my mind but in the best possible way.

Severance is a show that premiered on AppleTV earlier this year.  It is a high concept show with some of the best directing on television.

The plot revolves around a business called Lumon that offers an optional surgical procedure called "severance."  When a person is severed, they send themselves to their work place and when they arrive, they lose all memory of their outside life.  When they leave work, the lose all memory of the work life.  The procedure effectively severs your work and personal life.

The story revolves around Mark Scout (Adam Scott).  He elected to have the procedure because of recent trauma that he wanted to forget during the work day.  When Mark heads to Lumon, he proceeds down an elevator where he forgets all about his outside life and is simply known as Mark S.  The department he works in is exceedingly odd, with a retro-1980's technology vibe and work that is strange and esoteric.  He works alongside the acerbic Dylan (Zach Cherry), the erudite Irving (John Tutorro), and newcomer Helly (Britt Lower).  All the while they are overseen by the overbearing Ms. Cobel (Patricia Arquette) and her creepily polite assistant Mr. Milchick (Tramell Tillman).  

The show is very weird but that is not an insult.  The sanitized office setting is filmed in ways that feel nightmarish and sinister.  At times the show feels like an awkward office comedy like The Office, but then it shifts gears into existential mystery like Twin Peaks.

Severance raises some fascinating questions about the self and identity.  Those who live in the outside world (the "Outies") have no concept of what their worker selves (the "Innies") endure.  Sometimes they will emerge with slight injuries and be rewarded with simple gift cards.  The show plays with the juxtaposition of the two perspectives.  Are you really still the same person once you are severed?  Or are you now two different people?  Do your memories define your person?  If your Innie wants to quit and your Outie refuses, is this slavery?

Besides dealing with deep thematic issues, the show is big on mystery.  Lumon is an enigma.  In fact, the entire world seems off.  The found of the company, Kier Egan, is talked about in messianic terms.  His compliance manuals are often quoted by the Innies like they are Scripture.  In fact, one of the things that makes me uneasy about the show is the potential that this is ultimately a satire of Christianity.  However, the show is smart be vague so that this could be a critique of human hubris.

But all of this would be pointless if it was not executed incredibly well.  Ben Still directed most of the episodes this season.  I have been keeping an eye on his visual style ever since The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a film that was beautiful to look at but failed in the story department.  He uses all of his skills to pull off an beautiful, creepy, atmospheric, engaging, and emotional visual style.  He knows just how to twist the absurd into the nightmarish.  The stellar writing is also a big draw.  In the show, Mark's brother-in-law writes corny self-help books.  Through a strange circumstance, one of his books ends up on the severed floor and is discovered by the Innies.  Because it is so counter to the writings of Kier Egan, they draw deep inspiration from even the most tortured and silly aphorisms from his book.  It is quite a writing feat to make something that is empty and pretentious into something inspirational and meaningful.

The performance are some of the best this year.  Scott is particularly great at playing both his Innie and Outie with just enough similarity and difference.  Because so much of the show is shrouded in mystery, every word, every look by the other characters carries with it ambiguous meaning, which is incredibly difficult to play.  

And I have to say that the season finale had me twisted up in knots and on the edge of my seat until the last seconds.  It ends on a cliffhanger that will want you desperate for the next episode.

My cautions on the show involve the potential satirization of the faith.  Also, like most shows today, it glorifies lifestyles contrary to the Gospel.  I am also trepidatious of (to use a JJ Abrams phrase) "mystery box" shows.  This is where the audience is drawn in to deeper and deeper mysteries without ever giving satisfying answers.  As of this point in the story, we are still in the mystery section.  If the show does not ultimately give us a good resolution, then it will taint the enjoyment of the first season.

I know this review has been light on details, but not knowing what happens next made this show much more enjoyable.  I'd recommend giving it a try.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Sunday Best: Summer TV Roundup 2022

 Summer is traditionally a time for outdoor fun in the sun.

For my wife and I, Summer is the time to binge-watch a lot of TV shows.  You may think that this time should be better spent out in nature doing activities.  But my wife and I have spent hundreds of hours relaxing on comfortable couches with wonderful entertainment and the enjoyment of each other's company.

Anyway, this summer we watched a number of shows.  Rather than give full reviews for all of them, I thought I would round them all up here:

1. Obi-Wan Kenobi

Obi-Wan Kenobi (TV series) logo.jpg

This is one of the few shows I did a full review for.  I loved this show!  It felt like Episode III.5.  While it did have some deficits in terms of its production, It has become one of my favorite parts of the Disney Star Wars productions.  For my full review, click this link.

2. Stranger Things

Stranger Things season 4.jpg

This season of Stranger Things had some of the best and some of the worst moments of the series.  Starting with the good, the "Dear Billy" episode was one of the most exciting moments of television I've seen all year.  I completely understand why that Kate Bush song shot back up the charts.  The intensity and terror of that episode might be a highlight of the entire series.  The biggest problem that the season had was that it ran at least 4 simultaneous storylines, but only the main "Hawkins" story was consistently intersting.  The other stories, especially the one in Russia, tended to drag.  The "Road Trip" story had a fantastic moment early in the season, but that one also seemed tedious, especially with the addition stoner Argyle.  I have never been a big fan of drug humor, but I found him such an annoyance.  

I also had a problem with the big twist.  MILD SPOILERS AHEAD.  There is a big villain reveal that occurs at the end of the first volume of the season.  My biggest problem with it is that they make the same mistake that Zack Snyder did with Watchmen.  In both stories, the reveal of the villain is supposed to be a surprise.  But the actor's performance beforehand is too creepy.  There is already something sinister about the character.  This takes away from the shock of the reveal.  I wish they had handled it the way they did with Benjamin Linus in Lost.  In that case, any suspicion that fell on that character had you questioning if he was really malevolent or if you were reading into his words and actions your own paranoia.  END SPOILERS

With that beings said, I still found the show well-worth the time to watch.  The were enough exciting and emotional moments that pulled me in.  One of the show does incredibly well is tap into that feeling you find in movies like Goonies, Monster Squad, It: Chapter One, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  In all of these, you have a group of kids who have to works together to fight evil.  It parallels that feeling you have with your friends growing up where it feels like its you and your friends against the world.  

I'd recommend this show.

3. Floor is Lava

This is a guilty pleasure show.

It takes the silliness of the children's game and combines it with an adult-sized obstacle course.  This show was one of "COVID Shows," that my wife and I watched to distract ourselves from the worries of the lockdowns.  If I had one complaint it is that the season was too short with only 5 episodes.

4. Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel (TV series) logo.jpeg

People seemed to have extreme reactions to this series.  This seems odd to me since it is a very middling show.  Kamala Khan, like Kate Bishop, is more likable in the Disney+ show than in the comics.  Iman Vellani does a good job of portraying her wide-eyed excitement over her new-found super powers.  The first few episodes had a crazy visual energy that reminded me of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which I dig.  

However the villains were not very compelling.  Because of that, it doesn't really give Ms. Marvel a chance to really shine.  Also there is a strange emphasis on food.  There are more conversations about different types of food, how spicy it is, how much of it there is, than any show I've seen.  There a times where the show seems more interested in "educating" the audience than entertaining them.  This is my biggest problem with most Christian movies, because they put message over story.  The story feels thin, like a movie script that got stretched out over six episodes.  

Overall, it is slightly better than average.

5.  The Terminal List.

The Terminal List.jpeg

This is a show about which I am conflicted.  It is an incredibly well-made show.  The production value is top-notch.  This also has Chris Pratt's best performance in anything I have seen with him.  He brings an intensity to his character I have never encountered with him.  The story involves his character as a Navy SEAL who walks a bloody path of revenge.

My conflict is that the show is WAY too violent for me.  The main character does some of the most cruel and torturous actions I have ever seen on film or TV (and I have seen some truly nasty stuff).  This is supposed to be morally justified because these actions are against evil people.  But there is something dark and insidious about the depths of violence that occur.  The show was compelling enough for me to finish the first season, but I don't think I would return for a second.  It was like the show 24 if it did not have censor.  

6. The Sandman

The Sandman Netflix.jpg

I was never a big fan of the DC comic series on which it based, but I was amazed by the level of creativity found in Neil Gaiman's stories.  The early issues particularly had a horror-bent to them that I found off-putting.  However, the show is more enjoyable than the comic.  Fans of the comic series may strongly disagree.  But the show softens some of the harder edges while still being dark and sometimes horrific.  

One of the things that the show does well is in handling an unlikeable protagonist.  Too often I have seen shows try to get you to like an unlikeable character and fail.  What Sandman does is show you what a jerk Morpheus is, but it is aware enough to understand that he is a jerk.  But there is a core of goodness inside of him that you hope wins out over his aloof and arrogant nature.  It helps that his antagonists are so powerful and evil.  Boyd Holbrook's Corinthian was one the best TV performances I have seen this year.  The production value is also top-notch as I felt often transported to strange and dark worlds.

The show's biggest problem is how it revels in immoral lifestyles and in lives lived contrary to the Gospel.  If this is too much for the viewer, I would suggest avoiding it.  

7. Locke and Key

Locke & Key (TV series) Title Card.png

The final season of Locke and Key was just released.  I have loved this show since it came out, probably because I am huge fan of the comic on which it is based.  The show does a great job of balancing the wonder and horror of the magic found at Keyhouse.

The final season felt more like an epilogue to the show.  It was shorter than previous seasons and it went about tying up loose ends.  The main villain was completely one-dimensional, but the actor's performance was completely menacing.  Like Sandman it revels in some lifestyles incompatible with the Gospel.  However, the storylines were creative and emotional.  My biggest complaint of the show is that it would have characters stop and talk about their feelings in the middle of intense moments of action, which seemed completely silly to me.  The final episode ends with an incredibly emotional catharsis followed by a real sense of closure.  

8. Better Call Saul.

Text "Better Call Saul" with drawn set of balance scales to the right

I had dropped out of this show around the second season, but I was still curious as to how the who story resolved.  So I spent time with the last few episodes after getting caught up on the action.  The final few episodes are amazing.  The story resolution is incredibly well-directed and written.  It is hard to write about without spoilers.  But I will say that what makes the final episodes so good is that the main fate of the characters is a result of their choices.  Jimmy is not a helpless fugitive.  He uses all of his power to control his destiny.  And his journey in the final episode is so well-written that I am glad I returned to see how it resolved.  Also Rhea Seehorn gives a performance that is so restrained until the dam bursts.  That seen is raw and powerful.  

9. Only Murders in the Building

Only Murders logo.jpeg

The second season has been fine, but not as good as the first season.  Honestly, my favorite part is simply watching 2 of the 3 Amigos interacting and having fun.  The show falls into the trap that a lot of mysteries shows do.  At the end of most episodes, they tease a clue to the killer, but usually this turns out to be a red herring.  This is common in most mysteries, but the teases at the end never seem to quite pay off the way you hope.  Perhaps it will all be clear when the season ends soon.

10. The Orville: New Horizons

"THE ORVILLE" written in a stylized sans-serif blue font, similar to Star Trek: The Next Generation

Besides Obi-Wan, this was my favorite show this summer.  The Orville has been moved from Fox to Hulu and Disney+.  The first few episodes this season had some shaky moments.  Like the first season, a lot Seth MacFarlane's social commentary entered into the story in rather clumsy ways.  But even still, I don't think it had the effect he desired.  There was an episode that took place on a planet that outlawed abortion.  As punishment the parents were placed into a room.  I expected some prolonged physical torture.  What happened was that a genetic composite of the two was presented as a hologram asking them why they were aborted.  The main character is horrified.  My reaction was, "Is that it?"  Also in another episode, it seems that MacFarlane was promoting gender reassignment surgery for children.  However, in the context of the story, the episode is actually demonstrating the dangers of surgically altering children against the nature in which they were conceived.  

Having said all of that, as the season progressed, MacFarlane was able to present some wonderfully inventive science fiction.  There is a time travel story that wrenched me in the gut the entire time and had me twisted in ethical knots.  The stories were full of war and betrayal and consequences.  And in that darkness, MacFarlane still finds an unwavering optimism in humanity that is core to its Star Trek inspirations.  He did all of this while maintaining the show's strange and quirky tone.  Somehow he made a guest appearance by Dolly Parton into a moment of supreme enlightenment for a recurring character's journey.

I hope the show gets enough views on Disney+ to warrant a third season.  While I don't agree with everything MacFarlane has to say, he has created a strong and infectious piece of science fiction that I would like to continue to explore.


Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Lack of Updates August 2022

 Thank you for your patience, Dear Reader.

I know I have been tardy in getting posts to this blog.  In the last few weeks I've finished my comprehensive examinations for a Master's Degree, organized an out-of-town bachelor party (everything was very PG-13), and have been in preparation for this upcoming school year, which begins tomorrow.

It means a great deal to me that you continue to read this blog, especially when I have these long absences.  Once things settle in, I will continue with our regularly scheduled program.

Once again, thank you and God Bless,

-Catholic Skywalker

Monday, August 15, 2022

New Evangelizers Post: The Dormition of the Virgin Mary



I have a new article up at  

Did Mary die?

As Catholics, we believe as a matter of dogma that the Virgin Mary was conceived without Original Sin and that she was taken to heaven body and soul. We celebrate the former on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We celebrate the latter on the Feast of the Assumption (which is today). But the question is whether or not Mary died before she was assumed to paradise? When the dogma of the Assumption was promulgated by Pope Pius XII, he stated “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” (Munificentissimus Deus). But notice that he does not specifically use the words “death” or “died.”

So what do we as Catholics believe?

There is a long tradition, especially held by the Eastern Orthodox Church, of a memorial called the Dormition. This Dormition refers to the belief that Mary experienced death and then was resurrected like Christ before being her assumption. It is called the “Dormition,” because Mary’s death is looked as a brief sleep that she enters into before waking to eternal life.

The main argument against the Dormition is that death is an effect of Original Sin. Before the Fall of Man, death was not a part of humanity’s essential nature. That isn’t to say that human beings could not be killed, but the “natural” corruption of our bodies by age and deterioration was not something in our original parents before they sinned. Mary is free from that Original Sin and she is also completely sinless her entire life. If sin did not enter into her life, how could death touch her?

To this objection, you need only remind the objector that Christ too was without Original Sin. In fact, the only reason that Mary was Immaculately Conceived was so that the Body of Christ would also be free from that metaphysical stain. And yet, Christ endured death on the cross and entered into death. He did this by His own will. He allowed death to take Him even though He did not need to have the same relationship to death that we, His fallen creatures, experience.

In the same way, Mary experiences death. There is a powerful scene in The Passion of the Christ where Mary goes to her Son on the cross and asks Him to allow her to die with Him. This moment is not found in the Gospels, but it is there to demonstrate the immense love that she had for Jesus. In our own lives, we know what that is like. Sometimes we love someone so much that we even want to be with them in their suffering. Since St. Francis of Assisi, we have had Catholic saints who have experienced the stigmata: the 5 founds of Christ from His hands, feet, and side. The stigmata is not a punishment. Instead, it is a sign of the saint’s devotion. In the case of St. Francis, he loved Jesus so much that he wanted to be united to Him in every way, even to the point of experiencing His pain. While Mary was not a stigmatist, we know that her love for her Son was unfathomably powerful. It would make sense that she would follow Him into experiencing death.

This tradition of the Dormition is found throughout the writings of the Church Fathers, which gives it a high level of credibility. To disbelieve in the Dormition would be to contradict centuries of Catholic tradition. In the Apostolic Constitution where Pius XII declared the dogma of the Assumption, he makes reference to the death of Mary several times and often quotes the Church fathers on this point. The confusion seems to come from the fact that, as stated earlier, the line that declares the dogma does contain the word death, but refers that her life was “completed.”

For that reason it could be argued that the Dormition is not a part of that extraordinarily infallible Ex Cathedra teaching of the Assumption. But it seems to be a consistent teaching of the ordinary magisterium. And all the evidence points to the fact that Mary died before she was raised up.

You can read the whole article here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Film Review: DC League of Super-Pets


Sexuality/Nudity Mature
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Acceptable

Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

I love DC and their characters.  As a fan, there was so much that I enjoyed about this movie.  But what holds me back from recommending it is the simple fact that it is marketed to children.

The story focuses on Krypto (Dwayne Johnson), Superman's dog.  After a touching opening that explains their closeness, Krypto begins to feel jealous of increasingly serious relationship between Clark (John Krasinski) and Lois (Olivia Wilde).  Meanwhile, an evil hairless hamster named Lulu (Kate McKinnon) has used her evil genius to gain superpowers.  The problem is that she inadvertently gave powers to fellow pets in pet store:

-Ace (Kevin Hart): a tough-skinned, soft-hearted dog who becomes invulnerable

-PB (Vanessa Bayer): A pig who is a super fan of super heroes, particularly Wonder Woman, who can change her size at will.

-Metron (Natasha Lyonne): A turtle with horrible eyesight that gains super speed.

-Chip (Diego Luna): an anxious squirel who can shoot out lightning bolts.

When Lulu targets Superman for revenge, Krypto must enlist the help of this motley crew of super-powered animals to save the Man of Steel.

In terms of quality, DC League of Super-Pets is actually very good.  The animation is fun and dynamic.  The art design is able to take characters that are familiar and iconic and give fresh takes on their looks.  I was also a big fan of the subtle art designs, like the way Krypto's face shape mirrors Superman's shield logo or how Ace's ears are analogous to Batman's cowl.

The action sequences are actually exciting with lots of spectacle. The movie mines a lot of fun and humor from the creative ways the characters learn to use their powers.  The voice performances are excellent as well.  The chemistry that we often see between Johnson and Hart is still here in animated form.

Again, as a DC fan, I loved the dozens of Easter Eggs spread throughout the film, such as a poster for a Broadway musical of Catwoman that looks like Cats, or a Steakhouse named after western character Jonah Hex.

The writing is where my conflict truly lies.  Writers Jared Stern (who also co-directed) and John Whittington wrote vivid characters that explore the messiness of relationships in an honest and humorous way.  Most of the jokes land pretty well.  Even the heartfelt moments tend to work.  There were times where I would compare this movie to upper-middle PIXAR quality (which is actually pretty high praise).

The problem is the content of the writing is incredibly inappropriate for a children's movie.  If this movie was geared towards teens and adults, I wouldn't have as much of a problem with this.  But every time an age-inappropriate moment occurred, it pulled me completely out of the movie.  Not only that, but it made me think of the movie Turning Red, which did the exact same thing.  Those familiar with this blog know how much I loathe Turning Red.  Bring that movie to my thoughts while watching DC League of Super-Pets did not help endear the movie to me.

Here are a list of some of the content that parents should be aware of:

-Superman and Lois are engaged in a pre-marital sexual relationship (the two are clearly sleeping together)

-depictions of same-sex engaged couple

-adult vulgarity bleeped out throughout.

-sexual innuendo from Metron as she hits on inanimate objects.

As an adult, I find this eye-rollingly tedious.  But if I was a parent who brought my child here, I would feel sucker-punched by the content.  And the frustrating part is that none of this mature content was necessary to the movie.  If the film makers has just exercised a bit more judgment and restraint, I think more people could come to enjoy the good parts of this film.  Like Turning Red, it just seems so pernicious to take mature content and rub it in children's noses.

But as it is, you should use your own judgment regarding exposing yourself or your children to the content here.

Star rating 3.5 of 5.png

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Sunday Best: Rest in Peace David Warner


photo by Rory Lewis

David Warner passed away on July 24th.  For as long as I've been watching movies, David Warner has been a presence in the background.

One thing that always impressed me about Warner was that even though he was trained in the Royal Shakespeare Company, he was not someone who reserved his talent only for "prestige" movies.  He could be found in high-brow drama, low-brow comedy and everything in between.  He would use his considerable gravitas as an actor in all situations, twisting the narrative to his will.

When I say he had gravitas, I don't use that word lightly.  Whenever he was on the screen he always seemed to be the most important person in the room.  His English accent carried with it always a tone of knowledgable menace.  Perhaps that's why they cast him to play the agelessly evil Ra's al Ghul in Batman: The Animated Series.  I must confess that whenever I read a comic book with Ra's, I always here Warner's voice, especially when he calls the Dark Knight "Detective."  He also provided the voice for Jor-El in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

As I wrote, Warner was not snobby about the work he did.  He found himself in bloody controversial films like Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs.  He would also do B-movie horror like the bat horror film Nightwing.  I can remember seeing him in silly films like The Man with Two Brains, My Best Friend is a Vampire and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.  In this last one, I can still see him dancing in the crowd as Vanilla Ice rapped "Go ninja, go ninja, go!"

The general public probably would recognize him best as Cal's Valet in Titanic.  Fans of science fiction will recognize him from his two appearances in Star Trek films: The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country.  In each film, he played very different characters, which is a testament more to his skill than to the amazing makeup effects.  But one of his biggest sci-fi roles was as Dillinger/Sark/Master Control Program in TRON.  He infuses all of these characters with his unique flavor of condescending arrogance, but Warner was smart enough to play them all slightly differently.  The MCP is a cold being that thinks of itself as purely logical, but revels in its power.  Dillinger is a man who is over his head and slowly realizes that he is powerless.  Sark seems like a one-note villain, but we can see that this is a facade.  When the MCP tells him to take on a User (the gods to the programs), you can see his hesitation and palpable religious terror.

But for my money, there are three David Warner performances that will always stay with me and are the best testament to his legacy.

The first is the part of Evil in Time Bandits.  This is a strange movie that seemed very simple to me when I saw it as a child.  Warner's Evil is a stand in for the Devil, but one that is tied to the idea of technology.  To my childlike eyes, he was horrific and horrible; he was everything I imagined evil to be.  As I got older I was surprised by the level of biting humor found in Warner's performance.  One of the funniest moments in any movie I have seen occur when Evil surrounded by his lackeys in his fortress of infinite darkness.  He has just destroyed one of his followers for suggesting that God created him.  And then another asks, "Why, if that's the case, have you remained in this fortress?"  I will not spoil it, but I have rewatched this moment over and over again and it remains hysterical.

The second role is that of Jack the Ripper in Time After Time.  When I think of Warner, this is the first thing I think of.  He plays a psychotic genius, 19th century English doctor who finds himself in 1970's San Francisco.  It is amazing to me how he never acts falsely to his roots but fits right in.  When confronted by the hero, HG Wells, Warner expresses genuine enjoyment at his presence, like two old friends sparring over chess.  But he has with him the bearing of someone who could easily cut your throat.  All the while, he has a charisma that almost makes you want to earn his approval.  You can see this in the way Wells interacts with him.  Warner projects intelligence, power, and menace in everything he does.

But the best performance of his career was in the two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Chain of Command."  In this episode, Captain Picard is captured by Cardassians, where he is subject to increasingly cruel tortures by Warner's Gul Madred.  In a performance that could have been a one-note brute, Warner created a character that was equally hateful, sympathetic, cruel, likable, commanding, and diabolical.  It is one of the truly great television performances.  Putting on the Cardassian makeup sometimes causes people to over-act or sometimes you can feel the actor's sense of embarrassment.  But Warner wears the makeup like a Shakespearean costume.  Nothing about it seems false.

Watch the episodes and you will see a master at the peak of his craft who takes his fantastical Sci-Fi surroundings as seriously as anything else because he found the humanity in the performance.  Everything about him is terrifying and he is out to break Picard, and by extension the viewer.  And yet, he shows so much tenderness to his daughter that you don't find a single note of menace when he speaks to her.  His monologues are so vivid that I can still see the images he conjured.  He describes a time he found these disgusting raw eggs as a child and how it was like finding treasure because he was starving.  I can still hear the shameful excitement in his voice as he speaks and the horror when he realizes he has overshared.

The entire episode is a battle fo wills between himself and Picard.  His final interaction is still burned into my memory.  He holds complete control and so believably brings Picard and the audience to the breaking point.  But you can see his facade finally break when he is ordered by his captain to release Picard and he is robbed of his final victory.  The fact that there is a small part of me that is sad for Gul Madred is a testament to Warner's ability to insert his charisma and humanity into this villain.

Warner died from complications resulting from lung cancer.  He was married and divorced twice and is survived by one daughter.

I know little else about his personal life.  But I will pray for his soul.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Rest in Peace, David Warner

Monday, August 1, 2022

New Evangelizers Post: Sheep’s Clothing - Hiding Content in Children’s Programing



I have a new article up at  

“It is better for him if a millstone is hung around his neck and he is thrown into the sea, than that he may cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Luke 17:2)

One of the most insidious things is the corruption of the young. Innocence is one of the most beautiful things in this world. And yet the world is constantly trying to corrupt that innocence. You don’t have to be particularly religious to see this problem. One of the main themes of The Catcher in the Rye is the lamentation at the loss of innocence.

In recent years, there has been a stronger push to fill children’s content with content that is more mature. To be sure, very serious ideas and themes can be found throughout the history of children’s entertainment. From Old Yeller, Bambi, and The Lion King, children have been introduced to the darker side of life that involves loss and death. Parents exercise cautious judgment regarding how well their kids can handle the content.

But this is different than the stronger push that has been happening in children’s entertainment. There seems to be a concerted effort to bring very un-Christian content. Jesus said “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matt 7:15). Rather than engaging adults in discussion about mature content, this content is being presented to kids in a supposedly family-friendly medium.

This is particularly noxious because of how impressionable children are. They internalize what they see around them. They have much more trouble discerning what is true and false.

On top of this, kids are in a hurry to grow up. When they encounter things that they know are supposed to be on the more mature or vulgar side, they often are attracted to that. How often do kids get scandalized and excited when they hear someone using curse words?

Sometimes it involves normalizing behavior. I just saw a movie that was geared towards kids where they normalized pre-marital sex and same-sex “marriage.” The producers did not make this a focus of the story, but instead had it in the background. I saw another movie recently where the movie ended with the main character, who could turn into a giant panda, say to her mother: “My panda, my choice!” This is clearly a primer to the traditional pro-abortion slogan “My body, my choice.”

This continues promoting more lifestyles contrary to the Gospel in children’s movies, TV, and books. Particularly, there is a push to expose children to issues of human sexuality at younger and younger ages.

To be sure, every generation of parents fights this fight against the culture. And you do have to watch out for being over-reactionary. By this I mean that we can paint an entire genre or franchise with broad brush strokes that can lead people to dismiss our concerns. But we cannot ignore the immoral content that can be hidden here. Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned against the “subtle seductions” that can occur in children’s content.

So what is a parent to do?

You can read the whole article here.