Saturday, September 24, 2022

Lack of Updates - September 2022

 Hello Dear Reader,

I apologize for the lack of updates this week.

Last Saturday a close family member was taken to the hospital.  On Thursday, they were taken to hospice.  Any prayers you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

For the past week and for the immediate future our time will be divided between work and hospice visits.  Right now things are very much in flux, so I have been taking a small break from blogging.

Thank you in advance for your prayers.  And thank you for your patience during these breaks in writing that I have taken over the years.  I appreciate your continued readership.

God Bless!

Catholic Skywalker

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Trailer Time: The Fablemans

There is something wonderous and magical about this trailer.  The Fablemans is clearly a fictionalized autobiography of director Steven Spielberg.  The imagery, the tone, the sense of awe at the art of film are all over Spielberg's movie.

However watching it, I became overwhelmed with sadness at a terrible thought:

Steven Spielberg doesn't think he is going to live much longer.

Maybe I am wrong.  But I've noticed the tragectory of his last few movies.  Ready Player One tells the story of what happens when the creator of a pop culture phenomenon dies and the legacy he leaves behind.  As I wrote in my review: "Haliday is Spielberg.  Spielberg helped create the popular culture we all live in.  He was a kid who dreamed of becoming the greatest filmmaker in history, which he has.  Movies are expensive and this is understandable.  But in many ways he has become a corporation.  And in that there is a loss of that innocent artistic purity.  The same thing is seen in Haliday, who knows that something has been lost along the way and hopes that the next generation will set right what he did wrong.  Both Haliday and Spielberg want to draw you in to a fantasy world in order to enrich life in the real world.  But how many of us get stuck in fantasy.  The movie asks the question whether or not our interactions with games and art are making life in the real world better or worse."

Then he made West Side Story.  There, Spielberg is revisiting one of the classic films of his youth where he tried to match his storytelling skills to that of the masters who came before.  This was a new challenge to him as a musical and I can see it as one of his potential "bucket list" items.

And now we are here at The Fabelmans.  Spielberg as returned to where it all began.  He is going to show us how the movies cast a spell on him and how this art shaped him in the same way that he ended up shaping the art.  This movie feels like a man who is looking back on his life and taking stock of the journey to see what it all means.

Perhaps I am reading too much into this.  But Spielberg is 75-years-old.  If I were thinking about making my final film, I might also go back immortalize my family on the screen so that their story could be remembered in the years to come.


Monday, September 12, 2022

New Evangelizers Post: You Do Not Know Who Is Watching



I have a new article up at  

Many decades ago there was a man who had trouble walking. He used braces on his arms to help him get from place to place. This man was a devout Catholic who would walk to mass every morning despite the difficulty.

One particularly day, the ground was covered with sheets of ice. This would be very treacherous for this man in his condition. I don’t think there is a single one of us who would blame him for assessing the situation and deciding to remain at home for his safety. But that is not what he did. Instead, he got up and very carefully navigated the slippery sidewalk with great difficulty until he reached the church.

Why do I bring this up?

Because unknown to this man, someone was watching.

Joseph was a man who lived an average ordinary life of an average ordinary Catholic American. He got married, got a job, went to Church on Sundays, and went to work on the other days. Every morning he would wait at the bus stop across the street from a church. And every day he began to notice the man in the braces slowly make he way to mass every morning. On the morning of the icy ground, Joseph sat at the bus stop and said to himself, “The man in the braces surely won’t be coming today.”

But to his surprise, there he was: walking with great care to make sure that he could attend morning mass. It was at that moment, Joseph said to himself, “If this man can risk all of this dangerous ice to make it to mass every morning, then what is stopping me?” At once Joseph left the bus stop and went into the church morning mass. And as I understand it, he continued to go every day for the rest of his life.

The man in the braces had no idea that Joseph was watching, nor did he realize what an impact his witness would have on him.

Every day we walk through our day unaware of the hundreds of people who observe us. I’m sure many of them give us very little thought. But you never can know. Perhaps they notice how you say grace before eating your Chipotle at the restaurant. Maybe they see how you cross yourself has you pass by a Church. Perhaps they noticed how you stopped to give aid to the homeless person who is begging on the street.

Someone once said to me that my life may be the only Gospel someone ever reads.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I realized this to be true. The way we live, both in the big ways and the small ways, must give witness to God’s goodness. I mentioned before the good things people can observe in us that can give glory to God. But the same is true about our vices. When we are selfish, petty, temperamental, lustful, greedy, lazy, or display any other sin, we are a kind of anti-witness to God’s goodness. If we say we love God, but someone hears us gossiping about our neighbor, then we show people how little we truly believe.

I don’t say this so that we should increase our anxieties, but only our awareness. None of us our perfect. But we can strive to do the best we can. Someone I know grew up with very devoutly Catholic parents. However, there were times when he would argue with them (the way most of us did as teenagers). I once asked him why, if he struggled with his parents so much, did he not rebel against the faith they had taught him. He said to me, “No matter what, every Sunday, my father was at Church as a Eucharistic Minister, giving Our Lord with such faith that I never doubted.” I don’t know if his father ever realized that his son was watching him and taking in his simple lesson of faith.

The man in the braces did only what he could to give glory to God and so his life had a tremendous impact. Joseph’s life was changed forever, but not just his. Joseph’s two sons James and Joseph Jr. became priests. One of Joseph’s daughters became a religious sister. This faith transformed this family. Fr. James ended up become the pastor of the parish in which I was raised. And because of him I had a solid foundation in the Catholic faith. Hundreds and thousands of people were brought closer to Christ because of the faith of that ordinary Catholic named Joseph. And that faith would not have taken wings without that decision on that fateful, icy day when the man in the braces chose faith over fear.

Today, people will interact with you. They will observe you. What will they see? What will they hear?

You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

9/11 - 21 Years Later

   File:National Park Service 9-11 Statue of Liberty and WTC fire.jpg

21 years ago today.

I have no words to describe the horror of that day.  

Today is about the 3,042 people who were horribly and viciously murdered by wicked men.

The best thing to do today would be to remember the dead.

Here is a link to the names of the murdered.  In your charity, perhaps look at the names and pray for a few of them by name.

Let us never forget.


Friday, September 9, 2022

Film Review: Chip 'N Dale - Rescue Rangers


Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Acceptable

Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

This movie should be a soulless, cynical cash grab that is as hollow as it is flashy.

Instead we get a movie that is constantly funny, inventive, nostalgic, and actually has something to say about fame and friendship.

The universe of Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers in set in world like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  In fact, there's a good indication that it is the exact same world, which would make this movie a sort of sequel.  This is a world where cartoon characters live in the same world as humans.  In this reality, Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Sandberg) are cartoon chipmunks who became famous acting in the kids adventure show: Rescue Rangers.  But fame is fickle and their popularity moves on.  Chip goes on to be an insurance salesman.  But Dale tries to hold on to his glory with convention appearances and hustling on social media, even getting the "CGI surgery" so now he appears like he is computer generated instead of hand-drawn.  Things come to a head when their old friend Monteray Jack (Eric Bana) gets in debt to a gangster named "Sweet Pete" (Will Arnett) and then goes missing.  So Chip and Dale have to set aside their differences to help their friend.

All of this was laid out in the trailers and the plot is not terribly original.  But where the show knocks it out of the park is the execution.

A lot of movies like this try to coast on the nostalgia for the different characters you see.  And to some extent it works.  During a big crowd shot and Chip and Dale's high school, you can see Blaster from the Autobots in this crowd.  I got an incredibly big kick out of that and other such cameos.  But I'm glad that the writers Dan Gregor and Doug Mand put forth the effort to make those elements the added layering on top of an excellent script.

The main thing about this movie is that it's funny.  I mean that this is a funny script with jokes that actually work well.  It helps that you have Sandberg and Mulaney who know how to deliver lines with great comic timing.  The line that Mulaney delivers when he sees a message on his landline is delivered with just the right tone that resonates with strange observational humor.  

The movie also knows how to hit a visual gag.  In one of the best running jokes, Dale has encounters with "Ugly" Sonic the Hedghog (Tim Robinson), who appeared in the original trailer for the Sonic movie.  Director Akiva Schaffer knows just how to draw you into the strangely off-putting design for maximum comedic effect.  Schaffer also seamlessly integrates the live-action, animated, and puppeteering that you see on screen so that never once do you break suspension of disbelief.

But at the heart of this movie is the relationship between the two main characters.  In its own comedic way, this movie captures the strange complexity of affection and envy that can come up in the closest of friends.  We tend to be pulled towards people who have qualities that we wish we had.  That draws us to them and causes us to admire them, but often we can't help but feel jealousy because they have those qualities.  The script knows exactly how foil Chip and Dale off of each other perfectly.

The story also does a good job of integrating style with theme.  Dale's constant need to feel relevant is reflected in his updating to a CGI character.  The lack of humanity found in animated characters like those in The Polar Express help to make them inhuman villains.  Not only are things like this incredibly clever, but they are done in a way that made me laugh.  

There are few moments of slightly mature humor.  Unlike DC: League of Super-Pets, I didn't think that most of it was out of line.  There is one moment towards the beginning where they show a photo of Chippendale dancers and later it is heavily implied that Dale is working as some sort of male exotic dancer, but I think those things would go over the heads of child.  When I was a kid, watching Roger Rabbit, most of the mature jokes went over my head, and I think that most of these jokes will as well, while older adults can enjoy the wordplay.

I really hope that they make a sequel to this movie.  I will watch it the day that it comes out.  This movie doesn't quite hits the heights mad genius that was Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, but it flows in harmony with its tone, its humor, and its ideas.  And from me, that is high praise.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Trailer Time: Weird- The Al Yankovic Story -

I have been a fan of "Weird" Al Yankovic since I was a child.  I even had the opportunity to see him in concert in the middle 1980's.  And I will fight anyone who disagrees that UHF is one of the funniest films ever made.

I am incredibly excited for this movie.  I like the feel and tone of it.  Instead of it being a straight-up docudrama, it feels like one of his over-the-top daydream sequences from UHF.  Everything seems just the right amount of silly while taking things super, super seriously.  I particularly like the part where he puts out a cigarette on someone's hand.

This is a movie I would have gone to see in the theaters, but I will watch it opening night on the Roku channel.


Friday, September 2, 2022

TV Review: The Lord of the Rings - The Rings of Power - Episodes 1 and 2

 The bad news is that the first episode is not very good.

The good news is that the second episode is much better.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is the much anticipated Middle-Earth series from Amazon.  The story takes place during the 2nd age, after the defeat of Morgoth (essentially the Devil) and before the defeat of Sauron at the Battle of Mount Doom.  

The story begins with Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) seeking any sign of Sauron and his orcs, but cannot find him.  In fact, her own soldiers eventually turn on her.  She returns to the elven lands where her friend Elrond (Robert Aramayo) explains that King Gil-Gilad is not happy with her warmongering and instead wishes to honor her service in exchange for silence so that he can declare an era of peace.  Meanwhile in the southern lands of man, Gil-Gilad (Benjamin Walker) begins to recall his elven garrisons.  This is sad news for the elven scout Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova) who is in love with a local human healer named Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi).  But just as they begin to say their goodbyes, news of some evil growing in a nearby town changes their story.  At the same time there are group of Hobbi- I'm sory, Harfoots who are living a quaint migratory life in the forest.  However the young, impetuous Nori (Markella Kavenagh ) seeks more of a life adventure, which she finds when something mysterious falls from the sky.

The best thing about the show is that it looks amazing.  It isn't just that the makeup and special effects are good (which they are), but the producers were wise enough to enchant us with the beauty of Middle-Earth.  One of the things that makes Peter Jackson's films so rich is that soaked thousands of years of history and culture into the architecture, art, and landscapes of this land.  Amazon's series does the same.  There are, of course, many times where practical effects would be preferred to CGI, but that is a minor quibble.

The biggest problem with the show is that it brings us in primarily through Galadriel's story.  This is an issue because she is not very likable.  Cate Blanchette's portrayal was one that was tinged with power, menace, and danger, but it was also one that had wisdom, restraint, and above all grace.  Clark's Galadriel lacks these qualities.  I understand that we are seeing a less mature version of the character, but she comes off as uncaring and obsessive.  This means that I do not attach to her quest as much as I should.  She berates others for not enduring what she has, even though they all have been to war.  Her behavior is baffling.  At the very end of the first episode, she makes a decision that is meant to be epic and dramatic, but comes off as quite possibly the dumbest thing anyone on Middle-Earth has ever done.

It would have been much smarter to focus on Nori.  Kavenaugh's wide-eyed innocence and pluck reminds me so much Elijah Wood, which I don't think is a coincidence.  You may call her a discount Frodo and fair enough.  But I got a good deal of enjoyment from her story and it felt very much like the beginnings of the classic fantasy adventure.  Arondir and Bronwyn's story is fine so far, but the actors have to express years of history and subtext.  We don't get to see them fall in love, we just have to take it for granted that they are.  And to their credit, they do the best they can and do so while maintaining the characteristic gulf between elf and human.  I can't say the same about everyone.  There is a scene in the first episode where one of Arondir's fellow elves speaks like he is a human and without a hint of elven grace.

Since the first episode focuses mostly on Galdriel, it really didn't grab me.  However the second episode was much more enjoyable.  

The best part was watching Elrond visit the dwarf Prince Durin (Owain Arthur).  The contrasts between them are fun to watch along with the history of hurt feelings and deep affections.  One of my favorite parts of the show was seeing Khazad-dun in its glory.  Also watching Nori's adventure regarding what fell from the sky is slow but fascinating.

A lot of people have made a big deal about the color-blind casting.  To be honest, I didn't really pay attention to it because the producers were smart enough to not to call attention to this change.  All the actors fit in reasonably well with the overall aesthetic.

One of the show's biggest flaws is that it tries to do too much at once.  I describe the three major story lines above, but there are many more characters like Bronwyn's son (who is annoying), Celibrimbor (who is very different than what video-gamers saw in Shadows of Mordor), King Durin, etc.  Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring has several characters as well, but they wisely followed Tolkien's method of focusing on Frodo and slowly adding more characters.  The Rings of Power does too much too soon.

For those looking something on par with Jackson's might trilogy, this show isn't it.

But this show is also not the complete and utter disaster that many claim it is.

It is still too early to make a judgment, but I am going to continue to watch.