CGB Top Ten Best Movies of 2015

Now that I’ve unleashed my cathartic list of this year’s worst movies, it’s time to showcase the Top Ten Best Movies of 2015!

For a film to be my favorite, it has to give me an emotional experience.  The movies on this list made me laugh, cry, think and even challenged me.
Without further ado, here is my list of the Top Ten Best Movies of 2015!

10. Serena
Hey Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence!  You two made it on this list!  Hooray!
In all seriousness, I thoroughly enjoyed this period piece drama.  The dynamic between Cooper and Lawrence is wonderful to watch and the evolution of their characters is well-handled in this tragic tale of love and ambition.
CGB Review of Serena here:  https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/07/11/my-review-of-serena-2015/

9. Mad Max Fury Road
This was a pleasant surprise for me.  I don’t normally gravitate towards high-testosterone films like these, but I found myself enjoying Mad Max more than I thought I would.  Imperator Furiosa is an amazing lead character, the chase sequences did get my adrenaline going, and the color palate choices were ingenious.
CGB Review of Mad Max Fury Road coming soon.

8. Ex_Machina
Did you love Oscar Isaac in Force Awakens?  You’re gonna love this movie that features Oscar Isaac as the shady scientist Nathan.  I found this hidden sci-fi gem to be an intelligent perspective on humanity, love and what it means to be alive.  All of the actors are three-dimensional and interesting to watch, the clausterphobic cinematography was crisp and cool, and the film’s tasteful handling of its own ideas earns Ex_Machina the #8 spot.
CGB Review of Ex_Machina here:  https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/08/15/my-review-of-ex_machina/

7. Do You Believe?
Hey, look, a Christian film made it on this list!  Given that the Christian film is a hit-or-miss genre (with more misses than homeruns), Do You Believe is in my opinion a daring entry in the genre.  When a movie can handle the subjects of self-injury, PTSD, homelessness, gang violence and broken families with tact and grace, that is worth commending.  I really hope that Christian filmmakers watch this movie and take inspiration from it.
CGB Review of Do You Believe here:  https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/08/09/christian-movie-reviews-do-you-believe/

6. The Intern
Another pleasant surprise!  I honestly wasn’t expecting this to end up on the list.  This Nancy Meyers comedy is charming without being cheesy, heartwarming without oversentimentality, and a great story of platonic love and friendship.  Cuddle up with the one you love and enjoy this delightful date night flick.
My TCR Review of The Intern here:  http://www.thecatholicresponse.us/tcr-review-of-the-intern/

5. Black Mass
Wow, what a terrifying crime drama with a mesmerizing performance from Johnny Depp.  All of the performances are masterful, the musical score is haunting and the cinematography captures the terror of the Boston crime scene.  Johnny Depp should take a break from Tim Burton for a while and instead begin starring in more films like this engaging biopic of James “Whitey” Bulger.
My TCR Review of Black Mass here:  http://www.thecatholicresponse.us/tcr-review-black-mass/

4. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
Forget David O. Russell’s clusterfrick film Joy; this is a movie that showcases Jennifer Lawrence’s strength as an actor.  This is a satisfying conclusion to the innovative Hunger Games film series.   Jennifer Lawrence completes Katniss’ arch with a quiet, thoughtful performance, the sewer scene in particular is horrifying and action-packed, and all loose ends are tied in this final chapter of my favorite young adult film series.
My CGB Review of Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2 here:   https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/11/27/cgb-double-feature-review-of-the-hunger-games-mockingjay-parts-1-2/

3. American Sniper
Okay, technically this came out in limited release on December 25th, 2014.  However I put it on the list based on its wide release in January of this year.
The reason why bad Bradley Cooper films frustrate me is because this was the movie that showed me what Bradley Cooper is capable of.  His performance as Chris Kyle is heartbreaking.  By the second act, I had completely forgotten that I was watching an actor.  Director Clint Eastwood handles his subject matter with sensitivity and candor.  On a side note, I ask that you pray for our men and women in uniform, for the turmoil they face when coming home is just as great a burden as the agony they endure on the battlefield.
My CGB Review of American Sniper here:  https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/06/21/my-review-of-american-sniper/

2. Inside Out
Ladies and gentlemen, Pixar is back and they’ve hit a homerun with this wonderful animated gem!  The characters are adorable, the film tackles the subject of the mind’s inner workings and coming-of-age in a creative, relatable way and the comedy is top-notch.   This movie made me cry three times when I first saw it (in a good way, of course) and I think this is the perfect family film for all ages.
My CGB Review of Inside Out here:  https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/06/22/my-non-spoiler-review-of-inside-out/

Before we get to the #1 pick, here are some honorable mentions:
Age of Adeline: A lovely romance as well as a good character study of the titular Adeline.
The Walk: A thrilling love letter to the arts and a fun biopic of Phillipe Petit.
Sicario: A disturbing, heart-pounding drama with brilliant performances.
The Martian: A humorous and intense story that pays tribute to the human spirit.

All right, we’ve come to my #1 pick, which just so happens to be two movies.  Yes, there were two movies this year that absolutely blew me away.  I looked over my notes for both of these movies and found that I just couldn’t say that one is better than the other.  These two films succeed in what they set out to do and I would like to add that both contain subtle Christian symbolism that are clear as day once you find those symbols.
The two films that both won the #1 spot on this list are…

 

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens AND Cinderella!!!!
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Yes, you read that right.  The Force Awakens and Cinderella are equally superb!  I’ve seen Force Awakens twice and Cinderella three times.  These two movies get better with each viewing.
Cinderella is sweet and delightful without being saccharine.  The Force Awakens pays homage to the original Star Wars trilogy while having its own identity.  Cinderella is the best demonstration of Theology of the Body that I have ever seen, while Force Awakens’ Rey has quite a few Marian qualities to her character.  Oh, and did I mention that both movies are very respectful of women?
Cinderella and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are excellent films.  They’re the kind of films that both kids and adults will enjoy, which is exactly why they have both earned the #1 spot on the CGB Top Ten Best Movies of 2015!
My TCR Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens here: http://www.thecatholicresponse.us/tcr-review-star-wars-the-force-awakens/
CGB Review of Cinderella coming soon.

CGB Top Ten Worst Movies of 2015

As the year comes to a close, it is time to me to unveil my picks for the Best and Worst films of 2015.
I figure that I’d start off with the movies that were bland and uninspired at best and, at worst, were excruciating abominations that no one should ever have the misfortune of sitting through.
Hello darkness, my old friend.  I’ve come to speak to you again…

These are the Top Ten Worst Movies of 2015

10. The Divergent Series: Insurgent
Nine months ago, this was #1 on my list of Worst 2015 movies.  However, after suffering through the nine other flicks on this list, I have decided to spare Insurgent the shame of being the #1 pick.  However, the autopilot story, the unfocused pacing and the toxic relationship between main character Beatrice “Tris” Prior and Four/Tobias Eaton are enough to guarantee it a spot on this list.

9. Man from U.N.C.L.E
Was this painful to sit through?  No.  Was it boring and lacking in originality?  Why, yes, it was.  I understand that it’s based off of an old TV show, but that is no excuse for cardboard characters and a lackluster plot.
CGB review of Man from U.N.C.L.E here: https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/09/26/cgb-review-of-the-man-from-u-n-c-l-e-2015/

8. Pixels
I honestly feel sorry for this movie.  What’s pitiful is that for me, this movie wasn’t even rant-worthy.  It was an interesting concept that was placed in the hands of people who had no idea how to flesh out the concept into an engaging story.
CGB review of Pixels here: https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/12/19/cgb-review-of-pixels-2015/

7. Terminator Genisys
For the love of all that is holy, that’s not how you spell “Genesis!”
Okay, spelling errors aside, this is the Terminator reboot that nobody asked for and nobody cared about.  An overly convoluted plot on autopilot, bland characters who are Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor in name only, and a lack of understanding as to why people liked the past Terminator films in the first place earns Terminator Genisys a spot on this list.
Screen Junkies Honest Trailer for Terminator Genisys here:  https://youtu.be/VXjz_G6FUrg

6. Jupiter Ascending
This was the first film where I actually walked out after the second act.  This Andy and Lana Wachowski bomb is the Phantom Menace of 2015; a convoluted space opera with long-winded expositional speeches given by flat and boring characters.
CGB review of Jupiter Ascending here: https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/08/18/cgb-review-of-jupiter-ascending-2015/

5. Fant4stic Four
I have a question for you: Let’s say you’ve spent a good chunk of your life working on a passion project (writing a novel, building an invention, proposing a scientific theory, finding ways to get rid of Jar Jar Binks; you decide).  If you were describing this project to someone, would you do so with a look of boredom on your face and a disinterested voice?  NO!  Of course you wouldn’t!  Yet that is how every single character in this movie talks.  It is so painful to see professional actors say their lines like they’re reading off of a grocery list.  Add that to the film’s neutered tone, sluggish pacing and an out-of-nowhere boss fight at the end and you’ve got yourself yet another crummy Fantastic Four movie.
CGB review of Fant4stic Four here:
https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/08/09/my-review-of-the-fantastic-chore-i-mean-four/

4. Pan
The only good thing I can say about this movie is that my review of it is the most viewed post on Catholic Girl Bloggin’ (it currently holds 95 views), and that’s all thanks to you guys and gals who follow CGB.  🙂 Other than that, this migraine-inducing chore of a Peter Pan prequel was practically begging me to walk out on it, go home and pop in “Maleficent,” a much better live-action fairy tale, into my Blue-Ray machine.
Also, I don’t know how I forgot to mention this in my original review, but the Neverbird creatures look like characters from a Nintendo 64 game.  I felt embarrassed for the person who had to animate those things.
CGB review of Pan here:  https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/10/10/cgb-review-of-pan-2015/

DISCLAIMER: The top three worst films of 2015 all feature the same actor.  I swear I didn’t plan this.

3. Burnt
I really don’t like seeing you here, Bradley Cooper.  It also doesn’t help that this won’t be Bradley Cooper’s only appearance on this list.
Clunky expositional dialogue, forgettable characters, a plethora of clichés and an unfocused tone makes this movie is so bad that it made me lose my sense of place and time.  This was my second walk-out of 2015.
CGB review of Burnt here:  https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/11/02/cgb-review-of-burnt-2015-2/

2. Aloha
Hello again, Bradley Cooper.
There are no words to describe my seething hatred for this movie.  I can’t even talk about this flick without getting mad.  Good Lord, Heaven above, I’d rather listen to Anakin Skywalker rant and complain about Obi-Wan than sit through this insufferable mess of a film.   The dialogue is unrealistic trailer-fodder, there are too many scenes that go nowhere and the sluggish pacing would make a turtle look like freaking Roadrunner!
CGB review of Aloha here:  https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/06/08/my-review-of-aloha/

From May to yesterday, Aloha was my pick for the #1 Worst Movie of 2015.
However, that all changed yesterday afternoon when I saw a movie that was so off-the-wall, so scattered in its story structure that during the first hour I went into the bathroom, looked at my baffled expression in the mirror and said aloud to myself, “You’re gonna walk back into Theater 9, sit your keister down on your comfy third row seat and stick with this thing till the end credits.”
It was a true test of endurance, but that is exactly what I did.  Yes, Star Wars was playing just down the hall, but I knew that I couldn’t let this movie beat me.
As a result, I have the film that saved Aloha from the #1 spot…

1. Joy
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How did this thing pass test screenings?  How could any studio have approved of this mess?  Did no one on set tell director David O. Russell, “Hey, this film is pretty all over the place.  You might want to go back and do some more editing”?
I really wanted to like this movie.  I wanted to relate to this movie’s message about the plight of women in business.  However, I cannot recommend a film with a story that, thanks to gigantic leaps in time, is impossible to follow, unlikable characters who never rise above their selfishness for something greater, and awful pacing.  Look, Mr. Russell, no amount of different hairstyles can convince me that Jennifer Lawrence is forty.  You’re better than this, Katniss!
Yes, Bradley Cooper does show up in this trainwreck, as well.  Oh, Bradley, I really hope this doesn’t happen again next year.
CGB review of Joy here: https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/12/28/cgb-review-of-joy-2015/

That concludes my list of the Top Ten Worst Movies of 2015!  My Top Ten Best Movies of 2015 will be posted soon.  🙂

CGB Review of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

So after finishing up Phantom Annoyance–er, I mean–Menace, I popped the Attack of the Clones DVD into the Blue-Ray and posted this on my personal FB page:

“This [Attack of the Clones] cannot be any worse than the abomidable Phantom Menace.  It just can’t be…”
At that moment, my friends, who I will refer to by their initials, began to comment.
M.C: It actually is.
T.S.T: Its is the worst of all star wars movies.  I kid you not.
R.M: IT IS.
J.D: It isn’t.
A.H: Attack of the Clones: proof that rape culture exists.

Responding to Facebook comments is a million times more entertaining than this horrible sequel.
This is my review of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones!

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Ten years after the events of Phantom Menace, Senator Padme Amidala has survived an assassination attempt and now the Jedi Council must keep her safe while figuring out who is behind the attempt on her life.  Anakin Skywalker, who is all grown up physically (but certainly not mentally) is assigned to be her bodyguard.  From there, Obi-Wan discovers the creation of a clone army while Anakin and Padme’s partnership forms into something more.

Okay, my friend J.D. is right in that it’s not as bad as Phantom Menace.  No, no; it’s ten times worse all because of one character, but more on that in a second.

The Hits
Attack of the Clones has more of a plot than Phantom Menace.  I do like the “having-to-protect-endangered-senator” storyline.
Speaking of Padme Amidala, she is the only character I actually cared about.  She’s competent, dutiful and a responsible politician.  I think Natalie Portman brings a sympathetic depth to the character and makes Padme easy to root for.  Honestly, I kind of wish that the prequels were told from Padme’s point of view.   She has an interesting backstory: Elected at a young age, did such a good job as Queen that her people tried to amend the constitution so that she could stay in office longer, and then ended up serving as a senator.  I’d much rather watch her story unfold.
There is a good story somewhere in this bloated mess.  Watching Obi-Wan uncover the plans for a clone army was far more interesting than any trade negotiations and I did like the thousand Jedi fight against the droid army.  There are elements of a good story here, but one person in particular makes this whole thing crash and burn.  And that person is…

The Misses
ANAKIN!
Good Lord, Heaven above, I can’t believe this is the guy who becomes Darth Vader.  I said “shut up” every time he spoke.  All Anakin Skywalker does is gripe and whine about everything.  He keeps complaining about Obi-Wan holding him back and being jealous of him, but he and Obi-Wan have only twenty minutes of screen time together and nothing Obi-Wan does supports what Anakin is moaning about.  Yes, they do reunite in the third act, but even then I have nothing of substance to say about their relationship because the film gives me nothing to work with.
Okay, I’m stepping on the soap box: Hey Hollywood, PLEASE stop trying to make stalking romantic.  There’s nothing loving about staring creepily at someone and making them feel unsafe when they’re around you.  If I was on a date with a man who said any of the same terrible lines of dialogue that Anakin says to Padme, I’d run for the hills.   All Anakin does is make Padme feel uncomfortable (and continues to do so even after she asks him not to look at her in a lustful fashion), rants all his grievances to her without even considering her advice, and there’s one scene where he attempts to undermine her authority (it’s during the scene where they’re discussing something mumbo-jumbo on Naboo), to which she rightfully tells him to back off.  I hate how he goes on and on about how intoxicating she is to him and then downplays her any time she exercises her authority.  To be fair, he does come to treat her with a little more respect in the third act, but by then, I already had a bad taste in my mouth every time he was on screen.  There’s nothing charming about this guy that would make any woman attracted to him.
I guess I hate Anakin because I love Darth Vader as a villain.  How a great villain could have started out as an sniveling jerk is just painful to comprehend.
There are some hap-handed callbacks to the original trilogy that just feel lifeless.  Here’s one example: Count Dooku tries to get Obi-Wan to join the Dark Side, to which Obi-Wan says something to the effect of, “I’ll never join the Dark Side.”
Look, Mr. Lucas, I love Return of the Jedi as much as you probably do, but in that movie, when Palpatine tries to tempt Luke into giving in to the Dark Side, it actually held a lot of weight because Luke’s familial connection to Darth Vader was a strong case for him to cross over and be with his long-lost father.  In this movie, the “join the Dark Side” thing is just a sentence that comes and goes.

While Attack of the Clones is somewhat better than Phantom Menace, it’s only better by default.  For me personally, Anakin practically makes it unwatchable.

Saint Peregrine, pray for us.

CGB Review of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Continuing the CGB Star-Wars-A-Thon is the film that is considered by many to be the Catching Fire of the original Star Wars trilogy!

This is my review of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back!

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Since the events of A New Hope, the Rebel Alliance has settled at the icy planet of Hoth after their attack on the Death Star gave away their hideout to the Galactic Empire.  Darth Vader is now obsessed with hunting down Luke Skywalker.  After a brief battle on Hoth, Luke and R2-D2 are separated from Han, Leia, Chewy and C-3PO and all of these characters must survive a series of obstacles in order to reunite with one another.

The Hits
I think Mark Hamill gives the best performance as Luke in this installment.  He brings a vulnerability and maturity to his character.  I appreciate how Luke feels much older, yet is still sympathetic and never loses his youth.
I will admit that when Lando Calrissian escorts Leia, Han and Chewy and says that he has a way to keep the Empire out of Cloud City once and for all, then opens the door to reveal Darth Vader across the dinner table, I jumped and shouted, “HOLY FRICK!”  I honestly didn’t see that coming.  That scene alone makes Darth Vader even more terrifying to me than he was in the last movie.
Let’s talk about the famous reveal (you all know what I’m talking about). John Williams’ rousing score and Mark Hamill’s committed performance sell that scene.  What intrigues me about this scene is how Luke’s tortured expression conveys the horror of being the son of someone who is so evil.  It would be like finding out that you are Hitler’s offspring.  In fact, if you watch the entire battle between them leading up to the reveal, listen to some of Darth Vader’s verbal clues.  The first line that struck me was, “Your destiny lies with me, Skywalker.”  Granted, in literature and cinema, it’s common for a villain to say something like this to disturb the protagonist and break their concentration in order to gain the upper hand in the fight.  However, once they are on the bridge, his dialogue becomes this: “Don’t let yourself be destroyed as Obi-Wan did…” To me, this line indicates a muted sympathy, as if Vader is beginning to see his connection to Luke and is forming a concern for him.  The line that follows is, “Don’t make me destroy you…”  I should also point out that once on the bridge, Darth Vader calls Luke by name twice, which is subconsciously establishing a personal connection.  It is all made clear once the reveal comes.

The Misses
In all honesty, my only gripe is that I feel so bad for C-3PO!  For the first half of this movie, everyone is a jerk to him.  I get that C-3PO is written to be a little annoying, but he’s not insufferable to put up with like Jar Jar or Lucy Punch from Bad Teacher.  Honestly, he is usually right about stuff!  I’m glad that he is written to annoy other characters and not the audience (which is the golden rule for writing annoying characters), but he never does anything to justify being treated so poorly.

I see why Empire Strikes Back is regarded as one of the great film sequels.  I will be honest: I am a fan of rivalry stories.  In real life, rivalries are horrible.  In fiction, rivalries are fascinating and complex.  Personally I love Empire Strikes Back solely because of the animosity that builds between Luke and Darth Vader.  Once we learn that these two people from opposing sides are intertwined, it makes their rivalry all the more enjoyable to behold.

Saint Mark the Evangelist, pray for us.

BONUS FEATURE!
Enjoy this skit from How It Should Have Ended!

Our World is Sick

On Wednesday, December 2nd, my home state of California was shaken by the mass shooting in San Bernardino.

Around 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik walked into the Inland Regional Center and opened fire, killing fourteen people and wounding the twenty-one survivors.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch the news coverage.  I was still drained from both the Paris bombing and last Friday’s shooting in Colorado Springs.  This latest tragedy was another hit to my heart.

Our world is sick.  It is sick with despair.  Our planet is contaminated by the sickness of aimlessness, anger and desperation fueled by Satan, the prince of this world.  When the value of human life becomes a foreign concept, people have no way of knowing how to treat each other.  Chaos becomes the norm when morality is reduced to being a matter of personal taste.  When love is just a word and not an action, relationships become as disposable as microwave dinners.  When there is no truth, there is no meaning to life.  All of these things result in a generation of wandering children growing up into desperate adults who turn from one meaningless pleasure to another in hopes of finding something to hold onto.  It is easy to become radicalized by another ideology when every other earthly philosophy you have experimented with has left you empty-handed.  It is easy to walk into a Christmas party and start gunning down human beings when you have never been taught that every life is created by God and deserving of dignity.

Our world is sick.  Human civilization is in dire pain and Satan is enjoying every minute of it.

I don’t have all the answers to the world’s problems.  There is no quick fix that will alleviate our society’s issues.  However, I do believe that human beings are capable of rising above terrible circumstances.  I believe that God has more faith in the human spirit than we realize.  I believe that we are able to be the light in our small corners of the universe.  Saint Therse of Lisieux once said, “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”  We can be the light in our own communities by offering a smile to someone who is having a bad day or by showing mercy to a person who is struggling.  Just by being the best versions of ourselves can we inspire others to sanctify themselves and bring about lasting change in our troubled world.

Our world is sick, but each of us has the power to be the cure.

“I hope that real love and truth are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.”
Charles Dickens

Silent About Satan: Why We Must Speak Up (as originally published on The Catholic Response) http://www.thecatholicresponse.us/silent-about-satan-why-we-must-speak-up/)

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Five years ago, I became a spiritual daughter of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. During his time on Earth, Padre Pio made this promise many times: “Once I take a soul on, I also take on his entire family as my spiritual children.  If one of my spiritual children ever goes astray, I shall leave my flock and seek him out….I will ask the Lord to let me remain at the threshold of Paradise, and I will not enter until the last of my spiritual children has entered.”  Anyone can become a spiritual child of Padre Pio, so long as they imitate Pio’s virtue and faith in their words and deeds.  What’s great about having Pio as a spiritual ‘dad’ is that his intense personality and passion for the Lord makes him excellent at motivating a spiritual child to keep on going when they are feeling weary.


An aspect of his life that anyone would find fascinating would be his many encounters with Satan.  According to high-profile exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, “The devil appeared to him [Pio] under many different forms: as a big black cat… or repulsive animal, clearly intending him harm, as well as under the appearance of naked and provocative young girls who danced obscene dances, obviously to test the chastity of the young priest.  However, the worst was when the Devil took on the appearance of his spiritual director, or posed as Jesus, the Virgin Mary or St. Francis.” Satan would even have his minions beat Pio senseless, making the Capuchin friar fall out of his bed!

If Pio were to hear a fellow Christian deny the existence of the devil or reduce the evil one to a mere metaphor for evil in general, he might say something to the effect of, “I doubt it was a mere metaphor that ripped my clothes from me while making my room shake.”  Pio was known for his occasional sass… Unfortunately, if Pio were walking among us today, he would likely come across Christians who either keep their lips sealed about Satan or just don’t believe in the Prince of Darkness altogether.

Why did I bring up that I’m a spiritual daughter of Padre Pio?  It is because what concerned him also concerns me, and one thing that disturbs both myself and the man who went toe-to-toe with Satan himself is the lack of parish priests, pastors, and other leaders in the Christian faith who are willing to openly call out Satan as the puppeteer of the world’s evil.  Imagine my shock when I read a 2009 article from Barna.org that revealed that in America, four out of ten Christians do not believe that Satan is a real being, but rather is a symbolic representation of evil. If that’s not an alarming sign of the times, I don’t know what is.

So why should Christians of all denominations be more vocal about Satan and his influence?


Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.  Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”.  The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing. – Catechism of the Catholic Church #391


Yes,  even Satan started out as “good”… He was known as Lucifer, a powerful angel held in high regard.  What led Lucifer to fall was thought to be the sins of pride and envy. Michael the Archangel, whose name means “Who is like God?” stood opposed to Lucifer’s rebellion. However, Lucifer, in his fall, was able to take one-third of Heaven with him in his descent.  Just think about that for a minute: Lucifer is so cunning that he actually talked one-third of God’s angels into turning their backs on the One who brought them into being.

Peter’s first letter warns, “Be sober and vigilant.  Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (5:8)


Think about this for a moment: a lion is a powerful animal that is able to lurk in the bushes, watching its prey.  Once it jumps into the light, it lands on the weaker creature, pinning it to the ground before devouring it.  Satan operates the exact same way.  He does his work in the shadows, watching and waiting for the right moment to strike.  His favored method involves coming to us in the form of something appealing and enticing.  He disguises what is evil as something good.  By the time he does reveal his true colors we are far too deep into his lies.  Saint Angela Merici tells us, “Remember that the Devil doesn’t sleep, but seeks our ruin in a thousand ways.”

 

Speaking of Satan’s love of lying, John 8:44 states, “He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”  

When he pushes them to commit sins, he removes all shame, as if there were nothing wrong with it, but when they are going to confession, he returns that shame magnified and tries to convince them that the priest will be shocked by their sins and will no longer think well of them. Thus the devil tries to drive souls to the brink of eternal damnation. Oh, how many lads does Satan steal from God, sometimes forever by this trick. – St. John Bosco

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln of Nebraska warns, “Because Satan would like to destroy our relationship with God and ensnare us with lies, we must be on vigilant guard against his temptations.  If we don’t believe in Satan, we won’t recognize his efforts to confuse us, to bind us and to tempt us away from God’s will.” How are we supposed to keep an eye out for what is dangerous if we refuse to accept that the danger exists?  If your home was on fire, you wouldn’t turn your head and say, “Well, there isn’t really a fire.  It’s just a metaphor for bad luck.”  No, you would call the fire department and have it put out as quickly as possible.  Yet many Christians keep quiet about Satan’s presence because they are either worried about being labeled as an “extremist,” or they have become so worn down by all the terrible events taking place on Earth that they shield themselves with apathy.  Evil happens when good people are unwilling to make their voices heard.
Priests, bishops, as well as pastors and reverends from all Christian denominations have a responsibility to speak from the pulpit about the enemy who seeks to drive us away from the Way, the Truth and the Life.  If we are to know about our Savior, we should also know about the Wicked One whose goal is to divide our communities and conquer our souls.   Only by clinging to Jesus, His Mother Mary, the angels and the saints will we be able to fight back against the fallen angel who wants to drag as many children of God down with him as possible.

Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, pray for us.

CGB Double-Feature Review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2

The series may be over, but the fire it started will burn forever.

This is my review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2!

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay is the third/fourth and final chapter in the Hunger Games film series.  This is where Katniss must cope with the trauma of the Games while being the reluctant symbol of the uprising against President Snow and the Capitol.  In Part 1, Katniss is psychologically tormented by Peeta Mellark’s imprisonment at the Capitol.

Yes, this is a first-ever double feature movie review here on Catholic Girl Bloggin’!  I will have to say good-bye to this film series that I fell in love with just three years ago.

Let us begin.

Part 1 Hits
Jennifer Lawrence is amazing as usual.  Her performance tells me that to her, Katniss isn’t just another character she’s being paid to portray; Katniss is a person she respects and understands. This movie allows Katniss to fall apart and descend into her trauma, and Jennifer Lawrence knew how to deliver some powerful acting without getting too carried away (i.e. overacting). I cried three times during this movie, and two of those times were because of Jennifer Lawrence’s facial expressions and inflections. When an actor can make me feel distressed over the fate of fictional characters, that’s the sign of a strong performer.
This movie really knows how to sum up its supporting characters in a few scenes or less. Effie Trinket’s first scene in the movie is the best summary of her character that I’ve seen since the last two films. Haymitch’s entrance into the plot is downright awesome. I will say that I was wrong about Julianne Moore being miscast as President Alma Coin. Nope, she was the right choice. She manages to be semi-warm and welcoming, while carrying an iciness that Katniss can sense from a mile away.
If you’re a fan of House of Cards or any genre involving political intrigue, then you’re gonna like this movie. President Snow has made my Favorite Villains List. I would put him at #3 of that list. He is one evil son of a gun. The villain who can hurt you without being in the room is a dangerous person. I thought it was smart for both District 13 and the Capitol to use propaganda as their weapon of choice.

Part 2 Hits
Jennifer Lawrence always has been and forever will be Katniss Everdeen. She brings Katniss’ character arch full circle with a locked-down, quiet performance.  Along with being stunningly beautiful, Jennifer Lawrence brings a sense of vulnerability to her gravitas as she effortlessly brings Katniss to life one last time.
The heart of the franchise is Katniss and Peeta’s relationship.  I love the chaste and tender nature of their bond.  Their ordeal in the first Games and in the Quarter Quell have bound them to each other.  Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson both sell Katniss and Peeta’s care for one another with the believable depth of their performances.
While the pacing can be punishing for moviegoers who prefer stories that move faster, once the action starts, it will take your breath away.  The traps that Katniss and her crew have to go through are everything that you would expect from the extravagant, excessive Capitol.  There’s one great, nail-biting sequence that takes place in the sewers.  If you’re a fan of the horror genre, you’re going to love this scene.  Though if you suffer from clausterphobia as I do, then you might want to shut your eyes when Katniss and company first walk through the very narrow tunnel which has the ceiling really close to their scalps.  It only takes them two minutes to walk through the tunnel, but clausterphobia-sufferers might feel a tad uncomfortable.
President Snow…good Lord, this guy is diabolical.  Donald Sutherland is having the time of his life playing Snow.  I have enjoyed watching his rivarly with Katniss over the course of the series and I do hope that Mr. Sutherland continues to play villains from here on out.

The Misses with Parts 1 & 2 
Everything wrong with Mockingjay has to do with the fact that it was split into two parts.  The actual book Mockingjay is only 390 pages and is in fact one page shorter than Catching Fire, which is 391 pages.  Because of this, both film do suffer from filler-riddled scenes.  If you’re not a fan of films that take their time, both films might test your patience.
It seems as though the weaknesses of the Hunger Games franchise remain unimproved.  Prim still lacks presence outside of being a plot device, Gale is not fleshed out very well and the two-part split means sitting through some filler.

All that being said, let the record show that I feel Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2 are actually better than the book itself.  The filmmakers knew they had a huge challenge facing them in making a dialogue-heavy book with minimal action and making it cinematic.  I feel that director Francis Lawrence and everyone else involved stepped up to the plate and brought to us a truly satisfying conclusion to an influential series.

This brings us to the end of the CGB Hunger Games Extravaganza.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing and reviewing my favorite film series for you guys and gals.
Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favor always.

 

Saint Catherine of Siena, pray for us.