“The Good Pope: The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church — The Story of John XXIII and Vatican II” by Greg Tobin.

"The Good Pope" is both a well-written and thoughtful biography of Pope John XXIII, and a helpful study of the events, personalities and issues of the Second Vatican Council. This timely book coincides with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the council (1962-65) and serves as an accessible work of church history. Tobin clearly admires Angelo Roncalli, the son of a large, impoverished Italian farming family who grew up "surrounded by God and church" and, from his childhood, had a clear sense of vocation. "I can't remember a time," he later wrote, "when I did not want to serve God as a priest."

Snitch: A new look on forgiveness

How should society balance the government's need to combat drug use -- and its attendant evils -- against the right of a citizen to be judged and punished according to the individual circumstances of his or her case? If the fact-based film "Snitch" (Summit) is any evidence, the current use of mandatory sentences as a weapon in narcotics cases has those two competing interests thoroughly off-kilter.

New books offer wealth of options for spiritual reading during Lent

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Here is a selection of recent releases that might be suitable for your spiritual reading during Lent and the Easter season:

Bewitching as these ‘Beautiful Creatures’ may be, they’re a cauldron of confusion for teens

NEW YORK (CNS) — On its surface, the gothic romance “Beautiful Creatures” (Warner Bros.) comprises a passable if pretentious blend of supernatural elements reminiscent of the “Twilight” franchise and a lush setting straight out of a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. But a mixed religious outlook makes the occult elements underlying writer-director Richard LaGravenese’s screen version of […]

The top 10 movies and family films of 2012

NEW YORK (CNS) -- With awards season in full swing, it's time for the Media Review Office of Catholic News Service to offer its top 10 movie selections -- and top 10 family films list -- for 2012.

Which ‘Side Effects’ you? R-Rated, or something less vulgar?

NEW YORK (CNS) — Intriguing but somewhat sordid, the psychiatry-themed drama “Side Effects” (Open Road) messes, quite successfully, with viewers’ heads. Mature moviegoers may enjoy following the twisting trail of director Steven Soderbergh’s clever puzzler. Yet a number of red-flag elements preclude not only youngsters but those in search of casual diversion as well. This […]

Maker of Our Lady of Guadalupe docufilm hopes for wide circulation

  WASHINGTON (CNS) — Before making his documentary on Our Lady of Guadalupe, “The Blood & the Rose,” director and co-writer Tim Watkins said, “I knew very little about Our Lady of Guadalupe.” Now, with his film out and available on DVD, he wants the world to know about her. “I reinvigorated my faith about […]

Gun violence leads to closer scrutiny for links with media violence

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It was bound to happen. After the massacre in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, Americans started looking for ways to curb gun violence. Inevitably, that search has extended to violence in media, including movies, TV shows and video games.

Books on Spain’s ‘Camino’ offer little for serious Catholics

“A Room with a Pew: Sleeping Our Way through Spain’s Ancient Monasteries” by Richard Starks and Miriam Murcutt. Globe Pequot Press (Guilford, Conn., 2012). 244 pp., $16.95. “The Way of the Stars: Journeys on the Camino de Santiago” by Robert C. Sibley. University of Virginia Press (Charlottesville, Va., 2012). 170 pp., $23.95.    Like early […]

Film on Roosevelt echoes theme of ‘morals don’t matter’

NEW YORK (CNS) — “Oh, Those Randy Roosevelts!” might be a better title for “Hyde Park on Hudson” (Focus). This comedy-drama purports to chronicle — and blithely celebrates — the real-life sexual indiscretions of the 32nd president of the United States, his first lady, his cousin and assorted members of his staff. Director Roger Michell […]