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Grave things happen to bad people in ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’

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Catholic News Service

When a film is called “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” you shouldn’t expect a cheery stroll through the park.

Rather, this grisly thriller traverses the seamy underbelly of New York City in the 1990s, tracking a gang of serial killers on a deadly rampage.

Writer-director Scott, working from the 1992 novel by Lawrence Block, serves up a well-acted and absorbing drama, albeit not one for the squeamish. There’s also an interesting moral conundrum, as the victims themselves are criminals, thereby posing the question, Do bad guys deserve justice?

This conflict haunts the hero, Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson), a former NYPD cop who now works as a private investigator operating just outside the law.

He reluctantly agrees to help a prosperous heroin trafficker, Kenny (Dan Stevens, having traveled very far from “Downton Abbey”). Kenny’s wife (Razane Jammal) was kidnapped, and although Kenny paid the ransom, she was found dead, dismembered, and stuffed in the trunk of a car.

Kenny wants revenge, but his privacy, too. He also fears for the lives of his fellow drug dealers, as the murderers (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson) have struck again.

Scudder agrees to help, deciding that some bad guys are worse than others. As he tracks the killers, he acquires a young sidekick, T.J. (Brian Bradley), a homeless boy and comics enthusiast who dreams of being a real-life superhero.

Awash in moral ambiguity, “A Walk Among the Tombstones” injects a degree of faith into the mix. As a recovering alcoholic, Scudder tries to apply the 12-step program of perseverance, forgiveness and belief in a higher power to his personal crusade for good over evil.

He does not always succeed.

The film contains bloody violence and torture, a suicide, brief nudity, sexual references, drug use, and pervasive profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

‘No Good Deed’ … you know the rest

September 16th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Were it not for the disturbing parallel with recent domestic violence cases involving professional athletes, “No Good Deed” would have no reason to attract attention.

It’s a conventionally plotted thriller about a violent escaped convict who terrifies a household. Its late story “twist” is easily detected early on, leaving the film, directed by Sam Miller and written by Aimee Lagos, as stale and predictable as its dark and stormy night.

Taraji B. Henson and Idris Elba star in a scene from the movie "No Good Deed." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.(CNS photo/Screen Gems)

Taraji B. Henson and Idris Elba star in a scene from the movie “No Good Deed.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.(CNS photo/Screen Gems)

As it opens, Colin (Idris Elba), convicted of one murder but a suspect in five others, is denied parole in Tennessee. On the trip back to prison, he kills two guards and heads to the Atlanta home of his unfaithful ex-fiancee (Kate del Castillo) with murderous intent.

He wrecks his vehicle on a rain-slicked highway during his getaway, and ends up ringing the doorbell at the home of Terri (Taraji B. Henson), her husband, Jeffrey (Henry Simmons), and their two small children.

Jeffrey has escaped husbandly tasks for what he calls a “golfing trip,” leaving Terri alone with the children before she takes pity on the soggy killing machine who asks to use her phone to call a tow truck. As a former prosecutor who specialized in domestic violence cases, she ought to know better, of course.

What could possibly go wrong here, even with chirpy neighbor Meg (Leslie Bibb) dropping by?

Colin, in the manner of all abusers, alternates between predatory and protective behavior, but the film teaches no lessons in how to cope with any of it. Instead, there’s only a string of bleak killings set in a distasteful framework.

The film contains gun and physical violence, frequent rough and crass language and fleeting profanities. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

 

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‘The Trip to Italy’ an adult road movie

September 16th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Think carefully before embarking on “The Trip to Italy,” an occasionally tasteless grand tour through the Italian peninsula.

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan star in a scene from the movie "The Trip to Italy." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. (CNS photo/IFC Films)

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan star in a scene from the movie “The Trip to Italy.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. (CNS photo/IFC Films)

What can be an enchanting travelogue, with breathtaking scenery and mouth-watering cuisine, is, regrettably, offset by some vulgar humor and sexual situations which place this film squarely in the adult camp.

Two British actor/comedians, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, set out on a road trip, along the lines of their 2010 film, “The Trip,” a restaurant tour through northern England. Michael Winterbottom returns as director, blurring the lines between real-life documentary and fictional drama.

Fine cuisine and grand hotels are the primary goals. There’s also a bit of history, as the travel buddies retrace the steps of the 19th-century English Romantic poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Hollywood movies are a shared passion. They drive a Mini Cooper convertible (shades of “The Italian Job”) and reminisce about Italian-set classics such as “The Godfather,” “Roman Holiday” and “La Dolce Vita.” In between, they make a number of vulgar jokes.

As the lads wend their way from Turin to Naples, personal issues intervene. Both fret about work and relationships as much as their next meal. Coogan, divorced, misses his teenage son. Brydon, married with a young daughter, has a roving eye that gets him into trouble.

The travelers are brilliant impersonators, and “The Trip to Italy” works best when they skewer fellow actors such as Al Pacino, Michael Caine and Hugh Grant.

Directors also are fair game. Admiring the seagulls flying above the Bay of Naples, Brydon improvises that Alfred Hitchcock, when directing the 1963 horror classic “The Birds,” gave each feathered friend a name, and offered individual direction.

The film contains adultery, implied nonmarital sexual activity, sexual humor and innuendo, and occasional crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

 

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Dolphin flick sequel is family-friendly Winter’s tale

September 12th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Flipper’s cousin is making waves again in “Dolphin Tale 2,” the dramatic follow-up to the 2011 film about the marine mammal with the prosthetic tail.

Charles Martin Smith returns to direct this family-friendly film about Winter, whose real-life triumph over disability has made her a symbol of hope to young and old around the world.

Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Harry Connick Jr. and Morgan Freeman star in a scene from the movie "Dolphin Tale 2." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. (CNS /Warner Bros.I

Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Harry Connick Jr. and Morgan Freeman star in a scene from the movie “Dolphin Tale 2.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. (CNS /Warner Bros.I

Winter, for the unfamiliar, washed up on a Florida beach, tangled in a fishing trap. Discovered by young Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), the female dolphin was brought to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Doctors there were forced to amputate her severely injured tail, but Winter was fitted with a space-age prosthetic, a first.

We pick up the story a few years later, and Winter is the star attraction at Clearwater, where Sawyer, now in his teens, is a volunteer guide, along with his pal, Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff).

Hazel’s dad, Clay (Harry Connick Jr.), runs the aquarium which is expanding by leaps and bounds. As such, he is under heavy pressure from investors to keep Winter happy and healthy.

That’s easier said than done. Winter’s surrogate mother, the elderly dolphin Panama, has died (a fleeting scene that may upset young viewers). By law, dolphins in captivity must live in pairs, as they crave companionship and social interaction in the water.

Spare dolphins are hard to come by, and without a replacement the authorities will step in and transfer Winter to another aquarium. Winter, moreover, is in a funk and refusing to perform, to the dismay of paying customers.

Clay must rally the troops, including his grizzled father, Reed (Kris Kristofferson); Sawyer’s spunky mother, Lorraine (Ashley Judd); and the avuncular Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman), who designed Winter’s new tail.

Even champion surfer Bethany Hamilton drops by to help. Hamilton, who lost an arm to a shark, was the subject of another inspirational water-based film, 2011′s “Soul Surfer.”

Overall, it’s a whale of a tail — make that, tale — with a sweet side story of puppy love, as Hazel admires the clueless Sawyer, preoccupied by the plight of his aquatic pal.

“Dolphin Tale 2” is that rare Hollywood film: wholesome and fun for all ages, with nice messages about family, responsibility, and perseverance. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

 

 

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Robin Hood, you might want to call your merry lawyer

September 12th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

It’s no wonder Errol Flynn called his autobiography “”My Wicked, Wicked Ways.” The swashbuckling actor’s bad habits are showcased in “The Last of Robin Hood,” a lurid account of the decline and fall of a once-beloved matinee idol.

Dakota Fanning and Kevin Kline star in a scene from the movie "The Last of Robin Hood." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Samuel Goldwyn)

Dakota Fanning and Kevin Kline star in a scene from the movie “The Last of Robin Hood.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Samuel Goldwyn)

Flynn, famous for leading roles in “Captain Blood,” “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” and “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex,” was also notorious behind the scenes as a womanizer and an alcoholic.

In “The Last of Robin Hood,” writer-directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland focus on the actor’s final two years before his death in 1959 at age 50.

It’s a sad but true story of rampant hedonism, sufficient to put anyone off considering a career in Hollywood.

We meet Flynn (portrayed with panache by Kevin Kline) in 1957. Professionally, he’s washed up, with choice film roles going to younger actors. But physically, he’s still dashing and debonair, constantly prowling the movie studios for nubile young starlets to seduce.

He lands one in Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning), a chorus girl on a Warner Brothers film. Beverly dreams of stardom, groomed from childhood by her pushy mother Florence (Susan Sarandon).

“Don’t fade into the woodwork,” she advises her daughter, whom she provides with a faked birth certificate that says she’s 18 years old.

In reality, Beverly is 15. This doesn’t matter in the least to Flynn, who has been accused of statutory rape before (and was acquitted). Bewitched but not bothered or bewildered, Flynn and Beverly embark on a very public affair.

“I am the devil incarnate,” Flynn crows. “I live every day and night as if it were my last.”

Florence, initially appalled, is won over by Flynn’s charms and the potential for Beverly’s showbiz “career.” She dumps her morally aghast husband Herb (Patrick St. Esprit) and follows the lovebirds to New York City.

After an interlude in Cuba with Fidel Castro (don’t ask) and a trip to Canada, Flynn pops the question, and a wedding is planned. Fate intervenes, and a happy ending is not in store.

“The Last of Robin Hood” is a cautionary tale about narcissism and the perils of fame. Viewers would do better to suspend reality and instead enjoy one of Flynn’s classic film performances from Hollywood’s golden age.

The film contains a scene of rape, nonmarital sexual activity, partial nudity, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual banter, and frequent profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

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Story of Elvis all shook up by ‘The Identical’

September 8th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Although they may be sociologically fascinating, in the cultural scheme of things, Elvis Presley impersonators are not widely deemed to occupy a particularly exalted position.

Blake Rayne stars in a scene from the movie "The Identical." Catholic News Service classification, A-I -- general patronage. Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may no t be suitable for children. (CNS photo/Katherine Bomboy Thornton, City of Peace Films)

Blake Rayne stars in a scene from the movie “The Identical.” Catholic News Service classification, A-I — general patronage. Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may no t be suitable for children. (CNS photo/Katherine Bomboy Thornton, City of Peace Films)

Yet no one can deny the enduring appeal of an entertainer who, close to 40 years after his death, still has not only legions of fans but hosts of followers devoted enough to settle for myriad attempts at imitation now that the real thing is no longer around … at least, not officially.

Moviegoers’ attitudes toward the former occupant of Graceland will likely shape their reactions to the reality-related drama “The Identical.”

Director Dustin Marcellino’s film takes its premise from the historical fact that Elvis was a twin. Sadly, though, his brother Jesse was stillborn.

But what if it had been otherwise? In the fictional version of events pursued by screenwriter Howard Klausner’s script, the newborn brothers’ impoverished parents, William (Brian Geraghty) and Helen (Amanda Crew) Hemsley, are in desperate straits as a result of the Depression. So they make the traumatic decision to give one of their sons up for adoption.

They find suitable foster parents in circuit-riding revivalist preacher Reece Wade (Ray Liotta) and his wife Louise (Ashley Judd). The Wades are a happily married couple whose principal cross in life so far has been their childlessness.

For reasons that are not really made clear, however, the Hemsleys are at pains to conceal this arrangement from the world. Accordingly, they swear the Wades to secrecy and give out a cover story that one of their boys has died. They even hold a funeral for him.

Flash forward to the 1950s and Drexel (Blake Rayne), the lad the Hemsleys kept, is rocketing to musical stardom. His obscure but equally talented lookalike Ryan Wade (also Rayne), meanwhile, is being pressured by his father, now a settled pastor, to follow him into the ministry.

But, in a sort of evangelical riff on the old dilemma Al Jolson faced in “The Jazz Singer,” Ryan prefers belting out tunes to thumping the Scriptures. Eventually, Ryan gets the opportunity to pursue his favored career by impersonating his long-lost counterpart under the moniker of the title. Defied Dad is, needless to say, disappointed.

Wholesome and faith-friendly, “The Identical” is a homespun piece of entertainment with a goodhearted but naive tone that will not be to the taste of city slickers. As for its suitable audience, a single vague reference to the connection between romantic passion and the arrival of babies may debar those who are still members of the stork club.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG, parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

 

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Bone tired: ‘As Above, So Below’

September 2nd, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Claustrophobics beware: Set mostly in the network of catacombs that lie beneath Paris, the second-rate chiller “As Above, So Below” is not the film for you. Gory images and an excess of hysteria-induced swearing put director and co-writer John Erick Dowdle’s jolt-fest off limits for many others as well.

Perdita Weeks and Ben Feldman star in a scene from the movie "As Above/So Below." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Bruno Calvo, Universal Pictures)

Perdita Weeks and Ben Feldman star in a scene from the movie “As Above/So Below.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Bruno Calvo, Universal Pictures)

Dowdle, who collaborated on the script with his brother Drew, gets things going with some Dan Brown-style alternate history. Following in the footsteps of her distinguished father, plucky, British accented archaeologist Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), an expert on the pseudo-science alchemy, is out to find the holy grail of alchemists everywhere, the legendary philosopher’s stone. This supposedly miraculous artifact has the power to turn base metals into gold and to impart eternal life.

The fact that Dad may have been driven mad by his pursuit of it, he ended up hanging himself, fails to deter Scarlett.

A variety of clues involving medieval-era Parisian Nicolas Flamel lead Scarlett to conclude that the object of her quest is hidden in those aforementioned tunnels — which, by the way, are full of human bones. So she obtains the services of a local expert on them, a hipster graffiti artist who goes by the not-exactly-original moniker Papillon (Francois Civil).

Despite his considerable reluctance, Scarlett also corrals her prickly pal George (Ben Feldman) into turning mole with her. Along with their interest in archaeology and the occult, these two share a romantic history together as well. But this is no time for hearts and flowers; it’s off to the world’s largest underground cemetery.

There Papillon does his best, but the expedition goes badly wrong (you knew it would, right?). Scarlett, George, Papillon and the other participants, Pap’s too-cool-for-school friends Souxie (Marion Lambert) and Zed (Ali Marhyar) as well as filmmaker Benji (Edwin Hodge) who’s documenting Scarlett’s doings, all begin to have hellish hallucinations.

Between Benji’s camera and Scarlett’s cell phone, Dowdle tries to create a sense of immediacy with a found-footage approach. But that conceit has gotten threadbare to say the least, while the initial promise of Dowdle’s tale, getting trapped in a vast ossuary below the City of Lights does have its gothic appeal, gets lost as quickly as his characters do.

The movie dabbles momentarily in the kind of reality-follows-thought notions clung to by Scientologists and the like. But this is just one more detour on a long, confused chase for daylight.

The film contains intermittent bloody violence, a handful of profanities and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

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‘The November Man’ serves up late-summer turkey

August 28th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

There’s not much cause for thanksgiving in “The November Man.” That’s because the only thing out of the ordinary about this espionage-themed action flick is the level of visceral violence on display.

Scene from movie 'The November Man'Director Roger Donaldson’s screen version of Bill Granger’s novel, “There Are No Spies,” follows the adventures of retired CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan). He is reluctantly lured back into the world of secret ops by the need to protect Natalia Ulanova (Mediha Musliovic), a source-turned-lover for whom he still carries a torch.

Natalia has been working undercover in the offices of Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski), the front-runner in the race to become the next president of Russia. There, she’s unearthed evidence of the lurid war crimes Federov committed during the conflict in Chechnya.

As Peter tries to get Natalia to safety, however, he’s confused to find himself at odds with his former colleagues, including trigger-happy agency assassin David Mason (Luke Bracey), who was once Peter’s trainee. The measures they take to thwart Peter’s extraction of Natalia leave him not only enraged and bent on revenge, but determined to follow up on Natalia’s quest to torpedo Federov’s candidacy.

Since Natalia’s clues point to a Belgrade social worker named Alice (Olga Kurylenko) as the one person who might be able to produce a witness to Federov’s atrocities, Peter and David are soon struggling for custody of her.

Eventually, the murky, conspiracy-driven story line also takes in the shifting fortunes of two Langley bigwigs, Peter’s ex-boss Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) and scowling pen-pusher Weinstein (William Patton).

The bloodletting along Peter’s path ranges from skulls exploded by high-powered rifle bullets to major arteries slashed by knives. Add to that an explicitly portrayed encounter between David and a casual acquaintance, as well as Peter’s visit to a strip club to chat with a pimp who might know something to Federov’s discredit, and what you’re left with is a viewing experience that frequently plays on the lowest aspects of human nature.

The film contains excessive gory violence, graphic nonmarital and implied premarital sexual activity, upper female and rear nudity, about a half-dozen uses of profanity and a steady flow of rough and crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R..

 

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‘A Most Wanted Man’ mixes cloaks, daggers and terrorists

August 26th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

The extreme measures spies take to combat terrorism, and the moral compromises that go with them, are showcased in “A Most Wanted Man,” an edgy adaptation of the 2008 bestselling novel by John le Carre.

Rachel McAdams and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman star in a scene from the movie "A Most Wanted Man." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. (CNS/Roadside Attractions)

Rachel McAdams and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman star in a scene from the movie “A Most Wanted Man.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. (CNS/Roadside Attractions)

Director Anton Corbijn has crafted a tense cat-and-mouse thriller set in Hamburg, Germany, the city where the 9/11 terrorists plotted their attacks. As a result of that, Hamburg is a focus of espionage for many Western nations, including the United States.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his last leading role, portrays Gunther Bachmann, a veteran German intelligence agent. Gunther and his top-secret team work to expose terrorist cells by infiltrating the local Muslim community and obtaining information.

It’s a time-consuming and multifaceted operation. “Our sources don’t come to us. We find them,” Gunther explains. “When they are ours, we direct them to bigger targets. It takes a minnow to catch a barracuda, a barracuda to catch a shark.”

Indeed, Gunther uses two contacts to land very big fish. Aman named Jamal (Mehdi Dehbi), reluctantly spies on his father, Dr. Faisal Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi). The elder Abdullah is a prominent philanthropist suspected of funneling cash to fund terrorist activities.

The other source, Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams), is an idealistic immigration lawyer. Her new client is a shady refugee from Chechnya, Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin). Issa has entered Germany illegally and may or may not be an extremist.

The plot thickens when Karpov reveals that his deceased father extorted a fortune, which was laundered and deposited in a Hamburg bank run by Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe). Issa claims he wants nothing to do with this blood money, casting doubts on his evil intentions.

Whatever Issa’s motives, Gunther lays a trap, whereby Annabel persuades Issa to donate the money to Abdullah’s so-called charities. If Abdullah takes the bait, it could expose a wider terrorist network.

Complicating matters are the American spies lurking in the shadows, led by Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright). She wants in on Gunther’s plan, but has another agenda in mind.

Fans of le Carre’s novels will know to expect the unexpected.

The film contains stylized violence and frequent profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

 

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‘If I Stay,’ bright lights in a dim tearjerker

August 25th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

A tearjerker for teens, “If I Stay” glamorizes the physical relationship between its two leads, making it totally unsuitable for its target audience.

Chloe Grace Moretz stars in a scene from the movie "If I Stay." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material maybe inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Chloe Grace Moretz stars in a scene from the movie “If I Stay.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material maybe inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

And it’s doubtful that many adult moviegoers, for whom it may be acceptable, will want to sit through this contrived weepy, adapted by director R.J. Cutler from Gayle Forman’s best-selling novel.

One of the pictures few assets is Chloe Grace Moretz’s game performance as Mia Hall, the “I” of the title. An aspiring cellist with a shot at attending Julliard, Mia is busy worrying about how her possible departure for the East Coast has strained her bond with her rocker boyfriend Adam (Jamie Blackley) when her life takes a sudden, horrific turn.

A family outing ends in tragedy when a car accident claims the lives of Mia’s groovy ex-punk parents, Kat (Mireille Enos) and Denny (Joshua Leonard), gravely injures her little brother, Teddy (Jakob Davies), and leaves Mia herself comatose.

An unconscious heroine simply will not do on screen or on the printed page. So Mia has an out-of-body experience, and takes us along for the ride.

As scenes around her hospital bed alternate with flashbacks, Mia must decide whether to fight for life to be reunited with Adam or follow her folks into eternity.

While screenwriter Shauna Cross’ script implicitly affirms the existence of an afterlife, a bright light seemingly beckons to Mia every so often, some of the memories we witness reveal attitudes in the narrative at odds with Scripture-based values. Thus Mia is delighted to learn that the backup singer in Adam’s band, a girl she sees as a potential rival for his affections, is a lesbian and not a shy one, either.

More prominently, Mia initiates an encounter with Adam that, although discreetly shown, is presented as a wonderfully romantic experience for both of them. A later scene finds them together in Mia’s bed at home, suggesting that hipsters Kat and Denny are at ease with the situation.

Reflective viewers, of course, will not be so comfortable, especially given that Mia is a senior in high school, meaning that she may or may not be 18.

Although Mia’s real-life contemporaries may balk at being kept away from “If I Stay,” their guardians will at least have spared them such cringe-worthy moments as Adam’s impromptu ICU serenade to his still-sleeping beauty.

The film contains a benign view of teen sexuality and homosexual acts, nongraphic premarital and possibly underage sexual activity, a same-sex kiss, at least one use of profanity and considerable crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.

 

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