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Weekend TV: ‘Killing Jesus’ mutes theology to portray faith-based philosopher

March 27th, 2015 Posted in Featured, Movies

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Catholic News Service

Unsettling problems beset the lavish dramatization “Killing Jesus,” which premieres on the National Geographic cable channel Palm Sunday, March 29, 8-11 p.m. Based on Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly’s 2013 best-seller, this sometimes gory recreation of events surrounding the Passion tries to be historically accurate while remaining theologically noncommittal.

Haaz Sleiman, center, stars in a scene from "Killing Jesus," which premieres on the National Geographic cable channel Palm Sunday, March 29, 8-11 p.m. EDT. (CNS photo/Kent Eanes, courtesy National Geographic Channels)

Haaz Sleiman, center, stars in a scene from “Killing Jesus,” which premieres on the National Geographic cable channel Palm Sunday, March 29, 8-11 p.m. EDT. (CNS photo/Kent Eanes, courtesy National Geographic Channels)

The result will likely strike believers as incomplete and unsatisfying. Haaz Sleiman’s Jesus, after all, is wholly unconscious of any divine identity augmenting his ordinary human nature, and is even slow to accept his role as the promised Messiah.

Once he does so, after encouragement from his cousin, John the Baptist (Abhin Galeya), he pursues his mission with minimal supernatural fuss: The wonder-shy script includes only two potentially miraculous events, along with the empty tomb, but not, significantly, any sighting of the risen Jesus himself.

More a faith-based philosopher and social critic than a savior, this Jesus focuses on bettering the morals of his contemporaries and undermining the entrenched political and religious hierarchies that ride roughshod over the poor.

Naturally, those in power, most prominently Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Stephen Moyer), Tetrarch of Galilee Herod Antipas (Eoin Macken) and Caiaphas the High Priest (Rufus Sewell), don’t take kindly to such an agenda.

Like any number of doomed academic attempts to isolate the “historical Jesus” from “the Christ of faith,” this small-screen narrative finds itself neutralized by the impossibility of separating the real-life events of the Gospel from the otherworldly understanding with which those occurrences have, from the beginning, been inseparably intertwined.

What remains is a reasonably diverting swords-and-sandals saga marked by some frisky romantic misbehavior, Salome (Stephanie Leonidas) trips the light fantastic, and political intrigue.

 

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‘Home’ is passable holiday fare for kids

March 27th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Parents looking for acceptable Easter-break entertainment for the kids will probably be satisfied with the lightweight animated adventure “Home.”

Whether viewers young or old will remember anything about this merely passable picture by the time Pentecost rolls around, however, is another question.

Animated characters Oh, voiced by Jim Parsons, and Tip, voiced by Rihanna, appear in the movie "Home." 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 photo/DreamWorks)

Animated characters Oh, voiced by Jim Parsons, and Tip, voiced by Rihanna, appear in the movie “Home.” 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 photo/DreamWorks)

At the center of the movie’s unimpeachable, if uninspired, proceedings stands cuddly alien Oh (voice of Jim Parsons). Imagine a marshmallow dipped in purple dye and endowed with an air of innocent enthusiasm, and you have a pretty accurate portrait of this amiable space traveler.

Sprung from a race of intergalactic migrants called the Boov, Oh comes to Earth as part of a peaceful Boovian invasion during which the planet’s human inhabitants are exiled to Australia. The newcomers, meanwhile, gently but determinedly commandeer the remainder of the orb for themselves.

Led by a cowardly nitwit called Captain Smek (voiced by Steve Martin), the Boov, whose fractured version of English will provoke a few smiles, are consummate conformists. Yet Oh is a free spirit. Oh also craves the kind of relationships his fellow Boov characteristically avoid.

This makes him an unwelcome misfit in their ranks. So much so, that his presence is universally greeted with a groaning version of the disappointed exclamation that has stuck to him as his name.

Oh’s desire for companionship leads him to throw a housewarming party to which he inadvertently invites just about everyone in the universe, including the Boov’s fearsome archenemy, the Gorg. (Any moviegoer who has ever made a mess of things by accidentally hitting “reply all” will sympathize with Oh’s plight.)

Forced to go on the run, Oh crosses pathsand eventually joins forces with Tip (voice of Rihanna), a preteen who managed to evade compulsory relocation. As Oh works to forestall the worst consequences of his misstep and Tip tries to reunite with her displaced mom, Lucy (voice of Jennifer Lopez), director Tim Johnson’s screen version of Adam Rex’s novel “The True Meaning of Smekday” charts the ups-and-downs of their tentative friendship.

Along with the individuality and sociability embodied by Oh, screenwriters Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember extol courageous risk-taking. They also point out the rewards of overcoming prejudice.

Though hardly a cinematic dwelling to which viewers will long to return, “Home” is diverting enough to serve as a temporary shelter for those in search of a family-friendly outing over a holiday weekend.

The film contains occasional scenes of peril and a bit of mild bathroom humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

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‘Do You Believe?’ storytelling serves evangelizing

March 27th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

Despite its title, the competent ensemble drama “Do You Believe?” is not a film well calculated to invite the attention of the inquisitive, still less to convert the doubtful.

Instead, the primary effect of this latest offering from the folks behind last year’s “God’s Not Dead” will likely be to reinforce its readymade evangelical audience in the creed and values to which they already adhere.

Storytelling takes a back seat to and is put at the service of sermonizing as director Jonathan M. Gunn chronicles the lives of 12 characters, all of whom are touched by Chicago pastor Matthew’s (Ted McGinley) earnest preaching about the centrality of the Cross in the lives of Christians and the need to put faith into practice.

For their part, Matthew and his wife, Grace (Tracy Melchior), do so by taking in pregnant teen Maggie (Madison Pettis) who has been living on the streets. Their generosity toward Maggie helps the childless duo cope with the consequences of Grace’s infertility.

Similarly, older couple J.D. (Lee Majors) and Teri (Cybill Shepherd), grief-stricken at the loss of their only child to a drunk driver, find solace by sheltering homeless mom Samantha (Mira Sorvino) and her irrepressibly sunny daughter, Lily (Makenzie Moss).

All this is pleasant enough. So too is the hope-restoring romance between despondent war vet Carlos (Joseph Julian Soria) and depressed waif Lacy (Alexa PenaVega), a bond initiated when the pair meet on a bridge from which both are planning to jump.

But there are also less comfortable plot lines woven into Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon’s script. One involves emergency medic Bobby’s (Liam Matthews) fraught legal battle to vindicate his right to proselytize patients on the job.

You don’t have to be a militant secularist like nasty lawyer Andrea (Andrea Logan White), who threatens to take Bobby for all he has after he converts a dying atheist, to wonder if Bobby hasn’t crossed the legitimate line between church and state by evangelizing on the Windy City dime.

As for the fate in store for Joe (Brian Bosworth), an ex-con turned church janitor afflicted with terminal cancer, suffice it to say that the outcome of his strand of the tale strains credibility, resting as it does on a deus-ex-EKG machine turn of events of truly biblical proportions.

The film contains some action violence and mature references, including to abortion. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

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‘The Gunman’ leaves trail of mayhem, misguided values

March 23rd, 2015 Posted in Movies

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Catholic News Service

The plodding thriller “The Gunman” leaves a trail of messy mayhem and misguided values as its action shuttles between Africa and Europe.

Consequently, mature moviegoers will need a thick skin to withstand its violent visuals as well as considerable discernment to strain out its flawed understanding of marriage.

Javier Bardem, Sean Penn and Jasmine Trinca star in a scene from the movie "The Gunman." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS/Open Road Films)

Javier Bardem, Sean Penn and Jasmine Trinca star in a scene from the movie “The Gunman.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS/Open Road Films)

There’s also a basic hurdle of believability for viewers to clear, given that Jim Terrier (Sean Penn), the firearm-toting character of the title, transforms himself in short order, at least as measured by elapsed running time, from paid assassin to peaceable aid worker. We’re tipped off to Jim’s potential for better things early on, though, by being shown his passion for his do-gooder girlfriend, Annie (Jasmine Trinca).

Jim’s attraction to his altruistic true love, whose work for a nongovernmental organization has brought her to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he’s posing as a security guard for employees of a nongovernmental organization, is admirable enough. Their taken-for-granted decision to live together, not so much.

Jim’s real profession creates romantic complications when the time comes to eliminate a troublesome Congo cabinet minister. The officia’’s meddling has threatened the profits of the behind-the-scenes corporate types who pay Jim and his confederates to kill. So Jim’s boss, Cox (Mark Rylance), organizes a hit.

It’s up to Jim’s colleague Felix (Javier Bardem) to decide which member of their squad will be selected for the high-profile job, and it’s no accident that he settles on Jim. Given the headline-grabbing nature of the rub-out, the chosen gunman will have to go into prolonged hiding in its wake. And, since Felix is carrying a torch for Annie, having Jim out of the way in the murder’s aftermath will suit his romantic purposes perfectly.

Flash-forward the better part of a decade and Jim is back in Africa drilling wells for the poor when his laudable labor is interrupted by a near-fatal attempt at long-delayed retribution. Evading his would-be killers, Jim hightails it first to London, where he tracks down Cox, and then to Barcelona, where he reconnects not only with Felix but, in an all-too-cozy manner, with Annie, who’s now Felix’s wife.

The script for director Pierre Morel’s often-gory adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s novel “The Prone Gunman,” -on which Penn collaborated with Don MacPherson and Pete Travis, implicitly justifies the adulterous resumption of Jim and Annie’s relationship.

Felix is an underhanded villain, Annie married him for all the wrong reasons, and we can tell just by watching Jim and Annie neck that they’re meant for each other. So it’s not really cheating; it’s the triumph of Cupid. Right.

As the plot description above hints, the screenplay also takes a fashionably anti-capitalist stance by suggesting that all the problems of the developing world result from the machinations of multinational conglomerates. If only the sometimes murky plot of “The Gunman” were as simplistic as its worldview, the work of keeping up with the proceedings might not seem so unrewarding.

The film contains strong, frequently bloody violence, a distorted view of marital fidelity, a semi-graphic scene of adultery, cohabitation, brief rear nudity in a nonsexual context, adult references, including to contraception, a couple of uses of profanity as well as pervasive rough and occasional 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.

 

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‘The Divergent Series: Insurgent’ aimed at teens, rated for adults

March 19th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

Teenagers are still on the run, when they’re not too busy killing one other, in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent,” the follow-up to last year’s kick-off of the futuristic franchise.

Kate Winslet and Shailene Woodley star in a scene from the movie "The Divergent Series: Insurgent." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of Ame rica rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Kate Winslet and Shailene Woodley star in a scene from the movie “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of Ame rica rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Based on the second book of the trilogy by Veronica Roth and directed by Robert Schwentke (“The Time Traveler’s Wife”), “Insurgent” is faster-paced and sleeker-looking than its predecessor, with echoes of “The Matrix” in its stylish 3-D slow-motion action sequences. But it also ramps up the violence and moral ambiguity, placing this film squarely outside the proper reach of younger adolescents.

For the uninitiated, the setting is post-apocalyptic Chicago, a walled city run with an iron glove by Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet). She oversees a regimented system whereby people are divided into factions, each representing a different virtue: Candor (honesty), Amity (peace), Erudite (knowledge), Dauntless (bravery), and Abnegation (selfless).

Those who are not easily classified are called Divergents. Their independent nature is a threat to the status quo, and Jeanine commands that they be hunted down and killed.

Enter our heroes, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her mentor-lover Four (Theo James). When we last saw this duo, they had recruited an army from members of their Dauntless faction and foiled Jeanine’s dastardly plan, though at the cost of Tris’ parents’ lives.

Now they’re renegades on the run. An elaborate cat-and-mouse game ensues, as both sides try to gain the upper hand.

“Dark times call for extreme measures,” Jeanine proclaims. “I am seeking the greater good.”

Tris would make the same claim. Circumstances have transformed our initially meek teen into a battle-hardened Joan of Arc. Internally, though, she’s conflicted, torn by a desire for revenge yet wracked by guilt, blaming herself for the deaths of so many, and unable to seek forgiveness for her sins.

To Tris’ credit, she stakes out the moral high ground when possible. She’s also concerned about others, including her brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and fellow Dauntless member Peter (Miles Teller). Their allegiance to the cause is questionable, and neither is to be trusted.

Amid the mayhem, new characters are introduced. Johanna (Octavia Spencer), saintly head of the Amity faction, offers sanctuary to the rebels on her farm outside the city.

Though presumed dead for years, Four’s mother, Evelyn (Naomi Watts), turns up as the creepy leader of an underground army. She has a score to settle with her old friend Jeanine, and seeks sonny boy’s help.

As “Insurgent” lumbers toward its explosive climax, the death count rises. And chivalry clearly has no place in this version of the future, where men hesitate neither to beat women to a pulp nor, when the occasion seems to demand it, to slaughter them.

The film contains intense violence, including scenes of torture, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity and some crude language. 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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‘Run All Night’ is vaguely Catholic but clearly violent

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Catholic News Service

The crime drama “Run All Night” can be viewed as a Catholic-inflected redemption story.

Even as it showcases some fundamentally positive values, though, director Jaume Collet-Serra and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby’s acrid film garners such a high body count and traverses so gritty an urban landscape that their tale of conversion winds up being too sordid for the casual moviegoer.

Liam Neeson and Joel Kinnaman star in a scene from the movie "Run All Night." 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/Warner Bros.)

Liam Neeson and Joel Kinnaman star in a scene from the movie “Run All Night.” 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/Warner Bros.)

Liam Neeson stars as burned-out New York hit man Jimmy Conlon. While he may have escaped legal retribution for the long-ago string of rub-outs that gained him the tabloid nickname “The Gravedigger,” Jimmy is a remorse-driven drinker dependent for survival on the charity of his lifelong friend and underworld patron Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris).

The casualties of Jimmy’s killing spree, undertaken at Shawn’s direction, include his relationship with his law-abiding son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) from whose family, Genesis Rodriguez plays Mike’s wife Gabriela, Jimmy is completely estranged. Yet when Mike, a limo driver, is targeted for death after he accidentally witnesses a multiple murder carried out by Shawn’s headstrong son and heir Danny (Boyd Holbrook), the lad has no choice but to turn to Jimmy for protection.

With both crooked cops under Shawn’s control and the city’s honest chief of homicide, Det. John Harding (Vincent D’Onofrio), on their trail, Mike and Jimmy go on the run. The chase becomes even more challenging for the duo once Shawn adds ruthless gun-for-hire Andrew Price (rapper Common) to the array of adversaries hunting them.

Initially resigned to his own damnation, he and Shawn talk in oblique terms of their shared eternal doom, Jimmy eventually comes to yearn for some measure of personal salvation. He’s also shown to be at pains to keep Mike on the right side of the law and, in particular, to prevent him from spilling blood.

Along with the odd religious detail, such as a crucifix or a portrait of St. John Paul II hanging in the background, a consistent theme of confession, though it’s rendered in purely secular terms, reinforces the vaguely Catholic context of the proceedings. As for the possible aesthetic rewards awaiting those adult patrons for whom this frequently visceral odyssey is suitable, the yield on that score is more routine than abundant.

The film contains much harsh and sometimes bloody violence, drug use, a few vulgar sexual references, about a dozen instances of profanity and twice that number each of rough and crude terms. 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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‘Cinderella’ brings new life to old tale, arrives with ‘Frozen’ short

March 12th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

“Cinderella” injects vibrant new life into a venerable fairy tale. The result is an exuberant live-action retelling of the oft-filmed fable, the most famous screen version of which is Disney’s classic 1950 animated feature.

Lily James and Richard Madden star in a scene from the movie "Cinderella." 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 photo/Disney Enterprises)

Lily James and Richard Madden star in a scene from the movie “Cinderella.” 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 photo/Disney Enterprises)

Opting for fidelity and sincerity rather than a revisionist approach, director Kenneth Branagh sticks to the basic story, displaying genuine affection for its iconic characters. Familiar yet fresh, his delightful take, suitable for the entire family, nicely brings to the forefront dual lessons about compassion and forgiveness.

There’s a lot of death in the Cinderella story, but here that aspect of the tale is treated gently. Ella (Lily James) tends to her dying mother (Hayley Atwell), whose final request to her is, “Always have courage and be kind.” This becomes Ella’s life motto and not a bad one at that. Her sunny nature and good will inspire all creatures, great (fellow humans) and small (white mice).

When her beloved father (Ben Chaplin) remarries, Ella’s patience is put to the test, but she never gives in to the dark side. The same, alas, cannot be said for Ella’s new stepmother, Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), or her shrieking stepsisters, Drizella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger).

The ladies are ghastly in every respect, from their poor manners to their garish outfits. Anyone who calls her cat Lucifer, as Lady Tremaine does, is just about bound to be wicked.

The standard narrative unfolds: Father dies, and Ella is reduced to waiting on her obnoxious relations in the manner of a servant. Covered in ashes from cleaning the fireplace, she’s derisively dubbed “Cinderella.”

Riding her horse through the forest one day, Cinderella encounters Kit (Richard Madden), aka Prince Charming. They meet cute but confused, she unaware of his royal status, he not catching her name. Cinderella retreats, and the prince, his heart aflame, vows to find the enchanting maiden.

A royal ball is arranged, with an invitation to all eligible ladies in the kingdom, titled or not. Lady Tremaine forbids Cinderella to attend, tearing her dress to pieces.

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), naturally, has other ideas. The transformation of pumpkin, mice, lizards and a goose into a golden coach, white horses, footmen and driver, respectively, is one of the highlights of the film.

The other standout is Cinderella’s shimmering blue dress. Not since Scarlett O’Hara made an outfit from old curtains in “Gone with the Wind” has a skirt stolen the show to such an extent, swishing and swirling across the dance floor as though possessing a mind of its own.

While there are a few twists in store, a happy ending is assured, and the final message won’t leave a dry eye in the house.

Preceding “Cinderella” is a short animated film, “Frozen Fever,” featuring characters from the blockbuster 2013 movie “Frozen.” It’s Princess Anna’s (voice of Kristen Bell) birthday, and her sister, Queen Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), is planning a party, despite feeling unwell. Given Elsa’s frost-producing proclivities, as highlighted in the original, however, her sneezes bring predictably chilly consequences.

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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“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

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Catholic News Service

Based on its ingratiating surface, the comedy sequel “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” might be categorized as the sort of film that, while safest for adults, could also be appropriate, at a stretch, for well-grounded teens.

Dev Patel, Richard Gere, Tina Desai, Diana Hardcastle, Judi Dench and Ronald Pickup star in a scene from the movie "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." 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/Fox)

Dev Patel, Richard Gere, Tina Desai, Diana Hardcastle, Judi Dench and Ronald Pickup star in a scene from the movie “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” 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/Fox)

Closer analysis, however, reveals underlying elements that make director John Madden’s follow-up to his 2012 ensemble piece “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” a morally mixed journey not to be undertaken without the passport of a seasoned judgment.

In returning to the eccentric Indian hostelry that served as the primary setting for his original movie, Madden doesn’t spare much thought for viewers unfamiliar with that earlier opus. The roll call of guests that makes up a part of the Marigold’s morning routine, and that serves as a precaution against any resident’s death in the night going unnoticed, presents us with, but fails to introduce, repeat characters.

Thus newcomers to the story will have to discover for themselves the variety of romantic difficulties besetting the inmates of this innovative and very pleasant substitute for an old-age home. Would-be couple Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy), for example, are too reticent to follow through on their feelings for each other.

Recovering lothario Norman (Ronald Pickup) is having difficulty adjusting to his newly exclusive relationship with girlfriend Carol (Diana Hardcastle). So much so, that Norman fears his idle complaints to a local cabbie during an inebriated taxi ride, together with his extravagant overpayment of the fare, may have been mistaken for a request to have his style-cramping companion eliminated.

Marriage-minded Madge (Celia Imrie) is spoiled for choice, unable to decide which of her two ardent, and eminently eligible, suitors she should accept.

As for Sonny (Dev Patel), the good-hearted young man who shares management duties at the Marigold with sharp-tongued former guest Muriel (Maggie Smith), his preoccupation with expanding their business interferes with the preparations for his wedding to fiancee Sunaina (Tina Desai).

His striving for new heights also leads Sonny to decide, impulsively, that self-identified novelist Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) is really the undercover inspector hotel-chain magnate, and potential Marigold investor, Ty Burley (David Strathairn) has dispatched to evaluate the lodging.

A vast pool of veteran talent and the appeal of Patel’s grandiloquent patter serve as reliable resources for Madden. But, in drawing once again on material that originated with Deborah Moggach’s 2004 novel “These Foolish Things,” Madden takes unwed liaisons and living arrangements as a given.

Ol Parker’s screenplay, moreover, though its dialogue is, for the most part, suitable for teatime, seems to stack the emotional deck against the long-lived, though turbulent, marriage uniting Douglas with acerbic Jean (Penelope Wilton). Douglas would do well, we’re apparently meant to infer, to jettison the unsympathetic Jean in favor of a bright future with Evelyn.

The film contains acceptability of divorce, benignly viewed premarital situations, several sexual references, at least one use of profanity and a few crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

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‘Chappie’ attempts moral allegory but lacks artificial and human intelligence

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Catholic News Service

Frequently mayhem-ridden, and only sporadically moving, the sci-fi drama “Chappie” offers a meager return on the considerable investment of persevering through its pyrotechnics.

Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver star in a scene from the movie "Chappie." 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 rati ng is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.(CNS photo/Courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver star in a scene from the movie “Chappie.” 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 rati ng is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.(CNS photo/Courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Mature viewers robust enough to make this questionable bargain will find themselves toting up a muddled premise, unlikely patterns of behavior and a passing treatment of Christianity that’s just plain dumb.

That last entry in the debit column is at least a bit surprising, given that this is supposed to be a story about intelligence, specifically of the artificial kind.

Hollywood, it seems, just can’t wait for the day when AI (artificial intelligence) makes its leap into full-blown, human-style consciousness. Here, though, we have to settle for an automaton that can paint.

This metallic would-be Monet, from whose name the film takes its title, is the latest creation of South African designer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel).

With a successful product line of police androids to his credit, Deon has been working on a computerized version of human awareness. But his boss, hard-bitten weapons manufacturing exec Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver), is too profit-focused to see the point of punching out a bunch of sensitive, artsy-craftsy culture mavens. How Philistine.

Thus, when his long process of experimentation finally pays off, Deon has no better option than to upload his breakthrough firmware into the discarded and fatally damaged chassis of one of his peace officers. (The voice and actions of the resulting hybrid are provided by Sharlto Copley.)

Wouldn’t you know it, though, Deon has been under surveillance by a trio of gangsters made up of eponymous characters played by rappers Ninja and Yolandi Visser, along with an American import nicknamed Yankie (Jose Pablo Cantillo). They’re out to take control of Deon’s robocops. What they get instead, by carjacking Deon, is childlike Chappie, whom they proceed to exploit and nurture in equal measure.

Not surprisingly, Chappie is left thoroughly confused by the contradictory influences of his morally upright maker and his criminally minded new owners.

Though it can be read, at least in part, as a religious and moral allegory, director and co-writer (with Terri Tatchell) Neill Blomkamp’s thinking viewer’s action movie also heavy-handedly defames faith.

Thus Chappie wants to be good for Deon’s sake, yet he’s led astray by Ninja and Yolandi’s affectionate but malign tutelage. And, while Chappie’s desperation in the face of his own mortality generates genuine pathos, the fact that Deon’s villainous rival Vincent (Hugh Jackman) sports a spurious religiosity and blesses himself at the oddest times — as, too, does Ninja, will alienate not only the faithful, but the astute as well.

The film contains pervasive violence, much of it gory, an incidental but negative portrayal of Christianity, a nonmarital situation, several uses of profanity and relentless 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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‘Unfinished Business’ is vile, crude and deviant

March 9th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Some things are best left undone or not even begun in the first place. A case in point: the aptly titled “Unfinished Business.”

This vile comedy ill-advisedly aspires to be “The Hangover” for the corporate world, a tale of businessmen gone wild while away from the office. The ramshackle result is a loosely connected, tasteless and thoroughly unamusing series of crude jokes and deviant behavior.

Corporate salesman Dan Trunkman (Vince Vaughn) is fed up with his belittling boss, a woman named Chuck Portnoy (Sienna Miller). So he quits his job and sets up a rival company, intent on stealing away Chuck’s biggest client.

Prospects are slim, as Dan has only two recruits for his new firm: Tim McWinters (Tom Wilkinson), who’s washed up and near retirement, and dimwitted industry newcomer Mike Pancake (Dave Franco).

The race is on, as Dan and Chuck pursue the same big deal across the country and overseas. The target of their competition is Jim Spinch (James Marsden), the smarmy head of a global conglomerate.

Stops in Berlin and Hamburg serve mainly to satisfy the sexual fantasies of the main trio, together with their taste for recreational drugs. A supposedly comic interlude in the restroom of a gay bar includes graphic images of a perverse sexual practice that should have no place in a movie to which young people could possibly gain access.

When not partaking of his own preferred methods of dissipation, Dan spends his time on the phone home, giving very bad advice to his troubled children, Paul (Britton Sear) and Bess (Ella Anderson). The quality of Dan’s counsel can be judged by an earlier scene in which he assures Paul that masturbation is perfectly acceptable, and that he engages in it regularly himself.

The film contains strong sexual content, including aberrant situations, graphic nonmarital sexual activity as well as numerous images of full nudity, benignly viewed drug use, a few instances of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted.

 

 

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