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Time is relative but action violence a constant in latest ‘Terminator’

July 2nd, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

Any movie plot that hangs on the ability of an adult character to journey into the past to give vital advice to himself as a child is bound to register as convoluted.

Emilia Clarke and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in a scene from the movie "Terminator: Genisys." 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/Paramount)

Emilia Clarke and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in a scene from the movie “Terminator: Genisys.” 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/Paramount)

Add the further wrinkle that the film in question is the fifth installment in a franchise so antique that a sequence set in the year of the series’ first release seems like a visit to an alien culture, and viewers can be forgiven for feeling a bit at sea.

Still, the riddles of time travel are not really the point of “Terminator: Genisys.” The primary purpose of this easily forgotten latest chapter in a sci-fi action narrative that dates back to 1984’s “The Terminator” is, rather, to empower its cast to blow things up, fire off weapons and drive with abandon.

There is, accordingly, mayhem aplenty, both before and after that inevitable moment when the original Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, assures us, yet again, that he’ll be back.

What’s behind all this stylized ruckus? The post-apocalyptic conflict between murderous machines and embattled humanity in the world of 2029, that’s what.

The prospects of those fighting on the flesh-and-blood side in this drawn-out battle are looking up, thanks to the work of their Messiah-like leader, John Connor (Jason Clarke). Just as he’s about to achieve a definitive victory, however, John faces a unique threat.

His adversaries, we learn, have used a time machine to send a cyborg (Byung-hun Lee) into the past to eliminate John’s mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke), before she can give birth to him. Not to be outdone, John, in turn, dispatches Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), his most trusted lieutenant, to follow the assassin back in time and protect Sarah.

Once safely arrived in the Reagan era, however, Kyle is confused to find that Sarah is already being shielded by another chronology-defying robot (Schwarzenegger) who seems to be fighting on the wrong side.

Kyle’s bewilderment is likely to be shared by those whose memory of the mid-1980s is not sufficiently detailed to explain why or how the new, good Arnold winds up battling the bad Arnold of 30 years ago. And then there’s grown-up Reece’s counsel-bearing encounter with little Reece.

Given the obvious prima-facie appeal of director Alan Taylor’s shoot ’em-up to youthful viewers, however, the question confronting parents is much more straightforward.

Despite its relentlessness, the destruction on view carries with it little bloodshed. And the fact that time machine passengers can only be transported in the buff also is treated more as an occasion for smirking jokes than for visual exploitation. Together with the relative absence of obscenity in the dialogue, such restraint may lead at least some parents to consider “Terminator: Genisys” acceptable for mature teens.

The film contains pervasive action violence with minimal gore, several scenes of partial nudity, a few uses of profanity, at least one rough term and occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

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‘Magic Mike XXL’ returns to ‘subculture of smut’

July 1st, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Don’t let those fancy-looking Roman numerals in its title fool you, the male-stripper sequel “Magic Mike XXL” isn’t just for intellectuals.

Channing Tatum and Matt Bomer star in a scene from the movie "Magic Mike XXL." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.(CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Channing Tatum and Matt Bomer star in a scene from the movie “Magic Mike XXL.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.(CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

In fact, the shallower your thinking, the more at home you’re likely to feel, both with the characters and the content of this preposterous return to a subculture of smut.

Cobbling together a series of familiar tropes in lieu of a plot, director Gregory Jacobs gives us a buddy film by reuniting the bump-and-grind alchemist of the title (Channing Tatum) with several members of the trou-dropping group he once headlined. This is followed by a road movie as the mostly restored ensemble — Matthew McConaughey as the original’s club owner, Dallas, is a notable absentee — depart their Tampa, Florida, home base for an annual convention of clothes shedders in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Once there, it’s time for a “you-can-do-it-if-you-try” final segment in which the retiring (but not shy) team rack their brains and doff their garments to achieve a farewell performance. Along the way, Jacobs pads out the boys’ lewd routines, one of which uses the trappings of a wedding ceremony to degrading effect, with vacuous reflections on the Zen of masculine burlesque.

Of course, even hearts hidden within layers of beefcake crave romance. So enter Mike’s love interest, aspiring photographer Zoe (Amber Heard). The two meet cute when he steps away from a nighttime beach party to relieve himself, and she ambles along and starts taking snaps of the process. Some enchanted evening.

No doubt anxious lest the lady-pleasing ways of Mike and his pals be mistaken for intolerance, the script has the boys stop off at a drag show, where they join in a campy stage prancing contest for members of the audience. When their portly non-stripper sidekick Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) instantly shuts down all competitors by appearing in a Carmen Miranda outfit, you know you’ve been entertained.

The film contains a debased view of human sexuality, including implicit approval of an off-screen casual encounter, brief but nasty irreverence, drug use, frequent scenes of publicly simulated sex acts, some of them aberrant, rear male nudity, a couple of uses of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Max’ is a wholesome family drama

July 1st, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Max, a “military working dog” returns from Afghanistan to vanquish evil while mending a broken home in this wholesome and welcome family drama.

Robbie Amell stars in a scene from the movie "Max." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.(CNS photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Robbie Amell stars in a scene from the movie “Max.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.(CNS photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

When the eponymous canine’s handler (Robbie Amell), a Marine, is killed, the distraught animal is sent home to Texas to live with the Leatherneck’s parents (Lauren Graham and Thomas Haden Church) and his troubled younger brother (Josh Wiggins). With the encouragement of a sassy girl (Mia Xitlali), for whom he’s fallen, the rebellious teen overcomes his resistance and bonds with his new pet.

Together, they uncover a plot by an ex-Marine (Luke Kleintank) to peddle illegal weapons. Director and co-writer Boaz Yakin conveys his youthful main character’s evolution from zero to hero while underscoring the importance of telling the truth and respecting your parents.

Despite some mild action violence which may be too intense for the younger set, “Max” is a wholesome — and welcome — family drama. Director Boaz Yakin (“Remember the Titans”), who co-wrote the screenplay with former Marine Sheldon Lettich, nicely conveys Justin’s evolution from zero to hero, underscoring the importance of telling the truth and respecting your parents.

Yakin also wrangles some remarkably expressive performances from the half-dozen dogs who alternate in portraying the eponymous star.

The film contains scenes of combat and human peril as well as dog-fighting and a few mild oaths. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

 

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‘Ted 2’ a morally offensive teddy bear’s picnic

July 1st, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

“Ted 2” is another wallow in sexist, racist, stoner vulgarity by Seth MacFarlane.

Mark Wahlberg and Amanda Seyfried star in a scene from the movie "Ted 2." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Universal Pictures)

Mark Wahlberg and Amanda Seyfried star in a scene from the movie “Ted 2.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Universal Pictures)

MacFarlane, who directed, co-wrote the screenplay with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild and voices the potty-mouthed teddy bear as a fuzzy, bawdier version of Peter Griffin from “Family Guy,” ventures into crude sexual gags and casually expressed racism along with his trademark pop-culture riffs.

This comes off not so much as gleefully exploding taboos, but rather as MacFarlane’s eagerness to cash in by reinforcing old stereotypes. He’s made a film for bigots to clasp to their shriveled hearts.

The core story to this sequel to the 2013 film is solid enough, dealing with Ted’s quest for legal personhood. At the end of the first film, Ted was best man at the wedding of his childhood owner, Boston native John (Mark Walhlberg). This installment begins with John sadly divorced for six months while Ted is getting married to grocery cashier Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). It’s a rocky coupling, which they decide to “save” by having a child.

After some lewd adventures attempting to find a sperm donor and learning that Tami-Lynn is infertile, they pursue adoption. The unexpected consequence: The state of Massachusetts decides that the 2-foot-tall Ted is “property,” not a person, and as a result, his marriage is annulled and he loses his grocery store job. This sets John and Ted on a quest for courtroom justice.

Is Ted capable of love? Is he aware of his own consciousness? Does he have empathy? Has he a soul? Well, obviously, but the first trial with his pot-smoking rookie lawyer Sam (Amanda Seyfried) ends in failure.

While this is going on, Ted’s stalker, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), now working as a janitor at Hasbro, concocts another plot to kidnap the bear and cut him open, so the toy giant, after seeing whether Ted is merely stuffed with fluff or has some magical inside construction, can manufacture many more.

Before the courtroom finale — in which lawyer Patrick (Morgan Freeman) makes their eloquent argument by invoking Dred Scott — John, Sam and Ted go on a raucous road trip to New York City to recruit the barrister. This creates the film’s crudest sexual reference involving a bong.

The film contains casual racist remarks including the N-word, references to aberrant sexual behavior, fleeting female nudity, pervasive drug use, pervasive crude, crass and profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

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‘Dope’ shows good intentions gone to drugs and violence

July 1st, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Long decades ago, a youthful Tom Cruise shot to stardom by playing the lead in a nasty bit of teen-boy wish fulfillment called “Risky Business.”

Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons and Tony Revolori star in a scene from the movie "Dope." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Open Road Films)

Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons and Tony Revolori star in a scene from the movie “Dope.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Open Road Films)

Moviegoers with capacious memories may recall that, when not sliding around the parquet floor of his affluent parents’ suburban home, dressed in little more than his BVDs and socks, Cruise’s character, Joel Goodson, turned this same opulent dwelling into a temporary bordello catering to the carnal desires of his peers.

What made Paul Brickman’s 1983 comedy especially pernicious was the fact that it justified Joel’s pimping as a valid response to his parents’ materialism — and that of the adult world in general. It also sent the message that crime pays, since Joel was able to parlay his exploitative exercise into an admissions nod from Princeton University.

Flash-forward to the present, and substitute drug dealing for flesh peddling, as well as Harvard Yard for Nassau Hall, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s wrong with writer-director Rick Famuyiwa’s blend of comedy and drama “Dope.” One other alteration is called for, though, since this time the scene is set not in the leafy outskirts of Chicago but on the mean streets of inner-city Los Angeles.

There we find academically gifted but somewhat nerdy high schooler Malcolm (Shameik Moore) struggling to dodge the lawlessness that surrounds him. Sharing his outsider’s interest in ’90s rap — as well as his ardent wish to steer clear of trouble — are Malcolm’s two best friends, Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori).

All Malcolm’s carefully maintained good intentions quickly go by the boards, however, after he falls for neighborhood beauty Nakia (Zoe Kravitz). Like would-be Harvard student Malcolm, Nakia has educational ambitions. But she’s also mixed up with local pill pusher Dom (Asap Rocky, aka Rakim Mayers).

Before you know it, Malcolm is also embroiled with Dom, at least to the extent of accidentally acquiring a large stash of Dom’s product. With the dealer himself behind bars, plot developments leave Malcolm little choice but to market his unsought windfall, a small fortune’s worth of the party drug Molly.

Together with Diggy and Jib, Malcolm works out a scheme for selling the illicit pharmaceuticals online, a project to which he devotes increasing time and enthusiasm.

Perversely, “Dope” presents this dabbling with the dark side as an ingenious extracurricular activity, one that proves Malcolm’s resourcefulness and affords him a new level of self-awareness. Famuyiwa’s script thus misuses the array of social ills it endeavors to satirize as a justification for criminal behavior.

Boyish-looking Diggy self-identifies as a lesbian. This mostly incidental aspect of the movie becomes the means not only of implicitly normalizing wayward sexual acts, but of taking a brief sneering swipe at religion as well.

Diggy’s church, we’re informed, believes it’s possible to “pray the gay away.” Cue a prayer-circle scene in which, while all other heads are bowed in reverence, Diggy steals sly glances at a female co-parishioner.

This interlude, together with the bit of vulgar byplay that results from it, is restrained, however, when compared with the picture’s treatment of Malcolm’s habit of self-gratification — as well as a casual encounter in which he’s prospectively involved.

The film contains distorted values, considerable, sometimes gory violence, drug use and underage drinking, strong sexual content — including scenes of masturbation and obscured full nudity as well as tacit approval of homosexual acts — at least one use of profanity and pervasive crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

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‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’

June 17th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Grown moviegoers will find much to like about the sensitive, though ultimately shallow, drama “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”

Given that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s film is adapted from screenwriter Jesse Andrews’ eponymous best-seller for young adults, however, parents should be advised that bringing any but the most mature teens along would be a risky idea.

Olivia Cooke and Thomas Mann star in a scene from the movie "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS/Fox Searchlight)

Olivia Cooke and Thomas Mann star in a scene from the movie “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS/Fox Searchlight)

That’s not to say that the picture’s basic human interaction is anything but honorable. In fact, the main character, precocious, movie-obsessed high school misfit Greg (Thomas Mann), gets a thoroughly respectable life lesson when his determined mom (Connie Britton) insists that he befriend his classmate Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a girl with whom the outcast has previously been only slightly acquainted, after Rachel is diagnosed with leukemia.

Despite mutual suspicion at the outset, the two develop a genuine affection for each other. Their circle of friendship is extended once Greg’s best buddy from childhood, Earl (RJ Cyler), the two lads have collaborated, over the years, on a whole catalog of homemade movie parodies, also gets to know, and like, Rachel.

Overshadowed by the potentially fatal outcome of Rachel’s disease, the newly formed trio’s camaraderie is also strained by Earl’s inability to keep a secret, a trait that drives buttoned-up Greg to distraction. When Greg and Earl try to craft a cinematic tribute to Rachel, moreover, their frustration to capture their feelings for her on screen introduces fresh tensions into the three-way dynamic.

Unusually, Andrews’ script sidelines romance, giving Greg an unattainable love interest in the person of another schoolmate, Madison (Katherine Hughes), while keeping his relationship with Rachel strictly platonic. Even so, marginal tinges of sexuality, some of them distasteful, make this a doubtful choice for the source material’s targeted age group.

The prospect of Rachel’s death is also considered from a strictly secular perspective, one that impoverishes the movie’s outlook and puts it at odds with a Christian worldview. While there’s no direct contradiction of scriptural faith, viewers will need to come to the story with their faculties for discernment fully outfitted.

The film contains mature themes, unintentional drug use, fleeting images of pornography with implied masturbation, brief, mild irreverence, several uses of profanity, at least one audible and a few bleeped F-words as well as much crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

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Dinos’ might explodes again in ‘Jurassic World’

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

By

Catholic News Service

Prepare to be stomped on by “Jurassic World.”

Like the $2 billion-grossing dinosaur-themed franchise of which it represents the latest installment, director Colin Trevorrow’s 3-D optional sci-fi adventure is big, gigantic, huge. And you, a mere homo sapiens, are puny. So know your place, and hand over your credit card.

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard star in a scene from the movie "Jurassic World." 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/Universal)

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard star in a scene from the movie “Jurassic World.” 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/Universal)

If the thought springs to mind that, proportionally speaking at least, dinos did not necessarily possess nature’s largest brains, the reflection is not misplaced. Like the creatures that inhabit it, “Jurassic World” is all about brawn, sheer visual and commercial heft. Sharp-wittedness and emotional subtlety are not on offer, deep characterizations even less so.

Instead, this continuation of the series that began with 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” Steven Spielberg’s wildly popular adaptation of Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel, uses its human participants as anachronistically placed Darwinian bait, mere fodder for their outsized adversaries. So it hardly matters that they amount to nothing more than an ensemble of stick figures.

Take, for example, business-obsessed Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). A driven career woman whose precise role in the management of the titular resort, where patently imprudent tourists come to gawk, for a price, at genetically re-created prehistoric predators, is never made clear, Claire is far too worried about getting ahead to have a family of her own.

Nor does she have time to spare for the duo of visiting nephews, 16-year-old Zach (Nick Robinson) and his preteen brother Gray (Ty Simpkins), who have been foisted on her by their soon-to-be-divorcing parents. So Claire, in her turn, hands off the boys to an assistant.

Such adult neglect, of course, gives Zach and Gray the perfect opportunity to wander off on their own. Extricating them from the inevitably resulting danger will require all the acumen of ex-military animal trainer Owen (Chris Pratt).

Who’s this Owen and what’s he doing here? As with Claire’s job description, information is sketchy.

He’s a consultant of some sort, it seems, and shares some unspecified offscreen history with Claire, the upshot of which is a romantic attraction thinly disguised as mutual dislike. Well, after all, a story like this needs its Indiana Jones stand-in, the lads need someone to look up to, and Claire needs a previously untamed he-man with whom to settle down, once the dinosaurs do.

There’s some perfunctory discussion, amid all the mayhem, about the proper limits of science: BD Wong reprises his role in the long-ago first picture by playing overly ambitious, if not quite mad, scientist Dr. Wu. And it can’t hurt to have a violence-loving warmonger added to the mix, so cue Vincent D’Onofrio as a straw-man militarist named Hoskins.

But, really, such feints in the direction of seriousness are beside the point. Anyone looking for interaction more meaningful than that which transpires between the DNA disaster of an uber-dino to whose rampage Trevorrow devotes most of his attention and the anonymous extras on whom the ill-designed creature contentedly munches have come to the wrong fictional island.

The elements listed below decidedly rule out the “Flintstones” crowd. But parents of insistent teens who find their patience in danger of extinction need not feel too guilty if resistance ultimately proves futile.

The film contains some gory interludes, a bit of comic innuendo, at least one use of profanity and a few crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

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‘Love & Mercy’ a smart biopic of once burned-out Beach Boy

June 11th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Great art arising from unremitting suffering is a time-tested motion picture theme.

John Cusack and Elizabeth Banks star in a scene from the movie "Love & Mercy." 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/Roadside Attractions)

John Cusack and Elizabeth Banks star in a scene from the movie “Love & Mercy.” 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/Roadside Attractions)

When this reliable template is applied to the biographies of pop-culture stars, however, what typically occurs, especially if the subject is still living, is a descent into sentimental gloss and too many references to the lead character as a charismatic genius.

Fortunately, in “Love & Mercy,” a profile of Brian Wilson, the driving force behind 1960s chart toppers the Beach Boys, director Bill Pohlad has managed to evade this trap. He focuses instead on lengthy scenes showing the young Wilson (Paul Dano) laboriously crafting his distinctive sound in recording studios. It’s an intelligent, steady approach, almost like that of a documentary.

Whether screenwriters Oren Moverman and Michael Lerner bring a documentarian’s faithfulness to real life to bear throughout their script is, however, another question. Were, for instance, Wilson’s bandmates — his brothers Carl (Brett Davern) and Dennis (Kenny Wormald) along with cousin Mike Love (Jake Abel) and friend Al Jardine (Graham Rogers) — really so blithe in their cooperation with Wilson’s unique musical notions as the film suggests?

Whatever the facts, there is a refreshing absence of the stale dialogue that usually characterizes musical biopics. Accused by his collaborators of lacking a commercial sensibility, Wilson declares, “I got different stuff inside me. I gotta get it out.”

That “different stuff” included Wilson’s drive to break away from synthetic, clean-cut hits like “California Girls” in favor of more ambitious material, such as that found on the group’s 1966 concept album “Pet Sounds.” Yet it also extended to the auditory hallucinations that followed Wilson’s use of psychedelic drugs.

Pohlad isn’t after sensationalism, but rather what used to be described as retrained good taste. So, in order to keep Wilson sympathetic, he ducks explicit portrayals or discussions of substance abuse.

Pohlad portrays Wilson as a deeply sensitive, easily manipulated pawn. In the 1960s Wilson’s lack of assertiveness leaves him under the thumb of his controlling father, Murry (Bill Camp).

Two decades later, Wilson is held in thrall by abusive therapist Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). Claiming his patient has paranoid schizophrenia, Landy keeps Wilson heavily medicated, and restricts the musician’s access to others who might help him.

As portrayed by John Cusack, this burned-out adult version of Wilson is eventually rescued thanks to the compassionate interventions of Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), a car saleswoman Wilson would eventually marry.

Uncomfortable details have undoubtedly been stripped away in the interests of a single, compelling narrative. And both Murry Wilson and Landy become stereotyped villains. Yet “Love & Mercy” can be appreciated for its celebration of one star’s at least partially successful maneuvering through the moral minefield laid down by wealth and fame.

The film contains a premarital bedroom scene, drug use and fleeting instances of profanity and coarse language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

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‘Insidious’ movie looks to past in third chapter

June 4th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

Though elements of language and subject matter put “Insidious: Chapter 3” beyond the appropriate reach of a youthful audience, mature moviegoers will find comparatively little to object to in this run-of-the-mill horror prequel.

Stefanie Scott stars in a scene from the movie "Insidious: Chapter 3." 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/Focus)

Stefanie Scott stars in a scene from the movie “Insidious: Chapter 3.” 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/Focus)

Still, if there’s minimal gore on display, there’s equally negligible inspiration.

Along with yet a third descent into this weak franchise’s patented postmortem realm, The Further, writer-director Leigh Whannell aims to provide viewers with the backstory of a character central to its previous installments: unassuming but spunky psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye).

Before she got caught up in the occult woes of the Lambert family, the clan around whom the first two films revolved, Elise, it seems, had sworn off dabbling with the afterlife. Unspecified horrors had convinced the newly widowed medium to go into self-imposed retirement.

All that begins to change, however, with the arrival on Elise’s doorstep of high school senior and aspiring actress Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott). Dissatisfied with her do-it-yourself attempts to contact her recently deceased mother, grieving Quinn is anxious for the aid of a professional.

Elise reluctantly agrees to help, just this once. But it quickly becomes apparent that, in her amateurish effort to conjure up Mom’s benign presence, Quinn has instead summoned a malignant spirit to her side. This murderous wraith promptly involves the girl in a gruesome auto accident from which she emerges with two broken legs.

Since Quinn’s ineffectual dad, Sean (Dermot Mulroney), seems as ill-equipped to protect the now-immobilized maiden as her younger brother, Alex (Tate Berney), Elise has little choice but to do a supernatural Sinatra and head back into The Further.

As penned by Whannell, who also appears on screen in a minor role, the script takes an incidental but welcome stance against suicide. And Quinn’s metaphysical misadventure can be read as warning about the dangers of trying to communicate with the dead.

Yet the movie’s spiritual battle between good and evil is viewed exclusively from a paranormal perspective, with no reference to faith. That’s another good reason, if one were needed, to keep the impressionable at a safe distance.

The film contains potentially disturbing scenes of a car accident and its aftermath, occult themes, fleeting references to homosexuality, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word and about a half-dozen crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

 

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‘Entourage’ on big screen wallows in Hollywood excess

June 2nd, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , , , ,

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Catholic News Service

Faint glimmers of morality can be discerned amid the decadence of “Entourage,” a comedy that simultaneously satirizes and wallows in Hollywood excess.

Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon and Adrian Grenier star in a scene from the movie "Entourage." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon and Adrian Grenier star in a scene from the movie “Entourage.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

But these weak ethical beacons in writer-director Doug Ellin’s big-screen version of the TV series he created for HBO are vastly outshone by the glare of his film’s glamorized materialism, an outlook that includes a blatantly debased attitude toward human sexuality.

Fans of the popular cable show, which ran for eight seasons beginning in 2004, will already be familiar with Queens-bred movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) as well as with the hard-driving agent who first discovered him, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven).

They’ll also recognize the trio of devoted hangers-on who have followed Vince on his coast-to-coast journey to fame: his feckless half-brother, Johnny (Kevin Dillon); his best buddy-turned-manager, Eric (Kevin Connolly); and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), another hometown pal who once served as Vince’s driver before achieving outsized success of his own as a tequila tycoon.

As the multiplex variant of the story kicks off, Vince convinces Ari, who has left agency work behind to take on the role of a studio executive, to let him direct as well as act in a high-concept adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

When the production starts running over budget, however, the movie’s Texas-based financial backer, Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton), and Larsen’s egotistical son, Travis (Haley Joel Osment), become increasingly dissatisfied and intrusive. Their disruptive demands put a strain on Vince’s relationship with his loyal retinue, each member of which is also preoccupied with problems of his own.

Ellin elicits the occasional smile with his send-up of Tinseltown’s eccentricities. And his script makes a few nods in the direction of loyalty to family and friends as well as toward artistic integrity.

Yet the libido-driven proceedings he helms, the central quartet explicitly acknowledge that the pursuit of sexual conquest is the primary motivation in their lives, find Eric bedding two newfound acquaintances within the course of a few hours. Though this eventually entangles the would-be good guy in something of a cautionary tale, his underlying assumptions, like those of his companions, remain unchanged.

Given this uncritical context, it comes as no surprise that a prominent subplot involving a same-sex wedding is treated as a cue for frivolous, reflexive celebration.

The film contains misguided values, including a benign view of drug use and of homosexual acts, graphic scenes of aberrant behavior and casual encounters with upper female and rear nudity, fleeting gore, frequent uses 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. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

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