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‘The November Man’ serves up late-summer turkey

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

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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: , ,

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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: , ,

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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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Much to honor in ‘When the Game Stands Tall’

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Catholic News Service There’s little to object to and much to honor in director Thomas Carter’s idealistic fact-based sports drama, “When the Game Stands Tall.”

Michael Chiklis, Alexander Ludwig, center, and Jim Caviezel star in a scene from the movie When the "When the Game Stands Tall." 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/Sony)

Michael Chiklis, Alexander Ludwig, center, and Jim Caviezel star in a scene from the movie When the “When the Game Stands Tall.” 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/Sony)

Catholic viewers will appreciate his recounting of events surrounding the record-breaking winning streak racked up by the football team of De La Salle High School in Concord, California, between 1992 and 2003. All the more so, since his film promotes humility, teamwork, good sportsmanship and, in passing, premarital chastity. While good intentions and positive values carry the ball pretty far down the field, however, on this play, they don’t quite make it into the end zone. Score the result more likable than gripping. The movie begins as the squad’s run of success is approaching a phenomenal 151 games. Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) is naturally anxious to extend this string of victories. But, with faith as his primary motivation, his principal goal remains what it has always been: not gridiron triumph for its own sake but the molding of his players into upright young men. Bob’s main collaborator in this character-building enterprise is his like-minded assistant coach, Terry Eidson (Michael Chiklis). Among the students benefiting from their influence are running back Chris Ryan (Alexander Ludwig), wide receiver Cam Colvin (Ser’Darius Blain) and Cam’s best friend since childhood, linebacker Terrance “T.K.” Kelly (Stephan James). As a new season begins, and De La Salle’s rising seniors struggle to lead their teammates on to further conquests, Bob’s single-minded commitment to his charges leads to tension with his wife Bev (Laura Dern) and son Danny (Matthew Daddario). Bev would like Bob to give more serious consideration to the lucrative job offers that keep coming his way from various colleges, while Danny is feeling neglected, despite his dual role as offspring and player. A discreetly handled incident of street violence and a fleeting discussion concerning the degree of intimacy between defensive end Beaser (Joe Massingill) and his fetching girlfriend, by which we learn that they are mutually committed to sexual restraint, are about the only elements barring endorsement for moviegoers of all ages. Teens and their elders, however, will welcome the religious undertones in Scott Marshall Smith’s vulgarity-free script which treats prayer and churchgoing as normal. As earnest and amiable as its protagonist, “When the Game Stands Tall” offers modest but genuine entertainment along with valuable, Scripture-based life lessons. In today’s media market, that’s reason enough for parents to cheer. The film contains brief bloodless violence, a few references to sexuality and a touch of mild scatological humor. 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. Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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‘Sin City” is clearly labeled smutty comic book

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Catholic News Service

The hard-boiled, excessively violent milieu of “Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is so overdone it plays like a satire.

Jessica Alba stars in a scene from the movie"Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted)

Jessica Alba stars in a scene from the movie”Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted)

The lewd plot and glib noir style of this sequel to 2005′s “Sin City, based, like its predecessor, on Frank Miller’s graphic novels, aren’t the real selling points, anyway: Ava (Eva Green), the “Dame” of the title, spends more than half her screen time nude.

“If you can’t love me, hate me. If you can’t forgive me, punish me,” she says. Graphic novels sometimes can become compelling dramas. But this “Sin City” amounts to little more than a smutty comic-book adaptation using competent actors as bait.

Miller, who wrote the script and co-directed with Robert Rodriguez, emphasizes lurid bloodletting amid the retro black-and-white setting. All women are objects of desire, while the men exist only to have their eyes gouged out and fingers maimed while they absorb fists and bullets.

The interlocking stories involve gambler Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), corrupt Sen. Roark (Powers Boothe), stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba) — whose lover Hartigan (Bruce Willis) was killed in the first film and returns as a hallucination, grotesque Marv (Mickey Rourke), a one-man crusader for rough justice, and Gail (Rosario Dawson), leader of a group of prostitutes who control a whole neighborhood through their surprising adeptness with automatic weapons.

Ava is a seductress who lures the film’s hero, detective Dwight (Josh Brolin), into several gory encounters with various thugs.

“A city’s like a woman or a casino,” Johnny snarls in a voiceover. “Somebody’s gonna win. And it’s gonna be me.” If anybody comes away from these sordid proceedings a winner, it’s certainly not the audience.

The film contains pervasive violence, frequent upper female nudity, much sexual banter and fleeting crass 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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‘The Expendables 3,’ when two is not too much

August 15th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service There are many ways to keep yourself entertained while watching “The Expendables 3.” For instance, counting the wrinkles on the face of Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), the good guy-turned-war-criminal, during one of his many rants. Or marking off the minutes until Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) bellows, “We must get to the choppah!”

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in a scene from the movie "The Expendables 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 maybe inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in a scene from the movie “The Expendables 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 maybe inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Eventually, the only remaining entertainment factor is to marvel at how director Patrick Hughes and screenwriters Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt keep this second sequel’s shoot-’em-up formula, which harkens back to the 1980s, from crashing resoundingly onto the shores of ennui. The new development in this Expendables adventure, which is considerably less gory than its predecessors, is the addition of a youthful new breed of monosyllabic action heroes to bolster the reliable geezers. Early on, a weary Trench confesses to Barney (Stallone), “I’m getting out of this business — and so should you.” Well, not before a few last helicopter rides and machine-gun fusillades, as well as the valedictory blowing up of miscellaneous items. Barney’s last mission to Somalia to break Doc (Wesley Snipes) out of prison didn’t go well and ended up with the near-fatal shooting of Caesar (Terry Crews). So Barney is ready to quit. But Drummer (Harrison Ford), his CIA boss, asks him to assemble a new crew to bring Stonebanks before justice at The Hague. Barney and Napoleon (Kelsey Grammar) recruit flexible and muscular Luna (Ronda Rousey), Smilee (Kellan Lutz), Thorn (Glen Powell) and Mars (boxing champ Victor Ortiz). From then on, the only suspense is how long it will take for Barney’s old fighting team of Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner (Dolph Lungren) and the always-reliable Trench to join them for the big showdown against Stonebanks in Romania. For comedy relief, they’re joined by the talkative and eager Galgo (Antonio Banderas), and Drummer cracks wise while flying a copter. It’s all slick, competent and sterile, as if its tropes had been perfected by mass-production techniques. The film has nothing new to say as it kills off anonymous bad guys over a period of 127 minutes. “You’re only old when you surrender,” Mars announces in his introductory scene. Nah, you can be old without surrendering, and, unlike these performers, also retain some dignity. The film contains frequent gun, knife and physical violence as well as numerous explosions, a few uses of profanity and pervasive 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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‘The Giver’ presents effect of pro-life outlook introduced into futuristic society

August 15th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Hollywood continues to makes the future a dangerous and challenging place to be a teenager.

Arriving on the heels of “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” is “The Giver,” another futuristic thriller where young people find themselves running for their lives.

Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush star in a scene from the movie "The Giver." Catholic News Service classification, A-II -- adults and adolescents. Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/courtesy The Weinstein Company)

Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush star in a scene from the movie “The Giver.” Catholic News Service classification, A-II — adults and adolescents. Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/courtesy The Weinstein Company)

This time, however, the tone is softer, and the overall meaning more profound, with a welcome pro-life message that will resound with viewers of faith.

“The Giver” is based on the best-selling 1993 novel by Lois Lowry about a utopian world that, on the surface at least, is free from suffering, hunger, and violence. A daily injection of every member of the Community ensures that memories and emotions are suppressed, along with freedom, choice, individuality, religion and temptation.

“When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong, every single time,” intones the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep).

Everything in this Orwellian world is identical and monochromatic: homes, clothes, even the family unit. Just two children per household, one boy and one girl, each genetically engineered and born to designated birth mothers.

When the children come of age, they receive their vocation, the role they are to play in the Community. The time has come for Mother (Katie Holmes) and Father (Alexander Skarsgard) to present their son, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites).

Sensing something unusual about the teen, the Chief Elder selects Jonas to inherit the esteemed position of Receiver of Memories, a kind of repository of the past, warts and all.

The current Receiver, known as the Giver (Jeff Bridges), is weary, shopworn, and ready to pass the baton of memories. He’s haunted by the failure of a recent designee, Rosemary (Taylor Swift), and is determined to succeed with Jonas.

Like Yoda taking on Luke Skywalker, the Giver begins Jonas’ training, passing on memories of the “real” world.

Jonas is overwhelmed by newfound emotions and memories. He experiences love and happiness for the first time, but also cruelty, war and death, all in glorious Technicolor. When the fog clears, he reaches an epiphany: without the knowledge of suffering, one cannot appreciate true joy.

“If you can’t feel, what is the point?” he asks. That belief is reinforced by his growing love for a fellow teen, Fiona (Odeya Rush), along with the Giver’s wisdom that “with faith comes love and hope.”

Jonas’ determination that everyone in the Community should share in his knowledge is accelerated when he uncovers a dark secret: the Elders sanction euthanasia to eliminate imperfect babies and the frail elderly.

Filled with outrage, he joins forces with the Giver to restore the proper balance to society.

There is a disturbing scene in “The Giver” involving euthanasia that many upset younger viewers. For mature teens and their parents, however, it can spark a necessary conversation about the sanctity of life at all ages, winningly endorsed by this worthy film.

The film contains mild action violence and a disturbing scene of euthanasia. 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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‘Let’s Be Cops’ impersonates a comedy

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Catholic News Service

The buddy movie “Let’s Be Cops” implicitly honors police work.

But this weak comedy’s combination of a farfetched premise, an obscenity-laden script and ill-advised forays into gross-out as well as kinky humor will fail to lighten the spirits of those few mature viewers for whom it can be considered somewhat acceptable.

Damon Wayans Jr., left, and Jake Johnson star in a scene from the movie "Let’s Be Cops." 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/courtesy Twentieth Century Fox)

Damon Wayans Jr., left, and Jake Johnson star in a scene from the movie “Let’s Be Cops.” 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/courtesy Twentieth Century Fox)

The slackness is apparent from the start. Mistakenly believing that their college reunion is a costume affair, down-on-their-luck Los Angeles roommates Ryan (Jake Johnson) and Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.) show up for it dressed as policemen.

Noticing on their way home that their uniforms have suddenly make them magnets for the ladies, and that the passing citizenry obey their commands, the pals decide to carry on with their impersonation as a practical joke. The fact that Justin’s career as a video-game designer has stalled and that ex-football star Ryan, long ago sidelined by an injury, is essentially unemployed leaves the boys plenty of time to play dress up.

Things take a potentially deadly turn, however, when the two faux Po-Po cross Albanian-born crime lord, and neighborhood menace, Mossi (James D’Arcy). This move not only puts their lives in jeopardy, it also endangers Justin’s waitress girlfriend Josie (Nina Dobrev) and Officer Segars (Rob Riggle), a real cop who has fallen for Ryan and Justin’s act.

Friendship is put to the test as Ryan, who has gained a new lease on life via their masquerade, thwarts Justin’s sensible efforts to bring the whole business to a screeching halt.

Justin’s patience is further tried by two incidental characters. The first is a stark naked perp he and Ryan encounter while aiding Segars on the scene of a nighttime break-in. Crazed as well as inexplicably underdressed, the hefty would-be thief tackles Justin in such a way as to end up with his crotch in Justin’s face.

Then there’s the drug-addled nymphomaniac with whom Justin and Ryan cross paths when they commandeer her apartment as a vantage-point from which to surveil Mossi’s base of operations. Her repeated advances draw Ryan’s excited interest, but only succeed in annoying Justin.

Most of the running time is devoted to more seemly material. But the barrage of F- and S-bombs almost never falls silent.

The safest response to “Let’s Be Cops?” Let’s not and say we did.

The film contains much action violence with occasional gore, strong sexual content, including full male nudity and many bedroom-themed jokes, drug use, at least one instance of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language and a vulgar gesture. 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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‘Magic in the Moonlight,’ disillusion in the dialogue

August 11th, 2014 Posted in Movies

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Catholic News Service

Within the enchanting French Riviera setting of “Magic in the Moonlight,” an age-old debate simmers between faith and reason, between a strictly rationalist standpoint and openness to divine providence.

Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in a scene from the movie “Magic in the Moonlight.” Catholic News Service classification, A-III -- adults. Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in a scene from the movie “Magic in the Moonlight.” Catholic News Service classification, A-III — adults. Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

Writer-director Woody Allen has always preferred nihilism to optimism, and this, his 44th film, does not vary in outlook. It’s a pity, as his deeply cynical view toward matters spiritual sours what is otherwise a lovely travelogue with entertaining, if not particularly amusing, performances.

It’s the Roaring Twenties in Berlin, and Stanley (Colin Firth) is a master illusionist. Posing as Wei Ling Soo, a Chinese magician, he wows audiences by sawing women in half and making a live elephant disappear.

Behind the scenes, Stanley is a nasty misanthrope, described by his friend and fellow conjurer, Howard (Simon McBurney), as “a genius with all the charm of a typhus epidemic.”

Stanley has a sideline: debunker of spiritualists, charlatans who claim to communicate with the dead, defrauding innocent people in the process.

To Stanley, the world is only understood through science and logic. Anything to do with God, faith, or the afterlife is, he claims, “all phony, from the seance table to the Vatican and beyond.”

It’s no wonder he channels the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in stating, “If we are to get through life, we must delude ourselves.” That’s ironic, for a man who makes his living tricking audiences into believing anything is possible.

Howard persuades Stanley to accompany him to the south of France, where Grace (Jacki Weaver), a rich American widow, has become enchanted by her fellow countryman, comely clairvoyant Sophie (Emma Stone).

Arms flailing and shivering from “mental vibrations,” the wide-eyed Sophie is a wonder to behold. After she “contacts” Grace’s dead husband, Grace is ready to hand over the family fortune, and her smitten son, Brice (Hamish Linklater), proposes marriage.

This is all too much for Brice’s sister, Caroline (Erica Leerhsen), and her psychiatrist husband, George (Jeremy Shamos). They bring in Howard and Stanley to expose Sophie as a trickster and fraud.

Predictably, Stanley’s eyes are opened and his hard heart is melted by Sophie’s charms and her rather convincing supernatural powers which, she insists, give hope to those who despair.

Mystified and lovesick, Stanley finds himself questioning his own narrow worldview, especially on matters of faith.

With his dearly loved Aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins) lying gravely ill in the hospital, Stanley turns to God — that “benevolent father figure out there” — for help.

“I don’t have all the answers,” he prays. “”t is possible that we are here by design, and you could be real.”

It’s a startling turnaround for an atheist. But as this is a Woody Allen film, there are twists in store. Moviegoers will soon realize they’ve been led down an attractive but dead-end garden path.

The film contains a cynical view of faith and religion, brief sexual humor and mature references. 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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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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Cuisine romance steps to the plates in ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’

August 11th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Like an airy souffle, director Lasse Hallstrom’s food-themed romantic fantasy “The Hundred-Foot Journey” has an elegant appearance and a charming taste, but not much substance.

Still, there’s little to offend on any level in this adaptation of the best-selling novel by Richard C. Morais. So parents will probably find it acceptable for mature adolescents.

Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Helen Mirren star in a scene from the movie "The Hundred-Foot Journey." 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/Disney)

Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Helen Mirren star in a scene from the movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey.” 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/Disney)

Picturesque, stately and thoroughly unrealistic, this is the story of the Kadam family, an Indian clan of restaurateurs. When political unrest results in the torching of their subcontinental establishment, they seek refuge in Europe, eventually settling, more or less by chance, in a small town in the French countryside. Cue the lush sunsets and Bastille Day fireworks.

The otherwise unnamed Papa Kadam (Om Puri) nurtures dreams of winning the local populace over to curry and cardamom. But the building in which he chooses to set up shop is directly across the road from the region’s most venerable eatery, a Michelin-starred haven of the rich and famous presided over by the formidable Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).

At first, Madame Mallory has nothing but contempt for her new neighbors, and resorts to dirty tricks to try to undermine them. Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), one of Madame’s sous chefs, by contrast, adopts a more welcoming attitude once she connects both professionally and personallywith Hassan (Manish Dayal), the principal cook among Papa’s progeny.

Recognizing that Hassan is prodigiously gifted, Marguerite gives him classic French cookbooks to help him expand his culinary horizons. Thus begins his spectacular rise into the stratosphere of haute cuisine.

As Madame Mallory and Papa continue to butt heads, and the divergent cultures they represent clash more generally, Marguerite and Hassan become the Romeo and Juliet of their mildly warring factions. But Hassan’s destiny beckons from the direction of Paris.

Young love, lavish foodstuffs, a conflicted protagonist. … As they say in New Delhi, what’s not to like?

Screenwriter Steven Knight’s mostly restrained dialogue. often pleasingly urbane, now and then clichéd, veers into vulgarity only once by our count. And a somewhat suggestive scene finds Hassan, who was last glimpsed passionately kissing Marguerite, rearranging his clothes as the two emerge from the kitchen setting of their clutch.

Today’s teens, need it be said, will not be shocked by such proceedings. However, the descent of an arsonist rabble on the Kadam’s original place of business, an incident with fatal consequences, would likely prove a traumatic sight for real youngsters.

Given all the onscreen feasting, on the other hand, mature viewers would be well advised to make reservations before they buy their movie tickets.

The film contains scenes of mob violence, implications of an intimate encounter and a single crude term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG, parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

 

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