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‘The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature’ and bland

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Catholic News Service

Much of the action in the animated children’s comedy “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” unfolds at a frenzied pace. Yet, for all the sound and fury, this is in the end a bland film, unlikely to please any but the least discerning viewers.

Animated characters appear in the movie “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Open Road Films)

Perhaps that’s because the folks behind this sequel were too focused on 3-D special effects to waste time giving their characters much personality. Ironically, those effects turn out to raise the main objection to the picture from a parent’s perspective since, together with the many menacing situations to which the plot gives rise, they may be too scary for little kids.

The less-than-dynamic duo at center stage here is made up of squirrels Surly (voice of Will Arnett) and Andie (voice of Katherine Heigl). They’re obviously destined for each other from the start. But, of course, before true love can prevail there must be a conflict for them to resolve.

In this case, it concerns the fact that Surly, his unspeaking sidekick Buddy the rat and the rest of the gang from nearby Liberty Park have long been living off the abundance of an abandoned nut shop. Andie considers this a lazy and unnatural way of life, and is pleased when the negligence of one of her fellow animals causes an explosion that destroys the derelict building.

Trooping back to their original habitat, the critters suddenly find themselves pitted against their city’s corrupt, never-named Mayor (voiced by Bobby Moynihan). Hizzoner plans to bulldoze Liberty Park and turn it into a profit-making amusement concern.

As Surly organizes the resistance to this greed-driven project, huge earthmoving machines bear down on the small creatures. Later, an unmoored Ferris wheel lumbers through the Mayor’s creation, “Liberty Land,” rapidly and spectacularly destroying his handiwork. Grownups with jittery tykes in tow, take note.

Amid all the chases and the animal-human combat, the movie makes respectable, if hardly original, points about protecting the environment and the value of friendship and teamwork. It’s all perfectly acceptable for a wide swath of age groups.

Still, to paraphrase an old candy bar ad, sometimes you feel like a nut; this time, not so much.

The film contains cartoon violence, including explosions, recurring peril and mild gross-out and scatological jokes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

     

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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‘Annabelle: Creation’ — ‘Whatever you do, don’t unlock that door’

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Catholic News Service

Most of the mayhem wreaked by the figurine-haunting demon at the center of the horror prequel “Annabelle: Creation” is restrained. Yet, as the film progresses, director David F. Sandberg and his collaborators allow their imagery to become briefly but disturbingly graphic.

Stephanie Sigman stars in a scene from the movie "Annabelle: Creation." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Stephanie Sigman stars in a scene from the movie “Annabelle: Creation.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Accordingly, only those grown moviegoers willing to brave flashes of intense gore should say hello to this particular dolly.

This also is not a good fit for those insistent on strict logic or those who expect the characters on screen to behave rationally. As for Catholic viewers, they will likely be both annoyed and distracted by the wildly inaccurate, albeit incidental, portrayal of their faith incorporated into the proceedings.

In 1950s California, a group of female orphans shepherded by kindly nun Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) have somehow, by circumstances not specified in the script, been displaced from their former dwelling. They’ve been offered refuge, of a sort, at the rambling, spooky home of dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his invalid wife, Esther (Miranda Otto).

The Mullins are still overcome by grief following the death of their young daughter, Bee (Samara Lee), in a tragic car accident a dozen years before. So their hospitality is extended in an effort to brighten the tone of their funereal household. The outcome, of course, is quite the opposite.

No sooner has polio-afflicted Janice (Talitha Bateman) been warned by her brooding host to steer clear of Bee’s locked bedroom than she somehow finds herself inside that chamber, mucking about and stirring up trouble.

Discovering a hidden key to the closet in which the toy of the title has until now been confined, Janice unleashes her, much in the manner of Pandora opening her ill-fated box. Cue a reign of terror for nosy Janice, her BFF, Linda (Lulu Wilson), and the rest.

No matter how hair-raising the terrors to which Annabelle and her guiding fiend subject them, they always move toward danger, never away from it. Even allowing for youthful curiosity, this stubborn refusal to learn from experience becomes a tiresome trait.

Even more taxing, however, is a scene in which Sister Charlotte hears Janice’s confession of her disastrous trespass, not in the context of a confidential conversation but in what is clearly meant to be a formal sacramental encounter. Thus Janice kicks things off by requesting, “Bless me, Sister, for I have sinned,” and Sister Charlotte wraps things up by imposing a penance, though no absolution intervenes.

The fact that only bishops and priests can administer the sacrament of reconciliation is hardly a bit of inside-baseball religious arcana. The mistake is all the more glaring in a movie that clearly wants to position itself, in some vague way at least, as faith-friendly. Equally out of place in that proposed context is the counter-scriptural concept that infernal beings can somehow steal human souls.

There are some old-fashioned shivers awaiting the restricted audience for which this follow-up to the 2014 original can be labeled appropriate. But lapses in reason, believability and even the most rudimentary knowledge of Catholicism may inspire more frowns than frissons.

The film contains a distorted presentation of Catholic faith practices, stylized but briefly bloody violence, gruesome images and at last one mild oath. 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.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘The Dark Tower’ is full of metaphysical hooey

August 8th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

Awash in high-flown metaphysical hooey, director and co-writer Nikolaj Arcel’s dull sci-fi fantasy “The Dark Tower” is inappropriate for the impressionable.

Matthew McConaughey stars in a scene from the movie "The Dark Tower." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Sony)

Matthew McConaughey stars in a scene from the movie “The Dark Tower.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Sony)

As for grown viewers, they should be prepared to slog through an involved exposition of non-scriptural ideas borrowed from the series of novels by Stephen King on which the film, penned with Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner and Anders Thomas Jensen, is built.

Extending rather than adapting the books, the movie uses the psychic nightmares of troubled New York teen Jake (Tom Taylor) to introduce us to a distant world, one of many, and the cosmic battle being fought out there. This struggle pits villainous wizard Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), aka the Man in Black, against Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), aka the Gunslinger.

O’Dim is bent on destroying the supernatural structure of the title which somehow, so we’re informed, keeps the evil lurking at the edges of the universe at bay. The lone remaining member of a group of Old West-style gunmen still resisting O’Dim and his cohorts, Roland is not only out to save the tower but yearns for revenge against O’Dim, whose spells have killed off every ally who has ever stood at his side.

While on the run from some of O’Dim’s minions in the Big Apple, Jake manages to get himself transported to Mid-World, one of the planets where this feud is being played out. Conveniently, the first person he encounters is Roland.

Despite an initially gruff reception, Jake convinces Roland that he can be of service to the cause. The bond that eventually develops between the two – Jake’s fireman father died in the line of duty — is one of the few potentially touching aspects of this tangled tale.

O’Dim’s method of assaulting the tower involves the torturous extraction of energy from the minds of kidnapped children. Since Jake has the gift of second sight, what the script terms “shine,” to an unrivaled degree, his psyche would represent the equivalent of a nuclear missile launched against the vital building — if, that is, O’Dim could only get his hands on the lad.

Roland is also endowed with paranormal powers, as too is a minor character who can read people’s thoughts and communicate with them without speaking. All this is portrayed very positively in a way that might mislead the poorly catechized. As for the religiously well-grounded, they would be wise to spare themselves the necessity of sifting through this pile of New Age nonsense.

The film contains occult themes, much gunplay and other violence, including torture, but with little gore, profanity and a couple of crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘The Dark Tower’ is full of metaphysical hooey

August 4th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Awash in high-flown metaphysical hooey, director and co-writer Nikolaj Arcel’s dull sci-fi fantasy “The Dark Tower” is inappropriate for the impressionable.

As for grown viewers, they should be prepared to slog through an involved exposition of non-scriptural ideas borrowed from the series of novels by Stephen King on which the film, penned with Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner and Anders Thomas Jensen, is built.

Matthew McConaughey stars in a scene from the movie "The Dark Tower." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults.

Matthew McConaughey stars in a scene from the movie “The Dark Tower.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.

Extending rather than adapting the books, the movie uses the psychic nightmares of troubled New York teen Jake (Tom Taylor) to introduce us to a distant world, one of many, and the cosmic battle being fought out there. This struggle pits villainous wizard Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), aka the Man in Black, against Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), aka the Gunslinger.

O’Dim is bent on destroying the supernatural structure of the title which somehow, so we’re informed, keeps the evil lurking at the edges of the universe at bay. The lone remaining member of a group of Old West-style gunmen still resisting O’Dim and his cohorts, Roland is not only out to save the tower but yearns for revenge against O’Dim, whose spells have killed off every ally who has ever stood at his side.

While on the run from some of O’Dim’s minions in the Big Apple, Jake manages to get himself transported to Mid-World, one of the planets where this feud is being played out. Conveniently, the first person he encounters is Roland.

Despite an initially gruff reception, Jake convinces Roland that he can be of service to the cause. The bond that eventually develops between the two – Jake’s fireman father died in the line of duty — is one of the few potentially touching aspects of this tangled tale.

O’Dim’s method of assaulting the tower involves the torturous extraction of energy from the minds of kidnapped children. Since Jake has the gift of second sight, what the script terms “shine,” to an unrivaled degree, his psyche would represent the equivalent of a nuclear missile launched against the vital building — if, that is, O’Dim could only get his hands on the lad.

Roland is also endowed with paranormal powers, as too is a minor character who can read people’s thoughts and communicate with them without speaking. All this is portrayed very positively in a way that might mislead the poorly catechized. As for the religiously well-grounded, they would be wise to spare themselves the necessity of sifting through this pile of New Age nonsense.

The film contains occult themes, much gunplay and other violence, including torture, but with little gore, profanity and a couple of crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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When words won’t do, ‘The Emoji Movie’

July 27th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Tech savvy viewers will especially enjoy the wacky proceedings of “The Emoji Movie.” But patrons of all stripes will appreciate the film’s themes of loyal friendship and faithful romance.

Set within the smartphone of high school freshman Alex (voice of Jake T. Austin), this lighthearted animated comedy tracks the adventures of a trio of misfits on their quest to reach the internet Cloud.

Alex, voiced by Jake T. Austin, appears in the animated movie "The Emoji Movie." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Sony)

Alex, voiced by Jake T. Austin, appears in the animated movie “The Emoji Movie.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Sony)

Gene (voice of T.J. Miller) is a “Meh” icon meant to express only indifference. But the first time Alex makes use of him, the native enthusiasm of his personality, together with nervousness at making his professional debut, causes him to register a strange mix of emotions instead of the bland apathy he was supposed to convey.

This malfunction immediately makes Gene an outcast and draws the ire of the chief emoji, maniacally cheerful Smiler (voice of Maya Rudolph). She condemns Gene to be deleted. So he goes on the run, and joins forces with upbeat hand symbol Hi-5 (voiced by James Corden) and rebellious codebreaker Jailbreak (voice of Anna Faris).

Once one of Alex’s favorites, Hi-5 has fallen into disuse and longs to regain his former popularity. Jailbreak resents the regulated life she is forced to lead on the phone, and hopes to enjoy much greater freedom by transferring herself permanently to the Cloud.

As the three newfound friends bond, and something more than friendship blossoms between Gene and Jailbreak, the challenges of their journey force them to prove their mutual devotion. Messages about teamwork and putting the interests of others ahead of your own goals balance the emphasis on Gene’s right to break the mold and be himself.

The presence of a minor character named Poop, voiced, amusingly, by no less a personage than Sir Patrick Stewart, typifies the predictable potty humor running through director and co-writer Tony Leondis’ script, penned with Eric Siegel and Mike White. Together with episodes of peril, these jokes may make “The Emoji Movie” a less than ideal choice for the youngest film fans.

The feature is preceded by an eccentric, enjoyable short called “Puppy!” which involves a young lad, a giant, disruptive dog named Tinkles and the boy’s indulgent grandfather, who just happens to be Count Dracula.

The film contains characters in jeopardy, mild scatological humor, a suppressed crude expression and a slightly crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

 

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‘Atomic Blonde’ — sadistic, degrading and tedious

July 27th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Aspiring to be edgy and stylish, the espionage thriller “Atomic Blonde,” matches sometimes sadistic brawling with exploitative scenes of aberrant sex. The result is not only degraded but tedious as well.

Charlize Theron stars in a scene from the movie "Atomic Blonde." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. (CNS)

Charlize Theron stars in a scene from the movie “Atomic Blonde.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. (CNS)

In the weeks leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, British operative Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is dispatched to the still-divided city. Her mission is to retrieve a vital dossier containing the identity of every Western agent active in the metropolis.

Broughton gets unreliable help form the jaded station chief, David Percival (James McAvoy). Percival, viewers are led to suspect, may be the mole whose double dealing the elusive file would reveal along with its other secrets.

Broughton receives less expected but more dependable aid from novice French spy Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella). Rather rapidly, the two women wind up in bed together in more ways than one.

Told in flashbacks during a debriefing in which CIA officer Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman) joins Broughton’s superiors, Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and Chief “C” (James Faulkner) as she tells her tale, the plot of director David Leitch’s film is as convoluted as its tacky appeal to its audience’s lowest instincts is straightforward.

When she’s not groping Lasalle, Broughton grapples with enemies from the Stasi and the KGB, finding creative ways to eliminate them such as plunging a corkscrew into the esophagus of one opponent. Percival, for his part, prefers a handy ice pick to the forehead. He also does Broughton one better by waking up in one scene with a duo of dames bookending him.

Tough on the men and tender with her lady, Broughton, whose adventures are adapted from the 2012 graphic novel series “The Coldest City,” embodies a pornographic adolescent fantasy anyone committed to a Christian view of human dignity should shun.

The film contains nasty violence with much gore, graphic lesbian sexual activity, implied group sex, upper female and rear nudity, a blasphemous joke, a mild oath as well as pervasive rough and some crude and 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.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘The Tribunal’ features annulment process, but it’s no ‘A Man for All Seasons’

July 27th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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The annulment process provides the unusual courtroom setting for the romantic drama “The Tribunal.” While the movie’s Catholic values are strong, they come filtered through some faulty filmmaking.

Tom Morton and Ryan Wesley Gilreath star in a scene from the movie "The Tribunal." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults.  (CNS /107 Productions)

Tom Morton and Ryan Wesley Gilreath star in a scene from the movie “The Tribunal.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. (CNS /107 Productions)

Divorced musician Joe Seacker (Chris Petty) pursues a decree of nullity so that he can wed his devout girlfriend, Emily Vanderslice (Laura Mock). But his case requires the testimony of his estranged former bandmate and best friend, Tony Mirakul (Ryan Wesley Gilreath).

Tony was once Emily’s boyfriend, and still carries a torch for her while also harboring resentment against Joe for stepping into his shoes after he and Emily split. But Tony has firsthand knowledge of the fact that Joe’s ex, Jessie (Victoria McDevitt), disdained the permanence of marriage as well as the prospect of having kids.

Joe’s cause is represented by Emily’s father, Ben (Jim Damron), and opposed by the tribunals’ “defender of the bond,” Michael Constantino (Chuck Gillespie). Both men are permanent deacons.

Religious themes, including the countercultural message that sex before marriage is a damaging mistake as well as a sin, Tony’s seduction of Emily was the eventual cause of their breakup, will resonate with viewers of faith. But sometimes subpar acting, an amateurish musical score and unlikely plot developments chip away at this small-scale project’s credibility.

Still, the good intentions motivating screenwriter Michael C. Mergler and director Marc Leif are as obvious as they are honorable. And moviegoers used to being immersed in the loose morals of contemporary society will find the earnest ethics surrounding this love triangle a refreshing change.

In that light, at least some parents may consider “The Tribunal” acceptable for older teens, despite the elements listed below.

The film contains bedroom scenes, including a nongraphic premarital sexual encounter, some irreverent images, a mild oath and a few crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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Catholic News Service

Despite its ponderous title, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” turns out to be a flashy but lightweight sci-fi adventure likely to divert those grown viewers content to munch their popcorn and enjoy a break from the heat of summer.

Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne star in a scene from the movie "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS/TF1 Films)

Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne star in a scene from the movie “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS/TF1 Films)

Moviegoers seeking something more memorable, by contrast, will be disappointed. And some gritty elements incorporated into the film suggest that even most mature teens should skip this trip to the stars and instead stay safely earthbound.

It’s the 28th century, and devil-may-care intergalactic law enforcement agent Maj. Valerian (Dane DeHaan) finds himself sharing both romantic tension and a series of crime-busting exploits with his more serious-minded partner, Sgt. Laureline (Cara Delevingne). Initially, the latter involve the legacy of the destroyed planet Mul.

Small reptiles from that lost orb, known as Mul Converters, had the power to multiple pearl-like gems that doubled as energy-producing wonder minerals. Now, the last remaining Mul Converter has fallen into the wrong hands, and Valerian and Laureline’s boss, the Minister of Defense (musician Herbie Hancock), dispatches them to retrieve it.

Later phases of the plot concern the fate of Alpha, the titular metropolis. This mega-space station, a gathering place for a wide variety of life forms, is under threat from an unidentified force, and it’s up to our heroes to get to the bottom of the mystery.

In adapting a series of graphic novels by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres, writer-director Luc Besson excels at such sequences as an interdimensional chase through an exotic bazaar. Yet his sometimes baroquely overwrought film is longer on style than ultimate impact.

The love story sees playboy Valerian, whose promiscuous past is treated lightheartedly, anxious to mend his ways in favor of marital commitment. And there are incidental religious references in the dialogue, though these are partly offset by equally fleeting lines with a pagan ring to them.

In addition to an early scene in which the main duo canoodle, Valerian’s detour through Alpha’s gritty red-light district — during which he’s momentarily mesmerized by shape-shifting stripper-prostitute Bubble (pop star Rihanna), and also has to deal with her crafty pimp, Jolly (Ethan Hawke), puts the proceedings well out of bounds for youngsters.

Bubble remains at least minimally clad. But some of her ever-changing costumes play on fetishistic fantasies, making this portion of the otherwise mostly inoffensive “Valerian” unsavory even for older viewers.

The film contains gunplay and other stylized violence, a prostitution theme, scenes of sensuality with partial nudity, a mild oath and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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“Dunkirk” proves a compelling historical drama

July 21st, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

“Wars are not won by evacuations,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously observed. As writer-director Christopher Nolan’s compelling historical drama “Dunkirk” demonstrates, however, fine films can be made about them.

Soldiers are shown in a scene from the movie "Dunkirk." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Soldiers are shown in a scene from the movie “Dunkirk.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

May and June 1940 were indeed, in Mel Brooks’ sarcastic phrase, “Springtime for Hitler.” Using blitzkrieg tactics and a surprise attack through the supposedly impassible Ardennes Forest, his forces rapidly defeated and encircled the British Expeditionary Force and its French allies. Eventually hundreds of thousands of troops were left trapped in a small pocket centered on the English Channel port of the title.

Though the Fuhrer called a halt on the land assault and assigned the Luftwaffe the task of finishing off the Allies from the air, the prospects for Britain remained dire. Were the vast bulk of its army to be taken prisoner in France, the outlook for defending against a Nazi invasion of Britain itself would be virtually hopeless.

In picking up the story at this point, Nolan takes an Everyman’s view of the situation. Dividing the action into events on land, sea and air, he apportions story lines among an ensemble cast, with sometimes confusing and dramatically diffuse results.

Representing the cornered forces on the beach is a trio of ordinary soldiers, Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and Alex (Harry Styles). Among the few officers portrayed in the film are the senior naval representative on the scene, Cmdr. Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) and his army counterpart, Col. Winnant (James D’Arcy).

Embodying the many hundreds of British seafaring civilians who answered the call for fishing and pleasure craft to join in the rescue is small yacht owner Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance). Dawson is accompanied by his teen son, Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and by Peter’s friend, George (Barry Keoghan).

In the middle of the Channel, they rescue an unnamed soldier, played by Cillian Murphy, whose shell-shocked condition and frantic determination not to return, however temporarily, to Dunkirk pose a fresh and distracting challenge for them, with ultimately grim results.

Up in the skies, a duo of RAF Spitfire pilots — Collins (Jack Lowden) and his higher-ranking comrade, Farrier (Tom Hardy) — battle the German fighters and bombers seeking to wreak havoc on both the hapless soldiers and the shipping below.

The perils of the desperate, against-the-odds operation are fully exploited for dramatic tension, with near-death experiences awaiting almost every character. The measures resorted to by some of them in their efforts to survive seem questionable, at least as viewed from a comfortable theater seat.

Yet these ethical lapses are balanced by a general sense of heroic pluck and by incidents in which humane justice and generosity of spirit are upheld. The altruism motivating Dawson and others to risk life and limb for the sake of strangers also elevates the moral tone.

While “Dunkirk” is not for the fainthearted of any age, the movie’s educational value and relative freedom from objectionable content makes it probably acceptable for older teens.

The film contains intense stylized combat violence, brief gore, a couple of uses of profanity and at least one instance each of rough, crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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Adults may enjoy taking ‘Baby Driver’ for a spin

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Catholic News Service

Stylish and energetic, the high-octane crime drama “Baby Driver” blends pop music, dizzying car chases and some dark humor to impressive effect.

Ansel Elgort and Lily James star in a scene from the movie "Baby Driver." The Catholic News Service classification is L, Limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Sony)

Ansel Elgort and Lily James star in a scene from the movie “Baby Driver.” The Catholic News Service classification is L, Limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Sony)

While the film’s basic values are sound, however, late plot developments involve a quantity of bloodletting that will seem excessive to many moviegoers.

Ansel Elgort plays the title character, who prefers the moniker Baby to his real name. An otherwise decent young man, Baby is being forced to serve as the getaway driver in a series of bank robberies to pay off a debt he incurred to callous mobster Doc (Kevin Spacey).

This brings him into contact and collaboration with a series of lowlifes, including Wall Street executive-turned-thief Buddy (Jon Hamm), Buddy’s moll Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and aptly nicknamed psychopath Bats (Jamie Foxx). The better part of Baby’s nature, meanwhile, is expressed in the care he gives his deaf and ailing foster father, Joe (CJ Jones), and in his romance with sprightly diner waitress Debora (Lily James).

Writer-director Edgar Wright earns his paycheck with a production carefully choreographed down to the last gesture, and there’s an amiable and appealing spirit to most of the proceedings. Elgort invites strong sympathy for the orphaned, often silent Baby.

While it can be argued that Wright tries to have it both ways, ethically speaking, a reckoning does eventually arrive, and crime is ultimately punished. Baby and Debora’s relationship, moreover, remains chaste, with nothing more than kisses being exchanged.

Yet, as things begin to wind up, Wright aims for shock value by having some of his bad guys meet spectacular, brutal deaths. This considerably circumscribes the audience for which “Baby Driver” can be endorsed. Forewarned grownups, however, may enjoy taking it for a spin.

The film contains momentary but intense gory violence along with much gunplay, several uses of profanity 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.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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