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‘All Eyez on Me’ insightful but offensive

June 19th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Radical politics and the wayward values of hip-hop culture take “All Eyez on Me,” a sometimes intense but overlong and rarely insightful biography of rapper Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.), off course.

Demetrius Shipp Jr. and Kat Graham star in a scene from the movie "All Eyez on Me." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive.  (CNS photo/Codeblack Films)

Demetrius Shipp Jr. and Kat Graham star in a scene from the movie “All Eyez on Me.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. (CNS photo/Codeblack Films)

Add to these elements a script so laden with obscenities that hardly a sentence of dialogue passes without a visit to the verbal gutter, and the film becomes endorsable for none.

Born into a family of Black Panther activists, Danai Gurira turns in a powerful performance as his mother, Afeni, the future singer and actor confronts the challenges of an inner-city childhood before gaining stardom. Afeni trains him to react to these circumstances partly by educating himself (he eventually becomes a Shakespeare aficionado) but also, more troublingly, through a revolutionary attitude apparently accepting of violence.

Beginning with these early scenes, the script, written by Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez and Steven Bagatourian, shows a lack of balance both in its wholesale sympathy for the Panthers and in its entirely negative portrayal of the police. It later depicts former Vice President Dan Quayle as a villain and a dunce for questioning the anti-law enforcement tenor of some of Shakur’s lyrics.

Structured around an interview with a fictional, and unnamed, journalist (Hill Harper) during a real stint in prison, the retrospective takes in Shakur’s lifelong friendship with Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham), his partnership with rage-prone producer Suge Knight (Dominic Santana) and his romance with Quincy Jones’ daughter, Kidada (Annie Ilonzeh).

Before achieving a more or less stable relationship with Kidada, albeit one that involves living together before marriage, Shakur is shown partaking in the decadent lifestyle often associated with celebrity. This includes group and casual sex as well as deviant acts. Although a minor character calls Shakur out on this behavior, overall, the movie’s tone is one of implicit acceptance.

Where narcotics are concerned, “All Eyez” adopts an ambivalent outlook. While Afeni struggles with addiction and Shakur himself consistently refuses hard drugs, smoking marijuana is presented as essentially harmless.

Rampant materialism, exemplified by bling jewelry and private jets, also plays a role in setting director Benny Boom’s dramatization at odds with faith-based values. While viewers will hardly begrudge the once impoverished Shakur the financial success he earned, the need to wear more than one gold Rolex watch at a time can be questioned.

In fact, rivalry for expensive trinkets may have played a role in the tragic end of Shakur’s story, his still unsolved murder on the streets of Las Vegas 21 years ago. As a postscript to the picture points out, Shakur’s brief life, he died aged 25, was at least as much marked by creativity as by controversy. But if there are lessons to be learned from it, they are not to be found in “All Eyez on Me.”

The film contains some violence and gore, strong sexual content, including aberrant behavior, cohabitation and rear and upper female nudity, drug use, about a dozen profanities and relentless rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Rough Night’ is dead on arrival

June 15th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

“Weekend at Bernie’s” meets “Bridesmaids” in the raunchy comedy “Rough Night.” The result is pure dreck.

Political candidate and bride-to-be Jess Thayer (Scarlett Johansson) joins her four best friends — Aussie ditz Pippa (Kate McKinnon), overeager misfit Alice (Jillian Bell), social justice warrior Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and self-satisfied rich lady Blair (Zoe Kravitz) — for a wild bachelorette weekend in Miami.

Zoe Kravitz, Jillian Bell, Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, and Illana Grazer star in a scene from the movie "Rough Night." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. .(CNS photo/Sony)

Zoe Kravitz, Jillian Bell, Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, and Illana Grazer star in a scene from the movie “Rough Night.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. .(CNS photo/Sony)

After doing shots and snorting cocaine, they summon a stripper (Ryan Cooper) to the house they’ve been loaned. But the fun comes to a screeching halt when Alice, who could afford to go on a diet, accidentally kills burlesque boy by impulsively jumping into his lap, overturning his chair and smashing the back of his head into the corner of a stone hearth.

As the quintet scrambles to hide the evidence, fearing, for barely tenable reasons, that the police will not believe their story, director and co-writer Lucia Aniello’s film runs the gamut of smut. Early on, the script (on which Aniello collaborated with Paul W. Downs, who also plays Jess’ nice-guy fiance, Peter) winsomely tips us off to the fact that, back in college, Frankie and Blair were lovers.

Later the screenplay introduces us to Lea and Pietro (Demi Moore and Ty Burrell), the randy swingers who live next door. Plot developments find Blair forced into an encounter with this duo while Peter, who knows that Jess is in some kind of trouble, dons diapers and chugs Red Bull for a marathon drive to Florida to save the day.

Along the way to the supposedly friendship-affirming conclusion, such inherently hilarious subjects as contraception, venereal disease and personal hygiene are milked for laughs. And, as Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman discovered all those years ago in the first movie referred to above, there’s really no sight gag funnier than propping up a corpse.

The film contains strong sexual content, including aberrant behavior, nudity and a benign view of homosexual acts, cohabitation, drug use, some gory images, constant vulgar humor, several 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

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘The Mummy’ employs mumbo-jumbo and Tom Cruise

June 8th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

The clumsily fashioned horror flick “The Mummy” turns out to be anything but tightly wound.

Predictable pagan mumbo-jumbo aside, there’s not much to bother grown viewers in the film. But its globetrotting, from Ancient Egypt to modern-day Iraq and London, eventually feels like a vain search for a better, or at least more focused, story to tell.

The narrative we get, courtesy of director Alex Kurtzman and screenwriters David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman, centers on shady American soldier Nick Morton (Tom Cruise). A fast talker more interested in the black market than the military, Nick, together with his more cautious sidekick, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), capitalizes on the conflict in Iraq by trading in antiquities.

That puts him at odds with archaeologist and cultural adviser to the U.S. forces Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis). So, too, does the fact that Nick used a one-night stand the two recently shared to purloin a valuable map from her.

Partly through the use of this chart, and partly from the effects of an Air Force raid Nick and Chris had to call in after they were besieged by enemy combatants, an ancient tomb has been uncovered. Incongruously, it’s an Egyptian structure right in the middle of what used to be Mesopotamia.

As the audience already knows, this is the resting place of evil Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a murderer who was put to death for her crimes in the days of the pharaohs. The people who buried her had good reason to want her corpse far away from their native land. They also took elaborate measures to make sure she stayed put underground once they deposited her there.

All of which precautions Nick undoes in a trice, with just the sort of dire consequences you’d expect. Unleashed, Ahmanet puts a curse on Nick, and gains partial control of his mind as she schemes to recover possession of a ritual dagger, the use of which will enable her old ally Set, the Egyptian god of death, to become incarnate in Nick’s body.

Behind all these diffuse details stands a sketchy but respectable good vs. evil theme. Rather unconvincingly, Jenny has by now fallen for Nick and will become the chief cheerleader for the triumph of his underlying decency and altruism.

Yet, as the eventual injection of Robert Louis Stevenson’s character Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) into the plot suggests, there’s a growing note of desperation in these unwieldy proceedings. As the scene shifts across centuries and continents, the script fails to gain traction.

So, by the time they reach the blatant setup for a sequel which precedes the closing credits, moviegoers may be shaking their heads and muttering, “Tut-tut.”

The film contains occult and nonscriptural religious ideas, much harsh violence with fleeting gore, gruesome images, partial nudity, sensuality, occasional sexual references and humor, mild oaths, crude and several crass words. 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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Beware: ‘It Comes at Night’

June 8th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Morality is put to the test and fails in the bleak thriller “It Comes at Night.” Well executed, yet painful to watch, writer-director Trey Edward Shults’ drama plays skillfully on the psychology of fear, working more through subtlety and suggestion than depiction.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. stars in a scene from the movie "It Comes At Night." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults.  (CNS photo/A24)

Kelvin Harrison Jr. stars in a scene from the movie “It Comes At Night.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/A24)

But maturity is required to grapple with its lifeboat ethics and tacit acceptance of euthanasia in extreme circumstances.

Set in a dystopian version of rural America that’s being ravaged by an unspecified but inevitably fatal plague, the film powerfully conveys the claustrophobic isolation of the family — dad Paul (Joel Edgerton), mom Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and teen son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) — at the center of its plot.

Since any contact with an infected stranger could mean death, the cooped-up clan is terrified when an intruder, Will (Christopher Abbott), breaks into their home in the middle of the night. Though they initially treat him like a prisoner, tying him up and interrogating him, they eventually come to accept Will’s story that he was only looking for supplies and thought the house was empty.

Deciding they would all be better off combining forces, Paul and Sarah invite Will to bring his wife, Kim (Riley Keough), and toddler son, Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner), to live with them. But anxiety and suspicion eventually undermine the good intentions behind this arrangement, with horrifying results.

Given its apocalyptic premise, the movie’s portrayal of the elimination of one of the Black Death-like disease’s victims, specifically, Travis’ grandfather, Bud (David Pendleton), who’s put out of his misery early on, can be taken as having no troubling application to everyday life. And the extremes to which some characters are later driven are a source of dread, not a pattern to be imitated.

However, like Travis’ adolescent sexuality, his attraction to Kim leads him to dream of an encounter with her that shifts abruptly from fantasy to nightmare, these elements of the story, together with the distressing nature of the violence on screen, put “It Comes at Night” out of bounds for youngsters.

Even grown viewers may be unsettled by Shults’ deeply pessimistic view of human nature as a Darwinian struggle for survival takes hold. Neither heroism nor self-sacrifice play any role in his narrative. In fact, even the most basic laws of civilization are breached in the end.

So, although the mayhem of the situation is not handled gratuitously, moviegoers may be left wondering why they subjected themselves to this artful but bitter slice of doom-laden life.

The film contains some harsh gory violence, mercy killing, an adultery theme, scenes of marital intimacy, uses of profanity, frequent rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’

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Catholic News Service

If you can say or even read the name of the planet Uranus without bursting into gales of giggles, then “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” may not be the film for you.

From a giant mechanized toilet running amok to an orchestra of whoopee cushions, this cheerfully silly kids’ cartoon displays an obsession with bodily functions that parents averse to potty humor will not appreciate.

Harold, voiced by Thomas Middleditch, George, voiced by Kevin Hart, and Captain Underpants, voiced by Ed Helms, appear in the animated movie "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. .(CNS/Fox)

Harold, voiced by Thomas Middleditch, George, voiced by Kevin Hart, and Captain Underpants, voiced by Ed Helms, appear in the animated movie “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. .(CNS/Fox)

On the upside, director David Soren’s comedy, adapted from a series of books by Dav Pilkey, is otherwise unobjectionable and briefly showcases some positive values and behavior.

Having long ago bonded over their shared appreciation of the astronomical pun referenced above, fourth-graders and best friends George Beard (voice of Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (voice of Thomas Middleditch) have, over the years since, pulled off an extended spree of pranks at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School. These have drawn the ire of that institution’s strict leader, Principal Krupp (voice of Ed Helms), who now plans to separate the pals by assigning them to different classes.

Fearing that their camaraderie will be broken up if Krupp follows through on this threat, the boys improvise a solution. They hypnotize Krupp, and use mind control to convince him that he is Captain Underpants, the superhero featured in some of the many comic books they have written and drawn together up in their beloved treehouse. (George is the writer; Harold is the artist.)

In this character’s lightly attired guise, his uniform consists of tighty whities and a red cape, Krupp battles Professor Poopypants (voice of Nick Kroll), a wild-haired mad scientist posing as a science teacher at Horwitz. Bitterly resenting the mockery and joking his name inevitably provokes, the professor has come up with a scheme to employ technology to stamp out laughter, especially among kids.

Amid the flying toilet paper and embarrassing sound effects, the happy idiocies of Nicholas Stoller’s script really veer off course only once. In a montage of practical jokes, the lads are shown to have disguised a men’s room at school as a restroom for women. As a result, a lady walks in on Principal Krupp while he’s standing at a urinal. It’s a sight gag that seems better suited to a (bad) teen comedy than one aimed at tykes.

A brief spell of seriousness toward the end of the movie finds the central duo figuring out that some grownups may be mean because they’re lonely. They then do their best to remedy an instance of this problem by bringing together two adults who have previously been too shy to act on their mutual attraction.

It’s a nice wrap-up. But viewers young or old will have to run a gauntlet of relentless, though mild, grossness to reach it.

The film contains pervasive childish scatological humor. 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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‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ back for fifth screen voyage

May 25th, 2017 Posted in Movies

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Catholic News Service

Iconic and eccentric buccaneer Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) hoists the black flag for a fifth time in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” The result is a flashy but ultimately unsatisfying journey for the theme park ride-based franchise that first set sail in 2003.

Kaya Scodelario and Johnny Depp star in a scene from the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults.  (CNS/Disney)

Kaya Scodelario and Johnny Depp star in a scene from the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS/Disney)

On the upside, the crowded, overlong proceedings are relatively family-friendly. So parents willing to overlook some adult punning may give mature teens the go-ahead to board.

This time out, Jack joins forces with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a young science scholar whose ahead-of-her-time learning has led her to be charged with witchcraft, and with Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), an equally youthful sailor. Henry is the son of Jack’s old associates Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) Turner.

All three main characters are seeking the same magical artifact, the Trident of Poseidon, each for a different reason. They’re pursued along the hunt by the British navy, by the ghost of Capt. Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), one of Jack’s old adversaries, and by living but one-legged freebooter Capt. Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).

As directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, “Dead Men” is a special effects-driven adventure long on spectacle but short on human interest. The mayhem is almost all stylized, however, and the dialogue is virtually free of vulgarity.

One scene, played for laughs, finds an incidental character, who subsequently turns out to be married, in a compromising (though not directly sexual) situation with Jack.

The humor, such as it is, jokingly reinforces Jack reputation as a womanizer while also deflating the ego of the cheater’s husband, a pompous town official on the island of St. Martin. It’s a frivolous treatment of a serious subject, but the script quickly passes on to other matters.

On the other side of the moral ledger, late plot developments set the stage for a climactic act of self-sacrificing parental love. And Henry and Carina, who are obviously destined for each other, content themselves, once their bickering morphs into love, with kissing.

The film contains much action violence with little blood, brief implications of adultery, a single gruesome image, occasional mature wordplay and at least one crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Baywatch’ draws audience into polluted shallows

May 25th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Eye candy and escapism were the draw of the television series from which director Seth Gordon’s action comedy “Baywatch” has been adapted.

Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron star in a scene from the movie "Baywatch." The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. (CNS/Paramount)

Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron star in a scene from the movie “Baywatch.” The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. (CNS/Paramount)

Whatever success the show, which began on NBC but had a longer life in syndication, may have had back in the 1990s, it takes more than an ensemble of good-looking people running around in bathing suits to sustain a feature film.

And, since neither Gordon nor screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift can seem to decide whether they’re out to make a pop-culture spoof or a crime-solving adventure, their film turns out to be a predictably shallow mess.

Matters are not helped by the absurdly earnest tone in which the conflict at the center of the plot is put forward to the audience. This clash pits newcomer Matt Brody (Zac Efron) against Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson), the longtime leader of the lifeguarding team of the title.

A disgraced Olympic swimmer whose selfish ways and fondness for partying cost his team a medal, Matt bucks against Mitch’s ethos of cooperation and mutual concern. As the dialogue heavy-handedly seeks to drive home, however, lives could be endangered if Matt doesn’t learn to collaborate with his new colleagues.

Like the group’s sober-toned effort to foil scheming real-estate developer and possible drug dealer Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), talk about the potentially fatal consequences of Matt’s ego-driven mistakes rings hollow when interspersed with lingering views of barely clad bodies.

The serious sleuthing also jars against the surfeit of low-minded humor in “Baywatch,” much of which displays a preoccupation with male characters’ crotches. This misguided motif reaches a low point with a prolonged sight gag involving the private parts of a cadaver. While the movie’s self-conscious flesh peddling is mostly just tiresome, this effort to reap gross-out giggles from less appealing anatomy registers as degrading.

The film contains some gunplay and physical violence with momentary but extreme gore, strong sexual content, including full nudity and off-screen nonmarital activity, several profanities and a few milder oaths as well as pervasive crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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This trip is a long haul with a scatological wimpy kid

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Catholic News Service 

For better or worse, bathroom-themed gags have long been a staple of kids’ movies. But the family road comedy “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” carries this trend to excess.

Jason Drucker and Owen Asztalos star in a scene from the movie "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents.(CNS photo/Fox)

Jason Drucker and Owen Asztalos star in a scene from the movie “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.(CNS photo/Fox)

Together with a noticeable lack of creative drive, writer-director David Bowers’ reliance on scatological humor blights his adaptation of the eponymous novel by Jeff Kinney, the fourth installment of a screen franchise that began in 2010.

As his family sets off on a cross-country journey to attend his great-grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration, a trip his mother Susan (Alicia Silverstone) hopes will foster family unity, mild-mannered middle schooler Greg Heffley (Jason Drucker) worries that being confined together in a car for hours on end will have the opposite effect on his often-quarreling clan.

He also rails against Mom’s ban on the use of electronics during the trip, a prohibition his overworked father, Frank (Tom Everett Scott), likewise finds it difficult to obey. Still, Greg has a plan to turn this unwelcome outing to his own advantage.

Recently shamed by an embarrassing video that went viral, Greg plots with his older brother, Rodrick (Charlie Wright), to retrieve his reputation by being taped in the company of online celebrity Mac Digby (Joshua Hoover). Digby is scheduled to appear at Player’s Expo, a gaming convention being held not too far off the Heffleys’ planned route.

The event that has made Greg notorious is typical of the excretion-focused humor that’s too often front and center as the film ambles along to little purpose. As the result of a misadventure too involved to recount in detail, Greg winds up with a dirty diaper stuck to one hand. His frantic and unsuccessful efforts to fling it away are captured by a host of cellphone cameras, and infamy awaits.

On the trip, though, Greg suffers other indignities of a similar nature. He winds up concealed behind a shower curtain while the person from whom he’s hiding relieves himself inches away. Later, on the road again and with no exit for miles, Greg is forced to use an empty bottle to answer nature’s call.

It doesn’t take the acumen of a Sherlock Holmes to detect that depending on such incidents for laughs is a symptom either of laziness or an impoverished imagination. Whatever their source, the prominence and frequency of these scenes prevents endorsement of this sometimes queasy sequel for viewers of all ages.

The film contains much distasteful potty humor and brief adult wordplay. 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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‘Alien: Covenant’ — Everything old is spewed again

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Catholic News Service

Once you’ve seen one vicious extraterrestrial gnaw its way out of a human body from the inside, you’ve seen ’em all. Or so at least the jaded or squeamish moviegoer might be tempted to think.

Yet, the success of the durable “Alien” franchise, which dates all the way back to 1979, and was last added to by the 2012 reboot “Prometheus,” would seem to argue otherwise.

Danny McBride and Katherine Waterston star in a scene from the movie "Alien: Covenant." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS/Fox)

Danny McBride and Katherine Waterston star in a scene from the movie “Alien: Covenant.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS/Fox)

For those eager to watch the showcased race of creatures come busting out all over one more time, there arrives the competently shocking “Alien: Covenant.” As before, the watchword remains, to borrow a phrase from Cole Porter, “Don’t Fence Me In.”

When we first meet those whose anatomical bounds are likely to be burst, namely the crew of the titular spacecraft, they’re taking a long cryogenic nap as they speed toward a distant planet on a colonizing mission from Mother Earth. They’re watched over by a so-called “synthetic,” (an android) named Walter (Michael Fassbender).

Naturally, all this is too peaceful to last. So, cue an unforeseen phenomenon that not only badly damages the Covenant but also kills a number of those on board, including the vessel’s commander, Capt. Jacob Branson (James Franco).

As they analyze this incident, Branson’s successor, Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), and his colleagues detect a weak audio signal that alerts them to the existence of a much closer and possibly populated world that seems just as suitable for settlement as their original destination. After some debate, Oram orders a change in course.

Those in the imperiled landing party Oram leads, and Walter accompanies, include Branson’s widow, Daniels (Katherine Waterston), and Oram’s wife, Karine (Carmen Ejogo).

As director Ridley Scott, who originated the series, unleashes his trademark mayhem, the plot increasingly focuses on a duel between Walter and David (also Fassbender), an earlier model of synthetic who featured in “Prometheus” and who now turns up down on the surface.

Grown viewers with a strong tolerance for gore will note an undeveloped theme concerning Oram’s religiosity. Though the early dialogue highlights his faith-based decision making, and the opposition his beliefs are likely to excite once he takes over, all this fizzles away rapidly as the franchise’s ultimate form of indigestion begins to take hold.

The film contains intervals of gruesome bloody violence, brief graphic marital lovemaking, a same-sex kiss, about a half-dozen uses each of profanity and milder swearing as well as pervasive rough and some crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ is dim, noisy and ponderous

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Catholic News Service

Early on in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” the audience is treated to the sight of magically generated giant elephants swinging boulder-size wrecking balls at the ramparts of Camelot. It’s an apt visual considering how ponderous this action fantasy turns out to be.

Charlie Hunnman stars in a scene from the movie "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword." (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Charlie Hunnman stars in a scene from the movie “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” (CNS photo/Warner Bros.) 

Rearranging some of the traditional elements of the Arthur legend, which may or may not be rooted in actual history, director and co-writer Guy Ritchie comes up with a sort of “Prince and the Pauper” version of events.

Thus, not long after those lumbering pachyderms depart, toddler Arthur’s father, Uther (Eric Bana), dies as a result of his evil brother Vortigern’s (Jude Law) violent, and ultimately successful, bid to usurp the throne. Arthur evades a similar fate by being set adrift, Moses-like, in a boat which eventually finds its way to a bustling version of medieval London still called by its Roman name, Londinium.

There Arthur, dispossessed of his rights and with no recollection of his real identity, is raised as a brawling street urchin by the inhabitants of a brothel.

Once grown, and now portrayed by Charlie Hunnam, the rightful heir comes almost accidentally into possession of Excalibur, here essentially a weapon of mass destruction so powerful that it mows down Arthur’s opponents by the dozens. Aided by a so-called Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), who otherwise goes unnamed, Arthur learns how to wield the super sword and uses it to battle Vortigern for the crown.

Along with the supernatural support of the Mage, Arthur gets human backing from Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou), once one of Uther’s advisers, and expert archer “Goose-Fat” Bill (Aidan Gillen).

Together with his script collaborators, Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram, Ritchie works the occasional witty exchange into the dialogue. But otherwise his film is a grueling ordeal of nonstop noisy fighting. Like the Dark Ages in which it’s set, the movie is dim, toilsome and beset with mayhem.

Since the dust-ups are mostly gore-free, however, and the only flourishes of sensuality come in the form of occult visions, some parents may consider “King Arthur” acceptable for mature teens.

The film contains pervasive combat and other violence with little blood, a prostitution theme, brief partial nudity, fleeting sexual humor, at least one rough term and occasional 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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