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Who will save the Christmas festival in ‘Believe’?

December 8th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Evangelical Christian faith hovers in the background of the holiday-themed drama “Believe.” Though not as rose-colored in its outlook as some religiously-inspired projects, the movie, which is suitable for most age groups, lacks polish.

Ryan O'Quinn, Danielle Nicolet and Issac Ryan Brown star in a scene from the movie "Believe."  (CNS photo/Believe the Film)

Ryan O’Quinn, Danielle Nicolet and Issac Ryan Brown star in a scene from the movie “Believe.” (CNS photo/Believe the Film)

Cash-strapped factory owner Matthew Peyton (Ryan O’Quinn) faces both the impending collapse of his business and the end of the annual Christmas fair his family has long sponsored in his small hometown. In fact, he’s in danger of becoming a local pariah since not only are his workers on strike against him, but his neighbors, many of whom make a substantial profit from the carnival, though he puts it on for free, stand to lose out as well.

As Matthew struggles to decide whether to sell his company to save the festival, he draws support from his best friend since childhood, physician Nancy Wells (Shawnee Smith). He also gets emotional backup from a duo of newfound acquaintances: impoverished, ailing single mother Sharon Joseph (Danielle Nicolet) and her indefatigably cheerful little boy, Clarence (Issac Ryan Brown).

Matthew met the Josephs when Clarence took on the role of good Samaritan, rescuing Matthew after he was beaten up by thugs who also set his car on fire. This physical attack is only the starkest of the negative developments Job-like Matthew must cope with as the often downbeat proceedings move forward.

Matthew has moments of self-doubt and occasionally seems to give in to despair. He also doesn’t shy away from confrontation with his opponents, which helps give “Believe” the kind of dramatic backbone faith-driven movies often lack. That’s all the more welcome since at least some viewers are likely to react to Clarence’s unquenchable good humor, and the cavorting by which he gives vent to it, with an echo of W.C. Field’s famous growl, “Go away, kid, you bother me.”

Still, Clarence manages to brighten Matthew’s mood as the latter doggedly holds out for a Capraesque happy ending. Along the way, writer-director Billy Dickson mostly avoids preachiness and keeps the imperative of his title Bible-based but nondenominational.

Mention of golden-age Hollywood director Frank Capra is almost inevitable, given that both Clarence’s name and his ambition to play an angel in the pageant that caps off the Christmas fair obviously recall Capra’s yuletide classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which Henry Travers played an eponymous heavenly messenger. Similarly, Matthew’s plight mirrors that of Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey in the earlier film.

While “Believe” is hardly in the same league as the beloved predecessor it evokes, the absence of most objectionable material does make it a safe choice for a large cross section of the family.

The film contains some nonlethal violence and a single 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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‘Incarnate’ is a slow slog through Hell

December 5th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

Somewhere in the planning stages of “Incarnate,” someone must have thought it would be a good idea to combine elements of Christopher Nolan’s 2010 tour de force “Inception” with tropes that have been familiar to moviegoers at least since Linda Blair’s head went spinning round in “The Exorcist” way back in 1973.

David Mazouz stars in a scene from the movie "Incarnate." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 . (CNS photo/Universal)

David Mazouz stars in a scene from the movie “Incarnate.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 . (CNS photo/Universal)

The difficulty is that director Brad Peyton’s mostly secular addition to the exorcism subgenre of horror films only suffers by comparison to such memorable predecessors. The low-rent proceedings, moreover, include a portrayal of the Catholic Church that’s marked by lazy cynicism.

Thus, when Vatican official Camilla Marquez (Catalina Sandino Moreno) asks the film’s burned-out protagonist, Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart), what he’s got against the church, he responds, “How much time do you have?”

Camilla has sought Seth out in the hope that he can help with a case that has foiled the priests dispatched to deal with it (a circumstance likely to irk Catholic patrons still further). This provides Seth with the chance to express his disdain for a spiritual approach to possession. To him, the foes to be confronted are “entities,” not demons.

Seth’s expertise is based on the fact that, like some of the characters in “Inception,” he can enter the minds of others, in his case the possessed. By rescuing them from the spell each entity casts when occupying someone, he cures them.

But this unusual gift has long made Seth a target for the forces of the underworld. In fact, one entity essentially ruined Seth’s life by causing a car accident that killed his wife and son and left him paralyzed.

Could this be the same evil spirit currently Cameron (David Mazouz), the young boy whose plight Camilla has brought to Seth’s attention? Seth suspects so, and that’s his principal motive for eventually agreeing to see what he can do for the lad.

As scripted by Ronnie Christensen, “Incarnate” feels grim and uninspired even when it’s not antagonizing believers, as it does even by way of its ill-chosen title. There is a bit of a concession to Christian sensibilities during a key confrontation toward the end of the picture. And the bloodletting is kept within appropriate bounds for a mature audience throughout. But it’s still amounts, overall, to a slow slog through Hades.

The film contains occult themes, anti-Catholic sentiments, occasional violence with some gore, a few uses of profanity, at least one rough term and several crude and crass expressions. 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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‘Rules Don’t Apply’ includes anti-religious plot

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Catholic News Service

Warren Beatty wrote, directed and stars in “Rules Don’t Apply,” a loosely fact-based tale set within the secretive world of eccentric industrialist Howard Hughes.

Warren Beatty stars in a scene from the movie "Rules Don't Apply." 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 PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Twentieth Century Fox)

Warren Beatty stars in a scene from the movie “Rules Don’t Apply.” 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 PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Twentieth Century Fox)

Part romantic comedy, part biopic, the film suffers from an unstable tone. Additionally, Beatty’s script adopts a mostly negative attitude toward the influence of Christian faith in the personal lives of his two principal characters.

Small-town beauty queen and aspiring actress Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) finds herself a cultural fish out of water when she becomes one of the many fetching would-be stars summoned to 1950s Hollywood by Hughes (Beatty), whose holdings then included RKO Pictures. Like her peers, she’s housed in style and assigned a chauffeur, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich). Part of Frank’s job is to report any misbehavior with men he might observe.

Despite strict rules against fraternizing, the two young people fall for each other. But the looming, though often invisible, presence of their increasingly unhinged employer complicates matters in unexpected ways, threatening to thwart their happiness.

Religion plays a prominent part in the film. As we learn early on, both Marla and Frank have been hired by Hughes in part because they are devout mainline Protestants. He’s a Methodist, and she belongs to the Baptist Church in which Beatty himself was raised. Beatty’s slightly sneering script portrays the duo’s faith-based sexual mores as naive and repressive and their eventual loss of innocence as at least partially liberating.

There’s a good deal of moral confusion along their path to supposed sophistication: a hidden love affair, an unexpected pregnancy, an engagement that’s called off almost as soon as it’s made. but not before it’s used as a green light for sex. Along with the movie’s anti-religious undercurrent, all these plot twists call for careful assessment by mature viewers.

And then there’s the artistic imbalance. Frank and Marla’s love story sits uncomfortably beside the awkwardly humorous spectacle of a brilliant billionaire slowly going bonkers. Nor is Hughes’ mental decline always played for laughs. His obsession with his dead father involves a painful sense of loss and disappointment while the fact that no one is willing to defy him, even for his own good, feels tragic.

The film contains an ambivalent depiction of Christian faith, semi-graphic scenes of premarital sex, some distasteful visual humor, mature themes, including abortion, several profanities, at least one use each of rough and crude language and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’

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Catholic News Service

Fans of British novelist P.G. Wodehouse have a special place in their hearts for one of his most memorable comic creations, a shy and eccentric newt fancier with the immortal name Augustus Fink-Nottle.

Katherine Waterston, Eddie Redmayne, Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler star in a scene from the movie "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. (CNS /Warner Bros. Entertainment)

Katherine Waterston, Eddie Redmayne, Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler star in a scene from the movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. (CNS /Warner Bros. Entertainment)

Gussie, as his pal Bertie Wooster always called him, turns out to bear some similarity to the protagonist of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

Since the film is primarily a fantasy and not a comedy, however, this resemblance proves a mixed blessing.

Penned by “Harry Potter” scribe J.K. Rowling, and set in 1926 New York, the movie follows the stateside adventures of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an alumnus of Harry’s alma mater, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, who specializes in studying and preserving the creatures of the title. As he travels the globe, Newt keeps an entire menagerie of the outlandish critters he’s collected in an ordinary-looking but magical suitcase.

When this valise accidentally falls into the hands of everyday mortal Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), the owner of an outwardly identical grip, it’s easy to foresee the fallout. Jacob cluelessly releases the inhabitants of Newt’s portable zoo, thereby creating two interconnected problems for the spell-caster.

First, there’s the danger of setting off a panic as fauna unknown to nature wander the streets of Gotham. The result of such a sensation, moreover, would be to reveal to humans the existence of the whole carefully hidden world of wand-wavers with persecution and conflict the likely results.

To prevent all this, Newt joins forces with local Ministry of Magic enforcement official Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston). While barely able to understand the alternate reality he’s suddenly stumbled into, Jacob, too, lends a hand.

Finally, to round things out and create parallel love possibilities, Tina’s sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol), also joins the chase to retrieve the strays.

As directed by “Harry Potter” veteran David Yates, “Beasts” is visually impressive. And Folger brings off Jacob’s working-stiff persona to droll effect. But, overall, emotional engagement is lacking, perhaps because Redmayne makes withdrawn bashfulness one of his peculiar character’s leading qualities. Thus, special effects wind up predominating over human interaction.

The predictable mayhem punctuating the story is thoroughly stylized. So parents may be more concerned to find that a vaguely religious atmosphere surrounds one of the villains of the piece, anti-wizardry crusader Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton).

The film contains considerable action violence with minimal gore and a couple of uses of a slang term some may find vulgar. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Doctor Strange’ adds magical tricks to Marvel universe

November 4th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

What Tilda Swinton can conceive, Benedict Cumberbatch can achieve in “Doctor Strange.”

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in a scene from the movie "Doctor Strange." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Disney)

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in a scene from the movie “Doctor Strange.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Disney)

As directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson, this first big-screen adventure for the Marvel Comics superhero who debuted in print back in 1963 showcases a surfeit of magical nonsense and New Age rigmarole concerning spell-casting, astral bodies and the like. Accordingly, it’s not at all suitable fare for impressionable youngsters.

When a car accident severely damages his hands, blighting his career, brilliant but egotistical neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) feverishly pursues conventional treatments. But none holds out any hope of restoring his steady touch.

Desperately frustrated, he lashes out at the one sympathetic figure in his life, his long-suffering ex-girlfriend and current colleague, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). The resulting breach makes his emotional isolation complete.

Acting on a tip from recovered paraplegic Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt), Strange travels to Nepal to meet the guru (Swinton) Pangborn claims brought about his seemingly miraculous cure. Her followers refer to this bald, and otherwise unnamed, personage as “the Ancient One.”

When Strange’s skeptical materialism proves a hard nut to crack, the Ancient One launches him on a series of giddy rides across the cosmos, trips during which the audience might be forgiven for half expecting him to run into the ghost of Timothy Leary or the lineup of Jefferson Airplane circa “White Rabbit.”

Convinced by these odd odysseys, Strange places himself, more or less wholeheartedly, under his new spiritual master’s tutelage. He receives a mix of martial-arts and metaphysical training from one of her disciples, Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). He also gets some arcane book-learning courtesy of her comically poker-faced and reticent librarian, Wong (Benedict Wong).

Instead of the healing he was initially searching for, however, Strange discovers a sort of otherworldly vocation as he becomes a warrior in the struggle between his newfound mentor and Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former student of the Ancient One’s who has embraced the forces of evil.

“Doctor Strange” features some spectacular special effects reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.” And the acting rises well above the genre average, placing it in the company of the best “Iron Man” outings.

Yet, in order to enjoy these assets, viewers of faith will have to overlook all the mumbo-jumbo interwoven into the script, which Derrickson penned along with Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill. Thus, only those mature teens able to treat such elements as on a par with the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys, a task not made easier by the fact that the hooey on offer here comes decked out in the trappings of Buddhism, should be given the green light.

The film contains pervasive occult dialogue and action, some stylized violence, fleeting gory images and a handful of crude and 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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Good intentions overshadowed by awkwardness in ‘Joneses’

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Catholic News Service

 

NEW YORK — “I am everyday people.” Such was Sly and the Family Stone’s boast in a classic 1968 song, and a similar sentiment pervades the action comedy “Keeping Up With the Joneses” (Fox).

Despite its celebration of the lives of honest, decent, maritally committed suburbanites, however, awkward handling causes both the film’s upright message and its humor to fall flat. What remains are some good intentions and fitful smiles. Read more »

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This ‘Middle School’ is rated for adults

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Catholic News Service

Kids the same age as its preteen main character are clearly the target audience for “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.”

Andrew Daly, Thomas Barbusca, Griffin Gluck and Isabela Moner star in a scene from the movie "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/CBS Films)

Andrew Daly, Thomas Barbusca, Griffin Gluck and Isabela Moner star in a scene from the movie “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/CBS Films)

But numerous elements in the film seem ill-suited to such youthful viewership. In particular, parents may not care for the underlying message of this comedy which charts with glowing approval its protagonist’s revolt against scholastic authority.

Naturally, the script gives Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck) an ostensibly good reason for his rebellion. Having been shown the door at two previous institutions, artistically gifted but mildly troubled Rafe lands at Hills Village Middle School only to find it ruled by rigid Principal Dwight (Andy Daly) and his excessively restrictive code of conduct: No wearing this or that item of clothing, no loitering in the halls, no touching the trophy case, etc.

In response, Rafe launches a campaign of mostly harmless pranks, each designed to be a blatant and humorous violation of one of Principal Dwight’s petty regulations. Drawing on the spelling of his name, he gives his insurrection the motto “Rules Aren’t for Everyone.”

Rafe is aided in planning and executing his stunts by his best friend, Leo (Thomas Barbusca). He’s also supported, in his results at least, by Jeanne (Isabela Moner), the sprightly classmate for whom he has fallen, though she’s not in on the secret of who’s behind the hijinks.

The opening scene has shown us that Rafe likes to stay awake all night drawing, and the fact that he and Leo now pass the wee hours carrying out their low-key deviltry will raise another red flag for grownups.

Despite the benign nature of much of Rafe’s uprising, director Steve Carr’s screen version of James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts’ novel does briefly veer into endorsing vandalism. This arises in connection with Rafe’s domestic troubles.

His sympathetic mom, Jules (Lauren Graham), has agreed to marry and, from the time of the engagement, has already shacked up with her creep of a boyfriend, Carl (Rob Riggle). As the audience figures out long before Jules ever does, Carl’s true love is his expensive sports car. Thus this vehicle becomes a target in Rafe and his younger sister Georgia’s war on Carl, a battle that parallels the one Rafe is waging at school.

As the live action alternates with animated sequences, Rafe’s cartoon sketches come to life, much of the juvenile humor hovers at the level of a routine sitcom episode. Surprisingly, the film’s dramatic elements, by contrast, are handled deftly and to poignant effect.

Even this asset entails another warning to parents, though, since the serious part of the story revolves around the death from cancer, before the movie starts, of Rafe’s younger brother.

All told, while “Middle School” is probably acceptable for older teens, their juniors should only be given permission to see it after very careful consideration, if at all.

The film contains cohabitation, youthful defiance of authority, mature themes, including the death of a child, much scatological humor, a handful of crass terms, some wordplay and brief sexual references. 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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Nate Turner’s revolt movingly dramatized in ‘The Birth of a Nation’

October 10th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

Nat Turner’s Rebellion, an 1831 insurrection among the enslaved people of Southampton County, Va., represented the most serious challenge of its kind ever posed to slavery in the antebellum South.

Gabrielle Union and Colman Domingo star in a scene from the movie "The Birth of a Nation." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Fox)

Gabrielle Union and Colman Domingo star in a scene from the movie “The Birth of a Nation.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Fox)

Although brief, the uprising exacted scores of white fatalities while its savage suppression involved the legally sanctioned executions of a roughly equal number of African-Americans, as well as the deaths of many more at the hands of enraged mobs.

Turner’s life is movingly dramatized in “The Birth of a Nation.”

Making ironic use of the title of D.W. Griffith’s technically innovative but otherwise deplorable 1915 film about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, writer-director Nate Parker, who also stars as Turner, presents audiences with an engrossing profile.

Taught to read at an early age, Turner becomes a committed and eloquent preacher. But his gifts are turned to perverse use when his master, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), agrees, for a fee, to let him tour nearby plantations delivering sermons in favor of submission.

Times are hard and local planters, feeling the pinch, have taken measures like reducing rations. The result has been the restlessness and resentment Turner’s exhortations are meant to quell.

Yet the arrangement turns out to have wholly unexpected consequences. As he witnesses the range of inhumanities to which his fellow slaves are routinely subjected, Turner gradually becomes radicalized. And these barbaric acts are soon matched by brutalities that strike closer to home, affecting both Turner himself and his beloved wife, Cherry (Aja Naomi King).

Overwhelmed by this succession of atrocious events, Turner begins to view the message of Scripture in an entirely new light.

Christian faith is obviously central to Parker’s film, his directorial debut. So too are the moral issues raised by the short-lived but bloody revolt he chronicles.

An individual tyrant, for instance, has traditionally been viewed, at least in Catholic theology, as an opponent of the common good against whom violent measures may legitimately be taken. But does the same apply to an entire class of oppressors, including women and children?

Parker handles all this with sensitivity and subtlety while nonetheless presenting Turner in an unequivocally positive light.

The educational value of “The Birth of a Nation” would normally suggest expanding its audience to include at least some teens. Yet the amount of cruel mayhem inherent in this story is so extensive that even many mature viewers will find it difficult to endure.

The film contains strong gory violence, including torture and an off-screen rape, a scene of marital intimacy, upper female nudity, a few uses of profanity and a handful of crude and crass terms. 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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‘Welcome to Seamy, next stop, Immoral’ for ‘The Girl on the Train’

October 6th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

“The Girl on the Train,” director Tate Taylor’s adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ novel, is a film that would like to be taken seriously.

The dialogue is meant to be weighty and the time-hopping presentation of events challenging, even deliberately confusing, for viewers.

Emily Blunt stars in a scene from the movie "The Girl on the Train." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. . (CNS/Universal)

Emily Blunt stars in a scene from the movie “The Girl on the Train.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. . (CNS/Universal)

For all its artsy pretensions, however, this seamy suburban melodrama ultimately has the feel of a voyeuristic anecdote told by a persistent barfly. While merely unpleasant at first, moreover, the movie reaches a profoundly immoral conclusion as an act of justifiable self-defense gets mixed up with revenge at its rawest.

Admittedly, Taylor does manage to elicit an intense performance from Emily Blunt in the central role of unemployed alcoholic Rachel Watson, the passenger of the title who also serves as narrator.

Obsessed about the breakup of her marriage to her now-remarried ex, Tom (Justin Theroux), aimless Rachel spends her time riding the train that passes directly by their former home along the Hudson River, where Tom now lives with his new bride, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). She also becomes fixated on Megan and Scott (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans), the seemingly perfect couple who live just a few houses up the track.

So when Rachel observes Megan apparently cheating on Scott, she’s outraged enough, and thinking in a sufficiently blurry way as a result of the booze, to try to intervene in these strangers’ lives. What follows is a tangled tale of addiction, adultery and murder with a semi-paranoid feminist theme and a male villain straight from central casting at the Lifetime network.

Mixed into it all are intrusive visits to various couples’ bedrooms and one duo’s shower. There’s even some cavorting in the nearby woods. Private life in New York’s tony Westchester County hasn’t seemed this disorderly since the great John Cheever last put down his pen.

What really pushes the picture over the ethical edge, however, is its wrap-up, a nasty bit of mayhem the audience is invited to approve and applaud. There’s a visceral appeal here to moviegoers’ basest instincts that’s only aggravated by the fact that it follows closely on a more morally sound, though barely less violent, development.

The film contains skewed values, some brutal violence with gore, strong sexual content, including graphic adultery and marital lovemaking as well as full nudity, profanity and 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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‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’

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Catholic News Service

Director Tim Burton is on his home turf with the gothic fantasy “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”

While his adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ 2011 novel is mildly entertaining, however, it’s hobbled by an overly complicated premise and by the head-scratching implications of time travel.

Eva Green, Asa Butterfield and Georgia Pemberton star in a scene from the movie "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II,adults and adolescents.  (CNS photo/Fox)

Eva Green, Asa Butterfield and Georgia Pemberton star in a scene from the movie “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II,adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Fox)

Bridging the film’s two settings, present-day Florida and the Britain of the 1940s, is kindly grandfather ‘Abe’ Portman (Terence Stamp). As a boy during World War II, Abe had been sent from his native Poland to a remote island off the coast of Wales where he had found a refuge in the institution of the title.

Though he has a frayed relationship with his son, Frank (Chris O’Dowd), Abe and his grandson, Jake (Asa Butterfield), are the best of friends, and Abe delights in regaling Jake with tales of the otherworldly goings-on he experienced at Miss Peregrine’s (Eva Green) establishment. As he gets older, though, Jake becomes skeptical about Abe’s yarns, to the detriment of their bond.

Following Abe’s mysterious death, which seems to be linked to his past, Jake convinces Frank to take him to Wales where he hopes to learn the truth about grandpa’s childhood.

Once there, Jake enters the “time loop” which allows Miss Peregrine and her charges, all of them endowed with paranormal gifts, to live the same day in the fall of 1943 over and over again. Each evening, we learn, they magically reverse time at precisely the moment a Luftwaffe bomb is about to obliterate their Victorian mansion.

As Jake falls for Emma (Ella Purnell), a girl who can float through the air, and battles an eyeless villain named Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), familiar Hollywood tropes about the value of being different from everyone else and substituting a self-selected family for an inadequate biological one are trotted out yet again. Jake discovers that he, too, is a “peculiar,” and receives from Miss Peregrine and her kids the love and attention good-hearted but ineffectual Frank has always failed to deliver.

While too scary for tots, one scene shows Barron and his evil cohorts feasting on gouged-out eyeballs, “Miss Peregrine” is generally well suited for their older siblings, many of whom will likely appreciate its macabre elements. There’s mayhem aplenty, but it’s almost all bloodless. Accordingly, only the occasional touch of slightly vulgar language, together with a couple of lapses where the Second Commandment is concerned, will raise a red flag for parents.

The film contains much stylized violence with minimal gore, some disturbing images, one use of profanity, a milder oath and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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