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Cartoon animals ‘Sing’ but have ‘out of bounds’ living arrangements

December 21st, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

“Sing” is a generally amiable but flawed musical cartoon, populated mostly by animals. While the essential values of this show-biz fable are respectable enough, writer-director Garth Jennings incorporates elements into his film that make it unsuitable for youngsters.

This is a publicity image from the animated movie "Sing." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Universal)

Vocie actors pose with their animated movie characters in “Sing.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Universal)

With the theater he owns failing financially, koala bear Buster Moon (voice of Matthew McConaughey) aims to revive his business by staging a singing contest. After some predictably humorous tryouts, a quintet of finalists emerges.

Mike (voice of Seth MacFarlane) is a conceited mouse who croons in a Sinatra-like style. Gifted teenage elephant Meena (voiced by Tori Kelly) suffers from stage fright.

Harried sow housewife Rosita (voice of Reese Witherspoon) has to balance her vocal ambitions against the needs of her overworked husband, Norman (voice of Nick Offerman), and their litter of 25 kids. Johnny (voice of Taron Egerton) is a Cockney gorilla gangster’s son who would rather belt out Elton John tunes than help his dad (voice of Peter Serafinowicz) steal.

Then there’s Ash (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), a porcupine punk rocker coping with the selfishness of her live-in boyfriend, Lance (voice of Beck Bennett).

Friendship and loyalty are triumphant amid plot complications that include a typo escalating the winner’s prize a hundredfold. But Jennings, who also provides the voice of Miss Crawly, the good-hearted but dimwitted lizard secretary responsible for that error, not only includes a living arrangement that’s out of bounds for a kids’ movie, he also presents us with a semi-cross-dressing character.

Chosen by Buster to be Rosita’s stage partner, German-accented pig Gunter (voice of Nick Kroll) exudes swishy enthusiasm and favors glitzy leotards. By contrast with emotionally neglectful Norman and narcissistic Lance, who together represent a rather negative image of masculinity, Gunter is grouped with most of the female figures on the credit side of the ledger.

Grown viewers will obviously be well equipped to take such material in stride. And “Sing” is also probably acceptable for mature teens. But the most impressionable viewers, presumably a prime target demographic for the movie, will find it less than harmonious.

The film contains cohabitation, some scatological humor and scenes of peril. 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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‘Collateral Beauty’ is a quirky mess that’s too bizarre and too pat

December 16th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

“Collateral Beauty” is a strange, pretentious drama about overcoming grief.

While that’s obviously a subject about which a good film, perhaps many of them, might be made, the treatment of it in director David Frankel’s quirky mess of a movie is at once too bizarre and too pat to yield any insights.

Will Smith and Keira Knightley star in a scene from the movie "Collateral Beauty." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Will Smith and Keira Knightley star in a scene from the movie “Collateral Beauty.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

The talented cast certainly do their best to redeem the proceedings, though ultimately their effort proves futile. Will Smith plays Howard, a formerly successful advertising executive so emotionally paralyzed by the death of his young daughter that he endangers the future of his firm by his neglect of clients.

In response, Howard’s three principal colleagues —Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena) — hire a trio of actors, vain Brigitte (Helen Mirren), fetching Amy (Keira Knightley) and skateboarding street kid Raffi (Jacob Latimore), to prove that Howard’s distress has rendered him incompetent. And this is where things get rather squirrelly.

The thespians are to prove that Howard has gone off his rocker by impersonating the three abstractions — death, love and time — to which, as private detective Sally (Ann Dowd) has discovered, Howard has written, and mailed, angry letters. Sally will capture the resulting exchanges on her mobile phone, the players will be edited out of the footage, and Howard will be shown ranting away to himself.

Cuckoo, Q.E.D.

To take the blatantly unethical nature of this maneuver on the part of Howard’s partners, who also claim to be his friends, seriously would first require a jumbo-sized suspension of disbelief. The fact that the death-love-time triad also just happens to fit the life situations of these treacherous amigos similarly strains credibility.

The occasional jokes that leaven the dialogue in screenwriter Allan Loeb’s script, moreover, are far outnumbered by fortune-cookie sentiments the audience is clearly meant to receive as nuggets of wisdom. Some of these come from the picture’s moral-compass setter, Madeleine (Naomie Harris). A bereaved mother who leads a therapy group Howard reluctantly joins, Madeleine also shares the anecdote from which “Collateral Beauty” takes its title.

If you’ve ever heard the one about “silver linings,” you pretty much know what the moral of that story is going to be. Those willing to endure the blizzard of cliches of which the eponymous phrase forms but a flake will, however, find a warm endorsement of marital fidelity waiting for them at the wrap.

The film contains an adultery theme, at least one use of profanity as well as 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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‘Rogue One’ found to be a worthy ‘Star Wars’ entry

By

Catholic News Service

With “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” last year’s promising re-ignition of the iconic franchise, “The Force Awakens,” gains a worthy and equally family-friendly companion.

Diego Luna, Felicity Jones and Jiang Wen star in a scene from the movie "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Diego Luna, Felicity Jones and Jiang Wen star in a scene from the movie “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Interstellar derring-do is once again the order of the day as this latest film in the series provides a rousing prequel to writer-director George Lucas’ 1977 original, subsequently dubbed “Episode IV – A New Hope.”

“A New Worry” might be an apt subtitle for “Rogue One” since its plot is driven by the fact that the evil Empire, served most prominently by Grand Moff Tarkin, (a computer-generated projection of the late Peter Cushing) and Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), is on the verge of deploying a game-changing new weapon, the Death Star.

With its potential to wipe out entire planets, the Death Star could doom the efforts of the gallant Rebel Alliance, headed by Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), to resist subjugation.

This crisis draws the movie’s main character, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), to center stage. As the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), the brilliant scientist who unwillingly developed the technology behind the Death Star while being held captive, she has reason to believe that the armament can be sabotaged from within.

To prove this, she’ll need the help of intrepid Alliance officer Capt. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) as well as that of his mechanical sidekick, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). An amusingly straight-talking android, K-2SO is the source of most of the movie’s wry comic relief.

In crafting an exciting epic, director Gareth Edwards keeps the mayhem inherent in his story of armed conflict virtually bloodless. And the script, by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, celebrates altruism while also briefly tackling the morality of obeying some military orders.

But the ambiguous nature of the spiritual “Force” cultivated primarily, in this installment, by blind Buddhist-style monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) may be a source of concern for the parents of some teens. Since the Force can be interpreted in any number of ways, including a vaguely Christian one, the famous blessing it inspires having an almost liturgical ring to it, youngsters may need guidance to arrive at sound conclusions.

For all others, “Rogue One” offers old-fashioned entertainment in the best sense: an engaging showdown between plucky goodness and elegant villainy with a bit of delightfully innocent romance thrown in for good measure.

The film contains frequent but thoroughly stylized combat violence, religious elements requiring mature discernment and some frightening images including a scene leading up to mental torture. 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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‘Miss Sloane’ studies political corruption

December 12th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

A striking performance from Jessica Chastain in the title role propels “Miss Sloane,” director John Madden’s forceful study of political corruption.

Since the film abounds in seamy behavior, both in the boardroom and the bedroom, however, only those grown viewers willing to wade through a swamp of unscrupulousness should pay the price of admission.

Jessica Chastain stars in a scene from the movie "Miss Sloane." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS /EuropaCorp)

Jessica Chastain stars in a scene from the movie “Miss Sloane.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS /EuropaCorp)

On the other hand, “House of Cards” addicts desperately waiting for a fresh round of outrageous machinations from Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood to become available on Netflix may find “Miss Sloane” just the thing to tide them over. They’ll certainly find a soul mate for Underwood in the eponymous lobbyist, albeit one given to less extreme measures.

Ruthlessly and obsessively focused on winning, Elizabeth Sloane, who has risen to the highest levels of her profession, appears to be indifferent to the positive or negative effects of the causes she champions. Vanquishing the opposition, whoever they are, seems to be all that matters to her.

So it comes as a shock to her colleagues when, driven by personal conviction, Sloane abruptly changes sides in the fight over a pending gun-control bill.

All the more so, since her new stance entails abandoning her cushy position with a topflight firm, led by George Dupont (Sam Waterston), and signing on with a fledgling outfit headed by do-gooder Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong) for what Sloane realizes will be an uphill battle against the National Rifle Association and its allies.

Potential casualties in the high-stakes conflict that follows initially include Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), one of the staff members who switched companies with Sloane and who, as Sloane knows, harbors a long-hidden secret. But eventually, with no holds barred in the escalating struggle, Sloane’s own future hangs in the balance as well.

Despite its obvious and, for Hollywood, predictable partisan bias, and its preference for dramatic effect over ethical seriousness, as penned by Jonathan Perera, “Miss Sloane” is fundamentally moral.

Yet the movie’s exploration of its protagonist’s unhealthy personal life, in which she uses strapping prostitute Robert Forde (Jake Lacy) as a partner for emotionally empty, commitment-free sex, will be off-putting even for some mature viewers.

Sloane’s interaction with Forde is of a piece with her daytime transgressions. Everything is to be sacrificed to the advancement of her career: marriage, family life, the well-being of colleagues and, of course, nearly all standards of right and wrong. None of this is endorsed by the narrative, quite the opposite, though Sloane’s adversaries are portrayed as being even more unprincipled than she is.

Given that this is a thriller, the emphasis is on the twists and turns of the clash rather than on what it all means, either for those engaged in it or for the audience. So moviegoers should be on the lookout for upended expectations rather than deep insights.

The film contains semi-graphic nonmarital sexual activity, a prostitution theme, several uses of profanity, a tasteless religious joke and frequent 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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‘Office Christmas Party’ is sleazy and generic as its title

December 9th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Cubicle drones cuts loose in “Office Christmas Party.” The result is a sleazy soiree, an “Animal House” toga wingding for the spreading-middle and receding-hairline set.

T.J. Miller and Courtney B. Vance star in a scene from the movie "Office Christmas Party." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. (CNS photo/Paramount)

T.J. Miller and Courtney B. Vance star in a scene from the movie “Office Christmas Party.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. (CNS photo/Paramount)

What matters here is that seemingly respectable bourgeois business types should be emboldened, via the consumption of vast amounts of alcohol, to Xerox their bare backsides and use a 3-D copier for a still more vulgar purpose. What most emphatically does not matter is the plot that gets them there.

Nonetheless, here goes: To impress Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), a potential client who thinks their company suffers from low employee morale, Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller), the laid-back branch manager of a family-owned internet firm, and Josh Parker (Jason Bateman), his chief tech officer, defy their uptight CEO, Clay’s sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston), by going ahead with the office Christmas party she had ordered them to cancel.

Predictably, things get out of hand with destruction and debauchery running rampant. Cocaine winds up in a fake-snow blower; Nate (Karan Soni), the resident geek, hires a call girl named Savannah (Abbey Lee) to pose as his girlfriend; and we get a peek of group sex going on in a bathroom stall.

As all that suggests, directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon’s grossly stupid get-together is a regrets-only affair that viewers concerned either with taste or morality or, better yet, with both will happily decline to attend.

The film contains brief sacrilegious humor, strong sexual content, including full nudity and implied aberrant behavior, drug use, a prostitution theme, 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.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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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

By

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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