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‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ deploys Christian imagery

July 14th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Monkey business turns deadly serious in “War for the Planet of the Apes,” the climactic installment of the rebooted film franchise based on the work of French science-fiction author Pierre Boulle (1912-1994).

This is a scene from the movie "War for the Planet of the Apes." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults.  (CNS photo/Fox)

This is a scene from the movie “War for the Planet of the Apes.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Fox)

This grim, violent 3-D movie picks up two years after the events of 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” which presaged a great conflict between the super-sentient simians (rendered remarkably lifelike in CGI) and what’s left of the human race after a devastating epidemic.  

Caesar (Andy Serkis), the erudite ape leader, is battle-scarred and weary. He wants nothing more than to lead his people, Moses-like, to a promised land in the desert, far away from the enemy.

“We are not savages,” he insists.

Unfortunately, the ragtag human army has other plans. Its leader, the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), is hell-bent on annihilation. With his bald head, crazy eyes, and messianic complex, he’s a dead ringer for another colonel, Kurtz, in “Apocalypse Now.”

When tragedy strikes the apes’ compound, Caesar is transformed, and not for the better. A personal loss fills him with rage and a desire to seek revenge on the Colonel.

Abandoning his flock, Caesar sets out for the heart of darkness, accompanied by Maurice (Karin Konoval), his trusted orangutan adviser, and Rocket (Terry Notary), his right hand.

Along the way they pick up a mute human girl (Amiah Miller), whom they christen “Nova” (after the former Chevrolet automobile), as well as a manic simian called Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who provides welcome comic relief.

Director Matt Reeves, who co-wrote the screenplay with Matt Bomback, earnestly strives for epic status with grandly staged battle scenes, but is a bit heavy-handed when it comes to religious imagery. In fact, a better title for this film would be “The Passion of the Apes,” especially as Caesar is scourged and hung on a St. Andrew cross while his fellow apes are tortured or killed.

However, the spiritual messages are decidedly mixed, even troubling. While the apes espouse winning Christian values of peace, love, and family, there’s a subtle anti-Christian message in the evil Colonel, who wears a cross around his neck, displays one in his quarters, and gleefully announces that he is waging a “holy war.”

The film contains frequent stylized violence, two uses of profanity, and a subtle anti-Christian message. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

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A third new paint job for ‘Cars 3’

June 14th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Fasten your seatbelts and start your engines for a wild (and often ear-splitting) ride in “Cars 3,” the latest installment of the family-friendly animated franchise.

Six years after the initial sequel and 11 since the series began with “Cars,” the anthropomorphic autos are back with a vengeance. Director Brian Fee ramps up the racing action (and the roar of the engines) while introducing a fleet of new characters sure to please young viewers, not to mention toy manufacturers.

This is a scene from the movie "Cars 3." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage.  (CNS /Disney)

This is a scene from the movie “Cars 3.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. (CNS /Disney)

Happily, there’s much more than the dizzying blur of NASCAR-like action. Screenwriters Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich inject a nice amount of heart and pathos into the comedic plot, and add winning messages about second chances and the value of mentoring.

The years have been kind to ace racer Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson). He’s still at the top of his game. But just over his shoulder is a new generation of faster vehicles, like the brash rookie Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer).

“Enjoy your retirement,” Jackson tells Lightning as he whizzes past.

In a flash, Lightning is sidelined by an accident. Disillusioned and depressed, he retreats to his adopted home of Radiator Springs. There he draws on the support of his loyal tow-truck sidekick, Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy), and comely Porsche sweetheart, Sally (voice of Bonnie Hunt).

Sally knows Lightning must look to the future. “Don’t fear failure,” she insists. “Take a chance. Try something new.”

A spiffy fresh paint job by Ramone (voice of Cheech Marin) helps. “It’s so beautiful,” Ramone says of his own work, “it’s like the Sistine Chapel!”

With his spirits buoyed, Lightning heads to the training center run by his sponsor, Rust-Eze, and its new owner, the “businesscar” Sterling (voice of Nathan Fillion). His eager young coach, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), is thrilled with her new, if elderly, charge.

“You’re my senior project!” she gushes.

As the bond between veteran racer and rookie wannabe grows, Lightning recalls the wisdom of his dearly departed mentor, Doc Hudson (voice of Paul Newman). On a whim, he takes Cruz on a road trip to find Doc’s original trainer, a grizzled ’51 Ford named Smokey (voice of Chris Cooper), to recapture some of the old magic.

“You’ll never be the racer you once were,” Smokey intones. “You can’t turn back the clock, kid, but you can wind it up again.”

“Cars 3” is full of surprises, and there’s a nice twist in store well before the finish line.

Preceding “Cars 3” is a short film entitled “Lou.” It’s a charming fable about a playground bully who learns the error of his ways thanks to some enchanted objects in his school’s lost-and-found box.

The film contains a brief, highly stylized crash scene. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G.

 

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‘Megan Leavey’ and a Marine’s best friend

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

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Catholic News Service

Man’s best friend is also a lifesaver in “Megan Leavey,” the inspiring true story of a female Marine corporal and the bomb-sniffing dog she bonded with during the Iraq War.

Kate Mara stars in a scene from the movie "Megan Leavey." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Bleecker Street)

Kate Mara stars in a scene from the movie “Megan Leavey.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Bleecker Street)

Leavey and Rex, her trusty German shepherd, together completed more than 100 combat missions in Fallujah and Ramadi, uncovering roadside bombs and caches of weapons, before an explosion sidelined both in 2006.

It’s a supremely heroic and exciting story that transfers well to the big screen, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite from a screenplay by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo and Tim Lovestedt.

We first meet Megan (Kate Mara) before she enlists, and her life does not make a pretty picture. A listless and depressed 20-year-old, she’s mourning the overdose death of her best friend and coping with her parents’ ugly divorce.

Megan lives with her harridan of a mother, Jackie (Edie Falco). Her sensitive father, Bob (Bradley Whitford), provides a refuge from Mom’s persistent nagging.

On a whim, Megan decides to jump-start her life by enlisting in the Marines. It’s a huge leap from her shiftless existence to such a regimented life, and rebellious Megan butts heads often with her superiors.

Caught urinating in public after a night on the town, Megan is nearly expelled. Her punishment is to clean out the cages of the K9 Division, the elite unit of bomb-sniffing dogs headed by Gunnery Sgt. Martin (Common).

It’s dirty work, of course, but Megan perseveres and has an unexpected epiphany. Witnessing the strong bond between the German shepherds and their human trainers, she decides to try her hand. Overcoming cynicism and verbal abuse from her male counterparts, Megan connects with her charge, Rex, and soon both head to Iraq.

On dangerous sorties, the duo proves its mettle, saving countless lives by uncovering land mines and exposing enemy weapons. As her self-confidence grows, Megan opens her heart further and falls for fellow Marine and dog handler Matt Morales (Ramon Rodriguez).

But fate intervenes during an ambush, when an explosion injures both Megan and Rex. Sent home to recover, Megan is devastated to be separated from her beloved canine, now reassigned.

Suffering from physical injuries as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, Megan decides not to re-enlist. But she is determined to reunite one day with Rex and adopt him as her own.

With its gritty portrayal of the horrors of combat, “Megan Leavey” is a reminder of the personal sacrifices made by those who serve our country, as well as a salute to the enduring rewards of friendship.

The film contains a few scenes of intense wartime violence, off-screen nonmarital sexual activity, several profanities and occasional rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

 

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‘Snatched’ — Occasionally amusing, often vulgar

By

Catholic News Service

There’s a kernel of goodness at the heart of the mother-daughter comedy “Snatched.” But the minority of grown viewers for whom the film is acceptable will have to wade through a veritable cesspool of bad taste to approach it.

Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn star in a scene from the movie "Snatched."(CNS photo/Fox)

Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn star in a scene from the movie “Snatched.”(CNS photo/Fox)

That’s a pity, because this fast-moving feature is occasionally amusing and marks a welcome return to the big screen for Goldie Hawn as Linda, an overprotective but sensible and loving mom.

Linda never condones the lewd antics of her estranged daughter, Emily (Amy Schumer). Instead she labors patiently for Emily’s redemption from evil and selfishness.

That’s no easy goal to achieve, and their relationship is put to a further test when Emily persuades her mother to join her on a getaway to Ecuador.

Emily intended to go with her rocker boyfriend, Michael (Randall Park), but he dumps her on the eve of their departure. With a nonrefundable vacation package, and no friends willing to go, Emily takes pity on her mother.

Linda is a free spirit and homebody, caring for her cats and her agoraphobic son, Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz). Afraid of her own shadow, she’s an unlikely candidate for a South American adventure.

“Help me put the ‘fun’ in ‘nonrefundable,’” Emily pleads.

So off they go to a fancy resort on the edge of the Ecuadorian jungle.

Linda is content to sit by the pool and read her book. But Emily seeks romance, and soon hooks up with handsome stranger James (Tom Bateman).

This Mr. Wrong lures Emily and Linda into the jungle with the promise of waterfalls and rainbows. It’s a setup, and mother and daughter are kidnapped and held for ransom by the treacherous Morgano (Oscar Jaenada).

“Snatched” wastes no time with the perils of these Paulines, piling on the slapstick (and vulgarity) as they escape into the bush. Help comes from a mysterious guide named Roger (Christopher Meloni), and fellow resort guests Ruth (Wanda Sykes) and Barb (Joan Cusack).

As directed by Jonathan Levine from a screenplay by Katie Dippold, “Snatched” is a slapdash, cliche-ridden send-up of exploitation movies. It’s only redeemable feature is a message about a mother’s unconditional love and the enduring family bond, which manages to shine through a very dirty exterior, as indicated by the warnings below.

The film contains brief upper female nudity, persistent sexual humor and innuendo and pervasive rough 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.

 

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘The Promise’ melds love story with historical tragedy

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

By

Catholic News Service

The relatively little-known genocide of the Armenian people by the Ottoman Turks 100 years ago is brought into sharp focus by “The Promise.”

Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale star in a scene from the movie "The Promise." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Open Road Films)

Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale star in a scene from the movie “The Promise.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Open Road Films)

Taking his cue from epics like “Doctor Zhivago,” director Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”), who co-wrote the screenplay with Robin Swicord, melds an important history lesson with a tender love story. Viewers will emerge with newfound knowledge of the enormity of the holocaust (1.5 million people killed between 1915 and 1922) while appreciating its profound impact on individuals and families.

The story begins in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) in 1914. World War I is on the horizon, and the formerly mighty Ottoman Empire, which once controlled vast areas of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, is crumbling.

Michael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac), an idealistic medical student from a small Armenian village in southern Turkey, is entranced by the cosmopolitan city, and especially by Ana Khesarian (Charlotte Le Bon), a vivacious artist and fellow Armenian.

Never mind that Michael has made a promise of marriage to Maral (Angela Sarafyan), who awaits him back home. Nor that Ana is seeing firebrand American journalist Chris Myers (Christian Bale), who’s in Turkey to document the war.

Michael and Ana fall in love. But their plans for the future are spoiled when Turkey joins the war on the German side, and decides to embark on a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Up to this point, Muslim Turks and Armenian Christians have long lived together in relative harmony. All that changes, surreptitiously at first, as Turkish soldiers force Armenians from their homes. Most are shot outright; some are marched into the desert to prison labor camps.

As Armenians, Michael and Ana are targeted. Chris attempts to report on the killings and inform the world, but is arrested.

“The Promise” follows the travails of each character as the slaughter intensifies. Chris’ plight attracts the attention of the real-life American ambassador, Henry Morgenthau (James Cromwell), who sounds the alarm.

Remarkable courage, perseverance and their unwavering Christian faith sustain the victims against all odds. “Our revenge will be to survive,” Ana tells Michael.

Despite the warnings below, given its potential to raise awareness of a historical tragedy, one that the Turkish government, to this day, has never acknowledged , “The Promise” is probably acceptable for mature adolescents.

The film contains scenes of wartime atrocities and violence, a nongraphic, nonmarital sexual encounter and brief crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Saban’s Power Rangers’ in bad taste despite Krispy Kremes

By

Catholic News Service

NEW YORK — A Saturday morning children’s show gets its third big-screen treatment with “Saban’s Power Rangers.”

Regrettably, unlike the two previous films in the franchise, this latest incarnation of the popular 1990s program (then called “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”) is more suitable for late night TV, because of a preponderance of crass humor, off-color language and inappropriate sexual references.

Ludi Lin, Becky G, Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott and RJ Cyler star in a scene from the movie "Saban's Power Rangers." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.  (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Ludi Lin, Becky G, Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott and RJ Cyler star in a scene from the movie “Saban’s Power Rangers.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Such vulgar updating of a relatively wholesome (if somewhat cheesy) concept is baffling, unless director Dean Israelite (“Project Almanac”) and no fewer than five screenwriters were charged with a command to be relevant. That would also explain, in part, why one of the five teen superheroes, Trini (Becky G), aka the Yellow Ranger, is now gay. The subject of Trini’s homosexuality is confined to a single acknowledgement that she prefers girls over boys; she does not act out her inclination.

The bare-bones of the original series, a Japanese invention adapted for American audiences by Saban Entertainment, remain. Five high school students meet in after-school detention, each there for a different reason.

Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is the football star who fell from grace, wrecking several automobiles in the process. He has eyes for comely rebel Kimberly (Naomi Scott), recently cast out of her popular clique at school. Resident nerd Billy (RJ Cyler) is brilliant but often bullied. Zack (Ludi Lin) is a cool dude cast from the James Dean mold. And Trini is a moody loner who throws a mean left hook.

The quintet meets outside class by chance at an abandoned gold mine. There they discover five shiny coins, each a different color. This is no spare change, as the trinkets emit otherworldly powers which begin to transform our teens, a la Spider-Man, into superheroes.

Digging deeper into the mine, they discover an alien spacecraft and with it, their destiny. The disembodied deity Zordon (voice of Bryan Cranston) and his robot sidekick, Alpha 5 (voice of Bill Hader), have been waiting eons for our teens to take up the mantle of defenders of good over evil, in other words, become the Power Rangers.

So, our ragtag bunch undergoes extensive Ninja-like training to learn how to morph into their armor-clad alter egos, each a distinctive color: red (Jason), pink (Kimberly), blue (Billy), yellow (Trini) and black (Zack).

Their reinvention comes not a moment too soon. Zordon’s ancient nemesis, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), has been revived and is hell-bent on world domination. She has a particular penchant for gold, rampaging countless mall jewelry stores to build a colossal monster that will locate the all-powerful “zeo-crystal.”

If this sounds silly and mindless, it is, and had the film taken a different tack it would have been escapist fun for all ages.

In the end, not even the amusing gag of locating of the zeo-crystal beneath the local branch of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, also an extreme example of product placement, can make up for the film’s excess of bad taste.

The film contains much crude humor, rough language, sexual innuendo and references to homosexuality and masturbation. 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.

 

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Beauty (‘must-see film intended for children’) and the Beast’ (‘agenda at odds with Christian values’)

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Catholic News Service

Disney’s live-action adaptation of its beloved 1991 animated film “Beauty and the Beast” arrives in theaters amid controversy over the updating of one of its characters into an openly gay man.

Emma Watson stars in a scene from the movie "Beauty and the Beast." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. . (CNS photo/Disney)

Emma Watson stars in a scene from the movie “Beauty and the Beast.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. . (CNS photo/Disney)

The decision of the studio, director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”), and screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos to reimagine LeFou (Josh Gad), sidekick of the villainous Gaston (Luke Evans), as Disney’s so-called “first gay character” is a regrettable one. A cherished family film has, in essence, been appropriated for an underlying agenda that is firmly at odds with Christian values.

Parents will have a hard time explaining to their kids, as most know the cartoon by heart, why LeFou has jumped on the homosexual bandwagon. His amorous advances to Gaston, proud display of a bite mark from Gaston on his stomach (due to “wrestling”), and ultimate dance in the arms of another man will raise eyebrows, to say the least.

Admittedly, many grown moviegoers will take LeFou’s transformation in stride. “Beauty and the Beast,” however, is a must-see film intended for children. Given the clear intent to make a statement with the character in question, the restrictive classification assigned below is a caution for viewers of faith, especially parents.

The pall cast over “Beauty and the Beast” is unfortunate, as the film is largely an imaginative and engaging work with an arresting visual style. An old-fashioned Hollywood musical at heart, it brims with familiar songs by Alan Menken and whirling dance sequences worthy of Busby Berkeley.

Like the cartoon, this film is loosely based on the 1740 fairy tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. The eponymous lovely, Belle (Emma Watson), is a spirited maiden in a French village who longs for excitement.

“I want adventure in the great-wide somewhere,” she warbles. “I want so much more than they’ve got planned!”

Be careful what you wish for, dearie. No sooner does she spurn the advances of the vain hunter Gaston than Belle winds up imprisoned in a haunted castle, having swapped places with her kidnapped father, Maurice (Kevin Kline).

Enter said Beast (Dan Stevens), aka The Prince. We learn in an extended prologue that this handsome royal was transferred into a horned (but infinitely more dapper) version of Chewbacca from the “Star Wars” franchise by Agathe (Hattie Morahan), an enchantress, as punishment for his selfishness.

Agathe’s curse extended to The Prince’s staff, who became not furry creatures but household objects. These exceedingly loquacious items include Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), a stuffy mantel clock; Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), a dancing candelabra; Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), a motherly teapot, and her cup of a son, Chip (Nathan Mack); and musical duo Cadenza (Stanley Tucci), a harspichord, and Garderobe (Audra McDonald), a wardrobe.

Only if Beauty grows to love the Beast will the spell be broken, which seems a very long shot for this odd couple. A courtship ensues, with a lesson on looking beyond outward appearances for true love, until a vengeful Gaston raises an angry mob to kill the Beast, casting doubt on a happy ending.

Even in the absence of the hot-button issue already discussed, young children might be frightened by several dark moments in the movie, including attacks by wolves and Gaston’s violent assault on the Beast’s castle.

The film contains a few scenes of peril and action violence, a benign view of homosexual activity, and some sexual innuendo. 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.

 

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‘Rock Dog’ — Sheep, dogs and rock ‘n’ roll

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

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Catholic News Service

“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog,” Elvis Presley crooned six decades ago. That pretty well describes “Rock Dog,” a feeble animated comedy about a canine with unlikely musical aspirations.

On Snow Mountain, high in the Himalayas, a Tibetan Mastiff named Bodi (voice of Luke Wilson) is stuck in the shadow of his stern father, Khampa (voice of J.K. Simmons). Their two-dog mission is to guard the village from marauding wolves eager to eat the resident sheep population.

Animated characters Bodi, voiced by Luke Wilson and Angus Scattergood, voiced by Eddie Lzzard, star in a scene from the movie "Rock Dog." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.(CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Animated characters Bodi, voiced by Luke Wilson and Angus Scattergood, voiced by Eddie Lzzard, star in a scene from the movie “Rock Dog.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.(CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Bodi prefers playing his guitar to sentry duty. When a passing airplane drops a radio from the sky, it’s like manna from heaven. Turning the dial to a rock ‘n’ roll station (reception is remarkably clear), Bodi is entranced by the music of legendary rock-and-roller Angus Scattergood (voice of Eddie Izzard).

The village elder, fittingly named Fleetwood Yak (voice of Sam Elliott), convinces Khampa to let his son leave the village and seek his destiny in the big city.

“It’s your life. Make it a happy one,” Fleetwood tells Bodi.

So Bodi hops the bus (mass transit is also surprisingly good), lands in the nearby metropolis, filled with anthropomorphic species, and seeks out Angus’ heavily guarded compound.

The aging rocker, a hipster cat with a British accent and a sassy robot butler named Ozzie, invites the awestruck fan into his lair, but his motives are not sincere. Angus needs a new hit, and Bodi’s fresh talent might be just the ticket.

Meanwhile, the big bad wolf pack, led by Linnux (voice of Lewis Black), is inspired by Bodi’s departure to mount a final assault on Snow Mountain. Sporting gangster attire and driving stretch limos, these cool dudes have one goal in mind: feasting on grilled lamb chops.

Director and co-writer (with Kurt Voelker) Ash Bannon keeps the story moving while borrowing heavily from other animated films, including “Zootopia” and “WALL-E.”

Despite the dangers characters occasionally face and Angus’ mildly intemperate language (he says things like “stupid bloody idiot!”), “Rock Dog” is mindless fare acceptable for all. except possibly the most easily frightened.

The film contains a few scenes of peril. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

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‘The Resurrection of Gavin Stone’

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Catholic News Service

The parable of the prodigal son gets a soapy Hollywood treatment in “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” a faith-based comedy-drama.

The eponymous character (Brett Dalton) is a washed-up former child star whose bad-boy antics land him in big trouble during a visit to his hometown in Illinois. Sentenced to perform 200 hours of community service and unable to leave the state, Gavin reluctantly moves back in with his estranged father, Waylon (Neil Flynn), a carpenter (hint, hint).

Gavin’s community service is at an evangelical Christian megachurch run by Pastor Allen Richardson (D.B. Sweeney). “We really do believe in second chances here,” the pastor says.

Naturally, Gavin is a fish out of water and unused to cleaning bathrooms.

Fortunately, there is an outlet for his creative energy. The church is rehearsing a Passion play for Easter, and the ragtag group of volunteer actors could use some inspiration.

The production’s comely director, Kelly Richardson (Anjelah Johnson-Reyes), who happens to be the pastor’s daughter, is suspicious of the flashy newcomer. All actors must be professed Christians, so Gavin pretends he is saved.

“I’ve had the passion of the Christ for a couple of years now,” Gavin quips.

Before you can say “Alleluia!” Gavin is cast in the lead as Jesus, sheds his narcissism, and begins to see the light, as per the film’s title.

Dallas Jenkins directs with sincerity from a predictable but non-preachy script by Andrea Gyerston Nasfell that offers lessons in forgiveness and redemption suitable for all ages.

The film contains a nongraphic portrayal of the Crucifixion. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

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‘Sleepless’ is awash in blood and silliness

By

Catholic News Service

There’s little chance of catching a quick nap during “Sleepless,” a noisy, vulgar, and highly violent police drama.

Michelle Monaghan and Jamie Foxx star in a scene from the movie "Sleepless." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS/Open Road Films)

Michelle Monaghan and Jamie Foxx star in a scene from the movie “Sleepless.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS/Open Road Films)

Based on the 2011 French film “Nuit Blanche” (“Sleepless Night”), this tense thriller, directed by Baran bo Odar, involves a complex game of cat-and-mouse between law enforcement and drug dealers on the mean streets of Las Vegas.

“This city is crawling with dirty cops,” declares Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan), an internal affairs investigator for Sin City’s police department. Badly beaten while trying to break up a narcotics ring, she suspects her fellow officers were behind the attack.

The dirtiest cops may be Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) and his partner, Sean Cass (rapper T.I.). Both are dealing cocaine on the side, supplying Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney), a smarmy casino owner, as well as the local drug lord, Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy).

When a delivery goes awry, Novak’s henchmen are killed, and Cass runs off with the cocaine, Rubino plots his revenge. He kidnaps Downs’ son, Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson), and holds him hostage until Downs can deliver the goods.

Despite being stabbed in the chest, Downs races against the clock (and fends off sleep) to retrieve the drugs and rescue his son, all the while pursued by Bryant and her partner, Doug Dennison (David Harbour).

Added to the mix is Downs’ ex-wife (and Thomas’ mom) Dena (Gabrielle Union), an emergency room nurse who just happens to be handy with a pistol.

Andrea Berloff’s script, awash in blood (and silliness), tries to keep viewers guessing until the very end as loyalties shift and true identities are revealed. The last-minute message that crime doesn’t pay barely retrieves this gritty vigil from being ruled out for all.

The film contains relentless graphic violence, including gunplay and torture, and pervasive crude and profane 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.

 

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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