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Remember ‘Jason Bourne’? He’s back

July 29th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Nearly all of the characters in “Jason Bourne” are under surveillance, being hacked, or in the gun sight of a government assassin.

Matt Damon stars in a scene from the movie "Jason Bourne." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Universal Pictures)

Matt Damon stars in a scene from the movie “Jason Bourne.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Universal Pictures)

Director Paul Greengrass, who co-scripted with Christopher Rouse, bookends the story with extended car and motorcycle chases, with the result that vehicle casualties considerably outnumber the body count from weapons.

Although the number of shootings does necessitate an adult rating, the film’s lack of gore and relatively mild language make this possibly acceptable for older adolescents, especially those who understand that the longer the car chase, the thinner the plot.

Matt Damon returns in the fifth big-screen outing for the monosyllabic government agent who first appeared in the novels of Robert Ludlum. He’s still seeking justice for his father, who died in a “black ops” expedition in Beirut some years earlier, and for himself, since the CIA’s Operation Treadstone turned him into a pitiless killer with memory problems.

He finally gets close to learning the truth about the project when Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), his fellow operative from the earlier installments, downloads all the relevant files onto a flash drive with the intention of putting them online. This produces the comment, from an anxious CIA official, “We’ve just been hacked. Could be worse than Edward Snowden.”

This threat never comes to pass, though. The CIA, it seems, not only has video cameras worldwide, it can shut down any computer with just a few clicks. And since CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) prefers killing people off rather than having them arrested and imprisoned, Nicky is doomed.

The moral center here is the CIA’s tech whiz Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who manages to warn Jason about impending peril in the nick of time with split-second texting and protect him with a sharpshooter’s aim.

The ethics of making secret government information available to the world becomes an undeveloped story thread.

There’s also a subplot about an underhand deal between the government and tech mogul Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed). But this only serves as another way of putting Jason and Heather in shared danger.

The film contains frequent gun and physical violence and fleeting profanities. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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‘Bad Moms,’ worse morality

July 29th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

As jointly written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the suburban-set comedy “Bad Moms” has some valid points to make about the challenges of modern parenting.

Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn star in a scene from "Bad Moms." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. (CNS photo/STX Productions))

Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn star in a scene from “Bad Moms.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. (CNS photo/STX Productions))

Yet their script’s preoccupation with jokes about how kids get here in the first place overshadows the positive aspects of the duo’s film.

More damagingly, they also send an ambiguous message about marital fidelity that viewers of faith would find convoluted at best.

Their plot, at least, is straightforward enough: stressed-out mother Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) reaches her breaking point and rebels against her taxing daily routine. She demands that her teenage son, Dylan (Emjay Anthony), and tween daughter, Jane (Oona Laurence), start fending for themselves in minor ways. And she begins indulging herself by skipping work, drinking and relaxing.

Aided by two other like-minded moms — timid housewife Kiki (Kristen Bell) and raucous loudmouth Carla (Kathryn Hahn) — Amy also takes on aggressive perfectionist Gwendolyn James (Christina Applegate), the bullying head of her local PTA.

One of the factors contributing to Amy’s revolt is her discovery that her husband, Mike (David Walton), has been having an online affair for the better part of a year. For most of the movie, she wavers between trying to repair her marriage and dumping Mike for Jessie (Jay Hernandez), the widowed father of one of her daughter’s classmates.

The dialogue suggests that Amy and Mike’s union may have been flawed from the start. She was only 20 when they married, we’re told, and they were trying to do the right thing since she was pregnant. So presumably their case would not be laughed out of court at a marriage tribunal. On the other hand, Amy’s fresh romance turns physical long before any potential divorce proceedings have even begun.

The screenplay’s outlook on sexuality in general, moreover, is low-minded and excessively permissive. Moviegoers are meant to be amused, for instance, when Carla experiments with same-sex kissing at a wild party.

Such indulgence extends to drugs as well. In a scene where a roomful of mothers are taking turns confessing their shortcomings as parents, one acknowledges confiscating her kid’s marijuana, then smoking it herself.

So, while it scores some points for its observations about exhausted grownups and over-scheduled children, moral sloppiness earns “Bad Moms” a failing grade.

The film contains strong sexual content including full nudity, brief masturbation and semi-graphic adultery, a frivolous attitude toward homosexual acts and narcotics use, pervasive sexual humor, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, and constant 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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Finding ‘Nerve’ implausible and unfocused

July 27th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Though geared to teens, the potentially intriguing drama “Nerve” includes visual and verbal elements that make it unfit fare even for mature adolescents.

Emma Roberts and Dave Franco star in a scene from the movie "Nerve." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Emma Roberts and Dave Franco star in a scene from the movie “Nerve.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

As for their elders, they’ll find that the film’s original promise gets lost through a lack of focus well before it reaches its thoroughly implausible conclusion.

The action centers on an online game in which viewers pay to watch players fulfill real-life dares in exchange for significant sums of money. Primarily in an effort to shake her reputation for conformity, straight-laced New York City high school senior Venus “Vee” Delmonico (Emma Roberts) signs up to participate.

Though her devil-may-care best friend Sydney (Emily Meade), already a contestant, was the first to urge Vee to take part, she gets more than she bargained for when Vee’s popularity with so-called “watchers” begins to outstrip her own. But then Vee has romance on her side, since her partnership with vaguely mysterious fellow competitor Ian (Dave Franco, in a charismatic performance) is freighted with mutual attraction.

Perhaps following the lead of her source material, Jeanne Ryan’s 2012 novel, screenwriter Jessica Sharzer dissipates the story’s energy trying to check too many boxes. Social commentary competes with the love story until, as the titular contest’s stunts accelerate from the merely embarrassing to the truly dangerous, thrills take center stage.

Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s film can also be considered a cautionary tale. Thus Vee’s pal and would-be boyfriend, Tommy (Miles Heizer), who serves as the movie’s voice of reason, looks on from the sidelines with justified dismay. Yet parents may nonetheless be concerned that the picture will unintentionally inspire imitation.

Additionally, one of the first challenges we’re shown, rather gratuitously, being met involves partial public nudity. Dialogue indicating that Sydney’s insecurity has led her to become promiscuous is confirmed, moreover, in a bedroom scene that, although not explicit, is sordid.

Like those with a fear of heights, for whom a trio of high-rise dares would make baneful viewing, youngsters should be steered clear of “Nerve.”

The film contains potentially disturbing scenes of life-threatening peril, rear female nudity, nongraphic casual sexual activity, some scatological humor, several uses each of crude and crass language and an obscene gesture. 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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Fifth ‘Ice Age’ film veers off course

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Catholic News Service

Weakly constructed and inappropriate, in some respects, for its target audience, “Ice Age: Collision Course,” has little to recommend it.

This is a scene from the movie "Ice Age: Collision Course." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II,  adults and adolescents. CNS photo/20th Century Fox Film

This is a scene from the movie “Ice Age: Collision Course.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. CNS photo/20th Century Fox Film

This fifth installment of the animated franchise for children that dates back to 2002 also is tainted by a vaguely anti-religious undertone that seems to exalt science at the expense of faith.

Believing moviegoers will sense that ill-defined vibe from the start, since the narration over the opening scenes purports to tell the real story of how the universe came into existence. In fact, what follows merely shows us how Scrat, the acorn-obsessed squirrel whose dialogue-free antics have been one of the series’ assets, somehow wound up in outer space, where his frantic pursuit of his favorite food item caused various, humorously portrayed changes in our solar system.

Scrat’s chase also gets the plot rolling when he inadvertently sets a giant asteroid on a potentially cataclysmic collision course with the Earth. Down on terra firma, that spells trouble for all existing life forms, including Manny (voice of Ray Romano), the good-hearted but gloomy wooly mammoth who has featured in all the “Ice Age” films.

As an overprotective dad, Manny is already struggling to cope with his sunny daughter Peaches’ (voice of Keke Palmer) engagement to her boyfriend, Julian (voiced by Adam Devine). Despite the best efforts of his levelheaded wife, Ellie (voice of Queen Latifah), to foster good relations between them, Manny resents Julian and rebuffs his soon-to-be son-in-law’s displays of affection.

Such minor domestic discord is, of course, put in the shade once the cosmic threat becomes apparent. What to do to save the world? The unlikely answer involves a journey to a field of magnetic rocks that Manny and company hope can be used to divert the asteroid.

This implausible scheme is the brainchild of eccentric, British-accented weasel Buck (voice of Simon Pegg) who goes on to serve as the family’s not-always-reliable guide along their quest.

Directed by Michael Thurmeier and Galen Tan Chu, the scattershot proceedings also take in lonely sloth Sid’s (voice of John Leguizamo) search for love.

While the slapstick comedy around which the shaky story is built is obviously aimed at kids, some of the vocabulary and humor is unsuitable for them. And the problematic outlook on religion resurfaces when the travelers encounter Shangri Llama (voiced by Jesse Tyler Ferguson), a guru who is reputed to know everything but turns out to be no help at all.

Science celebrity Neil deGrasse Tyson is also thrown into the mix and given an alter ego, Neil deBuck Weasel. Since Tyson identifies as an agnostic, and is on record as rejecting the idea of a benevolent God, his presence will not be reassuring to parents intent on passing on the faith to their youngsters.

The film contains occasional peril, mildly scatological and anatomical humor 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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‘Star Trek Beyond’ — Franchise arrives at its 13th frontier

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Catholic News Service

Fifty years after its debut on television, “Star Trek” bursts onto the big screen again in its 13th feature-film outing.

Chris Pine, Sofia Boutella and Anton Yelchin star in a scene from the movie "Star Trek Beyond."  (CNS photo/Paramount)

Chris Pine, Sofia Boutella and Anton Yelchin star in a scene from the movie “Star Trek Beyond.” (CNS photo/Paramount)

While the bad luck dreaded by triskaidekaphobes fails to curse the aesthetics of this latest production, there is an unwelcome, though fleeting, development in the moral realm.

Overall, “Star Trek Beyond” is a rousing and rambunctious 3-D adventure, directed at a furious pace by Justin Lin. That seems natural enough, given that Lin is perhaps best known for helming several of the films in the “Fast & Furious” franchise.

Here, with nary an automobile in sight, Lin embraces the universe as his canvas and makes the most of it. He stages thrilling scenes of galactic peril, including the wholesale destruction of the Starship Enterprise.

Fortunately, screenwriters Doug Jung and Simon Pegg (who plays Chief Engineer Scotty) allow viewers to pause and catch their breath, interspersing quieter scenes of the crew members bonding for character development.

Fatigue and malaise have struck the denizens of the Enterprise at the midpoint of their five-year mission. The captain, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), is jaded and restless. The romance between Cmdr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) has waned. Ship’s doctor “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) is crankier than ever.

In a twist that has made headlines, helmsman Sulu (John Cho) is revealed to be gay. In a brief scene, he’s shown with a male partner and young daughter. The casualness with which this situation is treated is itself part of an underlying agenda.

The Enterprise docks at a floating metropolis called Yorktown for a refit. There Kirk receives his next mission: A distress call in an uncharted part of the galaxy, ergo, “beyond” must be answered.

It’s a trap, of course, and before you can say, “Beam me up, Scotty,” the ship is destroyed and the crew taken hostage on a hostile planet.

A reptilian megalomaniac named Krall (Idris Elba) is to blame. He seeks the wholesale destruction of humanity (of course) through use of the ultimate weapon (what else?).

Krall’s motives and true identity are revealed in due course. In the meantime, it’s up to Kirk to rally his troops and stage a counterattack against overwhelming odds.

“We will do what we have always done,” says Spock. “We will find hope in the impossible.”

Luckily there’s also a friendly zebra-striped alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) waiting in the wings with a bag of tricks. When she’s not too busy smacking down the baddies, Jaylah likes to fix things and make eyes at Scotty.

“Star Trek Beyond Comprehension” might be a better title for a film so crammed with technical jargon and nostalgic references that only diehard Trekkies will fully understand. Even for those outside that category, however, this could normally be endorsed as a fun summer popcorn movie, though its action is too intense for kids.

Yet, the film climbs aboard the gay-pride bandwagon (which nowadays often feels more like a juggernaut) and embraces an undiscriminating attitude toward actions incompatible with a Gospel-based lifestyle.

Many grown moviegoers may, in reality, be prepared to take this (admittedly incidental) element of the picture in stride. Given the broad cultural impact this widely loved franchise is capable of exerting, though, and the clear intent to make a statement with the scene in question, the restrictive classification assigned below seems necessary as a warning, if nothing else.

The film contains considerable, mostly bloodless violence, including torture, a benign view of homosexual acts and a fleeting sexual reference. 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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‘Lights Out’ looks for humor in haunting

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Catholic News Service

Viewers may find themselves giggling at “Lights Out.” But it won’t be because this feeble horror film has scared them silly.

Gabriel Bateman and Teresa Palmer star in a scene from the movie "Lights Out." (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Gabriel Bateman and Teresa Palmer star in a scene from the movie “Lights Out.” (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Injecting humor into the haunted house scenario, screenwriter Eric Heisserer and first-time director David F. Sandberg undercut the expected terror from things that go bump in the night. The result is pedestrian, predictable, and inspires few chills.

Young Martin (Gabriel Bateman) has a better reason than most 10-year-olds for not being able to get to sleep. His demented mother, Sophie (Maria Bello), is camped out nightly in her dark bedroom with her best friend, a feral creature named Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey). Zombielike Diana is repelled by light, which is why Martin sleeps with a flashlight.

The backstory reveals that Sophie and Diana met as children, when both were committed to a mental institution. Diana contracted a rare skin disease which rendered her hideous and, ultimately, invisible. It was also fatal or so the doctors thought.

Fast forward 20 years, and Sophie is twice married, off her meds, and acting strangely when the sun goes down.

As the body count starts to rise in the dead of night, Sophie’s estranged daughter, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), enters the picture. She left home years ago to escape Mommie Dearest (sorry, wrong movie), but is now determined, with the aid of her lovesick boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia), to rescue her brother.

At a brisk 81 minutes, “Lights Out” doesn’t unduly tax viewers’ patience. Unfortunately, the film’s ending is not only unexpected and shocking, it’s also morally unacceptable.

Were the context any less remote from real life, the movie would have to be considered unsuitable for all. As it is, the otherworldly situation within which the climactic misdeed is committed diminishes its likely influence, meaning that at least a few well-grounded grownups may choose to witness it.

The film contains occasional bloody violence and scary imagery, a suicide, implied nonmarital sexual activity, drug use and some crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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‘Ghostbusters’ women ‘ain’t scared of no ghosts’

July 15th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Few films released over the last several decades have embedded themselves as firmly in the public consciousness as the 1984 comedy “Ghostbusters.”

Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones star in a scene from the movie "Ghostbusters." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults.  (CNS photo/Sony)

Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones star in a scene from the movie “Ghostbusters.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Sony)

Both the lyrics and the tune of its impossible-to-forget theme song cling tenaciously in the collective memory. So too do any number of its one-liners and visual images (“He slimed me!”).

While the franchise offerings that followed generally failed to live up to the quality of the original, they did extend across several media, from the 1989 big-screen sequel “Ghostbusters II” to television, comic books and video games. And lo, these many years later,there arrives a reboot.

The plot of this 3-D “Ghostbusters” runs a similar course to that of its long-ago progenitor. But director and co-writer (with Katie Dippold) Paul Feig mixes things up by shifting the gender balance. In lieu of the Reagan-era male specter collectors — played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson — we get lady metaphysical musketeers.

The first of these we meet is Columbia University physics professor, and tenure aspirant, Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig). With her future on the line, the last thing Erin can afford is to have her colleagues discover that she once collaborated on a book about the paranormal with her now-estranged best friend, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy).

So when Abby, who continues to research the subject, puts their volume up for sale on the internet, Erin pays a visit to Abby’s lab to protest. There she’s introduced to Abby’s current sidekick, tech whiz Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon).

Spooky circumstances soon have Erin and Abby patching up their differences and teaming with Jillian to track the numerous ghosts that have suddenly started popping up around New York City. They’re joined on their hunt by no-nonsense transit worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), whose subway station has fallen victim to one of the hauntings.

Rounding out the band of wraith wranglers is Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), the ditzy hunk of a secretary the women hire after renting office space for their new partnership. The dumb-blond/eye-candy gags aimed at Kevin typify the overall tone of the proceedings, a light note that’s eventually drowned out by an increasingly heavy emphasis on spectacular special effects.

The movie’s treatment of the supernatural is unlikely to lead even the impressionable astray. But the fact that the jokes, though generally harmless, sometimes drift into mild raunchiness makes this suitable for grownups only.

The film contains occult themes, some strong but stylized violence, a suicide, brief irreverence, occasional sexual and scatological humor, at least one use each of profanity and crude language, crass terms and obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘The Infiltrator’ can’t find its suspense

July 15th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Though it’s adapted from Robert Mazur’s memoir of his takedown of the Medellin drug cartel in the 1980s, bankers, not cocaine smugglers, are the real villains in “The Infiltrator.”

Benjamin Bratt and Bryan Cranston star in a scene from the movie "The Infiltrator." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Broad Green Pictures)

Benjamin Bratt and Bryan Cranston star in a scene from the movie “The Infiltrator.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Broad Green Pictures)

The lackluster film, however, doesn’t explain money laundering by Panamanian financiers as well as it showcases Mazur (Bryan Cranston) as an amiable and moral family man leading a double life.

Incredible as it seems today, when all identities are presumably traceable online, Mazur, a U.S. Customs agent, could play “international banker” Bob Musella all day, and still return each evening to a quiet domestic life in Tampa, Florida.

His false persona came complete with an elaborate fake office and a private aircraft supplied through government seizure. On the downside, it also involved fighting gun battles and getting run off roads in high-speed chases.

This obviously must have taken a psychological toll. But director Brad Furman and screenwriter Ellen Brown Furman (the helmer’s mother) downplay this aspect in favor of keeping the multinational deceptions going.

Mazur/Musella’s biggest weapon isn’t a gun, he doesn’t seem to carry one, but rather a tape recorder hidden in his briefcase.

There are a lot of bad guys to deceive: Friendly Panamanian bankers who will disguise any transaction if asked, flamboyant Colombian drug lord Javier Ospina (Yul Vazquez) as well as Ospina’s chief distributor, Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt). Mazur woos Alcaino with the help of Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), an undercover agent on her first assignment who poses as Mazur’s fiancee.

Along the way, Mazur also clashes with fellow operative Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), who gets him into several dangerous scrapes, and with an informant, Dominic (Joseph Gilgun), who enjoys describing the painful means of death that await if Mazur’s elaborate ruse goes awry.

Somewhere in all of this the suspense goes missing. The banking scenes register as light comedy while Mazur’s lengthy efforts to ingratiate himself with Alcaino have the flavor of a domestic drama.

No one discusses the toll of cocaine on addicts, or how drug use leads on to more lethal crimes. Instead, the smuggling is only viewed as an easy way to make considerable money at a time when the U.S. government’s response to addiction largely consisted of the slogan “Just Say No.”

The film contains gun violence with some gore, drug use, implied aberrant sexual activity as well as frequent profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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Movie feature: Film about sexual assault of Polish nuns after WWII a story of hope, says director

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

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Catholic News Service

Anne Fontaine, director of “Coco Before Chanel” and “Gemma Bovery,” released her most recent work, “The Innocents,” about a group of Benedictine nuns in Warsaw, Poland, raped by soldiers after World War II and the doctor who comes to their aid.

Lou de Laage, center, stars in a scene from the movie "The Innocents." The film is about a group of Benedictine nuns in Warsaw, Poland, after World War II and a French doctor who comes to their aid. (CNS photo/Music Box Films)

Lou de Laage, center, stars in a scene from the movie “The Innocents.” The film is about a group of Benedictine nuns in Warsaw, Poland, after World War II and a French doctor who comes to their aid. (CNS photo/Music Box Films)

The film is centered on French Red Cross doctor Mathilde (Lou de Laage), who is stationed in a Warsaw clinic and is found there by a panicked Benedictine nun, begging her to come back with her to the convent. There, to the doctor’s surprise, she finds a sister about to give birth and others in their final stages of pregnancy.

Mathilde, a nonbeliever, enters into the sisters’ strict religious community, abiding by the principles of the order and Mother Abbess (Agata Kulesza). Fearing exposure, the women conceal the hostility forced upon them by Soviet troops, causing an inward battle between their faith traditions and their reality.

In the winter of 1945, mass rape occurred in major Polish cities taken by the Red Army. The nuns were not spared as soldiers rampaged through the convent.

Fontaine said that she was inspired to tell the story after looking through the diary of the French doctor.

“When I first discovered this story, I was so impressed by the intensity and the complexity of the situation,” said Fontaine. “I thought that it would be something very deep and very encouraging for a movie about women inside the community who couldn’t speak with anybody about what happened to them.”

To produce an authentic story, Fontaine said that she worked with a Polish historian who could help piece together the forgotten elements.

“The Innocents,” she said, tells an important story about deep faith.

“It’s about survival,” Fontaine said in a telephone interview from France, where she lives and works. “Even if the facts are dark, very emotional and very difficult, the characters have a possibility to live. Life is more important than anything. Even if it is as traumatizing as that.”

Fontaine said “The Innocents,” in many ways, was different than the other films she has produced.

“It’s very different because it was not a story that was so difficult or complex,” said Fontaine. “There is drama, but it is also a historical movie. It was different because it was in Polish, and I do not understand the language. I had to imagine how they lived together in a community, and the fragility of that community. It was different from my other movies but it was not so different, because there were very strong female characters.”

Despite being a film about World War II, Fontaine said that “The Innocents” takes a different approach.

“The approach is completely from the inside,” said Fontaine. “It is not from a historical point of view. It is from inside the Benedictine community.”

Fontaine explained the message that she hoped audiences would receive after watching the film.

“I think this movie has a message of hope,” said Fontaine. “Even if everything is dark, you have a light somewhere. You can go where something is possible.”

She said that even though the film is focused on a religious community, she hopes that it will appeal to all audiences.

“People feel close to the story, even if they are far,” said Fontaine. “Not many (people) are in the religious community. What happens to these women is so strong and asks so many questions about life, about God, and what is hope. It is something that everyone can ask at any moment in their life, even if it is not the same situation.”

“The Innocents,” which was selected for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, opened July 1 in New York and Los Angeles. A limited national release was to begin July 8.

“The Innocents” is now playing at the Ritz Five in Philadelphia. It’s scheduled to start at The Charles Theatre in Baltimore on July 15.

More information about the film and cities where it is showing can be found at http://tinyurl.com/zrnvt8b.

— By Allana Haynes

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Pet story: When the humans are away…

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Catholic News Service

Back in 1995, the classic children’s film “Toy Story” purported to show audiences what playthings get up to when they aren’t being observed by people. Now “The Secret Life of Pets” does much the same for domesticated animals.

Max, voiced by Louis C.K., Duke, voiced by Eric Stonestreet and Katie, voiced by Ellie Kemper, appear in the animated movie "The Secret Life of Pets." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage.  (CNS photo/Universal)

Max, voiced by Louis C.K., Duke, voiced by Eric Stonestreet and Katie, voiced by Ellie Kemper, appear in the animated movie “The Secret Life of Pets.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. (CNS photo/Universal)

The result is an entertaining animated free-for-all in which amusing characters and pleasing visuals of the Manhattan setting predominate over a serviceable but sketchy plot.

Terrier Max (voice of Louis C.K.) is the pampered pooch of New York apartment dweller Katie (voice of Ellie Kemper). Max’s only complaint is that Katie’s work separates them for much of the day.

While she’s gone, though, Max is free to cavort with the other pets in the neighborhood, including Gidget (voiced by Jenny Slate), a fluffy Pomeranian who harbors a secret crush on him. With their owners absent, the animals not only communicate with one another, they act in all sorts of ways the humans never suspect.

Max’s mostly pleasant routine is suddenly disrupted one evening when Katie brings home big, shaggy Duke (voice of Eric Stonestreet), a rescue dog from the pound. Though Duke initially tries his best to be friendly, Max, feeling threatened, rebuffs him. It’s not long before the two sink into a rivalry that leads to the series of comic misadventures to which helmer Chris Renaud, together with co-director Yarrow Cheney, devotes most of his attention.

As Max and Duke go inadvertently on the lam and struggle to evade the city’s animal enforcement officers, they fall in with a variety of colorful personalities.

These include Snowball (voice of Kevin Hart), a diminutive rabbit whose manners, vocabulary and fondness for violence incongruously mimic those of a crazed gang leader, as well as a hawk named Tiberius (voice of Albert Brooks). Tiberius has an ongoing ethical dilemma: he’s torn between his desire to befriend other creatures and his urge to devour them.

The upshot of it all is that Max and Duke’s mutual hostility begins to melt away in the face of shared adversity. And romance blossoms as Gidget proves her mettle in Max’s hour of need.

Tots will learn lessons about accepting the arrival of a younger sibling and about the value of self-sacrifice. The smallest moviegoers, however, may be put off by the dangers that loom on screen while some parents may not be pleased by all the litterbox humor on display there.

Those mild lapses in taste aside, “The Secret Life of Pets” makes for an experience as warm and fuzzy as a cuddle with your favorite puppy or pussycat. The feature is preceded by an animated short, “Mower Minions,” in which the pixilated creatures of the title attempt to raise cash by doing yard work, with predictably hilarious consequences.

The film contains potentially frightening scenes of peril, considerable cartoon violence and numerous scatological jokes involving animals. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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