Home » Archive by category 'Movies'

Someone picks the wrong home to invade in ‘Don’t Breathe’

By

Catholic News Service

Moviegoers with long memories may recall director Terence Young’s 1967 adaptation of Frederick Knott’s play “Wait Until Dark” in which Audrey Hepburn portrayed a blind housewife forced to defend herself against three sighted thugs.

Dylan Minnette and Stephen Lang star in a scene from the movie "Don't Breathe." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. . CNS photo/Sony)

Dylan Minnette and Stephen Lang star in a scene from the movie “Don’t Breathe.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. . CNS photo/Sony)

The film’s premise, involving a doll stuffed with heroin that Hepburn’s character, Susy Hendrix, had innocently come into possession of, may have been flimsy. But the confrontations to which it led, in which Susy proved remarkably resourceful at tilting the battlefield against her adversaries, had viewers in danger of slipping off their seats.

Lo, the years have passed, and director and co-writer Fede Alvarez’s generally effective but sometimes nasty thriller, “Don’t Breathe,” turns out to have a great deal more in common with Young’s movie than just a title in the imperative mood.

Once again we have a trio of home invaders, this time made up of youthful friends and partners in petty crime — Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto). And once more have a sightless victim waiting in the wings in the person of a reclusive veteran (Stephen Lang) the script, penned with Rodo Sayagues, never names.

As the purloining pals quickly discover, though, their supposedly easy mark is no Audrey Hepburn, intrepid or otherwise. A sympathetic figure in theory — he’s been targeted by the burgling buddies because of a large legal settlement he was awarded after his young daughter was killed by a reckless driver — he’s actually a homicidal loon with well-honed combat skills.

Add to that the fact his house is the only inhabited dwelling in an abandoned area of Detroit, and that it’s watched over by a ferocious guard dog, and clear just how soon the tables will be turned on the amateurish thieves.

Alvarez is fairly restrained in his presentation of the mayhem that follows. Though blood flows, it’s measurable in ounces not bucket loads.

Yet, as the action progresses plot developments begin to strain the laws of logic. More significantly, perverse behavior and the horror equivalent of gross-out humor creep in and creep out the audience in a way those seeking casual entertainment are unlikely to appreciate.

The film contains intense violence with some gore, a disturbing sequence involving a bizarre sexual assault, brief scatological humor, profanity, much crude language and an obscene gesture. 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.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

Comments Off on Someone picks the wrong home to invade in ‘Don’t Breathe’

‘War Dogs’ — profit motive war comedy with murky perspective

By

Catholic News Service

Two young Florida men become improbable arms merchants in “War Dogs,” a fact-based movie that hovers uneasily between raucous comedy and serious expose.

Miles Teller and Jonah Hill star in scene from the movie "War Dogs." 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. ( CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Miles Teller and Jonah Hill star in scene from the movie “War Dogs.” 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. ( CNS photo/Warner Bros.) 

At issue is the respective blameworthiness of the duo, the pitfalls of the Pentagon’s procurement system and, assuming every armed conflict is fueled by the profit motive as the film suggests, the moral legitimacy of the American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2005, Miami native and college dropout David Packouz (Miles Teller) is living with his girlfriend Iz (Ana de Armas) and working as a licensed massage therapist. Seeking a better career, he tries selling bed linens to retirement homes with no success. Then he runs into Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), his childhood pal from yeshiva school whom he hasn’t seen for years.

A colorfully outsized, alternately obnoxious and charming figure, Efraim is a born hustler who has recently returned to the Sunshine State after a stint in Los Angeles hawking guns and ammo on the Internet. His latest scheme entails bidding on Defense Deptartment contracts through an initiative designed to let small businesses get a slice of the military-spending pie.

He invites David to join his one-man operation, AEY Inc. They proceed to get rich by engaging in fraud and otherwise circumventing laws and regulations pertaining to the poorly administered program. To close their first major deal, they drive a truckload of guns from Amman, Jordan, to Bagdad’s Green Zone in Iraq.

Their success, and the sensitive nature of their business, does nothing to curtail their shared pot-smoking habit or Efraim’s appetite for cocaine and nightclubs. Iz, who gets pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl, is opposed to the war as well as to guns in general. So David lies to her about the nature of their work. (The wedding ring on David’s hand late in the film suggests they marry somewhere along the line, off-screen).

Eventually, Efraim and David join forces with a fugitive arms dealer named Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper), which enables them to bid on a $300 million contract to supply munitions to Afghanistan. The project requires spending considerable time in Albania and does not end well.

Director Todd Phillips, known for “The Hangover” and other comedies featuring crude male bonding, wrote the screenplay along with Stephen Chin and Jason Smilovic. Basing it on a 2011 article published in Rolling Stone magazine, they take considerable creative license, not least in their attempt to imbue the story with antic humor via Efraim, who has much in common with Donnie Azoff, the character Hill played in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Hill’s talents as a comedic and dramatic actor are evident. But the performance feels derivative.

Phillips and his co-writers exhibit their lack of artistic resources not only by resorting to an abundance of cursing in the dialogue but by their reliance on screen titles, voice-over narration and the blasting of middling rock-and-roll songs to punctuate key moments.

The decision to make David the hero of the story, he’s far less culpable and morally corrupt than Efraim, is understandable and may even be justified by the real-life facts. But it hobbles the movie from an entertainment perspective since Teller is an amiable yet rather bland actor. Moreover, painting David as a victim of Efraim’s machinations lets him off the hook far too easily.

While offering limited insights into what enabled its scenario, “War Dogs” is content to blame the system as opposed to the choices individuals made. Phillips and company aren’t blind to the ethical consequences of their story. Yet they downplay the fact that both men were crooks and scammers, in addition to being monumentally stupid.

Declining to pass judgment is one thing. Depicting the duo as underdogs or outsiders with a penchant for stirring up trouble and defying the odds is a cop-out. So, too, is the film’s abrupt, cliffhanger ending, which refuses to reveal what David has learned, what he truly values, and what he’s got in the way of moral fiber.

It’s too bad “War Dogs” can’t settle on a tone and find a satisfactory balance between men-behaving-badly humor and relevant social commentary. Bent on illustrating the idea that war boils down to money, the filmmakers forget that comedy is also serious business, and can carry its own moral import.

The film contains several scenes of violence and gunplay, cohabitation, frequent drug use, pervasive rough and crude language and some sexual banter. 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.

 

Comments Off on ‘War Dogs’ — profit motive war comedy with murky perspective

‘The Innocents’ presents unflinching, honest look at faith amid depravity

August 19th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Luminescent, unflinchingly honest and respectful of belief, director Anne Fontaine’s drama “The Innocents” is a fictional story about a convent of Benedictine nuns in mid-20th-century Poland.

The film gently explores the conflicts between duty to the living and the shattered faith that can result from acts of depravity.

This is a scene from the movie "The Innocents." 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/Music Box Films)

This is a scene from the movie “The Innocents.” 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/Music Box Films)

The screenplay by Sabrina B. Karine and Alice Vial is loosely based on the real-life exploits of Madeleine Pauliac, a French Red Cross doctor who worked in Poland in the months following the end of World War II.

Fontaine unspools the story slowly and somewhat in the manner of a fable. That compels at least an uplifting, if not a happy, ending.

This approach is at odds with the harsh reality of the movie’s grim subject matter. But Fontaine, a strong moralist, lays out a case about the constrictions of faith when it’s separated from the world around it.

Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laage), the stand-in for Pauliac, is not religious. The product of a working-class communist family, she’s compassionate, practical and tenderly leads the sisters toward solutions as they learn to trust her.

In December 1945, Mathilde is first summoned to the convent, where she delivers, by C-section, the baby of a young nun. Her training doesn’t allow her to make a detailed inquiry about how this has come about, but she’s told the horrible story anyway.

Invading Soviet soldiers, several months earlier, broke into the convent and, believing it to be their right, raped the sisters, leaving at least seven of them pregnant and the abbess (Agata Kulesza) infected with syphilis.

Their isolation and fear are appalling. They have no priest, and so can’t attend Mass or add nuns to their community; they can only pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Now, the degradation to which they’ve been subjected has crushed their faith or left them fearing hell for violating their vow of chastity.

Further complicating matters, if a new political regime shutters the community for ideological reasons, these nuns will become a source of scandal, lose their spiritual authority, and be left with no place where they can expect a welcome.

And what to do with the infants? The first to be born is quickly spirited away to adoptive parents. But Mathilde realizes that this will do nothing to restore the mothers. She reminds one, “It’s your duty to protect this child’s life.”

Mathilde finally wins the sisters’ confidence when she frightens away the returning soldiers by telling them the convent is under quarantine for typhus. As the frequency of the births pick up, she enlists the assistance of her sometimes-lover, Samuel (Vincent Macaigne), a Jewish doctor in her Red Cross unit who is dealing with survivor’s guilt in the wake of the Holocaust.

The eventual solution to the nuns’ dilemma is provoked by a tragic death. The story wraps up a little too neatly considering the circumstances. But the script’s ruminations on how believers respond to awful times are superb.

Thus Mathilde’s conduit to the workings of the convent, Sister Maria (Agata Buzek), who spent some time out in the world before taking her vows, describes her faith as “24 hours of doubt for one minute of hope.”

Though never tawdry, “The Innocents” is obviously a solidly adult picture, and not one for those in search of casual fare.

In Polish and French with subtitles.

The film contains mature themes, including rape and venereal disease, a nonmarital bedroom scene and several nongraphic depictions of childbirth. 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.

Comments Off on ‘The Innocents’ presents unflinching, honest look at faith amid depravity

‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ not suitable for kids

By

Catholic News Service

While it uses animation to recount the fantastical adventures of a young boy, “Kubo and the Two Strings” is not really suitable for the most youthful moviegoers.

Kubo, voiced by Art Parkinson, is seen in the animated movie "Kubo and the Two Strings." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Focus Features)

Kubo, voiced by Art Parkinson, is seen in the animated movie “Kubo and the Two Strings.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Focus Features)

Adolescents and grownups, on the other hand, will likely have no difficulty appreciating the artistic achievement of director Travis Knight’s feature debut while simultaneously placing in their proper context those elements within it that are at odds with Christian belief.

Set in Japan at an unspecified period, this captivating fable follows Kubo (voice of Art Parkinson), a street urchin, as his troubled — indeed, literally haunted — family history launches him on a quest for a magical set of armor. He’s accompanied, and protected, on the journey by a prudent monkey (voiced by Charlize Theron) and a courageous but accursed samurai (voice of Matthew McConaughey) whose body a spell has transformed into that of a beetle.

Rich visuals along Kubo’s odyssey are matched by the deep emotional appeal of the interaction among the characters. And melancholy alternates with touches of wit in Marc Haimes and Chris Butler’s well-crafted screenplay.

But conflicted familial relationships — Kubo’s principal adversary is his own grandfather, the Moon King (voice of Ralph Fiennes) — make this too serious, and potentially upsetting, for kids. Equally, an outlook on death suggesting that the departed survive only in the memory of the living would probably confuse impressionable viewers.

Most teens, however, will recognize that the story is obviously far removed from real life and that plot ingredients borrowed from the Land of the Rising Sun’s native mythology need not be taken to heart.

The film contains nonscriptural religious beliefs and stylized combat with minimal gore. 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.

 

Comments Off on ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ not suitable for kids

This ‘Ben-Hur’ races toward a ‘cheap grace’ redemption

August 18th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Few films come to the screen with the kind of storied pedigree that lies behind “Ben-Hur.”

Subtitled “A Tale of the Christ,” Civil War Gen. Lew Wallace’s best-selling 1880 novel, which had previously been made into a wildly successful stage play, first reached audiences of the newfangled cinema way back in 1907. Since that adaptation was completely unauthorized, however, a lawsuit resulted that still stands as a landmark in the development of copyright protection.

Jack Huston stars in a scene from the movie " Ben-Hur." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II,I adults. (CNS photo/Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc)

Jack Huston stars in a scene from the movie ” Ben-Hur.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II,I adults. (CNS photo/Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc)

Flash-forward nearly two decades and an epic-scale 1925 production starring Ramon Novarro and Francis X. Bushman becomes, reputedly, the most expensive silent film ever made. This version struck critical gold and won popular favor, though the financial outcome, given that outsized budget, was murkier.

The popularity of biblical themes and swords-and-sandals derring-do in the Hollywood of the 1950s made an update of “Ben-Hur” almost inevitable. And so the last year of that decade saw the release of director William Wyler’s 212-minute extravaganza in which Charlton Heston, in the title role, stepped into a chariot and made movie history at breakneck speed.

All that represents quite a historical and cultural burden for director Timur Bekmambetov and his collaborators, including executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, to bear in bringing his “re-imagining” to the screen. Which is a shame, since, considered strictly on its own terms, his iteration of Wallace’s classic story makes for a reasonably satisfying action picture.

The bad news for believers, whose hopes may have been raised by the participation of Burnett and Downey, fixtures in the world of Christian-oriented media projects, is that, primarily because of a poorly written script, this “Ben-Hur” fails to convince when Wallace’s religious theme comes to the fore.

It arrives by way of what must still be a familiar plot to many, at least in its initial setup: First-century Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) lives a prosperous life in Jerusalem, where he carries on a friendly rivalry with his Roman adopted brother, Messala (Toby Kebbell), and finds happiness through marriage to his true love, Esther (Nazanin Boniadi).

After Judah gives shelter to Dismas (Moises Arias), a young zealot who was wounded fighting against foreign rule, however, disaster strikes the House of Hur. So, too, does betrayal since Messala, now an influential army officer on the staff of Pontius Pilate (Pilou Asbaek), refuses to risk his career by helping the family that took him in as a child.

Consigned to the miserable existence of a galley slave, and certain that the other members of his clan — including his mother, Naomi (Ayelet Zurer), and sister, Tirzah (Sofia Black-D’Elia), for whom Messala once carried a torch — have all been executed, Judah thirsts for revenge against his foster sibling. Until, that is, multiple encounters with Jesus (Rodrigo Santoro) open his eyes to the value of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Although the role of Dismas, whose subversive activities substitute for those loose roof tiles that got Heston in trouble, is an innovation, the epic sea battle and that trademark chariot race remain. Aficionados of the 1959 version may find these lacking, but they’re serviceable enough when weighed in isolation.

The real trouble arises when screenwriters Keith Clarke and John Ridley turn from mere diversion to something deeper. By skimping on the careful and time-consuming character development that would have been needed to make Judah’s ultimate conversion believable, they doom the religious dimension of “Ben-Hur” as surely as Dismas does its protagonist and his household.

What viewers are left with is the cinematic equivalent of Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s cheap grace, a redemption unjustified and unpersuasive precisely because it’s unearned.

Though the causalities that litter the arena as the movie’s most famous sequence progresses would normally suggest recommendation for mature viewers only, other elements are discreet enough that attendance by older teens would probably not be out of place.

The film contains generally stylized but harsh violence with several grisly deaths and some gore as well as a nongraphic marital bedroom scene. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Comments Off on This ‘Ben-Hur’ races toward a ‘cheap grace’ redemption

‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ hits right notes amid pathos and comedy

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

By

Catholic News Service

Like the World War II-era New York socialite it profiles, “Florence Foster Jenkins,” a charmingly eccentric blend of comedy and drama, has its heart in the right place.

Meryl Streep and Simon Helberg star in a scene from the movie "Florence Foster Jenkins." 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/Paramount)

Meryl Streep and Simon Helberg star in a scene from the movie “Florence Foster Jenkins.” 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/Paramount)

Yet moral complications are integral to this fact-based story, and they limit its appropriate audience, as a general matter, to discerning adults.

That’s a shame, because other objectionable elements in director Stephen Frears’ film are few, and this is, overall, a deeply humane tale from which young people might benefit.

Not content with her role as a generous and influential patron of Gotham’s music scene, Foster (Meryl Streep) yearns to take to the stage as a singer. The only difficulty is that she is spectacularly untalented. Not just bad, excruciating to a point that’s unavoidably comic.

Attempting to square this circle, and protecting Foster from the truth about her voice, becomes a full-time job for her husband, failed British actor St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant). He shamelessly bribes the city’s newspaper critics, and assiduously restricts ticket sales to a small circle of friends willing to focus on Foster’s sincere enthusiasm rather than the outrageously awful effects she produces.

Bayfield gains an ally in his efforts when sympathetic young pianist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) comes on board as Foster’s new accompanist. But this duo of guardians faces heightened stakes when Foster insists on booking Carnegie Hall for a night.

With characteristic deftness, Streep gets across both the full ridiculousness and the touching pathos of Foster’s situation. But her complex marital arrangement, and Bayfield’s concurrent relationship with his girlfriend, Kathleen (Rebecca Ferguson), whom he maintains in a separate household, require careful sifting.

For reasons not to be revealed for fear of a spoiler, Bayfield is not the straight-out adulterer the description of his lifestyle given above might make him seem. There are circumstances beyond his control that mitigate, though they cannot fully excuse, the guilt of his actions.

In fact, Bayfield’s character evokes just as multifaceted a response from moviegoers as does Foster’s.

While his unusual love for his wife appears genuine enough, viewers are bound to ask themselves to what degree it’s tainted by the desire to share in her wealth. Nicholas Martin’s script and Grant’s performance successfully maintain suspense on this point for much of the running time.

The ethical conflicts at work here invite more compassion than condemnation. So parents willing to make them the starting point for a discussion about the nature of marriage and the vagaries of human love may be inclined to allow especially insightful older teens to attend.

The film contains mature themes, including adultery and venereal disease, a morning-after bedroom scene, vague references to homosexuality, at least one profanity and a couple of uses each of crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

 

Comments Off on ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ hits right notes amid pathos and comedy

Revamped ‘Pete’s Dragon’ is a warmhearted fantasy

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

By

Catholic News Service

The classic boy-and-his-dog story assumes outsized proportions in “Pete’s Dragon,” a warmhearted fantasy adventure suitable for teens and their elders.

Oakes Fegley stars in a scene from the movie "Pete's Dragon." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents.  (CNS photo/Disney)

Oakes Fegley stars in a scene from the movie “Pete’s Dragon.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Disney)

This reimagining of the 1977 Disney musical bears little resemblance to its predecessor, which featured a singing troika of Helen Reddy, Red Buttons and Shelley Winters.

This go-round, song and dance have been jettisoned, and hokeyness gives way to thrilling action and tear-jerking moments. Star power includes Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Karl Urban, the Dr. McCoy of the current “Star Trek” franchise.

The eponymous creature, moreover, is no longer a mere cartoon but a 3-D computer-generated Brobdingnagian wonder, covered in green fur and possessing the habits and charm of a basset hound.

Redford stars as Meacham, a Pacific Northwest woodcarver who also serves as the story’s narrator. On a lonely road deep in a remote forest, a toddler named Pete (Levi Alexander) is orphaned by a tragic accident. He wanders into the woods and is adopted by a dragon whom he calls, not Puff, but Elliott.

Fast-forward six years, and Pete (now Oakes Fegley) is living happily in the company of his jolly green giant, much in the manner of Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.”

Meacham has long entertained locals with yarns of a monster in their midst. His daughter Grace (Howard), a forest ranger, is tolerant of his eccentric notions, but unconvinced.

In a strangely incongruous situation for a children’s movie, Grace already lives with her logger fiance, Jack (Wes Bentley), and his daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence). The precise nature of Grace and Jack’s relationship is, of course, never specified. So it’s possible to give it an innocent interpretation. But the inclusion of this arrangement sadly bars endorsement for impressionable kids.

Jack’s brother and business partner, Gavin (Urban), hears suspicious rumblings in the woods and gets ideas about going hunting.

“Pete’s Dragon” proceeds amiably on a predictable path with a heavy environmental theme. Echoes of “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” and even “King Kong” are apparent as man and nature collide. It’s a very tall tale, but a pleasantly fanciful one, directed at a gentle pace by David Lowery.

The film contains apparent premarital cohabitation, potentially frightening action sequences and a handful of mild oaths. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

Comments Off on Revamped ‘Pete’s Dragon’ is a warmhearted fantasy

Cartoon food items celebrate atheism in ‘Sausage Party’ (Yes, you read that right)

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

By

Catholic News Service

If everyone in the world would just abandon belief in God, peace would prevail and life would be one long, joyous, pansexual, narcotics-fueled love-in.

Food characters are shown in a scene from the animated movie "Sausage Party." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. (CNS photo/Sony Pictures)

Food characters are shown in a scene from the animated movie “Sausage Party.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. (CNS photo/Sony Pictures)

That’s the moronic message of “Sausage Party,” a disgusting spitball of an animated comedy from directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan.

The supposedly humorous effect of having cartoon characters, who would normally be associated with children’s films, spout obscenities has, of course, been aimed at before in Hollywood. The big-screen version of “Fritz the Cat,” for instance, dates back to 1972. But to have such figures push an atheist agenda while glorifying the basest forms of carnality would appear to represent a new low for the entertainment industry.

This nadir is reached by way of a story about the inhabitants of a suburban supermarket, most prominently a sausage named Frank (voice of Seth Rogen, who also co-wrote) and his girlfriend, a bun called Brenda (voice of Kristen Wiig). Together with their fellow shelf dwellers, Frank and Brenda believe that an ecstatic existence awaits them in “the Great Beyond” once human shoppers, whom they worship as gods, choose them and bring them home.

Among other things, the couple look forward to being released from their respective packages and united in the culinary equivalent of sexual bonding. Viewed with a leer, this prospect becomes the excuse for endless smirking, sophomoric wordplay.

But then a returned jar of honey mustard (voiced by Danny McBride), traumatized by his experience beyond the store’s walls, reveals how people actually treat their edibles. Though most of the other products refuse to believe his harrowing account, Frank is bold and intellectually honest enough to set out on a quest for the truth.

An insult to believers of every stripe, this libido idolizing film — whose cast also includes Michael Cera, Jonah Hill and Salma Hayek (as a lesbian taco) — portrays all religion as a con job that leads to violent divisiveness and sexual repression. Thus the eventual overthrow of the store’s prevailing mythology is celebrated by a mass orgy that’s supposed to count as a happy ending.

The film contains pervasive blasphemy, a debased view of human sexuality, including a frivolous attitude toward perverse acts, graphic obscene images, benignly viewed drug use, about a half-dozen instances of profanity and relentless rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted.

 

Comments Off on Cartoon food items celebrate atheism in ‘Sausage Party’ (Yes, you read that right)

‘Cafe Society’ in L.A. and New York is one dimensional

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

By

Catholic News Service

“Love is an emotion, and emotions aren’t rational,” a character muses midway through writer-director Woody Allen’s seriocomic “Cafe Society.”

Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg star in a scene from the movie "Cafe Society." 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/Lionsgate)

Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg star in a scene from the movie “Cafe Society.” 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/Lionsgate)

This variation on “the heart wants what the heart wants,” a saying ultimately traceable, in a slightly different form, to an Emily Dickinson poem is not a lucid theme here.

Allen’s love triangle, perpetually set in orange sunlight in both its Hollywood and New York settings to evoke nostalgia, whirls its central characters through several painful romantic entanglements.

These men and women are all one-dimensional archetypes, however. Sincerity, moreover, gives way to Allen’s one-liners, and no one becomes any wiser for their experiences.

In 1936, Bronx-bred Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), who no longer wants to help out in his father Marty’s (Ken Stott) jewelry store, decides to leave his supportive family to find a job with his uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a powerful agent out in Tinseltown.

Phil fixes contracts, drops names and solves such dilemmas as “Adolphe Menjou is threatening to walk off the set!” He doesn’t have much beyond menial errands for Bobby. But to help the lad acclimate to his new surroundings, Phil introduces him to his lissome secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart).

Bobby and Vonnie quickly hit it off, although he doesn’t realize that the journalist boyfriend of whom she often speaks is actually Uncle Phil, who wants to leave his wife. No one in Hollywood, including Nebraska-born Vonnie, is the person he or she appears to be, although Vonnie is very clear-eyed about her life choices.

When Bobby learns the truth, he gives up on L.A., returning to Gotham to manage a new nightclub owned by his gangster brother, Ben (Corey Stoll). This leads to more glamorous nightlife and eventually to marriage with shimmering blond heiress Veronica (Blake Lively).

Allen, who provides a lot of needless narration in lieu of plot, stages all the necessary confrontations and arguments. He then brings the whole ensemble together at the end to ponder their decisions and the melancholy they’ve brought on themselves.

Even so, any sustained, serious engagement with topics like marital fidelity gets lost amid Allen’s trademark humor.

The film contains bloodless gun violence, mature themes, including adultery and prostitution, a drug reference, profanity and a crude term. 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.

 

Comments Off on ‘Cafe Society’ in L.A. and New York is one dimensional

‘Nine Lives’

By

Catholic News Service

It must have been a slow day in Hollywood when the proposal for the vapid comedy “Nine Lives” got the green light.

Or perhaps someone behind the scenes saw some potential in the project that failed to make it to the screen.

Either way, the dead-on-arrival result, in which Kevin Spacey gets turned into a cat named Mr. Fuzzypants, is calculated to please very few adults. As for those youngsters who might be most inclined to settle for the entertainment value of slapstick animal antics, the script ill-advisedly includes elements, including a story line touching on suicide, that prevent endorsement for them.

Watching the formidable Spacey wander through the wreckage here is like seeing Vladimir Horowitz seated at Schroeder’s piano or hearing Louis Armstrong puff away on a kazoo.

Spacey plays Tom Brand, a callous tycoon too work-obsessed to focus on his marriage to second wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) or to devote much attention to parenting their 11-year-old daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman). His grown son David (Robbie Amell), who works for Dad and craves his approval, gets equally short shrift.

Tom is clearly in need of some life lessons, and what better way to teach them than to consign his soul, temporarily, to the body of a household pet? So the reasoning seems to go.

Cue Christopher Walken in the role of Felix Perkins, the vaguely mysterious shop owner from whom Tom purchases a kitty as a birthday gift for Rebecca. Felix’s dark hints about an impending crisis for Tom are soon vindicated as an accident leaves the wheeler-dealer’s body in a coma and lands his psyche inside Mr. Fuzzypants.

Since Tom, unsurprisingly, objects to this arrangement, far too many of the ensuing scenes are dominated by his caterwauling meows of protest.

When not grating on the audience’s ears, Tom/Mr. Fuzzypants attempts to tickle their funny bones by, among other things, scrambling into a kitchen cabinet and getting his head stuck in a box of breakfast cereal. And when David’s mom, Madison (Cheryl Hines), appears on the scene, Tom demonstrates his feelings toward his ex by climbing into her designer handbag and relieving himself.

In between such adventures, Tom gets to hear what the family really thinks of his neglectful ways and starts to repent. Thus, amid the otherwise flavorless proceedings, we’re force-fed the unarguable moral that that familial bonds should take priority over the pursuit of wealth.

Retrieving that nugget of obvious wisdom from the fur ball of boredom that surrounds, however, it is hardly worth the effort.

The film contains a suicide theme, some adult wordplay, at least one use each of profanity and crass language, a mild oath and nonhuman scatological humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

Comments Off on ‘Nine Lives’
Marquee Powered By Know How Media.