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‘The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature’ and bland

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Catholic News Service

Much of the action in the animated children’s comedy “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” unfolds at a frenzied pace. Yet, for all the sound and fury, this is in the end a bland film, unlikely to please any but the least discerning viewers.

Animated characters appear in the movie “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Open Road Films)

Perhaps that’s because the folks behind this sequel were too focused on 3-D special effects to waste time giving their characters much personality. Ironically, those effects turn out to raise the main objection to the picture from a parent’s perspective since, together with the many menacing situations to which the plot gives rise, they may be too scary for little kids.

The less-than-dynamic duo at center stage here is made up of squirrels Surly (voice of Will Arnett) and Andie (voice of Katherine Heigl). They’re obviously destined for each other from the start. But, of course, before true love can prevail there must be a conflict for them to resolve.

In this case, it concerns the fact that Surly, his unspeaking sidekick Buddy the rat and the rest of the gang from nearby Liberty Park have long been living off the abundance of an abandoned nut shop. Andie considers this a lazy and unnatural way of life, and is pleased when the negligence of one of her fellow animals causes an explosion that destroys the derelict building.

Trooping back to their original habitat, the critters suddenly find themselves pitted against their city’s corrupt, never-named Mayor (voiced by Bobby Moynihan). Hizzoner plans to bulldoze Liberty Park and turn it into a profit-making amusement concern.

As Surly organizes the resistance to this greed-driven project, huge earthmoving machines bear down on the small creatures. Later, an unmoored Ferris wheel lumbers through the Mayor’s creation, “Liberty Land,” rapidly and spectacularly destroying his handiwork. Grownups with jittery tykes in tow, take note.

Amid all the chases and the animal-human combat, the movie makes respectable, if hardly original, points about protecting the environment and the value of friendship and teamwork. It’s all perfectly acceptable for a wide swath of age groups.

Still, to paraphrase an old candy bar ad, sometimes you feel like a nut; this time, not so much.

The film contains cartoon violence, including explosions, recurring peril and mild gross-out and scatological jokes. 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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‘The Glass Castle’ —From Jeannette with love and squalor

August 11th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Anyone who’s endured the ignominy of grinding poverty with an alcoholic, out-of- work parent understands that there’s nothing ennobling about the experience.

Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson star in a scene from the movie "The Glass Castle." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults.  (CNS/Lionsgate)

Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson star in a scene from the movie “The Glass Castle.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS/Lionsgate)

It’s something to endure, to escape if one can, and it leaves deep psychic scars for which later wealth is weak compensation. It’s not an experience to be sentimentalized.

For all its bitterness toward the Catholic Church, Frank McCourt’s childhood memoir “Angela’s Ashes,” in both book and film, got that much right. But “The Glass Castle,” the screen version of Jeannette Walls’ 2005 account of her impoverished youth, tries to put a cheery gloss on everything, as if all the excruciating history was somehow not as bad as it seemed at the time.

Jeannette, at age 3, is grotesquely burned when her clothing catches fire from a gas stove. This is portrayed as a character-builder rather than child neglect.

Walls’ memoir was unsparing with her indignities. They included having to use a ditch as a toilet, the constant presence of rats, and a racist paternal grandmother who molested her brother.

Director Destin Daniel Cretton, who co-wrote the screenplay with Andrew Lanham, avoids all the most wretched material, however, to invoke some kind of rosy Appalachian glow. As if a Christmastime snowfall makes everything so much better because it temporarily covers up the squalor.

Walls (Ella Anderson, mostly, as a child; Brie Larson from high school on) was one of four children of Rex (Woody Harrelson), a wannabe engineer with almost no formal schooling, and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), a failed artist who never sold a painting.

Like one of playwright Eugene O’Neill’s dreamers, Rex is constantly designing a house for them (the glass castle of the title). But as a result of his boozing, he achieves none of his dreams. He and Rose Mary, though, manage to imbue all their children with vivid imaginations and lots of children’s literature so they can keep reality at bay.

After a peripatetic existence one step ahead of the law and bill collectors, the family ends up in Welch, W.Va., where Rex had grown up. It’s a rock bottom of several magnitudes. But somehow the children are educated, even when they’ve not eaten for several days. Rex’s only stable job is as a coal miner, but that doesn’t last for long.

Rex is sometimes violent. In reality, that’s always bad. In this film, though, it becomes just another of his quirks, and the father-daughter bond never breaks, even when his homespun “wisdom” sounds like something out of a phony Farmer’s Almanac.

Jeannette, with a ferocious love of writing, eventually becomes a famous celebrity gossip columnist in New York City. But even there her parents turn up, homeless and squatting in an abandoned building on the Upper East Side. She feels the need to keep her previous life secret when she becomes engaged to nebbishy David (Max Greenfield), although both she and her siblings do occasionally meet their parents for dinner.

This becomes the central conflict of the story: How does Jeannette deal with an invented reality for herself that omits her childhood poverty and her somewhat hopeless folks? When does she finally incorporate her past into her present?

That’s typically good stuff in either a drama or comedy. Here, though, it just drags on and on, which is typically the problem in a biopic in which nearly all the characters are very much alive and story lines are quietly sanitized.

There are no moral forces at work here. There’s only the feral ability to survive, as well as a depiction of poverty that’s as dishonest and delusional as Jeannette’s father.

The film contains a brief scene of implied child sexual abuse, physical violence and fleeting profanities and rough language. 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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‘Annabelle: Creation’ — ‘Whatever you do, don’t unlock that door’

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Catholic News Service

Most of the mayhem wreaked by the figurine-haunting demon at the center of the horror prequel “Annabelle: Creation” is restrained. Yet, as the film progresses, director David F. Sandberg and his collaborators allow their imagery to become briefly but disturbingly graphic.

Stephanie Sigman stars in a scene from the movie "Annabelle: Creation." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Stephanie Sigman stars in a scene from the movie “Annabelle: Creation.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Accordingly, only those grown moviegoers willing to brave flashes of intense gore should say hello to this particular dolly.

This also is not a good fit for those insistent on strict logic or those who expect the characters on screen to behave rationally. As for Catholic viewers, they will likely be both annoyed and distracted by the wildly inaccurate, albeit incidental, portrayal of their faith incorporated into the proceedings.

In 1950s California, a group of female orphans shepherded by kindly nun Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) have somehow, by circumstances not specified in the script, been displaced from their former dwelling. They’ve been offered refuge, of a sort, at the rambling, spooky home of dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his invalid wife, Esther (Miranda Otto).

The Mullins are still overcome by grief following the death of their young daughter, Bee (Samara Lee), in a tragic car accident a dozen years before. So their hospitality is extended in an effort to brighten the tone of their funereal household. The outcome, of course, is quite the opposite.

No sooner has polio-afflicted Janice (Talitha Bateman) been warned by her brooding host to steer clear of Bee’s locked bedroom than she somehow finds herself inside that chamber, mucking about and stirring up trouble.

Discovering a hidden key to the closet in which the toy of the title has until now been confined, Janice unleashes her, much in the manner of Pandora opening her ill-fated box. Cue a reign of terror for nosy Janice, her BFF, Linda (Lulu Wilson), and the rest.

No matter how hair-raising the terrors to which Annabelle and her guiding fiend subject them, they always move toward danger, never away from it. Even allowing for youthful curiosity, this stubborn refusal to learn from experience becomes a tiresome trait.

Even more taxing, however, is a scene in which Sister Charlotte hears Janice’s confession of her disastrous trespass, not in the context of a confidential conversation but in what is clearly meant to be a formal sacramental encounter. Thus Janice kicks things off by requesting, “Bless me, Sister, for I have sinned,” and Sister Charlotte wraps things up by imposing a penance, though no absolution intervenes.

The fact that only bishops and priests can administer the sacrament of reconciliation is hardly a bit of inside-baseball religious arcana. The mistake is all the more glaring in a movie that clearly wants to position itself, in some vague way at least, as faith-friendly. Equally out of place in that proposed context is the counter-scriptural concept that infernal beings can somehow steal human souls.

There are some old-fashioned shivers awaiting the restricted audience for which this follow-up to the 2014 original can be labeled appropriate. But lapses in reason, believability and even the most rudimentary knowledge of Catholicism may inspire more frowns than frissons.

The film contains a distorted presentation of Catholic faith practices, stylized but briefly bloody violence, gruesome images and at last one mild oath. 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.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘The Dark Tower’ is full of metaphysical hooey

August 8th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

Awash in high-flown metaphysical hooey, director and co-writer Nikolaj Arcel’s dull sci-fi fantasy “The Dark Tower” is inappropriate for the impressionable.

Matthew McConaughey stars in a scene from the movie "The Dark Tower." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Sony)

Matthew McConaughey stars in a scene from the movie “The Dark Tower.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Sony)

As for grown viewers, they should be prepared to slog through an involved exposition of non-scriptural ideas borrowed from the series of novels by Stephen King on which the film, penned with Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner and Anders Thomas Jensen, is built.

Extending rather than adapting the books, the movie uses the psychic nightmares of troubled New York teen Jake (Tom Taylor) to introduce us to a distant world, one of many, and the cosmic battle being fought out there. This struggle pits villainous wizard Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), aka the Man in Black, against Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), aka the Gunslinger.

O’Dim is bent on destroying the supernatural structure of the title which somehow, so we’re informed, keeps the evil lurking at the edges of the universe at bay. The lone remaining member of a group of Old West-style gunmen still resisting O’Dim and his cohorts, Roland is not only out to save the tower but yearns for revenge against O’Dim, whose spells have killed off every ally who has ever stood at his side.

While on the run from some of O’Dim’s minions in the Big Apple, Jake manages to get himself transported to Mid-World, one of the planets where this feud is being played out. Conveniently, the first person he encounters is Roland.

Despite an initially gruff reception, Jake convinces Roland that he can be of service to the cause. The bond that eventually develops between the two – Jake’s fireman father died in the line of duty — is one of the few potentially touching aspects of this tangled tale.

O’Dim’s method of assaulting the tower involves the torturous extraction of energy from the minds of kidnapped children. Since Jake has the gift of second sight, what the script terms “shine,” to an unrivaled degree, his psyche would represent the equivalent of a nuclear missile launched against the vital building — if, that is, O’Dim could only get his hands on the lad.

Roland is also endowed with paranormal powers, as too is a minor character who can read people’s thoughts and communicate with them without speaking. All this is portrayed very positively in a way that might mislead the poorly catechized. As for the religiously well-grounded, they would be wise to spare themselves the necessity of sifting through this pile of New Age nonsense.

The film contains occult themes, much gunplay and other violence, including torture, but with little gore, profanity and a couple of crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Kidnap’ presents a long drive in a careening minivan

August 3rd, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

The compact thriller “Kidnap” has Halle Berry’s expressive face going for it, but not a whole lot else. The film is less a story about a mother’s enduring love and sacrifice for her young son than it is a long drive in an amazingly durable minivan.

Sage Correa and Halle Berry star in a scene from the movie "Kidnap." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. . (CNS/Aviron Pictures)

Sage Correa and Halle Berry star in a scene from the movie “Kidnap.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. . (CNS/Aviron Pictures)

Berry is Karla, a divorced waitress who’s mom to 6-year-old Frankie (Sage Correa). She’s about to get into a custody battle with her ex-husband when Frankie is abducted from a park by two cretinous goons, Margo and Terry (Chris McGinn and Lew Temple).

For what purpose Frankie has been snatched is a bit murky. Police in New Orleans issue an Amber Alert, but Karla takes off in pursuit, managing to keep the kidnappers always in view while speeding down highways, occasionally knocking aside bystanders and the odd police officer like so many bowling pins.

Director Luis Prieto and screenwriter Knate Lee have no interest in character development and motivation. There’s a mother and child, the kid is taken, Mama reverts to primeval maternal-warrior instinct, and the race is on.

Karla has a few interactions with the kidnappers, who are adept at lying about whether they’ll take her money instead of her son.

“Wherever you go, I will be right behind you, no matter what,” she vows. Ah. Got it. And so she is, although her chase, when it’s not veering into melodrama, often includes unintentional comedic moments meant to induce audience cheering.

The film contains gun and physical violence, considerable vehicular mayhem as well as profanity and rough 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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‘Detroit’ visits harrowing moment in U.S. history

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Catholic News Service

A dark chapter of the Motor City’s history is revisited in “Detroit,” a searing period drama.

John Boyega stars in a scene from the movie "Detroit." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. .(CNS photo/Annapurna Pictures)

John Boyega stars in a scene from the movie “Detroit.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. .(CNS photo/Annapurna Pictures)

The setting is the summer of 1967, when race riots broke out in several cities across the country. In Detroit, simmering discontent over systemic discrimination and growing unemployment erupted in African-American neighborhoods. As protesters clashed with police, businesses were set afire and looting was widespread.

The crisis, which lasted four days, resulted in 43 dead, over 7,200 arrests, and the destruction of more than 2,000 buildings. “Detroit” zeroes in on one notorious incident of the so-called “12th Street Riot”: the police raid of the Algiers Motel that caused the death of three unarmed men and the brutal beating of several others.

As violence engulfed the city, the hotel became a refuge of sorts, harboring both innocent patrons and shady characters. Among the former are Larry Reed (Algee Smith) and Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore), members of an up-and-coming musical group, The Dramatics. Separated from their friends, they seek shelter at the Algiers.

At the hotel pool they meet two giggly prostitutes, Karen (Kaitlyn Dever) and Julie (Hannah Murray), white women from Ohio who are making the most of the “Summer of Love.”

Upstairs, 17-year-old Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell) decides to show off by shooting blanks from a toy pistol. Turning his attention to the growing police presence outside, he next fires the gun into the crowd.

Suspecting a sniper, the police respond in droves, and a reign of terror descends on the Algiers and its residents, including Greene (Anthony Mackie), a decorated Vietnam vet.

The raid is led by a trigger-happy cop, Philip Krauss (Will Poulter), who has a reputation for shooting looters in the back. Krauss rounds up everyone and, with the assistance of fellow officer Flynn (Ben O’Toole), unleashes a ruthless, demeaning interrogation.

A witness to the unfolding horror is Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega), a black security guard charged with protecting a nearby grocery store from looters. Dismukes suspects wrongdoing, and inserts himself into the maelstrom at a key moment.

Needless to say, “Detroit” is not for the squeamish. Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), working from a script by Mark Boal, directs at a furious, gut-wrenching pace, placing the viewer in the very center of the fast-moving storm and incorporating real-life news footage to enhance the immediacy.

However, though graphic, the portrayal of police brutality is never gratuitous. Coupled with the subsequent miscarriage of justice, the harrowing events re-enacted in “Detroit” offer a powerful reminder to mature viewers of a sad but significant incident in America’s past.

The film contains intense bloody violence and torture, brief female nudity and pervasive profane and 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 R.

 

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘A Ghost Story’ — Confounding, spare and haunting

July 28th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

“A Ghost Story” could be the best film about purgatory you’ll see this year.

That depends, of course, on whether you think that purgatory is the state in which Casey Affleck’s recently departed character exists. Writer-director David Lowery hasn’t attempted a story about religion specifically or spirituality generally, but rather has made a reflection on loss.

Rooney Mara stars in a scene from the movie "A Ghost Story." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/A24)

Rooney Mara stars in a scene from the movie “A Ghost Story.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/A24)

Still, there is a case to be made for the idea that Affleck is undergoing purgation. His silently querulous, shrouded spirit, looking like one of Charlie Brown’s trick-or-treaters with cut-out eyeholes, needs to fulfill a task in order to set things right with someone or something and thus be released from his earthly bonds.

In that, the story adheres to a formula of after-death second-chance journeys that, done in a lush fashion, became 1990’s “Ghost,” the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel” and, in the old days of Hollywood, films such as “Here Comes Mr. Jordan” or “A Guy Named Joe.”

Lowery has taken a very minimalist approach, though, with exceedingly long takes and a ghost who, although he sometimes can rattle a bookshelf or toss crockery around, is otherwise incommunicative, except to another ghost next door, with whom he speaks telepathically.

The result is often confounding, but viewers will find it difficult to rid themselves of the imagery.

Affleck and Rooney Mara play a married couple, identified only as “C” and “M” respectively. They live in a slightly tumbledown Texas ranch house to which he feels an odd devotion. He doesn’t get to explain that in detail, however, since he quickly dies in an auto mishap just outside the home.

His corpse, left alone in the hospital, suddenly springs up and heads down a hallway where a tunnel of light beckons, then suddenly shuts off. So he hangs a left and walks (we surmise) back to his house.

There, he stands, mostly in corners, and watches life and his widow go on without him. Is he learning anything? Lowery isn’t telling us.

The image of the dead still being near us will be comforting to many. The idea that they’re standing in corners staring at us, albeit not trying to haunt us, probably less so.

Later, somewhat like Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmas Eve dream, Affleck’s ghost journeys into the distant past of the property, and also into the near future, where he listens to a partygoer gas on about how life on earth means little, since we’re all quickly forgotten, and not even love or works of art endure.

This is patently false, of course. But Lowery’s not interested in building a mordant argument or any argument at all.

Eventually, Lowery gives his ghost a task. He needs to retrieve a note his widow stuck in a doorway crack. He’s mostly just curious, but this document could also lead to a resolution of what amounts to his earthly exile.

Since Lowery doesn’t try to supply any pat answers, he instead invites the audience to discover their own questions. The result falls a little short on the entertainment scale, but demands thoughtful interpretation by discerning adults.

The film contains brief gore and fleeting 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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When words won’t do, ‘The Emoji Movie’

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

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Catholic News Service

Tech savvy viewers will especially enjoy the wacky proceedings of “The Emoji Movie.” But patrons of all stripes will appreciate the film’s themes of loyal friendship and faithful romance.

Set within the smartphone of high school freshman Alex (voice of Jake T. Austin), this lighthearted animated comedy tracks the adventures of a trio of misfits on their quest to reach the internet Cloud.

Alex, voiced by Jake T. Austin, appears in the animated movie "The Emoji Movie." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Sony)

Alex, voiced by Jake T. Austin, appears in the animated movie “The Emoji Movie.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Sony)

Gene (voice of T.J. Miller) is a “Meh” icon meant to express only indifference. But the first time Alex makes use of him, the native enthusiasm of his personality, together with nervousness at making his professional debut, causes him to register a strange mix of emotions instead of the bland apathy he was supposed to convey.

This malfunction immediately makes Gene an outcast and draws the ire of the chief emoji, maniacally cheerful Smiler (voice of Maya Rudolph). She condemns Gene to be deleted. So he goes on the run, and joins forces with upbeat hand symbol Hi-5 (voiced by James Corden) and rebellious codebreaker Jailbreak (voice of Anna Faris).

Once one of Alex’s favorites, Hi-5 has fallen into disuse and longs to regain his former popularity. Jailbreak resents the regulated life she is forced to lead on the phone, and hopes to enjoy much greater freedom by transferring herself permanently to the Cloud.

As the three newfound friends bond, and something more than friendship blossoms between Gene and Jailbreak, the challenges of their journey force them to prove their mutual devotion. Messages about teamwork and putting the interests of others ahead of your own goals balance the emphasis on Gene’s right to break the mold and be himself.

The presence of a minor character named Poop, voiced, amusingly, by no less a personage than Sir Patrick Stewart, typifies the predictable potty humor running through director and co-writer Tony Leondis’ script, penned with Eric Siegel and Mike White. Together with episodes of peril, these jokes may make “The Emoji Movie” a less than ideal choice for the youngest film fans.

The feature is preceded by an eccentric, enjoyable short called “Puppy!” which involves a young lad, a giant, disruptive dog named Tinkles and the boy’s indulgent grandfather, who just happens to be Count Dracula.

The film contains characters in jeopardy, mild scatological humor, a suppressed crude expression and a slightly 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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‘Atomic Blonde’ — sadistic, degrading and tedious

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

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Catholic News Service

Aspiring to be edgy and stylish, the espionage thriller “Atomic Blonde,” matches sometimes sadistic brawling with exploitative scenes of aberrant sex. The result is not only degraded but tedious as well.

Charlize Theron stars in a scene from the movie "Atomic Blonde." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. (CNS)

Charlize Theron stars in a scene from the movie “Atomic Blonde.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. (CNS)

In the weeks leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, British operative Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is dispatched to the still-divided city. Her mission is to retrieve a vital dossier containing the identity of every Western agent active in the metropolis.

Broughton gets unreliable help form the jaded station chief, David Percival (James McAvoy). Percival, viewers are led to suspect, may be the mole whose double dealing the elusive file would reveal along with its other secrets.

Broughton receives less expected but more dependable aid from novice French spy Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella). Rather rapidly, the two women wind up in bed together in more ways than one.

Told in flashbacks during a debriefing in which CIA officer Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman) joins Broughton’s superiors, Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and Chief “C” (James Faulkner) as she tells her tale, the plot of director David Leitch’s film is as convoluted as its tacky appeal to its audience’s lowest instincts is straightforward.

When she’s not groping Lasalle, Broughton grapples with enemies from the Stasi and the KGB, finding creative ways to eliminate them such as plunging a corkscrew into the esophagus of one opponent. Percival, for his part, prefers a handy ice pick to the forehead. He also does Broughton one better by waking up in one scene with a duo of dames bookending him.

Tough on the men and tender with her lady, Broughton, whose adventures are adapted from the 2012 graphic novel series “The Coldest City,” embodies a pornographic adolescent fantasy anyone committed to a Christian view of human dignity should shun.

The film contains nasty violence with much gore, graphic lesbian sexual activity, implied group sex, upper female and rear nudity, a blasphemous joke, a mild oath as well as pervasive rough and some crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘The Tribunal’ features annulment process, but it’s no ‘A Man for All Seasons’

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

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The annulment process provides the unusual courtroom setting for the romantic drama “The Tribunal.” While the movie’s Catholic values are strong, they come filtered through some faulty filmmaking.

Tom Morton and Ryan Wesley Gilreath star in a scene from the movie "The Tribunal." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults.  (CNS /107 Productions)

Tom Morton and Ryan Wesley Gilreath star in a scene from the movie “The Tribunal.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. (CNS /107 Productions)

Divorced musician Joe Seacker (Chris Petty) pursues a decree of nullity so that he can wed his devout girlfriend, Emily Vanderslice (Laura Mock). But his case requires the testimony of his estranged former bandmate and best friend, Tony Mirakul (Ryan Wesley Gilreath).

Tony was once Emily’s boyfriend, and still carries a torch for her while also harboring resentment against Joe for stepping into his shoes after he and Emily split. But Tony has firsthand knowledge of the fact that Joe’s ex, Jessie (Victoria McDevitt), disdained the permanence of marriage as well as the prospect of having kids.

Joe’s cause is represented by Emily’s father, Ben (Jim Damron), and opposed by the tribunals’ “defender of the bond,” Michael Constantino (Chuck Gillespie). Both men are permanent deacons.

Religious themes, including the countercultural message that sex before marriage is a damaging mistake as well as a sin, Tony’s seduction of Emily was the eventual cause of their breakup, will resonate with viewers of faith. But sometimes subpar acting, an amateurish musical score and unlikely plot developments chip away at this small-scale project’s credibility.

Still, the good intentions motivating screenwriter Michael C. Mergler and director Marc Leif are as obvious as they are honorable. And moviegoers used to being immersed in the loose morals of contemporary society will find the earnest ethics surrounding this love triangle a refreshing change.

In that light, at least some parents may consider “The Tribunal” acceptable for older teens, despite the elements listed below.

The film contains bedroom scenes, including a nongraphic premarital sexual encounter, some irreverent images, a mild oath and a few crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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