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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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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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Catholic News Service

Despite its ponderous title, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” turns out to be a flashy but lightweight sci-fi adventure likely to divert those grown viewers content to munch their popcorn and enjoy a break from the heat of summer.

Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne star in a scene from the movie "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS/TF1 Films)

Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne star in a scene from the movie “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS/TF1 Films)

Moviegoers seeking something more memorable, by contrast, will be disappointed. And some gritty elements incorporated into the film suggest that even most mature teens should skip this trip to the stars and instead stay safely earthbound.

It’s the 28th century, and devil-may-care intergalactic law enforcement agent Maj. Valerian (Dane DeHaan) finds himself sharing both romantic tension and a series of crime-busting exploits with his more serious-minded partner, Sgt. Laureline (Cara Delevingne). Initially, the latter involve the legacy of the destroyed planet Mul.

Small reptiles from that lost orb, known as Mul Converters, had the power to multiple pearl-like gems that doubled as energy-producing wonder minerals. Now, the last remaining Mul Converter has fallen into the wrong hands, and Valerian and Laureline’s boss, the Minister of Defense (musician Herbie Hancock), dispatches them to retrieve it.

Later phases of the plot concern the fate of Alpha, the titular metropolis. This mega-space station, a gathering place for a wide variety of life forms, is under threat from an unidentified force, and it’s up to our heroes to get to the bottom of the mystery.

In adapting a series of graphic novels by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres, writer-director Luc Besson excels at such sequences as an interdimensional chase through an exotic bazaar. Yet his sometimes baroquely overwrought film is longer on style than ultimate impact.

The love story sees playboy Valerian, whose promiscuous past is treated lightheartedly, anxious to mend his ways in favor of marital commitment. And there are incidental religious references in the dialogue, though these are partly offset by equally fleeting lines with a pagan ring to them.

In addition to an early scene in which the main duo canoodle, Valerian’s detour through Alpha’s gritty red-light district — during which he’s momentarily mesmerized by shape-shifting stripper-prostitute Bubble (pop star Rihanna), and also has to deal with her crafty pimp, Jolly (Ethan Hawke), puts the proceedings well out of bounds for youngsters.

Bubble remains at least minimally clad. But some of her ever-changing costumes play on fetishistic fantasies, making this portion of the otherwise mostly inoffensive “Valerian” unsavory even for older viewers.

The film contains gunplay and other stylized violence, a prostitution theme, scenes of sensuality with partial nudity, a mild oath and crude language. 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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“Dunkirk” proves a compelling historical drama

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

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Catholic News Service

“Wars are not won by evacuations,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously observed. As writer-director Christopher Nolan’s compelling historical drama “Dunkirk” demonstrates, however, fine films can be made about them.

Soldiers are shown in a scene from the movie "Dunkirk." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Soldiers are shown in a scene from the movie “Dunkirk.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

May and June 1940 were indeed, in Mel Brooks’ sarcastic phrase, “Springtime for Hitler.” Using blitzkrieg tactics and a surprise attack through the supposedly impassible Ardennes Forest, his forces rapidly defeated and encircled the British Expeditionary Force and its French allies. Eventually hundreds of thousands of troops were left trapped in a small pocket centered on the English Channel port of the title.

Though the Fuhrer called a halt on the land assault and assigned the Luftwaffe the task of finishing off the Allies from the air, the prospects for Britain remained dire. Were the vast bulk of its army to be taken prisoner in France, the outlook for defending against a Nazi invasion of Britain itself would be virtually hopeless.

In picking up the story at this point, Nolan takes an Everyman’s view of the situation. Dividing the action into events on land, sea and air, he apportions story lines among an ensemble cast, with sometimes confusing and dramatically diffuse results.

Representing the cornered forces on the beach is a trio of ordinary soldiers, Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and Alex (Harry Styles). Among the few officers portrayed in the film are the senior naval representative on the scene, Cmdr. Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) and his army counterpart, Col. Winnant (James D’Arcy).

Embodying the many hundreds of British seafaring civilians who answered the call for fishing and pleasure craft to join in the rescue is small yacht owner Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance). Dawson is accompanied by his teen son, Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and by Peter’s friend, George (Barry Keoghan).

In the middle of the Channel, they rescue an unnamed soldier, played by Cillian Murphy, whose shell-shocked condition and frantic determination not to return, however temporarily, to Dunkirk pose a fresh and distracting challenge for them, with ultimately grim results.

Up in the skies, a duo of RAF Spitfire pilots — Collins (Jack Lowden) and his higher-ranking comrade, Farrier (Tom Hardy) — battle the German fighters and bombers seeking to wreak havoc on both the hapless soldiers and the shipping below.

The perils of the desperate, against-the-odds operation are fully exploited for dramatic tension, with near-death experiences awaiting almost every character. The measures resorted to by some of them in their efforts to survive seem questionable, at least as viewed from a comfortable theater seat.

Yet these ethical lapses are balanced by a general sense of heroic pluck and by incidents in which humane justice and generosity of spirit are upheld. The altruism motivating Dawson and others to risk life and limb for the sake of strangers also elevates the moral tone.

While “Dunkirk” is not for the fainthearted of any age, the movie’s educational value and relative freedom from objectionable content makes it probably acceptable for older teens.

The film contains intense stylized combat violence, brief gore, a couple of uses of profanity and at least one instance each of rough, crude and crass language. 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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College friends reunite for raunchy ‘Girls Trip’

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Catholic News Service

Buried underneath several layers of crass gags, “Girls Trip,” has a substantial story about loyalty and moral decisions. But libidinous raunch is the evident lure.

Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish star in a scene from the movie "Girls Trip." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Universal Studios)

Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish star in a scene from the movie “Girls Trip.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Universal Studios)

The intended audience for this film is women in groups, eager to vicariously enjoy some road-trip misbehavior that comes with a considerable helping of melodrama. It’s meant to be a bonding experience.

The cast is having a very good time of it, in some cases referencing scenes from the actors’ earlier films. And the physical gags, which almost always involve sexual behavior, are somehow separate from the core story about reconnecting and finding support.

Four women, best friends since college, when they were known as the Flossy Posse, have, in the ensuing years, gone their own ways. Sasha (Queen Latifah) is a perpetually broke former journalist hoping to hit it big with her own celebrity gossip site. Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is divorced with small children and living with her mother.

Dina (Tiffany Haddish), still the live wire of the group, hasn’t settled down, and Ryan (Regina Hall) is a successful self-help author with an NFL star husband, Stewart (Mike Colter). She’s on the verge of receiving a massive investment so she can form “the first black Huffington Post.”

The group re-forms to go to the annual “Essence” Festival, sponsored by the magazine in New Orleans. There Ryan is to give a keynote address as a prelude to a marketing deal.

The event provides a backdrop for a lot of drinking, dancing and sexual talk prompted by Dina, especially after she learns that Lisa hasn’t had sex in years. As directed by Malcolm D. Lee from a script by Kenya Barris, Karen McCullah, Tracy Oliver and Erica Rivinoja, the quartet somehow keep their dignity when sober, but the Crescent City nights give them an excuse to cut loose.

There’s a dramatic center as well: When Sasha learns that Stewart’s been cheating on Ryan with an “Instagram model,” she has to decide whether to sell that information or give Ryan a chance to clean the situation up out of public view. That becomes difficult when Stewart turns up with the model in New Orleans.

Later, Ryan has to decide whether maintaining the illusion of a happy marriage is worth millions of dollars.

There’s a solid structure and wrap-up to the proceedings. But the drunken, and sometimes distasteful, goings-on are certainly not for everyone.

The film contains rear male nudity, scatological imagery, drug use, sexual banter, several descriptions of sexual activity and some rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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Kaiser Wilhelm in exile discovered in WWII spy movie

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Catholic News Service

Historical kitsch applied to World War II espionage doesn’t get more gloriously over the top than in “The Exception.”

Jai Courtney stars in a scene from the movie “The Exception.” 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. (CNS photo/A24 Films)

Jai Courtney stars in a scene from the movie “The Exception.” 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. (CNS photo/A24 Films)

Based on Alan Judd’s 2003 novel “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss,” it has, as billed, Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer) living out the last year of his exile in the Netherlands before his 1941 death.

Wilhelm is portrayed as a bitter, yet also kindly, twinkly eyed oldster who chops kindling wood and feeds ducks in his endless spare time while he yearns for the grand old days of the Hohenzollern Dynasty in Germany: “After all I’ve done for them, they stabbed me! In za back!”

This being the opening stages of World War II, a royal comeback’s not on the cards. But Adolf Hitler’s regime considers the Kaiser, exiled since the end of World War I, and wife, Princess Hermine (Janet McTeer), good for the morale of the Fatherland. So they’re kept on a generous allowance and provided a mansion, along with vague promises of a return.

There’s a new maid, Mieke (Lily James). She’s Jewish. She’s also feeding information to local spy Pastor Hendriks (Kris Cuppens). He, in turn, delivers his reports to a far-off British agent using a beeping telegraph key.

Capt. Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney) is assigned as the Kaiser’s new bodyguard so he can ferret out the spying, after he’s told, “If anything goes wrong, Captain, you’ll be shot!”

He’s so quickly attracted to Mieke that even when she tells him she’s Jewish, he doesn’t care. He’s still haunted by his role in the slaughter of Poles in a botched military operation the year before.

There’s some gratuitous nudity involved in their romantic encounters. But there’s not much of it, and director David Leveaux, working from Simon Burke’s screenplay, quickly returns to the conventions of a historical thriller, and the plot churns along to its overheated conclusion.

We are led to believe that although the Kaiser was anti-Semitic, the plans for the Nazis’ Final Solution, delivered by Heinrich Himmler (Eddie Marsan), sickened him.

The plot is loosely based on real events. Still, the moment when Mieke approaches the Kaiser to tell him, “I heff a message for you, from Winston Churchill!” sounds more like an episode of the 1960s Stalag-set sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes” than a plausible piece of history.

Overall, it’s a strange little story involving archetypes, but so exceptionally well-crafted, the stale elements simply fall away.

The film contains brief graphic nonmarital sexual activity with flashes of male and female nudity and fleeting rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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

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

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

“We are not savages,” he insists.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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‘Wish Upon’ presents fatally fulfilled desires

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

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Catholic News Service

The low-budget Faustian fable that is “Wish Upon” has a bullied teen girl fulfilling her earthly desires for vengeance, money, popularity and a surprisingly chaste romance in exchange for maybe her mortal soul.

Joey King and Mitchell Slaggert star in a scene from the movie "Wish Upon." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Broad Green Pictures)

Joey King and Mitchell Slaggert star in a scene from the movie “Wish Upon.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Broad Green Pictures)

Anyway, fulfillment using a mysterious Chinese “wish box” that grants seven of ’em is a double-edged sword. Every time Clare (Joey King) asks for something, she gets it, but someone else close to her has to die. Them’s the terms.

The character as written is hardly morally bereft. Clare is just trying to get along, and she’s still traumatized from having witnessed her mother’s suicide by hanging in the attic, but she’s a little dimwitted, too.

Clare takes a long time to catch on that this enameled box, a music box, is granting her wishes, and by the time it’s explained to her by a Chinese-American pal, she’s already five wishes into the deadly bargain.

Since her mother’s death, Clare’s father, Jonathan (Ryan Philippe), a sometimes musician, has been reduced to working as a trash picker in search of antiques, much to her embarrassment.

One day he brings home said box, for which the provenance is unknown. Clare, who just got into a cafeteria fight with one of her school’s mean girls, holds the box while expressing the hope that this girl should just rot away. Soon enough, the meanie does just that with a sudden case of the necrotizing fasciitis, known as the flesh-eating disease.

The plot meanders along this path for quite a while, with Clare getting her late uncle’s inheritance, and both she and her father achieving that all-important peer-group popularity as others meet their doom in a bathtub, a garbage disposer, an implied impalement and a runaway elevator. On this film’s budget, the splatter factor virtually ceases to be.

Director John Leonetti and screenwriter Barbara Marshall make the best of what they have, but each plot point and its resolution are telegraphed so blatantly, there’s no suspense.

The film contains fleeting gore and fleeting 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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