Home » Archive by category 'Movies' (Page 51)

Second movie of Hobbit trilogy picks up speed

By

Catholic News Service

It seems unlikely that Pope Francis will decide to shatter yet another papal precedent by visiting a multiplex anytime soon. Should he do so, however, he’d probably approve of the underlying themes in director Peter Jackson’s lively sequel “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

Just as the pontiff himself has done, Jackson’s second installment in a trilogy of films based on Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel warns against the corrupting influence of wealth and power. Read more »

Comments Off on Second movie of Hobbit trilogy picks up speed

‘Out of the Furnace’ and into the bare-knuckle ring

December 5th, 2013 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Director and co-writer Scott Cooper’s often bleak, sometimes touching drama “Out of the Furnace” is a grim journey into hardscrabble, rust-belt America. Religion in general, and Catholicism in particular, are shown to offer a ray of hope to the good characters who must live within this impoverished landscape. But late plot developments involving vigilantism are treated equivocally at best in Cooper and Brad Ingelsby’s script, and thus require mature interpretation.

Woody Harrelson and Christian Bale star in a scene from the movie “Out of the Furnace.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Relativity)

Set in the decaying mill town of Braddock, Pa., this is the story of two brothers: stalwart steel worker Russell Baze (Christian Bale) and his younger sibling Rodney (Casey Affleck), a directionless Iraq War vet. Together they endure a series of personal misfortunes, ranging from their bedridden father Rodney Sr.’s (Bingo O’Malley) lingering illness and young Rodney’s repeated tours of duty overseas to Russell’s run-in with the law and the subsequent departure of his live-in girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana).

These afflictions culminate when Rodney tries to make a living as a bare-knuckle boxer. Despite the warnings of local bookie John Petty (Willem Dafoe), who organizes the spectacle in Braddock, Rodney wants a shot at the bigger purses on offer in the Ramapo Mountains of New Jersey. But that means getting mixed up with vicious backwoods fight promoter Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson).

With naive Rodney discovering, too late, that he’s out of his depth, it’s up to Russell and their Uncle Red (Sam Shepard), effectively the family patriarch, to try to rescue him.

Though their presence is welcome, the religious details in the background of these downbeat proceedings are somewhat confused. Rodney Sr. has a statue of the Madonna by his bedside, and Red is shown praying the rosary. Yet when Russell goes to church, which he does more than once, the setting seems more Protestant than Catholic.

Perhaps this is merely a bid not to appear too sectarian. At any rate, the implicit message is that faith is a source of at least some minimal sustenance in an otherwise comfortless environment.

Scriptural values are left in the dust, however, as one of the main characters takes justice into his own hands. Though this is hardly presented as a good thing, there is also no clear-cut condemnation of it. So adult viewers will need to bring a well-formed conscience and seasoned judgment to bear on a conclusion as bleak as what has gone before.

The film contains much harsh violence, with some gore, revenge and narcotics themes, cohabitation, several uses of profanity and pervasive rough 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, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

Comments Off on ‘Out of the Furnace’ and into the bare-knuckle ring

Historic leader lionized in ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’

December 3rd, 2013 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Those who subscribe to the “great man” theory of history, the idea that the optimum way to understand the past is to study the lives of key individuals, won’t find a better example than South African dissident-turned-president Nelson Mandela.

Idris Elba, Tony Kgoroge, and Riaad Moosa star in a scene from the movie “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.

That’s one conclusion to be drawn from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” — a film glowing with admiration for its protagonist and bent on demonstrating the historical significance of his personal journey.

Adapted from Mandela’s 1994 autobiography, the handsome movie may not sufficiently acknowledge how other people and forces contributed to the dismantling of apartheid. But Mandela’s espousal of forgiveness and peace certainly comes across as crucial in determining the course of his native country’s history.

Still, the limitations of “Mandela” illustrate the pitfalls of approaching history through a too-narrow prism. In sum, the glossy presentation has a static quality, as if the filmmakers are trying to preserve Mandela’s legacy in amber.

To be a truly outstanding biopic, it would have to plumb the depths of Mandela’s character with more incisiveness and make his internal struggle more dynamic. It’s never clear what underpins his wisdom and moral courage.

The movie leans too heavily on flashbacks to Mandela’s coming-of-age ceremony and dream images of the golden fields surrounding his childhood village. Their explanatory power is minimal.

The narrative spans the majority of Mandela’s adult life, from 1942, when he was a lawyer in Johannesburg, to his election as president in 1994. After joining the African National Congress, Mandela quickly became a leader in the struggle against the minority Afrikaner government. He helped organize a sabotage campaign and was arrested and sentenced to life along with seven colleagues in 1964.

Of Mandela’s 25 years in prison, 18 were spent on Robben Island. After transferring him to a less forbidding mainland facility, the government began negotiating with Mandela, without his cohorts, about his release and what would follow when white rule ended.

Despite the emphasis on a single agent of change, it’s not Mandela’s story alone. The experience of his second wife, Winnie (Naomie Harris), serves as schematic counterpoint. During his long absence, she is harassed, arrested and mistreated by police. Fueled by hatred, she publicly embraces violence and advocates revenge.

“What they have done to my wife is their only victory,” Mandela declares.

British actor Idris Elba brings a robust physicality to the title role. William Nicholson’s cautious screenplay and the film’s lionizing tack are mostly responsible for any lack of texture in the portrayal.

Mandela’s greatest flaw appears to be his inveterate womanizing and adulterous behavior. By romanticizing his dalliances, the picture makes this aspect of his personality all the more difficult to excuse, more difficult, even, than his decision to abandon nonviolence prior to his incarceration.

The fact that Mandela became the face of his movement challenged a guiding principle of the ANC, namely, that no single person can oppose apartheid as effectively as multiple individuals banded together. Inadvertently, the film’s polished aesthetics also call into question the efficacy of one person acting alone, no matter how great he or she may be.

Early on, tasteful period details seem to belie the harsh conditions for nonwhites. And later, one wonders what effect the special treatment and relatively cushy conditions the government affords Mandela have on his decisions.

Ultimately, however, it’s clear that he is not being driven by vanity, self-aggrandizement, self-pity or the desire for material comfort. Instead, the movie makes a powerful case for concluding that Nelson Mandela’s greatest virtue as a statesman was his ability to look beyond his own personal circumstances and discern what was best for his nation as a whole.

Without obscuring the injustice, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” remains at a distance from the brutality and anguish of apartheid, in part by never being too graphic. Nevertheless, it is best suited to adults.

The film contains considerable violence, including many gun battles, bombings and an immolation, demeaning treatment of prisoners, a half-dozen premarital and adulterous sexual situations, though without nudity or explicit activity, as well as some crude language and hate speech. 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.

 

 

Comments Off on Historic leader lionized in ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’

‘Homefront’ a foul-mouthed violence fest

November 27th, 2013 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

The 100-minute curse-athon that is “Homefront” combines the violent tropes of a meth drama with tender scenes of domestic life to less than compelling effect.

Jason Statham and Izabela Vidovic star in a scene from the movie “Homefront.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. CNS/Open Road

With a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone adapted from the novel by Chuck Logan, you expect more gunfire than monosyllabic dialogue, plus caricatures of bad guys. Check and check.

Everyone except for 10-year-old Maddy (Izabela Vidovic), the little girl central to the family plotline, has a limited vocabulary spewed at high speed, and oppressively high volume.

Action star Jason Statham plays Phil Broker, a recently widowed DEA agent who’s trying to move on, daughter Maddy in tow, to a quieter life amidst the horses, cypress trees and waterways of rural Louisiana. Phil’s last undercover operation in Shreveport, targeting a biker gang, ended badly with the death of their ringleader’s son. Grieving dad’s now imprisoned, vowing revenge.

Phil’s never far from a bubbling meth lab. In his new hometown, where Maddy strains to fit in with the local kids, it’s operated by drawling thug Gator Bodine (James Franco).

Gator learns of Phil’s background and, with the help of his girlfriend, Sheryl (Winona Ryder), sets up a climactic battle with the bikers during which Maddy is held hostage.

Other potty-mouthed Cajuns under the direction of Gary Fleder include Cassie (Kate Bosworth), Gator’s meth-addicted sister, whose mottled family life and parenting skills affect Maddy on the school playground.

The film contains pervasive bloody violence, a brief, semi-graphic scene of nonmarital sexual activity, drug use, profanities and relentless rough 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. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

Comments Off on ‘Homefront’ a foul-mouthed violence fest

‘Black Nativity’ is a rousing musical drama

November 27th, 2013 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

If you’re tempted to bewail the absence of Christ from Christmas these days, you’ll find the Lord right where he belongs, front and center, receiving praise and worship, in the rousing musical drama “Black Nativity.”

Forest Whitaker and Jacob Latimore star in a scene from the movie “Black Nativity.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.

In fact, redemption-centered Christian faith pervades the picture to a degree rarely seen in a mainstream movie.

That’s just as well, since the urban setting of this adaptation and updating of poet Langston Hughes’ 1961 song-play surrounds its characters with a host of ills from which to be saved. A case in point: the poverty besetting Baltimore single mother Naima Cobb (Jennifer Hudson).

Facing eviction from the home she shares with her good-hearted but naive son, Langston (Jacob Latimore), named for the author, of course, Naima sends Langston to New York to live with her estranged parents: stern Harlem minister Cornell (Forest Whitaker) and his more sympathetic wife, Aretha (Angela Bassett). Naima hopes the arrangement will only be temporary.

Miserable in his new surroundings, Langston pines for his mom and chafes under the exacting standards of respectability enforced by his grandfather. He’s also plagued by misadventures, one of which lands him in jail for a time.

Tempted to solve Naima’s financial woes by stealing enough loot to get her back on her feet, misguided Langston seems headed for the life of a petty criminal. But the annual holiday pageant Cornell’s church puts on, during which Langston has a vision of the first Christmas, helps him to see the light.

So too does the unexpected intervention of a concerned acquaintance (Tyrese Gibson), a man Langston first encountered during his brief incarceration.

Soulful musical performances, unabashed piety and resoundingly positive values go a long way to smoothing over the rough patches in screenwriter and director Kasi Lemmons’ screen parable. Though not a movie for small children, this heartfelt salute to forgiveness, family unity and the power of religious belief will likely delight most others.

The film contains mature themes and the occasional threat of violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG, parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

Comments Off on ‘Black Nativity’ is a rousing musical drama

‘Frozen’ is a charming Disney tale for the family

November 27th, 2013 Posted in Movies Tags: , , , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Don’t let the title fool you, “Frozen” is bursting with enough warmth and charm to defrost even the hardest Grinchy heart.

Loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” this 3-D animated musical is good-natured, overwhelmingly wholesome fare with something for everyone: Broadway-style show tunes, thrilling adventure, gorgeous visuals, cute-as-a-button characters, and a nice message about the enduring bonds of family.

There are even a few respectful religious overtones likely to please believers.

“Frozen” is a tale of two princesses: Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) and Anna (voice of Kristen Bell). Anna is fun-loving and spirited, while Elsa, destined to be queen of the mythical kingdom of Arendelle, is reserved, harboring a deep secret.

Elsa, it seems, was born with the power to create ice and snow at will. This gift was great fun at playtime when she was a youngster. At least, that is, until Elsa nearly killed Anna in a freak accident. The king (voice of Maurice LaMarche) then decreed Elsa must be hidden away for her own safety, and the palace closed to all outsiders.

Eventually, the princesses become orphans (parents rarely seem to survive in Disney cartoons), and coronation day arrives for Elsa. The new queen is burdened by fears of a disaster; Anna, by contrast, revels in the overdue arrival of an open-door policy.

At the coronation ball, Anna falls fast for Hans (voice of Santino Fontana), a visiting prince, and after a spirited song-and-dance number, they announce their engagement. Queen Elsa won’t give her blessing, the two have just met, after all, and the sisters quarrel. Elsa accidently unleashes her powers and throws Arendelle into a deep freeze.

For everyone’s welfare, Elsa retreats to the forest, entombing herself in a mountaintop ice palace. Anna, the fearless optimist, follows her, desperate to help her sibling and undo the eternal winter.

Joining her odyssey is Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff), an amiable mountain man, and his silent reindeer sidekick, Sven. Together, they encounter a comedic snowman named Olaf (voice of Josh Gad), who knows the express route to Elsa’s hideaway.

Amid Everest-like conditions, and with an abominable snowman and an adorable bunch of trolls thrown into the mix, the sisters head toward an epic showdown.

“Only an act of true love,” warns troll elder Pabbie (voice of Ciaran Hinds), “can thaw a frozen heart.”

Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee (who also wrote the screenplay) keep the pace fast and the action lively. Some of the storm sequences may be a bit intense for the youngest viewers, but it is all in good fun.

Preceding “Frozen” is an animated short film, “Get a Horse!” It’s a clever and funny re-creation of a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon.

The movie contains a few mildly perilous situations and a bit of slightly gross humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

 

Comments Off on ‘Frozen’ is a charming Disney tale for the family

‘12 Years a Slave’ a history depicted with brutal honesty

November 25th, 2013 Posted in Entertainment, Movies Tags: ,

By

Catholic News Service

If you thought Alex Haley’s “Roots” was the definitive take on antebellum slavery in the United States, prepare for a harsh wake-up call with “12 Years a Slave.”

Unlike Haley’s 1976 book, which became a landmark TV miniseries, this film focuses on man’s inhumanity to man, portraying it with brutal honesty and a degree of violence that is almost intolerable. Read more »

Comments Off on ‘12 Years a Slave’ a history depicted with brutal honesty

‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ among mature adolescents

By

Catholic News Service

The time has come, it seems, to return to Panem, the dystopian North American nation that provides the setting for the satisfying action sequel “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” just as it did for the 2012 first installment in the series.

Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence star in the movie “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.

Should they decide to make the return trip, moviegoers will find that, in adapting the second volume in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy of novels, director Francis Lawrence has decreased the intensity of the violence on screen. And his film’s moral center is solid. Read more »

Comments Off on ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ among mature adolescents

The Raven

By

Catholic News Service

The macabre musings of Edgar Allan Poe have been adapted for the screen numerous times. In the latest instance, Poe is not only the central character, he’s also credited with being the progenitor of the horror movie genre.

While the makers of “The Raven” articulate the latter idea near the end of the proceedings, and only in passing, they’re clearly banking on it animating their tale. Instead, casting Poe as the forerunner of, say, low-budget horror director Roger Corman only underscores our sense that the author’s oeuvre is being picked at and that the film is straining to bring gravitas and wit to its own workaday mayhem and melancholia.

Read more »

Comments Off on The Raven

‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’ swashbuckles in 3-D animation

By

Catholic News Service

We have it on the authority of Victorian librettist W.S. Gilbert that “it is, it is a glorious thing/to be a pirate king.” If the rollicking 3-D animated comedy “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is to be believed, being the captain of even a motley shipload of 19th-century buccaneers isn’t such a bad lot either.

That’s the role fate has assigned to the luxuriantly bearded central character in this historical fantasy, voiced by Hugh Grant.

Read more »

Comments Off on ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’ swashbuckles in 3-D animation
Marquee Powered By Know How Media.