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‘Passengers’ depicts danger waking a sleeping beauty too soon

December 21st, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Science fiction becomes the springboard for a study of selfishness, sin and the possibility of forgiveness in “Passengers.”

While this tale about a transgression born of desperation will resonate with romantics, it may leave others cold.

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star in a scene from the movie "Passengers." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III , adults. (CNS photo/Columbia)

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star in a scene from the movie “Passengers.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III , adults. (CNS photo/Columbia)

Engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is one of more than 5,000 passengers on a spaceship bound for a distant colony planet. Since the journey will take 120 years, Jim, along with everyone else on board, has been put into suspended animation.

Instead of waking up shortly before arrival, however, Jim comes to 90 years prematurely. After discovering that there is no way to get back into hibernation, Jim faces the prospect of living out the rest of his life in solitude, his only real companion on the vessel is Arthur (Michael Sheen), an android bartender.

Jim’s loneliness eventually becomes so extreme that he awakens Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), an author whose background and writing he has studied and for whom he has fallen.

Screenwriter Jon Spaihts and director Morten Tyldum take a big risk by having their protagonist essentially ruin the life of the woman he loves, then try to keep that fact a secret. But at least some viewers will appreciate the complicated emotions to which this situation gives rise and the skill with which both leads convey them.

Suspense is thrown into the mix as well since the malfunction that victimized Jim turns out not to be an isolated incident.

Predictably, Jim and Aurora’s relationship turns sexual long before we discover whether they will end up walking into the sunset together. And, in a scene played for laughs, Jim takes advantage of his isolation, pre-Aurora, to walk down the hallways with a towel covering him in front but not behind.

On a deeper level, though, opinions will be divided over Jim’s irrevocable trespass against Aurora.

While “Passengers” plays out the consequences intriguingly and warmheartedly, at least some viewers will reject its premise from the start. Moviegoers of faith will have to determine whether the principle that there is no offense too grave to be forgiven, provided the wrongdoer is genuinely repentant, applies on the big screen as well as in real life.

The film contains two premarital encounters, one of them semi-graphic, a couple of glimpses of rear nudity in a nonsexual context, a pair of mild oaths and a single crass term. 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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‘Assassin’s Creed’ includes anti-Catholicism

December 21st, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Though the mayhem that pervades “Assassin’s Creed,” director Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of a popular series of video games, is mostly bloodless, other more unusual problems render it unacceptable for all. 

Michael Fassbender and James Sobol Kelly star in a scene from the movie "Assassin's Creed." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive.  (CNS photo/Fox)

Michael Fassbender and James Sobol Kelly star in a scene from the movie “Assassin’s Creed.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. (CNS photo/Fox)

That becomes clear from the moment the eponymous affirmation first pops up in the dialogue. “Nothing is true,” so it informs us, “everything is permitted.”

Fortunately, the alternate history by which this nugget is surrounded is so outlandish — and the action adventure those committed to it get themselves involved in so dull — that even ethically indifferent viewers may stay away from the film in droves.

After being unexpectedly saved from execution by a secretive organization, Marion Cotillard plays Sofia, one of its officials, sullen Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) gets filled in, along with the audience, on the Dan Brown-like back story. It seems that there has been an age-old feud between the Knights Templar and the Assassins.

This sounds unlikely, given that the Templars were very thoroughly suppressed as long ago as the early 1300s. But whatever.

The power-hungry Templars aim to eradicate free will. And they’re on the trail of an artifact, the Apple of Eden, that will enable them to do so.

For reasons best known to them, Sofia and her colleagues have decided that the optimal way to stop the Templars is to use a time-travel machine called the Animus to send Lynch or at least his consciousness back to 15th-century Spain. There he will control the body of an ancestor of his who was in the thick of every battle.

So Lynch gets strapped into the Animus and commences to thrash around in the manner of a sleepwalker having a post-traumatic nightmare.

Tedium turns to annoyance as Lynch pauses from his Spanish dust-ups long enough to witnesses the work of the Templar-backed Inquisition. He even manages to spoil an otherwise perfectly nice auto-da-fe presided over by none other than Torquemada himself (Javier Gutierrez).

Tainted by a dumbed-down vision of the past, and of the church, Kurzel’s preposterous brew only continues to curdle from there.

The film contains false values, anti-Catholicism, sometimes harsh but rarely gory combat violence and rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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Cartoon animals ‘Sing’ but have ‘out of bounds’ living arrangements

December 21st, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

“Sing” is a generally amiable but flawed musical cartoon, populated mostly by animals. While the essential values of this show-biz fable are respectable enough, writer-director Garth Jennings incorporates elements into his film that make it unsuitable for youngsters.

This is a publicity image from the animated movie "Sing." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Universal)

Vocie actors pose with their animated movie characters in “Sing.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Universal)

With the theater he owns failing financially, koala bear Buster Moon (voice of Matthew McConaughey) aims to revive his business by staging a singing contest. After some predictably humorous tryouts, a quintet of finalists emerges.

Mike (voice of Seth MacFarlane) is a conceited mouse who croons in a Sinatra-like style. Gifted teenage elephant Meena (voiced by Tori Kelly) suffers from stage fright.

Harried sow housewife Rosita (voice of Reese Witherspoon) has to balance her vocal ambitions against the needs of her overworked husband, Norman (voice of Nick Offerman), and their litter of 25 kids. Johnny (voice of Taron Egerton) is a Cockney gorilla gangster’s son who would rather belt out Elton John tunes than help his dad (voice of Peter Serafinowicz) steal.

Then there’s Ash (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), a porcupine punk rocker coping with the selfishness of her live-in boyfriend, Lance (voice of Beck Bennett).

Friendship and loyalty are triumphant amid plot complications that include a typo escalating the winner’s prize a hundredfold. But Jennings, who also provides the voice of Miss Crawly, the good-hearted but dimwitted lizard secretary responsible for that error, not only includes a living arrangement that’s out of bounds for a kids’ movie, he also presents us with a semi-cross-dressing character.

Chosen by Buster to be Rosita’s stage partner, German-accented pig Gunter (voice of Nick Kroll) exudes swishy enthusiasm and favors glitzy leotards. By contrast with emotionally neglectful Norman and narcissistic Lance, who together represent a rather negative image of masculinity, Gunter is grouped with most of the female figures on the credit side of the ledger.

Grown viewers will obviously be well equipped to take such material in stride. And “Sing” is also probably acceptable for mature teens. But the most impressionable viewers, presumably a prime target demographic for the movie, will find it less than harmonious.

The film contains cohabitation, some scatological humor and scenes of peril. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Jackie’ — a passionate meditation on grief and fame

December 20th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

“Jackie” is more of a passionate meditation on the nature of a first lady’s fame than a historical drama about Jacqueline Kennedy in the weeks following the 1963 assassination of her husband.

Natalie Portman, center, stars in a scene from the movie "Jackie." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Fox)

Natalie Portman, center, stars in a scene from the movie “Jackie.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS/Fox)

So the mesmerizing performance by Natalie Portman in the title role — it’s one long monologue, really – can’t be measured against other biopics of presidents or their wives.

Director Pablo Larrain and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim focus instead on how Jackie created her own legend by virtually dictating a story about her husband’’s last days to reporter and biographer Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup) for Life magazine. They strengthen their drama with an expertly created mix of archival footage into which Portman is inserted.

Jackie, shown to be arch and brittle, has complete control over the article, and even commands White not to mention that she smokes. It being the early 1960s, everyone else is smoking, of course.

This feature in Life launched the Camelot legend of the Kennedy years, since Jackie mentioned that she and the president (Caspar Phillipson) used to enjoy listening to the eponymous Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical’s cast album. She knew, in other words, something about myth-making, even in the depths of her grief.

That’s also where the film goes off the rails after its first hour.

Jackie is shown not listening to the record with the president, but rather alone, as she wanders in despair through the stately second-floor rooms of the White House from which she’ll shortly depart.

As the title song of “Camelot” begins, Richard Burton, the original King Arthur, burbles, “It’s true! It’s true!” Discerning history buffs may be tempted to shout back at the screen, “It’s not! It’s not!”

Soon afterward, the president’s brother, Bobby (Peter Sarsgaard), announces, “I think you need to talk to a priest.” This leads to a series of conversations about anger and suicide with a scruffy elderly cleric (John Hurt) billed only as the Priest.

Hurt’s character is an amalgam of at least two real-life clergymen, Irish-born Vincentian Father Joseph Leonard, whom Jackie knew from before she was married, and Jesuit Father Richard McSorley, who taught at Georgetown University. Bishop Philip Hannan, the future archbishop of New Orleans, who was then an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, is also known to have counseled the grieving widow.

Jackie is said to have asked Father McSorley “if God would separate her from her husband if she killed herself,” after which he reiterated to her the church’s teaching against suicide.

Although these are quite typical exchanges to have while wrestling with grief, Catholic viewers may wonder whether they’re the result of breaking the seal of confession. It turns out they’re not, although Father McSorley was widely criticized years later for revealing the contents of their talks.

The dramatic thread of the film concerns Jackie’s demand that everyone march in a procession from the White House to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle for the funeral. Since this eight-block walk would include foreign dignitaries, her request caused hours of frantic arguments about security concerns. Yet Jackie prevailed, and the cortege is now recalled for its calm, fearless dignity.

“Jackie” may fall short as history. But its attention to detail and its willingness to show grief honestly will make it appealing for many adults.

The film contains an explicit, gory portrayal of assassination and at least one use of 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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‘Collateral Beauty’ is a quirky mess that’s too bizarre and too pat

December 16th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

“Collateral Beauty” is a strange, pretentious drama about overcoming grief.

While that’s obviously a subject about which a good film, perhaps many of them, might be made, the treatment of it in director David Frankel’s quirky mess of a movie is at once too bizarre and too pat to yield any insights.

Will Smith and Keira Knightley star in a scene from the movie "Collateral Beauty." 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/Warner Bros.)

Will Smith and Keira Knightley star in a scene from the movie “Collateral Beauty.” 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/Warner Bros.)

The talented cast certainly do their best to redeem the proceedings, though ultimately their effort proves futile. Will Smith plays Howard, a formerly successful advertising executive so emotionally paralyzed by the death of his young daughter that he endangers the future of his firm by his neglect of clients.

In response, Howard’s three principal colleagues —Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena) — hire a trio of actors, vain Brigitte (Helen Mirren), fetching Amy (Keira Knightley) and skateboarding street kid Raffi (Jacob Latimore), to prove that Howard’s distress has rendered him incompetent. And this is where things get rather squirrelly.

The thespians are to prove that Howard has gone off his rocker by impersonating the three abstractions — death, love and time — to which, as private detective Sally (Ann Dowd) has discovered, Howard has written, and mailed, angry letters. Sally will capture the resulting exchanges on her mobile phone, the players will be edited out of the footage, and Howard will be shown ranting away to himself.

Cuckoo, Q.E.D.

To take the blatantly unethical nature of this maneuver on the part of Howard’s partners, who also claim to be his friends, seriously would first require a jumbo-sized suspension of disbelief. The fact that the death-love-time triad also just happens to fit the life situations of these treacherous amigos similarly strains credibility.

The occasional jokes that leaven the dialogue in screenwriter Allan Loeb’s script, moreover, are far outnumbered by fortune-cookie sentiments the audience is clearly meant to receive as nuggets of wisdom. Some of these come from the picture’s moral-compass setter, Madeleine (Naomie Harris). A bereaved mother who leads a therapy group Howard reluctantly joins, Madeleine also shares the anecdote from which “Collateral Beauty” takes its title.

If you’ve ever heard the one about “silver linings,” you pretty much know what the moral of that story is going to be. Those willing to endure the blizzard of cliches of which the eponymous phrase forms but a flake will, however, find a warm endorsement of marital fidelity waiting for them at the wrap.

The film contains an adultery theme, at least one use of profanity as well as crude and 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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‘Rogue One’ found to be a worthy ‘Star Wars’ entry

By

Catholic News Service

With “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” last year’s promising re-ignition of the iconic franchise, “The Force Awakens,” gains a worthy and equally family-friendly companion.

Diego Luna, Felicity Jones and Jiang Wen star in a scene from the movie "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Diego Luna, Felicity Jones and Jiang Wen star in a scene from the movie “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Interstellar derring-do is once again the order of the day as this latest film in the series provides a rousing prequel to writer-director George Lucas’ 1977 original, subsequently dubbed “Episode IV – A New Hope.”

“A New Worry” might be an apt subtitle for “Rogue One” since its plot is driven by the fact that the evil Empire, served most prominently by Grand Moff Tarkin, (a computer-generated projection of the late Peter Cushing) and Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), is on the verge of deploying a game-changing new weapon, the Death Star.

With its potential to wipe out entire planets, the Death Star could doom the efforts of the gallant Rebel Alliance, headed by Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), to resist subjugation.

This crisis draws the movie’s main character, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), to center stage. As the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), the brilliant scientist who unwillingly developed the technology behind the Death Star while being held captive, she has reason to believe that the armament can be sabotaged from within.

To prove this, she’ll need the help of intrepid Alliance officer Capt. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) as well as that of his mechanical sidekick, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). An amusingly straight-talking android, K-2SO is the source of most of the movie’s wry comic relief.

In crafting an exciting epic, director Gareth Edwards keeps the mayhem inherent in his story of armed conflict virtually bloodless. And the script, by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, celebrates altruism while also briefly tackling the morality of obeying some military orders.

But the ambiguous nature of the spiritual “Force” cultivated primarily, in this installment, by blind Buddhist-style monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) may be a source of concern for the parents of some teens. Since the Force can be interpreted in any number of ways, including a vaguely Christian one, the famous blessing it inspires having an almost liturgical ring to it, youngsters may need guidance to arrive at sound conclusions.

For all others, “Rogue One” offers old-fashioned entertainment in the best sense: an engaging showdown between plucky goodness and elegant villainy with a bit of delightfully innocent romance thrown in for good measure.

The film contains frequent but thoroughly stylized combat violence, religious elements requiring mature discernment and some frightening images including a scene leading up to mental torture. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Miss Sloane’ studies political corruption

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

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Catholic News Service

A striking performance from Jessica Chastain in the title role propels “Miss Sloane,” director John Madden’s forceful study of political corruption.

Since the film abounds in seamy behavior, both in the boardroom and the bedroom, however, only those grown viewers willing to wade through a swamp of unscrupulousness should pay the price of admission.

Jessica Chastain stars in a scene from the movie "Miss Sloane." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS /EuropaCorp)

Jessica Chastain stars in a scene from the movie “Miss Sloane.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS /EuropaCorp)

On the other hand, “House of Cards” addicts desperately waiting for a fresh round of outrageous machinations from Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood to become available on Netflix may find “Miss Sloane” just the thing to tide them over. They’ll certainly find a soul mate for Underwood in the eponymous lobbyist, albeit one given to less extreme measures.

Ruthlessly and obsessively focused on winning, Elizabeth Sloane, who has risen to the highest levels of her profession, appears to be indifferent to the positive or negative effects of the causes she champions. Vanquishing the opposition, whoever they are, seems to be all that matters to her.

So it comes as a shock to her colleagues when, driven by personal conviction, Sloane abruptly changes sides in the fight over a pending gun-control bill.

All the more so, since her new stance entails abandoning her cushy position with a topflight firm, led by George Dupont (Sam Waterston), and signing on with a fledgling outfit headed by do-gooder Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong) for what Sloane realizes will be an uphill battle against the National Rifle Association and its allies.

Potential casualties in the high-stakes conflict that follows initially include Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), one of the staff members who switched companies with Sloane and who, as Sloane knows, harbors a long-hidden secret. But eventually, with no holds barred in the escalating struggle, Sloane’s own future hangs in the balance as well.

Despite its obvious and, for Hollywood, predictable partisan bias, and its preference for dramatic effect over ethical seriousness, as penned by Jonathan Perera, “Miss Sloane” is fundamentally moral.

Yet the movie’s exploration of its protagonist’s unhealthy personal life, in which she uses strapping prostitute Robert Forde (Jake Lacy) as a partner for emotionally empty, commitment-free sex, will be off-putting even for some mature viewers.

Sloane’s interaction with Forde is of a piece with her daytime transgressions. Everything is to be sacrificed to the advancement of her career: marriage, family life, the well-being of colleagues and, of course, nearly all standards of right and wrong. None of this is endorsed by the narrative, quite the opposite, though Sloane’s adversaries are portrayed as being even more unprincipled than she is.

Given that this is a thriller, the emphasis is on the twists and turns of the clash rather than on what it all means, either for those engaged in it or for the audience. So moviegoers should be on the lookout for upended expectations rather than deep insights.

The film contains semi-graphic nonmarital sexual activity, a prostitution theme, several uses of profanity, a tasteless religious joke and frequent crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Office Christmas Party’ is sleazy and generic as its title

December 9th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Cubicle drones cuts loose in “Office Christmas Party.” The result is a sleazy soiree, an “Animal House” toga wingding for the spreading-middle and receding-hairline set.

T.J. Miller and Courtney B. Vance star in a scene from the movie "Office Christmas Party." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. (CNS photo/Paramount)

T.J. Miller and Courtney B. Vance star in a scene from the movie “Office Christmas Party.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. (CNS photo/Paramount)

What matters here is that seemingly respectable bourgeois business types should be emboldened, via the consumption of vast amounts of alcohol, to Xerox their bare backsides and use a 3-D copier for a still more vulgar purpose. What most emphatically does not matter is the plot that gets them there.

Nonetheless, here goes: To impress Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), a potential client who thinks their company suffers from low employee morale, Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller), the laid-back branch manager of a family-owned internet firm, and Josh Parker (Jason Bateman), his chief tech officer, defy their uptight CEO, Clay’s sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston), by going ahead with the office Christmas party she had ordered them to cancel.

Predictably, things get out of hand with destruction and debauchery running rampant. Cocaine winds up in a fake-snow blower; Nate (Karan Soni), the resident geek, hires a call girl named Savannah (Abbey Lee) to pose as his girlfriend; and we get a peek of group sex going on in a bathroom stall.

As all that suggests, directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon’s grossly stupid get-together is a regrets-only affair that viewers concerned either with taste or morality or, better yet, with both will happily decline to attend.

The film contains brief sacrilegious humor, strong sexual content, including full nudity and implied aberrant behavior, drug use, a prostitution theme, several uses of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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Who will save the Christmas festival in ‘Believe’?

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

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Catholic News Service

Evangelical Christian faith hovers in the background of the holiday-themed drama “Believe.” Though not as rose-colored in its outlook as some religiously-inspired projects, the movie, which is suitable for most age groups, lacks polish.

Ryan O'Quinn, Danielle Nicolet and Issac Ryan Brown star in a scene from the movie "Believe."  (CNS photo/Believe the Film)

Ryan O’Quinn, Danielle Nicolet and Issac Ryan Brown star in a scene from the movie “Believe.” (CNS photo/Believe the Film)

Cash-strapped factory owner Matthew Peyton (Ryan O’Quinn) faces both the impending collapse of his business and the end of the annual Christmas fair his family has long sponsored in his small hometown. In fact, he’s in danger of becoming a local pariah since not only are his workers on strike against him, but his neighbors, many of whom make a substantial profit from the carnival, though he puts it on for free, stand to lose out as well.

As Matthew struggles to decide whether to sell his company to save the festival, he draws support from his best friend since childhood, physician Nancy Wells (Shawnee Smith). He also gets emotional backup from a duo of newfound acquaintances: impoverished, ailing single mother Sharon Joseph (Danielle Nicolet) and her indefatigably cheerful little boy, Clarence (Issac Ryan Brown).

Matthew met the Josephs when Clarence took on the role of good Samaritan, rescuing Matthew after he was beaten up by thugs who also set his car on fire. This physical attack is only the starkest of the negative developments Job-like Matthew must cope with as the often downbeat proceedings move forward.

Matthew has moments of self-doubt and occasionally seems to give in to despair. He also doesn’t shy away from confrontation with his opponents, which helps give “Believe” the kind of dramatic backbone faith-driven movies often lack. That’s all the more welcome since at least some viewers are likely to react to Clarence’s unquenchable good humor, and the cavorting by which he gives vent to it, with an echo of W.C. Field’s famous growl, “Go away, kid, you bother me.”

Still, Clarence manages to brighten Matthew’s mood as the latter doggedly holds out for a Capraesque happy ending. Along the way, writer-director Billy Dickson mostly avoids preachiness and keeps the imperative of his title Bible-based but nondenominational.

Mention of golden-age Hollywood director Frank Capra is almost inevitable, given that both Clarence’s name and his ambition to play an angel in the pageant that caps off the Christmas fair obviously recall Capra’s yuletide classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which Henry Travers played an eponymous heavenly messenger. Similarly, Matthew’s plight mirrors that of Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey in the earlier film.

While “Believe” is hardly in the same league as the beloved predecessor it evokes, the absence of most objectionable material does make it a safe choice for a large cross section of the family.

The film contains some nonlethal violence and a single crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

  

 

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‘Loving’ — Interracial love story becomes 1967 Supreme Court case

December 5th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

Dignity and understatement are usually noble qualities in a film. “Loving,” the fact-based story behind a landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision, is so restrained and decorous, however, that it nearly obscures the historical significance of the events it recounts.

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in a scene from the movie "Loving."  (CNS photo/Focus)

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in a scene from the movie “Loving.” (CNS photo/Focus)

Partly that’s the result of the portrayal of Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton). This white Virginia bricklayer, one of the movie’s two main characters, is shown to be taciturn, monosyllabic, almost stone-faced. The only fleeting emotions he expresses are terror whenever strange cars appear on rural two-lane roads and a sense of humor while watching the sentimentalized South on offer in an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Richard’s serene African-American wife, Mildred (Ruth Negga), gets to display considerably more human qualities. It’s she who kicks off their legal crusade, which eventually succeeded in demolishing race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States, by writing to Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

Inspired by the civil rights movement, which she experiences only on TV, Mildred also understands the need for national news coverage.

The Lovings, who lived in Caroline County, Va., married in Washington in 1958 — thereby evading, temporarily at least, their home state’s law forbidding interracial unions. Such “anti-miscegenation” statutes had their origins in the days of slavery but were reinforced in Southern states after the Civil War; Virginia’s was enacted in 1924.

Shortly after returning to the Old Dominion, the couple was arrested and jailed. Because the commonwealth rejected the validity of their marriage, deputies also hoped to arrest the Lovings on a fornication charge; thus increasing the penalties they would face.

Contemptuous Sheriff Brooks (Marton Csokas) expresses the only flat-out racist sentiment in the movie, ridiculing Loving’s close proximity to black neighbors and telling him, “You were just born in the wrong place, is all.”

A judge gives the duo a one-year suspended sentence, and forbids them to return to Virginia for 25 years. So they move to Washington.

But they don’t take to city life, and when they return to Virginia for the birth of their first child — Richard’s mother, Lola (Sharon Blackwood), is a midwife — they’re arrested again. They eventually move to a neighboring county where law enforcement is less inclined to harass them. But they seek legal relief in order to return to Caroline County, where Richard has promised Mildred he’ll build her a house.

These circumstances must have been extraordinarily stressful, since the Lovings had no way of knowing whether any given nightfall would be the cue for a hate crime. Yet writer-director Jeff Nichols doesn’t allow either Richard or Mildred to be freely emotional.

Occasionally, relatives express their frustrations, but that’s it. Nichols keeps his drama free from the histrionics that surely must have occurred.

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, inexperienced but hugely confident in the merits of the case, guide it to the Supreme Court. But even there, their arguments and those from the state, which at least would explain to viewers why all of this matters, are truncated.

So no long monologues for any of the characters. Rather, the dialogue aims to be brief and pithy. When lawyer Bernard Cohen (Nick Kroll) asks Richard what he should say to the justices, for instance, Richard merely grunts, “Tell them I love my wife.”

The cultural impact of the Lovings’ struggle makes this valuable viewing for mature teens, despite the elements listed below.

The film contains a premarital pregnancy, a couple of crass terms, fleeting racial slurs and two scenes of childbirth. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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