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Adults may enjoy taking ‘Baby Driver’ for a spin

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Catholic News Service

Stylish and energetic, the high-octane crime drama “Baby Driver” blends pop music, dizzying car chases and some dark humor to impressive effect.

Ansel Elgort and Lily James star in a scene from the movie "Baby Driver." The Catholic News Service classification is L, Limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Sony)

Ansel Elgort and Lily James star in a scene from the movie “Baby Driver.” The Catholic News Service classification is L, Limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Sony)

While the film’s basic values are sound, however, late plot developments involve a quantity of bloodletting that will seem excessive to many moviegoers.

Ansel Elgort plays the title character, who prefers the moniker Baby to his real name. An otherwise decent young man, Baby is being forced to serve as the getaway driver in a series of bank robberies to pay off a debt he incurred to callous mobster Doc (Kevin Spacey).

This brings him into contact and collaboration with a series of lowlifes, including Wall Street executive-turned-thief Buddy (Jon Hamm), Buddy’s moll Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and aptly nicknamed psychopath Bats (Jamie Foxx). The better part of Baby’s nature, meanwhile, is expressed in the care he gives his deaf and ailing foster father, Joe (CJ Jones), and in his romance with sprightly diner waitress Debora (Lily James).

Writer-director Edgar Wright earns his paycheck with a production carefully choreographed down to the last gesture, and there’s an amiable and appealing spirit to most of the proceedings. Elgort invites strong sympathy for the orphaned, often silent Baby.

While it can be argued that Wright tries to have it both ways, ethically speaking, a reckoning does eventually arrive, and crime is ultimately punished. Baby and Debora’s relationship, moreover, remains chaste, with nothing more than kisses being exchanged.

Yet, as things begin to wind up, Wright aims for shock value by having some of his bad guys meet spectacular, brutal deaths. This considerably circumscribes the audience for which “Baby Driver” can be endorsed. Forewarned grownups, however, may enjoy taking it for a spin.

The film contains momentary but intense gory violence along with much gunplay, several uses of profanity 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.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘St. Vincent’ an endearing, if unusual, look at sanctity

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Catholic News Service

An unlikely baby sitter also serves as an unusual image of sanctity in the fundamentally endearing drama “St. Vincent.”

While writer-director Ted Melfi’s feature debut has a broadly appealing message, aspects of its main character’s dodgy lifestyle narrow the scope of its appropriate audience. The film’s approach to moral questions, moreover, requires mature reflection.

Bill Murray and Jaeden Lieberher star in a scene from the movie "St. Vincent." 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 PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Atsushi Nishijima, The Weinstein Company)

Bill Murray and Jaeden Lieberher star in a scene from the movie “St. Vincent.” 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 PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Atsushi Nishijima, The Weinstein Company)

Bill Murray is pitch-perfect as Vincent, a hard-drinking, curmudgeonly loner shambling his way through life, cutting ethical corners at every opportunity.

When Vincent acquires a new next-door neighbor in the person of recently divorced single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), the two take an instant dislike to each other. But, with no one else available to mind her 12-year-old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) after school, hardworking hospital lab technician Maggie is forced to turn to Vincent to do the job.

Since Vincent is an inveterate gambler in serious debt to, among others, loan shark Zucko (Terrence Howard), he agrees to the arrangement.

Vincent and Oliver bond over adventures at the race track, stints in Vincent’s favorite dive bar, where Oliver drinks soda, of course, as well as during visits to Vincent’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted wife Sandy (Donna Mitchell). Sandy lives in a luxurious nursing home whose costly rates clearly eat up most of Vincent’s scant income.

Former boxer Vincent also teaches Oliver, whose small stature and lack of self-defense skills lead to his being bullied, how to stand up for himself. Increasingly, Oliver learns to look past his gruff caregiver’s obvious flaws and see the hidden goodness within him.

Catholic viewers will especially appreciate the thoroughly positive portrayal of Oliver’s funny, patient and wise parochial school teacher, Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd). The film’s title derives from a project Brother Geraghty assigns his students: to research someone in their lives who displays saintly qualities.

The script makes a valid point by reminding us that even saints aren’t perfect during their lives here on earth. Yet its unabashed celebration of Vincent’s positive qualities, and the pass it gives to his self-destructive habits and small-scale misdeeds, have to be scrutinized within the context of the Gospel imperative commanding us to eliminate sin from our lives entirely.

This is especially true of Vincent’s objectively adulterous relationship with Russian-born prostitute Daka (Naomi Watts). With Daka pregnant by an unknown father, her link with Vincent eventually evolves into a glumly chaste friendship, and he provides shelter both for her and the baby. But, while one can sympathize with the plight that led to their original connection, its sordid and exploitative nature can’t be overlooked.

Just how much is excusable in a person who is, at heart, unusually nurturing and generous? Moviegoers well grounded in their faith will know how to apply the holistic vision of Scripture to that issue, taking as their starting point, perhaps, St. Peter’s comforting assertion that “love covers a multitude of sins.”

The film contains brief semi-graphic adultery, a benign view of petty theft, a prostitution theme, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word and much 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 PG-13.

 

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‘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.

 

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‘Coriolanus’ is Shakespeare but not for the faint of heart

February 17th, 2012 Posted in Movies Tags: , , , ,

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Catholic News Service

When your lead character proclaims, “The blood I drip is more medicinal than painful for me,” you know someone’s gonna get hurt. Or maybe hundreds.

Welcome to the big-screen treatment of William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Coriolanus,” a consistently brutal and violent film which, when not shedding blood, offers a searing commentary on power, betrayal and revenge.

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