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‘Kidnap’ presents a long drive in a careening minivan

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

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The film contains gun and physical violence, considerable vehicular mayhem as well as profanity and rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’

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

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Catholic News Service

“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” is the sixth and presumably last in a series of video game-based films that began back in 2002.

William Levy stars in a scene from the movie "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Sony)

William Levy stars in a scene from the movie “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Sony)

The movies have always kept their connection to the console on open display. This makes them ideal for those who like their zombies, shootouts and occasionally gory incidents of flesh-eating served up with a minimum of story line or dialogue. For anyone beyond the fan base, though, frustration and a possible headache awaits.

Alice (Milla Jovovich, as ever), squeezes into her famous black tights to battle the undead as well as the evil Umbrella Corporation led by the diabolical Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen). Her sidekick, Claire (Ali Larter), provides occasional assistance.

Director and writer Paul W.S. Anderson (Jovovich’s real-life husband) provides not so much a plot as a goal, as if this were a game level.  Alice has 48 hours to find the airborne antidote to the T-virus. A pandemic of said malady has turned the planet, especially the remnants of Washington, into a dystopian moonscape populated by flesh-craving zombies.

Alice herself had the T-virus. But it seems to have been just her cup of T, since she somehow gained superpowers from her illness.

On this adventure, she fights Dr. Isaacs with whatever weapons come to hand, leads skirmishes against the zombies (who prefer to run in packs), and has occasional encounters with the Red Queen (Ever Anderson), a digitized younger version of herself who provides instructions and reminds the audience what Alice is supposed to be doing.

This series, while well short of classic, has nonetheless proved quite durable. And Jovovich puts in the effort to keep Alice a moral force of a sort. She does, after all, stay grimly focused on the collection of villains she’s up against.

The film contains gun, knife and martial-arts violence with some gore and fleeting foul language. The Catholic News 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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‘Gold’ mines mother lode of vulgarity

By

Catholic News Service

Little glitters in “Gold.” To put it another way, there’s a sour taste to this loosely fact-based story that a strong performance from Matthew McConaughey in the lead role fails to dispel.

Matthew McConaughey and Edgar Ramirez star in a scene from the movie "Gold." 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. (CNS photo/Weinstein)

Matthew McConaughey and Edgar Ramirez star in a scene from the movie “Gold.” 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. (CNS photo/Weinstein)

McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a scrappy prospector in 1980s Reno, Nevada. With the stock of the company he inherited from his father and namesake (Craig T. Nelson) selling for pennies, Wells resolves on a last roll of the dice.

Inspired by a dream, he travels to Indonesia, where he joins forces with sophisticated, but equally down-on-his-luck, geologist Mike Acosta (Edgar Ramirez). Together, they brave the jungles of Borneo and, after a number of setbacks, including a near-fatal bout of malaria for Wells, claim the largest gold strike of the decade.

But all, of course, is not as it appears. In fact, Wells’ roller-coaster ride of good and bad fortune has only begun.

With his hairline receding and his middle paunchy, Wells, who displays a fondness for hanging out, quite literally, in his tighty whities, embodies the film’s seedy atmosphere. McConaughey endows him with smoldering ambition. Yet, though a striking figure, Wells is not a particularly sympathetic one.

A low moral tone in the boardroom, moreover, is matched by Wells’ ongoing but unhallowed bedroom relationship with his live-in girlfriend, a furniture saleswoman called Kaylene (Bryce Dallas Howard).

She’s meant to be Wells’ ethical compass, warning against the machinations of the numerous Wall Street types, led by the aptly named Bryan Woolf (Corey Stoll), who are just waiting to take advantage of him. Despite her fidelity to Wells, though, neither of them so much as mentions a stroll down the aisle or a visit to the justice of the peace.

Add to those factors the mother lode of vulgarity with which screenwriters Patrick Massett and John Zinman embed their script, and it becomes clear that director Stephen Gaghan’s salute to entrepreneurial grit is unfit for most.

The film contains cohabitation, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity, rear and partial nudity, frequent use of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language and a couple of obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

 

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‘Jackie’ — a passionate meditation on grief and fame

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

By

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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Autism trivialized in ‘The Accountant’

October 14th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

In effect, the action-drama “The Accountant” argues that those with autism have a license to kill as well as to abet a litany of other criminal activities.

If this summation makes the movie sound preposterous and morally bankrupt, then so be it. After doing the math, it’s the only deduction one can draw.

Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick star in a scene from the movie "The Accountant."  The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick star in a scene from the movie “The Accountant.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Ben Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, an autistic man with a genius for crunching numbers and the ability to dispatch adversaries with brutal precision. Wolff’s story is relayed via a series of flashbacks to his turbulent childhood. In the present day, he runs a one-person accounting firm out of a Chicago-area strip mall. Although he lives modestly and takes great pains not to draw attention to himself, he’s amassed a fortune by working as a forensic accountant for drug cartels, mobsters and various despots around the world.

His mathematical talent is innate, but owing to rigorous training provided by his father, a military officer, he’s become an expert marksman and lethal fighter, skills that come in handy given the nature of his clientele.

In other respects, Wolff presents as a caricature of someone on the autism spectrum. A slave to order and routine, he’s extremely methodical and thorough. Outwardly stolid, he lacks social skills and is unable to make small talk or pick up on non-literal types of communication. His array of adaptive behaviors enables him to cope day-to-day while safely conducting his dangerous business, which amounts to solving complex puzzles for illicit enterprises. Ultimately, he seems to enjoy the work too much.

At the urging of his unidentified handler, Wolff takes on a legitimate customer. At a robotics manufacturing firm, a junior staffer, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), has spotted irregularities in the company’s books and he’s hired to find out where the money has gone.

Meanwhile, Treasury Department official Ray King (J.K. Simmons) assigns a young analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to discover the identity of the mathematical whiz known in criminal circles only as The Accountant. A mysterious hit man called Brax (Jon Bernthal) is also stalking him.

Director Gavin O’Connor’s presentation of the absurdly convoluted plot is uneven and sometimes ham-fisted. While the attempt to find levity in Wolff’s condition is a welcome respite from the grim proceedings, it also feels borderline offensive. Generally wooden acting doesn’t make the movie’s conceit any easier to swallow.

Despite its high, though not graphic, level of violence and a steady flow of bad language, “The Accountant” might be chalked up as a fairly intriguing, imperfectly executed twist on a durable entertainment formula. Preventing that from happening is the fact that the film doubles down on its perverse premise by making an explicit plea for greater sensitivity toward those who aren’t “NT,” neurotypicals.

To argue that the autistic should be considered “different” rather than abnormal or freakish is both plausible and valuable. Yet this message is undercut because Wolff is given a pass morally and is not accountable for his actions. The movie asks the viewer to show understanding toward Wolff, when, ironically, he shows no mercy or empathy toward his many victims. Indeed, there’s scant indication he is able to discern right from wrong. There a several vague mentions of him operating according his own moral code, though it’s difficult to say what that might be.

Surely it’s not the idea that it’s OK to murder and facilitate crime as long as you’re funding research and supporting the humane treatment of the autistic.

Philosophically, the movie highlights the danger of lapsing into relativism when the celebration of “difference” goes too far. Christian Wolff is handicapped in a crucial respect, one that is fundamental to humanity. He is deeply flawed as a moral being and ought to be judged and treated differently than those who experience remorse and, whether or not they are able express it, change their behavior accordingly.

In this regard, “The Accountant” does more than merely trivialize its subject matter. One might say it sets the cause of autism awareness back decades or more to a period comparable to a moral Dark Ages.

The film contains frequent intense gun violence and hand-to-hand combat and much rough, crude and profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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Nate Turner’s revolt movingly dramatized in ‘The Birth of a Nation’

October 10th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Nat Turner’s Rebellion, an 1831 insurrection among the enslaved people of Southampton County, Va., represented the most serious challenge of its kind ever posed to slavery in the antebellum South.

Gabrielle Union and Colman Domingo star in a scene from the movie "The Birth of a Nation." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Fox)

Gabrielle Union and Colman Domingo star in a scene from the movie “The Birth of a Nation.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Fox)

Although brief, the uprising exacted scores of white fatalities while its savage suppression involved the legally sanctioned executions of a roughly equal number of African-Americans, as well as the deaths of many more at the hands of enraged mobs.

Turner’s life is movingly dramatized in “The Birth of a Nation.”

Making ironic use of the title of D.W. Griffith’s technically innovative but otherwise deplorable 1915 film about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, writer-director Nate Parker, who also stars as Turner, presents audiences with an engrossing profile.

Taught to read at an early age, Turner becomes a committed and eloquent preacher. But his gifts are turned to perverse use when his master, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), agrees, for a fee, to let him tour nearby plantations delivering sermons in favor of submission.

Times are hard and local planters, feeling the pinch, have taken measures like reducing rations. The result has been the restlessness and resentment Turner’s exhortations are meant to quell.

Yet the arrangement turns out to have wholly unexpected consequences. As he witnesses the range of inhumanities to which his fellow slaves are routinely subjected, Turner gradually becomes radicalized. And these barbaric acts are soon matched by brutalities that strike closer to home, affecting both Turner himself and his beloved wife, Cherry (Aja Naomi King).

Overwhelmed by this succession of atrocious events, Turner begins to view the message of Scripture in an entirely new light.

Christian faith is obviously central to Parker’s film, his directorial debut. So too are the moral issues raised by the short-lived but bloody revolt he chronicles.

An individual tyrant, for instance, has traditionally been viewed, at least in Catholic theology, as an opponent of the common good against whom violent measures may legitimately be taken. But does the same apply to an entire class of oppressors, including women and children?

Parker handles all this with sensitivity and subtlety while nonetheless presenting Turner in an unequivocally positive light.

The educational value of “The Birth of a Nation” would normally suggest expanding its audience to include at least some teens. Yet the amount of cruel mayhem inherent in this story is so extensive that even many mature viewers will find it difficult to endure.

The film contains strong gory violence, including torture and an off-screen rape, a scene of marital intimacy, upper female nudity, a few uses of profanity and a handful of crude and crass terms. 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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Someone picks the wrong home to invade in ‘Don’t Breathe’

By

Catholic News Service

Moviegoers with long memories may recall director Terence Young’s 1967 adaptation of Frederick Knott’s play “Wait Until Dark” in which Audrey Hepburn portrayed a blind housewife forced to defend herself against three sighted thugs.

Dylan Minnette and Stephen Lang star in a scene from the movie "Don't Breathe." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. . CNS photo/Sony)

Dylan Minnette and Stephen Lang star in a scene from the movie “Don’t Breathe.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. . CNS photo/Sony)

The film’s premise, involving a doll stuffed with heroin that Hepburn’s character, Susy Hendrix, had innocently come into possession of, may have been flimsy. But the confrontations to which it led, in which Susy proved remarkably resourceful at tilting the battlefield against her adversaries, had viewers in danger of slipping off their seats.

Lo, the years have passed, and director and co-writer Fede Alvarez’s generally effective but sometimes nasty thriller, “Don’t Breathe,” turns out to have a great deal more in common with Young’s movie than just a title in the imperative mood.

Once again we have a trio of home invaders, this time made up of youthful friends and partners in petty crime — Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto). And once more have a sightless victim waiting in the wings in the person of a reclusive veteran (Stephen Lang) the script, penned with Rodo Sayagues, never names.

As the purloining pals quickly discover, though, their supposedly easy mark is no Audrey Hepburn, intrepid or otherwise. A sympathetic figure in theory — he’s been targeted by the burgling buddies because of a large legal settlement he was awarded after his young daughter was killed by a reckless driver — he’s actually a homicidal loon with well-honed combat skills.

Add to that the fact his house is the only inhabited dwelling in an abandoned area of Detroit, and that it’s watched over by a ferocious guard dog, and clear just how soon the tables will be turned on the amateurish thieves.

Alvarez is fairly restrained in his presentation of the mayhem that follows. Though blood flows, it’s measurable in ounces not bucket loads.

Yet, as the action progresses plot developments begin to strain the laws of logic. More significantly, perverse behavior and the horror equivalent of gross-out humor creep in and creep out the audience in a way those seeking casual entertainment are unlikely to appreciate.

The film contains intense violence with some gore, a disturbing sequence involving a bizarre sexual assault, brief scatological humor, profanity, much crude language and an obscene gesture. 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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Cartoon food items celebrate atheism in ‘Sausage Party’ (Yes, you read that right)

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

By

Catholic News Service

If everyone in the world would just abandon belief in God, peace would prevail and life would be one long, joyous, pansexual, narcotics-fueled love-in.

Food characters are shown in a scene from the animated movie "Sausage Party." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. (CNS photo/Sony Pictures)

Food characters are shown in a scene from the animated movie “Sausage Party.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. (CNS photo/Sony Pictures)

That’s the moronic message of “Sausage Party,” a disgusting spitball of an animated comedy from directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan.

The supposedly humorous effect of having cartoon characters, who would normally be associated with children’s films, spout obscenities has, of course, been aimed at before in Hollywood. The big-screen version of “Fritz the Cat,” for instance, dates back to 1972. But to have such figures push an atheist agenda while glorifying the basest forms of carnality would appear to represent a new low for the entertainment industry.

This nadir is reached by way of a story about the inhabitants of a suburban supermarket, most prominently a sausage named Frank (voice of Seth Rogen, who also co-wrote) and his girlfriend, a bun called Brenda (voice of Kristen Wiig). Together with their fellow shelf dwellers, Frank and Brenda believe that an ecstatic existence awaits them in “the Great Beyond” once human shoppers, whom they worship as gods, choose them and bring them home.

Among other things, the couple look forward to being released from their respective packages and united in the culinary equivalent of sexual bonding. Viewed with a leer, this prospect becomes the excuse for endless smirking, sophomoric wordplay.

But then a returned jar of honey mustard (voiced by Danny McBride), traumatized by his experience beyond the store’s walls, reveals how people actually treat their edibles. Though most of the other products refuse to believe his harrowing account, Frank is bold and intellectually honest enough to set out on a quest for the truth.

An insult to believers of every stripe, this libido idolizing film — whose cast also includes Michael Cera, Jonah Hill and Salma Hayek (as a lesbian taco) — portrays all religion as a con job that leads to violent divisiveness and sexual repression. Thus the eventual overthrow of the store’s prevailing mythology is celebrated by a mass orgy that’s supposed to count as a happy ending.

The film contains pervasive blasphemy, a debased view of human sexuality, including a frivolous attitude toward perverse acts, graphic obscene images, benignly viewed drug use, about a half-dozen instances of profanity and relentless rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted.

 

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‘The Brothers Grimsby’ is a gross-out attempt at comedy

March 11th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Written by and starring Sacha Baron Cohen, the comedy “The Brothers Grimsby” clearly wants to show it has its heart in the right place.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong star in a scene from the movie "The Brothers Grimsby." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive.(CNS photo/Sony Pictures)

Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong star in a scene from the movie “The Brothers Grimsby.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive.(CNS photo/Sony Pictures)

Unfortunately, a sense of taste is nowhere on display as Baron Cohen and director Louis Leterrier pursue gross-out giggles in a chase that takes them far over the line separating the merely awkward from the nauseating.

As a result, the themes of altruism, family love and the inherent value of working-class lives Baron Cohen incorporates into his script sink into a mire of nastiness.

The premise is one of those dopey, only-in-Hollywood setups that might be excusable if the humor it delivered were in the least enjoyable. Bumbling halfwit Nobby Butcher (Baron Cohen) grins his way through a happy-go-lucky existence in depressed Grimsby, the North-of-England equivalent of a Rust Belt town.

He loves his live-in girlfriend Dawn (Rebel Wilson), though not enough, apparently, to marry her, and his nine children. He’s also a favorite down at the pub where he entertains his protective community of eccentric slobs by, among other antics, launching fireworks out of his backside.

Nobby has only one source of sorrow in his life: the absence of his long-lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong). So when Sebastian is accidentally located, Nobby loses no time in tracking him down.

As viewers have been shown, however, Sebastian is a skilled secret agent engaged in a delicate mission with international repercussions. Thus his unexpected reunion with his bull-in-a-china-shop sibling instantly and predictably degenerates into a disaster.

The film contains strong sexual content, including graphic acts and full nudity, constant action violence with some gore, drug use, extremely coarse humor, at least one use of profanity and considerable rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted..

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘How to Be Single’ includes how to ‘shop’ for a baby

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

By

Catholic News Service

There’s a disconcerting moral snag in “How to Be Single,” an otherwise appealing, if slightly raunchy, romantic comedy.

Rebel Wilson and Dakota Johnston star in a scene from the movie "How to Be Single." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Rebel Wilson and Dakota Johnston star in a scene from the movie “How to Be Single.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

This ethical stumbling block fatally impedes the positive trajectory of the film, which finds its characters testing their capacities to settle into monogamous relationships and genuine adulthood.

Director Christian Ditter’s adaptation of Liz Tuccillo’s 2007 novel typifies the genre’s addiction to the quirky. Thus, eccentric goings-on abound in this Brooklyn-set story, which registers as a less-racy, robustly heterosexual, aggressively schmaltzy version of the HBO cable TV series “Sex and the City.”

The women mostly just want to nest, building their lives around a relationship rather than their careers. But, of course, the men dodge long-term commitment, aided by all sorts of self-imposed rules designed to prevent emotional intimacy.

Alice (Dakota Johnson), a shy, wisecracking paralegal just out of college, is taking a break from a long relationship with boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) and moves in with her older sister, gynecologist Meg (Leslie Mann).

On her first day at her law firm, Alice pals up with Robin (Rebel Wilson), a bumptious hedonist (a variation on the stock character of the lovable lush) who revels in boozy, casual sexual encounters. Robin, who’s mostly just talk, merrily spouts a bodacious riff of earthy sexual references.

Alison Brie as desperate-to-marry Lucy has put her faith in technology: building an algorithm to help her find the right guy online. Still, that doesn’t stop her from carrying on an, old-fashioned, in-person flirtation with sympathetic bartender Tom (Anders Holm).

Most of the story is taken up with Alice’s adventures as, inspired by Robin’s lifestyle, she moves into her own apartment in a twinkly version of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. In order to be fully in love, the script leads us to believe, Alice must first find out who she really is and what she wants out of life.

All positive material in its way, though similar navel-gazing has been used to justify many a divorce or career of promiscuity. But it’s Meg’s story that throws up the most troubling obstacle.

Having delivered more than 3,000 babies but with no time to cultivate relationships, Meg opts for single motherhood through the use of a sperm donation at an agency she locates online. Although she’s portrayed as a responsible doctor, and serves as Alice’s moral anchor, Meg plans a pregnancy as if she’s shopping for furniture on eBay.

The success of her plan leaves Meg’s much-younger boyfriend, Ken (Jake Lacy), bewildered by her mood swings. Until, that is, they’re apart for a few weeks, and he spots her, now obviously expecting, shopping in an infant-supply store.

Meg personifies the widespread rebellion that has taken hold in society, against God’s loving plan for sexuality, marriage and child rearing. The ranks of this revolt are not filled with odious evildoers but with people whose confusion or frustration easily wins sympathy.

Driven by a laudable desire to nurture and a human longing for fulfillment, they pursue parenthood outside the context within which God has placed it. In doing so, they not only misuse the twin gifts of sexuality and procreation, they also offend against those whom they would foster.

Whenever life is transmitted outside the loving bonds of marital intimacy, those conceived in the sterile, inhuman surroundings of a laboratory have their dignity grievously wounded. That wound is only further aggravated if they are then raised in an environment that lacks the family structure God himself has designed for our welfare.

Thus, ironically enough, a story that’s supposedly about respect for the feelings of others runs aground on the essential issue of respect for the proper passing on of human life.

The film contains a sympathetic portrayal of morally unacceptable actions, fleeting rear male nudity, crude sexual humor, implied sexual activity and some rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted.

 

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