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‘The Dark Tower’ is full of metaphysical hooey

August 8th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

Awash in high-flown metaphysical hooey, director and co-writer Nikolaj Arcel’s dull sci-fi fantasy “The Dark Tower” is inappropriate for the impressionable.

Matthew McConaughey stars in a scene from the movie "The Dark Tower." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Sony)

Matthew McConaughey stars in a scene from the movie “The Dark Tower.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Sony)

As for grown viewers, they should be prepared to slog through an involved exposition of non-scriptural ideas borrowed from the series of novels by Stephen King on which the film, penned with Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner and Anders Thomas Jensen, is built.

Extending rather than adapting the books, the movie uses the psychic nightmares of troubled New York teen Jake (Tom Taylor) to introduce us to a distant world, one of many, and the cosmic battle being fought out there. This struggle pits villainous wizard Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), aka the Man in Black, against Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), aka the Gunslinger.

O’Dim is bent on destroying the supernatural structure of the title which somehow, so we’re informed, keeps the evil lurking at the edges of the universe at bay. The lone remaining member of a group of Old West-style gunmen still resisting O’Dim and his cohorts, Roland is not only out to save the tower but yearns for revenge against O’Dim, whose spells have killed off every ally who has ever stood at his side.

While on the run from some of O’Dim’s minions in the Big Apple, Jake manages to get himself transported to Mid-World, one of the planets where this feud is being played out. Conveniently, the first person he encounters is Roland.

Despite an initially gruff reception, Jake convinces Roland that he can be of service to the cause. The bond that eventually develops between the two – Jake’s fireman father died in the line of duty — is one of the few potentially touching aspects of this tangled tale.

O’Dim’s method of assaulting the tower involves the torturous extraction of energy from the minds of kidnapped children. Since Jake has the gift of second sight, what the script terms “shine,” to an unrivaled degree, his psyche would represent the equivalent of a nuclear missile launched against the vital building — if, that is, O’Dim could only get his hands on the lad.

Roland is also endowed with paranormal powers, as too is a minor character who can read people’s thoughts and communicate with them without speaking. All this is portrayed very positively in a way that might mislead the poorly catechized. As for the religiously well-grounded, they would be wise to spare themselves the necessity of sifting through this pile of New Age nonsense.

The film contains occult themes, much gunplay and other violence, including torture, but with little gore, profanity and a couple of crude 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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‘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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‘Doctor Strange’ adds magical tricks to Marvel universe

November 4th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

What Tilda Swinton can conceive, Benedict Cumberbatch can achieve in “Doctor Strange.”

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in a scene from the movie "Doctor Strange." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Disney)

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in a scene from the movie “Doctor Strange.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Disney)

As directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson, this first big-screen adventure for the Marvel Comics superhero who debuted in print back in 1963 showcases a surfeit of magical nonsense and New Age rigmarole concerning spell-casting, astral bodies and the like. Accordingly, it’s not at all suitable fare for impressionable youngsters.

When a car accident severely damages his hands, blighting his career, brilliant but egotistical neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) feverishly pursues conventional treatments. But none holds out any hope of restoring his steady touch.

Desperately frustrated, he lashes out at the one sympathetic figure in his life, his long-suffering ex-girlfriend and current colleague, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). The resulting breach makes his emotional isolation complete.

Acting on a tip from recovered paraplegic Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt), Strange travels to Nepal to meet the guru (Swinton) Pangborn claims brought about his seemingly miraculous cure. Her followers refer to this bald, and otherwise unnamed, personage as “the Ancient One.”

When Strange’s skeptical materialism proves a hard nut to crack, the Ancient One launches him on a series of giddy rides across the cosmos, trips during which the audience might be forgiven for half expecting him to run into the ghost of Timothy Leary or the lineup of Jefferson Airplane circa “White Rabbit.”

Convinced by these odd odysseys, Strange places himself, more or less wholeheartedly, under his new spiritual master’s tutelage. He receives a mix of martial-arts and metaphysical training from one of her disciples, Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). He also gets some arcane book-learning courtesy of her comically poker-faced and reticent librarian, Wong (Benedict Wong).

Instead of the healing he was initially searching for, however, Strange discovers a sort of otherworldly vocation as he becomes a warrior in the struggle between his newfound mentor and Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former student of the Ancient One’s who has embraced the forces of evil.

“Doctor Strange” features some spectacular special effects reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.” And the acting rises well above the genre average, placing it in the company of the best “Iron Man” outings.

Yet, in order to enjoy these assets, viewers of faith will have to overlook all the mumbo-jumbo interwoven into the script, which Derrickson penned along with Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill. Thus, only those mature teens able to treat such elements as on a par with the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys, a task not made easier by the fact that the hooey on offer here comes decked out in the trappings of Buddhism, should be given the green light.

The film contains pervasive occult dialogue and action, some stylized violence, fleeting gory images 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 PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘The Fluffy Movie’ — Iglesias’ comedy similar to Cosby’s

July 29th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

Like Bill Cosby, Gabriel Iglesias tells stories, not jokes. In “The Fluffy Movie,” the rotund Mexican-American comic, whose tales are as soft around the edges as the man himself, shares engaging accounts of weight loss and the difficulties of being the stepfather of a teenage boy.

Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias stars in a scene from the movie "The Fluffy Movie." 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/Anthony Nunez, Open Road Films)

Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias stars in a scene from the movie “The Fluffy Movie.” 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/Anthony Nunez, Open Road Films)

Not a lot happens in Iglesias’ anecdotes, filmed during a concert appearance in San Jose, California, by director Manny Rodriguez. He aims to get appreciative nods with his laughs, whether discussing his shedding of a hundred pounds after he became diabetic, the vagaries of driving during his recent tour in India, or the effort to explain to his privileged stepson, Frankie, how 1980s video games sometimes required mechanical skill.

Just 16, Frankie also has no idea how collect calls from pay phones used to work. The trick, his stepdad explains, lay in talking fast enough to insert a message when identifying yourself; in this case so Iglesias’ mother, on the other end, could duck having to pay the toll. “That was ghetto texting!” Iglesias cracks.

A visit to the “Center for the Morbidly Obese” ends in failure when Iglesias learns that gastric-band surgery won’t work for him. So he switches to a low-carb diet.

All this leads up to his most gripping routine, actually, a pair of interlocking routines, in which he talks about seeing his father, a singer in a mariachi band, for the first time in 30 years, along with the sudden reappearance of Frankie’s biological dad.

Iglesias doesn’t trade in mordant jabs or lachrymose bitterness. He quietly tells the truth, and trusts that his audience, which is shown as encompassing all generations and ethnicities, will accept it.

The film contains a few references to sexuality and fleeting crude language. 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.

 

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