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‘The Lovers’ a ‘lyrical’ look at infidelity but not its damage

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Catholic News Service

To the extent that a thoughtful drama about marital infidelity can be considered lyrical, “The Lovers” achieves that. Writer-director Azazel Jacobs carefully structures his plot to minimize any gaping holes in logic. But he also downplays the extensive collateral damage adultery inflicts.

Debra Winger and Tracy Letts star in a scene from the movie "The Lovers." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.  (CNS photo/A24)

Debra Winger and Tracy Letts star in a scene from the movie “The Lovers.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/A24)

Perhaps he wanted to avoid making anyone a villain. Certainly, no one is ever shown to be really at fault. Lacking a steady moral compass, his characters are buffeted by life’s unpredictability.

The story focuses on Michael (Tracy Letts) and Mary (Debra Winger), two doughy, respectable, middle-age empty-nesters, their son Joel (Tyler Ross) is away at college.

Their marriage has, for reasons not explained, sputtered out. Both have taken on lovers.

They seem to be mutually aware of the cheating, but they’re exceedingly polite to each other and still share the same bed. The lethargy that led to their love’s demise, as well as bland domestic rituals, prevent them from actually splitting.

Mary, her mouth a rictus of pain and confusion, has taken up with handsome, younger Robert (Aidan Gillen). Michael, whose emotional outlet usually consists of giggling, is carrying on with Lucy (Melora Walters), an emotionally fragile ballet teacher.

Jacobs keeps his story sympathetic and free of tawdriness by showing that Mary and Michael, numb in their own lives, aren’t particularly good at adultery, either. Thus they find many ways to be both physically and emotionally unavailable to their paramours.

Why Robert and Lucy regard these two as good catches is mysterious. But eventually they both deliver ultimatums. Whatever goes on, it’s never glamorous.

That, too, is one of Jacobs’ points. Love and physical attraction often make no sense, and eventually Michael and Mary find, to their considerable surprise, that their spark has returned. So, in a series of farcical sequences, they end up “cheating” on their lovers.

This lurches on for a spell until a visit from Joel and his girlfriend, Erin (Jessica Sula), sets into motion events which reveal the hollowness of the charade.

The film contains an adultery theme, fleeting scenes of marital sexual activity, some of it potentially aberrant, and much profane and rough 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.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Alien: Covenant’ — Everything old is spewed again

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Catholic News Service

Once you’ve seen one vicious extraterrestrial gnaw its way out of a human body from the inside, you’ve seen ’em all. Or so at least the jaded or squeamish moviegoer might be tempted to think.

Yet, the success of the durable “Alien” franchise, which dates all the way back to 1979, and was last added to by the 2012 reboot “Prometheus,” would seem to argue otherwise.

Danny McBride and Katherine Waterston star in a scene from the movie "Alien: Covenant." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS/Fox)

Danny McBride and Katherine Waterston star in a scene from the movie “Alien: Covenant.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS/Fox)

For those eager to watch the showcased race of creatures come busting out all over one more time, there arrives the competently shocking “Alien: Covenant.” As before, the watchword remains, to borrow a phrase from Cole Porter, “Don’t Fence Me In.”

When we first meet those whose anatomical bounds are likely to be burst, namely the crew of the titular spacecraft, they’re taking a long cryogenic nap as they speed toward a distant planet on a colonizing mission from Mother Earth. They’re watched over by a so-called “synthetic,” (an android) named Walter (Michael Fassbender).

Naturally, all this is too peaceful to last. So, cue an unforeseen phenomenon that not only badly damages the Covenant but also kills a number of those on board, including the vessel’s commander, Capt. Jacob Branson (James Franco).

As they analyze this incident, Branson’s successor, Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), and his colleagues detect a weak audio signal that alerts them to the existence of a much closer and possibly populated world that seems just as suitable for settlement as their original destination. After some debate, Oram orders a change in course.

Those in the imperiled landing party Oram leads, and Walter accompanies, include Branson’s widow, Daniels (Katherine Waterston), and Oram’s wife, Karine (Carmen Ejogo).

As director Ridley Scott, who originated the series, unleashes his trademark mayhem, the plot increasingly focuses on a duel between Walter and David (also Fassbender), an earlier model of synthetic who featured in “Prometheus” and who now turns up down on the surface.

Grown viewers with a strong tolerance for gore will note an undeveloped theme concerning Oram’s religiosity. Though the early dialogue highlights his faith-based decision making, and the opposition his beliefs are likely to excite once he takes over, all this fizzles away rapidly as the franchise’s ultimate form of indigestion begins to take hold.

The film contains intervals of gruesome bloody violence, brief graphic marital lovemaking, a same-sex kiss, about a half-dozen uses each of profanity and milder swearing as well as pervasive rough and some crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Snatched’ — Occasionally amusing, often vulgar

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Catholic News Service

There’s a kernel of goodness at the heart of the mother-daughter comedy “Snatched.” But the minority of grown viewers for whom the film is acceptable will have to wade through a veritable cesspool of bad taste to approach it.

Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn star in a scene from the movie "Snatched."(CNS photo/Fox)

Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn star in a scene from the movie “Snatched.”(CNS photo/Fox)

That’s a pity, because this fast-moving feature is occasionally amusing and marks a welcome return to the big screen for Goldie Hawn as Linda, an overprotective but sensible and loving mom.

Linda never condones the lewd antics of her estranged daughter, Emily (Amy Schumer). Instead she labors patiently for Emily’s redemption from evil and selfishness.

That’s no easy goal to achieve, and their relationship is put to a further test when Emily persuades her mother to join her on a getaway to Ecuador.

Emily intended to go with her rocker boyfriend, Michael (Randall Park), but he dumps her on the eve of their departure. With a nonrefundable vacation package, and no friends willing to go, Emily takes pity on her mother.

Linda is a free spirit and homebody, caring for her cats and her agoraphobic son, Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz). Afraid of her own shadow, she’s an unlikely candidate for a South American adventure.

“Help me put the ‘fun’ in ‘nonrefundable,’” Emily pleads.

So off they go to a fancy resort on the edge of the Ecuadorian jungle.

Linda is content to sit by the pool and read her book. But Emily seeks romance, and soon hooks up with handsome stranger James (Tom Bateman).

This Mr. Wrong lures Emily and Linda into the jungle with the promise of waterfalls and rainbows. It’s a setup, and mother and daughter are kidnapped and held for ransom by the treacherous Morgano (Oscar Jaenada).

“Snatched” wastes no time with the perils of these Paulines, piling on the slapstick (and vulgarity) as they escape into the bush. Help comes from a mysterious guide named Roger (Christopher Meloni), and fellow resort guests Ruth (Wanda Sykes) and Barb (Joan Cusack).

As directed by Jonathan Levine from a screenplay by Katie Dippold, “Snatched” is a slapdash, cliche-ridden send-up of exploitation movies. It’s only redeemable feature is a message about a mother’s unconditional love and the enduring family bond, which manages to shine through a very dirty exterior, as indicated by the warnings below.

The film contains brief upper female nudity, persistent sexual humor and innuendo and pervasive rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Unforgettable’ — unsavory cinematic junk food

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Catholic News Service

The few adult viewers for whom it’s suitable might be tempted to nickname the feverish domestic drama “Unforgettable” “Wifey Dearest.” 

Katherine Heigl and Geoff Stults star in a scene from the movie "Unforgettable." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. .(CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Katherine Heigl and Geoff Stults star in a scene from the movie “Unforgettable.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. .(CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

That’s because Tessa Connover (Katherine Heigl), the obsessive, perfectionist ex-spouse at the center of the film’s action, continually calls to mind Faye Dunaway’s fuming, rage-prone persona as Joan Crawford in 1981’s “Mommie Dearest.”

It’s not the use of wire hangers that has Tessa seething, though. Rather, it’s the prospect of her milquetoast former husband David’s (Geoff Stults) forthcoming marriage to his live-in girlfriend, Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson).

By purloining Julia’s cellphone, shared custody of young daughter Lily (Isabella Kai Rice) gives Tessa access to the new couple’s household, Tessa conveniently discovers that her rival has an abusive ex-boyfriend named Michael Vargas (Simon Kassianides). Impersonating Julia online, she reconnects with the brute, and it’s not long before she’s planning to frame Julia for his murder.

That may sound like a spoiler, by the way. But in fact, the movie opens with a battered and bewildered Julia being interrogated over the crime, then switches to a prolonged “how did we get here?” flashback.

Director Denise Di Novi keeps the pot boiling along the way to a climactic catfight in which hair is pulled, fingernails are deployed and a fireplace poker is brandished. But Di Novi and screenwriter Christina Hodson throw in some unsavory and gratuitous ingredients that limit the appeal of “Unforgettable” even for those with a taste for cinematic junk food.

These include Tessa’s emotionless, and futureless, parking-lot tryst with a good-looking stranger she just met and David and Julia’s escapade in a restaurant bathroom. In another scene, Julia no sooner turns on the taps of her bathtub at home than the experienced moviegoer knows that her silky robe is coming off on screen.

It’s not silk that sells, after all.

The film contains occasional violence with some gore, cohabitation, strong sexual content including graphic scenes of casual and premarital sexual activity and masturbation, brief rear and partial nudity, about a half-dozen uses of rough language, a few crude terms and a mild oath. 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.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Free Fire’ would be better with pies instead of bullets

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Catholic News Service

The premise of “Free Fire” is that a single extended gunfight can sustain an entire film, provided the participants in the showdown keep making incongruously funny and mordant remarks.

Brie Larson and Sharlto Copley star in a scene from the movie "Free Fire."  The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.  (CNS/24)

Brie Larson and Sharlto Copley star in a scene from the movie “Free Fire.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS/24)

This is the genre of the siege movie. Plot and character development are ignored in favor of the presumed enjoyment of watching villains working out their issues by blasting away at each other in a decaying Boston factory.

The setup involves a deal to buy assault rifles that quickly goes bad. So, the two sides spend the rest of the run time pulling their triggers and reloading while attempting to retrieve a briefcase loaded with cash.

Think of it as an extended pie fight, but with bullets. It would work out better were the movie actually comedic. But director Ben Wheatley, who co-wrote the screenplay with Amy Jump, is instead completely vested in choreographing these scruffy, amoral characters as they pop up from hiding places to fire off a few rounds. He also has them crawl around painfully after receiving flesh wounds.

There are occasional funny moments for viewers willing to detach the violent proceedings from real life. Thus, a soothing John Denver ballad, from an 8-track tape in a battered van, plays in the background at one ominous moment. And would-be gun buyer Justine (Brie Larson) says of arms dealer Vernon (Sharlto Copley), “He was misdiagnosed as a child genius and he never got over it.”

But Wheatley also goes for the obvious in a ham-handed manner. This is an old umbrella factory, but no one has one when the sprinklers go off.

This being 1978, the characters have to rely on a single landline phone, and duck a fusillade of bullets if they want to call anyone on the outside for reinforcements.

The buyers, in addition to Justine, are Chris (Cillian Murphy), an Irish Republican Army operative, Frank (Michael Smiley), Bernie (Enzo Cilenti) and Stevo (Sam Riley). Selling, besides Vernon, are Martin (Babou Ceesay) Gordon (Noah Taylor) and Harry (Jack Reynor). The unctuous Ord (Armie Hammer) attempts to be the middleman.

Eventually, Wheatley runs out of wisecracks and has most of the characters die in a variety of gruesome ways. But there’s no resolution to the mayhem. “Free Fire,” accordingly, ends up a claustrophobic exercise in mindless conflict.

The film contains pervasive gun and physical violence, fleeting gore, drug use, occasional profanities and constant rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Saban’s Power Rangers’ in bad taste despite Krispy Kremes

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Catholic News Service

NEW YORK — A Saturday morning children’s show gets its third big-screen treatment with “Saban’s Power Rangers.”

Regrettably, unlike the two previous films in the franchise, this latest incarnation of the popular 1990s program (then called “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”) is more suitable for late night TV, because of a preponderance of crass humor, off-color language and inappropriate sexual references.

Ludi Lin, Becky G, Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott and RJ Cyler star in a scene from the movie "Saban's Power Rangers." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.  (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Ludi Lin, Becky G, Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott and RJ Cyler star in a scene from the movie “Saban’s Power Rangers.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Such vulgar updating of a relatively wholesome (if somewhat cheesy) concept is baffling, unless director Dean Israelite (“Project Almanac”) and no fewer than five screenwriters were charged with a command to be relevant. That would also explain, in part, why one of the five teen superheroes, Trini (Becky G), aka the Yellow Ranger, is now gay. The subject of Trini’s homosexuality is confined to a single acknowledgement that she prefers girls over boys; she does not act out her inclination.

The bare-bones of the original series, a Japanese invention adapted for American audiences by Saban Entertainment, remain. Five high school students meet in after-school detention, each there for a different reason.

Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is the football star who fell from grace, wrecking several automobiles in the process. He has eyes for comely rebel Kimberly (Naomi Scott), recently cast out of her popular clique at school. Resident nerd Billy (RJ Cyler) is brilliant but often bullied. Zack (Ludi Lin) is a cool dude cast from the James Dean mold. And Trini is a moody loner who throws a mean left hook.

The quintet meets outside class by chance at an abandoned gold mine. There they discover five shiny coins, each a different color. This is no spare change, as the trinkets emit otherworldly powers which begin to transform our teens, a la Spider-Man, into superheroes.

Digging deeper into the mine, they discover an alien spacecraft and with it, their destiny. The disembodied deity Zordon (voice of Bryan Cranston) and his robot sidekick, Alpha 5 (voice of Bill Hader), have been waiting eons for our teens to take up the mantle of defenders of good over evil, in other words, become the Power Rangers.

So, our ragtag bunch undergoes extensive Ninja-like training to learn how to morph into their armor-clad alter egos, each a distinctive color: red (Jason), pink (Kimberly), blue (Billy), yellow (Trini) and black (Zack).

Their reinvention comes not a moment too soon. Zordon’s ancient nemesis, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), has been revived and is hell-bent on world domination. She has a particular penchant for gold, rampaging countless mall jewelry stores to build a colossal monster that will locate the all-powerful “zeo-crystal.”

If this sounds silly and mindless, it is, and had the film taken a different tack it would have been escapist fun for all ages.

In the end, not even the amusing gag of locating of the zeo-crystal beneath the local branch of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, also an extreme example of product placement, can make up for the film’s excess of bad taste.

The film contains much crude humor, rough language, sexual innuendo and references to homosexuality and masturbation. 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.

 

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Beauty (‘must-see film intended for children’) and the Beast’ (‘agenda at odds with Christian values’)

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Catholic News Service

Disney’s live-action adaptation of its beloved 1991 animated film “Beauty and the Beast” arrives in theaters amid controversy over the updating of one of its characters into an openly gay man.

Emma Watson stars in a scene from the movie "Beauty and the Beast." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. . (CNS photo/Disney)

Emma Watson stars in a scene from the movie “Beauty and the Beast.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. . (CNS photo/Disney)

The decision of the studio, director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”), and screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos to reimagine LeFou (Josh Gad), sidekick of the villainous Gaston (Luke Evans), as Disney’s so-called “first gay character” is a regrettable one. A cherished family film has, in essence, been appropriated for an underlying agenda that is firmly at odds with Christian values.

Parents will have a hard time explaining to their kids, as most know the cartoon by heart, why LeFou has jumped on the homosexual bandwagon. His amorous advances to Gaston, proud display of a bite mark from Gaston on his stomach (due to “wrestling”), and ultimate dance in the arms of another man will raise eyebrows, to say the least.

Admittedly, many grown moviegoers will take LeFou’s transformation in stride. “Beauty and the Beast,” however, is a must-see film intended for children. Given the clear intent to make a statement with the character in question, the restrictive classification assigned below is a caution for viewers of faith, especially parents.

The pall cast over “Beauty and the Beast” is unfortunate, as the film is largely an imaginative and engaging work with an arresting visual style. An old-fashioned Hollywood musical at heart, it brims with familiar songs by Alan Menken and whirling dance sequences worthy of Busby Berkeley.

Like the cartoon, this film is loosely based on the 1740 fairy tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. The eponymous lovely, Belle (Emma Watson), is a spirited maiden in a French village who longs for excitement.

“I want adventure in the great-wide somewhere,” she warbles. “I want so much more than they’ve got planned!”

Be careful what you wish for, dearie. No sooner does she spurn the advances of the vain hunter Gaston than Belle winds up imprisoned in a haunted castle, having swapped places with her kidnapped father, Maurice (Kevin Kline).

Enter said Beast (Dan Stevens), aka The Prince. We learn in an extended prologue that this handsome royal was transferred into a horned (but infinitely more dapper) version of Chewbacca from the “Star Wars” franchise by Agathe (Hattie Morahan), an enchantress, as punishment for his selfishness.

Agathe’s curse extended to The Prince’s staff, who became not furry creatures but household objects. These exceedingly loquacious items include Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), a stuffy mantel clock; Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), a dancing candelabra; Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), a motherly teapot, and her cup of a son, Chip (Nathan Mack); and musical duo Cadenza (Stanley Tucci), a harspichord, and Garderobe (Audra McDonald), a wardrobe.

Only if Beauty grows to love the Beast will the spell be broken, which seems a very long shot for this odd couple. A courtship ensues, with a lesson on looking beyond outward appearances for true love, until a vengeful Gaston raises an angry mob to kill the Beast, casting doubt on a happy ending.

Even in the absence of the hot-button issue already discussed, young children might be frightened by several dark moments in the movie, including attacks by wolves and Gaston’s violent assault on the Beast’s castle.

The film contains a few scenes of peril and action violence, a benign view of homosexual activity, and some sexual innuendo. 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.

 

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‘Get Out’ — Guess who’s coming to frighten you

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Catholic News Service

Is the thriller “Get Out” as good as all get out? Well, not exactly.

Clever social commentary from writer-director Jordan Peele does add heft to the proceedings. But late scenes featuring some gory encounters, together with swearing throughout, make his film a rugged ride even for grown-ups.

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams star in a scene from the movie "Get Out."  (CNS/Universal)

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams star in a scene from the movie “Get Out.” (CNS/Universal)

In a setup reminiscent of 1967’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” young black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), is about to meet his white live-in girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents — Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford) Armitage — for the first time.

In lieu of the earlier movie’s titular meal, the occasion for Chris’ introduction to the family is to be a weekend visit to the Armitages’tony estate in the country.

While Chris is prepared for the initial awkwardness Missy and Dean display as they go out of their way to show they’re not bigots, less predictable developments leave him increasingly unsettled. There’s Rose’s weirdly aggressive brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), for instance, who seems to be spoiling for a martial-arts smackdown with Chris.

Then, too, there’s the Armitages’ strangely subdued, zombie-like household staff: maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and gardener Walter (Marcus Henderson). In fact, Chris is disturbed by the behavior of pretty much everyone he meets during his stay, on both sides of the racial divide.

As things turn ever more sinister, Peele adeptly uses horror tropes to comment on slavery, racism and liberal pieties. The plot’s denouement, however, comes dipped in a needless amount of blood.

This wrap-up is also clearly designed to incite the audience to cheer as an array of villains meet satisfyingly grisly ends. It’s ironic and unfortunate that a picture aimed at satirizing one negative aspect of human nature should eventually appeal to another.

The film contains some harsh and bloody violence, cohabitation, at least one use of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language.

The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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Pointless exercise: ‘A Cure for Wellness’

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Catholic News Service

The Swiss spa that serves as the primary setting for the creepy, but otherwise pointless horror exercise “A Cure for Wellness” operates, it seems, on the Hotel California plan.

Dane DeHaan stars in a scene from the movie "A Cure for Wellness." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Fox)

Dane DeHaan stars in a scene from the movie “A Cure for Wellness.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Fox)

As fans of the Eagles’ 1977 hit will recall, that means, “you can check out anytime you like; but you can never leave.”

The audience may pick up on this unusual policy well before the film’s protagonist, a junior Wall Street business executive the dialogue identifies only by his last name, Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), ever does.

Callous young Lockhart has been dispatched to the Alps to convince a higher-ranking colleague called Pembroke (Harry Groener) to break his recently announced resolution to make his stay at the resort permanent. There’s a big merger in the works, and his fellow board members need Pembroke to sign off on it.

Corrupt machinations add urgency to Lockhart’s mission since Pembroke is to be made the fall guy for Lockhart’s own misdeeds in the lead up to the pending deal. Rare is the capitalist who comes off well in a Hollywood movie these days.

Despite the soothing manner of the facility’s director, Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs), Lockhart eventually discovers that something is profoundly amiss, and his own chances of ever departing the place are remote.

Working from a script by Justin Haythe, director Gore Verbinski effectively conjures up a sinister atmosphere. But the subtlety with which he initially unsettles viewers is lost as he attempts to ratchet up the tension, in part by subjecting Lockhart to the kind of unpleasant hallucinations the Haight-Ashbury set used to term a bad trip.

Some of these delusions take place in a large complex of steam baths where people for whom the virtue of modesty would be a wise choice wander around in the altogether. The resulting imagery is more reminiscent of the work of British painter Lucien Freud than anything Hugh Hefner ever had in mind.

The mildly unnerving gives way to the gothic as a backstory about the evil nobleman who once owned the land on which the spa stands takes on increased significance. From there, the proceedings become downright lurid via plot developments involving Volmer’s daughter, Hannah (Mia Goth).

By this stage, many moviegoers will wonder why they’ve subjected themselves to this ultimately hellish journey in the first place. In fact, as its logically unsatisfying wrap-up approaches, “A Cure for Wellness” hovers on the border of the offensive. In the judgment of some at least, it may cross that line, despite the relatively respectable overall intentions of its creators.

Either way, why be a prisoner of your own device?

The film contains some gory violence, a scene of torture, strong sexual content including a graphic incestuous assault and masturbation, much nudity in a nonsexual context, a couple of uses of profanity, and about a dozen instances each of 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.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ presents cartoonish nihilism

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Catholic News Service

The stylized, nearly cartoonish nihilism and resulting high body count in “John Wick: Chapter 2” create most of the apparent appeal of this second drama about a professional assassin.

Keanu Reeves stars in a scene from the movie "John Wick: Chapter 2." 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/Lionsgate)

Keanu Reeves stars in a scene from the movie “John Wick: Chapter 2.” 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/Lionsgate)

The rest, as directed by Chad Stahelski from Derek Kolstad’s script, consists of small moments — quite small, since there’s nearly no dialogue — of mordant and questionable humor.

Violently pulled out of retirement, Wick (Keanu Reeves) arrives in Rome for an assignment.

“Are you here to see the pope?” a worried-looking Winston (Ian McShane), the owner of the Continental Hotel, asks. Assured that’s not the case, Winston tells Wick that he has a room available to use as a base of operations.

The Continental is also the name of a secret international network of assassins of which Wick is the indisputable star, since he’s acrobatic, amazingly versatile and fearless. He also, in this episode, has a bounty on his head, so when he’s not shooting or committing mayhem in a muscle car, he’s being shot at.

The core story has Wick unwillingly drawn into a plot to seize a seat at the High Table, a criminal enterprise. Italian playboy Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) wants the seat held by his fur-adorned sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini). To get it, he orders Wick to treat Gianna with extreme prejudice.

Since a previous life-or-death commitment to Santino leaves Wick with no choice but to accept this mission, he takes to it in the manner of James Bond being equipped by Q. He’ll have to face off against Gianna’s loyal bodyguard, Cassian (Common). And Santino has a large squad of goons who don’t wish to see Wick get away alive.

It’s not a movie that requires concentrated attention. What’s needed instead is a tolerance for — and enjoyment of — elaborately choreographed stunts and chase sequences.

The film contains pervasive action violence with little blood, a suicide and brief full female nudity. 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.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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