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‘Annabelle: Creation’ — ‘Whatever you do, don’t unlock that door’

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Catholic News Service

Most of the mayhem wreaked by the figurine-haunting demon at the center of the horror prequel “Annabelle: Creation” is restrained. Yet, as the film progresses, director David F. Sandberg and his collaborators allow their imagery to become briefly but disturbingly graphic.

Stephanie Sigman stars in a scene from the movie "Annabelle: Creation." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Stephanie Sigman stars in a scene from the movie “Annabelle: Creation.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Accordingly, only those grown moviegoers willing to brave flashes of intense gore should say hello to this particular dolly.

This also is not a good fit for those insistent on strict logic or those who expect the characters on screen to behave rationally. As for Catholic viewers, they will likely be both annoyed and distracted by the wildly inaccurate, albeit incidental, portrayal of their faith incorporated into the proceedings.

In 1950s California, a group of female orphans shepherded by kindly nun Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) have somehow, by circumstances not specified in the script, been displaced from their former dwelling. They’ve been offered refuge, of a sort, at the rambling, spooky home of dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his invalid wife, Esther (Miranda Otto).

The Mullins are still overcome by grief following the death of their young daughter, Bee (Samara Lee), in a tragic car accident a dozen years before. So their hospitality is extended in an effort to brighten the tone of their funereal household. The outcome, of course, is quite the opposite.

No sooner has polio-afflicted Janice (Talitha Bateman) been warned by her brooding host to steer clear of Bee’s locked bedroom than she somehow finds herself inside that chamber, mucking about and stirring up trouble.

Discovering a hidden key to the closet in which the toy of the title has until now been confined, Janice unleashes her, much in the manner of Pandora opening her ill-fated box. Cue a reign of terror for nosy Janice, her BFF, Linda (Lulu Wilson), and the rest.

No matter how hair-raising the terrors to which Annabelle and her guiding fiend subject them, they always move toward danger, never away from it. Even allowing for youthful curiosity, this stubborn refusal to learn from experience becomes a tiresome trait.

Even more taxing, however, is a scene in which Sister Charlotte hears Janice’s confession of her disastrous trespass, not in the context of a confidential conversation but in what is clearly meant to be a formal sacramental encounter. Thus Janice kicks things off by requesting, “Bless me, Sister, for I have sinned,” and Sister Charlotte wraps things up by imposing a penance, though no absolution intervenes.

The fact that only bishops and priests can administer the sacrament of reconciliation is hardly a bit of inside-baseball religious arcana. The mistake is all the more glaring in a movie that clearly wants to position itself, in some vague way at least, as faith-friendly. Equally out of place in that proposed context is the counter-scriptural concept that infernal beings can somehow steal human souls.

There are some old-fashioned shivers awaiting the restricted audience for which this follow-up to the 2014 original can be labeled appropriate. But lapses in reason, believability and even the most rudimentary knowledge of Catholicism may inspire more frowns than frissons.

The film contains a distorted presentation of Catholic faith practices, stylized but briefly bloody violence, gruesome images and at last one 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.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Detroit’ visits harrowing moment in U.S. history

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Catholic News Service

A dark chapter of the Motor City’s history is revisited in “Detroit,” a searing period drama.

John Boyega stars in a scene from the movie "Detroit." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. .(CNS photo/Annapurna Pictures)

John Boyega stars in a scene from the movie “Detroit.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. .(CNS photo/Annapurna Pictures)

The setting is the summer of 1967, when race riots broke out in several cities across the country. In Detroit, simmering discontent over systemic discrimination and growing unemployment erupted in African-American neighborhoods. As protesters clashed with police, businesses were set afire and looting was widespread.

The crisis, which lasted four days, resulted in 43 dead, over 7,200 arrests, and the destruction of more than 2,000 buildings. “Detroit” zeroes in on one notorious incident of the so-called “12th Street Riot”: the police raid of the Algiers Motel that caused the death of three unarmed men and the brutal beating of several others.

As violence engulfed the city, the hotel became a refuge of sorts, harboring both innocent patrons and shady characters. Among the former are Larry Reed (Algee Smith) and Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore), members of an up-and-coming musical group, The Dramatics. Separated from their friends, they seek shelter at the Algiers.

At the hotel pool they meet two giggly prostitutes, Karen (Kaitlyn Dever) and Julie (Hannah Murray), white women from Ohio who are making the most of the “Summer of Love.”

Upstairs, 17-year-old Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell) decides to show off by shooting blanks from a toy pistol. Turning his attention to the growing police presence outside, he next fires the gun into the crowd.

Suspecting a sniper, the police respond in droves, and a reign of terror descends on the Algiers and its residents, including Greene (Anthony Mackie), a decorated Vietnam vet.

The raid is led by a trigger-happy cop, Philip Krauss (Will Poulter), who has a reputation for shooting looters in the back. Krauss rounds up everyone and, with the assistance of fellow officer Flynn (Ben O’Toole), unleashes a ruthless, demeaning interrogation.

A witness to the unfolding horror is Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega), a black security guard charged with protecting a nearby grocery store from looters. Dismukes suspects wrongdoing, and inserts himself into the maelstrom at a key moment.

Needless to say, “Detroit” is not for the squeamish. Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), working from a script by Mark Boal, directs at a furious, gut-wrenching pace, placing the viewer in the very center of the fast-moving storm and incorporating real-life news footage to enhance the immediacy.

However, though graphic, the portrayal of police brutality is never gratuitous. Coupled with the subsequent miscarriage of justice, the harrowing events re-enacted in “Detroit” offer a powerful reminder to mature viewers of a sad but significant incident in America’s past.

The film contains intense bloody violence and torture, brief female nudity and pervasive profane 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.

 

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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College friends reunite for raunchy ‘Girls Trip’

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Catholic News Service

Buried underneath several layers of crass gags, “Girls Trip,” has a substantial story about loyalty and moral decisions. But libidinous raunch is the evident lure.

Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish star in a scene from the movie "Girls Trip." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Universal Studios)

Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish star in a scene from the movie “Girls Trip.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Universal Studios)

The intended audience for this film is women in groups, eager to vicariously enjoy some road-trip misbehavior that comes with a considerable helping of melodrama. It’s meant to be a bonding experience.

The cast is having a very good time of it, in some cases referencing scenes from the actors’ earlier films. And the physical gags, which almost always involve sexual behavior, are somehow separate from the core story about reconnecting and finding support.

Four women, best friends since college, when they were known as the Flossy Posse, have, in the ensuing years, gone their own ways. Sasha (Queen Latifah) is a perpetually broke former journalist hoping to hit it big with her own celebrity gossip site. Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is divorced with small children and living with her mother.

Dina (Tiffany Haddish), still the live wire of the group, hasn’t settled down, and Ryan (Regina Hall) is a successful self-help author with an NFL star husband, Stewart (Mike Colter). She’s on the verge of receiving a massive investment so she can form “the first black Huffington Post.”

The group re-forms to go to the annual “Essence” Festival, sponsored by the magazine in New Orleans. There Ryan is to give a keynote address as a prelude to a marketing deal.

The event provides a backdrop for a lot of drinking, dancing and sexual talk prompted by Dina, especially after she learns that Lisa hasn’t had sex in years. As directed by Malcolm D. Lee from a script by Kenya Barris, Karen McCullah, Tracy Oliver and Erica Rivinoja, the quartet somehow keep their dignity when sober, but the Crescent City nights give them an excuse to cut loose.

There’s a dramatic center as well: When Sasha learns that Stewart’s been cheating on Ryan with an “Instagram model,” she has to decide whether to sell that information or give Ryan a chance to clean the situation up out of public view. That becomes difficult when Stewart turns up with the model in New Orleans.

Later, Ryan has to decide whether maintaining the illusion of a happy marriage is worth millions of dollars.

There’s a solid structure and wrap-up to the proceedings. But the drunken, and sometimes distasteful, goings-on are certainly not for everyone.

The film contains rear male nudity, scatological imagery, drug use, sexual banter, several descriptions of sexual activity and some 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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Kaiser Wilhelm in exile discovered in WWII spy movie

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Catholic News Service

Historical kitsch applied to World War II espionage doesn’t get more gloriously over the top than in “The Exception.”

Jai Courtney stars in a scene from the movie “The Exception.” 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. (CNS photo/A24 Films)

Jai Courtney stars in a scene from the movie “The Exception.” 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. (CNS photo/A24 Films)

Based on Alan Judd’s 2003 novel “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss,” it has, as billed, Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer) living out the last year of his exile in the Netherlands before his 1941 death.

Wilhelm is portrayed as a bitter, yet also kindly, twinkly eyed oldster who chops kindling wood and feeds ducks in his endless spare time while he yearns for the grand old days of the Hohenzollern Dynasty in Germany: “After all I’ve done for them, they stabbed me! In za back!”

This being the opening stages of World War II, a royal comeback’s not on the cards. But Adolf Hitler’s regime considers the Kaiser, exiled since the end of World War I, and wife, Princess Hermine (Janet McTeer), good for the morale of the Fatherland. So they’re kept on a generous allowance and provided a mansion, along with vague promises of a return.

There’s a new maid, Mieke (Lily James). She’s Jewish. She’s also feeding information to local spy Pastor Hendriks (Kris Cuppens). He, in turn, delivers his reports to a far-off British agent using a beeping telegraph key.

Capt. Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney) is assigned as the Kaiser’s new bodyguard so he can ferret out the spying, after he’s told, “If anything goes wrong, Captain, you’ll be shot!”

He’s so quickly attracted to Mieke that even when she tells him she’s Jewish, he doesn’t care. He’s still haunted by his role in the slaughter of Poles in a botched military operation the year before.

There’s some gratuitous nudity involved in their romantic encounters. But there’s not much of it, and director David Leveaux, working from Simon Burke’s screenplay, quickly returns to the conventions of a historical thriller, and the plot churns along to its overheated conclusion.

We are led to believe that although the Kaiser was anti-Semitic, the plans for the Nazis’ Final Solution, delivered by Heinrich Himmler (Eddie Marsan), sickened him.

The plot is loosely based on real events. Still, the moment when Mieke approaches the Kaiser to tell him, “I heff a message for you, from Winston Churchill!” sounds more like an episode of the 1960s Stalag-set sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes” than a plausible piece of history.

Overall, it’s a strange little story involving archetypes, but so exceptionally well-crafted, the stale elements simply fall away.

The film contains brief graphic nonmarital sexual activity with flashes of male and female nudity and fleeting 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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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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Adults may enjoy taking ‘Baby Driver’ for a spin

By

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.

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 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.  The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted.

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. 

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 frequent 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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‘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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