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‘Megan Leavey’ and a Marine’s best friend

June 8th, 2017 Posted in Movies, Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

Man’s best friend is also a lifesaver in “Megan Leavey,” the inspiring true story of a female Marine corporal and the bomb-sniffing dog she bonded with during the Iraq War.

Kate Mara stars in a scene from the movie "Megan Leavey." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Bleecker Street)

Kate Mara stars in a scene from the movie “Megan Leavey.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Bleecker Street)

Leavey and Rex, her trusty German shepherd, together completed more than 100 combat missions in Fallujah and Ramadi, uncovering roadside bombs and caches of weapons, before an explosion sidelined both in 2006.

It’s a supremely heroic and exciting story that transfers well to the big screen, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite from a screenplay by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo and Tim Lovestedt.

We first meet Megan (Kate Mara) before she enlists, and her life does not make a pretty picture. A listless and depressed 20-year-old, she’s mourning the overdose death of her best friend and coping with her parents’ ugly divorce.

Megan lives with her harridan of a mother, Jackie (Edie Falco). Her sensitive father, Bob (Bradley Whitford), provides a refuge from Mom’s persistent nagging.

On a whim, Megan decides to jump-start her life by enlisting in the Marines. It’s a huge leap from her shiftless existence to such a regimented life, and rebellious Megan butts heads often with her superiors.

Caught urinating in public after a night on the town, Megan is nearly expelled. Her punishment is to clean out the cages of the K9 Division, the elite unit of bomb-sniffing dogs headed by Gunnery Sgt. Martin (Common).

It’s dirty work, of course, but Megan perseveres and has an unexpected epiphany. Witnessing the strong bond between the German shepherds and their human trainers, she decides to try her hand. Overcoming cynicism and verbal abuse from her male counterparts, Megan connects with her charge, Rex, and soon both head to Iraq.

On dangerous sorties, the duo proves its mettle, saving countless lives by uncovering land mines and exposing enemy weapons. As her self-confidence grows, Megan opens her heart further and falls for fellow Marine and dog handler Matt Morales (Ramon Rodriguez).

But fate intervenes during an ambush, when an explosion injures both Megan and Rex. Sent home to recover, Megan is devastated to be separated from her beloved canine, now reassigned.

Suffering from physical injuries as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, Megan decides not to re-enlist. But she is determined to reunite one day with Rex and adopt him as her own.

With its gritty portrayal of the horrors of combat, “Megan Leavey” is a reminder of the personal sacrifices made by those who serve our country, as well as a salute to the enduring rewards of friendship.

The film contains a few scenes of intense wartime violence, off-screen nonmarital sexual activity, several profanities and occasional rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

 

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‘Rules Don’t Apply’ includes anti-religious plot

By

Catholic News Service

Warren Beatty wrote, directed and stars in “Rules Don’t Apply,” a loosely fact-based tale set within the secretive world of eccentric industrialist Howard Hughes.

Warren Beatty stars in a scene from the movie "Rules Don't Apply." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Twentieth Century Fox)

Warren Beatty stars in a scene from the movie “Rules Don’t Apply.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Twentieth Century Fox)

Part romantic comedy, part biopic, the film suffers from an unstable tone. Additionally, Beatty’s script adopts a mostly negative attitude toward the influence of Christian faith in the personal lives of his two principal characters.

Small-town beauty queen and aspiring actress Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) finds herself a cultural fish out of water when she becomes one of the many fetching would-be stars summoned to 1950s Hollywood by Hughes (Beatty), whose holdings then included RKO Pictures. Like her peers, she’s housed in style and assigned a chauffeur, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich). Part of Frank’s job is to report any misbehavior with men he might observe.

Despite strict rules against fraternizing, the two young people fall for each other. But the looming, though often invisible, presence of their increasingly unhinged employer complicates matters in unexpected ways, threatening to thwart their happiness.

Religion plays a prominent part in the film. As we learn early on, both Marla and Frank have been hired by Hughes in part because they are devout mainline Protestants. He’s a Methodist, and she belongs to the Baptist Church in which Beatty himself was raised. Beatty’s slightly sneering script portrays the duo’s faith-based sexual mores as naive and repressive and their eventual loss of innocence as at least partially liberating.

There’s a good deal of moral confusion along their path to supposed sophistication: a hidden love affair, an unexpected pregnancy, an engagement that’s called off almost as soon as it’s made. but not before it’s used as a green light for sex. Along with the movie’s anti-religious undercurrent, all these plot twists call for careful assessment by mature viewers.

And then there’s the artistic imbalance. Frank and Marla’s love story sits uncomfortably beside the awkwardly humorous spectacle of a brilliant billionaire slowly going bonkers. Nor is Hughes’ mental decline always played for laughs. His obsession with his dead father involves a painful sense of loss and disappointment while the fact that no one is willing to defy him, even for his own good, feels tragic.

The film contains an ambivalent depiction of Christian faith, semi-graphic scenes of premarital sex, some distasteful visual humor, mature themes, including abortion, several profanities, at least one use each of rough and crude language and crass terms. 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.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Taken 3’ — Hero’s friends and relations still targeted for death

January 12th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Will audiences be taken with “Taken 3”? Probably not.

Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace star in a scene from the movie "Taken 3." 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/Twentieth Century Fox)

Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace star in a scene from the movie “Taken 3.” 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/Twentieth Century Fox)

Though director Olivier Megaton tones down the intense violence that marked the previous films in this action series, his lackluster sequel fails to engage viewers sufficiently to make them care much about anyone on screen. That includes the franchise’s front man, Liam Neeson, who reprises his role as former covert agent Bryan Mills.

A veritable Job among retired cloak-and-dagger types, poor old Bryan seems destined never to be left in peace. The first installment in his saga saw his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) abducted by Albanians; the second found no-goodniks of the same ethnicity out to snatch his whole clan.

This time, it’s Russian mobsters doing the dirty work. As led by maniacal, excessively tattooed Afghan-insurrection veteran Oleg Malankov (Sam Spruell), moreover, these gangsters’ stock in trade turns out to be murder, not mere kidnapping.

Enter Bryan’s ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) just long enough to express dissatisfaction with her current hubby Stuart (Dougray Scott), and vague notions about a reunion with Bryan, before turning up with her throat slashed in circumstances that point to Bryan as the culprit. So much for a Taylor-Burton subplot.

In the time-honored tradition of framed-up fall guys, Bryan goes on the lam. He’s tracked by Detective Frank Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), the wily investigator assigned to Lenore’s case. Dotzler combines smarter-than-thou suspicions of Bryan’s innocence with rueful admiration for his adversary’s special-ops stylings.

Along with exonerating himself, Bryan is out to protect Kim from becoming Malankov’s next victim. That’s just as well because, as early scenes have revealed, but as Bryan has yet to learn, Kim, now a college student, is dodging bullets for two.

Kim’s situation eventually leads to a brief discussion of the choice she and her barely glimpsed boyfriend are facing. While it’s never made clear whether the decision at hand concerns marriage or the fate of the couple’s child, circumstances move in a morally acceptable direction.

Bryan himself, by contrast, moves at times in the manner of a human cyclone, recklessly endangering pursuing police as well as civilian bystanders in his efforts to evade capture. But then again, what’s a jackknifed truck, a runaway shipping container and a multi-vehicle pileup on the freeway when Bryan’s chance to prove he didn’t slit his beloved Lenore’s jugular is at stake?

The film contains considerable action violence with minimal gore, a premarital situation resulting in pregnancy, adult dialogue including a possible reference to abortion, a half-dozen uses of profanity as well as at least one rough and several crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

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

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

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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