Reel Reviews

‘Hidden Figures’

Audience:
A-III – adults

 

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A race for space and human rights

The struggles of the Civil Rights era provide the backdrop for the appealing fact-based drama “Hidden Figures” (Fox 2000). Along with a personalized insight into the injustices that still prevailed in American society in the early 1960s, director Theodore Melfi’s adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s book – which centers on three extraordinarily gifted mathematicians working for NASA – successfully re-creates the tension of the Cold War space race.

For all their genius, this trio of colleagues and close friends faced an uphill professional fight. That’s because they were not only women in a field dominated by men, but African Americans living and working in segregated Virginia.

Their story is told primarily from the perspective of Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), a “computer” (as the number crunchers were then known) whose career gets a boost when she’s assigned to the prestigious unit tasked with working out the logistics of manned space flight. There she gradually wins the respect of her well-meaning but initially unenlightened boss, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner).

Both of Katherine’s pals, meanwhile, have challenges of their own to confront. Manager Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) does all the work of a department supervisor but enjoys neither the title nor the salary of that position. And Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) has set her sights on an engineering degree, but will have to obtain a court order to be allowed to take the necessary courses.

Besides the social changes slowly unfolding, and the suspense of the effort to catch up with the Russians post-Sputnik, “Hidden Figures” also gives viewers a glimpse of the early age of mechanical computers.

As representatives from IBM set up a massive device at NASA headquarters, Dorothy masters the programming language Fortran, already foreseeing that she and her co-workers will need to shift from making calculations on their own to entering data instead. (The textbook Dorothy uses to learn Fortran is purloined from a local library, but only because she’s not allowed to take it out – as a white person would be.)

Melfi uses scenes detailing the main characters’ personal lives to showcase family values and Christian piety. He also works in some wholesome romance by chronicling widowed Katherine’s blossoming relationship with National Guard Col. Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali).

Given the positive morality on display as well as the historical understanding to be gained from “Hidden Figures,” many parents may consider it suitable for older teens, despite screenwriter Allison Schroeder’s occasional resort to light swearing for rhetorical emphasis.

The film contains at least one use of profanity, several milder oaths and a vague sexual reference. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

Audience:
A-II – adults and adolescents

 

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A ‘forced’ franchise continues

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is a worthy, and equally family-friendly addition, to “The Force Awakens,” last year’s promising reignition of the iconic franchise. Interstellar derring-do is once again the order of the day as this latest film in the series provides a rousing prequel to writer-director George Lucas’ 1977 original, subsequently dubbed “Episode IV - A New Hope.”

“A New Worry” might be an apt subtitle for “Rogue One” since its plot is driven by the fact that the evil Empire – served, most prominently, by Grand Moff Tarkin (a computer-generated projection of the late Peter Cushing) and Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) – is on the verge of deploying a game-changing new weapon, the Death Star. With its potential to wipe out entire planets, the Death Star could doom the efforts of the gallant Rebel Alliance, headed by Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), to resist subjugation.

This crisis draws the movie’s main character, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), to center stage. As the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), the brilliant scientist who unwillingly developed the technology behind the Death Star while being held captive, she has reason to believe that the armament can be sabotaged from within.

To prove this, she’ll need the help of intrepid Alliance officer Capt. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) as well as that of his mechanical sidekick, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). An amusingly straight-talking android, K-2SO is the source of most of the movie’s wry comic relief.

In crafting an exciting epic, director Gareth Edwards keeps the mayhem inherent in his story of armed conflict virtually bloodless. And the script, by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, celebrates altruism while also briefly tackling the morality of obeying questionable military orders.

But the ambiguous nature of the spiritual “Force” cultivated primarily, in this installment, by blind Buddhist-style monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) may be a source of concern for the parents of some teens. Since the Force can be interpreted in any number of ways, including a vaguely Christian one – the famous blessing it inspires having an almost liturgical ring to it – youngsters may need guidance to arrive at sound conclusions.

For all others, “Rogue One” offers old-fashioned entertainment in the best sense: an engaging showdown between plucky goodness and elegant villainy with a bit of delightfully innocent romance thrown in for good measure.

The film contains frequent but thoroughly stylized combat violence, religious elements requiring mature discernment and some frightening images including a scene leading up to mental torture. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (June 2015)

CNS classifications: A-I: general patronage; A-II: adults and adolescents; A-III: adults; L: limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; O: morally offensive.
MPAA ratings: G: general audiences. All ages admitted; PG: parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children; PG-13: parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13; R: restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian; NC-17: no one 17 and under admitted.

A
The Age of Adaline, A-III (PG-13)
Aloha, A-II (PG-13)
Avengers: Age of Ultron, A-III (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
B
Begin Again, A-III (R)
C
Chappie, L (R)
Child 44, A-III (R)
Cinderella, A-I (PG)
D
The D Train, O (R)
Danny Collins, A-III (R)
The Divergent Series: Insurgent, A-III (PG-13)
Do You Believe?, A-II (PG-13)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
The DUFF, A-III (PG-13)
E
Ex Machina, O (R)
F
Far from the Madding Crowd, A-II (PG-13)
Focus, L (R)
Furious 7, A-III (PG-13)
G
Get Hard, O (R)
The Gunman, L (R)
Home, A-I (PG)
Hot Pursuit, A-III (PG-13)
I
It Follows, O (R)
J
Jupiter Ascending, A-III (PG-13)
K
Kingsman: The Secret Service, A-III (R)
L
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Lazarus Effect, A-III (PG-13)
Little Boy, A-II (PG-13)
The Longest Ride, A-III (PG-13)
M
Mad Max: Fury Road, L (R)
Marie's Story, A-II (not rated)
McFarland, USA, A-II (PG)
Monkey Kingdom, A-I (G)
P
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, A-I (PG)
Pitch Perfect 2, A-III (PG-13)
Poltergeist, A-III (PG-13)
Project Almanac, A-III (PG-13)
The Pyramid, A-III (R)
R
Run All Night, L (R)
S
San Andreas, A-III (PG-13)
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, A-III (PG)
Seventh Son, A-II (PG-13)
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, A-I (PG)
T
Tomorrowland, A-II (PG)
The Trip to Italy, A-III (not rated)
True Story, A-III (R)
U
Unfinished Business, O (R)
Unfriended, O (R)
W
The Water Diviner, A-III (R)
Woman in Gold, A-II (PG-13)

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops