Reel Reviews


Audience: A-I – general patronage


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E.T. in snowfall

“Adorable” has a new synonym: “Abominable” (DreamWorks), a charming animated film which transforms the dreaded Yeti monster – the legendary abominable snowman – into a lovable furball.

This family-friendly adventure set in China and the Himalayas features eye-popping animation, roller-coaster action (nothing too perilous for the little ones) and good humor. Folded in are worthy lessons on the importance of family, friendship, and helping others in need, mythological creatures notwithstanding.

Yi (voice of Chloe Bennet), a resourceful teenager, lives with her mother (voice of Michelle Wong) and grandmother Nai Nai (voice of Tsai Chin) in a small apartment in Shanghai. She’s mourning the death of her beloved father, who taught her to play the violin and promised to take her on a road trip across China.

Her makeshift retreat on the roof of her building is turned upside down with the arrival of the Yeti, whom Yi nicknames “Everest.” He has escaped from a research lab after being captured by Burnish (voice of Eddie Izzard), an explorer with dreams of wealth and glory, and his wicked zoologist Dr. Zara (voice of Sarah Paulson).

Yi takes pity on Everest (who grunts and groans but does not speak) and is determined to see him safely home to the Himalayas. And so she embarks on an epic adventure with two friends in tow, Jin (voice of Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (voice of Albert Tsai), and the baddies in close pursuit.

Directors Todd Wilderman and Jill Culton, using Culton’s script, serve up an entertaining if predictable variation on “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” enhanced by Everest’s magical powers which intensify as his namesake peak comes into view.

Faced with multiple challenges, Yi recalls her grandmother’s wisdom, based on the colorful koi fish, a symbol of perseverance. “Be like koi -- keep swimming,” she says. “When things get really tough, they never give up.”

The film contains nonperilous action sequences. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Joseph McAleer Catholic News Service

Copyright ©2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Ad Astra

Audience: A-III – adults


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Make space for Daddy

The Latin motto from which the compelling sci-fi drama “Ad Astra” (Fox) takes its title assures us that, by persevering through difficulties, we can aspire to reach the stars.

So it’s no surprise that this moody film’s protagonist, astronaut Maj. Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), has a variety of challenges to face along his journey toward a possible reunion with his father, Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones).

A pioneer space traveler, Clifford disappeared 16 years before the near-future action of the film. He was commanding the Lima Project, an effort to search for extraterrestrial life from the outer boundaries of the solar system. Now, with energy bursts from Neptune wreaking havoc on Earth and threatening the future of civilization, suspicion has arisen that Clifford – who has long been portrayed as a deceased hero – may not only be alive but may, in fact, be the cause of these cosmic disturbances.

Dispatched to outer space to send Dad a message, Roy undergoes a series of testing adventures while brooding on his emotional isolation and inability to maintain relationships. He also ponders the conflicting evidence suggesting that Clifford was either a hero or a villain. His uncertainty, which the audience shares, helps to maintain suspense. So, too, does the fact that the real purpose of having him communicate with Clifford is to enable the authorities to pinpoint the latter’s location and launch a deadly attack against him. Roy understands this – and is, consequently, emotionally torn about his mission.

By turns an epic and an intimate character study, director and co-writer (with Ethan Gross) James Gray’s thoughtfully crafted film evokes numerous classic stories, ranging from Homer’s “Odyssey” and Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” to Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick.” And that’s not to mention the psychological implication of a son’s quest that may prove fatal for his father.

Gray and Pitt capitalize on Roy’s verbal reticence to make “Ad Astra” richly visual, Pitt’s eyes at times communicating wordlessly but unmistakably what his character is experiencing. Such moments recall acting techniques that prevailed in the silent era.

The movie also features several brief scenes of distinctly Christian, Catholic-sounding prayer that will intrigue believers.

Refreshing in any Hollywood movie, but especially one populated by scientists and technicians, these indications of traditional spirituality imply that faith, in some form, is a given among them. Taken together with the overall artistic merit of “Ad Astra,” these religious undertones may convince the parents of older teens to let them join the audience, despite the elements listed below.

The film contains some gory violence, a suicide, a couple of profanities, at least one use each of rough and crude language and an obscene gesture. 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.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

Copyright ©2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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.

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)
Begin Again, A-III (R)
Chappie, L (R)
Child 44, A-III (R)
Cinderella, A-I (PG)
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)
Ex Machina, O (R)
Far from the Madding Crowd, A-II (PG-13)
Focus, L (R)
Furious 7, A-III (PG-13)
Get Hard, O (R)
The Gunman, L (R)
Home, A-I (PG)
Hot Pursuit, A-III (PG-13)
It Follows, O (R)
Jupiter Ascending, A-III (PG-13)
Kingsman: The Secret Service, A-III (R)
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)
Mad Max: Fury Road, L (R)
Marie's Story, A-II (not rated)
McFarland, USA, A-II (PG)
Monkey Kingdom, A-I (G)
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)
Run All Night, L (R)
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)
Tomorrowland, A-II (PG)
The Trip to Italy, A-III (not rated)
True Story, A-III (R)
Unfinished Business, O (R)
Unfriended, O (R)
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