Reel Reviews

‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2’

A-II – adults and adolescents


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This bird doesn’t fly as high

With “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2” (Lionsgate), one of the most successful cinema franchises of recent times reaches a surprisingly glum finale.

Given that the series is founded on the idea of a dystopian society where young people are sacrificed in the gladiatorial tourneys of the title, perhaps the sober tone of this fourth and final chapter in the screen saga is only appropriate. All the more so, since the later stages of the narrative chronicle the bloody effort required to challenge the regime that sponsors these barbaric contests.

Still, while a restrained mood may be fitting, there’s no denying that the film’s grimly realistic, though largely bloodless, portrayal of combat makes the last stretches of its heroine’s long odyssey something of a slog. The wide audience for whom this briefly horror-tinged sci-fi outing is suitable will take their leave of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), accordingly, in a worn-down and meditative frame of mind, rather than with any exuberance.

At once a victor in and subverter of the Hunger Games, former media darling Katniss has become the symbol of the revolution being led by rebel President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and establishment turncoat Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Although this duo wants to use her for strictly symbolic purposes, stubborn Katniss has an agenda of her own.

Without consulting anyone in authority, Katniss has committed herself to the task of assassinating President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland), the tyrannical chief of the old order. Along the way to fulfilling this mission, however, she’s distracted by romantic complications left over from the earlier passages of her story.

Fellow Hunger Games veteran Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) has had his love for Katniss infected with hatred against her as a result of being captured, tortured and brainwashed by the enemy. Emotionally broken, he veers between trying to kill his former sweetheart and continuing to carry a torch for her.

Katniss’ childhood friend-turned-steadfast-comrade, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), whose affections have made him Peeta’s long-standing rival, is equally, if less painfully torn. He’d like to take advantage of Peeta’s vulnerability, but finds Katniss too troubled by Peeta’s pathetic fate to give him her wholehearted love.

As director Francis Lawrence wraps up the blockbuster adaptations of novelist Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, his film avoids painting armed conflict with too bright a palette. And the obscenity-free script, penned by Peter Craig and Danny Strong, honorably explores the morality of war and the justice of targeting oppressors.

The dialogue makes incidental references to the suicide pills which are routinely distributed to insurgent soldiers so that, if taken prisoner, they can avoid torments similar to -- or perhaps even worse than -- those doled out to Peeta. Parents of teen viewers may want to discuss the fact that Catholic teaching forbids resort to such measures, no matter how fearful the ordeal a captive may potentially face.

Additionally, those determined to find moral fault may bristle at a late scene in which Katniss joins a male character in bed. Although their interaction, as shown, amounts to no more than cuddling, current mores leave what follows off-screen subject to a suspicious interpretation.

Given the ethical tenor of its predecessors, however, “Mockingjay, Part 2” is entitled to the benefit of the doubt on this score. So youthful moviegoers for whom Katniss is catnip will, in all likelihood, not be led astray.

The film contains much stylized and some harsh violence but with minimal gore, mature themes including war atrocities and suicide, potentially frightening scenes, and an apparently innocent but possibly ambiguous bedroom encounter.

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


A-II – adults and adolescents


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A forgotten era of Irish immigration

This is a different kind of Irish immigrant story, taking place well after the Great Hunger of the 19th century and a few years before the first Irish-American president.

“Brooklyn” (Fox Searchlight), set during the early 1950s, tells the story of Eilis Lacey, whose journey out of Ireland and reception in America go about as smoothly as can be imagined. An ocean liner, an efficient Ellis Island, a kindly Irish-born priest, a job waiting and a safe stay at a boarding house mark her transition.

The comparative ease of Eilis’ transition doesn’t mean her story, adapted from a novel by Colm Toibin, lacks incident or fails to compel. Just don’t expect the kind of harshness and bleakness found in parallel works such as “‘Tis.” “Brooklyn” is picturesque, meticulously understated and, like star Saoirse Ronan’s graceful performance, dignified. The movie eschews histrionics and doesn’t excoriate anyone or anything. No individual, group or institution is demonized or degraded.

Knowing there are few opportunities for clever young women in their hometown of Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Rose Lacey (Fiona Glascott) has arranged for her sister to emigrate. Despite pangs about leaving Rose behind with their widowed mother, Eilis is eager to go.

Poised and competent, if inexperienced, Eilis joins the ranks of Irish girls seeking new lives in Brooklyn. As she begins working behind a department store counter, a protracted bout of homesickness dampens her spirits. Then her sponsor Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) enrolls her in night classes at Brooklyn College and she starts to blossom.

Eilis helps serve Christmas lunch to down-on-their-luck Irishmen in the parish hall. (“These are the men that built the bridges, roads and tunnels,” Father Flood observes.) At a church dance she meets Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), a charming young plumber of Italian descent. Their romance seems to ratify her decision to emigrate.

But it’s not quite that simple. Under sad circumstances, she goes home for the first time and, much to her surprise, finds that life in Enniscorthy isn’t so bad. She gains another suitor, Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), and seriously considers not returning to Brooklyn.

Taking his cue from Toibin’s subtle prose, screenwriter Nick Hornby neatly calibrates the pathos and humor. Much of the latter comes via Mrs. Kehoe, the boardinghouse owner hilariously portrayed by Julie Walters.

Some viewers may feel the movie is too placid and wish for more overt conflict. The fastidious production design does result in images of New York and the Emerald Isle that verge on the idealized. And John Crowley’s directorial decisions make it clear he’s not aiming for gritty realism.

On reflection, however, “Brooklyn” is neither whitewashed nor naive. It has more depth and incisiveness than first meets the eye. No doubt assimilation wasn’t as effortless as it appears, even in the early 1950s. But the refusal to manufacture struggle or disruptive plot points matches the film’s laudatory absence of melodrama.

What “Brooklyn” offers is a moving and trenchant look at the subject of migration – including the much-overlooked post-World War II phase of the Irish diaspora – from a woman’s perspective.

Eilis has one serious moral lapse. Yet what gives the film more than surface beauty, and qualifies it as elevated entertainment, is that her subsequent decisions are ethically clear-cut while also coinciding with what the audience is rooting for. Atonement is integral to the movie’s worldview and redemption is possible because mistakes are measured in full context, not in isolation.

“Brooklyn” sees the Catholic Church as playing a vital role in this process and as a constructive force in the daily lives of individuals such as Eilis. What emerges is a portrait of a caring, practical priest and a church that, without fanfare or hubris, provides spiritual guidance and material comfort to its flock.

The film contains a non-explicit premarital encounter, several uses of rough language, and some crude and crass language. 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 P. McCarthy for 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.

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