Reel Reviews

‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1’

A-II – adults and adolescents


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The deadly games continue

Positive values, including altruism, are highlighted in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” (Lionsgate). Together with the absence from the film of most problematic content – a good deal of stylized combat aside – those upright ethics make this sequel a worry-free choice for the parents of targeted teens.

The third installment of a four-part series based on best-selling novels by Suzanne Collins, the movie also offers satisfying – and occasionally stirring – action played out against the backdrop of the same disordered futuristic society in which its predecessors were set.

For those who are new to Panem, the dystopian North American nation that serves as that setting, here’s the (raw) deal: A cosseted urban elite, led by President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland), rules oppressively over a group of outlying districts populated by downtrodden workers. Each year, some of the children of the underclass are compelled to participate in the brutal survival tournament of the title – from which normally only one victor emerges alive. Having been subjected to the games twice – first in a normal round, later as part of an all-star version – franchise heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has become a huge celebrity, not least because she managed to subvert the rules of the contest on both occasions. Her latest act of defiance, showcased at the end of the last film, coincided with, and helped spark, the outbreak of a rebellion against Snow’s regime.

The opening of this chapter finds Katniss holed up in a huge bunker that serves as the headquarters of the uprising. It leaders – President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and former tourney supervisor-turned-rebel Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are intent on using Katniss as the inspiring symbol of their movement. Though Katniss is initially reluctant to take on that role, exposure to the ruthless devastation Snow’s forces have inflicted on the area where she used to live convinces her to play her part. But things become complicated when her sweetheart, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), whom Snow is holding captive, becomes a tool in the president’s propaganda campaign aimed at stamping out the revolution.

As scripted by Peter Craig and Danny Strong, the romantic entanglements in director Francis Lawrence's sci-fi adventure are so chaste that a single kiss between Katniss and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), the lad who pines for her, takes on great significance. And Gale, it turns out, is not only well-behaved, but heroically selfless in the pursuit of Katniss’ welfare.

For those willing to buy into the mythos behind it all, the progress of the revolt in which Katniss finds herself caught up makes for an invigorating ride. As for unimpressed holdouts, they can pass the time monitoring the dialogue – in vain – for any hint of profanity or other verbal trespasses.

The film contains some bloodless but potentially disturbing violence. 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

‘Big Hero 6’

Audience: A-II – adults and adolescents


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Not for preteens

Parents be warned: Your kids will want a robot for Christmas. If so, blame “Big Hero 6” (Disney), the latest 3-D animated adventure from the studio that brought you last year’s cuddly must-have sensation, Olaf the snowman from “Frozen.”

This time, it’s Baymax (voice of Scott Adsit), an inflatable vinyl robot designed by a college student, Tadashi (voice of Daniel Henney), to be a “Personal Health Care Companion.” In other words, Baymax is to serve as both nurse and nanny for Tadashi’s troublesome younger brother, Hiro (voice of Ryan Potter).

Unlike Mary Poppins, Baymax is short on words and discipline. Instead, this distant cousin of the Marshmallow Man offers warm, squishy hugs and a playful demeanor – and steals the movie. Unfortunately, the rest of “Big Hero 6” is less inventive and follows a familiar playbook. That’s not especially surprising given that the film is loosely based on a Marvel Comics series.

The setting is the city of San Fransokyo, a mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo: think cable cars and cherry blossoms. Tadashi and Hiro are orphans (a Disney standard), raised by their sassy Aunt Cass (voice of Maya Rudolph). They share a passion for robotics.

After Tadashi dies in a lab explosion under mysterious circumstances, Hiro uncovers an evil conspiracy (naturally), and sets out to find the bad guys. Of course, Hiro needs backup. So Baymax gets a high-tech makeover, which turns him into a version of Iron Man. And an assortment of Tadashi’s college buddies are recruited for the adventure. Superhero feats are not in their nature, however.
With distinctive costumes and high-tech weapons, the sextet – rounded out by Baymax – is christened "Big Hero 6."

The movie morphs into a version of “Revenge of the Nerds.” The film’s Marvel provenance is evident in noisy smash-bang sequences which may be too intense for younger viewers. Parents will appreciate the movie's calmer moments which offer good lessons in friendship, self-sacrifice, and resisting temptation.

Preceding “Big Hero 6” is “Feast,” a charming animated short directed by Patrick Osborne. It offers a dog’s-eye view of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, one meal at a time. “Feast” is acceptable for all ages.

The film contains mildly scary sequences, references to puberty and some slightly edgy humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. 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

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (September 2014)

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.

Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)
And So It Goes, A-III (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
Begin Again, A-III (R)
Boyhood, L (R)
Brick Mansions, L (PG-13)
Bully, A-III (PG-13)
Calvary, L (R)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, A-II (PG-13)
Chef, A-III (R)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, A-III (PG-13)
Deliver Us From Evil, L (R)
Draft Day, A-III (PG-13)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
Earth to Echo, A-II (PG)
Edge of Tomorrow, A-III (PG-13)
The Expendables 3, A-III (PG-13)
The Fault in Our Stars, A-III (PG-13)
The Fluffy Movie, A-III (PG-13)
Frances Ha, L (R)
Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, O (R)
Get On Up, A-III (PG-13)
The Giver, A-II (PG-13)
Godzilla, A-III (PG-13)
Guardians of the Galaxy, A-III (PG-13)
Hercules, A-III (PG-13)
How to Train Your Dragon 2, A-I (PG)
The Hundred-Foot Journey, A-III (PG)
Ida, A-III (PG-13)
If I Stay, A-III (PG-13)
Into the Storm, A-III (PG-13)
Jersey Boys, A-III, (R)
Killer Elite, A-III (R)
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Legend of Hercules, A-III (PG-13)
Let's Be Cops, L (R)
Lucy, L (R)
Magic in the Moonlight, A-III (PG-13)
Maleficent, A-II (PG)
Mary of Nazareth, A-II (not rated)
Million Dollar Arm, A-III (PG)
A Million Ways to Die in the West, O (R)
Moms' Night Out, A-I (PG)
A Most Wanted Man, A-III (R)
Mr. Peabody & Sherman, A-I (PG)
Neighbors, O (R)
The November Man, O (R)
Obvious Child, O (R)
Phantom, A-III (R)
Planes: Fire & Rescue, A-II (PG)
The Purge: Anarchy, O (R)
Quartet, A-III (PG-13)
Sex Tape, O (R)
Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)
Step Up All In, A-III (PG-13)
Tammy, A-III (R)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, A-II (PG-13)
Think Like a Man Too, O (PG-13)
Transformers: Age of Extinction, A-III (PG-13)
22 Jump Street, O (R)
Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, A-III (PG-13)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)
When the Game Stands Tall, A-II (PG)
The Wind Rises, A-III (PG-13)
X-Men: Days of Future Past, A-III (PG-13)