Reel Reviews

‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’

A-II – adults


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Boring, semi-biblical film lacks direction

Biblical extravaganzas have made a comeback of sorts recently after decades of Hollywood neglect. Just this year there have been two popular biblical dramas, “Son of God” and “Noah.”

The 3-D epic “Exodus: Gods and Kings” (Fox) is the latest addition to the list, though, unfortunately, it comes off as big but boring. Still, there are some positive aspects to the film. Chief among them, for viewers of faith, is the conversion story introduced into the life of Moses (Christian Bale). Here, the patriarch’s series of trials and triumphs takes him from religious skeptic to true believer.

Raised as a foster son to Egypt’s Pharaoh, Seti (John Turturro), and adoptive brother of Seti’s heir, Ramses (Joel Edgerton), Moses is sent into exile when Hegep (Ben Mendelsohn), a corrupt official whose wrongdoing he has uncovered, reveals his lowly origin as the child of a Hebrew slave.

Working as a shepherd in Midian, Moses finds solace in married life (Maria Valverde plays his loyal, devout spouse Zipporah). But his contentment is once again disturbed when God – oddly personified by an 11-year-old boy (Isaac Andrews) – calls on him to lead his enslaved compatriots to freedom.

Despite all the computer-generated effects of the film, the script is skittish about depicting miracles. It is also revisionist in its treatment of the relationship between Moses and the Almighty.

Granted, the Moses of the Bible sometimes plays the role of advocate for the Israelites, pleading with God to spare his wayward people. But it’s nonetheless perplexing in the film to find him frequently coming across as more merciful than the petulant lad who embodies his vision of the divinity.

Though it ends with the giving of the Commandments on Mount Sinai, at an intimidating running time of over two-and-a-half hours, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” may strike many as recalling more directly the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness by which the fidelity of the Hebrews was thereafter put to the test.

The film contains considerable combat and other violence with some gore, religious themes requiring mature discernment as well as restrained sexual content, including a homosexual innuendo and two marital bedroom scenes. 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 

‘Penguins of Madagascar’

Audience: A-I – general patronage


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Good plot and laughs for the whole family

The holiday season turns out to be the time for the “Penguins of Madagascar” (Fox) to come to the fore – and into their own.

These supporting characters from previous movies in the franchise that began with 2005’s “Madagascar” take center stage in a spirited animated adventure calculated to please kids and leave parents’ minds at ease. Comic possibilities drive the freewheeling plot of this family-friendly lark, with enjoyably silly results. But solid values are also present from the start.

Thus the film’s opening scene finds a trio of friends – take-charge Skipper (voice of Tom McGrath), analytical Kowalski (voiced by Chris Miller) and blundering Rico (voice of Conrad Vernon) – bucking the conformity and indifference of their peers to save an endangered egg. The object of their concern – which can be read as at least implicitly pro-life – soon emerges from his shell in the endearing form of Private (voice of Christopher Knights), an eager-to-please fledgling whom the pals immediately adopt as their younger brother.

Having designated themselves a do-it-yourself family, the now-complete quartet familiar from earlier outings also decides they have what it takes to be avian spies. As it turns out, they’ll need all the undercover skills they can muster since they’re being targeted by a villainous octopus named Dave (voice of John Malkovich), whose alter ego – assumed at will – is a mad scientist known as Dr. Octavius Brine.

Dave thirsts for revenge on the penguins because their irresistible cuteness in human eyes has enabled them to replace him, time and again, as the most popular resident of this zoo or that aquarium. To wreak his revenge, Dave has developed a serum that will turn the whole species into disfigured mutants whose freakish appearance will repel the very people who used to cherish them.

Dave’s nefarious activities have drawn the attention of The North Wind, a team of self-appointed secret agents who come to the rescue of animals in need. Led by a wolf known only – due to a punning miscommunication – as Classified (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), they intervene to save the penguins. But ego and pointless rivalry soon have the two groups working at cross purposes.

Even as it trots around the globe, and indulges, now and then, in genre-typical potty humor, “Penguins of Madagascar” instills lessons about the negative effects of harboring a grudge and yearning to return evil for evil. The script also emphasizes the positive results of loyalty, teamwork and cooperation.

The film contains a handful of mild scatological jokes and insults. 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 John Mulderig Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (December 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.

Addicted, O (R)
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, A-II (PG)
Annabelle, A-III (R)
As Above, So Below, L (R)
The Awakening, A-III (R)

Before I Go to Sleep, A-III (R)
Begin Again, A-III (R)
The Best of Me, A-III (PG-13)
Beyond the Lights, A-III (PG-13)
Big Hero 6, A-II (PG)
Birdman or (The Unexpected Value of Ignorance), A-III (R)
The Book of Life, A-II (PG)
The Boxtrolls, A-II (PG)
Boyhood, L (R)

Calvary, L (R)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, A-III (PG-13)
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, A-III (R)
Dolphin Tale 2, A-I (PG)
Dracula Untold, A-III, PG-13
Dream House, L (PG-13)
Dumb and Dumber To, O (PG-13)

Edge of Tomorrow, A-III (PG-13)
The Equalizer, O (R)

Fury, L (R)

Get On Up, A-III (PG-13)
Gone Girl, O (R)
Guardians of the Galaxy, A-III (PG-13)

Horrible Bosses 2, O (R)
The Hundred-Foot Journey, A-III (PG)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, A-II (PG-13)

The Identical, A-I (PG)
Interstellar, A-III (PG-13)

John Wick, O (R)
The Judge, L (R)

The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Last of Robin Hood, L (R)
Left Behind, A-III (PG-13)
The Legend of Hercules, A-III (PG-13)
Lucy, L (R)

Magic in the Moonlight, A-III (PG-13)
The Maze Runner, A-III (PG-13)
Million Dollar Arm, A-III (PG)

Nightcrawler, L (R)
No Good Deed, A-III (PG-13)

Ouija, A-III, (PG-13)

Penguins of Madagascar, A-I (PG)

St. Vincent, L (PG-13)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, A-II (PG-13)
This Is Where I Leave You, O (R)
The Trip to Italy, A-III (not rated)
Tusk, O (R)

A Walk Among the Tombstones, L (R)
When the Game Stands Tall, A-II (PG)

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