Reel Reviews

‘Gimme Shelter’

Audience:
A-III – adults

 

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Pro-life film based on real life

Perhaps the best moment in the fact-based drama “Gimme Shelter” (Roadside) comes when its beleaguered, deeply sympathetic protagonist, played by Vanessa Hudgens, wonderingly recites a passage from the Book of Psalms that tells of God’s promises to those who trust in him.

It’s a moving scene precisely because such faith-based optimism seems so far removed from all that Hudgens’ character, teenager Agnes “Apple” Bailey, has previously endured. Long neglected by her drug-addicted, emotionally unstable mother, June (Rosario Dawson), Apple is also a veteran of numerous foster homes, in one of which she was sexually abused.

As the film begins, Apple has understandably had enough of June’s manipulative ways. So she flees the inner city, and seeks out her estranged, wealthy father, Tom Fitzpatrick (Brendan Fraser), the owner of a luxurious mansion in an upscale New Jersey suburb. Though taken aback by Apple's arrival – he comes home to find the scruffy runaway being carted off by the police, who’ve mistaken her for a thief – Tom is at least tentatively willing to do his part for the girl. Apple gets a colder reception from Tom’s wife, Joanna (Stephanie Szostak), who’s intent on pursuing her ultra-respectable lifestyle undisturbed.

Joanna’s attitude grows even chillier when a bout of morning sickness tips all concerned off to the fact that Apple is pregnant. Both Joanna and Tom pressure Apple to have an abortion. But she insists on keeping her child, even if it means losing the security of her newfound refuge.

Back on the streets, Apple has an altercation with a predatory passerby that ends with her stealing – and crashing – the lowlife’s car. This turns out to be a positive development because it brings her into contact with kindly hospital chaplain Father Frank McCarthy (James Earl Jones). Father Frank is, of course, wholeheartedly supportive of Apple’s determination to preserve the life of her baby. He offers her the opportunity to take up residence with his redoubtable friend, Kathy (Ann Dowd), the founder of a home for expectant adolescents. Modeled on Kathy DiFiore, who established just such a ministry, called Several Sources, in 1981, Dowd’s character is gentle but firm, both with her charges and with any outsider who might threaten their welfare. Down-to-earth practicality, tough love and a belief in the need for structure characterize her approach.

Chaffing under such discipline, Apple finds herself tempted to flee. But she simultaneously discovers a winning new aspect of life through her burgeoning friendship with the other moms-to-be.

A strong pro-life message undergirds writer-director Ron Krauss’ touching movie, which is also genuinely feminist, as witness the camaraderie cited above. And Hudgens’ passionate performance provides the project with another important asset.

The educational value and moral impact to be derived from the screen portrayal of this real-life work allow for cautious endorsement of it for older teens, despite the elements listed below.

The film contains mature themes, including molestation, out-of-wedlock pregnancy and substance abuse, a scene of disturbing, though not gory, violence, at least one rough term and a handful of crass expressions. 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

‘Mary of Nazareth’

Audience:
A-II – adults and adolescents

 

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The story of the Gospels unfolds through the eyes of the mother of God in “Mary of Nazareth” (Ignatius Press Films), a beautiful, often moving depiction of the life of Mary from her childhood through the passion and resurrection of her son.

Italian director Giacomo Campiotti (2002’s “Doctor Zhivago”) has produced a handsome and respectful film, with a gifted international cast and some luminous cinematography shot in Tunisia. The script, by Francesco Arlanch, more or less follows the biblical account, with a few intriguing departures, inspired by apocryphal writings, that heighten the drama.

For example, we are told that King Herod (Andrea Giordana) heard a prophesy of a girl who would one day bring forth a savior, prompting him to terrorize Judea, in a precursor to the slaughter of the innocents. Mary’s parents, Ann (Antonella Attili) and Joachim (Roberto Citran), hide their young daughter, keeping her safe.

Mary (Alissa Jung) is a joyful but special child, one whom dogs and snakes fear. Her parents are happy but often perplexed.

After Mary's betrothal to Joseph (Luca Marinelli), and the Annunciation, a resigned Joachim tells Mary, “Forgive me. I always knew you were a mystery, but I never knew how great a mystery.”

The Nativity (unfortunately, Joseph misses the birth, as he leaves the cave to fetch water) is beautifully rendered. Mary possesses a strong, almost psychic bond with her young son, aware when he is hurt or in danger, and experiencing visions of his future Passion in her mind.

Once Jesus (Andreas Pietschmann) begins his public ministry (“He couldn’t stay and be a carpenter forever,” Joseph says), Mary is always present, strong and compassionate, helping when she can. But when she asks him for assistance with the wine at Cana, she later worries she was impulsive, forcing Jesus to act before he was ready.

Mary not only shares her son’s ministry, but also his pain. Every blow during the scourging is felt by Mary, as is the slow agony of Crucifixion. She literally crawls up the hill of Calvary on her hands and knees to be near her dying son.

The depictions of the slaughter of the innocents and the Passion are graphic, even harrowing, which preteens might find upsetting.

But for the rest of the family, “Mary of Nazareth” makes for an enriching catechetical experience that's also both inspiring and entertaining. The film is fittingly dedicated “to all mothers, whose life-giving, sacrificial love, like Mary, changes the world.”

“Mary of Nazareth” is available for sponsored screenings in theaters, and is expected to be released on DVD later this year. For more information, visit maryfilm.com. The film contains several scenes of bloody violence and death. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (December)


A
Admission, L (PG-13)
After Earth, A-III (PG-13)
Amour, L (PG-13)
Anna Karenina, A-III (R)

B
Beautiful Creatures, L (PG-13)
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, A-III (PG-13)
The Big Wedding, O (R)
The Bling Ring, O (R)
Broken City, L (R)
Bullet to the Head, O (R)

C
The Call, O (R)
Christmas for a Dollar, A-I (PG)
The Collection, O (R)
The Conjuring, A-III (R)
Conviction, L (R)
Creature, O (R)
The Croods, A-I (PG)
Crooked Arrows, A-III (PG-13)

D
Dark Skies, A-III (PG-13)
Dead Man Down, O (R)
The Dictator, O (R)
Django Unchained, L (R)

E
End of Watch, O (R)
Epic, A-I (PG)
Escape From Planet Earth, A-I (PG)
Evil Dead, O (R)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, A-III (PG-13)

F
The Five-Year Engagement, O (R)
Flipped, A-III (PG)
42, A-III (PG-13)

G
Gangster Squad, L (R)
Getaway, A-III (PG-13)
G.I. Joe: Retaliation, A-III (PG-13)
A Good Day to Die Hard, L (R)
The Grace Card, A-II (PG-13)
Grown Ups 2, A-III (PG-13)
The Guilt Trip, A-III (PG-13)

H
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, O (R)
A Haunted House, O (R)
Haywire, L (R)
The Heat, O (R)
Hellbound?, A-III (no rating)
Hereafter, A-III (PG-13)
Hitchcock, A-III (PG-13)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, A-II (PG-13)
The Host, A-III (PG-13)
Hyde Park on Hudson, O (R)

I
Identity Thief, L (R)
The Internship, L (PG-13)
Iron Man 3, A-III (PG-13)

J
Jack Reacher, L (PG-13)
Jane Eyre, A-III (PG-13)
Jobs, A-III (PG-13)
Jurassic Park, A-II (PG-13)
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, A-I (G)

L
Last Ounce of Courage, A-II (PG)
The Last Stand, L (R)
Les Miserables, A-III (PG-13)
The Lucky One, A-III (PG-13)

M
Mama, A-III (PG-13)
Man of Steel, A-III (PG-13)
The Master, O (R)
The Mill & the Cross, A-III (no rating)
Monsters University, A-I (G)
Moonrise Kingdom, A-III (PG-13)
Movie 43, O (R)
Mud, A-III (PG-13)

N
Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D, A-III (PG-13)
Now You See Me, A-III (PG-13)

O
Oblivion, A-III (PG-13)
Of Gods and Men, A-III (PG-13)
Olympus Has Fallen, L (R)
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, A-I (G)
Oz the Great and Powerful, A-II (PG)

P
Pacific Rim, A-III (PG-13)
Pain and Gain, O (R)
Paranoia, A-III (PG-13)
Parental Guidance, A-I (PG)
Parker, O (R)
Peeples, O (PG-13)
People Like Us, A-III (PG-13)
The Perfect Family, O (PG-13)
Pitch Perfect, A-III (PG-13)
Planes, A-I (G)
Playing for Keeps, A-III (PG-13)
Promised Land, A-III (R)
The Purge, O (R)

R
RED 2, A-III (PG-13)
R.I.P.D., A-III (PG-13)

S
Safe Haven, L (PG-13)
Scary Movie 5, O (PG-13)
The Sessions, O (R)
Seven Psychopaths, O (R)
Side Effects, L (R)
Sinister, L (R)
Snitch, A-III (PG-13)
Somewhere Between, A-II (no rating)
Star Trek Into Darkness, A-III (PG-13)
Stella Days, L (no rating)

T
Texas Chainsaw 3D, O (R)
This Is the End, O (R)
To the Wonder, A-III (PG-13)
The Tree of Life, A-II (PG-13)
Turbo, A-I (PG)
21 and Over, O (R)
2 Guns, L (R)
Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, A-III (PG-13)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)

W
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)
We're the Millers, O (R)
The Way, Way Back, A-III (PG-13)
White House Down, A-III (PG-13)
World War Z, A-III (PG-13)
The World's End, A-III (R)

Z
Zero Dark Thirty, L (R)