Reel Reviews

‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’

A-III – adults


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A noisy clash of comic book figures

Darkness hovers over the neighboring cities of Gotham and Metropolis, the main settings of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (Warner Bros).

It’s not just the looming clash of the DC Comics titans promised by the film’s title. This follow-up to 2013’s Superman reboot, “Man of Steel,” directed again by Zack Snyder, is awash in cynicism and angst. Optimism and goofy fun take a back seat as our superheroes grapple with identity crises and personal dramas.

The movie is, nonetheless, at once thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking, even if its operatic scale comes at the cost of endless mayhem and an ear-splitting score. Snyder straps viewers into a roller-coaster ride that is often exhilarating and ultimately exhausting – and much too intense for children.

The plot picks up where “Man of Steel” left off. With Superman (Henry Cavill) continuing to battle his archenemy, General Zod (Michael Shannon), over the skies of Metropolis, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) watches in horror as buildings topple and thousands are killed, including employees of his own firm, Wayne Financial.

(Quiet moments of people praying to God – not Superman – for salvation, and blessing themselves, are a welcome sight in a contemporary Hollywood blockbuster.)

Batman comes to regard Superman not as a benign savior but as a conveyor of death and destruction. It’s a discussion pursued by many as the world comes to grips with the mighty alien from the planet Krypton – and wonders what his true intentions are.

Meanwhile, Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, and his Daily Planet newspaper colleague Lois Lane (Amy Adams), have moved in together and are seen making love in the bathtub. Domestic bliss, at least of the shacked-up variety, seems at hand.

Not so fast, of course, for a dotty young megalomaniac, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), is determined to bring down the Man of Steel who threatens his own desire for global domination.

“Devils don’t come from hell beneath us,” Luthor warns. “They come from the sky.”

He discovers Superman’s Achilles heel, the mineral kryptonite. Luthor also hatches an elaborate plan to discredit Superman and prey upon Batman’s growing resentment of his rival crime fighter. Before long, hearings are held in Washington by Sen. June Finch (Holly Hunter), holding Superman responsible for the deaths and other collateral damage inflicted by his actions.

So is Superman a champion or a false god? His stepmother, Martha (Diane Lane), offers straight talk: “Be their hero, Clark. Be their angel, be their monument, be anything they need you to be, or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.”

As Superman embarks on some serious navel-gazing and Batman broods in his cave, Luthor instigates what he calls “the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world. God versus man. Day versus night! Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!”

Snyder pulls out all the stops in a fight worthy of Pay-Per-View. Besides the main duo, a malevolent monster called Doomsday is thrown into the mix. So too is Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). A 5,000-year-old Amazon princess (she doesn’t look a day over 25), Wonder Woman has no love for Luthor, and joins the resistance to him.

He appearance heralds the introduction of several other new super beings the script code names “metahumans.” Their arrival sets the stage for a raft of future movies about a crime-fighting team, the “Justice League,” that’s clearly intended to rival Marvel’s Avengers.

Prepare yourselves – and bring the earplugs.

The film contains relentless and intense action violence, cohabitation, brief partial nudity as well as occasional profanity and crude language. 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 Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

‘Miracles From Heaven’

A-II – adults and adolescents


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A fall into grace

The fact-based drama “Miracles From Heaven” (Columbia) tells a remarkable story.

Though director Patricia Riggen’s screen version of Christy Beam’s 2015 memoir is clearly designed for believers – and sometimes feels padded – even dedicated skeptics may have trouble dismissing its underlying narrative.

A wife and the mother of three daughters, Christy (Jennifer Garner) is going about her everyday life in the Fort Worth area of Texas when tragedy strikes without warning: Her 10-year-old middle daughter Annabel (Kylie Rogers) develops an unexplained but seemingly unshakable illness.

Alarmed, Christy refuses to accept the series of more or less casually delivered misdiagnoses from unfocused doctors with which she’s presented. And eventually, the grim truth emerges. Annabel’s symptoms are identified as stemming from pediatric chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction, or CIPO, a rare, painful and incurable condition that prevents the body from digesting food and leads inevitably to death.

Persistent Christy now focuses on obtaining the care of one of the few specialists in CIPO, Dr. Samuel Nurko (Eugenio Derbez). Although kindly and caring, Dr. Nurko proves powerless to combat the disease – and Annabel’s death sentence stands.

Although Christy and her easygoing veterinarian husband, Kevin (Martin Henderson), are dedicated churchgoers – John Carroll Lynch plays their good-humored pastor – Christy’s faith crumbles in the face of Annabel’s condition. She finds herself unable to pray. She’s also deeply angered by the misguided notions of some fellow parishioners who seem to entertain a non-Christian view of the connection between sin and suffering.

Yet a startling, almost inexplicable, turnaround awaits Christy – one which is certainly providential if not indeed miraculous.

Though it may be aimed at a self-selecting audience of believers, the script minimizes neither the crisis of faith nor the larger mystery of innocent suffering.

The dialogue also takes a wide view of what counts as a divinely inspired marvel, highlighting the above-and-beyond kindness shown to Christy and her clan by an ensemble of secondary characters. The most significant of these is Angela (Queen Latifah), a gregarious waitress who takes an instant – and cheering – shine to Annabel.

While squeaky clean as far as the normal array of objectionable elements is concerned, “Miracles From Heaven” nonetheless includes both subjects and sights that make it inappropriate for the youngest viewers.

The film contains mature themes as well as potentially upsetting incidents and medical procedures. 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 John Mulderig, 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