Reel Reviews

‘Cinderella’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage

 

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A classic tale for the whole family

“Cinderella” (Disney) injects vibrant new life into a venerable fairy tale. The result is an exuberant live-action retelling of the oft-filmed fable, the most famous screen version of which is Disney’s classic 1950 animated feature.

Opting for fidelity and sincerity rather than a revisionist approach, director Kenneth Branagh sticks to the basic story, displaying genuine affection for its iconic characters. Familiar yet fresh, his delightful take, suitable for the entire family, nicely brings to the forefront dual lessons about compassion and forgiveness.

There’s a lot of death in the Cinderella story, but here that aspect of the tale is treated gently. Ella (Lily James) tends to her dying mother (Hayley Atwell), whose final request to her is, “Always have courage and be kind.” This becomes Ella’s life motto – and not a bad one at that. Her sunny nature and good will inspire all creatures, great (fellow humans) and small (white mice).

When her beloved father (Ben Chaplin) remarries, Ella’s patience is put to the test, but she never gives in to the dark side. The same, alas, cannot be said for Ella’s stepmother, Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), or her shrieking stepsisters, Drizella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger).

The ladies are ghastly in every respect, from their poor manners to their garish outfits. And anyone who calls her cat Lucifer, as Lady Tremaine does, is bound to be wicked.

The standard narrative unfolds: Father dies, and Ella is reduced to waiting on her obnoxious relations in the manner of a servant. Covered in ashes from cleaning the fireplace, she's derisively dubbed “Cinderella.”

Riding her horse through the forest one day, Cinderella encounters Kit (Richard Madden), aka Prince Charming. They meet cute but confused, she unaware of his royal status, he not catching her name. Cinderella retreats, and the prince, his heart aflame, vows to find the enchanting maiden.

A royal ball is arranged, with an invitation to all eligible ladies in the kingdom, titled or not. Lady Tremaine forbids Cinderella to attend, tearing her dress to pieces.

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), naturally, has other ideas. The transformation of pumpkin, mice, lizards and a goose into a golden coach, white horses, footmen and driver, respectively, is one of the highlights of the film.
The other standout is Cinderella’s shimmering blue dress. Not since Scarlett O’Hara made an outfit from old curtains in “Gone with the Wind” has a skirt stolen the show to such an extent, swishing and swirling across the dance floor as though possessing a mind of its own.

While there are a few twists in store, a happy ending is assured, and the final message won’t leave a dry eye in the house.

Preceding “Cinderella” is a short animated film, “Frozen Fever,” featuring characters from the blockbuster 2013 movie “Frozen.” It’s Princess Anna’s (voice of Kristen Bell) birthday, and her sister, Queen Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), is planning a party – despite feeling unwell. Given Elsa’s frost-producing proclivities, as highlighted in the original, however, her sneezes bring predictably chilly consequences.

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 Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service 

‘McFarland, USA’

Audience:
A-II – adults and adolescents

 

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Running story with big heart

Kevin Costner turns in a restrained yet compelling performance as the central figure in the fact-based sports drama "McFarland, USA" (Disney).

As for the story unfolding around him, faith- and family-friendly values – together with the absence of any genuinely problematic elements for parents – make this uplifting tale one that can be enthusiastically recommended for moviegoers of almost all ages.

Costner plays Jim White, a high school science teacher and coach in 1980s California whose sharp temper places him on a downward career spiral. Jim, wife Cheryl (Maria Bello) and daughters Julie (Morgan Saylor) and Jamie (Elsie Fisher) seem to have hit rock bottom when the best job he can find forces them to relocate to the impoverished, predominantly Latino fieldworkers’ community of the title.

As the Whites – whose name now takes on an ironic significance – struggle to adjust to McFarland's Hispanic culture, Jim recognizes a widespread gift among his new students for long-distance running. Toughened by backbreaking agricultural work and constrained to cover extensive distances on foot, lads like Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts) glide swiftly across the landscape without giving their speed a second thought.

Jim decides to draw on this pool of latent talent by organizing a cross-country team. Since this genre of racing is considered an elite sport for country club-types, Jim and his charges will have to compete against the privileged athletes who attend the Sunshine State's private academies. But Jim is convinced that, with the requisite effort, his hearty proteges can prevail.

The saga of youthful underdogs pitted against the odds honors Jim and Cheryl’s strong marriage, along with the bonds uniting the other close-knit clans it portrays. The script also highlights the value of education and self-improvement. Though religion mostly hovers in the background, a spontaneous, intense and identifiably Catholic prayer of thanksgiving marks one of the movie’s emotional high-water marks.

The film contains an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, a single mild oath, a couple of crass terms and occasional ethnic slurs. 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 (March 2015)

The first symbol after each title is the Catholic News Service classification. The second symbol is the rating of the Motion Picture Association of America.
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.

A
American Sniper, A-III (R)
Annie, A-II (PG)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
B
Begin Again, A-III (R)
Black or White, A-III (PG-13)
Blackhat, A-III (R)
The Boy Next Door, O (R)
D
Dream House, L (PG-13)
The DUFF, A-III (PG-13)
E
Edge of Tomorrow, A-III (PG-13)
Exodus: Gods and Kings, A-III (PG-13)
F
Fifty Shades of Grey, O (R)
G
The Gambler, L (R)
H
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, A-II (PG-13)
Hot Tub Time Machine 2, O (R)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, A-II (PG-13)
I
The Imitation Game, A-III (PG-13)
Inherent Vice, O (R)
Interstellar, A-III (PG-13)
Into the Woods, A-III (PG)
J
Jupiter Ascending, A-III (PG-13)
K
Kingsman: The Secret Service, A-III (R)
L
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Last of Robin Hood, L (R)
The Lazarus Effect, A-III (PG-13)
The Loft, O (R)
M
McFarland, USA, A-II (PG)
Million Dollar Arm, A-III (PG)
Mortdecai, A-III (R)
N
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, A-II (PG)
P
Paddington, A-II (PG)
Penguins of Madagascar, A-I (PG)
Project Almanac, A-III (PG-13)
The Pyramid, A-III (R)
S
Selma, A-III (PG-13)
Seventh Son, A-II (PG-13)
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, A-I (PG)
Still Alice, A-III (PG-13)
Strange Magic, A-I (PG)
T
Taken 3, A-III (PG-13)
Top Five, O (R)
The Trip to Italy, A-III (not rated)
U
Unbroken, A-III (PG-13)
W
The Wedding Ringer, O (R)
The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, A-II (PG-13)

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops