Reel Reviews

‘Woman in Gold’

Audience:
A-II – adults and adolescents

 

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Recovering a masterpiece

The so-called “last prisoners of World War II” await justice and release in “Woman in Gold” (Weinstein).

The elegant lady of the title and three other captives profiled in director Simon Curtis’ film aren’t, in fact, humans but exquisite paintings by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) that were stolen from their rightful owners by the Nazis. The fascinating story of the struggle for their restitution provides the basis for Curtis’ intriguing dramatization.

In 1998, Vienna-bred Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) is living quietly in Los Angeles. The death of her sister, however, prompts Maria to resurrect long-buried issues from her past.

Maria’s affluent Jewish family had commissioned several paintings from Klimt, including his 1907 masterpiece, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.” This study of Maria’s aunt – the first of two Klimt would create – was a product of the artist’s “golden phase,” during which he employed not only paint, but silver and gold leaf as well.

Together with other possessions, the portrait was confiscated by Hitler’s minions as part of their persecution of Austria’s Jews. In flashbacks, we watch as the young Maria (Tatiana Maslany) and her husband, Fritz (Max Irons), manage to escape to America, leaving family and friends behind to face humiliation, torture, and, ultimately, death in concentration camps.

Flash forward, and Maria decides it’s time for a reunion with the image of her aunt –and for equity to be served. Trouble is the paintings she seeks to reclaim are hanging in a Vienna museum, and the Austrian government insists they were legally obtained.

Undeterred, Maria enlists the aid of a local attorney, Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds). Randy is young, but shares Maria’s Austrian roots. In fact, his grandfather was the famed composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951).

The odds are stacked against this very odd couple, who travel to Vienna to meet with the authorities. There they find an ally in Hubertus Czernin (Daniel Bruhl), a nosy investigative reporter.

Given that it offers a valuable history lesson about wartime atrocities, man’s inhumanity to man and the nature of justice, “Woman in Gold” can be recommended for mature teens, despite the elements listed below.

The film contains scenes of wartime violence and a few instances each of profane and crude language. 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 Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service 

‘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 

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (April 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.

A
American Sniper, A-III (R)
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)
C
Chappie, L (R)
Cinderella, A-I (PG)
D
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)
E
Edge of Tomorrow, A-III (PG-13)
F
Fifty Shades of Grey, O (R)
Focus, L (R)
Furious 7, A-III (PG-13)
G
The Gambler, L (R)
Get Hard, O (R)
The Gunman, L (R)
H
Home, A-I (PG)
Hot Tub Time Machine 2, O (R)
I
Inherent Vice, O (R)
It Follows, O (R)
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 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)
P
Paddington, A-II (PG)
Project Almanac, A-III (PG-13)
The Pyramid, A-III (R)
R
Run All Night, L (R)
S
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, A-III (PG)
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)
The Trip to Italy, A-III (not rated)
U
Unfinished Business, O (R)
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