Reel Reviews

Avengers: Endgame

Audience: A-III – adults


Watch Trailer

War no more?

Aficionados of the Marvel Comics universe are likely to be thrilled by the sweeping epic “Avengers: Endgame” (Disney).

Even moviegoers less committed to that imaginary realm can hardly fail to be impressed as the franchise’s grand finale deftly weaves together 21 previous films. Vast, intricate, exciting and poignant, the plot determines the fate, among many others, of Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). It also showcases the value of teamwork, heroic self-sacrifice and reconciliation.

With its action mayhem mostly stylized and its cast too busy fighting evil to spend any time in the bedroom, only some wayward language, an ambiguous domestic arrangement and passing mention of a gay relationship really mark this as material for grown-ups. So parents under siege from older adolescents agog to take in this three-hour extravaganza can give the go-ahead with little worry.

Primarily set five years after cosmic villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) used a set of energy-endowed gems to wipe out half of all the living creatures in the universe, the film finds the members of the titular ensemble, like humanity at large, still mourning the loss of many friends and loved ones. Yet their defeat at Thanos’ hands seems irreversible until Scott Lang (Ant Man, Paul Rudd) proposes a possible solution. His travels, while miniaturized, in the quantum realm have revealed to Scott that that alternate dimension operates by its own chronological rules. Why not use it to travel back in time and prevent Thanos from assembling all the stones necessary to his scheme?

To achieve this, his fellow Avengers will need to win over tech whiz Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the only person who can safely engineer such a cutting-edge feat. But, after a recent brush with death, Tony is reluctant to endanger his happy home life – shared with true love Virginia “Pepper” Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and their little daughter – for the sake of such a risky mission.

Tony’s cozy existence living in a rustic cabin on the edge of a rural lake and devotedly raising a child certainly suggests that he has finally wed Pepper, though this is never explicitly stated.

While Thanos’ motive for wiping out billions of human beings is not explored in this movie as it was in last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” his crazed version of retroactive eugenics is shown to have resulted not in the perfected world he imagined but in a deeply damaged and traumatized one full of mourners in need of therapy. To that extent, this adventure carries the same implicitly pro-life message as its predecessor.

The film contains much stylized violence with some gore, possible cohabitation, a few uses of profanity and of milder oaths, brief references to homosexuality as well as a half-dozen crude and several crass terms. 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

Copyright ©2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

‘Mary Magdalene’

Audience: A-III – adults


Watch Trailer

Not a Catholic telling of the Gospel message

“Mary Magdalene” (Focus) is a respectful but off-key profile of the biblical saint (Rooney Mara) that gets a few things right but many wrong. Grown-ups well-grounded in their faith will be able to sort the wheat from the chaff. But they’ll find that, although the picture is often pleasing to the eye, it’s generally flat in tone.

Early scenes show a restless, troubled, misfit Mary, a woman unsatisfied by the prospect of family life and unable to accept that this is the only future open to her according to the rules of her society. Things come to a head when Mary’s relatives, with her brother Daniel (Denis Menochet) in the lead, try to force her into an arranged marriage with a local widower. This crisis coincides with the arrival of Jesus (Joaquin Phoenix) and the Apostles in Magdala. Mary’s decision to join them on their travels once they leave the town is set up as a gesture of rebellion since it means that no man will ever accept her as a wife.

The portrayal of the Twelve is revisionist, to say the least. St. Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) comes off as an egotistical villain, while Judas (Tahar Rahim) is depicted as well-intentioned but misguided. While Peter is focused on fomenting a military uprising against the Romans, and establishing Jesus as an earthly king, Judas is entirely spiritual in his outlook and aims. Poignantly, he longs for the resurrection of the dead so that he can be reunited with the deceased daughter he deeply loved.

Phoenix’s Savior, meanwhile, preaches in the cadences of a beat poet and with the demeanor of a Dennis Hopper character from the 1960s trying to explain the meaning of life to squares. While there’s a predictable overemphasis on the social justice aspect of his message, the screenwriters, to their credit, partially balance this by also stressing the sacrificial and salvific nature of the death that awaits him.

In fact, one of the best scenes in the film, from a theological perspective, finds Jesus in the precincts of the Temple in Jerusalem where the bloody robes and hands of the priests as they sacrifice lambs trigger a vision of his forthcoming sufferings on the cross. Yet this is followed by dialogue with a Temple official and an enraged interaction with the moneychangers that are both out of harmony with the Gospels.

A climactic confrontation between Mary and Peter takes place after the Resurrection – to which event Mary is here not only the first but the sole witness. Peter is made to represent the “institutional church,” whereas Mary is a free, prophetic figure. Their exchange hints, moreover, that while Mary – who has understood Jesus’ teaching better than the others all along – will preach the truth in the future, Peter will instead give his gloss on what Jesus said. The clear implication being that orthodox Christianity has skewed or obscured the real doctrine of Jesus.

The film contains mature religious themes requiring discernment and some gruesome and gory images. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

Copyright ©2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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