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‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

Audience:
A-III – adults

 

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Trekking on the edge of morality

The original fans of the long-lived “ Star Trek “ franchise may be getting older; the TV series that started everything off, after all, first hit antennas nearly 50 years ago. Even so, director J.J. Abrams continues to keep the perennially appealing characters of this sci-fi stalwart young with his second chronicle of their early professional lives, “Star Trek Into Darkness” (Paramount).

In following up on his 2009 reboot of — and prequel to — Gene Roddenberry’ s mythos, Abrams crafts a snappy adventure on a spectacular scale. And the story — penned by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof — carries an ethically respectable thematic cargo.

Still, the parents of teen Trekkies will need to weigh the profit of the film’ s positive central message against the debit of some sensual imagery and vulgar talk.

Once more we are reunited with Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his half-Vulcan, half-human first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto). Together, they collaborate successfully in providing leadership to the intrepid crew of the Starship Enterprise. This United Nations-like ensemble includes such familiar figures as Communications Officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Medical Officer McCoy (Karl Urban), Chief Engineer Scott (Simon Pegg), navigator Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and helmsman Sulu (John Cho).

The Enterprise’ s quest involves a high-stakes, sometimes morally fraught, crusade against Starfleet officer-turned- intergalactic-terrorist John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), oozing elegant evil . Kirk and company are helped along the way by a new crew member, fetching auxiliary Science Officer Carol Marcus (Alice Eve).

To solve the issues at hand, Kirk will have to resist both his own impulse to wreak revenge on Harrison — one of whose victims was someone close to Kirk’ s heart — and the orders he’ s been issued to eliminate the fugitive without trial.

As Kirk struggles to be true to his own better nature, with sage encouragement from Spock, the script issues a warning against employing immoral means to overcome evil — an admonition that registers as both scripturally resonant and timely. Other, equally weighty, subjects touched on include friendship and even death.

In connection with the latter topic, it cuts somewhat against the grain that McCoy manages to produce a deus ex machina-style plot reversal by means of a chemically engineered resurrection. Christian viewers may be willing to dismiss this as either trivial or desperate. But it doesn’ t help matters that Spock, at another juncture, flatly denies the possibility of miracles.

Many youthful may also be edged out of the appropriate audience for “ Star Trek Into Darkness” by the elements listed below. But at least some adult guardians may consider the picture acceptable for older adolescents.

The film contains much bloodless battling but also occasional harsh violence, some sexual content — including a trio glimpsed waking up together and scenes with skimpy costuming — a few uses of crude language and a half-dozen 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

‘The Great Gatsby’

Audience:
A-III – adults

 

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More cinematic fantasy than written fiction

A great American novel doesn’t always translate into a sure-fire film property. A case in point: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 tale, The Great Gatsby.

Director and co-writer Baz Luhrmann’s current 3-D adaptation (Warner Bros.) is at least the fourth effort to being Fitzgerald’s chronicle of the Jazz Age to the big screen, the first of which dates back to the silent era.

Since that 1926 production has long been lost, it’s impossible to assess its merits. But neither of its successors – director Elliott Nugent’s 1949 version starring Alan Ladd and Betty Field, and Jack Clayton’s 1974 release featuring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow – generated much critical enthusiasm.

Despite its star power and a script by Francis Ford Coppola, Clayton’s offering was widely regarded as pretty but listless. Though that’s unlikely to be anyone’s assessment of Luhrmann’s film – which is, if anything, overcharged and bursting at the seams – there are other problems afoot.

In particular, Luhrmann’s splashy, sometimes cartoonish approach to the material creates a fablelike setting that distances viewers from Fitzgerald’s characters – and thereby lessens the emotional impact of their downfall.

For those who failed to peruse even the Cliff Notes during high school or college, here’s the setup: Narrator Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), Midwestern-bred scion of the WASP establishment, moves to New York, becomes a tyro bond salesman and rents an inexpensive summer cottage on Long Island as a venue for weekend getaways.

His neighbor there, the occupant of a vast, fantastical mansion, is iconic self-made man and would-be social insider Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gatsby’s past is shadowy; so too is the source of his seemingly inexhaustible wealth.

Besides sharing the same neighborhood, Nick and Gatsby have something else in common: Nick’s alluring cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan), whom Gatsby, as a World War I-era G.I., once romanced and for whom he continues to carry an obsessive blazing torch. There’s just one difficulty: Daisy is now married to old-money millionaire and despicable cad Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton).

At Gatsby’s request, Nick engineers a reunion for the duo, hardly guessing that the renewed connection will lead on, first to adultery, then to a disastrous confrontation with Tom and finally, through convoluted circumstances, to tragedy.

Luhrmann revels in the frenzied decadence of Gatsby’s lifestyle, choreographing the riotous, gin-laden parties the mystery man hosts in a manner that suggests Busby Berkeley on hallucinogens.

Additionally, Luhrmann’s script, penned in collaboration with Craig Pearce, tends to glamorize the sinful relationship at the heart of the story, suggesting that an unpleasant spouse and the inherent superiority of the illicit lovers are reason enough to ignore the Sixth Commandment.

As Gatsby himself might put it: Not so, old sport.

The film contains scenes of both lethal and nonlethal violence with minimal gore, an uncritical view of adultery, brief semi-graphic adulterous activity as well as some other sexual content, a glimpse of partial nudity, a few uses of profanity, a couple of crude terms and a religious slur. 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.

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (May)

A
Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)
Admission, L (PG-13)
Amour, L (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
B
Beautiful Creatures, L (PG-13)
The Big Wedding, O (R)
Bullet to the Head, O (R)
Bully, A-III (PG-13)
C
The Call, O (R)
Cloud Atlas, O (R)
The Croods, A-I (PG)
D
Dark Skies, A-III (PG-13)
Dead Man Down, O (R)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
E
Evil Dead, O (R)
F
42, A-III (PG-13)
G
GI Joe: Retaliation, A-III (PG-13)
A Good Day to Die Hard, L (R)
H
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, O (R)
Hellbound?, A-III (no rating)
The Host, A-III (PG-13)
Identity Thief, L (R)
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, L (PG-13)
Iron Man 3, A-III (PG-13)
J
Jack Reacher, L (PG-13)
Jack the Giant Slayer, A-II (PG-13)
K
Killer Elite, A-III (R)
L
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Last Stand, L (R)
M
Mama, A-III (PG-13)
Movie 43, O (R)
O
Oblivion, 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
Pain and Gain, O (R)
Parker, O (R)
Phantom, A-III (R)
The Place Beyond the Pines, L (R)
Q
Quartet, A-III (PG-13)
R
Restless Heart, A-II (no rating)
S
Safe Haven, L (PG-13)
Scary Movie 5, O (PG-13)
Side Effects, L (R)
Skyfall, A-III (PG-13)
Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)
T
Texas Chainsaw 3D, O (R)
21 and Over, O (R)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)
W
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)

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.