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A-I — general patronage


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Nice animated film for kids

Though some perilous interludes and the onscreen — albeit mild — demise of at least one prominent character might make it too scary for the littlest members of the family, director Chris Wedge's pleasant 3-D animated fantasy "Epic" (Fox) provides appropriate viewing for just about everyone else.

The collaborative script magically transports its heroine, 17-year-old Mary Katherine (voice of Amanda Seyfried) — M.K. for short — to a miniature, previously unobserved, world within nature, a Lilliputian cosmos teeming with anthropomorphized animals and plants.

There, M.K. soon discovers that things are as unsettled at this level of existence as they are in the more familiar surroundings that tower over it. The armed champions of growth and life in the forest, known as Leafmen, are locked in battle with the dark forces of decay, the Boggans.

M.K. finds herself drawn into the conflict when the Leafmen’ s sovereign, Queen Tara (voice of Beyonce Knowles), entrusts her with a mission that could determine its ultimate outcome. In her quest to fulfill this vital charge, M.K. gains the protection of the Leafmen’ s gallant leader Ronin (voiced by Colin Farrell) but likewise the enmity of the Boggans’ hateful commander Mandrake (voiced by Christoph Waltz).

Another newfound companions is Ronin’ s protege, youthful warrior Nod (voice of Josh Hutcherson). Though Nod’ s freewheeling ways make him initially an unreliable ally for his fellow Leafmen, they don’ t prevent M.K. from falling for him.

With some of its characters drawn from William Joyce’ s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs — Joyce is also credited as one of the film’ s five scriptwriters — this cheerful journey into the undergrowth sends innocuous messages about environmental stewardship, teamwork and responsibility. There’ s also some familial bonding via M.K.’ s ultimately appreciative interaction with her stereotypically absent-minded dad, Professor Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis).

Details of the plot might hint at some pantheistic overtones; Queen Tara, for example, is portrayed not only as the Leafmen’ s liege lady but as the source of their life-giving, and life-restoring, power. Still, she’ s really more Mother Nature than goddess Gaia. As a whole, the personification of natural elements seems intended to excite children’ s interest and sympathy rather than to impart any non-scriptural belief.

Though the impact of Wedge’ s picture falls well short of the promise contained in its overly ambitious — perhaps ill-advised — title, it does have its strengths as well as flaws. In particular, some lovely imagery compensates for various hit-or-miss attempts at humor.

The film contains potentially frightening clashes and themes involving death. 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 John Mulderig, Catholic News Service  

‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

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

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (June)

Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)
Admission, L (PG-13)
After Earth, A-III (PG-13)
Amour, L (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
The Big Wedding, O (R)
Bullet to the Head, O (R)
Bully, A-III (PG-13)
The Call, O (R)
The Croods, A-I (PG)
Dead Man Down, O (R)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
Epic, A-I (PG)
Evil Dead, O (R)
Fast & Furious 6, L (PG-13)
42, A-III (PG-13)
G.I. Joe: Retaliation, A-III (PG-13)
A Good Day to Die Hard, L (R)
The Great Gatsby, A-III (PG-13)
The Hangover Part III, L (R)
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, O (R)
The Host, A-III (PG-13)
Identity Thief, L (R)
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, L (PG-13)
Iron Man 3, A-III (PG-13)
Jack the Giant Slayer, A-II (PG-13)
Killer Elite, A-III (R)
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
Movie 43, O (R)
Mud, A-III (PG-13)
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)
Pain and Gain, O (R)
Peeples, O (PG-13)
Phantom, A-III (R)
The Place Beyond the Pines, L (R)
Quartet, A-III (PG-13)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, A-III (R)
Restless Heart, A-II (no rating)
Scary Movie 5, O (PG-13)
Skyfall, A-III (PG-13)
Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)
Star Trek Into Darkness, A-III (PG-13)
21 and Over, O (R)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)