Reel Reviews

‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’

Audience:
A-II – adults and adolescents

 

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Hero weaves a good theme for teens and up

Patrons are unlikely to walk away from the overstuffed but diverting 3-D comic-book sequel “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (Columbia) feeling that they’ve failed to get their money’s worth. In fact, director Marc Webb's follow-up to his 2012 reboot covers enough material for more than one movie.

In doing so, the film showcases a good deal of mostly stylized mayhem that’s too intense for little kids. But the positive use to which the web-slinger – once again played by Andrew Garfield – puts his powers, together with a script that’s virtually free of objectionable vocabulary, makes this adventure acceptable for just about everyone else.

Garfield brings an appealing – and approachable – goofiness, both to his titular persona and to the superhero’s alter ego, average teen Peter Parker. Peter’s high school graduation provides the setting for some early scenes during which we see that Spider-Man is so busy protecting the people of New York that Peter misses his girlfriend Gwen Stacy’s (Emma Stone) valedictorian address and barely arrives in time to claim his own diploma.

Webb gives those viewers who may not have seen his earlier movie only a minimum of information about Spider-Man and how he got that way. He does let us know, via flashbacks, that Peter’s father (Campbell Scott) was a genetics researcher with uber-conglomerate Oscorp who, together with Peter’s mom (Embeth Davidtz), disappeared under mysterious circumstances when Peter was still a small child.

Raised by his kindly Aunt May (Sally Field) and now-deceased Uncle Ben, Peter’s quest to learn the truth about his parents led to his being bitten by a genetically altered arachnid – with results familiar to every 4-year-old who cherishes a “Spidey” figurine.

While Peter’s initial conflict involved balancing his new powers with a concomitant sense of responsibility, he now struggles to reconcile the dangers of his mission with his desire to safeguard Gwen. Is there any way for him to do so short of parting with her forever?

Romantic troubles have to be put on the back burner, though, when a new foe for Spider-Man emerges in the person of Electro (Jamie Foxx). The confused victim of a power-grid accident at Oscorp headquarters, Electro angrily hurls bolts of his namesake form of energy hither and yon, disturbing the denizens of Times Square and testing even Spider-Man’s ability to contain him.

As Peter continues to probe the circumstances of his parents’ long-ago departure, he has a fraught reunion with his best friend from childhood, Oscorp heir Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). Afflicted with a fatal hereditary disease, Harry believes that Spider-Man can help to cure him, and he’s desperate to arrange a meeting with the wall-crawler.

Did we mention that there’s also a crazed Russian gangster named Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) in the offing?

Giddy special effects and a lively pace help pass the long running time and make the excess of storylines somewhat less noticeable. More substantially, moviegoers will appreciate Spider-Man’s knack for making the ordinary people he routinely rescues feel good about themselves. He thus not only battles evil but affirms and encourages goodness as well.

The film contains much action violence, including torture, a single crass expression and a mild oath. 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 John Mulderig Catholic News Service

‘Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return’

Audience:
A-I – General Patronage

 

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Animated ‘Oz’ lacks brilliance of original

Some films are so firmly enshrined as classics, and so beloved by moviegoers, that even inviting comparison with them is perilous. Such proves to be the case with “Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return” (Clarius).

Taken on its own, this animated adventure with music registers as a pleasant, family-friendly outing, though one likely to be forgotten not long after its closing credits roll. But stacked up against Victor Fleming’s evergreen 1939 movie – and small-screen fixture – “The Wizard of Oz,” its inferiority is glaring.

Fleming was, of course, working from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s novel, originally titled “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Here, directors Daniel St. Pierre and Will Finn have adapted “Dorothy of Oz,” written 89 years later by Baum’s great-grandson, Roger Stanton Baum.

With Oz in the grip of the Wicked Witch of the West’s equally villainous brother, the Jester (voice of Martin Short), Dorothy (voiced by Lea Michele) is called back to the magical land by the companions of her original visit: the Scarecrow (voice of Dan Aykroyd), the Lion (voiced by Jim Belushi) and the Tin Man (voice of Kelsey Grammer).

No sooner have they managed to summon her to the rescue, though, than Dorothy's three friends are taken prisoner by the Jester’s flying-monkey minions. So Dorothy must rely on the help of a new ensemble of pals.

These include a friendly owl named Wiser (voice of Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (voiced by Hugh Dancy), a goodhearted military officer from Candy County who is indeed made of marshmallows, and China Princess (voice of Megan Hilty), the diminutive but dedicated sovereign of Dainty China Country.

The elegant details of the China Princess’ Dresden-style realm prove to be the highpoint of the movie’s otherwise routine artwork. But St. Pierre and Finn do offer lessons in cooperation, self-confidence and the need to put the interests of others first that parents will be glad to have kids take to heart.

They also avoid anything more potentially offensive than the sight of a magical fire hydrant running away from Toto and an instance of childish wordplay. Some sequences, however, beginning with Dorothy’s transmission back to Oz via a sort of rainbow wormhole, may be too menacing for tots.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

Copyright (c) 2014 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (May 2014)

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

About Time, L (R)

All Is Lost, A-III (PG-13)

American Hustle, O (R)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, A-III (PG-13)

August: Osage County, O (R)

B

Baggage Claim, A-III (PG-13)

Battle of the Year, A-III (PG-13)

The Best Man Holiday, O (R)

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, A-III (PG-13)

Black Nativity, A-II (PG)

The Bling Ring, O (R)

Blue Jasmine, L (PG-13)

The Book Thief, A-II (PG-13)

C

The Call, O (R)

Captain Phillips, A-III (PG-13)

Carrie, L (R)

Christmas for a Dollar, A-I (PG)

Closed Circuit, A-III (R)

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, A-II (PG)

The Collection, O (R)

The Conjuring, A-III (R)

Conviction, L (R)

The Counselor, O (R)

Creature, O (R)

D

Dallas Buyers Club, O (R)

Dark Skies, A-III (PG-13)

Delivery Man, L (PG-13)

Despicable Me 2, A-I (PG)

Devil's Due, A-III (R)

Don Jon, O (R)

E

Elysium, L (R)

End of Watch, O (R)

Ender's Game, A-II (PG-13)

Epic, A-I (PG)

Escape Plan, L (R)

F

The Family, O (R)

The Fifth Estate, A-III (R)

The Five-Year Engagement, O (R)

Flipped, A-III (PG)

47 Ronin, A-III (PG-13)

Free Birds, A-I (PG)

Frozen, A-I (PG)

G

Getaway, A-III (PG-13)

Gimme Shelter, A-III (PG-13)

The Grandmaster, A-III (PG-13)

Gravity, A-III (PG-13)

Grown Ups 2, A-III (PG-13)

Grudge Match, L (PG-13)

H

Haywire, L (R)

The Heat, O (R)

Hellbound?, A-III (no rating)

Hereafter, A-III (PG-13)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, A-II (PG-13)

Homefront, L (R)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, A-III (PG-13)

I

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, L (PG-13)

Inside Llewyn Davis, O (R)

Insidious: Chapter 2, A-III (PG-13)

The Internship, L (PG-13)

J

Jack the Giant Slayer, A-II (PG-13)

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, O (R)

Jobs, A-III (PG-13)

Jurassic Park, A-II (PG-13)

Justice League: War, A-II (PG-13)

Justin Bieber's Believe, A-II (PG)

K

Kick-Ass 2, O (R)

L

Labor Day, L (PG-13)

The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)

Last Ounce of Courage, A-II (PG)

Last Vegas, A-III (PG-13)

Lee Daniels' The Butler, A-III (PG-13)

The Lone Ranger, L (PG-13)

M

Machete Kills, O (R)

Man of Steel, A-III (PG-13)

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, A-III (PG-13)

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, A-III (PG-13)

N

Nebraska, L (R)

Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D, A-III (PG-13)

The Nut Job, A-I (PG)

O

One Direction: This Is Us, A-II (PG)

Out of the Furnace, L (R)

P

Pacific Rim, A-III (PG-13)

Paranoia, A-III (PG-13)

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, L (R)

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, A-III (PG)

The Perfect Family, O (PG-13)

Philomena, L (PG-13)

Pitch Perfect, A-III (PG-13)

Planes, A-I (G)

Prisoners, L (R)

Promised Land, A-III (R)

The Purge, O (R)

R

RED 2, A-III (PG-13)

Restless Heart, A-II (no rating)

Riddick, O (R)

Ride Along, L (PG-13)

R.I.P.D., A-III (PG-13)

Runner Runner, L (R)

Rush, L (R)

S

Saving Mr. Banks, A-II (PG-13)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, A-III (PG)

Sinister, L (R)

The Smurfs 2, A-I (PG)

Son of Batman, A-II (PG-13)

The Spectacular Now, L (R)

T

This Is the End, O (R)

Thor: The Dark World, A-III (PG-13)

To the Wonder, A-III (PG-13)

Turbo, A-I (PG)

12 Years a Slave, L (R)

2 Guns, L (R)

Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, A-III (PG-13)

W

Walking With Dinosaurs, A-I (PG)

The Way, Way Back, A-III (PG-13)

We're the Millers, O (R)

White House Down, A-III (PG-13)

The Wolf of Wall Street, O (R)

The Wolverine, A-III (PG-13)

World War Z, A-III (PG-13)

The World's End, A-III (R)

Y

You're Next, O (R)