Reel Reviews

‘Dark Pheonix’

Audience: A-III – adults


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More Marvel antics in space

Though somber in tone, the Marvel Comics-based sci-fi adventure “Dark Phoenix” (Fox) has a fundamentally moral outlook and features a more relationship-driven story than many similar films.

The movie’s celebration of the substitute family often met with in contemporary Hollywood pictures requires some discernment on the part of viewers, as does its grandiose but passing attribution of godlike abilities to the enhanced superhero of the title. But well-catechized older teens as well as grown-ups will likely be able to cope with these aspects.

Mostly set in 1992, “Dark Phoenix” finds the X-Men mutants called upon to save the crew of the space shuttle after that vessel suffers multiple malfunctions in flight. While shape-shifter Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) expresses reservations about the mission, the group’s leader, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), favors it in the hope of enhancing the once-despised X-Men’s current prestige and popularity.

In the course of the rescue, team member Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) comes close to dying but instead emerges from the experience endowed with cosmic powers above and beyond the abilities she already possessed. Unfortunately, she soon finds that her new capabilities are beyond her control.

As Jean goes rogue, endangering the lives of her comrades, peaceable Raven tries to calm the situation, with disastrous results. Jean’s plight causes tension among the X-Men. Magnetism-manipulating Erik (Michael Fassbender) and man-beast Hank (Nicholas Hoult) seek vengeance on her for her treatment of Raven, while Charles and Jean’s boyfriend, optic ray-shooting Scott (Tye Sheridan), try to protect her.

Meanwhile, an evil alien force, led by another shape-shifter, Vuk (Jessica Chastain), arrives on Earth intent on exploiting Jean’s newfound prowess.

Since Jean’s backstory includes a fraught relationship with her parents, at least some movie-goers may find her embrace of the X-Men as her chosen clan, in lieu of her natural one, a bit unsettling. But the ultimate message of the script, which involves the elevation of forgiveness and solidarity over the desire for revenge, is entirely in harmony with Gospel values.

The film contains pervasive combat violence with some gore, a few profanities and milder oaths, at least one rough term and a single crude expression. 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.

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

‘A Dog’s Journey’

Audience: A-II – adults and adolescents


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Dog dies and returns

The dog-hero of this sequel gets a second life, well short of the nine attributed to a cat, but then he may catch up with a few more dog movies to come. Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad), the beloved pet featured in “A Dog’s Purpose,” returns for another adventure in “A Dog’s Journey” (Universal). The sequel initially finds Bailey living the good life with Ethan (Dennis Quaid), the man who in youth rescued and adopted him, and Ethan’s wife, Hannah (Marg Helgenberger).

He’s also getting to know CJ (Emma Volk), short for Clarity June, Ethan and Hannah’s granddaughter. CJ and her mother, Gloria (Betty Gilpin), have been living with Ethan and Hannah ever since CJ’s father was killed in a car accident while Gloria was still pregnant.

As CJ grows, however, Gloria feels her role as a mother is being threatened by her late husband’s parents. So, with CJ in tow, she moves away, much to Bailey’s chagrin.

Boss Dog, as Ethan calls Bailey, begins to feel his years and the vet comes to put him down.

Before going to sleep for good, Bailey hears Ethan whisper in his ear to make sure he takes care and protects CJ. Just as he did in “A Dog’s Purpose,” Bailey then finds himself reincarnated, this time as Molly, a Beaglier (a designer mix of Beagle and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel).

Molly manages to smell now-preteen CJ’s (Abby Rider Fortson) scent when her best friend, Trent (Ian Chen), comes to claim a puppy from the same litter. CJ smuggles Molly into her home because Gloria can’t stand dogs.

The glimpses of CJ’s domestic life are heartbreaking. Gloria is so immature that CJ must fend for herself. Trent and Molly are her only friends and together they get up to some mild mischief.

Molly continues her journey with CJ as the latter reaches adolescence (Kathryn Prescott). The adorable pooch fulfills Ethan’s mandate time and again as CJ encounters troubles at home and in her budding relationship with Shane (Jake Manley), an ill-advised bond that turns dangerous.

As CJ ages, so does Molly, and when her time comes to die yet again, she loses track of CJ for a while.

An aspiring singer-songwriter, young-adult CJ makes her way to New York, where stage fright hampers her career. Walking dogs to pay the rent, she encounters the next version of Bailey, a cute little Yorkshire Terrier called Max. The question is, how will Max/Bailey fulfill his ultimate purpose?

“A Dog’s Journey,” celebrates family, reconciliation and loving loyalty. Though suitable for most moviegoers, a couple of challenging incidents, together with the reincarnation theme, make this a less-than-ideal choice for tykes.

The film contains a nongraphic scene of attempted sexual abuse, a car accident and thematic material that could be confusing for kids. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Sister Hosea Rupprecht, 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