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'Super 8'

Audience:
A-III - adults
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Touching tale has offensive language

Perhaps a fitting alternative title for “Super 8” (Paramount) might be “Stand By Me Meets Godzilla.”

Like its 1986 predecessor, in which a quartet of boys from rural Oregon set off through the woods in search of a rumored corpse, this is a look at youthful enthusiasm and the ties of friendship set against a background of ominous events.

Here the friends are a half-dozen teens from a rustbelt town in 1979 Ohio whose love of movies has prompted them to use the ‘Super 8’ camera technology to produce a zombie flick they hope to enter in a local film festival.

Presiding over their endearingly amateur endeavor is would-be auteur Charles (Riley Griffiths). His dictatorial tendencies on set are echoed in everyday life by his bossiness toward his best buddy (and makeup artist) Joe, played by Joel Courtney.

Joe’s involvement in the project helps distract him from his strained relationship with his recently widowed father Jack (Kyle Chandler), the deputy sheriff of the local police force, as well as from his own unresolved grief over the loss of his thoroughly devoted mom.

Charles’ relentless search for “production values” leads his team – which also includes withdrawn but comely fellow student Alice (Elle Fanning) as heroine – to a nearby railroad station for a clandestine midnight shoot. But things take an unexpected turn when they witness – and their camera captures – a mysterious train accident.

Though the military arrives in force the next morning, trying to conceal the incident, the wreck sets in motion a series of odd and portentous happenings Jack is determined to investigate.

Gently handled themes of bereavement, first love and family reconciliation, meanwhile, add depth to this wry horror homage as Joe and Alice form a touching bond through their shared vulnerabilities. These romantic elements are kept enjoyably innocent. But the steady saltiness of the onscreen ensemble’s vocabulary makes “Super 8” unsuitable viewing for their real-world contemporaries. That's too bad because there’s much on offer here from which younger viewers might otherwise profit.

The film contains much action violence with some gore, drug use and references, several instances of profanity as well as at least one rough and many crude 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)

'Mr. Popper's Penguins'

Audience:
A-I – general patronage
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Have you ever wondered, in your idle moments, what it might be like to keep six pet penguins in a swanky New York City apartment? Well, of course you have.

Thankfully – or not – the long-overdue answer to that burning question is provided by the routine, but generally kid-friendly comedy “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” (Fox).

The birds in question arrive on the high-rise doorstep of work-obsessed Manhattan real estate developer Tom Popper (Jim Carrey) by way of a bequest from his recently deceased father, a world traveler and arctic explorer.

Popper senior was not tops as a pop, and his neglectful ways have carried forward to the next generation, resulting in the breakup of Tom’s marriage to ex-wife Amanda (Carla Gugino) and frayed ties to teen daughter Janie (Madeline Carroll) and young son Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton).

Initially, Tom regards his unsolicited new companions as nothing but a nuisance – one of the funnier sequences concerns his vain efforts to identify some part of the Gotham bureaucracy willing to take them off his hands – and their antics threaten a vital deal he has going to purchase the Central Park landmark Tavern-on-the-Green from its matriarchal owner Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury). But, this being Hollywood, Tom eventually bonds with the unruly creatures and they foster a change in his outlook.

Though gooey with guano, director Mark Waters’ loose adaptation of Richard and Florence Atwater’s Newbery award-winning 1939 children’s classic is otherwise unproblematic. And its hopeful theme of marital reconciliation between Tom and Amanda – a potential reunion egged on, of course, by their youngsters – will gratify viewers committed to family values.

A stray, thoroughly out-of-place mention of Viagra, a misguided attempt to keep parents amused, is of course less welcome. But, that fleeting element aside, “Mr. Popper's Penguins” registers as a mostly pleasant distraction for undemanding tots.

The film contains several scatological sight gags, a single adult reference and at least one mild oath. 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)

'A Man for All Seasons'

Audience:
A-I – general patronage
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Engrossing drama of the last seven years in the life of Thomas More, Henry VIII's chancellor, who met a martyr’s death rather than compromise his conscience during a period of anti-Catholic persecution in England. Robert Bolt's script is masterfully directed by Fred Zinnemann, with a standout performance by Paul Scofield in the title role, among other notable performances from a uniformly fine cast. The historical dramatization achieves an authentic human dimension that makes its 16th-century events more accessible and its issues more universal. Profoundly entertaining but heavy-going for children. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G – general audiences.

(Catholic News Service)