Reel Reviews

‘Earth to Echo’

A-II – adults and adolescents


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E.T. calls home on a cell phone

Originality is not the main selling point of the youthful sci-fi adventure “Earth to Echo” (Relativity). In fact, its plot is a mash-up of familiar story elements.

Yet director Dave Green’s gentle film, which employs a found-footage approach to its narrative and conveys positive lessons about loyalty and trust, is not without its rewards. These are more found more in its humorous moments than in its attempts to be touching.

Aimed at tweens, the movie’s script includes some jokes and vocabulary that may not please all parents. But they’re likely no worse than the kind of exchanges heard on a daily basis in the halls of your local middle school.

That’s where you might run across the real-life counterparts of the picture’s trio of main characters: vulnerable foster kid Alex (Teo Halm), extrovert Tuck (Brian “Astro” Bradley) and tech nerd Munch (Reese Hartwig). Bound by their shared status as social outcasts, the three find solace in their mutual friendship.

But, as opening scenes explain, their bond is under threat. They’re about to be separated by the demolition of their suburban Nevada neighborhood, through which a highway is to be built.

Still, some mysterious cell phone activity they and others in the doomed community have recently been experiencing does offer the opportunity for one last exploit together. Since the source of the disruption seems to be located in the desert, the boys plan an overnight trip there to investigate. Their cover story involves spending the night playing video games at one another’s houses.

Reaching the wilderness, the nervous lads are stunned and thrilled to encounter the real cause of the ongoing communications glitch: a small stranded alien they dub Echo. Echo’s endearing, petlike personality quickly wins the pals over, and they commit themselves to helping him return home.

They’re eventually joined on this quest by Emma (Ella Wahlestedt), one of their most popular classmates and the seemingly unattainable lass for whom Alex carries a secret torch.

It's “E.T.” meets “Stand by Me” with “Goonies” thrown in for good measure. But “Earth to Echo” is mildly diverting, with its wry observations on contemporary mores and a convincing subplot about Alex’s experience-based fear of desertion. While not appropriate for the youngest moviegoers, it may manage to charm its target audience without alienating, so to speak, their elders.

The film contains some teen sexual talk and a few crass terms. 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 John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’

A-III – adults


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Time travel meets loopy version of American history

There are many surreal moments — Jennifer Lawrence as cerulean shape-shifter Raven/Mystique in a showdown with Richard Nixon, for one — but also some thoughtful moral commentary on whether it’s a good idea to alter the path of history or accept an immutable destiny.

The plot, loaded with the kinetic action sequences familiar from the first films in the series, is quite simple. It’s 2023 and the planet has been devastated by the Sentinels, fire-breathing robots first unleashed — for American defense! — 50 years earlier. As doom descends on the mutants known collectively as X-Men, the elderly versions of Dr. Charles Xavier and Magneto (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) argue about the need to rewrite history.

Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) has the ability to send someone’s consciousness back in time, so she sends the most indestructible among them, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), to 1973 so he can intercept Raven/Mystique before she assassinates the Sentinels’ inventor, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).

It was after that event that the blue gal was captured and her DNA replicated to make the Sentinels virtually indestructible. If Trask lives, though, he’ll be imprisoned and the nascent Sentinel program will go away.

Wolverine also grabs the younger Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who is being held in a secret underground prison at the Pentagon after being wrongfully implicated in the assassination of President Kennedy. He’s helped by a new character, Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who escapes every jam with his super-high speed.

Discussions about how a single event changes the future mingle with arguments between the younger Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto about how best to deal with Raven/Mystique. Director Brian Singer and screenwriters Simon Kinberg and Jane Goldman eventually surrender existential angst to the plethora of special effects, including a flying stadium.

The film contains gun and physical violence, fleeting rear male nudity, a reference to nonmarital sexual activity, and fleeting rough and crude language. 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 Kurt Jensen, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (July 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.

Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2, A-II (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)

Bad Words, O (R)
Bears, A-I (G)
Blended, A-II (PG-13)
Brick Mansions, L (PG-13)
Bully, A-III (PG-13)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, A-II (PG-13)
Cesar Chavez, A-III (PG-13)
Chef, A-III (R)

Divergent, A-III (PG-13)
Draft Day, A-III (PG-13)
Dream House, L (PG-13)

Edge of Tomorrow, A-III (PG-13)

Fading Gigolo, O (R)
The Fault in Our Stars, A-III (PG-13)
Frances Ha, L (R)

God's Not Dead, A-II (PG)
Godzilla, A-III (PG-13)

A Haunted House 2, O (R)
Heaven Is for Real, A-I (PG)
How to Train Your Dragon 2, A-I (PG)

Ida, A-III (PG-13)

Jersey Boys, A-III, (R)

Killer Elite, A-III (R)

The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Legend of Hercules, A-III (PG-13)
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, A-I (PG)

Maleficent, A-II (PG)
Mary of Nazareth, A-II (not rated)
Million Dollar Arm, A-III (PG)
A Million Ways to Die in the West, O (R)
Moms' Night Out, A-I (PG)
Mr. Peabody & Sherman, A-I (PG)
Muppets Most Wanted, A-I (PG)

Need for Speed, A-III (PG-13)
Neighbors, O (R)
Noah, A-III (PG-13)

Obvious Child, O (R)
Oculus, A-III (R)
The Other Woman, L (PG-13)

Phantom, A-III (R)

Quartet, A-III (PG-13)
The Quiet Ones, A-III (PG-13)

The Railway Man, A-III (R)
Rio 2, A-I (G)

Sabotage, O (R)
Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)

Think Like a Man Too, O (PG-13)
Transcendence, A-III (PG-13)
Transformers: Age of Extinction, A-III (PG-13)
22 Jump Street, O (R)
Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, A-III (PG-13)
Tyler Perry's Single Moms Club, A-III (PG-13)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)

Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)
The Wind Rises, A-III (PG-13)

X-Men: Days of Future Past, A-III (PG-13)