Reel Reviews

‘The Identical’

A-I – general patronage


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Elvis Presley in the mirror

Although they may be sociologically fascinating, in the cultural scheme of things, Elvis Presley impersonators are not widely deemed to occupy a particularly exalted position. Yet no one can deny the enduring appeal of an entertainer who, close to 40 years after his death, still has not only legions of fans but hosts of followers devoted enough to settle for myriad attempts at imitation now that the real thing is no longer around.

Moviegoers’ attitudes toward the former occupant of Graceland will likely shape their reactions to the reality-related drama “The Identical” (Freestyle). Director Dustin Marcellino’s film takes its premise from the historical fact that Elvis was a twin. Sadly, though, his brother Jesse was stillborn.

But what if he had survived? In the fictional version of events developed in this movie, the newborn brothers’ impoverished parents, William (Brian Geraghty) and Helen (Amanda Crew) Hemsley, are in such desperate straits that they make the traumatic decision to give one of their sons up for adoption. They find suitable foster parents in circuit-riding revivalist preacher Reece Wade (Ray Liotta) and his wife Louise (Ashley Judd). The Wades are a happily married couple whose principal cross in life so far has been their childlessness.

For reasons that are not really made clear, however, the Hemsleys are at pains to conceal this arrangement from the world. Accordingly, they swear the Wades to secrecy and give out a cover story that one of their boys has died. They even hold a funeral for him.

Flash forward to the 1950s and Drexel (Blake Rayne), the lad the Hemsleys kept, is rocketing to musical stardom. Meanwhile, his obscure but equally talented lookalike Ryan Wade (also Rayne) is being pressured by his father, now a settled pastor, to follow him into the ministry. But, in a sort of evangelical riff on the old dilemma Al Jolson faced in "The Jazz Singer," Ryan prefers belting out tunes to thumping the Bible. Eventually, Ryan gets the opportunity to pursue his favored career by impersonating his long-lost counterpart under the moniker of the title. Defied dad is, needless to say, disappointed.

Wholesome and faith-friendly, “The Identical” is a homespun piece of entertainment with a goodhearted but naive tone that will not appeal to city slickers. As for its suitable audience, a single vague reference to the connection between romantic passion and the arrival of babies may debar those who are still members of the stork club.

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

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’

A-II – Adults and Adolescents


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Animated thriller has lessons about honor and family

Thirty years after bursting onto the comic book scene, the wise-cracking, pizza-loving “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (Paramount) reemerge from the sewers of New York City. Their mission, once again, is to save the world.

This reboot marks the fifth film to feature the reptilian heroes created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. With Michael Bay of the “Transformers” franchise on board as producer, action and destruction (and noise level) are ramped up in vivid 3D, with the Turtles effectively rendered through live action and motion-capture technology. The script by Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec and Evan Daugherty honors the ridiculousness of the subject matter and keeps tongue firmly in cheek. Director Jonathan Liebesman (“Wrath of the Titans”) joins in fun that adds a few good lessons about honor and family.

The backstory and mythology surrounding the Turtles are extensive, to say the least. Simply stated, there are four, each named (for no particular reason) for an Italian Renaissance artist: Leonardo (voice of Pete Ploszek), Raphael (voice of Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (voice of Noel Fisher) and Donatello (voice of Jeremy Howard). Products of an experiment gone wrong, they have grown into rambunctious anthropomorphic teenagers, mask-wearing 6-footers who shout “Cowabunga!” and scarf down pizza. The Turtles live beneath the Big Apple with a wise Japanese rat named Splinter (voice of Danny Woodburn), who has trained them in the martial arts.

“My sons, you will become the warriors that legends are made of,” Splinter says. “You live, you die, you fight as brothers. Remember, nothing is as strong as family.”

As Leonardo admits, “We were created as weapons, and we knew the world would never accept us ... but one day, it would need us.”

That day is now, for a reign of terror has gripped Gotham, thanks to the notorious Foot Clan, a seemingly invincible gang of criminals led by a razor-sharp monster appropriately dubbed Shredder (Tohoru Masamune).

At first, the turtles do battle at night, fighting the Foot Clan while protecting their identity. All that changes when April (Megan Fox), an intrepid TV reporter, stumbles upon their ninja moves. Excited by her first big scoop, April has a hard time convincing Vern (Will Arnett), her cameraman and Bernadette (Whoopi Goldberg), her skeptical boss, of the turtles’ existence. So she turns to an old family friend, billionaire industrialist Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), for help. He's a scientist with more than a passing interest in mutated reptiles – and a wicked secret alliance with Shredder for (of course) world domination.

If it all sounds silly, it is, and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is more thrill-ride than serious drama. As such, the action sequences may be too intense (and loud) for young viewers. Everyone else, however, will have a ball careening down sewer tunnels as though they were water slides on steroids.

The film contains intense but bloodless cartoon violence, some bathroom humor, and a few vague references to sexuality. 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 Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (September 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)
And So It Goes, A-III (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
Begin Again, A-III (R)
Boyhood, L (R)
Brick Mansions, L (PG-13)
Bully, A-III (PG-13)
Calvary, L (R)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, A-II (PG-13)
Chef, A-III (R)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, A-III (PG-13)
Deliver Us From Evil, L (R)
Draft Day, A-III (PG-13)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
Earth to Echo, A-II (PG)
Edge of Tomorrow, A-III (PG-13)
The Expendables 3, A-III (PG-13)
The Fault in Our Stars, A-III (PG-13)
The Fluffy Movie, A-III (PG-13)
Frances Ha, L (R)
Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, O (R)
Get On Up, A-III (PG-13)
The Giver, A-II (PG-13)
Godzilla, A-III (PG-13)
Guardians of the Galaxy, A-III (PG-13)
Hercules, A-III (PG-13)
How to Train Your Dragon 2, A-I (PG)
The Hundred-Foot Journey, A-III (PG)
Ida, A-III (PG-13)
If I Stay, A-III (PG-13)
Into the Storm, 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)
Let's Be Cops, L (R)
Lucy, L (R)
Magic in the Moonlight, A-III (PG-13)
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)
A Most Wanted Man, A-III (R)
Mr. Peabody & Sherman, A-I (PG)
Neighbors, O (R)
The November Man, O (R)
Obvious Child, O (R)
Phantom, A-III (R)
Planes: Fire & Rescue, A-II (PG)
The Purge: Anarchy, O (R)
Quartet, A-III (PG-13)
Sex Tape, O (R)
Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)
Step Up All In, A-III (PG-13)
Tammy, A-III (R)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, A-II (PG-13)
Think Like a Man Too, O (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 Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)
When the Game Stands Tall, A-II (PG)
The Wind Rises, A-III (PG-13)
X-Men: Days of Future Past, A-III (PG-13)