Movie Reviews

Posted February 19, 2016 at 12:00 am

The Boy


On the rebound from an abusive relationship with her boyfriend (Ben Robson), a young Montana woman (Lauren Cohan) takes a job as a nanny at a remote British mansion only to find that her charge is a spooky porcelain doll her elderly employers (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle) have substituted for their deceased son, insisting she treat it as they do exactly like a real child. When the couple departs for a vacation soon afterward, the au pair initially ignores the eerie figurine, but finds her neglect gives rise to uncanny events. Offering her guidance, comfort and eventually love is her sole human contact, the local grocer’s clerk (Rupert Evans). Little blood is spilled in director William Brent Bell’s remix of familiar horror ingredients. Yet the youthful duo’s attempt at a bedroom get-together, along with the odd tawdry term in the dialogue, makes this efficient chiller safest for grownups. Considerable violence with brief gore, nongraphic premarital sexual activity, occasional profane and crude language. A-III; PG-13

Dirty Grandpa


Sexploitation flick featuring Robert De Niro as a libido-driven, newly widowed former Special Forces officer who’s taken to Florida by his grandson (Zac Efron) for a decorous visit to Boca Raton. They wind up instead at spring break in Daytona Beach where De Niro spends most of the movie chasing a potty-mouthed coed (Aubrey Plaza) who’s mistaken him for a professor. Director Dan Mazer and screenwriter John M. Phillips take a “let er rip” approach to the crudest of references to sexual activity and any other body function that comes to mind. Their smorgasbord of smut’s most repellant offering is a sequence that attempts to mine laughs out of the suspected sexual abuse of a child. Strong sexual content, including full male and female nudity and coarse banter, frequent drug use, pervasive rough and crude language. O; R

The 5th Wave


When aliens invade Earth and begin to decimate the human race, an Ohio teenager (Chloe Grace Moretz) fights to stay alive in order to reunite with her missing brother (Zackary Arthur). Two young men (Nick Robinson and Alex Roe) come to her aid and both become romantic interests. Yet it’s unclear who can be trusted in this scenario based on the 2013 book by Rick Yancey that tries to mesh coming-of-age concerns with multiple science-fiction motifs, including a zombie apocalypse. Director J Blakeson creditably presents the action and special effects, and for the more intimate scenes he has the advantage of working with the estimable Moretz. All in all, it’s not convincing, however. Nevertheless, the movie, which is too harrowing for children and possibly for some teens, can be applauded for its commitment to espousing a positive moral outlook. Much violence, including some intense gunplay, potentially frightening images, a scene of underage drinking, an ambiguous sexual encounter, occasional profanity and adult banter as well as a few instances each of rough, crude and crass language. A-II; PG-13



Poignant study of the love between a mother (Brie Larson) and her 5-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay) both of whom are held captive in a backyard shed by a sexual predator (Sean Bridgers) who kidnapped the young woman and fathered the boy. Born and raised within this confined space, the lad is confused by tales of the outside world but must rally his courage when an opportunity for escape presents itself. In adapting her own 2010 novel, screenwriter Emma Donoghue successfully renders everyday life as an alien environment for her bewildered protagonist, who also narrates, while subtly examining human adaptability, the power of imagination and the ironies underlying what appears on the surface to be an all-too-straightforward situation. Viewers of faith will particularly appreciate the biblical overtones of director Lenny Abrahamson’s somber but ultimately hopeful parable, the moral impact of which may make it acceptable for some mature adolescents. Brief abusive violence, mature themes including serial rape and suicide, an overheard but unseen sexual encounter, a couple of profanities, several rough terms. A-III; R

The Finest Hours


The remarkable true story of the most daring small boat rescue mission in Coast Guard history comes to the big screen in this grand old-fashioned adventure, directed by Craig Gillespie and based on the 2009 novel by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. In February 1952, a powerful Nor’easter strikes the Massachusetts coast, pummeling shoreline towns and wreaking havoc on ships caught in its deadly path. An oil tanker, S.S. Pendleton, breaks apart in 60-foot waves and hurricane-force winds, stranding 36 sailors in the stern, bobbing like a cork in the mighty sea. By chance, a Coast Guard station locates the wreck, and the officer (Eric Bana) dispatches a first mate (Chris Pine) and his crew (Ben Foster, Kyle Gallner, John Magaro) to mount a rescue in a small wooden lifeboat. On board the wreck, the engineer (Casey Affleck) takes command of the crisis situation as the stern section slowly sinks. Gillespie strikes the right balance between striking renderings of Mother Nature’s fury (even more impressive than 2000’s “The Perfect Storm”), and quieter moments, conveying fear and uncertainty among the rescuers and the rescued, as well as their reliance on prayer and faith. Extreme storm-based action and scenes of peril, and some crude and profane language. A-III; PG-13

Kung Fu Panda 3


The unlikely martial arts master of the title (voice of Jack Black) whose rise to his destined status as a legendary warrior was chronicled in this animated adventure’s two predecessors faces off against an evil aggressor (voice of J.K. Simmons) armed with supernatural powers. Family values get a boost when the bear reunites with his biological father (voiced by Bryan Cranston) yet remains close to his adoptive dad (voice of James Hong), and the importance of teamwork is underlined by his ongoing collaboration with a band of fellow black belts. As he continues to receive spiritual guidance from his undersized mentor (voice of Dustin Hoffman), however, non-scriptural philosophical ideas, some from the background of the earlier movies, come obtrusively to the fore. While these elements of directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni’s visually pleasing film can form the basis for a useful discussion with teens, really impressionable youngsters will likely be left confused. Mythological themes alien to a Christian worldview, cartoon violence, at least one mildly scatological joke. A-II; PG 

USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting


A-I – General patronage

A-II – Adults and adolescents

A-III – Adults

A-IV – Adults, with reservations

L – Limited adult audience

O – Morally offensive

Motion Picture Association of America ratings:

G – General audiences; all ages admitted

PG – Parental guidance suggested; some material may not be suitable for children

PG-13 – Parents are strongly cautioned to give special guidance for attendance of children under 13; some material may be inappropriate for young children

R – Restricted; under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian

NC-17 – No one under 17 admitted