Movie Reviews

Posted April 13, 2018 at 12:00 am

Gringo

Amazon Studios

Moral dilemmas come fast and furious in this dark, but somehow not cynical, comedy about avarice and its near-instant consequences. Sent to Mexico by his corrupt bosses (Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron) to seal a crooked deal for his pharmaceutical company, a gullible executive (David Oyelowo), driven by financial desperation, instead pretends that he’s been kidnapped and held for ransom. This moment of raw greed sets numerous subplots in motion, including a drug cartel’s pursuit of the businessman. Had they dealt with this material more elegantly, director Nash Edgerton and screenwriters Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone might have ended up with an Alfred Hitchcock suspense homage. But, while it’s not family fare, the film as it stands will satisfy at least some grown viewers, especially since its resolution, though flawed, acknowledges the necessity of structured justice in a chaotic world. Gun and physical violence, fleeting gore, a scene of implied sexual activity, frequent profane and rough language. A-III; R

Pacific Rim Uprising

Universal

Directed and co-written by Steven S. DeKnight, this sequel to 2013’s “Pacific Rim” is a noisy, violent and utterly ridiculous sci-fi adventure. When a new threat appears from aliens intent on world domination, two hot-shot pilots (John Boyega and Scott Eastwood) must train a group of green cadets, including a gifted 15-year-old (Cailee Spaeny), to command the giant robots that will save the day. The duo is out to counter the wicked plans of a once-heroic doctor (Charlie Day), who has gone over to the dark side. DeKnight sacrifices plot and subtlety for relentless and repetitive action, laying waste to much of Tokyo in the process in the spirit of the “Godzilla” films of yore. Intense but bloodless violence, brief sexual banter, occasional profane and crude language, an obscene gesture. A-III; PG-13

Paul, Apostle of Christ

Sony

Bible-based drama in which St. Paul (pleasingly sonorous James Faulkner), imprisoned in Rome and facing martyrdom in the wake of that city’s Great Fire of AD 64, which the Emperor Nero notoriously blamed on the followers of Jesus, is visited by his longtime collaborator and friend St. Luke (Jim Caviezel) to whom he recounts the circumstances of his conversion and some of the other events chronicled in the Book of Acts. This new text is meant to give encouragement to the capital’s persecuted Christians, led by husband and wife Aquila (John Lynch) and Priscilla (Joanne Whalley). But it also draws the attention of St. Paul’s chief jailer (Olivier Martinez), an essentially humane man vaguely attracted to the Gospel and troubled by the grave illness of his beloved daughter. Writer-director Andrew Hyatt’s film works better as an easy and enjoyable introduction to its two central figures’ lives and works than it does considered strictly as a piece of cinema. The somewhat flawed script fleshes out the human details in a believable way, but unwisely presents famous verses and whole passages of Scripture as deriving from Paul’s spontaneous conversation. Valuable chiefly as a catechetical resource, it makes acceptable and worthwhile fare for teens. Scenes of brutality and torture with some gore, a few gruesome images, mature references, including to prostitution. A-II; PG-13

7 Days in Entebbe

Focus

All the tension of a daring military raid has somehow been drained from this historical drama based on the 1976 hostage rescue in Uganda by Israeli commandos. With a better script and bigger budget, director Jose Padhila and screenwriter Gregory Burke could have made an effective thriller. But neither is in evidence here, nor is there a vital historical or moral context. Instead the film attempts to give a sympathetic gloss to two German leftists (Daniel Bruhl and Rosamund Pike) who, as affiliates of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, helped plan the hijacking that kicked off the crisis. Occasional gun and physical violence, fleeting gore, a single use of rough language. A-III; PG-13

Unsane

Bleecker Street

Suspense drama that demonstrates why the “trapped in a mental asylum” subgenre has become a rarity. A stalking victim (Claire Foy) left with mental health issues by her experience is involuntarily committed by a predatory facility that leeches payments from its captive patients’ insurance companies. Things take an even darker turn when she becomes convinced that her former pursuer (Joshua Leonard) is working there under an assumed name and dispensing her medication. As directed by Steven Soderbergh and scripted by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer, the film advances along predictable lines with the significant weakness that, despite all the efforts to show that the protagonist and reality are not tightly welded, the audience is tipped to the truth early on. Mature themes, a scene of attempted sexual assault, physical violence, some sexual references, frequent rough language. L; R.

Midnight Sun

Open Road

This remake of the 2006 Japanese film “Song to the Sun” is a sweet, heartfelt movie, directed by Scott Speer, that presents a refreshing view (for Hollywood, that is) of young people who are not behaving badly. A teenager (Bella Thorne) suffers from an incurable disease due to which any exposure to sunlight could prove fatal. Housebound during the day, she is cared for by her overprotective father (Rob Riggle) and best friend (Quinn Shephard). Venturing out one evening, she meets her long-time crush (Patrick Schwarzenegger), whom she has secretly watched from her bedroom window for years. They fall for each other, but he is unaware of her condition. Mature teens will benefit from this old-fashioned romance with its positive role models and good lessons in love and compassion, the elements listed below notwithstanding. Scenes of underage drinking, some mild sensuality, one crude term. A-II; PG-13

Ready Player One

Warner Bros.

Director Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the 2011 novel by Ernest Cline (who co-wrote the screenplay with Zak Penn) offers a dizzying immersion into virtual reality via an alternative universe called the Oasis. In the dystopian world of the year 2045, everyone straps on goggles and uses a device to escape their miserable existence and embrace narcissism. Before he died, its creator, an eccentric scientist (Mark Rylance), designed a contest for his gamers the winner of which would not only inherit his fortune but gain control of the Oasis. Motivated by greed, a wicked CEO (Ben Mendelsohn) harnesses the resources of his corporation to solve this puzzle. Out to thwart the powerful villain’s scheme are an intrepid teenager (Tye Sheridan), the lad’s love interest (Olivia Cooke) and a gaggle of his friends. Spielberg’s sci-fi fantasy initially offers relatively wholesome escapist fun. But it becomes suitable for mature viewers only once key scenes from the inventor’s favorite movie, 1980’s “The Shining,” are recreated. Intense violence with gore, stylized mayhem, brief sensuality and partial nudity, one use of profanity, occasional crude language. A-III; PG-13

Sherlock Gnomes

Paramount

Busy but flat animated adventure in which the hero (voice of James McAvoy) and heroine (voice of Emily Blunt) of 2011’s “Gnomeo and Juliet” team with the detective of the title (voice of Johnny Depp) and his sidekick, Dr. Watson (voice of Chiwetel Ejiofor), to stop a spate of garden gnome kidnappings taking place across London that they suspect may be the work of the sleuth’s arch-nemesis, Moriarty (voice of Jamie Demetriou). Easily satisfied kids may be willing to accept the rudimentary plot and unfocused proceedings on display in director John Stevenson’s film. But, despite a positive lesson about not taking friends or loved ones for granted, most others will be unimpressed. Scenes of peril, some mild scatological and anatomical humor. A-I; PG



USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting

classifications:

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

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