By Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) – The following are capsule reviews of movies recently reviewed by Catholic News Service.
“Can we please stop saying sex?” a character asks in the ensemble romantic comedy “Book Club” (Paramount). The answer, in a word, is no.
In fact, there’s hardly a line of dialogue in director and co-writer Bill Holderman’s film, penned with Erin Simms, that doesn’t contain an innuendo, a smutty pun or some other tiresome joke. A listless cat’s visit to a veterinarian and the refurbishment of a motorcycle are both made the occasion for extended off-color wordplay, while the use of Viagra in ill-chosen setting results in a series of cringe-worthy visuals.
Such elements are all the more embarrassing given the movie’s stellar veteran cast. That these pros are going to find themselves flailing around in a morass of bad taste becomes apparent as soon as the premise is known: A group of friends, all ladies of a certain age, find their interest in amour renewed after their book club takes on E.L. James’ sadomasochistic “Fifty Shades” trilogy.
And so, they’re off to the races, each in her own way. Timid recent widow Diane (Diane Keaton) who suffers from fear of flying, falls, ironically enough, for wealthy pilot and aeronautics researcher Mitchell (Andy Garcia). But Diane’s path to happiness is blocked by the patronizing attitude of her duo of over-solicitous daughters, Jill (Alicia Silverstone) and Adrianne (Katie Aselton).
Promiscuous, emotionally detached hotel owner Vivian (Jane Fonda) reconnects with Arthur (Don Johnson), the ex whose proposal she long ago turned down. Though she increasingly regrets her decision, reintegrating the physical and emotional aspects of love may take some work.
Buttoned-up federal judge Sharon (Candice Bergen) has yet to get over her divorce from Tom (Ed Begley Jr.), despite the fact that it’s been 18 years since they split. But, apparently inspired by the kinky connection she and the others have been reading about, she tries an online dating service and promptly meets George (Richard Dreyfuss). He’s so obviously her soulmate that they follow up their first meal together by going for it in the back seat of her car.
Meanwhile, married couple of many years Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) struggle to reignite the faltering flames of their mutual passion.
“Book Club” crusades relentlessly for an aging woman’s to satisfaction in the bedroom – or the back seat – without regard to marital status or any other circumstance. Only Vivian’s tilt away from her licentious past and Carol and Bruce’s commitment to fidelity partially retrieve the lowminded proceedings.
The film contains a misguided view of human sexuality, an offscreen premarital encounter, implied cohabitation, pervasive sexual humor, including an extended tasteless sight gag, several profanities and milder oaths and at least one rough and a couple of crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
“Black Panther” (2018)
Sprawling, energetic but ultimately overlong Marvel Comics adaptation from director and co-writer Ryan Coogler. The young sovereign (Chadwick Boseman) of an imaginary – and secret – African kingdom where the use of a super-powerful mineral has enabled the population to achieve both prosperity and a range of technological wonders unknown to the outside world must cope with two principal threats to his realm. The first involves a South African arms dealer (Andy Serkis) who has managed to infiltrate the nation and make off with a stock of the mineral which he aims to sell to the highest bidder. The second concerns the ongoing consequences of a long-ago family conflict (involving Michael B. Jordan). The king is aided by his tech-savvy sister (Letitia Wright), the woman (Lupita Nyong’o) he would like to make his queen, the leader (Danai Gurira) of his army’s band of fierce female warriors and, eventually, by a CIA agent (Martin Freeman). Real-world political preoccupations are incorporated into this sci-fi tinged action adventure while plot developments weigh vengeance against justice and violent revolution against peaceful reform. Possibly acceptable for older teens. Nonstructural religious ideas and practices, much stylized violence with minimal gore, several crude and at least one crass term, an obscene gesture. Spanish language and titles options. 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. (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)
Comedy misfire filmed in Japan with Zero Mostel as a Kyoto police inspector investigating a series of murders involving an android doll (Felix Silla), Nazi war criminals, Israeli agents, an American spy (Bradford Dillman) and a nightclub owner (Keiko Kishi). Directed by Alex March, the disjointed proceedings make little sense, the comedy is flat and the inspector’s recurring daydream of being a samurai superwarrior is tiresome. Stylized violence and sexual innuendo. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G — general audiences. All Ages Admitted. (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
Spirited biblically based drama in which the super-strong champion (Taylor James) of the oppressed Israelites skylarks with his younger brother (Greg Kriek), romances a Philistine gal (Frances Sholto-Douglas) but also tangles with the wicked prince (Jackson Rathbone) who embodies that people’s tyrannical and exploitative rule over the occupied Promised Land. As Samson mows down his foes, with femme fatale Delilah (Caitlin Leahy) waiting in the wings, director Bruce Macdonald follows the formula of golden-age Hollywood adaptations of the Good Book with large-scale battles, a love angle and an effete villain. Though some of the necessary expansion on the Old Testament account fails to convince, this is generally an enjoyable riff on the Hebrew he-man’s story. While not suitable for the youngest viewers, it can provide a fine introduction to the subject for teens. Much combat violence with little gore, a scene of torture, references to prostitution and womanizing. Spanish language and titles options. 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. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)
“First Reformed” (A24)
This drama about a Protestant minister (Ethan Hawke) in upstate New York has quite a bit to say about religious belief, environmentalism, grieving, alienation, rage, the power of love and the corruption of religion by money and power. Writer-director Paul Schrader does not condescend to belief, but is interested in launching discussions about what faith means and what actions best express it. Some gore, mature themes, fleeting scatological references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
“Life of the Party” (Warner Bros.)
Anemic comedy in which middle-aged mom Melissa McCarthy (who also co-wrote the script) is dumped by her husband (Matt Walsh) in favor of the hard-edged real estate agent (Julie Bowen) with whom he has been having an affair and decides to get a fresh start by returning to the university she dropped out of in order to have her now-grown daughter (Molly Gordon) who is also currently a student there. Her kindly, upbeat manner makes her the toast of her daughter’s sorority and wins her the heart of a handsome fraternity brother (Luke Benward). Everything about director and co-writer Ben Falcone’s star vehicle for his wife McCarthy rings false, including its affirmations of maternal and filial affection and its rounds of mutual feminine confidence building. Frivolously treated offscreen nonmarital and marital sexual activity, some of it in semi-public places, unintentional drug use, comic brawling, sexual and anatomical humor, a couple of crude and numerous crass 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.