Catholic movie reviews - Wanderlust, Act of Valor, Ghost Rider II & Coriolanus

By  Catholic News Service
  • February 24, 2012

With the oscars this weekend, everyone's mind is on the movies.

And if you're thinking of heading to see some of this week's new releases then check out our reviews below.



By Adam Shaw Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - When one of the lead characters in "Wanderlust" (Universal) asks rhetorically why he can't seem to go more than a short period of time without another man's private parts being waved in his face, he might as well be speaking on behalf of viewers.

For a gauntlet of such childish attempts to shock, as well as relentless lashings of tawdry language, await in director and co-writer David Wain's insubstantial and distasteful comedy.

The proceedings center on young New Yorkers George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston), unremarkable urbanites who -- through a convoluted plot point -- find themselves living in a hippie commune lifted straight out of the 1970s.

They have stumbled on Elysium, a rural community where drugs, free love and an absence of boundaries are the order of the day.

The picture does provide some amusing moments, and its relatively pleasing wrap-up affirms the beauty of monogamy. However, this acceptable conclusion is preceded not only by the above-cited gross-out humor, but by an incident of adultery treated more like a harmless mistake than an assault on the bonds of marriage. In sum, the script, penned in collaboration with Ken Marino, demeans human sexuality far more than it celebrates loving fidelity.

The film contains strong sexual content, including full nudity and explicit vulgar dialogue, adultery theme, drug use, occasional profanity, frequent rough and some crude language as well as an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.



Act of Valor

By John Mulderig Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - As explained in an unusual prelude featuring its co-directors Mike "Mouse" McCoy and Scott Waugh, the earnest but graphically violent action film "Act of Valor" (Relativity) employs real-life, necessarily anonymous members of the Navy's elite SEAL unit to tell a fictional story dramatizing their off-screen work. The aesthetic results are, perhaps, predictable.

When enacting the kind of combat operation at which they excel, the SEALs -- their moniker is an acronym for Sea, Air and Land teams -- are as convincing as one might expect. And their imaginary exploits are ably packaged by McCoy and Waugh.

But these suspenseful sequences are interspersed with a narrative maladroitly ramming home macho values as well as by the kind of banter that may build barracks camaraderie but does little to entertain moviegoers. As for the bloodletting toward which such scenes all too often lead up, it's portrayed unsparingly, limiting appropriate viewership to a minority of adults.

The plot is serviceable enough: We follow along as the SEALs' rescue of a kidnapped CIA operative (Roselyn Sanchez) reveals a terrorist plot to smuggle advanced explosives across the Mexican border. But the violence bar is further raised as the agent's captivity sees her subjected to a prolonged beating and the torturous application of a power drill to extract information.

Throw in another early scene where a crowd of carefree schoolchildren become collateral damage in the assassination of an American diplomat, and the cumulative effect is gratitude to the commandoes for the duties they perform, mingled with an uncomfortable sense that there's more than one reason for their operations to remain secret.

The film contains pervasive, often gory violence, including torture, a couple of uses of profanity, and about a dozen instances each of rough and crude language. 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 R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.




By Joseph McAleer Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - When your lead character proclaims, "The blood I drip is more medicinal than painful for me," you know someone's gonna get hurt. Or maybe hundreds.

Welcome to the big-screen treatment of William Shakespeare's tragedy "Coriolanus" (Weinstein), a consistently brutal and violent film which, when not shedding blood, offers a searing commentary on power, betrayal and revenge.

Making his directorial debut, Ralph Fiennes also takes on the starring role as the Roman general originally called Caius Marcius. Personifying evil and megalomania seems to be second nature to Fiennes by now, having cut his teeth as Lord Voldemort in all those "Harry Potter" films.

Screenwriter John Logan (who also wrote 2000's "Gladiator") updates the drama's setting from ancient Rome to an imaginary version of the same locale in the present day.

The Eternal City is torn by strife and street fighting, resembling a bombed-out Baghdad. The people are hungry and ready to riot. Marcius has saved Rome, once again, from its enemies. But the mob blames him for diverting supplies to feed his troops.

"Coriolanus," however, is the antithesis of "Gladiator." Marcius pays no attention to public opinion or the nascent forces of democracy. Peace makes him restless. He lives only to fight and protect the city he loves.

War flares again, and Marcius gets back to doing what he does best. This time it's the Volscians who march on Rome, led by Marcius' nemesis, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). The Volscians are vanquished in the town of Corioles, earning our anti-hero general a new moniker, Coriolanus.

Coriolanus' redoubled fame inspires both Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave), his viper of a mother, and scheming politician Menenius (Brian Cox). Together, they persuade Coriolanus to run for consul, harnessing social media and television in the effort. They see in him a messianic figure who could rule at will. (While they, of course, pull the strings.)

But his campaign goes disastrously awry. Before long, Coriolanus is accused of treason and disgraced -- banished, ironically, from the city he once saved from destruction.

Suffice it to say, hell hath no fury like a warlord scorned. Revenge is in the cards, and Coriolanus thinks the Volscians just might be interested in his plans.

Which side wins in "Coriolanus," good or evil? That's a moral conundrum Shakespeare scholars have been trying to unravel for 500 years. One thing at least is certain: "Coriolanus" is not for the faint of heart.

The film contains intense and pervasive violence, including shootings, stabbings, explosions and torture. 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 R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.



Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

By Kurt Jensen, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Not content with merely using a flaming motorcycle to fight Satan, "Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance" (Columbia) -- the sequel to the 2007 comic book-based cult hit "Ghost Rider" -- also piles on loopy Catholic imagery in the form of a monk who promises to lift a demonic curse.

It's an excuse for a noisier, 3-D version of the earlier film, likely to appeal only to the devoted fans of sardonic anti-hero Johnny Blaze, portrayed once again by Nicolas Cage. Hey, it's what Johnny does, you know.

The former motorcycle stuntman is never content with his periodic transformations into a skeleton that spits fire and uses a chain as a lariat; such was Satan's curse in exchange for a false promise to save the life of Johnny's father. But in his fire-breathing state, Johnny also serves, ironically, as a sort of Old Testament moral force.

Co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor and screenwriters Scott M. Gimple and Seth Hoffman set the story eight years after the first installment, with gloomy Johnny hiding out in Eastern Europe.

Moreau (Idris Elba), a French monk in a leather jacket from, need it be said, an unnamed monastic order (no avuncular Irish priests in this neck of the woods), promises to nullify Johnny's affliction if Johnny will rescue Danny (Fergus Riordan) from You-Know-Who.

Danny is the son of Roark (Ciaran Hinds), the earthly form of Satan, who has limited powers in the flesh. If our hero doesn't get him out of the clutches of Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth), an international gun-runner in the devil's employ, the implication is that the sulfurous one will soon be roaming the earth with the Antichrist in tow.

This, of course, seems like a good deal to Johnny, so he's off to the big showdown.

The only thing that could make all this rigmarole worse, given the current pop mania for the subject, would have been an exorcism scene.

The film contains constant hand-to-hand and gun violence, as well as fleeting crass and profane 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.

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