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Catholic News Service Movie Reviews


By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — Sharply observed and cleverly executed, writer-director Paul Feig’s espionage satire Spy (Fox) boasts a large potential for fun.

Yet the abundant entertainment that might be hoped for from his genre-ribbing comedy, with its array of eccentric characters, is ultimately squelched by an excess of crude material and vulgar dialogue.

Equally overburdened by the film’s needless cargo of coarseness is the mild poignancy of its central relationship. Blinkered by vanity, elegant, James Bond-like CIA field operative Bradley Fine (Jude Law) fails to realize that he owes the better part of his success to the remote, high-tech support he receives from his desk-bound partner back at headquarters, Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy).

Bradley’s shallow assumptions also blind him to the fact that awkward, self-effacing Susan’s devotion to him is more than merely professional.

Susan’s heartfelt dedication is put to the test when Fine becomes a casualty in the agency’s effort to bring down Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), the ruthless heir of an international crime dynasty. Determined to avenge her beloved idol, Susan convinces her prickly boss, Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney), to let her leave Langley and go undercover. Though ostensibly her mission is merely to track Rayna, Susan’s real goal is to nab the evildoer.

Masked by the series of uniformly embarrassing disguises Elaine supplies her with, Susan pursues outrageously spoiled, wildly cynical Rayna from one elegant European venue to the next.

Along the way, she’s aided, albeit ineptly, by her goodhearted officemate and best friend Nancy (Miranda Hart). But the relentless, disdain-driven interference of another colleague, macho lunkhead Rick Ford (Jason Statham), threatens to derail Susan’s risky project at every turn.

Vastly superior to Feig and McCarthy’s popular 2011 collaboration, Bridesmaids, Spy deploys the latter’s trademark blend of orneriness and sensitivity to far more satisfying effect. Yet, along with a level of bloodletting wholly unjustified by the comic context, the childish urge to shock undermines the script’s more respectable humour, tainting the whole endeavour with a stain of sophomoric stupidity.

The film contains intermittent harsh violence with gore, brief obscene images, much sexual and some scatological humour, over a dozen uses of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. 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.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.


By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — Faint glimmers of morality can be discerned amid the decadence of Entourage (Warner Bros.), a comedy that simultaneously satirizes and wallows in Hollywood excess.

But these weak ethical beacons in writer-director Doug Ellin’s big-screen version of the TV series he created for HBO are vastly outshone by the glare of his film’s glamorized materialism, an outlook that includes a blatantly debased attitude toward human sexuality.

Fans of the popular cable show, which ran for eight seasons beginning in 2004, will already be familiar with Queens-bred movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) as well as with the hard-driving agent who first discovered him, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven).

They’ll also recognize the trio of devoted hangers-on who have followed Vince on his coast-to-coast journey to fame: his feckless half-brother, Johnny (Kevin Dillon); his best buddy-turned-manager, Eric (Kevin Connolly); and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), another hometown pal who once served as Vince’s driver before achieving outsized success of his own as a tequila tycoon.

As the multiplex variant of the story kicks off, Vince convinces Ari — who has left agency work behind to take on the role of a studio executive — to let him direct as well as act in a high-concept adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

When the production starts running over budget, however, the movie’s Texas-based financial backer, Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton), and Larsen’s egotistical son, Travis (Haley Joel Osment), become increasingly dissatisfied — and intrusive. Their disruptive demands put a strain on Vince’s relationship with his loyal retinue, each member of which is also preoccupied with problems of his own.

Ellin elicits the occasional smile with his send-up of Tinseltown’s eccentricities. And his script makes a few nods in the direction of loyalty to family and friends as well as toward artistic integrity.

Yet the libido-driven proceedings he helms — the central quartet explicitly acknowledge that the pursuit of sexual conquest is the primary motivation in their lives — find Eric bedding two newfound acquaintances within the course of a few hours. Though this eventually entangles the would-be good guy in something of a cautionary tale, his underlying assumptions, like those of his companions, remain unchanged.

The film contains misguided values, including a benign view of drug use and casual encounters with upper female and rear nudity, fleeting gore, frequent uses of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. 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.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

Insidious: Chapter 3
By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — Though elements of language and subject matter put Insidious: Chapter 3 (Gramercy) beyond the appropriate reach of a youthful audience, mature moviegoers will find comparatively little to object to in this run-of-the-mill horror prequel.

Still, if there’s minimal gore on display, there’s equally negligible inspiration.

Along with yet a third descent into this weak franchise’s patented postmortem realm, The Further, writer-director Leigh Whannell aims to provide viewers with the backstory of a character central to its previous instalments: unassuming but spunky psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye).

Before she got caught up in the occult woes of the Lambert family — the clan around whom the first two films revolved — Elise, it seems, had sworn off dabbling with the afterlife. Unspecified horrors had convinced the newly widowed medium to go into self-imposed retirement.

All that begins to change, however, with the arrival on Elise’s doorstep of high school senior and aspiring actress Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott). Dissatisfied with her do-it-yourself attempts to contact her recently deceased mother, grieving Quinn is anxious for the aid of a professional.

Elise reluctantly agrees to help, just this once. But it quickly becomes apparent that, in her amateurish effort to conjure up Mom’s benign presence, Quinn has instead summoned a malignant spirit to her side. This murderous wraith promptly involves the girl in a gruesome auto accident from which she emerges with two broken legs.

Since Quinn’s ineffectual dad, Sean (Dermot Mulroney), seems as ill-equipped to protect the now-immobilized maiden as her younger brother, Alex (Tate Berney), Elise has little choice but to do a supernatural Sinatra and head back into The Further.

As penned by Whannell, who also appears on screen in a relatively minor role, the workaday script takes an incidental but welcome stance against suicide. And Quinn’s metaphysical misadventure can be read as warning about the dangers of trying to communicate with the dead.

Yet the movie’s spiritual battle between good and evil is viewed exclusively from a paranormal perspective, with no reference to faith. That’s another good reason, if one were needed, to keep the impressionable at a safe distance.

The film contains potentially disturbing scenes of a car accident and its aftermath, occult themes, fleeting references to homosexuality, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word and about a half-dozen 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.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops