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Catholic News Service Movie Reviews


Eddie the Eagle
By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — The generally uplifting fact-based drama Eddie the Eagle (Fox) charms with the story of a working-class English lad who became, arguably, the most unlikely Olympic athlete in history.

As an inspiring tale of triumph over the odds, director Dexter Fletcher’s film ought to be perfect fare for teens. All the more so, since it also chronicles another central character’s battle with addiction. But the inclusion of some sexual humour — playing, ironically, on the protagonist’s innocence of such matters — will lower its score with parents.

Taron Egerton plays the title figure — a youth whose gumption, unswerving resolve and naive enthusiasm for his own accomplishments won him fans around the world when Canada hosted the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta. Few among the cheering spectators may have appreciated the gamut of barriers Michael “Eddie” Edwards had been forced to overcome to get there, however.

As early scenes show, a childhood disability — never specifically identified — required Eddie to wear a leg brace until early adolescence. He also needed glasses, and eyesight problems may have contributed to what the movie portrays as his physical awkwardness and lack of natural grace.

Despite this near-total absence of inborn talent, Eddie harbours a deep-seated determination to become an Olympian. Almost by chance, he settles on skiing as his chosen sport.

Further stumbling blocks present themselves: though Eddie enjoys the warm support of his nurturing mom, Janette (Jo Hartley), his practical-minded plasterer father, Terry (Keith Allen), relentlessly opposes his son’s wild dream, urging him instead to settle down and follow in Dad’s sensible footsteps. And then there’s the dyed-in-the-wool snobbery of the British sports establishment for whom Eddie is, well, not quite the right sort.

Blocked from joining the national ski team, Eddie makes another logical leap, deciding — more or less spontaneously — to take up ski jumping. Never mind that this is one of the most dangerous events in the Olympic canon, and that serious competitors normally begin training around the age of 6. Ski jumping it is.

So it’s off to the Bavarian resort of Garmisch, where Eddie’s pathetic solo attempts to master the sport draw the attention of grounds attendant Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman). Once the most promising of American ski jumpers, Bronson frittered away his own chance for glory, distracted by girls and booze. By now he’s a washed-up, regretful, semi-alcoholic mess.

But the cynical front Bronson initially presents turns out to be no match for Eddie’s irrepressible moxie, and it’s not long before he finds himself serving as the newcomer’s unofficial coach.

Along with his inexperience on the slopes and in the bar — his drink of choice is milk; it’s good for the bones — Eddie is also implicitly presented as a novice in the bedroom. This becomes the occasion for some questionable jokes as our hero uncomfortably fends off advances from a female acquaintance he’s just met and as Bronson uses the humorously described dynamics of intercourse as a guide to what a successful jump feels like.

By including such material, screenwriters Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton introduce caveats into any recommendation of their project for younger moviegoers. That’s a shame because, overall, the upward arc of Eddie’s life, intertwined with Bronson’s struggle for redemption, makes for buoyant viewing.

The film contains partial male nudity in a sauna, comic references to sexuality, at least one use of profanity and a couple of 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.

Gods of Egypt
By Joseph McAleer

NEW YORK (CNS) — “The battle for eternity begins,” proclaims the tagline of Gods of Egypt (Lionsgate), a swords-and-sandals epic about warring deities along the banks of the Nile.

Though the film is populated by false gods like Ra (Geoffrey Rush) and his son, Osiris (Bryan Brown), there’s little danger of viewers falling into the sin of idolatry. That would require taking this piece of mindless distraction as something other than two hours’ worth of overblown nonsense.

Though director Alex Proyas (I, Robot) helms the proceedings with deadly seriousness, the end result of his efforts is an unintentionally funny 3D fantasy adventure that strays, on occasion, into outright campiness.

For example, the gods are 9 feet tall, veritable Gullivers in a Lilliputian land of poor Egyptian mortals like teenage thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites), our unlikely hero.

With his girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton) in tow, Bek attends the lavish coronation of yet another deity, Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the feckless son of good king Osiris. Osiris wishes to retire in peace, but his wicked brother, Set (Gerard Butler), has other plans. He crashes the ceremony, slays Osiris (shedding his golden blood), and proclaims himself king.

Set also vanquishes his nephew, gouging out his eyes, the source of his divine powers.

With Horus banished to the desert, darkness descends over all Egypt (rendered in meticulous CGI), and the people are enslaved.

Fortunately for all concerned, Zaya works in the household of Urshu (Rufus Sewell), architect to the king. There she manages to uncover a map showing where Set has hidden Horus’ purloined peepers. By stealing them back, she and Bek hope to restore Horus’ supernatural gifts and return him to power.

Action unfolds at a furious pace, akin to a frenetic video game, shifting from the royal palace to the underworld, and even outer space. Up in those parts, Ra, the so-called “source of all creation,” keeps a watchful eye on Earth while attacking marauding space worms, eager to gobble up gods and mortals alike.

Needless to say, it’s all very silly, and before you can sing “Tut-Tut-Tutankhamun, goodbye!,” all memory of it will — mercifully — have departed.

The film contains mythological hooey, cartoonish action violence, an adulterous relationship and at least one crude term. 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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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

Triple 9
By Joseph McAleer

NEW YORK (CNS) — The seven deadly sins are on full display in Triple 9 (Open Road), an extremely violent thriller about dirty cops and Russian mobsters on the mean streets of Atlanta.

This multilayered drama, directed by John Hillcoat, is a twisted tale of extortion, revenge and (ultimately) justice. The eventual wrap-up may be morally acceptable, but along the path to it a whole lot of bullets are spent and buckets of blood are shed — all to an ear-splitting soundtrack. The squeamish and those averse to grit will do well to choose another movie.

As loyalties shift and double-crosses are revealed, moreover, the story by Matt Cook can be hard to follow. Adding to the potential confusion are popular actors playing against type.

Kate Winslet chews up the scenery as Irina Vlaslov, a Russian-Israeli mafia moll described as “a really glamorous, nasty piece of work.” She looks the part with big hair, heavy makeup, and red go-go boots.

Irina is also the mastermind of a bank robbery that she hopes will (somehow) spring her jailed lover back in Moscow. She blackmails a group of corrupt cops and petty criminals into carrying out the heist.

Among the turncoat men in blue are Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor of 12 Years a Slave) and Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie, one of the Avengers).

At the centre of this moral mess is Chris Allen (Casey Affleck), a rookie cop who genuinely feels called to serve and protect. “I’m trying to make a difference,” he says.

Chris is teamed with Marcus. But as the film unfolds, he begins to have his doubts about his partner’s integrity.
In the meantime, Chris’ uncle, Sgt. Det. Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson), is on the Russian mob case, digging deep into a suspected link with the police force.

“Out here, there is no good, and there is no bad,” he warns his nephew. “You’ve got to out-monster the monster. Your job is to get home at the end of the night.”

Running out of patience, Irina and her goons apply pressure on their minions, forcing them to hatch a plan to distract their colleagues. In the ultimate betrayal, they will trigger the alert of the title — police code for an officer down. Their choice of target brings on the plot’s clever but gory crisis.

The film contains pervasive bloody violence, including gunplay and torture, drug use, full female and rear male nudity and frequent crude and profane 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.
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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

Copyright (c) 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops