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Catholic News Service Movie Reviews


By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — Putting Tom Hanks in the cockpit as everybody’s favourite aviator, US Airways Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, and bringing Clint Eastwood on board to direct him certainly sounds like a formula for high-flying success. And so it proves with “Sully” (Warner Bros.), Eastwood’s satisfying adaptation of Sullenberger’s memoir (co-written with Jeffrey Zaslow) “Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters.”

Hanks is in his element conveying the understated heroism of the aviator whose 2009 feat in landing his plane on the Hudson River after it was crippled by a bird strike — and saving all 155 souls on board in the process — gained him instant fame.

Even as the public was embracing him as a hero, however, behind the scenes Sullenberger was being second-guessed by a team of federal investigators led by somberly suspicious Charles Porter (Mike O’Malley). In fact, the early stages of the National Transportation Safety Board’s inquiry seemed to suggest that the aircraft’s engines had not been totally disabled, as Sullenberger asserted, and that a much safer landing could have been made at any one of three nearby airports.

It’s these hidden events, together with Sullenberger torturous self-doubt, that lend the drama an element of suspense, despite the universal familiarity of its protagonist’s exploit. They also inspire Eastwood to maintain a surprisingly sober tone, the enjoyable flashes of wit in Todd Komarnicki’s script notwithstanding.

What emerges is the portrait of a morally deep-rooted and honourable man with a heartfelt concern for those in his charge. Other facets of his fine character are revealed by his appreciative attitude toward his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), with whom he rapidly forms a friendship, and the mutually supportive love he shares with his wife, Lorrie (Laura Linney). Despite some salty language in the dialogue, these ethical assets make “Sully” possibly acceptable for older adolescents.

The film contains potentially disturbing scenes of peril and destruction, at least one use each of profanity and the F-word as well as about a dozen crude or 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.


The Disappointments Room
By Kurt Jensen

NEW YORK (CNS) — Mixing a psychological drama with the dependable haunted-house formula must have sounded appealing to the makers of “The Disappointments Room” (Rogue).

Unfortunately, nothing in this morally bereft story works. A meandering plot line about the effects of grief and depression following the loss of an infant goes nowhere, and the haunting consists of a single room in a creaky old mansion occupied by three 19th-century wraiths from the spirit world.

For good measure, there are a couple of spooky fireproof portraits that glower like castoffs from the 1966 Don Knotts comedy “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.” The result is both stale and jolt-free.

Architect Dana (Kate Beckinsale), husband David (Mel Raido) and their 5-year-old son Lucas (Duncan Joiner), grieving the death of an infant daughter, have moved from the city to the Blacker house. It’s leaky, it’s creaky, and Dana intends to fix it up as she restores her mental health.

They appear not to have done any kind of due diligence, since Dana shortly finds that there’s a locked attic room about which she’s known nothing, and which occasionally omits eerie noises.

This, she learns from grizzled local records-keeper Judith (Marcia Derousse), was the original owner’s “disappointments room,” where the well-to-do kept children with physical deformities imprisoned and out of sight before they died of neglect.

Grumpy Mr. Blacker, his wife and doomed daughter occasionally pop up, Mr. Blacker always with murderous intent, and the plot is supposed to be further complicated by Dana’s decision to stop taking her antidepressants. That way, the audience is not supposed to know whether she’s hallucinating.

Director D.J. Caruso, who co-wrote the screenplay with Wentworth Miller, puts Dana and Lucas into peril a few times, but relies on cliches, including a possessed black dog and even bats in the attic.

The film contains a scene of attempted suicide, occasional gore, physical violence and fleeting rough and crude language. 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.
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Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.


The Wild Life
By Joseph McAleer

NEW YORK (CNS) — Daniel Defoe is spinning in his grave.

The English author’s celebrated 1719 novel “Robinson Crusoe,” which set the standard for thrilling, realistic adventure fiction, has morphed into a 3D animated kiddie comedy called “The Wild Life” (Summit).

Needless to say, this Franco-Belgian production, co-directed by Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen, only pulls a few strands from Defoe’s story. A sailor named Crusoe (voice of Matthias Schweighofer) is shipwrecked and washes ashore a deserted island. There he finds, not cannibals, but a wide array of exotic (and exceedingly loquacious) birds, reptiles and mammals.

“The Wild Life” tells the story from their point of view. The narrator is Mak (voice of David Howard), an exuberant parrot who finds life in paradise rather mundane. The human’s appearance is an opportunity for knowledge and adventure.

Crusoe, in turn, adopts Mak and christens his new companion, not “Friday” as in the novel, but “Tuesday.”

Mak is relieved. “At least it’s not Monday,” he says. “Everybody hates Mondays.”

As Crusoe builds a treehouse and learns to “talk,” Doctor Dolittle-like, to the animals, danger lurks in the shadows. Two feral cats (voices of Debi Tinsley and Jeff Doucette) survived the shipwreck and are now fixated on island domination.

Silliness (and occasional sassiness) aside, the animation in “The Wild Life” is first-rate and messages about friendship and courage are worthy. A few action scenes of shipwreck and feline mayhem may frighten the littlest ones, but overall it’s good, clean fun.

The film contains a few mildly scary action sequences. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
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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