Catholic News Service Movie Reviews


Rock Dog
By Joseph McAleer

NEW YORK (CNS) — “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog,” Elvis Presley famously crooned six decades ago. That pretty well describes “Rock Dog” (Summit Premiere), a feeble animated comedy about a canine with unlikely musical aspirations.

On Snow Mountain, high in the Himalayas, a Tibetan Mastiff named Bodi (voice of Luke Wilson) is stuck in the shadow of his stern father, Khampa (voice of J.K. Simmons). Their two-dog mission is to guard the village from marauding wolves eager to eat the resident sheep population.

Bodi prefers playing his guitar to sentry duty. When a passing airplane drops a radio from the sky, it’s like manna from heaven. Turning the dial to a rock ‘n’ roll station (reception is remarkably clear), Bodi is entranced by the music of legendary rock-and-roller Angus Scattergood (voice of Eddie Izzard).

The village elder, fittingly named Fleetwood Yak (voice of Sam Elliott), convinces Khampa to let his son leave the village and seek his destiny in the big city.

“It’s your life. Make it a happy one,” Fleetwood tells Bodi.

And so Bodi hops the bus (mass transit is also surprisingly good), lands in the nearby metropolis — filled with anthropomorphic species — and seeks out Angus’ heavily guarded compound.

The aging rocker, a hipster cat with a British accent and a sassy robot butler named Ozzie, invites the awestruck fan into his lair, but his motives are not sincere. Angus needs a new hit, and Bodi’s fresh talent might be just the ticket.

Meanwhile, the big bad wolf pack, led by Linnux (voice of Lewis Black), is inspired by Bodi’s departure to mount a final assault on Snow Mountain. Sporting gangster attire and driving stretch limos, these cool dudes have one goal in mind: feasting on grilled lamb chops.

Director and co-writer (with Kurt Voelker) Ash Bannon keeps the story moving while borrowing heavily from other animated films, including “Zootopia” and “WALL-E.”

Despite the dangers characters occasionally face and Angus’ mildly intemperate language (he says things like “stupid bloody idiot!”), “Rock Dog” is mindless fare acceptable for all — except possibly the most easily frightened.

The film contains a few scenes of peril. 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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By Kurt Jensen

NEW YORK (CNS) — As its title implies, “Collide” (Open Road) involves vehicular mayhem.

There’s so much high-speed demolition derby, in fact, that it becomes somewhat more entertaining, just on the basis of sheer volume, to focus on that rather than the thin drug-smuggling plot. But director Eran Creevy, who co-wrote the screenplay with F. Scott Frazier, intends all of this with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

We know this because Geran (Ben Kingsley), who hires Casey (Nicholas Hoult), a young American living in Germany, to hijack a truck smuggling cocaine, keeps calling him “Burt Reynolds.” It’s a 1970s reference, meant to imply that Casey’s just a good ol’ boy.

Casey’s career up to now has involved stealing cars and trucks for Geran. He’s despondent about where his life has taken him.

At a rowdy nightclub, he meets another American, Juliette (Felicity Jones), and their whirlwind romance sets him on a new course working honestly in an auto salvage yard. She’s dazzling, quirky and in desperate need of a kidney transplant for which the German health system will not pay.

Raising that kind of money necessitates a return to crime — an immoral means to a good end. So Casey agrees to participate in the complicated drug heist, which is being led by Hagen (Anthony Hopkins), Geran’s former partner and a leading German kingpin.

What could go wrong? Virtually everything. Casey, accordingly, has to escape Hagen and his torturing henchmen repeatedly, and rescue Juliette after they take her hostage.

Steal something, speed, crash, repeat. Watch the pretty muscle cars rushing by.

The outline for a bare-bones thriller is clearly here. But the story loses quite a bit in the execution, and the characters and dilemmas prove less than compelling.

The film contains gun and physical violence and fleeting rough 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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Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service. 


Get Out
By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — Is the thriller “Get Out” (Universal) as good as all get out? Well, not exactly.

Clever social commentary from writer-director Jordan Peele does add heft to the proceedings. But late scenes featuring some gory encounters, together with swearing throughout, make his film a rugged ride even for grown-ups.

In a setup reminiscent of 1967’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” young black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), is about to meet his white live-in girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents — Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford) Armitage — for the first time.

In lieu of the earlier movie’s titular meal, the occasion for Chris’ introduction to the family is to be a weekend visit to the Armitages’ tony estate in the country.

While Chris is prepared for the initial awkwardness Missy and Dean display as they go out of their way to show they’re not bigots, less predictable developments leave him increasingly unsettled. There’s Rose’s weirdly aggressive brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), for instance, who seems to be spoiling for a martial-arts smackdown with Chris.

Then, too, there’s the Armitages’ strangely subdued, zombie-like household staff: maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and gardener Walter (Marcus Henderson). In fact, Chris is disturbed by the behaviour of pretty much everyone he meets during his stay, on both sides of the racial divide.

As things turn ever more sinister, Peele adeptly uses horror tropes to comment on slavery, racism and liberal pieties. The plot’s denouement, however, comes dipped in a needless amount of blood.

This wrap-up is also clearly designed to incite the audience to cheer as an array of villains meet satisfyingly grisly ends. It’s ironic — and unfortunate — that a picture aimed at satirizing one negative aspect of human nature should eventually appeal to another.

The film contains some harsh and bloody violence, cohabitation, at least one use of profanity and pervasive 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.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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