Dolphin Tale 2
By Joseph McAleer
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) — Flipper’s cousin is making waves again in “Dolphin Tale 2” (Warner Bros.), the dramatic followup to the 2011 film about the marine mammal with the prosthetic tail.

Charles Martin Smith returns to direct this family-friendly film about Winter, whose real-life triumph over disability has made her a symbol of hope to young and old around the world.

Winter, for the unfamiliar, washed up on a Florida beach, tangled in a fishing trap. Discovered by young Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), the female dolphin was brought to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Doctors there were forced to amputate her severely injured tail, but Winter was fitted with a space-age prosthetic, a first.

We pick up the story a few years later, and Winter is the star attraction at Clearwater, where Sawyer — now in his teens — is a volunteer guide, along with his pal, Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff).

Hazel’s dad, Clay (Harry Connick Jr.), runs the aquarium which is expanding by leaps and bounds. As such, he is under heavy pressure from investors to keep Winter happy and healthy.

That’s easier said than done. Winter’s surrogate mother, the elderly dolphin Panama, has died (a fleeting scene that may upset young viewers). By law, dolphins in captivity must live in pairs, as they crave companionship and social interaction in the water.

Spare dolphins are hard to come by, and without a replacement — and fast — the authorities will step in and transfer Winter to another aquarium. Winter, moreover, is in a funk and refusing to perform, to the dismay of paying customers.

Clay must rally the troops, including his grizzled father, Reed (Kris Kristofferson); Sawyer’s spunky mother, Lorraine (Ashley Judd); and the avuncular Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman), who designed Winter’s new tail.

Even champion surfer Bethany Hamilton drops by to help. Hamilton, who lost an arm to a shark, was the subject of another inspirational water-based film, 2011’s “Soul Surfer.”

Overall, it’s a whale of a tail — make that, tale — with a sweet side story of puppy love, as Hazel admires the clueless Sawyer, preoccupied by the plight of his aquatic pal.

“Dolphin Tale 2” is that rare Hollywood film: wholesome and fun for all ages, with nice messages about family, responsibility, and perseverance. 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.

By Kurt Jensen
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) — There is no compelling reason even for devoted fans of writer-director Kevin Smith to take in his misguided gross-out horror-comedy “Tusk” (A24). Worse, if you see it, there’s no way to un-see it.

Smith combines grotesque elements inspired by “The Human Centipede” and “The Fly” for shock value, but for comedy relies on ambling scenes, the point of which is that Canadians, particularly French-Canadians, all talk funny and regard Americans as smug and stupid.

The story takes wisecracking and insensitive podcast host Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) from Los Angeles to somewhere north of Manitoba, where he wants to interview a chubby teen who became a viral video sensation for twirling a “Star Wars” light saber. It turns out the boy has just committed suicide, so in a twist of fate, Wallace finds, in a restroom, a letter from a former seafarer who wishes to share his colourful stories.

Howard Howe (Michael Parks) is no eccentric adventurer, but rather a serial killer. He drugs his victims and uses crude amputations and maiming to transform them into walruses, using stitched-together “bodies” of human flesh, so he can live out his sick fantasies by rendering others helpless. A story that begins as a droll spoof of the horror genre transforms into torture porn and creaks along from there.

Wallace’s co-host, Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment), and girlfriend Ally Leon (Genesis Rodriguez) attempt to find Wallace before events reach the point of no return, aided by detective Guy LaPointe (an uncredited Johnny Depp).

“Tusk” brandishes its inhumane repulsiveness as a point of pride. But there’s no point to it, other than presumably deranged glee that such a mess can be made at all.

The film contains explicit gory physical violence and maiming, a scene of implied sexual activity, and pervasive crude, crass and profane 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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Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

The Trip to Italy
By Joseph McAleer
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) — Think carefully before embarking on “The Trip to Italy” (IFC), an occasionally tasteless grand tour through the Italian peninsula.

What can be an enchanting travelogue, with breathtaking scenery and mouth-watering cuisine, is, regrettably, offset by some vulgar humour and sexual situations which place this film squarely in the adult camp.

Two British actor/comedians, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, set out on a road trip, along the lines of their 2010 film, “The Trip,” a restaurant tour through northern England. Michael Winterbottom returns as director, blurring the lines between real-life documentary and fictional drama.

Fine cuisine and grand hotels are the primary goals. There’s also a bit of history, as the travel buddies retrace the steps of the 19th-century English Romantic poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Hollywood movies are a shared passion. They drive a Mini Cooper convertible (shades of “The Italian Job”) and reminisce about Italian-set classics such as “The Godfather,” “Roman Holiday” and “La Dolce Vita.” In between, they make a number of vulgar jokes.

As the lads wend their way from Turin to Naples, personal issues intervene. Both fret about work and relationships as much as their next meal. Coogan, divorced, misses his teenage son. Brydon, married with a young daughter, has a roving eye that gets him into trouble.

The travellers are brilliant impersonators, and “The Trip to Italy” works best when they skewer fellow actors such as Al Pacino, Michael Caine and Hugh Grant.

Directors also are fair game. Admiring the seagulls flying above the Bay of Naples, Brydon improvises that Alfred Hitchcock, when directing the 1963 horror classic “The Birds,” gave each feathered friend a name, and offered individual direction.
“Over here, Gregory,” “Hitchcock” instructs one gull. “Peck.”

The film contains adultery, implied non-marital sexual activity, sexual humour and innuendo, and occasional crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

No Good Deed
By Kurt Jensen
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) — Were it not for the disturbing parallel with recent domestic violence cases involving professional athletes, “No Good Deed” (Screen Gems) would have no reason to attract attention.

It’s a conventionally plotted thriller about a violent escaped convict who terrifies a household. Its late story “twist” is easily detected early on, leaving the film, directed by Sam Miller and written by Aimee Lagos, as stale and predictable as its dark and stormy night.

As it opens, Colin (Idris Elba), convicted of one murder but a suspect in five others, is denied parole in Tennessee. On the trip back to prison, he kills two guards and heads to the Atlanta home of his unfaithful ex-fiancee (Kate del Castillo) with murderous intent.

He wrecks his vehicle on a rain-slicked highway during his getaway, and ends up ringing the doorbell at the home of Terri (Taraji B. Henson), her husband, Jeffrey (Henry Simmons), and their two small children.

Jeffrey has escaped husbandly tasks for what he calls a “golfing trip,” leaving Terri alone with the children before she takes pity on the soggy killing machine who asks to use her phone to call a tow truck. As a former prosecutor who specialized in domestic violence cases, she ought to know better, of course.

What could possibly go wrong here, even with chirpy neighbour Meg (Leslie Bibb) dropping by?

Colin, in the manner of all abusers, alternates between predatory and protective behaviour, but the film teaches no lessons in how to cope with any of it. Instead, there’s only a string of bleak killings set in a distasteful framework.

The film contains gun and physical violence, frequent rough and crass language and fleeting profanities. 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.

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