Movie review: The Spectacular Now

NEW YORK (CNS) — “Teen Alcoholics in Love” would be a more accurate title for “The Spectacular Now” (A24), a coming-of-age saga that paints a disturbing picture of high-school life in small-town America. Based on the novel by Tim Tharp and directed by James Ponsoldt (who tackled another drinking theme in 2012’s “Smashed”), the film […]

Books on Pope Francis each offer unique perspective on Holy Father

“Pope Francis in His Own Words,” edited by Julie Schwietert Collazo and Lisa Rogak. New World Library (Novato, Calif., 2013). 137 pp., $12.95. “Pope Francis” by Matthew E. Bunson. Our Sunday Visitor, (Huntington, Ind., 2013). 222 pp., $16.95. “Pope Francis: The Pope from the End of the Earth” by Thomas J. Craughwell (St. Benedict Press, […]

In ‘The Grandmaster,’ everybody’s kung fu fighting, with honor

NEW YORK (CNS) — Romance and kung-fu fighting may seem like incompatible film ingredients. But in “The Grandmaster” (Weinstein), these unlikely elements meld into the lush and lyrical re-creation of a neglected era of recent Chinese history. Director Wong Kar Wai (“My Blueberry Nights”), who also wrote the screenplay, recounts the true story of the […]

‘Getaway’ goes nowhere very fast and furiously

NEW YORK (CNS) — Can the trauma of having your wife kidnapped make you drive faster and more, um, furiouser? Ethan Hawke finds out in the senseless car-chase flick “Getaway” (Warner Bros.). Hawke plays ex-racer and devoted hubby Brent Magna. Poor Brent’s yuletide gets off to a bad start when he returns to his apartment […]

Far-fetched ‘Closed Circuit’ delves into damage caused by infidelity

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Polished but plodding, the British thriller "Closed Circuit" (Focus) also adopts a morally dubious stance toward marital fidelity. With an adulterous affair looming in the background of its plot, the film, as scripted by Steve Knight, acknowledges the damage wreaked by unfaithfulness, yet allows the prospect of a happy romantic outcome based on it to remain.

‘The World’s End’ starts in pubs, ends with intelligence

NEW YORK (CNS) — Combine a British pub crawl, a rueful reflection on the conformity of adult life and an episode of the long-running BBC television series “Doctor Who,” and you get “The World’s End” (Focus). Occasionally coarse but never vulgar, it’s the rare film with a thesis. Plus, there are all these cool robots […]

Church historian captures subtleties of complex Catholic times

In "History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium," James Hitchcock, a longtime professor of history at St. Louis University, argues successfully that the Gospel in all its fullness was contained at the beginning in "seed" form, and the church came to know more and more deeply the truths of the mystery of faith as the centuries wore on.

Woody Allen shines a bright light on the blue mood of ‘Blue Jasmine’

NEW YORK (CNS) — At his best, Woody Allen is a brilliant writer-director of comedic films as insightful as they are hilarious. But in his latest venture, “Blue Jasmine” (Sony Classics), Allen turns the lights down low, presenting the dark and depressing tale of a crazed woman whose life is spiraling out of control. The […]

‘The Butler’ makes an inside-the-White-House journey personal

NEW YORK (CNS) — A frequently heard slogan of the late 1960s held that “the personal is political.” Whatever its value as a rallying cry, that phrase certainly fits the affecting fact-based drama “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” (Weinstein) in which the private and public realms collide. Drawing on a 2008 Washington Post article by reporter […]

Whatever Steve Jobs’ flaws, his biopic ‘Jobs’ crashes more than an iMac

NEW YORK (CNS) -- "Jobs" (Open Road), the story of Apple computer founder Steve Jobs, may not be the worst biographical film ever made. But it certainly earns an unenviable place in the pantheon of lame screen profiles. No one should expect biographies of highly driven people to show them without flaws or moral compromises. "Jobs," however, fails abysmally at fundamental storytelling.