NEW YORK (CNS) — The following are capsule reviews of new and recent DVD and Blu-ray releases from Catholic News Service. Theatrical movies have a Catholic News Service classification and Motion Picture Association of America rating. These classifications refer only to the theatrical version of the films below, and do not take into account the discs’ extra content.
“Becoming Jane” (2007)
Interesting speculative drama, based on only a few known facts, about the romance between writer Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) and an Irish lawyer (James McAvoy), and how the experience might have influenced her writings. Julian Jarrold directs with an authentic 18th-century feel, performances are good (with American Hathaway holding her own reasonably well among such British acting pros as Maggie Smith, Julie Walters and Ian Richardson) and though the film is somehow not entirely satisfying it nonetheless holds your interest up to its bittersweet ending. Though possibly acceptable for older teens, the film contains a couple of boxing sequences, a frisky but nongraphic husband and wife encounter, some prostitutes, an implied premarital encounter, mild innuendo and brief sexual allusions. 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. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
“The Conformist” (1970)
Italian movie about a man (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who joins the Fascist Party and is eventually entrusted with a mission to kill one of his former university professors who is now causing trouble for the regime. Director Bernardo Bertolucci’s portrait of a man who goes along with those in authority is frighteningly real and shows him to be much more dangerous than any political fanatic. The central theme of the movie is a cautionary one for any politically threatened society, though it has powerful scenes of violence and sexual inferences including that of homosexuality. 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. (Raro Video; also available on Blu-ray)
“The Expendables 3” (2014)
The principal amusement factor for viewers of this second action sequel — which is, thankfully, considerably less gory than its predecessors — is to marvel at how director Patrick Hughes keeps its shoot-’em-up formula, harkening back to the 1980s, from crashing resoundingly onto the shores of ennui. Sylvester Stallone (who also co-wrote) returns as Barney, leader of an ensemble of government vigilantes, while Arnold Schwarzenegger, as his ally Trench, has just enough screen time to blurt out, “We must get to the choppah!” Frequent gun, knife and physical violence as well as numerous explosions, a few uses of profanity and pervasive crude 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. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)
“The Giver” (2014)
Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel about a utopian world that, on the surface at least, is free from suffering, hunger, and violence arrives on the big screen, directed by Philip Noyce. A daily injection of every citizen ensures that memories and emotions are suppressed, along with freedom, choice, individuality, religion — and temptation. When of age, each child receives a role to play in society, and the time has come for a mother (Katie Holmes) and father (Alexander Skarsgard) to present their son (Brenton Thwaites). Sensing something unusual about the teen, the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) selects him to inherit the position of Receiver of Memories, a kind of repository of the past, from the current holder (Jeff Bridges). Experiencing love and joy but also cruelty, war, and death, the protagonist reaches an epiphany: Without the knowledge of suffering, one cannot appreciate true joy. Discovering the utopia is based on a culture of death, he is determined to restore the proper balance to society. A disturbing scene involving euthanasia may upset younger viewers. For mature teens and their parents, however, it can spark a necessary conversation on the sanctity of life at all ages, winningly endorsed by this worthy film. Mild action violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (Anchor Bay; also available on Blu-ray)
“The Long Goodbye” (1973)
Raymond Chandler’s private eye, Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould), by helping a friend out of a jam, finds himself picked up by the police and booked as an accessory to murder and left to sort through a tangle of murder, deception, robbery, suicide and double-crossing. Directed by Robert Altman, the action is handled quite well as is the tacky atmosphere, but Marlowe and his moralities are hopelessly confused. Some rough language and brief nudity. 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. (Kino Lorber; also available on Blu-ray)
“Thieves Like Us” (1974)
Set in the Deep South of the 1930s, the story concerns a trio of escaped convicts (Keith Carradine, Bert Remsen and John Schuck) who take to smalltime bank robbing. Director Robert Altman’s back roads ballad with conventional bloody ending is long on sleepy Southern atmosphere and earthy humor but short on engaging characterizations (save Shelley Duvall’s tender-waif performance) and narrative. 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. (Kino Lorber; also available on Blu-ray)
“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas” (2013)
Broad-strokes comedy is interspersed with a strained family drama as the freewheeling matriarch of the title (Tyler Perry in drag) travels from Atlanta to rural Alabama in the company of her uptight niece (Anna Maria Horsford) to surprise the latter’s grown daughter (Tika Sumpter) with a holiday visit. Their hostess is less than pleased to see them, however, since she has been concealing from her overbearing mom her elopement with a white agriculturalist (Eric Lively) whose kindly redneck parents (Kathy Najimy and Larry the Cable Guy) know about the marriage and have been invited to spend Christmas with the newlyweds. A subplot involving a corporate sponsor’s efforts to denude the local yuletide festival of all references to Christianity finds the townsfolk determined to stay focused on the reason for the season. But in adapting his stage play for the screen, writer-director Perry stuffs viewers’ stockings with an excess of vulgar wisecracks. Much crude and some mildly irreverent humor, at least one use of profanity, drug references, numerous 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. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)
“The Wizard of Oz” (75th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray; 1939)
Dorothy rides her tornado to the magic land over the rainbow in director Victor Fleming’s classic that skyrocketed Judy Garland’s career and has given generations of families prime entertainment again and again. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G — general audiences. All ages admitted. (Warner Home Video)
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
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