NEW YORK (CNS)
-- An impressive safari is as close as the nearest cineplex thanks to
the arrival of the nature documentary African Cats (Disneynature). Better
yet, the titular felines -- though, on occasion, they're ferocious to
one another -- prove "purrfectly" friendly to family audiences.
The lions are
threatened by the rivalry between their veteran but aging alpha male,
Fang, and Kali, the relatively youthful, thoroughly aggressive leader
of a neighbouring group of unmated males. Should Kali succeed in his conquest,
he will drive off Fang's existing offspring and replace them with new
young of his own.
single cheetah mom Sita and the pack of playful cubs over which she watches,
meanwhile, potential perils -- ranging from roaming bands of hyenas to
the aforementioned kings of the jungle -- seem to lurk everywhere.
footage of verdant hills and meandering waterways lends a sense of exotic
adventure to this screen outing. And remarkably detailed animal close-ups
-- in which each strand of fur seems, at times, distinctly visible --
create an unusual bond of intimacy with its personality-rich subjects.
Scholey and Alastair Fothergill considerately spare youngsters the nitty-gritty
of predatory behaviour by discreetly cutting away at the climax of each
But the harsh
Darwinian dynamic that ruthlessly eliminates the weak -- however familiar
and sympathetic they may have become to viewers -- is not disguised. As
a result, sensitive tykes may not be the only ones who feel their heartstrings
being yanked as nature takes its necessary, but sometimes uncongenial,
The Catholic News
Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture
Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. All ages admitted
crashes galore, soaring leaps, heavily muscled monosyllabic actors, gunplay,
explosions. You know the drill.
Other than that,
director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan keep the pace pleasantly
and predictably speedy, with occasional comedic dialogue to indicate that
no one is taking the proceedings all that seriously. It's a theme-park
ride of a movie, with muscle cars.
As the engines
rev up, Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), a former police officer, "rescues"
convicted thief Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) from the bus taking him to a
state prison. From there, the duo winds up south of the border -- way
south -- in the self-proclaimed "Marvellous City."
But where the
furious go, legal complications follow. Falsely accused in the death of
three U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency operatives, the merry band assembled
by Brian and Dom -- which includes Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges),
Mia (Jordana Brewster), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Han (Sung Kang) -- plan
another mission they hope will achieve their freedom -- financially, at
Their goal: Steal
millions in ill-gotten gains from the police boss, utilizing skills that
range from high-tech skullduggery to amazing driving techniques.
Hot on their trail,
however, is federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who has considerable
street-fighting abilities of his own.
NEW YORK (CNS)
-- The same studio which brought us the best film of 2010, The King's
Speech, now presents what will likely prove one of the worst of 2011:
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil (Weinstein).
elements are few, and mostly consist of childish potty jokes, viewers
expecting Pixar-- or DreamWorks-style enchantment -- from this 3D animated
sequel to 2006's Hoodwinked! are in for a big disappointment: The script
is unoriginal, the production substandard, and the voices are as tired
as the frequently clumsy action sequences.
Once again, things
have gone awry in the fairy-tale world. Hansel and Gretel (voices of Bill
Hader and Amy Poehler) have been kidnapped, and the prime suspect is Verushka
the Witch (voice of Joan Cusack). This is clearly a job for the super-spies
of the Happily Ever After Agency, led by the long-legged frog Nicky Flippers
(voice of David Ogden Stiers).
A rescue mission is mounted, headed by Granny Puckett (voice of Glenn Close) and the Big Bad Wolf (voice of Patrick Warburton). Wolf is missing his partner, Red Riding Hood (voice of Hayden Panettiere), who is away receiving kung-fu training from the Sisters of the Hood -- not nuns with martial arts skills, happily, but a group of enlightened high-kicking ladies who also bake.
NEW YORK (CNS)
-- Tyler Perry's broadly drawn morality plays, which include the stage
version of Madea's Big Happy Family (Lionsgate), have proven so surefire
with their targeted audience as to be critic-proof.
In these earthy,
over-the-top crowd-pleasers, insults fly, family problems are solved,
children learn to defer to adults and short-tempered Madea (Perry in a
muumuu) occasionally slaps wrongdoers -- to wild audience cheers. But
there's a warm heart somewhere as well as a happy ending; the plays exist
in a sentimental universe of their own.
In motion picture
form, however, the flaws become more apparent, and they're not above criticism
-- nor should they be.
The problem is
not in the simple plot, in which Madea's appealingly gentle niece Shirley
(Loretta Devine) learns she has terminal cancer and tries to gather her
three adult children -- Tammy (Natalie Desselle Reid), Kimberly (Shannon
Kane) and Byron (Shad "Bow Wow" Moss) -- at her house to tell
them the bad news.
The grown siblings,
we discover, are all locked in dysfunctional relationships, sometimes
with insolent children, while recently released ex-con Byron is also dabbling
again in the drug dealing that landed him in jail.
troublesome parts of this adaptation -- which Perry both wrote and directed
-- consist of bug-eyed characterizations and comments that invoke not
so much old racial stereotypes, as newly minted ones of Perry's own creation.
These begin with Madea's pot-smoking sister Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), who
supposedly has co-matriarch status with Madea as a moral force, but spends
the first half of the film in a literal haze.
There's a particularly
ugly comment, moreover, aimed by Madea at husband Joe (also Perry) when
she refers to him as a "silverback."
about spouses respecting each other, children obeying adults and families
learning to function as a unit while buffeted by the stresses of modern
life get somewhat overshadowed by all this unsettling material.
Madea, to Tyler's
credit, is never as simplistic as the Atlanta milieu in which she's placed.
Although she has no particular religious precepts of her own -- she explains
that she knows God is angry at her -- she fully expects her relatives
to live up to the Christian faith they profess to have, and she manages
to produce a few fractured Biblical quotations along the way.
Such an off-kilter
but engaged approach to religion could yield some interesting results;
it's too bad they're largely lost in a flurry of slaps upside the head.
The film contains
marijuana use, some adult humour, fleeting crass language and slapstick
violence. 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.
NEW YORK (CNS)
-- What many people think they know about the Catholic spiritual movement
Opus Dei likely comes -- unfortunately -- from the slanderous misrepresentations
of it fobbed off on the public by author Dan Brown in his 2003 novel The
Da Vinci Code. Brown's fallacies, moreover, were only perpetuated by the
2006 screen version of his feverish fantasy, helmed by Ron Howard.
A healthy antidote to such sensationalized misconceptions -- a murderous albino monk, you say? -- comes with the release of There Be Dragons (Samuel Goldwyn), a generally powerful, partly fictionalized dramatization of passages in the life of Opus Dei's founder, St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer (1902-75), intensely yet appealingly portrayed by Charlie Cox.
Escriva labored for the establishment of a community dedicated to achieving
personal sanctity through everyday work, an organization whose structure
-- unprecedented in the modern church -- would embrace women as well as
men, lay people as well as priests.
the faith in favour of a bitterly cynical materialism, meanwhile, Manolo
is shown pursuing a duplicitous role in the conflict engulfing his society.
Not the least
of the obstacles Escriva confronted in furthering his "Work of God"
(the English meaning of the Latin phrase "Opus Dei") was the
increasingly violent anti-clericalism of the Loyalist side in the Spanish
Yet when these leftists begin desecrating churches and murdering priests in cold blood, Escriva remains evenhandedly neutral, sympathizing with his adversaries' motivations and aspirations and urging his handful of early followers to react with Christian forbearance.
NEW YORK (CNS) -- Were the Catholic Church to begin giving cinematic imprimaturs, few films would be better qualified to receive one than Vito Bonafacci (Cavu), writer-director John Martoccia's meditative -- and theologically impeccable -- exploration of Scripture-based doctrine and spirituality.