NEW YORK (CNS) — We are used to fables of humans fleeing from spooky ghouls and ghosts, but what if they were as scared of us as we are of them?
In the midst of running the popular getaway, Drac invites his fellow fiends over to celebrate his headstrong daughter Mavis’ (voice of Selena Gomez) 118th birthday.
The (relatively) young Mavis, however, has other things on her mind and wants to escape the confines of the hotel and explore the outside world. Yet her father, having lost his wife many years before, is keen to protect her from being contaminated from the mortal world, going so far as lying to make her believe that humans are nothing but evil ne’er-do-wells.
So when skateboarding backpacker Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg) stumbles upon the hotel by accident, the birthday girl’s interest is heightened and the caped protagonist must scramble to hide Jonathan’s humanity from both his guests and his intrigued offspring.
Director Genndy Tartakovsky’s goofy comedy gets many of its laughs from playing on, and updating, classic horror characters. So we have a loveable working class Frankenstein (voice of Kevin James) and the overworked data processing werewolf Wayne (voiced by Steve Buscemi) who is being constantly nagged by his 50 children. Unfortunately, in spite of these clever twists, the picture dips its toes into the swamp of vulgarity a few times along the way to pick up a few easy laughs.
Yet while Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel’s screenplay has its fair share of mildly rude flatulent humour, it also contains a striking pro-family theme in Dracula’s touching relationships with his daughter, and his deceased wife over whom he is still grieving. Therefore amid the silliness come some very moving moments that will have Catholic viewers nodding in approval, as well as a conclusion that affirms the value of the family unit.
However, scary incidents that include zombies skulking around on fire, along with some mildly upsetting moments and the aforementioned gross humour, may exclude younger audiences from the party.
The film contains occasional mild scatological humour and a few scary
scenes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults
and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is
PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable
NEW YORK (CNS) — In the dystopian distant future — and in science fiction, and especially Looper (FilmDistrict), dystopian is all there is — there will be time travel, but it will be illegal, so only criminals will utilize it.
Dang. In the near future, though, all cars will be electric, we’ll have cool flying motorcycles, a genetic mutation will make telekinesis sort of commonplace, and we’ll still rely on our trusty firearms on the remote prairie.
Our present selves also will be able to co-exist in the same space-time continuum with our future selves, which sounds like a stretch of Einsteinian theory, but without it, there’d be no plot to this picture, so just play along, why don’t you.
In 2044, there’s a group of paid assassins for organized crime called Loopers. Mobsters from 30 years or so from that year send back their victims to a designated piece of canvas, and with one shot from the Looper’s blunderbuss, those people have ceased to be in the future, and can be easily disposed of in the past.
This works out neatly except for those pesky situations when the murder victim is the older version of the Looper. That’s when Old Joe (Bruce Willis) knocks out Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) with a single punch and flees into a cornfield on a mission of vengeance. That’s called “letting your loop run,” and the mobsters, led by grizzled Abe (Jeff Daniels), get very upset when this occurs and send people to shoot the assassin.
Old Joe is angry because a telekinetic supervillain of the distant future known only as The Rainmaker has killed his wife (Summer Qing), who provided him with the only love he’d ever known. Armed with a few scribbled clues and a map, he’s looking for the child who became The Rainmaker, knowing that once that child is dead, his wife will never have been killed.
Joe is in pursuit of Old Joe and also in defence of Sara (Emily Blunt) and her preschool son, Cid (Pierce Gagnon), on their farmhouse. A showdown is a-comin,’ pardner, and all that’s missing is the theme song from High Noon.
Director-writer Rian Johnson has produced a mix of science fiction and old-time western that looks to have been concocted by a couple of 13-year-old boys with little consideration of logic but an endless supply of “What if this happened?” twists. Children as victims of violence make this story particularly upsetting.
The film contains pervasive gun violence, including the murder of a child,
two implied sexual situations, brief upper female nudity, and fleeting
rough, crude and profane 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
Won’t Back Down
NEW YORK (CNS) — It may sound like a Bruce Willis action thriller, but Won’t Back Down (Fox) is anything but. Still, this David-vs.-Goliath story of two single mothers who join forces to save a failing public school from a wicked bureaucracy packs an emotional wallop.
Directed by Daniel Barnz (Beastly), who co-wrote the screenplay with Brin Hill, Won’t Back Down is based on a California law that enables parents and teachers to take control of their public school, turning it into a charter school. The film switches the location to the gritty streets of Pittsburgh and the fictional John Adams Elementary School, officially graded “F” by the local school board.
Nona (Viola Davis) is a once-vital teacher who has been beaten down by the system, simply going through the motions and passing her failing students on to the next grade. Her depression is compounded by the breakdown of her marriage and the problems of her son, Cody (Dante Brown), who is learning disabled and not getting enough attention in his own public school.
Facing a similar plight is Jamie (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a single mother with a dyslexic child, Malia (Emily Alyn Lind). Although in the third grade at Adams, Malia cannot read, and her “zombie” of a teacher, protected by tenure, couldn’t care less, driving Jamie wild. Unable to afford the tuition to transfer Malia to a private school, Jamie fells trapped, desperate that her child has a chance to escape poverty through a good education.
Jamie takes her frustration to the local school board, where she learns about the charter school law. She’s also warned about the mighty opposition to change from the powerful teachers’ union, headed by Evelyn (Holly Hunter).
With a natural charm, spitfire determination, and an unwavering belief in people power, Jamie goes on the offensive, lobbying parents and teachers with the war cry, “Just Say Know.” She partners with Nona to begin the lengthy application process, and brings on board the popular music teacher, Michael (Oscar Isaac). He puts in extra credit as Jamie’s love interest and Malia’s babysitter.
It all leads to a showdown with the school board, chaired by the mercurial Olivia (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). She warns Nona that her efforts are doomed.
“Do you know the moral of the Icarus story?” Olivia asks.
“Yeah. Wear sunscreen,” a defiant Nona replies.
Won’t Back Down paints with a broad brush, and the caricatures of incompetent teachers and evil union bosses are extreme. They serve to push the film’s agenda of school choice, which will resonate with any parent today.
With Nona regaining her teaching mojo and inspiring her ragtag students, Won’t Back Down resembles the 1967 classic To Sir With Love, with Davis in the role immortalized by Sidney Poitier. Instead of Lulu warbling the title song, we have Tom Petty crooning, “No I won’t back down/You can stand me up at the gates of hell/But I won’t back down.”
Indeed, Won’t Back Down shows that hell hath no fury like a public school parent or teacher scorned.
The film contains some intense emotional moments. The Catholic News Service
classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture
Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested.
Some material may not be suitable for children.
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops