NEW YORK (CNS) — Tyler Perry makes a considerable dramatic leap from portraying the unruly grandma Madea to personifying the iconic detective Alex Cross (Summit), hero of the best-selling series of crime novels by James Patterson.
In this action-packed thriller directed by Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious), Perry is up to the challenge, putting his own stamp on a role played by Morgan Freeman in two previous Patterson-based films: 1997’s Kiss the Girls and 2001’s Along Came a Spider.
Alex Cross is loosely adapted from Cross (2006), the 12th novel in Patterson’s series and essentially an origins story. Alex is a detective and forensic psychologist in the Detroit Police Department. He’s also a devoted family man. The father of two already, he’s excited that his wife Maria (Carmen Ejogo) is expecting again. His feisty mother Nana (Cicely Tyson) runs the household and dispenses moral advice.
On the job, Alex has two partners, Thomas (Edward Burns), a tough Irish cop, and Monica (Rachel Nichols), a rookie who’s eager to stand toe to toe with the big guys. When a wealthy businessman and his entourage are brutally tortured and murdered, the team realizes they’ve got a serial killer on their hands.
The culprit (Matthew Fox) goes by the name Picasso because he draws cubist portraits of his victims, who are first drugged, then dismembered, and finally killed. Picasso is a hired gun with a hit list of international industrialists. The moguls have gathered in the Motor City for a conference.
What ensues is a high-stakes game of cat and mouse that becomes personal for the detectives when tragedy strikes close to home. Seeking justice yet tempted by revenge, Alex uses his psychiatric skills to probe Picasso’s twisted mind for clues to his whereabouts.
Fortunately, the strong violence in Alex Cross is lightened by moments of humour, even camp. The picture also deserves credit for showing a tender side to its hero, with some poignant scenes of family interaction and others highlighting the role of faith in his life.
The film contains intense violence, including torture,
drug use, a brief non-marital bedroom scene with partial nudity and a
few instances each of profane and rough 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.
NEW YORK (CNS) — For both good and ill, contemporary western values underpin the sweeping screen version of David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas (Warner Bros.).
Co-written and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, the ambitious adaptation upholds many principles with which viewers dedicated to Judaeo-Christian morality can agree — the equal dignity of all human beings prominent among them. But its implicit plea for the breaking down of racial and social divisions extends, under the familiar guise of universal tolerance, into an endorsement of behaviour incompatible with a Gospel-driven life.
Tom Hanks leads an ensemble cast through the byzantine passageways of a narrative that interweaves six connected stories set at different times between the 19th and 24th centuries. Joining him are Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David and James D’Arcy — all of them skilfully juggling multiple roles.
The messages conveyed through these half-dozen tales are mostly positive, if sometimes ponderously expressed.
Thus Victorian-era lawyer Adam Ewing (Sturgess) overcomes prejudice through his encounter with — and rescue of — a runaway slave named Autua (David Gyasi). In the dystopian mid-21st century metropolis of Neo Seoul, a “fabricant” called Sommi-451 (Bae) rebels against her fate as a being genetically engineered to toil her brief life away in a McDonald’s-like fast-food restaurant.
Back in 1973 San Francisco, crusading journalist Luisa Rey (Berry) may have to risk life and limb to expose a potentially catastrophic conspiracy at nuclear power plant.
Christian moviegoers are bound to welcome cinematic parables affirming the bonds that unite us all or celebrating the courage that’s sometimes required to do the right thing on behalf of others. But the writing trio’s script ventures into more divisive territory via a segment set in 1936 Britain.
The first time we meet roguish young composer Robert Frobisher (Whishaw), the protagonist of this subplot, he’s in bed with his lover Rufus Sixsmith (D’Arcy). Robert deviates from their relationship — portrayed sympathetically throughout — long enough to make a cuckold of Vyvyan Ayrs (Broadbent), the distinguished melodist to whom he’s apprenticed himself. His casual adultery with Jocasta Ayrs (Berry) is treated as essentially harmless.
Other problematic elements include the debunking of a fictional faith — 200 years after her own time, Sommi-451 has been turned into a goddess. Since the cult surrounding her is obviously idolatrous, its downfall is certainly a triumph for truth. But it remains unclear whether the incident is intended as an attack on real-life religion.
Additionally, there are hints in the dialogue that some of the characters may be reincarnations of people we’ve gotten to know in the earlier sections of the vast chronology.
The film contains considerable gory violence, including torture and
a suicide, a benign view of homosexual acts and adultery, graphic premarital
and non-graphic adulterous sexual activity, upper female and rear nudity,
a same-sex kiss, a few uses of profanity, at least 20 rough terms and
occasional crude 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.
Paranormal Activity 4
NEW YORK (CNS) — The sardonic saying that no good deed goes unpunished springs to mind while viewing co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s flesh crawler Paranormal Activity 4 (Paramount). That’s because, this time out, it’s an act of kindness that unleashes the horror franchise’s familiar poltergeists.
The setting is still suburbia — suburban Nevada, to be precise — but the focus has shifted to the younger generation. Teen couple Alex (Kathryn Newton) and Ben (Matt Shively) find their lives disrupted in increasingly eerie ways after her parents (Stephen Dunham and Alexondra Lee) take in her little brother Wyatt’s (Aiden Lovekamp) weird playmate Robbie (Brady Allen). Robbie needs shelter because his reclusive single mother Katie (Katie Featherston) — a character who has figured prominently in the earlier outings — has been hospitalized.
The found-footage conceit that allows us to peek in on the nerve-jangling events that follow becomes strained at times, leaving moviegoers to wonder who would continue to carry a camera around with them while being terrorized by demons. But the comparatively restrained mayhem that has made this series more commendable than many of its genre competitors endures.
Things get grim but never gory, and the cliched convention of randy adolescents getting a knife to the heart while indulging in bedroom antics is studiously avoided. In fact, in one early scene, Alex barely tolerates Ben’s awkward placement of a hand on her thigh. Thereafter she casually brushes off his verbal advances.
Part of the pagan mumbo jumbo the duo stumbles across on the Internet — someone needs to tell Alex how to pronounce Hittites — involves the idea that the victims these particular evil spirits target must be “inviolate.” The ensuing dialogue makes it clear that both Alex and Ben are virgins — his feeble protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.
Both young leads often express their shock or amazement via expletives, however, and — realistically enough — Ben likes to indulge in sexual banter of the boastful or wishful-thinking variety. Still, adults in search of enjoyably chilling diversion will continue to find far less to repel them in these proceedings than they would in sequels about doomed dates — be it Friday the 13th or Halloween.
The film contains a few scenes of harsh but bloodless violence, some
sexual and scatological humour, a few uses of profanity, about 20 rough
and crude terms and references to occult hokum. 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.
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops