Movie Review Capsules for August 16

Catholic News Service


NEW YORK (CNS) -- The following are capsule reviews of movies recently reviewed by Catholic News Service.

"Planes" (Disney)

The anthropomorphic world of the "Cars" franchise is transported to the skies in this exhilarating 3-D animated adventure, directed by Klay Hall. A spirited crop-duster (voice of Dane Cook) dreams of life as an air racer. He's fast, but he has a potentially fatal flaw: Used to flying low and slow over the fields, he's afraid of heights. Determined to succeed, he persuades a crusty veteran of wartime air battles (voice of Stacy Keach), to train him for a race around the world, where the aircraft to beat is a devious fellow American (voice of Roger Craig Smith). The animation dazzles with acrobatic races over beautiful scenery, while the plot offers good lessons for kids about friendship and overcoming obstacles. A few perilous situations. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. 

"Elysium" (TriStar)

Writer-director Neill Blomkamp's dystopian action picture, set in the mid-22nd century, envisions a society divided between a despoiled Earth populated by oppressed workers and the idyllic satellite of the title where the rich live a life of ease -- and enjoy miraculous medical technology. After a workplace accident exposes him to a lethal dose of radiation, a Los Angeles laborer (Matt Damon) is desperate to reach this orbiting world of privilege where he knows he can be healed. So he agrees to undertake a perilous spying mission for an underground guerilla leader (Wagner Moura) who has the resources to get him there. But the assignment brings him into conflict with the habitat's ruthless secretary of defense (Jodie Foster) and with the brutal mercenary (Sharlto Copley) she uses as a secret agent to keep the downtrodden in line. Well-intentioned but laden with harsh vocabulary and visuals, Blomkamp's film succeeds more as a suspenseful adventure for stalwart grown-ups than as a parable about the plight of immigrants, restricted access to health care and the unequal division of resources. Much gory violence, some gruesome images, a few uses of profanity, considerable rough and crude language, several obscene gestures. 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.

"Jobs" (Open Road)

This history of the fluctuating fortunes of Steve Jobs, founder of the Apple computer empire, may not be the worst film biography of all time, but it certainly earns an unenviable place in the pantheon of lame screen profiles. Ashton Kutcher, directed by Joshua Michael Stern from a script by Matt Whiteley, portrays Jobs as an amoral, monomaniacal tyrant who cheats all who come into contact with him. He also abuses his co-workers -- most prominently the strangely faithful Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) -- and tries to dodge responsibility for his live-in girlfriend's (Ahna O'Reilly) baby. Yet this stultifying movie also incongruously confirms Jobs' self-proclaimed status as a technology guru, giving him platitudes to deliver while inspirational background music swells. Cohabitation, two scenes of drug use, a couple of instances of profanity, frequent crass 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.

"Lee Daniels' The Butler" (Weinstein)

The personal collides with the political in this affecting fact-based drama adapted by director Lee Daniels from a 2008 Washington Post article by reporter Wil Haygood. Escaping the vicious racism of the early 20th-century Deep South, a plantation worker (Forest Whitaker) makes his way to Washington, where he eventually finds coveted employment on the domestic staff of the White House. But his patient hope that white Americans -- led by the series of presidents he works with at close hand, from Dwight D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams) to Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman) -- will see the light on racial issues increasingly conflicts with the civil rights activism of his older son (David Oyelowo). And the long hours he puts in at the executive mansion leave his strong-willed but fragile wife (Oprah Winfrey) feeling neglected. Appealing performances, especially Winfrey's complex portrayal, and a surprisingly nuanced view of the various chief executives -- an irretrievably self-absorbed Richard Nixon (John Cusack) alone excepted -- keep the unfolding events from feeling like a chronological checklist of postwar history. While vulgar language and other red-flag content would normally prevent recommendation for any but grown-ups, the moral significance of this uplifting journey -- undertaken within a context of implicit religious faith and strong marital commitment -- is such that at least some parents may consider it acceptable for older teens. Occasional action violence, an adultery theme, numerous mature references, a half-dozen uses of profanity, a couple of rough terms, some crude and crass 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.

Paranoia" (Relativity)

Fundamentally moral but dramatically stale thriller about a professionally thwarted computer whiz kid (Liam Hemsworth) whose envy-driven ambition gets him caught up in the cutthroat rivalry between two former partners (Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford) who now head competing tech corporations. Sent by one to steal the game-changing product the other is about to launch, he falls for an executive (Amber Heard) of the company he's infiltrating while ignoring the sensible guidance of his working-class father (Richard Dreyfuss). Though the twisting path of the plot feels well-rutted, the main character's journey to redemption in director Robert Luketic's screen version of Joseph Finder's novel sees him ultimately rejecting ethical nihilism in favor of old-fashioned standards of right and wrong. Some action violence, semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, an off-screen casual encounter, numerous sexual jokes and references, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one rough term, occasional crude and crass 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.  

The following is current CNS classifications and MPAA ratings:

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Movie Review Capsules for August 16: "Planes" (Disney); Ëlysium" (TriStar); "Jobs" (Open Road); "Lee Daniels'The Butler" (Weinstein); "Paranoia" (Relativity).