Movie reviews: 'Shazam,' 'Pet Sematary,' 'Dumbo,' 'Us,' 'Captain Marvel,' 'The Best of Enemies'

  • Written by John Mulderig, Catholic News Service
  • Published in Movies & TV
Brie Larson stars in a scene from the movie “Captain Marvel.” 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. Photo: CNS/Walt Disney Pictures Brie Larson stars in a scene from the movie “Captain Marvel.” 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. Photo: CNS/Walt Disney Pictures

Recently reviewed by Catholic News Service

Captain Marvel (Disney)

Lavish origin story finds the superhero of the title (Brie Larson) faithfully serving the alien civilization that trained her as a warrior in its struggle against the encroachments of a race of shape-shifting enemies (led by Ben Mendelsohn). But when she joins her military mentor (Jude Law) on a mission to 1995 Earth, persistent flashbacks to a previous life become ever more troubling and confusing for her, especially after she joins forces with a SHIELD officer (Samuel L. Jackson) and the two go in search of the scientist (Annette Bening) who seems to be crucial both to the intergalactic conflict and to her missing past.

Wit and positive messages about working for peace and the resilience of the human spirit buoy co-writers (with Geneva Robertson-Dworet) and directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Marvel Comics adaptation. While the inclusion of an invisible being called the Supreme Intelligence might confuse youngsters still being formed in their faith, the film is possibly acceptable for mature teens. Much combat violence, most of it stylized but some of it harsh, fleeting anatomical humor, a few mild oaths, at least one rough term, a handful of crude and crass expressions.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.


 

Shazam
Jack Dylan Grazer and Zachary Levi star in a scene from the movie “Shazam.” 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. Photo: CNS/Warner Bros.


Shazam!
(Warner Bros.)

Endowed by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) with the ability to transform himself, by dint of the titular exclamation, into a superhero with the body of an adult (Zachary Levi), a 14-year-old foster child (Asher Angel) does battle with a formidable villain (Mark Strong) who wants the lad to surrender his newfound powers to him.

Though it eventually becomes almost exclusively an action picture, director David F. Sandberg’s DC Comics-based origin story begins with an enjoyable overlay of comedy as the protagonist and his physically challenged best friend (Jack Dylan Grazer) marvel at his ability to shoot electricity from his hands and perform similar nifty stunts.

Family life is exalted over egotistical self-reliance as Angel’s character learns to use his gifts responsibly, and viewers of faith will appreciate brief scenes of prayer and an implicitly pro-life message about the dignity of the disabled. Some mischief enabled by the main character’s grown-up guise, however, makes this questionable fare even for older teens.

Much stylized violence with a few gruesome sights, underage drinking, brief sexual humor, some of it involving a strip club, at least one use of profanity and a milder oath, about a dozen crude and crass terms.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.


 

Pet Sematary
Jete Laurence stars in a scene from the movie “Pet Sematary.” 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. Photo: CNS/Paramount Pictures

 

Pet Sematary (Paramount)

After relocating from Boston to rural Maine, a doctor (Jason Clarke), his wife (Amy Seimetz) and their 9-year-old daughter (Jete Laurence) find themselves living near the burial place of the title beyond which lies a second cemetery of a different kind, one from which the dead can emerge revivified.

All this is explained to the physician by the family’s kindly coot of a neighbor (John Lithgow) who lives to regret spilling the beans. The second big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s 1983 horror novel includes some hideous sights from the start though not, initially, much in the way of bloody mayhem.

But eventually directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer go in for the kill, and graphic slaughter ensues. Excessive gory violence, including torture, much gruesome imagery, a marital bedroom scene, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, a couple of milder oaths, occasional rough and crude language.

The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.


 

Dumbo
Colin Farrell, Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins star in a scene from the movie “Dumbo.” 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. Photo: CNS/Disney
 
 

Dumbo (Disney)

Lush but insubstantial live-action reimagining of the 1941 animated classic, set in 1919, in which the young elephant of the title becomes a pawn in a struggle to profit from the fact that his outsized ears enable him to fly. Out to protect him are a wounded and recently widowed World War I veteran (Colin Farrell), his two children (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins) and the manager (Danny DeVito) of the circus for which he works.

The owner (Michael Keaton) of a lavish amusement park has more devious ideas which are not necessarily shared by his amiable girlfriend (Eva Green).

Director Tim Burton brings visual flair to screenwriter Ehren Kruger’s story but the impression it leaves is less than lasting while constant peril, the mistreatment of animals and several sad plot developments make this too challenging for little kids. Characters in danger, cruelty to animals.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.


Us
Winston Duke, back, Lupita Nyong’o and Evan Alex star in a scene from the movie “Us.” 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. Photo: CNS/Universal


Us (Universal)

Top-notch but excessively bloody horror fantasy from writer-director Jordan Peele.

A childhood encounter with an exact double of herself proves to be the far-off prelude to a California woman (Lupita Nyong’o), her husband (Winston Duke) and kids (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) being visited and terrorized by a malignant version of their family. The macabre replicas have emerged from the tunnels in which they dwell armed with scissors and intent on murder.

There are frights aplenty in the struggle that follows as well as an allegory about economic inequality and perhaps slavery as well. Though clan closeness proves crucial to the outcome, the mayhem is too intense for a wide audience. Much graphic and gory violence, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, numerous rough and crude terms, mild sexual references.

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.


 

The Best of Enemies
Sam Rockwell, Babou Ceesay and Taraji P. Henson star in a scene from the movie “The Best of Enemies.” 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. Photo: CNS/STXfilms

 

The Best of Enemies (STX)

Appealing fact-based drama, set in 1971 Durham, North Carolina, in which a no-nonsense civil rights activist (Taraji P. Henson) and the head of the local Ku Klux Klan (Sam Rockwell) are forced to spend time together as leading participants in an arbitration process (steered by Babou Ceesay) deciding the future of the city’s still-segregated schools.

As a result, each gains insight into the other’s life and character with very positive ultimate consequences. In adapting Osha Gray Davidson’s 1996 book, writer-director Robin Bissell evokes strong performances from a fine cast and promotes humane values in a film many parents may consider rewarding for older teens, especially given the role Christian faith plays in guiding the campaigner’s actions.

Some nongraphic violence, including gunplay and the threat of rape, an act of sexual aggression, a few uses of profanity and of crude and crass language, racial slurs.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.