Recently reviewed by Catholic News Service
By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service
NEW YORK - Putting Tom Hanks in the cockpit as everybody's favorite aviator, US Airways Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, and bringing Clint Eastwood on board to direct him certainly sounds like a formula for high-flying success. And so it proves with "Sully" (Warner Bros.), Eastwood's satisfying adaptation of Sullenberger's memoir (co-written with Jeffrey Zaslow) "Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters."
Hanks is in his element conveying the understated heroism of the aviator whose 2009 feat in landing his plane on the Hudson River after it was crippled by a bird strike -- and saving all 155 souls on board in the process -- gained him instant fame.
Even as the public was embracing him as a hero, however, behind the scenes Sullenberger was being second-guessed by a team of federal investigators led by somberly suspicious Charles Porter (Mike O'Malley). In fact, the early stages of the National Transportation Safety Board's inquiry seemed to suggest that the aircraft's engines had not been totally disabled, as Sullenberger asserted, and that a much safer landing could have been made at any one of three nearby airports.
It's these hidden events, together with Sullenberger torturous self-doubt, that lend the drama an element of suspense, despite the universal familiarity of its protagonist's exploit. They also inspire Eastwood to maintain a surprisingly sober tone, the enjoyable flashes of wit in Todd Komarnicki's script notwithstanding.
What emerges is the portrait of a morally deep-rooted and honorable man with a heartfelt concern for those in his charge. Other facets of his fine character are revealed by his appreciative attitude toward his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), with whom he rapidly forms a friendship, and the mutually supportive love he shares with his wife, Lorrie (Laura Linney). Despite some salty language in the dialogue, these ethical assets make "Sully" possibly acceptable for older adolescents.
The film contains potentially disturbing scenes of peril and destruction, at least one use each of profanity and the F-word as well as about a dozen crude or crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
Anya Taylor-Joy and Kate Mara star in a scene from the movie "Morgan." Photo: CNS/Twentieth Century Fox
By Kurt Jensen, Catholic News Service
NEW YORK - In the "humanoid made from synthetic DNA" genre, "Morgan" (Fox) is both unoriginal and omits even an occasional reflection on what it means to have a human moral sense.
Instead, director Luke Scott and screenwriter Seth Owen put Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) through the paces of shlock 1980s horror.
Like all man-made creatures in film, she has anger issues mixed with her kindly emotions and is eventually off on a killing spree, since, somewhat like 2011's teen-assassin thriller "Hanna" and 2015's "Ex Machina," that's what she was built for.
She's loved, though. The folks who made her in their underground lab are quite fond of their sullen girl in a hoodie and her concrete bedroom, after two previous attempts never made it to the full-grown stage. Morgan even considers Lui (Michelle Yeoh) as her "mother."
But she has a dull stare and sudden rages. She stabs Kathy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in the eye, which brings both Lee (Kate Mara), a ruthlessly efficient inspector from the outfit's corporate office, to shut down the project, and a clumsy psychiatrist, Alan (Paul Giamatti) to interrogate Morgan.
Lee's mission is unclear until Morgan displays an unexpected Hannibal Lecter-like fondness for human flesh in her kills.
After that, Morgan runs around slaughtering her loved ones and speeding through the forest with Lee in pursuit. There's a big twist to the conclusion, as this genre always has, but it's telegraphed early on, lessening any shock value.
The film contains frequent references to the artificial creation of human life, frequent physical violence, occasional gore, and fleeting rough 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.
Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander star in a scene from the movie "The Light Between Oceans." Photo: CNS/Disney
The Light Between Oceans
By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service
NEW YORK - Beginning with 1979's "The Europeans," the producer-director team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, whose partnership was already of 15 years standing, churned out a succession of high-quality period films. The duo's pictures were famous for their lush cinematography, all-star casts and compelling story lines, usually based on a deep, dark secret.
Think "A Room with a View" (1985), 1992's "Howards End" and "The Remains of the Day" (1993).
Writer-director Derek Cianfrance ("The Place Beyond the Pines") picks up the Merchant-Ivory mantle with "The Light Between Oceans" (Disney), his adaptation of the 2012 novel by M.L. Stedman. Beautifully shot in Australia and New Zealand, this melodrama is an old-fashioned weeper about love and loss, with a powerful message about forgiveness and the role of conscience.
After fighting in World War I, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) returns home to Australia a broken man. He eagerly takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on a remote island called Janus Rock, seeking solitude as a balm for his emotional wounds.
He lives just at the point where the Indian and Pacific Oceans meet, and his signal is thus a vital beacon for passing ships.
As he sets out from the mainland, Tom catches the eye of charming, spirited Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander). They correspond, fall in love, and eventually marry.
Making a home on their lonely island, the pair initially finds happiness together. But they remain childless. Two miscarriages drive Isabel to the brink of despair.
But not for long. One morning a dinghy washes ashore, carrying a dead man and an infant girl who's barely alive. In this, Isabel sees the answer to her prayers. She persuades her reluctant husband not to report the tragedy so that they can raise the child, christened Lucy (Florence Clery), as their own.
Years pass, but the weight on Tom's conscience never lifts. A chance encounter on the mainland with Hannah Roennfeldt (Rachel Weisz), Lucy's real mother, only makes matters worse. Hannah continues to mourn the loss of her husband and child.
From its perch on the aptly named Janus Rock, "The Light Between Oceans" looks both toward the past and into the present, keeping viewers guessing as to whether the truth will out and some version of justice prevail. In passing through this beautifully landscaped vale of tears, sensitive viewers will find that a jumbo box of tissues comes in very handy.
The film contains mature themes, scenes of marital sensuality and a few profane oaths.
The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.
McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
Morris Chesnut and Regina Hall star in a scene from the movie "When the Bough Breaks." Photo: CNS/Sony
When the Bough Breaks
By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service
NEW YORK - If you recall the familiar nursery lullaby, you'll know that "When the Bough Breaks" (Screen Gems) foretells doom for both cradle and baby.
So it comes as no surprise that this lurid thriller about the desperate measures prospective parents take to start a family is, in the end, a cautionary tale about misplaced morality.
The Taylors are an attractive professional couple. Laura (Regina Hall) is an acclaimed chef, and husband John (Morris Chestnut) a hotshot attorney.
The only thing missing in their apparent domestic bliss is a child. Laura has suffered multiple miscarriages. In vitro fertilization has not worked.
Mindful of John's callous warning that "We're down to our last viable embryo," the Taylors go shopping for a surrogate.
They find one in the comely Anna (Jaz Sinclair). Her wide-eyed innocence and altruism in eagerly offering her body seem too good to be true.
They are. A background check of Anna would have revealed a sordid, violent past. And her psychotic fiance, Mike (Theo Rossi), wants Anna to keep the baby to extort more cash from the Taylors.
Over the course of nine months, Anna herself becomes increasingly deranged. Her obsession with John grows ever larger along with her baby bump.
It's not hard to see where this leads, as director Jon Cassar and screenwriter Jack Olsen borrow heavily from thrillers like "Fatal Attraction" (1987) and "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" (1992).
Predictability aside, "When the Bough Breaks" falls flat in its fundamental premise: that in vitro fertilization, and the surrogacy option, are completely normal, natural choices. On the contrary, the Catholic Church teaches that IVF is gravely immoral, particularly as the process requires the test-tube creation of multiple human embryos, most of which do not survive.
It's this cavalier attitude toward the destruction of innocent human life, along with Anna's expressed acceptance of abortion, which places the film firmly out of bounds for viewers of faith.
The film contains a benign attitude toward abortion and immoral methods of conception such as in vitro fertilization, domestic violence, mild gore, marital sensuality, partial nudity, and occasional crude language.
The Catholic News Service classification is O -– morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.
McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.