Movie reviews: ‘Giver,’ ‘Expendables,’ ‘Step Up’

Dancing, and not the plot, is the star of “Step Up All In.” — Credit: SUMMIT

 

The Giver (Weinstein)

Arriving on the heels of "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent" is this futuristic thriller where young people find themselves running for their lives. This time, however, the tone is softer, and the overall meaning more profound, with a welcome pro-life message that will resound with viewers of faith.

In this utopian world that, on the surface at least, is free from suffering, hunger and violence, a daily injection of every member of "the Community" ensures that memories and emotions are suppressed, along with freedom, choice, individuality, religion — and temptation.

"When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong, every single time," intones the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep).

Everything in this Orwellian world is identical and monochromatic, even the family unit. Just two children per household, one boy and one girl, each genetically engineered and born to designated birth mothers.

When the children come of age, they receive their vocation, the role they are to play in the Community. The time has come for Mother (Katie Holmes) and Father (Alexander Skarsgard) to present their son, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites).

Sensing something unusual about the teen, the Chief Elder selects Jonas to inherit the esteemed position of Receiver of Memories, a kind of repository of the past, warts and all.

The current Receiver, known as the Giver (Jeff Bridges), is weary, shopworn and ready to pass the baton. Determined to succeed with Jonas, the Giver begins Jonas' training, passing on memories of the "real" world.

Jonas is overwhelmed by newfound emotions and memories. He experiences love and happiness for the first time, but also cruelty, war and death — and all in glorious Technicolor. When the fog clears, he reaches an epiphany: without the knowledge of suffering, one cannot appreciate true joy.

"If you can't feel, what is the point?" he asks. That belief is reinforced by his growing love for a fellow teen, Fiona (Odeya Rush), along with the Giver's wisdom that "with faith comes love and hope."

Jonas' determination that everyone in the Community should share in his knowledge is accelerated when he uncovers a dark secret: the Elders sanction euthanasia to eliminate imperfect babies and the frail elderly. Filled with outrage, he joins forces with the Giver to restore the proper balance to society.

A disturbing scene involving euthanasia may upset younger viewers. For mature teens and their parents, however, it can spark a necessary conversation about the sanctity of life at all ages, winningly endorsed by this worthy film.

The film contains mild action violence and a disturbing scene of euthanasia. (A-II, PG-13)

 

 

The Expendables 3 (Lionsgate)

There are many ways to keep yourself entertained while watching this second sequel. Eventually, the only remaining entertainment factor is to marvel at how director Patrick Hughes and screenwriters Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt keep this formula shoot-'em-up, which harkens back to the 1980s, from crashing resoundingly onto the shores of ennui.

The new development in this Expendables adventure — which is, thankfully, considerably less gory than its predecessors — is the addition of a youthful new breed of monosyllabic action heroes to bolster the reliable geezers.

"You're only old when you surrender," says one in his introductory scene. Nah, you can be old without surrendering, and — unlike these performers — also retain some dignity.

It's all slick, competent and sterile, as if its tropes had been perfected by mass-production techniques. The film has nothing new to say as it kills off anonymous bad guys in 127 minutes.

The film contains frequent gun, knife and physical violence as well as numerous explosions, a few uses of profanity and pervasive crude language. (A-III, PG-13)

 

 

Step Up All In (Summit)

Intricate storylines have never been the goal in this franchise, in which scrappy, multiethnic dance crews seek escape from their workaday existences by entering lucrative competitions. A happy fantasy with a relentlessly positive (and basically moral) milieu, it's all about the kids showing off their moves.

"There's a magic that happens when you dance," Sean Asa (Ryan Guzman) says in the opening voice-over of this fifth installment. "The world is in synch, and for one perfect moment, you feel totally alive."

So we get it: Gotta dance! But director Trish Sie and screenwriter John Swetnam come up hugely short on dialogue to stitch the terpsichorean segments together. And what there is of conversation is stoutly cliched.

There's pluck, moxie, the old know-how, and sometimes someone blows out a knee or loses their nerve. But where there's a tapping toe, it seems, there's always a way. Mature adolescents should have no problem with any of this, other than feeling deprived by the skimpy script.

The film contains fleeting sexual banter and at least one instance of rough language. (A-III, PG-13)

—CNS/USCCB

 

CNS classifications: A-I — general patronage. A-II — adults and adolescents. A-III — adults. A-IV — adults, with reservations. L — limited adult audiences, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. O — morally offensive


Voices

Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Decision in United States v. Texas

Archbishop José H. Gomez

Our nation’s ongoing failure to address the immigration crisis is a humanitarian tragedy. For more than a decade, state and local governments, Congress, the President, the courts — and now the highest court in the land — all have failed in their responsibilities to address this issue. 

Events

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June 25, 2016

  • Saturday, June 25

    Los Angeles Foster Care and Adoption Information Meeting, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., Children’s Bureau Foster Care & Adoption, 1910 Magnolia Ave., Los Angeles. Discover if you have the ability and resources to help a child in need. To RSVP or for more information, call (800) 730-3933. To request an information packet, go to: www.all4kids.org/program/foster-care.

     

    His Mercy Endures Forever, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Grand Ballroom, Long Beach Convention Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. Presented by The Sower Metanoia. Speakers: Fr. R. Tony Richard from New Orleans; Lay evangelist Jesse Romero; Fr. Ismael Robles; Sower prayer ministry leader Sandra Burroughs, Noel Diaz, founder of El Sembrador. Praise & Worship- The Sower Band. Donation $25/person (Buy 3 tix get a 4th free). Info: (877) 714-5679, Spanish (818) 700-4938. Get tickets at www.sowermetanoia.com.

     

    New Rite of Matrimony Workshop by the Archdiocesan Office for Worship, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., St. Junipero Serra, 5205 Upland Rd., Camarillo. Speakers from the Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship and the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC). Implementation of the new rite begins Sept. 8, 2016, and is mandated as of Dec. 30, 2016. To register, go to: www.fdlc.org.

     

    How Can This Man Give Us His Flesh to Eat?, 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m., St Madeleine parish, 931 East Kingsley Ave., Pomona. The many prophecies, antetypes and allusions to the Holy Eucharist and Holy Mass found in the Torah and in the Gospels--along with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. A mini-retreat conducted by Tidings columnist Sean M. Wright. Register at the parish. Info: (909) 629-9495. 

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