Movie Reviews: 'Cars 3,' 'Lovers,' 'Rough Night,' '47 Meters Down' and 'All Eyez on Me'

  • Written by Catholic News Service
  • Published in Movies & TV
This is a scene from the movie "Cars 3." Photo: CNS/Disney This is a scene from the movie "Cars 3." Photo: CNS/Disney

Recently reviewed by Catholic News Service

Cars 3

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - Fasten your seatbelts and start your engines for a wild (and often ear-splitting) ride in "Cars 3" (Disney), the latest installment of the family-friendly animated franchise.

Six years after the initial sequel and 11 since the series began with "Cars," the anthropomorphic autos are back with a vengeance. Director Brian Fee ramps up the racing action (and the roar of the engines) while introducing a fleet of new characters sure to please young viewers -- not to mention toy manufacturers.

Happily, there's much more than the dizzying blur of NASCAR-like action. Screenwriters Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich inject a nice amount of heart and pathos into the comedic plot, and add winning messages about second chances and the value of mentoring.

The years have been kind to ace racer Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson). He's still at the top of his game. But just over his shoulder is a new generation of faster vehicles, like the brash rookie Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer).

"Enjoy your retirement," Jackson tells Lightning as he whizzes past.

In a flash, Lightning is sidelined by an accident. Disillusioned and depressed, he retreats to his adopted home of Radiator Springs. There he draws on the support of his loyal tow-truck sidekick, Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy), and comely Porsche sweetheart, Sally (voice of Bonnie Hunt).

Sally knows Lightning must look to the future. "Don't fear failure," she insists. "Take a chance. Try something new."

A spiffy fresh paint job by Ramone (voice of Cheech Marin) helps. "It's so beautiful," Ramone says of his own work, "it's like the Sistine Chapel!"

With his spirits buoyed, Lightning heads to the training center run by his sponsor, Rust-Eze, and its new owner, the "businesscar" Sterling (voice of Nathan Fillion). His eager young coach, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), is thrilled with her new, if elderly, charge.

"You're my senior project!" she gushes.

As the bond between veteran racer and rookie wannabe grows, Lightning recalls the wisdom of his dearly departed mentor, Doc Hudson (voice of Paul Newman). On a whim, he takes Cruz on a road trip to find Doc's original trainer -- a grizzled '51 Ford named Smokey (voice of Chris Cooper) -- to recapture some of the old magic.

"You'll never be the racer you once were," Smokey intones. "You can't turn back the clock, kid, but you can wind it up again."

"Cars 3" is full of surprises, and there's a nice twist in store well before the finish line.

Preceding "Cars 3" is a short film entitled "Lou." It's a charming fable about a playground bully who learns the error of his ways thanks to some enchanted objects in his school's lost-and-found box.

The film contains a brief, highly stylized crash scene.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G.

Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

The Lovers movie still
Debra Winger and Tracy Letts star in a scene from the movie "The Lovers." Photo: CNS/A24
The Lovers

By Kurt Jensen, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - To the extent that a thoughtful drama about marital infidelity can be considered lyrical, "The Lovers" (A24) achieves that. Writer-director Azazel Jacobs carefully structures his plot to minimize any gaping holes in logic. But he also downplays the extensive collateral damage adultery inflicts.

Perhaps he wanted to avoid making anyone a villain. Certainly, no one is ever shown to be really at fault. Lacking a steady moral compass, his characters are buffeted by life's unpredictability.

The story focuses on Michael (Tracy Letts) and Mary (Debra Winger), two doughy, respectable, middle-age empty-nesters -- their son Joel (Tyler Ross) is away at college.

Their marriage has, for reasons not explained, sputtered out. Both have taken on lovers.

They seem to be mutually aware of the cheating, but they're exceedingly polite to each other and still share the same bed. The lethargy that led to their love's demise, as well as bland domestic rituals, prevent them from actually splitting.

Mary, her mouth a rictus of pain and confusion, has taken up with handsome, younger Robert (Aidan Gillen). Michael, whose emotional outlet usually consists of giggling, is carrying on with Lucy (Melora Walters), an emotionally fragile ballet teacher.

Jacobs keeps his story sympathetic and free of tawdriness by showing that Mary and Michael, numb in their own lives, aren't particularly good at adultery, either. Thus they find many ways to be both physically and emotionally unavailable to their paramours.

Why Robert and Lucy regard these two as good catches is mysterious. But eventually they both deliver ultimatums. Whatever goes on, it's never glamorous.

That, too, is one of Jacobs' points. Love and physical attraction often make no sense, and eventually Michael and Mary find, to their considerable surprise, that their spark has returned. So, in a series of farcical sequences, they end up "cheating" on their lovers.

This lurches on for a spell until a visit from Joel and his girlfriend, Erin (Jessica Sula), sets into motion events, which reveal the hollowness of the charade.

The film contains an adultery theme, fleeting scenes of marital sexual activity, some of it potentially aberrant, and much profane and rough 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.

Rough Night movie still
Zoe Kravitz, Jillian Bell, Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, and Illana Grazer star in a scene from the movie "Rough Night." Photo: CNS/Sony

Rough Night

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - "Weekend at Bernie's" meets "Bridesmaids" in the raunchy comedy "Rough Night" (Columbia). The result is pure dreck.

Political candidate and bride-to-be Jess Thayer (Scarlett Johansson) joins her four best friends --   Aussie ditz Pippa (Kate McKinnon), overeager misfit Alice (Jillian Bell), social justice warrior Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and self-satisfied rich lady Blair (Zoe Kravitz) -- for a wild bachelorette weekend in Miami.

After doing shots and snorting cocaine, they summon a stripper (Ryan Cooper) to the house they've been loaned. But the fun comes to a screeching halt when Alice, who could afford to go on a diet, accidentally kills burlesque boy by impulsively jumping into his lap, overturning his chair and smashing the back of his head into the corner of a stone hearth.

As the quintet scrambles to hide the evidence, fearing -- for barely tenable reasons -- that the police will not believe their story, director and co-writer Lucia Aniello's film runs the gamut of smut. Early on, the script (on which Aniello collaborated with Paul W. Downs, who also plays Jess' nice-guy fiance, Peter) winsomely tips us off to the fact that, back in college, Frankie and Blair were lovers.

Later the screenplay introduces us to Lea and Pietro (Demi Moore and Ty Burrell), the randy swingers who live next door. Plot developments find Blair forced into an encounter with this duo while Peter, who knows that Jess is in some kind of trouble, dons diapers and chugs Red Bull for a marathon drive to Florida to save the day.

Along the way to the supposedly friendship-affirming conclusion, such inherently hilarious subjects as contraception, venereal disease and personal hygiene are milked for laughs. And, as Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman discovered all those years ago in the first movie referred to above, there's really no sight gag funnier than propping up a corpse.

The film contains strong sexual content, including aberrant behavior, nudity and a benign view of homosexual acts, cohabitation, drug use, some gory images, constant vulgar humor, several uses of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language.

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

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

47 Meters Down movie still
Matthew Modine, Claire Holt and Mandy Moore star in a scene from the movie "47 Meters Down." Photo: CNS/Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

47 Meters Down

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - Way back in 1975, Steven Spielberg taught the world just how scary sharks can be with his classic "Jaws." Apparently the two main characters in the thriller "47 Meters Down" (Entertainment Studios) failed to get the message.

As a result, they face an ordeal that, thanks to its plausibility, audiences may find more frightening than many horror films featuring monsters or knife-wielding maniacs.

While viewers are not entirely spared the graphic outcome of a battle between humans and the ocean's most efficient killers, the bloodletting is not excessive or exploitative. And the script, penned by director Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera, goes easy on the panic-induced cursing. So, although it's not for the fainthearted of any age, the film is probably acceptable for older teens.

While vacationing in Mexico, sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) take up with a couple of locals, Louis (Yani Gellman) and Benjamin (Santiago Segura). The lads urge their new friends to try shark diving and, since Lisa has just been dumped by her boyfriend back home on the grounds that she is averse to adventure, she reluctantly yields to Kate's enthusiasm for the idea.

Lisa should have gone with her gut. After only a few minutes in the iron cage designed to protect them from the fatal fish, the cable holding the enclosure snaps, and the siblings plummet to the seabed at the depth of the title.

The resourceful duo must now confront not only the predators they were meant to be observing in safety, but the consequences of a rapidly dwindling supply of oxygen as well. As they struggle to survive, and Taylor (Matthew Modine), the skipper of the boat they were lowered from, tries to organize a rescue, themes of forgiveness and self-sacrificing love are briefly showcased.

But such lofty ideals, of course, are not really the point. What Roberts is aiming for, and mostly achieves -- despite occasionally clunky dialogue -- is an atmosphere of claustrophobic, nerve-racking terror.

Those disposed to subject themselves to the experience will likely come away satisfied. The timid, by contrast, should stick to the shore.

The film contains some gory and gruesome images as well as a single rough and a couple of crude 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.

All Eyez on Me movie still
Demetrius Shipp Jr. and Kat Graham star in a scene from the movie "All Eyez on Me." Photo: CNS/Codeblack Films

All Eyez on Me

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - Radical politics and the wayward values of hip-hop culture take "All Eyez on Me" (Summit), a sometimes intense but overlong and rarely insightful biography of rapper Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.), off course.

Add to these elements a script so laden with obscenities that hardly a sentence of dialogue passes without a visit to the verbal gutter, and the film becomes endorsable for none.

Born into a family of Black Panther activists -- Danai Gurira turns in a powerful performance as his mother, Afeni -- the future singer and actor confronts the challenges of an inner-city childhood before gaining stardom. Afeni trains him to react to these circumstances partly by educating himself (he eventually becomes a Shakespeare aficionado) but also, more troublingly, through a revolutionary attitude apparently accepting of violence.

Beginning with these early scenes, the script -- written by Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez and Steven Bagatourian -- shows a lack of balance both in its wholesale sympathy for the Panthers and in its entirely negative portrayal of the police. It later depicts former Vice President Dan Quayle as a villain -- and a dunce -- for questioning the anti-law enforcement tenor of some of Shakur's lyrics.

Structured around an interview with a fictional, and unnamed, journalist (Hill Harper) during a real stint in prison, the retrospective takes in Shakur's lifelong friendship with Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham), his partnership with rage-prone producer Suge Knight (Dominic Santana) and his romance with Quincy Jones' daughter, Kidada (Annie Ilonzeh).

Before achieving a more or less stable relationship with Kidada, albeit one that involves living together before marriage, Shakur is shown partaking in the decadent lifestyle often associated with celebrity. This includes group and casual sex as well as deviant acts. Although a minor character calls Shakur out on this behavior, overall, the movie's tone is one of implicit acceptance.

Where narcotics are concerned, "All Eyez" adopts an ambivalent outlook. While Afeni struggles with addiction and Shakur himself consistently refuses hard drugs, smoking marijuana is presented as essentially harmless.

Rampant materialism, exemplified by bling jewelry and private jets, also plays a role in setting director Benny Boom's dramatization at odds with faith-based values. While viewers will hardly begrudge the once impoverished Shakur the financial success he earned, the need to wear more than one gold Rolex watch at a time can be questioned.

In fact, rivalry for expensive trinkets may have played a role in the tragic end of Shakur's story, his still unsolved murder on the streets of Las Vegas 21 years ago. As a postscript to the picture points out, Shakur's brief life -- he died aged 25 -- was at least as much marked by creativity as by controversy. But if there are lessons to be learned from it, they are not to be found in "All Eyez on Me."

The film contains some violence and gore, strong sexual content, including aberrant behavior, cohabitation and rear and upper female nudity, drug use, about a dozen profanities and relentless rough and crude language.

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

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.