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CNS reviews DVD and Blu-ray releases, May 30

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By John Mulderig Catholic News Service 

NEW YORK (CNS) — The following are capsule reviews of new and recent DVD and Blu-ray releases from Catholic News Service. Theatrical movies have a Catholic News Service classification and Motion Picture Association of America rating. These classifications refer only to the theatrical version of the films below, and do not take into account the discs’ extra content.

“Cleopatra” (50th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition; 1963) Lumbering Hollywood epic of suds along the Nile as Egypt’s queen (Elizabeth Taylor) makes a conquest of Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison), then after his assassination ensnares his avenger, Mark Antony (Richard Burton), but both commit suicide when cornered by the legions of Octavius (Roddy McDowall). Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz manages to hold interest for the first hour, chiefly in Harrison’s portrayal of a man consumed by his ambitions, but the next three seem interminable as the gassy love story bogs down in tedium and the visual spectacle wears thin, save for the sea battle at Actium. Stylized violence, sexual situations and much sexual innuendo. Spanish language and titles options. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

“Dark Skies” (2013) Restrained, but not overly original thriller in which a series of disturbing events beset an ordinary couple (Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton) and their sons: one a teen (Dakota Goyo), the other a 6-year-old (Kadan Rockett). The eventual explanation — provided in part by a reclusive conspiracy theorist (J.K. Simmons) — indicates that the family has unwittingly drawn the attention of some highly unusual, and potentially dangerous, visitors. Writer-director Scott Stewart works into his script the pro-family notion that clan discord — under economic pressure, Mom and Dad have been quarreling — assists dark forces. But he also shows us some adolescent experimentation with drugs, pornography and other forms of sexuality that make his eerie offering unsuitable for kids. Fleeting gore, brief scenes of sensuality, some involving teens, nongraphic marital lovemaking, a couple of uses of profanity, a smattering of 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. (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)

“Father Goose” (1964) An unusually disheveled Cary Grant plays a beachcomber reformed by a prim but high-spirited French schoolmarm (Leslie Caron) and her seven girl pupils when they are stranded together on a Pacific island during World War II. Director Ralph Nelson handles the romantic comedy deftly enough, though the plot is entirely predictable as wartime dangers are overcome with affable, good-natured humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. (Olive Films; also available on Blu-ray)

“The Grass Is Greener” (1960) Lackluster romantic comedy in which a British aristocrat (Cary Grant) is pursued by a friendly local lass (Jean Simmons) while his wife (Deborah Kerr) is being charmed by a visiting American (Robert Mitchum), with predictable results. Directed by Stanley Donen, there is little humor and less wit in the shallow characters and their unconvincing amorous temptations. Comic treatment of marital fidelity. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. (Olive Films; also available on Blu-ray)

“Hellbound?” (2012) Thought-provoking documentary showcasing a variety of viewpoints on the topic of hell. Filmmaker Kevin Miller interviews writers, theologians, ministers and even some heavy-metal rock musicians, asking questions about the existence of the inferno, its nature and its duration. While the focus is mostly on the debate about this subject within the evangelical community, the Catholic standpoint is ably, albeit briefly, presented by Boston College professor — and celebrated apologist — Peter Kreeft. Both he and Orthodox Archbishop Lazar Puhalo of Ottawa, Ontario, come across as more reflective and humane in their outlook than some of the hard-line Protestant fundamentalists with whom Miller talks — and with whom he clearly disagrees. Along with the obvious issue of its potentially upsetting theme, some less-than-kid-friendly images and words make this intelligent exploration of a weighty subject suitable for grown-ups only. A brief act of blasphemy, a few rough and crude terms. Spanish titles option. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. (Kevin Miller XI Productions; also available on Blu-ray)

“Planet of the Apes” (2001) Dark sci-fi fantasy in which an astronaut (Mark Wahlberg) crash lands on a planet ruled by simians and is aided in his escape by a sympathetic ape (Helena Bonham Carter). Director Tim Burton’s reinvention excels in its makeup and visual effects, but lacks narrative depth with self-conscious dialogue and a sly cynicism toward religious beliefs. Intermittent action violence and menace with a few instances of profanity. Spanish language and titles options. 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. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)

– – – Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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