The Letters

Freestyle Releasing

Rated PG for mature themes

Reverential Biopic Chronicling The Life And Times Of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa (Juliet Stevenson) was born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in Kosovo on August 26, 1910. At the age of 12, she already expressed an interest in becoming a nun in order to minister to the poor in Calcutta.

A half-dozen years later, she abandoned Albania for Ireland to enter the convent of the Sisters of Loreto. After completing her novitiate in Darjeeling near the Himalayan mountains, she took her vows in 1931 and began her career as a teacher at a Catholic high school for girls.

However, her original calling continued to nag at Teresa, so she soon prevailed upon her Mother Superior (Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal) for permission to relocate to Calcutta. That would depend upon a special dispensation from the Vatican, because of her prior promise to remain cloistered in a monastery and to not move among the masses of the great unwashed.

Eventually, Teresa was not only allowed to leave the Sisters of Loreto but to found her own order in Calcutta, the Missionaries of Charity. Over the ensuing decades, its ranks would swell to 4,000 with convents in 100 countries.

Written and directed by William Riead, The Letters is a reverential biopic paying homage to the pious patron saint of the poor, sick and dying. The movie’s title is based on her half-century long exchange of intimate missives with her confidant and spiritual adviser, Father Celeste van Exem (Max von Sydow).

Despite the accolades and fanfare the high-profile icon ultimately attracted, the production aspires to drive home the point that this humble servant of the Lord never let herself be distracted from her appointed rounds. “I am just a pencil in God’s hand,” she explained. Nevertheless, she would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and canonized posthumously by Pope John Paul II in 2003.

Faith-oriented fare designed to appeal to the choir it’s clearly preaching to.

 

Good (2 stars)

Running time: 118 minutes

 

 

Legend
Universal Pictures

Rated R for sexuality, drug use, graphic violence and pervasive profanity

Tom Hardy Plays Notorious Twins In Bloody, Brit Mob Saga 

Hollywood has enjoyed a long love affair with vicious mobsters, each seemingly more ruthless than the last. From Scarface (1932) to Dillinger (1945) to Baby Face Nelson (1957) to Bonnie And Clyde (1967) to The Godfather (1972) to Capone (1975) to The Untouchables (1987) to Goodfellas (1990) to Bugsy (1993) to The Departed (2006) to Black Mass (2015), fans of the genre apparently can never get enough of malevolent monsters to satiate their bloodlust.

Maybe the industry might have run out of American gangsters to place on pedestals posthumously, since the latest offering is a biopic about a couple of late, British bad boys. Ronnie and Reggie Kray gained notoriety in East London in the ’60s, which is when they operated a trendy nightclub while dabbling in extortion, assault, arson, robbery and murder.

Despite being identical twins, the siblings were nevertheless different enough to enable the talented Tom Hardy to play them both on the big screen. Ronnie was an openly-gay sociopath so berserk he was temporarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. By contrast, his relatively-stable, straight sibling had a wife, Frances (Emily Browning), and paid his debt to society not in a straitjacket but by sitting behind bars.

Hardy, with the help of trick photography, delivers a decent performance here, often even opposite himself. Unfortunately, the film proves to be far more concerned with serving up brutality than with bothering to convey a coherent plotline.

Consequently, the movie does paint a picture of these creeps as unapologetic sadists, but has little to offer in terms of introspection, motivation or what made its protagonists tick. Plus, it suffers from a lack of subtitles for some of the characters’ inscrutable Cockney accents.

In sum, a gruesome, gorefest for folks who take a perverse delight in gratuitous torture.

Good (2 stars)

Running time: 131 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening December 11, 2015

 

The Big Short (R for nudity, sexuality and pervasive profanity) Adaptation of the Michael Lewis best seller of the same name about a quartet of stock market contrarians (Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt) who accurately predicted the global financial collapse of 2008. With Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo and Finn Wittrock.

 

In The Heart Of The Sea (PG-13 for action, peril, mature themes and brief violence) Seafaring adventure, set in 1820, recounting the ramming and sinking of The Essex by a sperm whale, the tragedy which inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. Ensemble cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Brendan Gleeson, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland and Ben Whishaw.

 

American Hero (Unrated) Sci-fi comedy about a substance-abusing, womanizing underachiever (Stephen Dorff) who reluctantly turns a new leaf when he puts his telekinetic powers to good use as a crime-fighting superhero. Co-starring Eddie Griffin, Bill Billions and Andrea Cohen.

 

Bleeding Heart (Unrated) Revenge drama about a yoga instructor (Jessica Biel) who goes vigilante to defend her sister (Zosia Mamet) from an abusive boyfriend (Joe Anderson). Cast includes Edi Gathegi, Kate Burton and Sam Ly, with a cameo by Harry Hamlin.

 

Body (Unrated) Trespass thriller revolving around three BFFs (Helen Rogers, Alexandra Turshen and Lauren Molina) who come to regret breaking into a presumably-empty mansion to party over the holidays. Featuring Adam Cornelius, Larry Fessenden and Dan Brennan.

 

Dixieland (Unrated) Recidivism drama revolving around a recently-paroled ex-con (Chris Zylka) who falls in love and embarks on a crime spree with his troubled next-door neighbor (Riley Keough). Co-starring country singers Faith Hill and Steve Earle, and professional wrestler Mick “Mankind” Foley.

 

Don Verdean (PG-13 profanity, coarse language, suggestive content and brief violence) Sam Rockwell plays the title character in this irreverent Christian comedy revolving around a cash-strapped cleric who hopes to inspire his congregation by finding sacred relics in the Holy Land. With Amy Ryan, Will Forte, Jemaine Clement, Danny McBride and Leslie Bibb.

 

The Lady In The Van (PG-13 for a disturbing image) Fact-based docudrama recounting the unlikely friendship forged between a celebrated playwright (Alex Jennings) and a homeless woman (Maggie Smith) living in a car parked in his driveway. With Dominic Cooper, Jim Broadbent and James Corden.

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