Capsule reviews and ratings of recently released movies

Following are capsule reviews and ratings of recently released films. The reviews are by Catholic News Service in conjunction with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Film and Broadcasting.

For full reviews of these films, as well as earlier releases, visit www.usccb.org/movies

This list will be updated periodically as the reviews are supplied by Catholic News Service.

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“Flipped” (Warner Bros.)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested.

A heartwarming coming-of-age story, based on the Wendelin Van Draanen novel, that chronicles the relationship of two kids, Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) and Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe), over a six-year period. At 7 years old, Juli has “flipped” over Bryce, but her puppy love is not returned. Amid the ups and downs of their friendship, the film examines family life in baby boom-era suburbia, challenging stereotypes and prejudices with a surprisingly strong pro-life message.
As directed by Rob Reiner, everything about “Flipped” feels right and genuine, with a prevailing atmosphere of innocence and sensitivity, making this uplifting film probably acceptable for older teens. A handful of profane and crass expressions and scenes of family discord.

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“The American” (Focus)

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 — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

A professional assassin (George Clooney) flees to Italy in search of healing and a better life, only to discover that it’s hard to shake his past. He falls for the proverbial prostitute with a heart of gold (Violante Placido), and receives moral advice from the flawed but sympathetic local priest (Paolo Bonacelli), but must ultimately find his own way.
Although the serious intent of the filmmakers is clear, director Anton Corbijn’s adaptation of Martin Booth’s novel “A Very Private Gentleman” makes for a dark, brooding and lethargic film that features graphic sexuality and an insubstantial treatment of Christian morality, only skirting the implications of its main character’s profoundly sinful situation.
Bloody violence including multiple shootings, full-frontal female and partial male nudity, and explicit scenes of nonmarital sex.

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“The Last Exorcism” (Lionsgate)

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 PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Middling fright fest about an evangelical minister and self-confessed charlatan (Patrick Fabian) who brings a film crew (led by Iris Bahr) along to document his final faked exorcism. But he gets more than he bargained for when the Louisiana farm girl (Ashley Bell) whose father (Louis Herthum) summoned him shows signs of genuine possession.
While the gore factor is kept comparatively low in director Daniel Stamm’s gothic outing — which toys cleverly with the modern presumption that all phenomena can be explained scientifically — the preacher’s corrosive cynicism and the occult atmosphere by which he unexpectedly finds himself surrounded make this inappropriate for all but well-grounded and judicious adult viewers.
Complex treatment of religion, sacrilegious activity, some gruesome images, at least two uses of profanity, brief sexual talk, and references to incest and homosexuality.

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“The Switch” (Miramax)

The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Seven years after his unmarried best friend (Jennifer Aniston) conceived a son (Thomas Robinson) by artificial insemination, and left town to raise the boy, a successful but neurotic New York stock trader (Jason Bateman) reconnects with her. Struck by the parallels between his personality and the lad’s, he gradually recollects that, while drunk, he accidentally spilled the intended donor’s (Patrick Wilson) “contribution” down a bathroom sink. Then, in a panic, he substituted his own.
The film showcases some of the tangled emotional complications brought about by severing conception from its divinely intended source and setting, the bond of marital love. But co-directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon’s frequently distasteful comedy of modern manners, adapted from Jeffrey Eugenides’ 1996 short story “Baster,” takes as a given of contemporary life its heroine’s right to engineer such a rupture. Lost in the moral confusion are touching scenes of paternal love and a fine comic turn by Jeff Goldblum as Bateman’s perpetually flustered business partner. Benign view of artificial insemination, off-screen masturbation, rear and blurred frontal nudity, much sexual humor, at least one use of the S-word, some crass language.

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“Vampires Suck” (Fox)

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.

In this pale, stale and mirthless spoof of the “Twilight” films, Matt Lanter is a tortured vampire and Jenn Proske is the mortal high schooler he loves. Completing the triangle is her friend with werewolf issues played by Chris Riggi. Co-directors and writers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer find the bottom of the comedy barrel and scrape it mightily with a collection of sight gags strung together to approximate the story arc of the famed teen-vampire franchise.
Fleeting profane, crude and crass language, some sexual innuendo.

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Lottery Ticket” (Warner Bros.)

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 PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Broad comedy centers on a hardworking, good-natured 18-year-old (rapper Bow Wow) from an Atlanta housing project who wins the lottery but must survive a long holiday weekend before he can collect. He must evade the wiles of a menacing thug (Gbenga Akinnagbe) and a natty crime boss (Mike Epps) with the help of a retired boxer (Ice Cube) for whom he runs errands. Director Erik White’s efforts to bridge materialism and spiritual growth are awkward, and viewers seeking an entertaining and perceptive social satire will be disappointed.
Nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity, much profanity, at least one use of the F-word, frequent crude and crass language, numerous sexual and contraception references and some violence.

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“Nanny McPhee Returns” (Universal)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

The eerie but magically effective matron of the title (Emma Thompson) transports herself to wartime Britain, where she comes to the rescue of a frazzled rural mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal). With her husband (Ewan McGregor) away at the front, she is failing spectacularly to cope with the raucous squabbling between her three children (Asa Butterfield, Lil Woods and Oscar Steer) and a duo of snobbish London cousins (Rosie Taylor-Ritson and Eros Vlahos). The cousins are freshly arrived evacuees whose parents have sent them to the countryside for safety. Further straining mom’s nerves are the efforts of her scheming brother-in-law (Rhys Ifans) to pressure her, for reasons of his own, into signing away the family farm in dad’s absence.
As written by Thompson and directed by Susanna White, this second screen adventure based on Christianna Brand’s “Nurse Matilda” series of children’s books tells a sweetly nostalgic tale underpinned by lessons about cooperation, sharing, courage and the need to believe in happy endings, with only some mildly gross barnyard humor and slapstick violence to give parents pause.

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“Eat Pray Love” (Columbia)

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 PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Off-kilter values underlie this fact-based narrative of a travel writer’s (Julia Roberts) self-initiated divorce (from Billy Crudup), brief affair with a much younger actor (James Franco) and yearlong quest for enlightenment and self-understanding via Italian cuisine, Hindu spirituality (under the guidance of Richard Jenkins) and romance with a Brazilian expatriate (Javier Bardem) living in Bali.
Director and co-writer Ryan Murphy’s overlong, ultimately exhausting screen version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling 2006 memoir displays an ambivalent attitude toward marriage, ignores Christianity as a source of insight and revolves around an interminably navel-gazing central figure. That figure, along the path of her pampered pilgrimage, confuses psychobabble for wisdom.
Complex religious themes, acceptability of divorce, nonmarital and premarital situations, rear nudity, some sexual humor, an obscene gesture, a few uses of profanity, at least one rough and a half-dozen crude terms.

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“The Expendables” (Lionsgate/Millennium)

The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Brutally violent action vehicle, directed and co-written by Sylvester Stallone, in which a veritable Who’s Who of Hollywood tough guys and professional sports stars form a ragtag brotherhood of mercenaries who travel the world freeing hostages and toppling dictators. On the advice of the group’s soulful guru (Mickey Rourke), its leader (Stallone) and the gang’s knife specialist (Jason Statham) head to a fictional South American nation where a rogue CIA agent (Eric Roberts) is running a corrupt regime.

Though the pair barely escape after this initial mission, the chief, smitten with a resistance agent (Giselle Itie), vows to return with his whole crew (rounded out by Jet Li, mixed martial artist Randy Couture and ex-NFL star Terry Crews) to overthrow the terrorists and restore freedom. Relentless bloody and graphic violence, including shootings, knifings, explosions, decapitations, torture, and implied rape, some rough language.

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