Capsule reviews and ratings of recently released movies

The following movie reviews are supplied 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 regularly.

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“The Social Network” (Columbia)

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.

Engrossing but strictly adult drama, based on real events, recounting the circumstances surrounding the creation of the website Facebook as its socially inept but technically gifted founder (Jesse Eisenberg) testifies in separate but simultaneous lawsuits brought against him by a pair of former associates (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence) and by his ex-best friend and first investor (Andrew Garfield). All of them claim to have been betrayed and cheated.
Drawing on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires,” director David Fincher weaves a subtle narrative of shifting personal loyalties and ethical uncertainties. But the college setting in which the story begins is a morass of excessive drinking and meaningless sex while, one enduring crush aside, the immature, ill-adjusted male characters treat women as disposable accessories.
Nongraphic casual sexual activity, same-sex kissing, brief partial nudity, drug use, some sexual references, several uses of profanity, at least one use of the F-word and much crude language.

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“Let Me In” (Overture)

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.

This macabre yet strangely moving twist on vampire lore, set in 1983, sees a bullied, lonely New Mexico preteen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) developing a friendly crush on a new neighbor (Chloe Grace Moretz). He gradually discovers that she is not exactly your average girl-next-door and that the guardian he takes to be her father (Richard Jenkins) is connected to a spate of recent murders.
Writer-director Matt Reeves’ screen version of Swedish novelist John Ajvide Lindqvist’s best-seller “Let The Right One In” — preceded by a 2008 Swedish film adaptation — is not a work to be easily dismissed, given its serious treatment of themes like isolation and the psychological roots of violence. But in revealing the dark identity behind its young heroine’s appealing facade, this unlikely tale of first love becomes, at times, far too gruesome for endorsement.
Much gory violence, a scene of voyeurism with brief graphic sexual activity and fleeting upper female nudity, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, some rough and a few crude and crass terms.

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“Secretariat” (Disney)

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

The true story of the 1973 Triple Crown winner, arguably the greatest racehorse of all time, comes to the big screen in a film that is both thrilling sports adventure and moving family drama. Secretariat’s owner (Diane Lane) is a housewife who returns to her horse farm roots and gambles everything on the big red equine. As she makes her mark in an all-male world, she battles prejudice and the skepticism of her family, but she never loses hope in her dream. At her side are a bossy assistant (Margo Martindale), an even more domineering trainer (John Malkovich) and a gentle-hearted groom (Nelsan Ellis) whose spiritual nature provides a moving undercurrent.
Unencumbered by any really objectionable elements, this exuberant and inspirational cinematic champ can be cheered on by a wide audience. Some tense emotional moments and heated arguments.

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“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (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.

Uneven sequel in which, seven years after being released from prison, a disgraced financier-turned-author (Michael Douglas) convinces his estranged daughter’s (Carey Mulligan) fiance (Shia LaBeouf) to help him reconcile with her. He offers in return to assist the young investment executive’s business vendetta against a ruthless mogul (Josh Brolin) whose machinations ruined the lad’s mentor (Frank Langella).
Set against the backdrop of the economic crisis that began in 2007, and directed — like its 1987 predecessor “Wall Street” — by Oliver Stone, the high stakes drama benefits from Douglas’ magnetic performance as a man compounded of charisma, corruption and a few remaining shards of human decency. Less appealing are the script’s heavy-handed attempts at social comment and a central romantic relationship that puts the sexual cart before the marital horse.
Cohabitation, brief sexual imagery and occasional sexual references, several uses of profanity, at least two instances of rough language, a few crude and some crass terms.

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“Devil” (Universal)

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

Rapidly fizzling horror entry in which Satan stalks an elevator stuck between floors in a Philadelphia high-rise. Director John Erick Dowdle, working from a story by M. Night Shyamalan, puts reliable scream queen Bojana Novakovic and a handful of other riders with unsavory pasts through some decidedly less-than-scary paces as the Prince of Darkness dispenses some rough justice. Fleeting crude and crass language, dubious, though incidental, use of Catholic imagery.

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“Easy A” (Screen Gems)

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.

A clean cut but lost-in-the-crowd teen (Emma Stone) becomes notorious among her peers when a self-righteous fellow high school student (Amanda Bynes) overhears her lying to her best friend (Aly Michalka) about losing her virginity. The gossip about her sexual exploits rapidly snowballs out of control. Though director Will Gluck’s satire conveys some worthwhile messages about the dangers of judging from appearances and the temptation to pigeonhole or belittle others, the script presents all Christians as hypocrites and implies that any consensual form of bedroom behavior is acceptable.
Negative portrayal of Christianity, including Catholicism, benign view of premarital sex and homosexuality, implied drug use, brief partial nudity, venereal disease theme, some sexual humor, at least 10 uses of profanity, much crude and crass language.

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“Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” (Warner Bros.)

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

3D animated adventure in which, after being kidnapped and enslaved by a force of militaristic owls led by a scheming queen (voice of Helen Mirren), a plucky owlet (voice of Jim Sturgess), accompanied by a diminutive fellow captive (voice of Emily Barclay), escapes and embarks on a quest to enlist the help of a legendary group of heroic warrior owls (voiced, among others, by Geoffrey Rush and Sam Neill) to defeat the evildoers. Director Zack Snyder’s visually engaging adaptation of the first three novels in Kathryn Lasky’s popular “Guardians of Ga’Hoole” series of children’s books offers a sound, if somewhat bulky and not overly original, narrative of downtrodden right versus overweening might. But intense scenes of animal combat preclude endorsement for the youngest of this otherwise unobjectionable tale. Also shown in Imax. Strong, though stylized, violence, situations of peril.

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“You Again” (Disney/Touchstone)

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

Grown-ups find it hard to leave the dramas — and traumas — of their teen years behind in director Andy Fickman’s entertaining multigenerational comedy about family, forgiveness, and second chances. A twenty-something ex-geek (Kristen Bell) who has evolved into a self-confident career woman is forced to relive her past horror when she returns home for her brother’s (Jimmy Wolk) wedding, only to discover he is marrying her high school nemesis (Odette Yustman). Similarly, the groom’s mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) has issues with the bride’s aunt (Sigourney Weaver), a student-era best friend-turned-rival.
Mild slapstick violence, some double-entendres.

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“Alpha and Omega” (Lionsgate)

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

Opposites are forced to become allies when two kidnapped wolves, disciplined and serious Kate (voice of Hayden Panettiere) and free-spirited, fun-loving Humphrey (voice of Justin Long), embark on a challenging journey to find their way home.
Despite colorful animation and eye-popping 3-D effects, co-directors Anthony Bell and Ben Gluck’s adventure falls back upon a tired — but kid-approved — formula of bathroom humor, slapstick action and wisecracking characters. The potty jokes aside, this is basically harmless fun for the entire family.

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“Resident Evil: Afterlife” (Screen Gems)

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.

Fourth entry in the gory series based on the video game has only 3-D to commend it this time around, which makes it moderately more interesting, if not less of a completely dull waste of time. Writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson puts Milla Jovovich as Alice back into the black tights to fight off virus-infected, flesh-eating zombies in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. Fleeting rough, crude and profane language, flying knives, gun violence, abundant splattering zombie heads.

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“The Town” (Warner Bros.)

The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Seamy heist drama in which a failed pro hockey player-turned-underworld-thief (Ben Affleck) first stalks, then falls for, a bank manager (Rebecca Hall). He and his cohorts (most prominently Jeremy Renner) fear she could identify them, despite the disguises they wore while successfully robbing her workplace. But the fundamentally good-hearted gangster’s hopes for romance and a return to decency are hampered by the relentless pursuit of a sometimes unscrupulous FBI agent (Jon Hamm). While director and co-writer Affleck’s screen version of Chuck Hogan’s 2004 novel “Prince of Thieves” is seriously intended and morally weighty, excessive violence, gritty (though fleeting) sexuality and consistently foul-mouthed dialogue are red flags for all. The nun costumes donned by the gang during a subsequent caper jar on Catholic sensibilities in particular. Considerable gunplay and some bloody beatings, brief graphic nonmarital sexual activity, glimpses of upper female and partial nudity, pervasive rough and crude language, irreverent imagery. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive.

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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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“Going the Distance” (Warner Bros.)

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.

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long are girlfriend and boyfriend living on opposite sides of the country in this surprisingly raunchy romantic comedy. Whatever wholesome charms the two actors possess are obscured by the dirty-minded nature of the dialogue as director Nanette Burstein and screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe resort to sophomoric bawdiness to enliven the proceedings. The couple’s separation anxiety pales in comparison to the audience’s distress at hearing them continuously spout vulgarities and obsess about sex.
Two somewhat explicit if fleeting premarital encounters, rear male nudity, persistent alcohol and an instance of marijuana use, much profanity, frequent graphic sexual banter and pervasive rough, crude and crass language.

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