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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“Paranormal Activity 2” (Paramount)

The Catholic News Service Classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Efficiently unnerving skin-crawler in which a prosperous California couple (Sprague Grayden and Brian Boland) and the husband’s teenage daughter by a previous marriage (Molly Ephraim) try to protect the latest addition to the family, a 1-year-old boy, from the malignant designs of a demon.
Using the device of a set of security cameras the parents have installed after an initial incident they take for a break-in by vandals, director Tod Williams extends the franchise that began with 2009’s “Paranormal Activity” by telling a related story that, like its predecessor, avoids gratuitous gore but that also tones down the original’s excess of sexual themes and vulgar language.
Occasional intense but stylized violence, a few uses of profanity, some rough and crude language, a handful of mild sexual references.

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“Conviction” (Fox Searchlight)

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.

When her brother (Sam Rockwell) is convicted of a brutal murder and imprisoned for life, a working-class Massachusetts woman (Hilary Swank), who dropped out of high school, completes her undergraduate degree and struggles to finish law school and gain admission to the bar, all in an attempt to clear him. As her suspicions focus on one of the arresting officers (Melissa Leo), she gains the help of a fellow law student and newfound friend (Minnie Driver) as well as that of a famed attorney (Peter Gallagher).
Gritty yet touching, director Tony Goldwyn’s fact-based drama — set in a hardscrabble environment, its dialogue studded with vulgarities — celebrates its heroine’s selfless dedication and endless determination. But it also shows the toll her crusade takes on her marriage and her relationship with her two young sons (Conor Donovan and Owen Campbell).
Some gruesome crime scene images, brief rear nudity, a suicide theme, about a dozen uses of profanity, close to 60 instances of rough language, and frequent crude or crass terms.

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“Hereafter” (Warner Bros.)

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.

Ambitious drama charting the ultimately intersecting paths of three individuals seeking enlightenment about what happens to us after we die. The trio of plotlines follow a Parisian journalist (Cecile de France) whose near-death experience shakes her secular worldview, a San Francisco factory worker (Matt Damon) endowed with the ability to communicate with the dead, and a working-class London lad (George and Frankie McLaren) devastated by the loss of his twin brother.
Director Clint Eastwood weaves these strands into an emotionally compelling tapestry. But, while affirming the existence of an afterlife, Peter Morgan’s script steers clear of any other specific beliefs, and the exercise of Damon’s gift is difficult to reconcile with the Scripture-based Christian duty to shun occult practices.
Complex religious issues, an alcoholism and drug-addiction theme, fleeting upper female nudity, a nonmarital, possibly adulterous situation, at least one rough and a few crude terms.

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“Jackass 3-D” (Paramount)

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.

Repulsive, sick assemblage of violent and degrading stunts performed by Johnny Knoxville and the other denizens of the MTV television series in their third feature film. The activities range from the gross-out to the pornographic.
Director Jeff Tremaine and writer (so to speak) Preston Lacy leave no excretory function unexamined, all in grotesque close-up. Repellent scatological images, frontal male nudity, constant sexual and body part references, pervasive profane, rough and crude language.

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“My Soul to Take 3-D” (Universal)

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.

Instantly disposable, old-school horror offering from writer-director Wes Craven (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”) has seven Massachusetts teens stalked by a knife-wielding serial killer who allegedly died 16 years earlier on the night they were all born. One of the youths (Max Thieriot) is most likely to have inherited the murderous mantle and be the next bogeyman. Craven knows how to frighten audiences using low-tech means. That doesn’t mean anyone need take notice of the unsavory result, especially in the superfluous 3-D format.
Numerous acts of bloody violence, including a suicide and multiple stabbings and slashings; pervasive rough language and profanity; disrespectful attitudes toward religion and prayer; and a number of sexual references and banter involving teenagers.

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“RED” (Summit)

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.

Witty but mayhem-packed spy caper in which a retired CIA agent (Bruce Willis) and his newfound girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker) take to the road after being targeted for death by a high-level government and business cabal. Their efforts to unravel the conspiracy — and to evade the hit man (Karl Urban) tasked with eliminating them — are aided by a trio of the operative’s old associates (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren). They are allies who range from the reliable (Freeman) to the entertainingly flaky (Malkovich).
Director Robert Schwentke’s amusingly executed adaptation of Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner’s graphic novel features a refreshingly chaste central romance. But its succession of gunfights and explosions, though mostly stylized, restrict its appropriate audience.
Frequent, largely bloodless violence, brief gruesome imagery, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one use of the F-word, some crude language.

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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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