Capsule reviews 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, and all reviews are copyright (c) 2010 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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“Tangled” (Disney)

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.

In this traditional animated offering based on the Rapunzel fairy tale, a golden-haired damsel (voice of Mandy Moore) imprisoned in a tower by an evil crone (voice of Donna Murphy) escapes with the help of a boastful thief (voice of Zachary Levi). An equally dynamic and wholesome vehicle for its “love conquers all” theme, this family-friendly fantasy by directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard blends light-hearted romance, vigorous action sequences, humor via two funny animal characters, and music by composer Alan Menken into an entertaining whole.
But the proceedings also include some mild swashbuckling violence, many slapstick pratfalls and a distinct but inoffensive pagan undertone as well as a potentially upsetting interlude that might be too intense for preschoolers.

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“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” (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.

The penultimate film in the wildly successful franchise based on J.K. Rowling’s fantasy novels finds the Hogwarts trio — Harry (Daniel Radcliffe, of course), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) — on the run, jumping all over Britain to escape the clutches of evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his Death Eaters.
As the “Chosen One,” Harry is on a mission to destroy evil by locating the paraphernalia which sustains Voldemort, including the three items that constitute the “Deathly Hallows.”
Director David Yates’ adventure mirrors the darker and more violent tone of Rowling’s final volume, making this unsuitable for younger viewers. Much action violence with frequent peril, brief partial nudity in a sexual context, scenes of murder and torture, a few vaguely sexual references.

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“The Next Three Days” (Lionsgate)

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.

Implausible, ethically dubious thriller about a Pittsburgh college professor (Russell Crowe) who decides to spring his wife (Elizabeth Banks) from a prison where she’s serving time for murder.
Writer-director Paul Haggis embeds faulty moral logic inside his far-fetched premise. Together with certain plot contrivances, its endorsement of seriously flawed behavior — a laudable belief in his spouse cannot excuse some of the choices Crowe’s character makes — renders this otherwise well-made movie difficult to enjoy.
One instance of rough language, a smattering of profanity and crass terms, some gunplay and other nongraphic violence, an off-screen suicide attempt, drug dealing, brief sexual banter.

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“Unstoppable” (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.

This gripping suspense tale charts the efforts of a veteran rail engineer (Denzel Washington) and a novice conductor (Chris Pine) to stop a runaway train before it derails on a twisting stretch of track running through a densely populated Pennsylvania town. Though opposed by a scheming railroad executive (Kevin Dunn), the pair are assisted by a competent but overwhelmed yardmaster (Rosario Dawson) and by a savvy federal official (Kevin Corrigan).
Bolstered by adept performances and by the amusing asides in Mark Bomback’s script, director Tony Scott crafts a diverting entertainment solidly founded on its main characters’ heroic selflessness and incorporating themes supportive of marriage and family life.
A few scenes of graphic injury, about a dozen uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word, frequent crude or crass language.

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“Skyline” (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.

Apocalyptic yarn (with sequels ahead) about invading aliens in Los Angeles with an insatiable appetite for human brains. Four people (Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Brittany Daniel and Donald Faison) attempt to fight the invasion from a high-rise apartment building.
But directing brothers Colin and Greg Strause and screenwriters Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell don’t bother to explain anything. Fleeting crass language, a single profanity, a single instance of implied premarital sex, and darkly lit aliens eating glowing human brains.

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“Morning Glory” (Paramount)

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.

Generally likable light comedy about an enthusiastic television producer (Rachel McAdams) who gets her shot at the big time running a struggling morning show for a national network. Tasked with lifting ratings, she must mediate between clashing co-anchors (Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton) and convince one — a venerable reporter — that fluff is an acceptable substitute for hard news.
In the process, she learns that balance is essential in her own life, though she also makes a morally unacceptable decision to bed down with a colleague (Patrick Wilson). Director Roger Michell leans heavily on the appeal of the talented McAdams, whose infectious smile lends the film a warm glow.
Nongraphic sexual activity, an off-screen encounter, several uses of profanity, two instances of rough language, much crude and crass talk, numerous scatological and sexual references, and a drug reference.

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“Due Date” (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.

Sour road comedy pairing a disaster-prone aspiring actor (Zach Galifianakis) on his way to Hollywood and an uptight architect (Robert Downey Jr.) rushing home to Los Angeles for the birth of his first child. A misunderstanding sees them both kicked off their flight from Atlanta, placed on the no-fly list and forced to drive to the West Coast together.
Among the eccentricities attributed to Galifianakis’ somewhat effeminate man-boy, in director and co-writer Todd Phillips’ frequently unpleasant odd-couple odyssey, are a taste for marijuana and a habit of lulling himself to sleep via self-gratification, a daily indulgence that the close proximity of his new companion does nothing to curb.
Drug trafficking and use, masturbation, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, pervasive rough and much crude language, some sexual jokes and references.

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“Megamind” (Paramount)

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

Generally endearing 3-D animated adventure about a good-hearted, perpetually inept alien villain (voice of Will Ferrell). With the aid of his trusty assistant (voice of David Cross), he finally defeats his longtime superhero rival (voice of Brad Pitt), also a visitor to Earth, only to find that mastery of the city the good guy once protected is not all he had dreamed.
Though the bored scamp’s scheme to create a new adversary for himself goes awry when he accidentally endows an ordinary cameraman (voice of Jonah Hill) with superhuman powers, the possibility of winning the love of the charming TV reporter (voice of Tina Fey) by whom both are smitten offers the not-so-naughty knave hope of ultimate redemption. The occasional indulgence in mild bathroom humor is outweighed, in director Tom McGrath’s diverting, if not strikingly original, tale, by worthy lessons about making positive use of talents and abilities and about the dangers of allowing others to define who you are.
Scenes of peril, a few touches of crude humor, a bit of slightly crass language.

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“For Colored Girls” (Lionsgate)

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

Ensemble drama that shuttles among the lives of nine African-American women, most prominently a successful but emotionally isolated business executive (Janet Jackson), her harried assistant (Kimberly Elise) and a lovelorn nurse (Loretta Devine). Their personal lives are in disarray because of various problems — ranging from unfaithfulness to alcoholism — of the men in their lives (respectively, Omari Hardwick, Michael Ealy and Richard Lawson).
Adapted by writer-director Tyler Perry from Ntozake Shange’s 1974 play, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” this downbeat exploration of societal ills is studded with verbally impressive, but sometimes dramatically distancing poetic set pieces. As various characters endure rape, abuse and betrayal, however, the feminist script takes for granted behavior quite at odds with Judeo-Christian sexual ethics, while the sole source of hope it holds out lies in the discovery of the “God-within-myself” and female solidarity.
A graphic rape, a scene of abortion, nonexplicit nonmarital sexual activity, fleeting rear and obscured full male nudity, incest, sex abuse and homosexuality themes, about a dozen rough terms, frequent crude and crass language.

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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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