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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“Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight)

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.

At the behest of her ballet company’s artistic director (Vincent Cassel), a shy, inhibited dancer (Natalie Portman) rebels against her overprotective mother (Barbara Hershey) and seeks to imitate a passionate rival (Mila Kunis) by embracing a hedonistic lifestyle in order to fit her for the major role in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” an onstage embodiment of guile and sensuality.
Though Portman turns in a striking performance, director Darren Aronofsky’s nightmarish, morally muddled drama plays on the extremes of sexual repression and debauched license and, whether read as insisting on the necessity of indiscriminate experience or as a cautionary tale, presents its heroine’s experimentation with voyeuristic excess.
Strong sexual content, including graphic lesbian and nonmarital heterosexual activity, as well as masturbation, drug use, a few instances of profanity, much rough and some crude language and numerous sexual references.

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“Gulliver’s Travels” (Fox)

The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Mediocre effort attempting to cash in on the elusive comic abilities of Jack Black, who plays a modern riff on the traveler Lemuel Gulliver, hero of Jonathan Swift’s classic 18th-century novel.
A lazy mailroom clerk who dreams of becoming a travel writer to impress the editor (Amanda Peet) for whom he has fallen, Gulliver cheats his way to a seaborne assignment, only to find himself transported to Lilliput, a vaguely British island populated by a race of people only 4 inches tall. Although marketed to children and families, director Rob Letterman’s sour, slapped-together project features a flagrantly overplayed gross-out gag and carries a noxiously cynical message: You can plagiarize and lie without penalty and still end up with the girl — and the job — of your dreams.
Skewed moral values, graphic scatological humor and some intense action scenes.

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True Grit” (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.

Exceptionally fine second screen version of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel of the Old West — first adapted by director Henry Hathaway in 1969 — in which a remarkably determined 14-year-old girl (Hailee Steinfeld) enlists the aid of a broken-down but resourceful U.S. marshal (Jeff Bridges) and a cocksure Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) in her relentless quest to bring her recently murdered father’s killer (Josh Brolin) to account.
Amid its archetypical characters, mythic atmosphere and amusingly idiosyncratic dialogue, writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s captivating drama uses its heroine’s sensitive perspective — as well as a fair number of biblical and religious references — to reflect seriously on the violent undertow of frontier life while the rival lawmen strive to overcome their personal shortcomings and petty antipathy in the service of a larger cause.
Considerable, occasionally bloody violence, brief gruesome imagery, a half-dozen uses of profanity, a few crass terms.

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“Little Fockers” (Universal)

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.

Dull, tasteless comedy — the second spawn of 2000’s amusing “Meet the Parents” — dominated by relatively raunchy and poorly staged gags centering on Gaylord and Pam Focker (Ben Stiller and Teri Polo), their 5-year-old twins (Colin Baiocchi and Daisy Tahan) and Pam’s meddlesome father (Robert De Niro).
Director Paul Weitz strings together a lowest-common-denominator collection of infantile set pieces. Frequent sexual banter, including references to sex toys, condoms and masturbation; some sexual situations and profanity; much crude and crass language; toilet humor; and a bruising fistfight.

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“Tron: Legacy” (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 briskly entertaining, unpretentious and prescient 1982 cult classic has been loudly updated and turned into a bloated, stultifying 3-D bore by director Joseph Kosinski, with the proceedings barely propped up by some still-enjoyable gadgetry. As the son (Garrett Hedlund) of a computer programming genius (Jeff Bridges, reprising his role in the original), searches for his mysteriously vanished father, the trail leads into the electronic alternate universe Dad created in the first outing.
Scenes of intense action and some images of severed limbs.

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“How Do You Know” (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.

Cheerless romantic comedy in which a champion softball player (Reese Witherspoon), who has recently been cut from her team, worries about her future. She is also trying to decide whether she loves the good-natured but philandering major league baseball player (Owen Wilson), with whom she has been living, or a neurotic businessman (Paul Rudd) whose indictment for stock fraud threatens to land him in jail and ruin the company founded by his hard-driving dad (Jack Nicholson).
With its oddly unsympathetic characters endlessly analyzing their every emotion and reaction, the few laughs and insights provided by writer-director James L. Brooks’ script hardly seem worthwhile, all the more so given that subjects like womanizing and single motherhood are played for laughs.
Brief nongraphic sexual activity, a nonmarital situation, promiscuity theme, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, a birth-control reference, at least one use of profanity, a couple of rough and a few crude words.

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“Yogi Bear” (Warner Bros.)

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

Television’s “smarter than the average bear,” Yogi (voice of Dan Aykroyd) is back in a 3-D big-screen adventure mixing computer-generated animation and live action. Yogi’s still obsessively stealing food from campers in Jellystone Park, despite the warnings of his faithful sidekick, Boo Boo (voice of Justin Timberlake), and the resulting exasperation of a nerdy park ranger (Tom Cavanaugh).
Amid the slapstick antics, and the ranger’s budding romance with a visiting documentary filmmaker (Anna Faris), dark clouds are hovering, as the wicked mayor (Andy Daly) seeks to close the park, cut down the trees, and endanger the wildlife. So talking bears must unite with humans to save the day.
While the look of this strictly-for-the-kids film is impressive, its one-joke premise fast wears out its welcome. Some mild rude humor and harmless cartoon action.

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“The Tourist” (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.

A flirtatious encounter with an elegant, mysterious fellow passenger (Angelina Jolie) on a train to Venice leads a vacationing American math teacher (Johnny Depp) to be mistaken for a fugitive embezzler known to have altered his appearance via plastic surgery. It makes the visitor the target of both a high-level British police investigation (led by Paul Bettany and Timothy Dalton) and the quest for revenge of the brutal gangster (Steven Berkoff) the thief betrayed.
Director and co-writer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck constructs an enjoyably old-fashioned romantic thriller, with the leads showing amorous restraint and La Serenissima providing the colorful backdrop for a pleasant, though hardly memorable, diversion.
Brief graphic violence, an implied premarital situation, at least one use of the F-word, a few crude and crass terms, occasional sexual references.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (Fox)

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

Swashbuckling sequel, combining live action and animation, in which a brother and sister (Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley) from World War II-era Britain are once again transported to the titular world, this time accompanied by their obnoxious, cynical cousin (Will Poulter).
Reunited with their friend the king of Narnia (Ben Barnes), the siblings — and, more reluctantly, their traveling companion — join his quest to vanquish a menacing manifestation of evil by bringing together at the table of the noble lion Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson) seven magical swords empowered to protect the land from harm.
As directed by Michael Apted, this screen version of the third in C.S. Lewis’ classic series of Christian-themed allegorical novels keeps faith front and center as the good kids battle temptations ranging from envy to cowardice, while their initially nasty relative — helped along by the wisdom of a plucky warrior mouse (voice of Simon Pegg) — moves toward conversion.
An enjoyable, mostly kid-friendly voyage, though somewhat less impressive dramatically than thematically. Considerable peril and bloodless violence, a couple of mild bathroom jokes.

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“The Fighter” (Paramount)

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.

Director David O. Russell’s gritty, fact-based drama follows two half-brothers from Lowell, Mass., who long for success — and redemption — via the boxing ring. One (Christian Bale, who effectively steals the movie) is a washed-up fighter on a self-destructive binge of drugs and loose women. At the urging of their obsessive mother and manager (Melissa Leo), he trains his reluctant younger sibling (Mark Wahlberg) in the sweet science. But, recognizing that the lad is being exploited, a barmaid with a heart of gold (Amy Adams) persuades him to chart his own destiny. Ultimately, “Rocky”-like fame and fortune are within reach, but not without forgiveness and the love and support of the duo’s raucously dysfunctional family. Excessive boxing and other violence, including familial strife, nongraphic premarital sexual activity, explicit drug use, a handful of profanities, frequent rough and crude language.

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“Burlesque” (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.

Initially pleasant but ultimately sordid musical tracing the rise of an Iowa farm girl (Christina Aguilera) as she moves to Los Angeles and becomes first a waitress and then — thanks to her knock-’em-dead voice — a star performer at a burlesque club. She’s cheered on by a friendly co-worker (Cam Gigandet) — with whom romantic sparks are bound to fly, his faraway fiancee notwithstanding. Eventually, she’s taken under the wing of the establishment’s financially beleaguered owner (Cher).
Writer-director Steven Antin’s small-town-gal-makes-good showbiz celebration starts out feeling as though Andy Hardy and his friends had wandered onto the set of “Cabaret.” But a few of the showcased acts cross the line from saucy to salacious, the outcome of the love interest winds up glamorizing an unwedded encounter and an incidental gay relationship is treated as just another amorous alternative.
Benign view of premarital sex and homosexuality, possible acceptance of abortion, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, fleeting rear nudity, often suggestive and briefly obscene dancing, several uses of profanity and one rough and some crude and crass terms.

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“Love & Other Drugs” (Fox)

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.

Misguided romance — based on Jamie Reidy’s 2005 memoir “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” — in which a womanizing pharmaceuticals seller (Jake Gyllenhaal) and an artist (Anne Hathaway) afflicted with Parkinson’s disease hook up for commitment-free sex, but gradually find their alley-cat relationship deepening into love.
With a satire of the drug industry in the background and an excess of bare flesh to the fore, director and co-writer Edward Zwick’s potentially touching story about the ennobling effects of heartfelt ardor is drowned out by discussions — and displays — of irresponsible sensuality, some of it aberrant. Strong sexual content, including brief graphic nonmarital activity; offscreen group sex and masturbation; fleeting pornographic images; upper female, rear and partial nudity; much sexual humor; about 15 uses of profanity; and pervasive rough and crude language.

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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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