Recently released movies reviewed by Catholic News Service

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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No Strings Attached” (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.

Morally unmoored relationship comedy about a commitment-averse doctor (Natalie Portman) and a romantically disillusioned TV producer (Ashton Kutcher) who agree to an emotionless sexual arrangement, only to find their feelings for each other getting in the way after all. As charted by director Ivan Reitman, the predictable arc of their ascent from the freedom of the barnyard to something resembling responsible human interaction is punctuated by such crude humor as that entailed when his immature father (Kevin Kline) turns out to be shacking up with his son’s ditzy ex-girlfriend (Ophelia Lovibond).
Strong sexual content, including graphic nonmarital and homosexual activity, brief rear and partial nudity, drug use, pervasive bedroom humor, at least one instance of profanity, much rough and crude language.

“The Way Back” (Newmarket)

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.

Inspirational, partly fact-based portrayal of a 4,000-mile trek by escaped prisoners from a Russian gulag to political asylum in India. Director and co-writer Peter Weir’s superbly made drama sees an ensemble of skilled actors (Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Saiorse Ronan) displaying deeply felt emotions along with stunning courage, although “The Long Walk” — the 1956 book on which the script is based — has been shown to fall short of the truth. Probably acceptable for older teens. Fleeting rough language.

“Country Strong” (Screen Gems)

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 music-filled drama about a troubled country singer (Gwyneth Paltrow) wears its mawkish cliches proudly on its flannel sleeves. Writer-director Shana Feste creates four one-dimensional characters. Besides the alcohol- and drug-addicted troubadour, there’s her manipulative promoter-husband (Tim McGraw), her on-again-off-again lover (Garrett Hedlund) and a young, neurotic beauty queen-turned-crooner (Leighton Meester). The quartet is then sent spinning like pinballs in a twangy, shopworn tale of substance abuse, adultery and the grim lifestyle played out on a tour bus.
Scenes of implied adulterous and premarital sex, pervasive crude language and fleeting profanity.

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“The Dilemma” (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.

Unappealing mix of comedy and drama as a Chicago businessman (Vince Vaughn) and reformed gambler discovers that his best friend and partner’s (Kevin James) wife (Winona Ryder) is cheating with a younger man (Channing Tatum). Unable to bring himself to share the news, he undertakes a series of credulity-straining antics designed either to gain proof of the affair or end it. But his strange behavior convinces his live-in girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) that he’s returned to betting.
Though fidelity, honesty and the value of marriage are affirmed in passing, and Vaughn’s character even pauses to pray for guidance, the plot of director Ron Howard’s mood-shifting mess primarily serves as an excuse for stringing together Vaughn’s trademark manic riffs. And like them or not, they fail to offset the showcasing of wayward, sometimes seamy bedroom behavior.
Brief graphic adulterous sexual activity with fleeting rear nudity, cohabitation, prostitution theme, much sexual humor, a half-dozen uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word, considerable crude and crass language, obscene gestures.

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“The Green Hornet” (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.

Rancid comedic remake of the masked crimefighter franchise that began as a Golden Age radio drama in the 1930s. Director Michel Gondry combines unlikable, potty-mouthed characters, occasional racist outbursts and a numbing procession of car crashes as he updates the familiar story of a respectable newspaper publisher by day (Seth Rogen) who becomes, by night, a disguised vigilante working outside the law.
Much gun and martial-arts violence, vigilantism theme, one scene of implied premarital sex, occasional profanity, pervasive crude and crass language.

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“The King’s Speech” (Weinstein)

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.

Stirring historical drama, set between the world wars, about the unlikely but fruitful relationship between the Duke of York (Colin Firth) — second in line to the British crown — and the eccentric speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) under whose care he reluctantly places himself at the instigation of his loyal wife (Helena Bonham Carter) to overcome the stammer that hobbles his public speaking. This task becomes all the more urgent as the death of the duke’s father (Michael Gambon) and the abdication of his brother (Guy Pearce) propel the unwilling heir toward the throne.
Weaving together the story of one of the modern era’s most successful royal marriages and the lesser-known tale of the friendship by which an unflappable commoner helped to heal the emotionally crippling childhood wounds underlying his princely client’s impediment, director Tom Hooper creates a luminous tapestry reinforced by finely spun performances and marred only by the loose threads of some offensive language.
Two brief but intense outbursts of vulgarity, a couple of uses of profanity, a few crass terms and a mildly irreverent joke.

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“Season of the Witch” (Relativity)

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.

Baleful and boring medieval adventure in which two warriors (Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman), disenchanted with the church-sponsored slaughter of the Crusades, go AWOL but find the plague ravaging the territories through which they pass on their way home. Identified as deserters, they face incarceration unless they agree to escort a young prisoner (Claire Foy) to a distant abbey so she can stand trial as a witch whose black magic has given rise to the fatal pest.
Conflating history and dredging up hoary cliches about the period, director Dominic Sena presents a relentlessly negative picture of its Catholicism as a superstitious, oppressive force against which his main characters nobly rebel. Pervasive anti-Catholic bias, occult themes, brief partial nudity, much — mostly bloodless — violence, some gruesome images, at least one use of the S-word and a few crass terms.

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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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