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) 2011 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son” (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.

Warm but somewhat bland third installment in the “Big Momma” franchise, with Martin Lawrence again in the title role. Director John Whitesell and screenwriter Matthew Fogel put Momma through her paces as a housemother at an Atlanta girls school while Lawrence’s real persona, an FBI agent — with the help of Brandon T. Jackson as his son — searches for a flash drive that will convict a group of mobsters.
Some gun violence, fleeting crude and crass language and a partial rear view of a body suit.

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“Hall Pass” (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.

Directors and co-writers Peter and Bobby Farrelly take a low-road journey through contemporary marital mores as two sex-obsessed suburban husbands (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) are given permission by their exasperated mates (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) to ignore their wedding vows for a week. Though the primary joke in the brothers’ script (penned in collaboration with Pete Jones and Kevin Barnett) concerns how little productive use the would-be studs make of their supposed freedom — an arrangement referred to by the slang phrase of the title — at least two instances of flat-out infidelity are treated as minor, if regrettable, indiscretions.
A juvenile view of human sexuality also prevails throughout. The relentlessly vulgar bedroom banter is interspersed, on occasion, by repellant sight gags. Strong sexual content including adultery, a homosexual rape, masturbation, full nudity and pervasive coarse dialogue, drug use, graphic scatological humor, much rough and crude language.

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“I Am Number Four” (DreamWorks)

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.

Occasionally moving teen drama about a human-looking alien (Alex Pettyfer) who has come to Earth to prevent its colonization by the race of evil creatures (led by Kevin Durand) who took over his home planet, slaughtering the native population in the process. Perpetually on the run, he’s protected by a guardian (Timothy Olyphant) from his own world, but his love for a fellow high school student (Dianna Agron) in his latest hometown proves a potentially dangerous distraction.
With its main character’s sense of isolation and desire to rebel against his seemingly overzealous caretaker paralleling more mundane adolescent angst, director D.J. Caruso’s adaptation of a novel by Pittacus Lore may appeal to targeted younger viewers. But, while the innocent central relationship is perfectly acceptable for them, the same cannot be said of the hyper-violent, though generally bloodless, climax toward which the proceedings build.
Much intense but largely gore-free combat, a few uses of profanity, a bit of vaguely scatological humor, at least a dozen instances of crude language, about half that many crass terms.

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“Of Gods and Men” (Sony Classics)

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.

Brilliant dramatization of real events, recounting the fate of a small community of French Trappists (led by Lambert Wilson and including Michael Lonsdale) living in Algeria during that nation’s civil war in the 1990s. Targeted by violent Muslim extremists, the monks must decide whether to continue their medical and social work for the local population or abandon them by fleeing to safety.
Using the tools of the monastic life itself, director Xavier Beauvois finds a path to the heart of the Gospel through simplicity, a compassionate sense of brotherhood and an atmosphere of prayer enriched by sacred music and potent silence. The result, a profound mediation on the cost of discipleship, is a viewing experience from which every adult as well as many mature teens can expect to profit.
In French. Subtitles. Brief gory violence, some unsettling images and a single instance each of rough and crass language.

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“Gnomeo & Juliet” (Touchstone)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G — general audiences, all ages admitted.

William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy about star-crossed lovers morphs into a clever animated comedy as rival families of garden gnomes face off in a battle for backyard supremacy.
It’s love at first ceramic clink for Juliet Capulet (voice of Emily Blunt) and Gnomeo Montague (voice of James McAvoy), but differences in clan allegiance threaten to drive them apart. Until, that is, a wise pink flamingo (voice of Jim Cummings) assures them that love conquers all including, in this case, the Bard’s original ending.
Director Kelly Asbury’s slightly warped but ultimately winning film offers good, clean, wholesome fun for the entire family.

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“Just Go With It” (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.

Very loose — and sloppy — remake of the classic 1969 farce “Cactus Flower” weighed down by stale writing and a seemingly endless parade of potty jokes.
Adam Sandler plays a philandering plastic surgeon who escapes commitment by telling his many girlfriends he’s trapped in a bad marriage. So, once he decides to settle down with a schoolteacher (Brooklyn Decker), he needs to produce a “wife” he can divorce, the start of an increasingly complicated effort at deception in which he eventually enlists not only his sensible office assistant (Jennifer Aniston) but her two precocious kids (Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck) as well.
Director Dennis Dugan and screenwriters Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling dumb down what was originally a sweet adult romance involving an escalating series of funny complications and a modest message about being true to one’s self. The resulting comedy is not only frequently distasteful, but comatose almost from the start. An implied premarital situation, considerable scatological humor, sexual banter, fleeting crude language.

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“The Eagle” (Focus)

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.

Vigorous screen version of Rosemary Sutcliff’s popular 1954 novel “The Eagle of the Ninth” in which a young Roman soldier (Channing Tatum) in second-century Britain goes in quest of the titular military symbol lost 20 years earlier when the legion his father commanded disappeared, under unexplained circumstances, in the wilds of Scotland.
Though discouraged from venturing beyond Hadrian’s Wall — the northern limit of the Empire — by his cautious uncle (Donald Sutherland), the youth is guided on his daring foray by a native slave (Jamie Bell) whose mix of resentment toward Rome and personal loyalty toward his master makes for a fraught friendship.
Director Kevin Macdonald keeps the pace lively and the battles mostly gore-free while themes of intercultural respect and conflict-transcending human solidarity help leaven the macho atmosphere. Probably acceptable for older adolescents. Considerable but largely bloodless combat violence, brief distant images of unclothed corpses, a single use of the S-word, a couple of crass terms. 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.

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“The Roommate” (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 PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Bottom-of-the-class campus horror flick about an Iowa-bred University of Los Angeles freshman (Minka Kelly) whose obsessive roommate (Leighton Meester) secretly makes life difficult — and ultimately dangerous — for anyone who seems likely to come between them. Those discovering to their cost that three’s a crowd include a couple of the wide-eyed Hawkeye’s friends (Danneel Harris and Aly Michalka), her frat-boy love interest (Cam Gigandet), a predatory professor (Billy Zane) and — perhaps most tragically — a kitten named Cuddles.
As directed by Christian E. Christiansen, the proceedings drag along sluggishly until an overheated climax and, though the level of onscreen violence is low, so too is the bedroom behavior of some of the characters. Bloodless but occasionally deadly mayhem, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity, cohabitation, same-sex kissing, brief partial nudity, at least one use of profanity, about a dozen crude terms and a bit of crass language.

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“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight)

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.

This fact-based survival yarn about a self-centered, negligent mountain climber (James Franco) who becomes trapped in an isolated Utah canyon, with an 800-pound boulder crushing his right arm, is as straight up about moral consequences as any Sunday school lesson. Intelligently made and exciting, if also, at times, difficult to watch, director Danny Boyle’s drama — adapted from Aron Ralston’s 2004 memoir “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” — is unflinching in its portrayal of the devastating, yet personally transformative results of its central character’s irresponsible behavior. Possibly acceptable for mature adolescents.
A harrowing scene of amputation, a nonmarital situation, fleeting rough and crude language.

“Sanctum” (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.

Shallow, morbid and profane action entry about a disastrous cave-diving expedition in the South Pacific led by a seasoned explorer (Richard Roxburgh) and including his teenage son (Rhys Wakefield) and the billionaire (Ioan Gruffudd) financing the operation. Director Alister Grierson not only fails to create any visual fireworks or project an uplifting spirit of adventure, as scripted by John Garvin and Andrew Wight, his project represents an unholy contribution to the cult — and culture — of death.
Implicit endorsement of euthanasia; skewed values; some gore; brief irreverence; fleeting rear male nudity; a cascade of rough, crude and crass language; occasional sexual banter and toilet humor; and an obscene gesture.

“The Mechanic” (CBS)

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 violence-fueled remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson thriller focuses on the relationship between a crack assassin-for-hire (Jason Statham) and the ne’er-do-well son (Ben Foster) of his murdered mentor (Donald Sutherland), whom he takes on as an apprentice. But the methodical killer’s new protege proves to be a careless, vengeance-hungry loose cannon. Though director Simon West pulls off some clever plot turns, they too often result in blood-spattered scenes of mayhem. Meanwhile, the central characters’ pursuit of base physical satisfaction leads them — and the audience — into a sleazy underworld of brothels.
Excessive gory violence, some of it sadistic; strong sexual content, including graphic scenes of prostitution, lesbian-themed pornography and nongraphic male homosexual activity; upper female and brief rear nudity; a half-dozen uses of profanity; and much rough and crude language.

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“The Rite” (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.

Religiously honorable, but aesthetically tentative drama, based on real events, about a skeptical seminarian (Colin O’Donoghue) who has pursued priestly studies mainly to get a free education and avoid following in the footsteps of his undertaker father (Rutger Hauer). To forestall his dropping out, a superior (Toby Jones) dispatches him to Rome to complete a Vatican-sponsored course in exorcism. There, he shares his ongoing doubts with a reporter (Alice Braga) who has enrolled in the class for research purposes. But inexplicable experiences during his apprenticeship with a veteran demon fighter (Anthony Hopkins) challenge the young cleric’s secular certainties.
Though shaky on a few details, director Mikael Hafstrom’s conversion tale resoundingly affirms faith and the value of priestly ministry. Yet the effort to showcase the main character’s spiritual journey as an old-fashioned chillfest weakens its ultimate impact.
Possibly acceptable for mature teens. Incest and suicide themes, some gruesome imagery, incidental irreverence, a couple of uses of profanity, a few rough and crude terms.

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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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