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 the CNS movie site here.

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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“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (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.

The mechanical mayhem continues in director Michael Bay’s 3-D third installment of a franchise based on a line of Hasbro toys. Now an underemployed college graduate, the same ordinary human (Shia LaBeouf) who saved the world on two previous occasions struggles once again to secure victory for a race of good shape-shifting alien robots in their renewed battle with an evil army of their own kind.
While the outcome of this boisterous interplanetary conflict is easily guessed long before the two-and-a-half-hour running time has elapsed, more suspense hangs on the question of whether our hero will ever put an engagement ring on the finger of his live-in British girlfriend (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley).
Though pitched at youthful viewers, elements like the central pair’s all-too modern romance and some gritty vocabulary make this exclusively suitable — if not especially satisfying — for those who are, chronologically at least, well past adolescence. Pervasive stylized violence, cohabitation, brief partial nudity, some sexual banter, a couple of uses of profanity, about a dozen instances each of crude and crass language.

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“Bad Teacher” (Columbia)

Coarse comedy celebrates a morally impaired middle-school teacher (Cameron Diaz) bent on landing a rich husband. Foul-mouthed, slatternly, racist, and conniving, she sets her sights on a new substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) while feuding with one full-time colleague (Lucy Punch) and rejecting the attentions of another (Jason Segel).
Working from a script by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, director Jake Kasdan has fashioned a monotone picture in which every stab at humor derives from humiliation. All in all, the tawdry exhibition fails to shock, subvert, or entertain.
Several scenes depicting nonmarital sexual activity, much drug use and alcohol consumption, at least one instance of upper female nudity, frequent explicit sexual humor, some uses of profanity, pervasive rough, crude, and crass language, some scatological humor.

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“Cars 2” (Disney/Pixar)

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

In director John Lasseter’s winsome — and equally family-friendly — sequel to 2006’s “Cars,” some of the anthropomorphic vehicles of the first feature depart Route 66 for an around-the-world adventure as a veteran racecar (voice of Owen Wilson) accepts a challenge to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix across three countries.
With his best friend, a hapless tow truck (voice of Larry the Cable Guy), in tow, he takes on his main rival, a cocky Italian Formula One speedster (voice of John Tuturro). A case of mistaken identity, meanwhile, sees the amigos mixed up in James-Bond-style intrigue involving an Aston Martin (voice of Michael Caine) who is the superspy of British Intelligence.
Amid the sight gags and belly laughs are good lessons about family, friendship, self-esteem, environmental stewardship and acceptance of others. Some of the action, however — mainly the spy scenes showcasing explosions, gunfights, and car “torture” — may be too intense for the littlest viewers.

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“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” (Fox)

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.

The arrival on his doorstep of a half-dozen live penguins — a bequest from his father, a world traveler and arctic explorer — turns the life of a work-obsessed Manhattan real estate developer (Jim Carrey) upside down. Though their antics threaten to derail a deal (with Angela Lansbury) vital to his career, his growing bond with the unruly creatures also change his outlook, inspiring him to repair frayed ties to his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) and two young kids (Madeline Carroll and Maxwell Perry Cotton).
Director Mark Waters’ routine comedy — loosely adapted from Richard and Florence Atwater’s award-winning children’s classic — is gooey with guano, but otherwise unproblematic while its hopeful theme of marital reconciliation is gratifying. A mostly pleasant distraction for undemanding tots.
Several scatological sight gags, a single adult reference, at least one mild oath.

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“Green Lantern” (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.

Mediocre comic book adaptation, directed by Martin Campbell, in which a devil-may-care test pilot (Ryan Reynolds) is endowed with superhuman powers and joins the ranks of an elite force of intergalactic warriors. Opposing the flyboy is a biology professor (Peter Sarsgaard) whose accidental infection with super-villain negative energy offers him the chance to act on his long-standing jealousy over our hero’s on-again, off-again relationship with an aeronautics executive (Blake Lively) both have known since childhood.
The effects-driven proceedings see the main character struggling to become more responsible — in the bedroom as well as on the cosmic beat. But the underlying mythos, which pits will against fear and posits that the former, properly channeled, can turn thoughts into reality, including newly created physical objects, seems tainted with a range of crackpot ideologies to which responsible parents will not want their targeted teens exposed.
Themes requiring mature discernment, much bloodless violence, implied casual sex, a few uses of profanity, some crude language and sexual references.

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“The Lion of Judah” (AMG)

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.

This 3-D animated musical re-imagines the events of the first Holy Week through the adventures of a bunch of wisecracking animals. At the center of the tale is a spunky lamb (voice of Georgina Cordova) chosen as the Passover sacrifice because he is pure and unblemished. On the way to Jerusalem, he busts out of his cage and meets a sitcom-worthy group of stable dwellers, led by a wise rat (voice of Ernest Borgnine) and a sassy rooster (voice of Alphonso McAuley). When the sheep is recaptured, and the rooster stows away in his cage, the remainder of the menagerie band together to set their friends free.
Although its retelling of Christ’s Passion, death and resurrection is oversimplified and often takes a back seat to some pretty lame jokes, directors Deryck Broom and Roger Hawkins’ family film does provide a worthy introduction for very young children to the story of salvation and the basic tenets of Christianity.

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“Super 8” (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.

Writer-director J.J. Abrams ably blends nostalgia, drama and sci-fi thrills as he travels back to 1979 Ohio where a half-dozen youthful film enthusiasts (most prominently Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths) use the local railroad station as a set for the endearingly amateur zombie flick they hope to enter in a local festival. But things take an unexpected turn when they witness — and their camera captures — a mysterious train accident. Though the military arrives in force, trying to conceal the truth about the incident, the wreck sets in motion a series of odd and ominous events that one of the moviemaker’s dads, the town’s deputy sheriff (Kyle Chandler), is determined to investigate.
Gently handled themes of loss, first love and family reconciliation add depth to this wry horror homage. But, while the romantic elements are kept enjoyably innocent, the onscreen teens’ vocabulary makes this unsuitable viewing for their real-world contemporaries. Much action violence with some gore, drug use and references, several instances of profanity, at least one rough and many crude terms.

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“Midnight in Paris” (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.

Writer-director Woody Allen’s valentine to the City of Lights — an extended travelogue filled with sumptuous scenery and pretty people — asks the question: Would you be happier living a different life in a long-ago, mythically remembered past? A frustrated Hollywood screenwriter and would-be novelist (Owen Wilson) gets to find out during a visit to the French capital, escaping his indifferent fiancee (Rachel McAdams) and her obnoxious parents (Mimi Kennedy and Kurt Fuller), with whom he’s unhappily traveling, and gaining mysterious entree to a fantasy world of 1920s Paris.
There he mixes with his literary idols, including Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), while falling for Pablo Picasso’s mistress (Marion Cotillard). Eventually the past offers a new perspective on the present, and he seeks a way back to the future, on his own terms.
At least three uses of profanity, some sexual and drug-use references, frequent alcohol consumption.

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“X-Men: First Class” (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.

In this Camelot-era prequel to the “X-Men” franchise of comic-book adaptations, young mutants with assorted superpowers — most prominently Charles, aka Professor X (James McAvoy), and Erik, alias Magneto (Michael Fassbender) — team up to avert nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Director and co-writer Matthew Vaughn keeps the pace brisk. But some provocative costuming, along with the titular warriors’ unfortunate propensity for coarse talk, makes this an inappropriate offering for youngsters.
Considerable, though nongraphic, gun violence, a couple of uses of profanity, a few instances of rough language, fleeting sexual references, some mild sexual banter.

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