Recent movies reviewed by CNS on basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Jason Burkey and Rachel Hendrix star in a scene from the pro-life themed movie “October Baby.”

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) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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“American Reunion” (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.

Gutter-crawling comedy sequel in which the “American Pie” franchise’s band of boors (including Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott) gather for their high school reunion and continue to obsess about sex. Like the base characters that inhabit it, co-writers and directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg’s endlessly crass flick gets old fast, but never matures. Strong sexual content, including graphic sexual activity, masturbation, full nudity and same-sex kissing; gross scatological humor; several uses of profanity; and pervasive rough and crude language.

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“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (CBS)

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 fish-out-of-water story about a billionaire Arab sheik (Amr Waked) with a seemingly impossible dream: to transport the titular activity — his favorite Scottish pastime — to the Arabian Desert, and thereby build a peace-making bridge between East and West. Helping him in this folly is a glamorous consultant (Emily Blunt) and a skeptical fisheries expert (Ewan McGregor).
Lives are transformed along with nature in director Lasse Hallstrom’s screen version of Paul Torday’s novel, a charming blend of comedy and drama that also promotes the value of religious faith. Brief war violence, partial nudity, implied pre-marital sex, occasional profanity and crude language.

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“Titanic” (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.

Lavish re-creation of the 1912 sea disaster begins with an exploration of the sunken luxury liner today then follows its fateful voyage keyed to the improbable shipboard romance between a first-class passenger (Kate Winslet) and one in steerage (Leonardo DiCaprio) until an iceberg sends the ship and more than 1,500 people to the bottom.
Writer-producer James Cameron reduces the human dimension of the tragedy to a paltry soap opera about two love-struck youths, though the special effects re-creating the human drama aboard the sinking vessel are truly spectacular. Agonizing death scenes on a massive scale, sexual situations, brief nudity and sporadic rough language and profanity.

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“We Have a Pope” (“Habemus Papam”) (Sundance Selects)

The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Gently satiric seriocomedy about a good-hearted but timid cardinal (Michel Piccoli) who reluctantly accepts his election as pope, but then, overcome by the prospective burden of the office, balks before giving his first public blessing. As the world waits, an eminent but nonbelieving psychiatrist (Nanni Moretti) tries to treat the new pontiff, only to have his patient escape the Vatican and seek some form of guidance by wandering the streets of Rome and mingling with the Eternal City’s ordinary citizens. Moretti, who also directed and co-wrote, avoids any mean-spirited attack on the church, though he does dabble in such silliness as cardinals competing against each other in a volleyball tournament. He garners some amusement from the contrast between the shrink’s secular assumptions and the faith-based attitudes prevailing at the Holy See as well from a range of human foibles. But by the time his protagonist goes on the lam, Moretti has clearly run out of inspiration. In Italian. Subtitles.
Much ecclesiastically themed humor that some may find distasteful, at least one use of the F-word, a fleeting reference to sexuality.

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“The Hunger Games” (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.

Dystopian adventure tracking two teens (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) as they participate in the titular event, a televised survival tournament in which youthful combatants from oppressed outlying districts are forced to battle one another until only one remains alive for the entertainment of their society’s decadent urban elite.
Director and co-writer Gary Ross’ screen version of the first volume in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy of novels is an effective combination of epic spectacle and emotional drama during which humane values are pitted against Darwinian moral chaos. But sensibilities are not spared in the portrayal of the grim contest, so parents need to weigh carefully whether to allow targeted teens to attend.
Possibly acceptable for mature adolescents. Considerable, sometimes gory, hand-to-hand and weapons violence and graphic images of bloody wounds.

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“Mirror Mirror” (Relativity)

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.

Director Tarsem Singh brings high camp style to his fresh live-action take on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” This go-round, the handsome prince (Armie Hammer) is the center of attention, pursued equally by the evil Queen (Julia Roberts) and her fairest-of-them-all stepdaughter (Lily Collins). When the Queen banishes her competition to the forest, Snow White decides to fight back. With the help of a ragtag band of diminutive warriors, she leads a crusade to gain her kingdom and claim her prince.
The end result is a bit leaden and somewhat charmless for a children’s fairy tale. But remarkable costumes and grand set pieces go a long way to compensate. Mild action violence, some rude humor, one semi-profane utterance.

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“Wrath of the Titans” (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.

Stilted, tedious mythology sequel in which the conflicted demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington) is forced to abandon his quiet life among mortals and intervene in a war that pits his father Zeus (Liam Neeson) against his uncle Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and his half-brother Ares (Edgar Ramirez).
Perseus’ allies in the struggle include an earthly warrior queen (Rosamund Pike), Poseidon’s shifty son Agenor (Toby Kebbell) and the exiled smithy to the gods, Hephaestus (Bill Nighy).
Boulders fly and monsters die in director Jonathan Liebesman’s 3-D follow-up to 2010’s “Clash of the Titans,” itself a remake of the 1981 cult hit of the same title. But the effects- and action-driven proceedings are all spectacle and no substance. The pagan theologizing to which some of the pompous dialogue is devoted, moreover, may confuse the impressionable. Possibly acceptable for older teens. Pagan religious themes; constant, occasionally bloody, action violence; at least one mildly sexual joke; and a single crass term.

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“October Baby” (Provident/Samuel Goldwyn)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

A college freshman (Rachel Hendrix) plagued by chronic medical problems learns from her devoted parents (Jennifer Price and John Schneider) that they adopted her as an infant after she had survived an attempted abortion. Devastated and bewildered by the revelation, she sets out in search of her birth mother (Shari Rigby), accompanied on her journey by her best friend since childhood (Jason Burkey).
In their feature debut, brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin helm a strongly pro-life message movie whose theme viewers dedicated to the dignity of all human beings will welcome unanimously. Opinions about the aesthetic package in which they wrap their point may be more divided. But adeptly shot bucolic settings and a strong performance by Jasmine Guy as a retired nurse who once worked in the abortion mill where the young heroine was almost killed are undeniable assets.
Mature subject matter, potentially disturbing references.

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“The Deep Blue Sea” (Music Box)

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.

Writer-director Terence Davies’ adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play charts the downward spiral of a lonely wife (Rachel Weisz) into adultery, divorce and suicide. Whenever caught between the devil and you-know-where, she consistently makes bad, selfish decisions. Her kind but distant husband (Simon Russell Beale) refuses to grant her a divorce, while her lover (Tom Hiddleston) — with whom she cohabits, masquerading as a happily married couple — is cruel and vindictive. Mature themes, including suicide and adultery, brief nudity, at least one use of profanity, a few crass references.

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“A Thousand Words” (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.

A fast-talking literary agent (Eddie Murphy) finds his marriage (to Kerry Washington) and his career (assisted by Clark Duke) stymied when he gets on the wrong side of a guru (Cliff Curtis) and is cursed. According to the terms of the jinx, each word he speaks causes a leaf to fall from a tree that has magically sprouted in his backyard. Once the branches are bare, he’ll die. Hilarity fails to ensue in director Brian Robbins’ barren comedy, and when screenwriter Steve Koren’s script turns serious, it mixes fruitful messages about marital fidelity and the importance of family life with shady New Age-style spirituality.
Mature content, including scenes of aberrant sensuality within marriage and incidental gay characters, a few uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word, considerable crude and crass language, an obscene gesture.

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“21 Jump Street” (Columbia)

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.

Two bungling police partners (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) find their friendship strained when they’re assigned to pose as high school students in an undercover operation designed to bust a drug ring. Co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s big-screen version of the once-popular television series — which first aired on Fox in 1987 — starts out as a good-hearted, albeit relentlessly foul-mouthed, buddy comedy. But, as the vulgarities continue to fly, the desire to be outrageous leads to scenes of gruesome violence and debased sexuality.
Intensely gory gun violence, strong sexual content, including graphically depicted aberrant and nonmarital activity as well as brief rear nudity, drug use, irreverent humor, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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John Carter” (Disney)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Ambitious and largely successful 3-D adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first novel propels a 19th-century American (Taylor Kitsch) to the planet Mars, where he becomes embroiled in a war between two city-states and falls in love with a princess (Lynn Collins). Despite an unwieldy and illogical mash-up of now-familiar sci-fi tropes, director Andrew Stanton nicely brings the narrative together in the end. Obstacles along the way include a rather bland star, a protracted running time, and less-than-scintillating dialogue. Yet the epic marries the appeal of a pulp serial with cutting-edge filmmaking techniques.
Likely best for older teens and up. Considerable, sometimes intense, action violence, scenes of cruelty, fleeting toilet humor, at least one use of profanity and several instances of crass language.

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“Silent House” (Open Road)

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.

Cinematic fixer-upper in which a young girl (Elizabeth Olsen) is chased around the conveniently dark — and apparently haunted — summer house that she’s helping her father (Adam Trese) and creepy uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) clean out in preparation for selling it. Part horror flick, part psychodrama, co-directors Christopher Kentis and Laura Lau’s low-budget remake of a similarly down-market Uruguayan film called “La Casa Muda” ends up being a satisfying representative of neither genre. A gritty subtext, moreover, renders it appropriate fare only for mature adults.
References to incestuous sexual abuse, some mildly gory images, implied physical violence and fleeting rough and profane language.

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“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” (Universal)

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.

Theodore Geisel’s beloved 1971 children’s book is brought to the big screen by director Chris Renaud in a 3-D animated adventure that expands the original story while retaining its central message about the responsible stewardship of natural resources.
Raised in a town where everything is artificial, a teen (voice of Zac Efron) sets out to win the girl of his dreams (voice of Taylor Swift) by fulfilling her wish to see a real, live tree. His quest leads him to the recluse (voice of Ed Helms) whose unbridled greed and ambition long ago caused the environmental disaster — an outcome predicted in the dire warnings of the title character (voice of Danny DeVito), the enlightened but curmudgeonly guardian of the forest.
First-rate animation and catchy songs forward the theme of respect for God’s creation and make this an enjoyable outing for the entire family. Some cartoonish action.

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“Gone” (Summit)

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.

Painfully inept thriller in which a Portland, Ore., waitress (Amanda Seyfried) goes in search of her missing sister (Emily Wickersham), fearing that the same serial killer who abducted her a year previously has returned to kidnap her sibling. Although its main character is forced to pursue justice outside the law — no evidence of the earlier crime could be discovered, so the police think she’s crazy — there’s nothing really wrong with director Heitor Dhalia’s flimsy flick. But there’s absolutely nothing right about it either. Vigilantism, brief, shadowy partial nudity, an incidental gay situation, a few uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word, some crude and crass language.

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“Project X” (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.

Desperate to become popular, and to have animalistic sex with random strangers, three Los Angeles teens (Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Daniel Brown) throw a decadent party that eventually morphs into a destructive riot. More troubling than mere trash, and pornographic in a way that goes well beyond its frequent displays of flesh, Nima Nourizadeh’s would-be comedy — a portrait of soulless, over-privileged zombies wandering a world of sterile secularism, enslaved by their basest passions — is, in reality, grotesquely tragic.
Perverted values; strong sexual content, including voyeurism, underage casual sex and same-sex kissing as well as upper female and rear nudity; drug use; a few instances of profanity; pervasive rough and crude language.

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“Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds” (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.

Less heavy-handed than the eponymous writer and director’s other morality plays but considerably slower in pace, this romance — of sorts — focuses on a single relationship, and carries a steady reminder that the wealthy and powerful have to work much harder than the less privileged to approach the kingdom of Heaven. Perry plays a computer software tycoon whose well-ordered life is upended by a widowed office-cleaner (Thandie Newton) and her 6-year-old daughter (Jordenn Thompson). An implied premarital relationship, fleeting crass language and sexual banter.

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“Act of Valor” (Relativity)

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.

Earnest but graphically violent dramatization of the work of the Navy’s SEALs unit. Co-directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh employ real-life, necessarily anonymous members of that elite corps to enact a fictional story in which the rescue of a kidnapped CIA operative (Roselyn Sanchez) reveals a terrorist plot to smuggle advanced explosives across the Mexican border. Suspenseful action sequences are interspersed with a narrative ramming home macho values and lead up, all too frequently, to unsparingly portrayed bloodletting. Pervasive, often gory violence, including torture, a couple of uses of profanity, about a dozen instances each of rough and crude language.

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“Coriolanus” (Weinstein)

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.

William Shakespeare’s tragedy is brought to the big screen by Ralph Fiennes, who stars as the title character and makes his directorial debut. The setting has been updated to an imaginary version of present-day Rome, where Coriolanus, a general, faces the resentment of a growing mob hungry for food and weary of war. Fortunately for him, there’s an enemy at the gates to distract the masses. The warlord repulses their attack and defeats their leader (Gerard Butler). As the people hail his triumph, the victorious commander’s mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and a politician (Brian Cox), scheme to make him leader of the government. Which side wins in the bloody and morally ambiguous mayhem that follows, good or evil? That’s a conundrum scholars have been trying to unravel for 500 years. One thing at least is certain: This is not a film for the faint of heart. Intense and pervasive violence, including shootings, stabbings, explosions and torture.

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“Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance” (Columbia)

The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.

Nicolas Cage returns as the monosyllabic Johnny Blaze in the sequel to the 2007 comic book-based cult hit “Ghost Rider.” Co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor set the story eight years after the first installment, with a French monk (Idris Elba) promising to lift Johnny’s demonic curse — whereby he’s periodically transformed into a skeleton that spits fire — if he’ll rescue a boy (Fergus Riordan) from Satan’s clutches. Constant hand-to-hand and gun violence, fleeting crass and profane language.

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“Wanderlust” (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.

A young New York couple (Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd) find themselves living in a rural commune where free love, drugs and an absence of boundaries are the order of the day. While the conclusion of director and co-writer David Wain’s insubstantial and distasteful comedy affirms the beauty of monogamy, viewers must endure a gauntlet of gross-out humor and relentless lashings of tawdry language before reaching this relatively pleasing wrap-up. Strong sexual content, including full nudity and explicit vulgar dialogue, adultery theme, drug use, occasional profanity, frequent rough and some crude language, an obscene gesture.

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“The Secret World of Arrietty” (Disney)

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

Poignant animated fable, based on Mary Norton’s 1952 novel “The Borrowers,” in which a sickly 14-year-old boy (voice of David Henrie) accidentally discovers a family of miniature people living unobserved in the secluded country house to which he has been sent to prepare for a risky operation. Despite his best intentions, his insistence on befriending the daughter (voice of Bridgit Mendler) of the diminutive clan — and trying to help her parents (voices of Amy Poehler and Will Arnett) — imperils the little trio’s previously happy life together.
Beautifully crafted visuals and a tone of gentle melancholy characterize this English-language version of a 2010 Japanese film, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, which also features voice work by Carol Burnett as the manse’s meddlesome housekeeper. The materialism of the protagonist’s unseen parents is contrasted with the deep bonds and traditional values that unite his newfound pal and her devoted folks. Brief mild peril.

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“This Means War” (Fox)

The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Director McG’s ill-conceived blend of action flick and romantic comedy tracks the rivalry between two CIA agents and best friends (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) after both fall for a perky consumer goods tester (Reese Witherspoon). While they bring the resources of the spy world to bear in a frantic effort to thwart each other, she turns for advice to her closest pal (Chelsea Handler) whose pointers, meant to be comic, are more often low-minded.
The occasional one-liner aside, the humor rarely works, while the path to a generally moral — though not unmixed — wrap-up is strewn with explosions, gunplay and hand-to-hand combat. Considerable action violence, skewed sexual values, brief semigraphic premarital sexual activity, a few instances of profanity, some adult humor and references, at least one use of the F-word and about a dozen crude or crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.

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“Chronicle” (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.

Reasonably original, curiously dark exploration of the troubling results that ensue when mere mortals obtain godlike powers. After stumbling on a mysterious object, a trio of Seattle teens (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan) find themselves endowed with telekinesis and the ability to fly. Though initially they do no more with their newfound gifts than goof around and play pranks, darker emotions and more serious consequences soon come to the fore, especially for DeHaan’s character, who’s struggling to cope with an alcoholic father (Michael Kelly) and a dying mother (Bo Petersen).
Director Josh Trank conveys all this in the pseudo-found footage style of “The Blair Witch Project.” Though it feels more than a little overused, that conceit nonetheless contributes to an atmosphere of realism and lends urgency to the moral debates in which the principals engage — discussions which, for viewers of faith, will likely represent the film’s main appeal.
Limited action violence, scenes of physical abuse, an implied premarital encounter, a scattering of profanity, at least one rough term, pervasive crude language and an obscene gesture.

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