Current films reviewed by CNS on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Victoria Justice, Chelsea Handler and Thomas Mann star in a scene from the movie “Fun Size.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.

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 at www.catholicnews.com/movies.htm.

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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“Cloud Atlas” (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.

Sweeping screen version of David Mitchell’s 2004 novel — co-written and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer — that interweaves six connected stories set at different times between the 19th and 24th centuries. Tom Hanks leads an ensemble cast that also includes Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David and James D’Arcy — all skillfully juggling multiple roles.
The half-dozen tales which make up the plot send mostly positive — if sometimes ponderously expressed — messages about the bonds uniting all human beings and the courage required to do the right thing on behalf of others. But one of the central relationships is a sympathetically portrayed romance between two men. An incidental extramarital affair, moreover, is treated as essentially harmless. Another plotline involves the debunking of a fictional faith that may or may not be intended as an attack on real-life religion, and the script at least hints that some of the characters may be reincarnations of people in the earlier sections of the vast chronology.
Considerable gory violence, including torture and a suicide, a benign view of homosexual acts and adultery, graphic premarital and nongraphic adulterous sexual activity, upper female and rear nudity, a same-sex kiss, a few uses of profanity, at least 20 rough terms, occasional crude language.

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“Chasing Mavericks” (Fox)

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.

Compelling fact-based portrait of Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston), a gifted California surfer who, at the tender age of 15, took on the Mavericks, a famously formidable Golden State coastal spot where some of the largest waves in the world are found. Jay enlists his surfer-dude neighbor (Gerard Butler) as his trainer, while trying to help his alcoholic mother (Elisabeth Shue) rebuild her life, and working to win the heart of the prettiest girl (Leven Rambin) in his high school.
The film, co-directed by Curtis Hansen and Michael Apted, offers viewers — particularly teens — a refreshingly positive role model in the person of a young man who, despite a mountain of obstacles, inspires others with his inherent sense of goodness, perseverance, and self-discipline.
Intense sports scenes and some emotionally challenging moments.

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“Hellbound?” (Area23a)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Thought-provoking documentary showcasing a variety of viewpoints on the topic of hell. Filmmaker Kevin Miller interviews writers, theologians, ministers and even some heavy-metal rock musicians, asking questions about the existence of the inferno, its nature and its duration.
While the focus is mostly on the debate about this subject within the evangelical community, the Catholic standpoint is ably, albeit briefly, presented by Boston College professor — and celebrated apologist — Peter Kreeft. Both he and Orthodox Archbishop Lazar Puhalo of Ottawa, Ontario, come across as more reflective and humane in their outlook than some of the hard-line Protestant fundamentalists with whom Miller talks — and with whom he clearly disagrees.
Along with the obvious issue of its potentially upsetting theme, some less than kid-friendly images and words make this intelligent exploration of a weighty subject suitable for grown-ups only. A brief act of blasphemy, a few rough and crude terms.

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“Fun Size” (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.

In this Halloween-themed comedy, directed by Josh Schwartz, a high school senior (Victoria Justice) is forced by her widowed mom (Chelsea Handler) to take her mischievous little brother (Jackson Nicoll) trick-or-treating, despite her plans to attend a big costume party being given by the boy of her dreams (Thomas McDonell). When the siblings accidentally become separated, she turns to her best friend (Jane Levy) and two nerdy schoolmates (Thomas Mann and Osric Chau) to help find the missing tot. But their search soon descends into farce.
Some enjoyable humor — especially from Thomas Middleditch in the role of a slacker store clerk — and a pleasingly innocent central romance are drowned out by discordant notes that bar endorsement for the targeted age group. These include the revelation that one of the geeks has been raised by a lesbian couple as well as the pass given to an off-screen sexual encounter between two teens.
Frivolous treatment of homosexuality, adult cohabitation, implied nonmarital — and possibly underage — sexual activity, obscured rear and partial nudity, some sexual and scatological humor, at least one use of profanity, a few crude and crass terms.

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“Paranormal Activity 4” (Paramount)

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 extension of the durable horror franchise shifts the focus to a teen couple (Kathryn Newton and Matt Shively) whose lives are disrupted in increasingly eerie ways after her parents (Stephen Dunham and Alexondra Lee) take in her little brother’s (Aiden Lovekamp) weird playmate (Brady Allen) because his reclusive single mother (Katie Featherston) has been hospitalized.
The found footage conceit behind co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s flesh-crawler becomes strained at times, leaving moviegoers to wonder who would continue to carry a camera around with them while being terrorized by demons. But the comparatively restrained mayhem that has made this series more commendable than many of its genre competitors endures, though the young leads often express their shock or amazement via expletives and indulge in some sexual banter as well.
A few scenes of harsh but bloodless violence, some sexual and scatological humor, a few uses of profanity, about 20 rough and crude terms, references to occult hokum.

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Alex Cross” (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.

The titular hero (Tyler Perry) of the best-selling crime novels by James Patterson anchors an action-packed thriller, directed by Rob Cohen. Together with his partners — a tough Irish cop (Edward Burns) and a rookie (Rachel Nichols) eager to stand toe to toe with the big guys — Tyler’s character, a detective and forensic psychologist, tracks a vicious serial killer (Matthew Fox) through the streets of Detroit.
The high-stakes game of cat and mouse becomes personal when tragedy strikes close to home, and the investigators’ search for justice is tinged by a desire for revenge. Fortunately, the strong violence is lightened by moments of humor, and the picture shows us the tender side to its protagonist, a devoted family man, as well as the role of faith in his life.
Intense violence, including torture, drug use, a brief nonmarital bedroom scene with partial nudity, a few instances each of profane and rough language.

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“Argo” (Warner Bros.)

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.

Engrossing thriller, based on real events, and set against the backdrop of the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-81. Tasked by his boss (Bryan Cranston) with rescuing the handful of U.S. embassy employees who managed to escape capture when that facility was overrun by armed militants, a CIA agent (Ben Affleck) hatches a seemingly far-fetched scheme: He’ll smuggle them out of Tehran — where they’ve been hiding in the Canadian embassy — disguised as a Canadian film crew scouting locations.
To do so convincingly, he enlists the aid of a Hollywood producer (Alan Arkin) and makeup artist (John Goodman), and together they drum up publicity for the imaginary film project of the title. Affleck, who also directed, masterfully alternates between life-or-death drama and high-stakes humor. Though both aspects of the story too frequently give rise to coarse dialogue, the canny patriotism and emotional impact of the picture — as scripted by Chris Terrio — make for a rousing experience.
Potentially disturbing scenes and images, an abortion reference, a half-dozen uses of profanity, many rough and crude terms.

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“Seven Psychopaths” (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.

The line between reality and cinema is blurred in this powerful but excessively violent drama. The complex plot centers on a borderline-alcoholic screenwriter (Colin Farrell) and two of his friends (Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell). The latter duo have a scam going that involves kidnapping dogs and getting cash rewards for returning them to their unsuspecting owners, who think the pets have just gone missing. Walken’s character uses the funds to finance his wife’s (Linda Bright Clay) breast cancer treatment.
But things go awry when they snatch a crazed gangster’s (Woody Harrelson) beloved pooch. They go on the lam, joined by the screen scribe who incorporates their experiences into a script he’s writing for a movie with the same title as this one.
Writer-director Martin McDonagh is firing on all aesthetic pistons, as too are his stars. But his serious meditation on the vicious cycle of wrongdoing and revenge — and the possibilities of living peacefully — is marred by off-the-charts bloodletting and scenes of sickening mayhem. Also lost in the queasy shuffle is his screenplay’s unusually forthright affirmation of an afterlife.
Pervasive gory violence, including torture and multiple suicides, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity, a prostitution theme, upper female nudity, several uses of profanity, relentless rough and crude language.

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Frankenweenie” (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.

After his beloved pet dog is killed in an accident, a socially isolated but scientifically gifted boy (voice of Charlie Tahan) uses stock monster-movie methods to bring the pooch back to life. His subsequent efforts to conceal his breakthrough from his parents (voices of Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short) and from his peers (voiced, among others, by Atticus Shaffer and James Hiroyuki Liao) go awry, however. And when his schoolmates try to emulate his feat, the results are temporarily disastrous.
Director Tim Burton’s skillful 3-D animated spoof of horror conventions might scare small fry, but will delight their older siblings and amuse parents as well.
Mild scatological humor and some science-fiction hokum.

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“Here Comes the Boom” (Columbia)

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 Frank Coraci extols the Christian virtue of self-sacrifice through the unlikely yet inspiring tale of an ordinary man who goes to extraordinary lengths to help others. When the penny-pinching principal (Greg Germann) of a failing public high school threatens to eliminate its popular music program — and axe the beloved teacher (Henry Winkler) who runs it — a faculty colleague (Kevin James) pledges to raise the funds needed to save the activity.
Having failed to do so by more conventional means, the onetime college wrestler becomes a mixed martial arts cage fighter. Despite being beaten to a pulp in each bout, he inspires his students and coworkers, especially the school nurse (Salma Hayek) who tenderly patches his wounds.
Realistic martial arts sequences, a brief scene of gross-out humor, one instance of crass language.

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“Pitch Perfect” (Universal)

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.

Campus musical in which a college student (Anna Kendrick) joins an all-female a cappella group that’s on track to compete in an annual competition. Along the way to the singing showdown, she clashes with the ensemble’s traditionally minded leader (Anna Camp) and finds romance with a fellow music lover (Skylar Astin), despite his membership in a rival all-male band of warblers.
Though director Jason Moore’s multi-melody romp maintains a generally pleasing tone, some salty language and a lax outlook on premarital sexuality bar recommendation for youngsters.
Implied nonmarital relationships, adult themes and references, including to aberrant sexuality, a few uses of profanity, occasional crude and crass language, an obscene gesture.

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“Sinister” (Summit)

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.

Ethan Hawke plays a famed true-crime writer who moves his wife (Juliet Rylance) and two kids (Michael Hall D’Addario and Clare Foley) from their Connecticut mansion to a rambling Pennsylvania ranch house thinking he can solve an old murder that took place on the property. Instead he finds himself trapped in the vortex of an ancient killing ritual.
Director Scott Derrickson blends the hoary haunted house motif with the found footage formula of more recent years to mostly tepid results. But at least he goes relatively light on the gore.
Brief but explicit scenes of violence, some of it directed against children, grisly images, fleeting profanity, occasional rough language.

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