Recently released movies reviewed on basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Rosemarie DeWitt and Matt Damon star in a scene from the movie “Promised Land.” 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) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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“Gangster Squad” (Warner Bros.)

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.

Stylish but excessively violent cops-and-robbers tale set in 1940s Los Angeles and based on real events. To thwart an increasingly powerful mobster (Sean Penn) intent on making the City of Angels his own, the metropolis’ police chief (Nick Nolte) commissions an idealistic officer (Josh Brolin) to form the team of the title — made up, most prominently, of Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie and Giovanni Ribisi — which will operate outside the law to break the thug’s power.
The main characters in director Ruben Fleischer’s drama — which also stars Emma Stone as the hood’s goodhearted moll — occasionally express second thoughts about their methods. But screenwriter Will Beall’s script, adapted from Paul Lieberman’s eponymous book, presents their illegal actions as the only practical solution open to them.
Moviegoers will require maturity and prudence to work through the tangled ethics of the situation — and a strong stomach to endure the wild gunplay and interludes of brutality. Vigilantism theme, scenes of gruesome, bloody violence, a premarital situation, brief partial nudity, numerous uses of profanity, much rough and crude language.

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“Promised Land” (Focus)

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.

Reasonably entertaining message movie about the environmental dangers of drilling for natural gas using a method called hydraulic fracturing — fracking for short.
Matt Damon and Frances McDormand play a duo of energy company executives out to convince down-on-their-luck farmers in a rural Midwestern town to sell their land to the corporation, glibly promising them instant wealth. When they encounter opposition from a retired science professor (Hal Holbrook) and from a personable environmentalist (John Krasinski), who launches a fervent campaign to thwart them, Damon’s character begins to have second thoughts. His change of heart is also driven by his attraction to a local teacher (Rosemarie DeWitt) whose regard he comes to value.
A gifted cast and smooth direction by Gus Van Sant help to disguise the simplistic perspective and unmistakable anti-business bias underlying Damon and Krasinski’s script. And moviegoers committed to scriptural values will, of course, appreciate the prioritizing of stewardship over greed. But the proper balance between the two may appear quite different when viewed from a failing Iowa homestead rather than a Malibu beach house.
About a dozen uses of profanity, much rough and crude language.

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“Texas Chainsaw 3D” (Lionsgate)

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.

Desultory sequel to the low-budget 1974 gorefest, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” In updating Tobe Hooper’s original, director John Luessenhop provides little to no shock value, but a high body count and splatter factor.
Dan Yeager plays Jed Sawyer, aka Leatherface, a chainsaw-wielding loony who’s out to avenge his family’s long-ago liquidation at the hands of a mob (led by Paul Rae) and to protect his cousin (Alexandra Daddario), the only other survivor of the slaughter.
A vengeance theme, extensive gruesome violence, including killings by chainsaw and axe, drug use, pervasive profane, rough and crude language, sexual banter.

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“Zero Dark Thirty” (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 R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Challenging account, based on real events, of the decade-long hunt for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. The action centers on a relentlessly determined CIA officer (Jessica Chastain) who uses intelligence hints, some obtained by a colleague (Jason Clarke) using torture, to track America’s public enemy number one to his fortified compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. There, as enacted in the film’s climax, Navy SEALs killed him in May 2011.
While director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have crafted a compelling drama, their movie’s moral stance is ambiguous. The harsh reality of so-called “enhanced interrogation” is graphically portrayed, yet the results of subjecting prisoners to it are shown to be effective. Viewers will need a strong grounding in their faith to discern the proper balance between the imperative of upholding human dignity and the equally grave obligation to save innocent human lives. They will also need to guard against the temptation to revel in the death of an evildoer.
Considerable violence, including scenes of torture and degradation, brief rear nudity, at least one use of profanity, frequent rough and crude language.

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Django Unchained” (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.

Vengeance tale written and directed by Quentin Tarantino about a brutalized slave (Jamie Foxx) in the antebellum South who is first purchased, then liberated by a German-born bounty hunter (Christoph Walz). Together the pair conspires to rescue the ex-slave’s wife (Kerry Washington), who was sold away from him. But her current owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) is tipped off to their plans by a treacherous house slave (Samuel L. Jackson).
Tarantino unleashes the same hyper-violence against those participating in, and profiting from, the evil enterprise of slavery as he previously launched against Nazis in his 2009 historical wish-fulfillment fantasy “Inglourious Basterds.” Additionally, the horrific physical degradations endured by the victims of America’s “peculiar institution” are depicted with careful attention to historical detail. Not for the casual moviegoer or the easily jarred.
Revenge theme, pervasive and explicit bloody violence, a glimpse of full male nudity, fleeting upper female nudity, frequent profanity, constant rough language and racial slurs.

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

Tom Cruise as the title character sets out to clear a former military sniper (Joseph Sikora) accused of five murders in Pittsburgh. He is aided in his sleuthing by the veteran’s lawyer (Rosamund Pike). Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie has adapted a reasonably compelling detective story from Lee Child’s novel “One Shot.” But his protagonist turns out to be an amoral avenger. Pervasive violence including gunplay, implied drug use, frequent profanity.

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“Parental Guidance” (Fox)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested.

Family comedy stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as grandparents babysitting for — and trying to connect with — a trio of grandchildren (Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) they’ve barely seen before. Though they obviously mean well, director Andy Fickman and screenwriters Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse produce some very stale and predictable situations. Childish scatological humor.

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“Les Miserables” (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.

Lavish adaptation of the worldwide musical stage sensation, based on the Victor Hugo novel and directed by Tom Hooper. Inspired by the kindness of a Catholic bishop (Colm Wilkinson), an ex-convict (Hugh Jackman) assumes a new identity and amends his life, becoming a benevolent mayor and factory owner, all the while evading the obsessive pursuit of his former jailer (Russell Crowe).
When one of his workers (Anne Hathaway) is unjustly fired and forced into a life of prostitution, he pledges to raise her daughter (Isabelle Allen) as his own. Years pass, and the now-grown lass (Amanda Seyfried) falls for a young revolutionary (Eddie Redmayne) amid violent protests on the barricaded streets of Paris.
A positive portrayal of the Catholic faith, with characters calling on God for grace and mercy, and seeking personal redemption while trying to better the lives of others, makes this rousing film especially appealing to mature viewers of faith. Scenes of bloody violence, a prostitution theme, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity.

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“This Is 40” (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.

Shrill comedy about the supposed miseries of middle age — and of marriage — written and directed by Judd Apatow.
As the owner of a small record label (Paul Rudd) and his wife (Leslie Mann) both turn 40, he conceals the woeful state of their finances from her while she tries to discover who has been stealing from the till at the dress shop she runs. Each also has parental problems: his father (Albert Brooks) is a lazy moocher; hers (John Lithgow) is emotionally distant.
In updating the lives of secondary characters from his 2007 film “Knocked Up,” Apatow shows them struggling to be true to their mutual commitment. But the rewards of such fidelity seem purely theoretical compared to their very real — and constant — irritation with each other as well as their shared sense of entrapment. The treatment of their bedroom problems is also excessively explicit.
Strong sexual content, including graphic scenes of marital lovemaking and of aberrant sexual activity, upper female and obscured rear nudity, drug use, about a dozen instances of profanity, relentless rough and crude language, some scatological humor, a couple of obscene gestures.

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“The Guilt Trip” (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.

Warmhearted comedy about the relationship between a buttoned-up chemist (Seth Rogen) and his doting widowed mother (Barbra Streisand). Secretly hoping to reunite New York-based mom with a boyfriend from her youth who now lives in San Francisco, the researcher invites her along on a cross-country business trip during which he’ll be pitching a cleaning product he invented. Though not all the adventures that ensue make for family viewing, notably an unintended stop-off at a roadside strip club, the vibrant mutual affection between the two main characters shines through as they try to reconcile their ill-matched temperaments.
By turns amusing and touching, director Anne Fletcher’s film — which sees both its stars in top form — is enjoyable fare for grownups. Brief partial nudity, numerous adult references, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one rough and about a dozen crude terms.

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“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (Warner Bros.)

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.

Epic 3-D adaptation of the opening part of Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 children’s novel “The Hobbit, or There and Back Again,” directed by Peter Jackson.
In this first installment of a trio of prequels to Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, also based on Tolkien’s fiction, a homebody hobbit (Martin Freeman) is reluctantly convinced by a wizard (Ian McKellen) to accompany and aid a group of dwarves (led by Richard Armitage) in their quest to recapture their ancient stronghold, a storehouse of fabulous wealth long ago conquered by a rampaging dragon.
The heroism of ordinary people and the potential for everyday goodness to subdue evil are the primary themes of the long, combat-heavy adventure that follows. As the titular character proves his mettle, the corrupting effects of power are also showcased through his encounter with a cave dweller (Andy Serkis) who is obsessed with — and spiritually enslaved by — a magical ring.
Not for the easily frightened or those with short attention spans, Jackson’s sweeping journey across Tolkien’s imaginary world of Middle-earth is an upbeat outing suitable for all others. Much bloodless action violence, some mild gross-out humor.

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“Hitchcock” (Fox Searchlight)

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 legendary film director and “Master of Suspense” gets quite a dressing-down in director Sacha Gervasi’s absorbing adaptation of Stephen Rebello’s 1990 book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.”
Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) is portrayed as a compulsive voyeur and control freak who suspected the motives of just about everyone, even his devoted wife (Helen Mirren).
With stars (Scarlett Johansson, James D’Arcy) playing stars (Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins), the film follows the production of Hitchcock’s biggest success. In crafting it, Hitchcock battled the Hollywood censors to allow an unprecedented degree of explicitness, and contributed to the breakdown of the long-standing production code that had regulated movie content since the 1930s.
Graphic re-creations of movie-making violence, a scene of implied adultery, sexual innuendo, some profane and rough language.

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