Newly released films reviewed on basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert star in a scene from the movie “Beautiful Creatures.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience.

Rating: 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 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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“Dark Skies” (Dimension)

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.

Restrained, but not overly original thriller in which a series of disturbing events beset an ordinary couple (Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton) and their sons: one a teen (Dakota Goyo), the other a 6-year-old (Kadan Rockett). The eventual explanation — provided in part by a reclusive conspiracy theorist (J.K. Simmons) — indicates that the family has unwittingly drawn the attention of some highly unusual, and potentially dangerous, visitors. Writer-director Scott Stewart works into his script the pro-family notion that clan discord — under economic pressure, Mom and Dad have been quarreling — assists dark forces. But he also shows us some adolescent experimentation with drugs, pornography and other forms of sexuality that make his eerie offering unsuitable for kids.
Fleeting gore, brief scenes of sensuality, some involving teens, nongraphic marital lovemaking, a couple of uses of profanity, a smattering of crude and crass language.

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“Snitch” (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.

With his naive son (Rafi Gavron) facing a mandatory 10 years in prison for dabbling in the drug trade, a successful trucking executive (Dwayne Johnson) makes a deal with the federal prosecutor (Susan Sarandon) on the case: If he can infiltrate a local narcotics cartel and garner sufficient evidence to convict its boss (Michael K. Williams), she’ll reduce the lad’s sentence.
Director and co-writer Ric Roman Waugh enhances his fact-based action outing with human drama and social commentary. Though the latter element gives rise to some clunky dialogue, the overall result is both suspenseful and morally rich.
Much stylized and some graphic violence, including gunplay and a beating, mature themes, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, considerable crude and crass language.

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“Escape From Planet Earth” (Weinstein)

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 animated adventure for children, helmed and co-written by Callan Brunker, is goodhearted but only moderately entertaining. To the blue-skinned inhabitants of Planet Baab (pronounced “Bob”), the film’s initial setting, Earth is known as the mysterious and frightening “Dark Planet.” So, when his heroic but dimwitted astronaut brother (voice of Brendan Fraser) undertakes a voyage there, only to be taken prisoner by a gung-ho Air Force general (voiced by William Shatner), a nerdy space engineer (voice of Rob Corddry) feels compelled to follow and rescue him, despite their long-standing rivalry.
Family solidarity is showcased not only through the siblings’ eventual teamwork, but through the scientist’s bonds with his loving wife (voice of Sarah Jessica Parker) and plucky young son (voiced by Jonathan Morgan Heit). Some jokes in Brunker and Bob Barlen’s script may strike adult viewers as broadly anti-military, rather than simply anti-militaristic. Parents will also note passing instances of mild potty humor and a scene of implied comic nudity. Much cartoon violence.

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

A restless teen (Alden Ehrenreich) in rural South Carolina finds his stultifying world transformed when he falls for the new girl in town (Alice Englert), who turns out to be a witch. But their relationship draws the opposition of her warlock uncle and guardian (Jeremy Irons) and places them at risk due to the schemes of her spell-casting mother (Emma Thompson).
A mixed religious outlook — white evangelical Christians are mercilessly caricatured while the burgh’s African-American librarian (Viola Davis) blithely combines her role as a custodian of conjuring lore with faithful church attendance — makes the occult elements underlying writer-director Richard LaGravenese’s screen version of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s 2009 novel more troubling than they might otherwise seem.
Few in the targeted audience of teen date movie consumers are likely to possess the discernment necessary to bring all this into proper focus. An ambivalent portrayal of Christianity, brief sacrilegious behavior, restrained scenes of violence with fleeting gore, semi-graphic nonmarital sexual activity, at least one use of profanity, some crude and crass language.

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“A Good Day to Die Hard” (Fox)

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.

With this fifth installment, the action franchise that started with 1988’s “Die Hard” seems to have reached its own death throes. New York detective Bruce Willis and his son (Jai Courtney) team up in Moscow to protect a government whistleblower (Sebastian Koch) from a variety of villains. In the process, of course, they kick up just the kind of carnage that made the quartet of earlier flicks box office gold.
Director John Moore presents a jaunty view of bloodletting and, on occasion, invites the audience to revel in the mayhem. Slow motion death scenes make an obvious appeal to moviegoers’ basest, most visceral instincts. The rudimentary efforts at character development in Skip Woods’ screenplay, meanwhile, are drowned amidst a murky tide of run-and-gun action.
Constant violence, some of it gory, occasional profanity, frequent rough and crude language and two obscene gestures.

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“Identity Thief” (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 R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Morally murky comedy about a family man from Denver (Jason Bateman) who discovers that his identity has been stolen by an opportunistic Florida thief (Melissa McCarthy) who has racked up huge credit card debts in his name and incurred criminal charges against him.
With Colorado law enforcement powerless to act, and his newly secured, high-paying finance job endangered by his ruined credit rating and reputation, he decides to travel down to the Sunshine State, take custody of the malefactor himself and drag her back to his neck of the woods to put things right.
Despite an interesting, if slightly unbelievable, premise, director Seth Gordon and screenwriter Craig Mazin offer few fresh jokes. Instead, they rely on exploitative sight gags and foul language. They also wink at theft in situations far removed from those narrow and extreme circumstances within which Judeo-Christian morality might excuse it.
Skewed moral values, much slapstick and other violence, considerable sexual content including a semi-graphic nonmarital encounter, off-screen masturbation and brief rear nudity, occasional profanity, frequent rough and crude language, an obscene gesture.

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

Gooey adaptation of a tale by Catholic novelist Nicholas Sparks, directed by Lasse Hallstrom. A young woman (Julianne Hough) with a mysterious past steps off the bus in an idyllic seaside town in North Carolina and decides to stay. She’s been running from something sinister, but is now determined to make a fresh start. She falls for a lonely widower (Josh Duhamel), and bonds with his two kids. But her new life is threatened by the arrival of a gun-toting adversary (David Lyons) who has doggedly pursued her for some time.
Though attractive to look at, Hallstrom’s latest Sparks-based cinematic confection has a morally dubious core that will leave ethically conscientious audience members with an unpleasant aftertaste.
Brief violence, an ambiguous attitude toward marital fidelity, nongraphic adulterous sexual activity with fleeting partial nudity, a few instances each of profane and rough language.

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“Bullet to the Head” (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.

A 90-minute killing spree interspersed with banal dialogue and a weak, stale plot involving Sylvester Stallone as a hit man fighting mobsters in Louisiana.
Director Walter Hill and screenwriter Alessandro Camon adapt a French series of graphic novels by Alexis Nolent called “Headshot.” In doing so, they send the body count into double digits and the boredom factor into overdrive. A fetid gumbo of gunfire and stabbing.
Relentless violence, a vengeance theme, frequent upper female nudity, pervasive rough, crude and crass language.

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“Warm Bodies” (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.

Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” meets the zombie flick in this monster mash that, unusual for its genre, goes light on the gore and contains a surprising number of Christian-friendly themes.
After a mysterious virus has turned vast hoards of humanity into flesh-eating monsters, one of the undead (Nicholas Hoult) finds romance — and the possibility of being restored to life — in his relationship with a surviving human (Teresa Palmer).
Writer-director Jonathan Levine’s screen version of Isaac Marion’s novel presents love as the source of redemption and follows its protagonist’s discovery that self-denial in the form of resisting base desires can make us more human. Some restrained gory violence, occasional profanity, at least one instance of rough language, about a half-dozen crude terms.

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