Recent films reviewed on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto star in a scene from the movie “Star Trek Into Darkness.” 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 here.

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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“Epic” (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.

Pleasant 3-D animated fantasy in which a 17-year-old girl (voice of Amanda Seyfried) finds herself magically transported to a miniature world within nature where the champions of growth and life (their leader voiced by Colin Farrell) battle the dark forces of decay (their commander voiced by Christoph Waltz). While becoming caught up in the conflict, she falls for a youthful warrior (voice of Josh Hutcherson) whose freewheeling ways make him an initially unreliable ally for his fellow good guys.
With some of its characters drawn from William Joyce’s book “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs,” director Chris Wedge’s cheerful journey into the undergrowth sends innocuous messages about environmental stewardship, teamwork and responsibility. There’s also some familial bonding via the protagonist’s ultimately appreciative interaction with her stereotypically absent-minded professor of a dad (voiced by Jason Sudeikis).
Though the impact falls well short of Wedge’s overly ambitious title, some lovely imagery compensates for various hit-or-miss attempts at humor. Potentially frightening clashes, themes involving death.

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“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” (IFC)

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.

A thought-provoking — yet flawed — exploration of the wide-ranging impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks both on individuals and on whole cultures.
In 2011 Pakistan, a journalist (Liev Schreiber) has been recruited by the CIA to interview the chief suspect (Riz Ahmed) in the kidnapping of an American professor. Things may not be as they appear, however, as the self-professedly peace-loving radical recounts his experiences in the United States — including his meteoric rise to the top within a wicked corporation (run by Kiefer Sutherland), his romance with a bohemian artist (Kate Hudson), and his fall from corporate grace as a result of post-Twin Towers discrimination.
Working from the novel by Mohsin Hamid, director Mira Nair lets the audience pass judgment, for better or worse. The result is an absorbing story with a flawed conclusion — one that seems to prioritize the force of circumstance over conscience when choosing between good and evil. Fleeting action violence and gunplay, a gruesome image, brief sensuality, some profane and crass language.

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“Star Trek Into Darkness” (Paramount)

Snappy follow-up to director J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot of — and prequel to — the long-lived sci-fi franchise that stretches back to 1960s television. In this second chronicle of their early professional lives, dynamic, impetuous Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his seemingly emotionless half-Vulcan, half-human first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) lead their intrepid crew on a high-stakes, sometimes morally fraught crusade against an intergalactic terrorist (Benedict Cumberbatch).
The fundamental message of Abrams’ spectacular adventure — a warning against employing immoral means to overcome evil — is both scripturally resonant and timely. But the parents of teen Trekkies will need to weigh the profit of that lesson against the debit of some sensual imagery and vulgar talk. Possibly acceptable for older adolescents.
Much bloodless battling but also occasional harsh violence, some sexual content — including a trio glimpsed waking up together and scenes with skimpy costuming — a few uses of crude language, a half-dozen crass terms.

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“Fast & Furious 6” (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 PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Lured by the promise of pardons for their past misdeeds, a crew of law-flouting underground car racers — led by Vin Diesel and Paul Walker — reassemble to help a federal agent (Dwayne Johnson) thwart the civilization-threatening schemes of a criminal mastermind (Luke Evans) who uses hotrods to speed his heists of top-secret military equipment. The fact that the gangster’s number two (Michelle Rodriguez) is Diesel’s not-dead-after-all love interest is another draw.
Director Justin Lin’s barroom brawl of a movie features well-orchestrated chases, and softens the tone of its grunting machismo with the occasional flourish of vague religiosity. But the self-determined code which its heroes substitute for civil obedience is morally dubious and certainly not for the impressionable.
Murky moral values, considerable stylized violence including a scene of torture, cohabitation, partial nudity, a few uses of profanity, at least one rough term, much crude and crass language, an obscene gesture.

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“The Hangover Part III” (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.

On its surface, this is a defanged, declawed version of the first two “Hangover” installments with no sex, no alcohol or drug abuse and almost no nudity.
Director Todd Phillips, who co-wrote with Craig Mazin, focuses the plot on the long-overdue maturation of a spoiled rich boy (Zach Galifianakis), a process in which two of his friends (Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms) try to assist by transporting their unstable pal to a mental health facility in Arizona. En route, the trio is waylaid by a gangster (John Goodman) who wants them to help him retrieve stolen loot purloined by an archcriminal (Ken Jeong). While the shenanigans that made the earlier entries repellent may mercifully be absent, there’s a different, deeper — and philosophically, at least, potentially more troubling — recklessness at work in this picture.
In the inkiest vein of nihilistic black humor, the frequent intrusion of death — whether that of disposable animals or of equally disposable people — is presented as a cue for guffaws. Stylized gun violence, a fleeting glimpse of frontal male nudity, a brief but vulgar reference to sexual activity, some profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“Mud” (Lionsgate/Roadside)

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.

Character-centered drama, set in rural Arkansas, in which two teenage best friends (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) from a hardscrabble town on the banks of the Mississippi discover a fugitive (Matthew McConaughey) living on an otherwise uninhabited island in the river and agree to help him escape.
As they assist the charismatic stranger in refitting a disabled boat so he can make a waterborne getaway to the Gulf of Mexico, the boys are increasingly drawn into — and endangered by — the tangled relationships in his life, especially the obsessive romance (with Reese Witherspoon) that drove him to commit a crime that now has both the police and a team of bounty hunters on his trail. Writer-director Jeff Nichols’ leisurely coming of age story, which also features Sam Shepard as one of the runaway’s few adult allies, explores delicate moral shadings, the nature of friendship and the interplay of innocence and disillusionment in the mind of Sheridan’s character, who must also cope with his quarreling parents’ (Sarah Paulson and Ray McKinnon) impending divorce and his puppy love for a sometimes disdainful older girl (Bonnie Sturdivant).
Intense but largely bloodless violence, some adolescent sex talk, including references to pornography, a couple of uses of profanity, considerable crude and crass language.

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“The Great Gatsby” (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.

Splashy, sometimes cartoonish 3-D adaptation of the classic 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Narrator Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), scion of the WASP establishment, recounts his friendship with the iconic self-made man and would-be social insider Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) whose obsessive love for Nick’s alluring but married cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) leads first to adultery, then to a confrontation with Daisy’s caddish husband Tom (Joel Edgerton) and finally to tragedy.
As director and co-writer Baz Luhrmann revels in the frenzied decadence of Gatsby’s Jazz Age party-giving, he creates a fable-like setting that distances viewers from Fitzgerald’s characters and lessens the impact of their downfall. His film also tends to glamorize the sinful relationship at the heart of the story, suggesting that an unpleasant spouse and the inherent superiority of the illicit lovers — who initially fell for each other before Daisy’s marriage — are reason enough to ignore the Sixth Commandment.
Scenes of both lethal and nonlethal violence with minimal gore, an uncritical view of adultery, brief semi-graphic adulterous activity as well as some other sexual content, a glimpse of partial nudity, a few uses of profanity, a couple of crude terms, a religious slur.

See the full CNS review at CNS Reviews.

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“Peeples” (Lionsgate)

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

Derivative comedy about the mishaps that befall an easygoing children’s entertainer (Craig Robinson) when he decides to crash his live-in girlfriend’s (Kerry Washington) weekend at home with her affluent, eccentric family.
After discovering that she has never so much as mentioned his existence to her relatives, he tangles with her uptight jurist father (David Alan Grier), and tries to win the affection of her more sympathetic mother (S. Epatha Merkerson), a former disco diva.
Writer-director Tina Gordon Chism shows the occasional flash of wit as her formulaic farce plays out. But a subplot involving the judge’s other daughter (Kali Hawk), a television news anchor, sends the message that her lesbian relationship with her producer (Kimrie Lewis-Davis) should be accepted without question. The fact, moreover, that the two women’s bedroom activities draw the salacious interest, close observation and would-be participation of the protagonist’s brother (Malcolm Barrett), who also drops in for a visit, is played for laughs.
Frivolous treatment of homosexual acts, voyeurism, aberrant heterosexual behavior, cohabitation, brief obscured nudity, inadvertent drug use, considerable sexual humor, about a dozen crude terms, some crass language.

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“Iron Man 3” (Disney)

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.
Special effects trump substance in this addition to the blockbuster screen franchise adapted from a series of Marvel comics dating back to 1963. As the titular superhero’s billionaire alter ego (Robert Downey Jr.) battles a mysterious, bin Laden-like terrorist (Ben Kingsley), their conflict endangers his now live-in girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow).
The range of moral and immoral uses to which advanced technology can be turned are briefly explored through the characters of two promising scientists gone bad (Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall) and through the protagonist’s newly developed anxiety attacks, which leave him questioning his reliance on gadgetry. But such serious considerations are muscled out of view, under co-writer Shane Black’s direction, by serial gunplay and explosions.

Much action violence with some gore, cohabitation, an off-screen nonmarital sexual encounter, at least one use of profanity, occasional crude and crass language.

See the full CNS review at CNS Reviews.

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“The Big Wedding” (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.

A caricatured portrayal of Catholicism — via a straw-man priest (Robin Williams) and a hyper-pious South American matron (Patricia Rae) — is only the most annoying of this vulgar romantic comedy’s many defects.
To protect Rae’s character — his birth mother — from the scandalous fact that his adoptive parents (Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton) are divorced, the groom (Ben Barnes) of the titular nuptials (to Amanda Seyfried) asks Mom and Dad to pretend they’re still married, an arrangement that leaves the latter’s live-in girlfriend (Susan Sarandon) fuming.
Overall, the message of writer-director Justin Zackham’s adaptation of the 2006 French-Swiss film “Mon Frere Se Marie” seems to be that, in a world without God, it’s fine to be confused as long as you’re not inhibited. Implied atheism, anti-Catholicism, flawed moral values, strong sexual content — including aberrant sex acts, rear nudity and a frivolous treatment of homosexuality and adultery — a couple of uses of profanity, much rough and crude language.

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“Pain and Gain” (Paramount)

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.

Nasty fact-based crime chronicle — set in the early 1990s — in which a trio of dimwitted bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie) kidnap an abrasive but successful businessman (Tony Shalhoub) and torture him into signing over all his holdings to them. Thanks in large part to the efforts of a straight-arrow police officer-turned-private-eye (Ed Harris), however, their nearly successful scheme begins to unravel.
In adapting a series of magazine articles by Pete Collins, director Michael Bay invites viewers to marvel at the he-men’s jaw-dropping stupidity. Yet their vicious antics, acted out within a lowlife milieu of strippers and porn pushers, are too repellant to be amusing, while snarky swipes at religion culminate in blasphemous humor and the character of a pervert priest.
Negative portrayal of Christian faith and clergy, brutal, sometimes gory violence, strong sexual content — including graphic sex acts, masturbation and upper female and rear nudity — drug use, about a half-dozen instances of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“The Place Beyond the Pines” (Focus)

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.

The iniquity of a father is visited upon his children — more than once — in this wrenching and profound multigenerational saga directed and co-written by Derek Cianfrance.
A motorcycle stuntman (Ryan Gosling) in a traveling carnival reencounters his ex-lover (Eva Mendes) who reveals they have a baby son. Determined to provide for his newfound offspring, he embarks on a spree of bank heists. When a rookie cop (Bradley Cooper) eventually tracks him down, it has devastating consequences for both men — and for their respective families.
The film offers a powerful message about temptation and relativism, as well as the role of conscience and the effect of one individual’s actions on others — though the choices made by the conflicted characters are not always ideal ones. Action violence including gunplay, brief gore, frequent drug and alcohol use, an instance of distasteful humor, a scene of sensuality, a couple of uses each of profane and crass language.

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“Oblivion” (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.

Convoluted science fiction epic begins with a technician (Tom Cruise) and his navigator (Andrea Riseborough) tending machinery on an abandoned, post-apocalyptic Earth so that the planet’s natural resources can continue to be harvested for the human refugees who now inhabit Saturn’s moon Titan. The unexpected arrival of a space traveler (Olga Kurylenko) from an earlier era, however, as well as an encounter with a group of guerilla freedom fighters (led by Morgan Freeman) prompt the inquisitive repairman to question whether things are really as they seem.
Large-scale landscapes and shiny gadgets make for arresting visuals in director Joseph Kosinski’s adaptation of his own graphic novel. But his emotionally shallow story is further undermined by logical lapses and some dubious philosophizing. Ethical complexities, moreover, make his film unsuitable for young or impressionable viewers.
An objectively immoral living arrangement, a scene of sensuality with shadowy rear and partial nudity, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one rough term, a smattering of crude and crass language.

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“Scary Movie 5” (Weinstein)

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

Shoddy genre satire replete with childish gross-out humor and demeaning sex gags. The sketchy plot, principally lifted from Andy Muschietti’s horror film “Mama,” finds a couple (Ashley Tisdale and Simon Rex) adopting his two young nieces and baby nephew after the orphaned — and now feral — kids spent months isolated in a cabin in the woods.
The dopey jibes in director Malcolm Lee’s scattershot parody are as irksome as they are desperate. Pervasive sexual and scatological humor, frivolous treatment of homosexual activity, same-sex kissing, fleeting rear and partial nudity, some mild irreverence, drug imagery and references, at least one use each of profanity and of the F-word, much crude and crass language.

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“42” (Warner Bros.)

Uplifting, if sometimes heavy-handed, historical drama recounting the 1947 reintegration of professional baseball after decades of segregated play. This racial breakthrough was made possible by the collaborative efforts of Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey (a splendid Harrison Ford) and Negro League star Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman). Though writer-director Brian Helgeland’s film is occasionally too convinced of its own importance, the proceedings are buoyed by Rickey’s feisty righteousness and by the inspiring example of Robinson’s forbearance in the face of hate. Helgeland’s script attributes both Rickey’s vision and Robinson’s courage — at least in part — to their shared Christian faith, while the loving support of Robinson’s wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie) is also shown to be crucial to his struggle.
Possibly acceptable for older teens. An adultery theme, racial slurs, fleeting humor implicitly referencing homosexuality, a few uses of profanity, at least one crude term, occasional crass language.

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“Jurassic Park” (Universal)

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

A bizarre theme park featuring genetically re-created dinosaurs becomes a potential deathtrap when the carnivorous monsters break loose, endangering some visiting scientists (Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum) and two very frightened young children (Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards).
Director Steven Spielberg’s monster fantasy downplays plot and characterization in favor of spectacle and horrific special effects, now in 3-D, in which the realistic-looking creatures hunt down their human prey. Much intense menace to children and several stylized scenes of violent death.

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