Recent movies reviewed on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Amy Adams and Henry Cavill star in a scene from the movie “Man of Steel.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

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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“The Bling Ring” (A24 Films)

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.

Disturbing fact-based account of a gang of high school students who targeted their favorite stars and burgled the celebrities’ homes, stealing clothing, jewelry, and cash to fill their own closets and pockets.
Five teens (Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga and Claire Julien) crave the A-list lifestyle, and so decide to steal the expensive accoutrements that go along with it. They rely on tabloid reports to tell them who’s out of town — then descend on empty mansions like locusts.
Writer-director Sofia Coppola withholds judgment on the youngsters’ actions and winds up glamorizing a rootless, immoral — not to mention criminal — lifestyle. A benign attitude toward stealing, pervasive drug use and underage drinking, occasional profane and crude language.

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“Monsters University” (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.

This 3-D animated prequel to the 2001 hit “Monsters, Inc.,” directed by Dan Scanlon, features a hilarious sendup of college life. It also reinforces familiar but important messages for young people (and their parents): Make friends, study hard, and apply your unique talents for the greater good.
Two best pals (voices of Billy Crystal and John Goodman) were not, it seems, always so fond of one another. Years before the action of the earlier movie, they met in college, locked horns, and were dismissed from the elite program in which they had enrolled by the institution’s stern dean (voice of Helen Mirren). Joining forces with a misfit fraternity, they must learn to work together to achieve their goal of being readmitted.
The movie is preceded by a charming short film, “The Blue Umbrella,” about love among parasols. Both are clean and wholesome fun for the entire family.

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“World War Z” (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.

Zombies swarm the planet, and a United Nations troubleshooter (Brad Pitt) learns that the only defenses are guns, knives, duct tape and perhaps a vaccine.
Loose adaptation of Max Brooks’ novel by director Marc Foster and screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof respectfully observes all the cliches of the zombie/pandemic genres without much gore, possibly because there are thousands upon thousands of zombies to shoot at, blow up, or hit with flamethrowers.
Gun and physical violence, fleeting crude language. Possibly acceptable for older teens.

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“Man of Steel” (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.

Action adventure recounting the life of iconic comic book hero Superman (Henry Cavill). Born on distant Krypton, as an infant his parents (Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer) send him to Earth so that he can escape his doomed home planet’s imminent destruction.
His adoptive human parents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) instill positive values and try to protect his secret. But, once grown, an investigative reporter (Amy Adams) is on the verge of disclosing his true identity when an old enemy (Michael Shannon) of his father’s arrives from space and threatens humanity with annihilation unless Superman surrenders. Director Zack Snyder’s take on the familiar narrative has the makings of an engaging drama and includes Christian themes and an anti-eugenics message that viewers of faith in particular can appreciate. But this positive potential is squandered in favor of endless scenes of high-powered brawling and the pyrotechnics of innumerable explosions.
Much intense but bloodless violence, a fleeting sexual advance, occasional crude and crass language.

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“”This Is the End” (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.

Tedious comedy in which an ensemble of actors playing themselves (most prominently James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen — who directed, with Evan Goldberg — and Jay Baruchel) are holed up in a Los Angeles mansion during the Apocalypse. Rogen and Goldberg, who also wrote the script, celebrate altruism and loyal friendship. But no other virtue dividing those caught up in the rapture from those left behind seems comprehensible to them, certainly not moderation in the pursuit of worldly pleasures. As for their treatment of matters religious, it might best be described as frivolous affirmation. Comic treatment of sacred subjects, scenes of gruesome bloody violence, strong sexual content including a graphic glimpse of aberrant sexual activity with rear nudity, a benign view of drug use, much sexual and some scatological humor, occasional instances of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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

When two middle-aged watch salesmen (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) suddenly find themselves unemployed — and with nothing to show for their years of enthusiastic peddling — they apply to the internship program at corporate giant Google, a domain dominated by tech-savvy college-age kids.
Director Shawn Levy, working from a script co-written by Vaughn, strains to wring laughs from the generational and cultural divides. But humor and inventiveness are in short supply in this predictable comedy, while a topical message concerning the virtues of adaptability and perseverance in difficult economic times is canceled out by a stream of vulgarity and off-color references.
An implied nonmarital encounter, several uses of profanity, at least one rough term, frequent crude and crass language, considerable innuendo, passing approval of a same-sex relationship.

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“The Purge” (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.

Set in a dystopian future America during the one night each year when any crime may be committed with impunity, writer-director James DeMonaco’s thriller — a potentially challenging study of the conflict between lifeboat ethics and personal decency — degenerates into an orgy of the very violence it sets out to question.
When the chosen target (Edwin Hodge) of a bloodthirsty mob (led by Rhys Wakefield) manages to take refuge in the home of a security specialist (Ethan Hawke), his presence threatens to bring the wrath of the gang down on the whole family (including wife Lena Headey and kids Max Burkholder and Adelaide Kane) unless they give the fugitive up to his pursuers.
Inept social commentary — the victim is a homeless black veteran, the marauders are crazed preppies — and pointless religious overtones hobble the proceedings even before the gore goes off the charts. Excessive graphic violence, including torture, a scene of underage sensuality, a few uses of profanity and of rough language, a couple of crass terms.

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Frances Ha” (IFC)

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.

When her best friend and roommate (Mickey Sumner) decides to move out, the eponymous heroine (Greta Gerwig) — a feckless 27-year-old New Yorker — is cast adrift, suddenly homeless with no real job and few prospects. Not that this especially bothers her, as she flits from party to party — and from drama to drama — dispensing empty commentary on her own life and unintelligible advice to others.
As she waits for her life to happen, and wallows in self-absorption, the proceedings are shot by director and co-writer (with Gerwig) Noah Baumbach in black-and-white, casting Gotham in a warm and fuzzy glow. Cohabitation, frequent sex talk, many uses of profanity, much crude language.

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“Now You See Me” (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.

A quartet of professional magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and Isla Fisher) is caught in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse in this entertaining caper film directed by Louis Leterrier.
Brought together by a mysterious capitalist (Michael Caine), the four become a world-famous act. But one outrageous stunt they manage to pull off — a long-distance and very public bank robbery — attracts the attention of an FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo), his Interpol counterpart (Melanie Laurent) and a reality show host (Morgan Freeman) whose mission is to expose the secrets of the trade.
Though it contains a slightly disturbing pagan element, in the end, Leterrier’s film is a harmless and witty romp for grown-ups, yet one that lingers in the memory no longer than the time required to shout, “Abracadabra!” Mild action violence, a vulgar gesture, sexual innuendo, some crude and profane language.

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After Earth” (Columbia)

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.

Grueling sci-fi adventure set 1,000 years after humans have been forced to evacuate an environmentally despoiled Earth. While on an intergalactic military mission, a general (Will Smith) and his teen son — played by Smith’s real-life son Jaden — become the sole survivors of a crash landing on the Blue Planet.
With Dad temporarily disabled as a result, the lad must brave a hostile array of predators in order to reach the other part of their wrecked spacecraft — and the signal beam that represents their only hope of rescue.
While the filial relationship at the heart of director and co-writer M. Night Shyamalan’s plodding coming-of-age drama is ultimately characterized by self-sacrificing love, the code by which the father lives — and which he strives to instill in his offspring — seems to have more in common with Zen Buddhism than with the values promoted in Scripture. The script’s glib portrayal of the bonds uniting veterans will also strike at least some viewers as either jingoistic or exploitative.
Much action violence, some of it bloody, gory medical images, a stifled crude term, a few mildly crass expressions.

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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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“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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