CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Robin Williams and Forest Whitaker star in a scene from the movie “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.

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 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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“Riddick” (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.

Brooding, bloody sci-fi action sequel in which an escaped convict (Vin Diesel) with a fearsome reputation as a killing machine finds himself abandoned on a planet infested with deadly animal predators. His only chance of escape is to summon, and defeat, space-traveling bounty hunters (led by rivals Jordi Molla and Matt Nable) whose craft he can then use to flee.
The moral universe of writer-director David Twohy’s follow-up to his two previous entries in the saga — 2000’s “Pitch Black” and 2004’s “The Chronicles of Riddick” — is unrelievedly bleak and made all the more ethically barren by the knuckleheaded machismo to which almost everyone on screen subscribes. The forces of civilization are only feebly represented by a youthful minor character (Nolan Gerard Funk) whose humane attitude and habit of quoting Scripture suggest some distant hope for better things, though the script treats his piety ambiguously.
Excessive gory violence, a degraded view of human sexuality, a scene of aberrant sexual activity with full nudity, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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One Direction: This Is Us” (TriStar)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested.

Mostly harmless concert film showcasing the boy band of the title (Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson). Director Morgan Spurlock captures various upbeat stage performances during a world tour, and chronicles the group’s creation by talent judge and pop impresario Simon Cowell.
Besides the good-natured horseplay going on backstage, viewers are also shown more serious aspects of the lads’ lives, including their work for charity and strong emotional bonds with their families. However, a touch of salty language makes this unsuitable for the youngest moviegoers, while an inordinate number of shots showing the young stars either shirtless or in their underwear hint that all that screaming from overwrought fans isn’t just about the music.
One use of profanity, brief scatological humor, a half-dozen mildly crass terms.

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“Closed Circuit” (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.

Polished but plodding British thriller in which a hard-driving defense attorney (Eric Bana) and a court-appointed special advocate (Rebecca Hall) investigate the bombing of a crowded London market on behalf of the Turkish immigrant (Denis Moschitto) accused of masterminding the attack. Assisted by a senior colleague (Ciaran Hinds), the pair uncovers evidence that the case has been rigged by the military intelligence service (represented by Riz Ahmed) in a conspiracy supported at the highest levels of the legal establishment (led by Jim Broadbent). Complicating matters is the duo’s past adulterous relationship, an ethically disqualifying connection they’ve both lied under oath to conceal.
Director John Crowley’s semi-paranoid film — which portrays UK government spies as routinely resorting to the murder of their fellow citizens — deals with the sinful bond in the background of its plot ambiguously: Bana’s divorced-dad character bemoans the damage wreaked by his unfaithfulness, yet the prospect of a happy romantic outcome based on it remains.
Occasional scenes of violence, mature themes, including adultery and suicide, at least one use of profanity, a handful of rough and crude terms.

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“Getaway” (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.

Senseless car chase flick about a former racer (Ethan Hawke) whose wife (Rebecca Budig) has been kidnapped by a criminal mastermind (Jon Voight) and who must obey the villain’s orders to get her back alive.
The instructions involve using a stolen, souped-up vehicle to cause mayhem on the streets of Sophia, Bulgaria, in order to facilitate a bank heist. Along the way, the auto’s teenage owner (Selena Gomez) gets entangled in the situation, first as an unwilling passenger and later as a computer-savvy partner in the driver’s efforts to foil his adversary. Director Courtney Solomon places his protagonist in the morally shaky position of endangering hordes of innocent bystanders and innumerable pursuing police officers for the sake of safeguarding a single life. But ethical considerations take a back seat as the wheels squeal and the windshields shatter — and as viewers run a gauntlet of crashes, collisions and illogical plot developments.
Much action violence, a few uses of profanity, considerable crude and crass language, an obscene gesture.

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You’re Next” (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.

Brutal bloodletting submerges the initially promising premise of this addition to the home invasion subgenre. Gathered at their affluent parents’ (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton) isolated country home to celebrate the pair’s wedding anniversary, a quartet of quarrelsome adult siblings (Nicholas Tucci, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg and Amy Seimetz), together with their accompanying significant others (most prominently Sharni Vinson), find family dissent the least of their worries when they come under sudden attack by a group of masked, crossbow-toting assassins.
What the attackers have failed to reckon on, however, is that Vinson’s character was raised in unusual circumstances, a background that equips her to offer them fearsomely creative resistance.
Instead of showing audiences how a disparate group and a dysfunctional clan might be drawn together by the peril of such an extreme situation, director Adam Wingard revels in ever more gruesome death-dealing, inviting viewers to grow giddy on the spectacle.
Pervasive gruesome violence, including torture and mutilation, brief graphic sexual activity, upper female nudity, a perversion theme, premarital and nonmarital situations, much rough and crude language.

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“The World’s End” (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.

While re-creating an unfinished pub crawl they first attempted in their younger years, five middle-aged friends (led by Simon Pegg) reflect on the conformity of adult life, then, out of the blue, find themselves the last hope for humanity when an invading race of robots ushers in a potential apocalypse.
Director Edgar Wright, who co-wrote the screenplay with Pegg, doesn’t have a lot of new ideas to toss out there, and the proceedings are occasionally coarse, though never vulgar. But the film — the completion of a trilogy that began with 2004’s “Shaun of the Dead” and continued with “Hot Fuzz” in 2007 — has intelligent discussions of existential angst, at least when the guys aren’t too busy ripping the heads off robots.
Some physical violence, two scenes of drug use, references to premarital sex, a few uses of profanity, considerable crude and crass language.

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“Blue Jasmine” (Sony Classics)

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.

Writer-director Woody Allen presents a variation on Tennessee Williams’ classic play “A Streetcar Named Desire” in this depressing tale of a Park Avenue socialite (Cate Blanchett in a bravura performance) fallen on hard times. She’s lost everything due to her philandering husband’s (Alec Baldwin) Ponzi-like fraud which has not only destroyed the fortunes of his investors, but landed him in jail and her on the street.
Delusional and demented, she finds shelter in the San Francisco home of her sister (Sally Hawkins). There, as she slowly descends into madness, she upends the lives of everyone around her, casting out her sibling’s mechanic boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) while trying to snare a wealthy diplomat (Peter Sarsgaard) as a potential husband.
Cohabitation, implied nonmarital sexual activity, an adultery theme, much profane and crude language.

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“Kick-Ass 2” (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.

This gory, vulgar action-and-comedy sequel aims for laughs as it reunites two youthful would-be superheroes (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz) and pits them against the exultantly evil son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) of the last outing’s primary villain.
Despite dialogue ostensibly exploring the nature of heroism and the morality of do-it-yourself law enforcement, writer-director Jeff Wadlow’s follow-up — adapted, like its predecessor, from Mark Millar and John S. Romita Jr.’s series of comic books — is really about cashing in on the same combination of over-the-top battling and below-the-belt humor that served as the nasty formula behind the 2010 original.
Excessive bloody violence, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity, upper female nudity, much off-color humor, a frivolous view of homosexuality, several uses of profanity, relentless rough and crude language.

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“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” (Screen Gems)

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.

After her mother (Lena Headey) disappears in mysterious circumstances, a Brooklyn teen (Lily Collins) discovers that she is part of a race of half-human, half-angel spiritual warriors. Aided by her mortal best friend (Robert Sheehan) and three newfound allies of her own kind (Jamie Campbell Bower, Jemima West and Kevin Zegers), she sets off in pursuit of the powerful Grail-like vessel that Mom had been secretly guarding for years, recovery of which she hopes will lead to their reunion.
While the heroine of director Harald Zwart’s derivative fantasy adventure — adapted from the first in a series of best-sellers by Cassandra Clare — is certainly on the side of goodness, a number of elements make her story completely unsuitable for young viewers. They include not only a higher volume of mayhem than is usual for the genre, but storylines that stray into territory many parents will find inappropriate.
Constant intense but mostly bloodless violence, a potentially confusing treatment of religion, occult and other mature themes, including homosexuality and incest, a transvestite character, at least one use of profanity.

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“Paranoia” (Relativity)

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.

Fundamentally moral but dramatically stale thriller about a professionally thwarted computer whiz kid (Liam Hemsworth) whose envy-driven ambition gets him caught up in the cutthroat rivalry between two former partners (Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford) who now head competing tech corporations. Sent by one to steal the game-changing product the other is about to launch, he falls for an executive (Amber Heard) of the company he’s infiltrating while ignoring the sensible guidance of his working-class father (Richard Dreyfuss).
Though the twisting path of the plot feels well-rutted, the main character’s journey to redemption in director Robert Luketic’s screen version of Joseph Finder’s novel sees him ultimately rejecting ethical nihilism in favor of old-fashioned standards of right and wrong.
Some action violence, semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, an off-screen casual encounter, numerous sexual jokes and references, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one rough term, occasional crude and crass language.

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“Jobs” (Open Road)

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.

This history of the fluctuating fortunes of Steve Jobs, founder of the Apple computer empire, may not be the worst film biography of all time, but it certainly earns an unenviable place in the pantheon of lame screen profiles. Ashton Kutcher, directed by Joshua Michael Stern from a script by Matt Whiteley, portrays Jobs as an amoral, monomaniacal tyrant who cheats all who come into contact with him. He also abuses his co-workers — most prominently the strangely faithful Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) — and tries to dodge responsibility for his live-in girlfriend’s (Ahna O’Reilly) baby.
Yet this stultifying movie also incongruously confirms Jobs’ self-proclaimed status as a technology guru, giving him platitudes to deliver while inspirational background music swells.
Cohabitation, two scenes of drug use, a couple of instances of profanity, frequent crass language.

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“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” (Weinstein)

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 personal collides with the political in this affecting fact-based drama adapted by director Lee Daniels from a 2008 Washington Post article by reporter Wil Haygood.
Escaping the vicious racism of the early 20th-century Deep South, a plantation worker (Forest Whitaker) makes his way to Washington, where he eventually finds coveted employment on the domestic staff of the White House. But his patient hope that white Americans — led by the series of presidents he works with at close hand, from Dwight D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams) to Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman) — will see the light on racial issues increasingly conflicts with the civil rights activism of his older son (David Oyelowo). And the long hours he puts in at the executive mansion leave his strong-willed but fragile wife (Oprah Winfrey) feeling neglected.
Appealing performances, especially Winfrey’s complex portrayal, and a surprisingly nuanced view of the various chief executives — an irretrievably self-absorbed Richard Nixon (John Cusack) alone excepted — keep the unfolding events from feeling like a chronological checklist of postwar history.
While vulgar language and other red-flag content would normally prevent recommendation for any but grown-ups, the moral significance of this uplifting journey — undertaken within a context of implicit religious faith and strong marital commitment — is such that at least some parents may consider it acceptable for older teens. Occasional action violence, an adultery theme, numerous mature references, a half-dozen uses of profanity, a couple of rough terms, some crude and crass language.

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“Elysium” (TriStar)

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.

Writer-director Neill Blomkamp’s dystopian action picture, set in the mid-22nd century, envisions a society divided between a despoiled Earth populated by oppressed workers and the idyllic satellite of the title where the rich live a life of ease — and enjoy miraculous medical technology. After a workplace accident exposes him to a lethal dose of radiation, a Los Angeles laborer (Matt Damon) is desperate to reach this orbiting world of privilege where he knows he can be healed. So he agrees to undertake a perilous spying mission for an underground guerilla leader (Wagner Moura) who has the resources to get him there. But the assignment brings him into conflict with the habitat’s ruthless secretary of defense (Jodie Foster) and with the brutal mercenary (Sharlto Copley) she uses as a secret agent to keep the downtrodden in line.
Well-intentioned but laden with harsh vocabulary and visuals, Blomkamp’s film succeeds more as a suspenseful adventure for stalwart grown-ups than as a parable about the plight of immigrants, restricted access to health care and the unequal division of resources. Much gory violence, some gruesome images, a few uses of profanity, considerable rough and crude language, several obscene gestures.

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“Planes” (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.

The anthropomorphic world of the “Cars” franchise is transported to the skies in this exhilarating 3-D animated adventure, directed by Klay Hall.
A spirited crop-duster (voice of Dane Cook) dreams of life as an air racer. He’s fast, but he has a potentially fatal flaw: Used to flying low and slow over the fields, he’s afraid of heights. Determined to succeed, he persuades a crusty veteran of wartime air battles (voice of Stacy Keach), to train him for a race around the world, where the aircraft to beat is a devious fellow American (voice of Roger Craig Smith).
The animation dazzles with acrobatic races over beautiful scenery, while the plot offers good lessons for kids about friendship and overcoming obstacles. A few perilous situations.

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“We’re the Millers” (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.

Posing as a family of clueless tourists, a drug dealer (Jason Sudeikis), his naive young neighbor (Will Poulter), a stripper (Jennifer Aniston) and a runaway teen (Emma Roberts) use a mobile home to transport a cargo of marijuana across the Mexican border so the pusher can clear a debt to his ruthless supplier (Ed Helms).
As they struggle to overcome various complications — including their run-in with a DEA agent (Nick Offerman) who’s vacationing with his wife (Kathryn Harris) and daughter (Molly Quinn) — the quartet begins to take on the characteristics, both positive and negative, of a real clan.
Director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s tawdry comedy purports to find humor in scenarios involving both aberrant sexual behavior and the mistaken perception of it. As it drips disdain for squares, religion and respectability, his film also sends the message that low-level trafficking in pot is a harmless way to make a living.
Skewed moral values, strong sexual content — including a same-sex encounter, voyeurism and full nudity — a benign view of drug use, much tasteless humor, including a scene mocking prayer, about a dozen uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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