Newly released movies reviewed on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Chris Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch star in a scene from the movie “August: Osage County.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive.

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) 2014 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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“I, Frankenstein” (Lionsgate)

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 surprising amount of Catholic imagery comes into play as the tormented but immortal creature (Aaron Eckhart) of the title returns from two centuries of self-imposed exile and reluctantly renews his involvement in a fairly straightforward good-vs.-evil struggle pitting an armed band of angels-turned-animated gargoyles (led by Miranda Otto) against the hordes of hell (commanded on Earth by Bill Nighy).
Despite some idle metaphysical speculation — does Eckhart’s character have a soul or not? — director Stuart Beattie’s overblown but mostly harmless adaptation of his co-scriptwriter Kevin Grevioux’s graphic novel is restrained enough in its portrayal of the combat to be likely acceptable for mature adolescents.
Constant but bloodless violence, brief images of a gory wound, a single crude term.

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“August: Osage County” (Weinstein)

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 family gathering becomes a maelstrom of accusations and assaults in this adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts, directed from Letts’ script by John Wells.
The devious matriarch (Meryl Streep) of an Oklahoma clan summons her kin when her husband (Sam Shepard) disappears. The rambling homestead fills with, among others, her nosy sister (Margo Martindale) and her three daughters (Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Julia Roberts).
No sooner has the tribe gathered than father is found — at the bottom of a nearby lake, a suicide. His death forces long-suppressed emotions to the surface, and the post-funeral family dinner turns into a nightmare. The ties that bind are more like nooses around various necks, and reconciliation takes a back seat to retribution.
A relentlessly negative portrayal of family life, drug use, pervasive profane and crude language, some sexual talk.

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“Inside Llewyn Davis” (CBS)

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.

The trials and tribulations of a 1960s folk singer (Oscar Isaac) are chronicled in this dark comedy-drama, set amid the moody music scene of New York City’s Greenwich Village during the early years of that turbulent decade.
As he struggles to relaunch himself as a solo act following the suicide of his musical partner, the protagonist relies for shelter on the kindness of a former girlfriend (Carey Mulligan), among others, before embarking on a trip to Chicago in the company of a beat poet (Garrett Hedlund) and a heroin-addicted jazz musician (John Goodman).
Inspired by the life of genre legend Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002), writers and co-directors Joel and Ethan Coen chart an absorbing, atmospheric odyssey with hummable music. But their script is chock-full of filthy dialogue and, worse still, freighted with misguided values concerning the sacredness of human life and the gift of sexuality.
A benign view of abortion, promiscuity and contraception, drug use, pervasive profane and crude language, some sexual banter.

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“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” (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.

Enjoyable espionage thriller in which a wounded Marine (Chris Pine) with a business-school background is recruited by a CIA operative (Kevin Costner) to join the agency as a financial analyst. But when he uncovers portentous investment manipulations by a sinister Russian oligarch (Kenneth Branagh), he’s compelled to cross the line from desk work to perilous field activity, an unsought career move that eventually endangers his live-in girlfriend (Keira Knightley) as well.
In crafting this origins story for a character created by novelist Tom Clancy, Branagh, who also directed, provides mature viewers with a diverting adventure that gains moral credibility from its protagonist’s qualms about the use of fatal force. Russian Orthodox Christians may be less than pleased, however, to see the villains of the piece lighting candles in church and using a liturgical reading as the coded signal to put their evil scheme into action.
Some harsh violence, much bloodless gunplay, images of gory combat wounds, premarital cohabitation, several instances of profanity, at least one use of the F-word, about a half-dozen crude terms.

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“The Nut Job” (Open Road)

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 multilayered plot of this animated feature — in which all is not what it initially seems — might confuse younger children. But the film’s continuous action and theme of the importance of living in community make it not only splendidly entertaining but morally appealing as well. And director Peter Lepeniotis, who co-scripted with Lorne Cameron, keeps the seemingly inevitable potty jokes reasonably restrained.
A selfish squirrel (voice of Will Arnett) learns the value of cooperation after being exiled from his parkland habitat by its raccoon leader (voice of Liam Neeson). He hopes his conversion from loner to collaborator will help him win the affection and respect of the she-squirrel of his dreams (voice of Katherine Heigl).
Some intense action scenes and mild scatological humor.

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“Ride Along” (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.

Bad-tempered comedy in which a tough and irritable Atlanta police officer (Ice Cube) takes the immature aspiring cop (Kevin Hart) who lives with, and wants to marry, his sister (Tika Sumpter) along on his daily rounds to prove that the nervous neophyte lacks the mettle to keep order on the streets.
Farfetched encounters showing Hart’s character being bested by various disturbers of the peace fail to amuse, while an excess of gutter language makes the appropriate audience for director Tim Story’s largely pointless feature a small one.
Considerable action violence, including gunplay, cohabitation, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one rough term, pervasive crude and much crass language, some sexual humor.

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“Her” (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.

Quirky romantic drama, set in a slightly futuristic version of Los Angeles, about a depressed writer (Joaquin Phoenix) on the rebound from a pending divorce — Rooney Mara plays his soon-to-be-ex — who falls for an innovative computer operating system (voice of Scarlett Johansson) despite the fact that the object of his newfound affection has no body other than the casing of whatever gadget she’s guiding.
Writer-director Spike Jonze leaps over such issues as whether artificial intelligence can ever include emotion — the love at work in the central relationship is shown to be mutual — to achieve some moments of poignancy and humor. And his film’s bizarre premise makes it difficult to assess, as a whole, from a real-life moral perspective.
But numerous problematic interludes — the attempt to use a human surrogate (Portia Doubleday) to add carnality to the bond among them — make this fit fare for the sturdiest grown-ups only.
Strong sexual content, including aberrant bedroom behavior, semigraphic nonmarital sexual activity, a glimpse of full female nudity and brief obscene images, much rough and crude language.

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“The Legend of Hercules” (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.

This woeful 3-D action adventure finds the super-strong offspring (Kellan Lutz) of Zeus and Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) of the Greek city-state Tiryns at odds with the queen’s power-hungry husband, King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), and with Amphitryon’s cowardly son, Prince Iphicles (Liam Garrigan). The spat concerns the fate of Hercules’ true love, a foreign princess named Hebe (Gaia Weiss), who has been betrothed, for purely political reasons and against her will, to Iphicles.
While not offensive to Christian sensibilities, vaguely drawn and passing parallels between Hercules and Jesus are as ineptly handled as every other element in director Renny Harlin’s lump of mythological lead.
Considerable but bloodless combat violence, a suicide, implied premarital sexual activity, scenes of sensuality, mature references.

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“Lone Survivor” (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.

Blunt, superficial action film aims to honor the sacrifices made by the men and women of America’s military by chronicling an ill-fated mission conducted by Navy SEALs inside Afghanistan in 2005.
Based on the bestselling memoir by Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), the movie offers a less-than-flattering portrait of the fallen soldiers because its effort to sanctify the warrior ethos of the SEALs clashes with a script riddled with expletives and gruesome, bloody violence.
Writer-director Peter Berg stages the action with intermittent aplomb, but overall there’s a lack of creative insight and finesse. Rather than diminish our gratitude for the sacrifices made by American soldiers, however, it should serve to remind us that there are better ways to depict and memorialize them.
Frequent graphic war violence, including a beheading, numerous gory images of battle wounds, frequent profanity, pervasive rough and crude language, some sexual banter.

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“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” (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 R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

After the murder of a mysterious neighbor (Gloria Sandoval) in his apartment complex, a California teen (Andrew Jacobs) has a series of unsettling experiences that his best friend (Jorge Diaz) documents using a handheld camera.
Though writer-director Christopher Landon maintains this spooky franchise’s admirable tradition of minimal bloodletting, he ratchets up the adult content with a steady flow of vulgarities and a scene of occult rites performed without clothing. He also has the main character’s grandmother (Renee Victor) resorting to a combination of Catholic prayer and Santeria practices to rid the lad of his supernatural woes.
With the found-footage concept beginning to feel threadbare, even those few mature horror fans who make up the appropriate audience for this fifth outing in the series may find it less rewarding than its predecessors. Some violence with brief gore, a suicide, full nudity, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity, drug use, a couple of instances of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language, a few sexual jokes, one involving an obscene image.

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“The Wolf of Wall Street” (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.

This vile exercise in immorality charts the fact-based rise and fall of a penny-stock swindler (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his closest associates (most prominently Jonah Hill) as they play on the unrealistic aspirations of naive small-time investors to make themselves rich, then use their ill-gotten gains to fund a decadent lifestyle full of narcotics, status-symbol toys and casual sex.
Anything but a cautionary tale, director Martin Scorsese’s screen version of Jordan Belfort’s memoir revels in greed, criminality, substance abuse and bedroom behavior straight from the barnyard while sending viewers the resentment-fueled message that capitalism is a con game and that only fools and drones try to make a living honestly.
A benign view of sinful and illegal actions, domestic violence, strong sexual content, including graphic aberrant and adulterous sexual activity and full nudity, drug use, frequent profanities, pervasive rough and crude language, a few obscene gestures.

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“Justin Bieber’s Believe” (Open Road)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Director Jon M. Chu’s amiable follow-up to his 2011 feature “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” chronicles the eponymous star’s second world tour. The young girls who represent the Canadian-born singer’s carefully targeted audience will certainly need no convincing of his latest project’s worthiness. But parents will be reassured to know that, though it contains a brief acknowledgement of the wunderkind’s foul-mouthed encounter with a cursing photographer, this documentary as a whole provides overwhelmingly harmless entertainment.
A single, incomplete instance of crude language and some gyrating dancers.

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“47 Ronin” (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.

Despite lavish special effects, this big-budget retelling of the fact-based Japanese national legend of the title is so badly done as to render its classic story incomprehensible.
Working from a script by Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini, director Carl Rinsch has Keanu Reeves as a mysterious half-breed warrior helping 47 leaderless samurai (most prominently Hiroyuki Sanada) regain their honor after their master (Min Tanaka) has been deposed through the machinations of a jealous rival (Tadanobu Asano) and a shape-shifting witch (Rinko Kikuchi).
Combat violence, the bloodless portrayal of a suicide and a beheading.

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“Grudge Match” (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.

Two long-retired boxing rivals (Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone), each of whom scored a single victory against the other, are lured back into the ring for a tiebreaking rematch. Besides their professional competition, their mutual antagonism is also fueled by unresolved personal issues, De Niro’s character having had a one-night stand with his adversary’s true love (Kim Basinger) that resulted in the couple’s breakup — and in the birth of her now-grown son (Jon Bernthal).
Director Peter Segal’s comedy — which also features Kevin Hart as the promoter who arranges the big event — amuses intermittently. But its theme of family reconciliation is undercut by the misuse of a child actor’s (Camden Grey playing Bernthal’s son) age-appropriate innocence to forward some of the script’s frequent sex jokes. More predictably, screenwriters Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman’s dialogue is chockablock with foul vocabulary.
Mature themes, including promiscuity, pugilistic violence, an off-screen nonmarital encounter, much sexual humor, about a dozen uses of profanity, a single bleeped instance of the F-word, pervasive crude and crass language.

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“Saving Mr. Banks” (Disney)

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.

Director John Lee Hancock’s fact-based film recounts the behind-the-scenes circumstances surrounding the making of the classic 1964 Walt Disney musical “Mary Poppins.”
Having promised his daughters he would make a movie from the children’s books they loved — tales of the magical nanny Poppins written by P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) — Disney (Tom Hanks) lobbied for the film rights for two decades, to no avail. But when Travers’ fortune eventually dried up, she was forced to reconsider. So she headed to Hollywood, determined to protect her prized creation from being “Disney-fied.” A battle of wills ensued, until Disney learned the personal side to the volumes, including the story of Travers’ beloved father (Colin Farrell), the inspiration for the fictional George Banks of the title.
A handful of emotional scenes may be too intense for pre-teens. But the overall sincerity and wholesomeness of this blend of comedy and tearjerking drama make for a welcome change at the multiplex.
Mature themes, one use of profanity, a mild oath.

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“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (Fox)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Strange blend of comedy, drama and travelogue in which a soft-spoken, office-bound photo editor (Ben Stiller) at a fictionalized version of Life magazine finds his endless daydreams of grand adventure coming true as he trots the globe in pursuit of a missing negative sent in to the periodical by the glamorous photographer (Sean Penn) he idolizes.
Supporting him from afar along his urgent quest — he faces unemployment if the crucial item fails to turn up — is the fetching co-worker (Kristen Wiig) for whom he secretly pines. But looking on with impatience is the overgrown adolescent of an executive (Adam Scott) who holds the woolgatherer’s professional future in his callous hands. Stiller, who also directed this very loose adaptation of humorist James Thurber’s classic short story, shifts the tone of his tale erratically, with humor about awkward workplace situations and executive bullies giving way to a serious study in self-realization augmented with social commentary.
Brief but harsh violence, at least one use of profanity, a few crude and crass terms.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (Warner Bros.)

Lively sequel in which a once-timid hobbit (Martin Freeman) continues his courageous quest to help a group of dwarves (led by Richard Armitage) recapture their ancestral mountain stronghold from the terrifying dragon (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch) who displaced them. As he does so, the wizard (Ian McKellen) who originally chose him for this seemingly unlikely mission works to prevent larger, darker forces from consolidating their power. Director Peter Jackson’s second installment in a trilogy of films based on Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel is — like its 2012 predecessor, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” — too intense for the smallest viewers. But most others will likely appreciate the peppier pace of his return to Tolkien’s fictional world of Middle-earth as well as the implicit warnings against the corrupting influence of wealth and power that accompany it. Much vivid but bloodless action violence, some occult undertones, a brief instance of mildly sexual humor. 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.

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“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” (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.

The one-note joke of a clueless TV anchor played by Will Ferrell goes all stale and moldy when he enters the dawn of 24-hour cable news in 1980.
This satire, directed by Adam McKay, who co-wrote the script with Ferrell, is done in by gags left over from the first film, 2004’s “Anchorman.” Additionally, the racism on display, though intended as comic, is instead off-putting.
A scene of nongraphic premarital sexual activity, drug use, some racist dialogue, fleeting sexual banter and profane language, frequent crude and crass terms.

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“American Hustle” (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.

Con-game comedy set in the late 1970s centers on a pair of flimflam artists (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) forced by an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) to entrap politicians using a fake Arab sheik eager to invest in Atlantic City casinos.
Inspired by the real-life Abscam scandal and concerned with the theme of self-creation, the fictionalized story makes dynamic use of the period’s music, fashion, beauty, and decor trends. Director and co-writer David O. Russell adopts a simultaneously mocking and sympathetic tone; laudable tolerance and hints of moral relativism are both detectable. In the end, despite being fundamentally optimistic, the movie’s ceaseless barrage of vulgar language and its emphasis on carnality, alongside other notes of disrespect and condescension, will lead viewers to conclude that somebody is trying to make a sucker out of them.
Some violence, a nongraphic nonmarital sexual encounter, constant sensuality — including frequent partial upper female nudity, numerous gropings and sexually aggressive poses — several brief instances of drug use, much profanity, pervasive rough and crude language, considerable banter and innuendo.

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