Recent movies reviewed on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Jessica Brown Findlay and Colin Farrell star in a scene from the movie “Winter’s Tale.” 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) 2014 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

—-

“Endless Love” (Universal)

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.

This remake of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 romantic drama jettisons much of the original source material, the 1979 novel by Scott Spencer, in favor of a predictable tale of star-crossed teens (Gabriella Wilde and Alex Pettyfer) who cast caution — and morality — to the winds one fateful summer, all in the name of “love.”
Their origins on different sides of the tracks in a leafy Georgia suburb notwithstanding, the duo’s bond — which initially delights his easygoing father (Robert Patrick) but consistently concerns her overprotective one (Bruce Greenwood) — turns to obsession. Unfortunately, director and co-writer Shana Feste’s film wants to have it both ways.
There’s a welcome measure of redemption and a degree of reconciliation. But any ethical code that would prohibit sexual activity outside of marriage is ignored. Misguided values, semi-graphic nonmarital sexual activity with brief partial nudity, teenage drinking, some rough and profane language.

—–

Winter’s Tale” (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.

Set mostly in a fantastical version of early 20th-century New York City, this sappy supernatural love story pairs a goodhearted burglar (Colin Farrell) with the sequestered invalid (Jessica Brown Findlay) he unexpectedly meets while trying to rob her wealthy father’s (William Hurt) home. Out to thwart the unlikely couple’s bliss is the demonic crime lord (Russell Crowe) who was once the thief’s mentor; assisting the duo is a magical flying horse.
Characters in writer-director Akiva Goldsman’s adaptation of Mark Helprin’s celebrated 1983 novel spout sentimental waddle and subscribe to a version of metaphysics that might have been lifted from a Hallmark greeting card. The script, shot through with feverish romanticism and the exaltation of erotic love, also glamorizes an objectively sinful bedroom encounter.
Some harsh but bloodless violence, semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, brief partial nudity, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one instance each of crude and crass language.

—–

“The Lego Movie” (Warner Bros.)

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 lively 3-D animated adventure, populated by the toys of the title, centers on an ordinary construction worker (voice of Chris Pratt) who finds himself taken for a prophesied hero and propelled on a crusade to thwart an evil CEO’s (voice of Will Ferrell) scheme to control the world. He’s aided in the struggle by, among others, a tough but fetching underground activist (voice of Elizabeth Banks), her self-centered boyfriend, Batman (voice of Will Arnett), and the pixilated mystic who predicted the champion’s arrival in the first place (voice of Morgan Freeman).
Opposing them is the would-be dictator’s principal minion (voice of Liam Neeson), a police officer torn between the good and bad sides of his own personality.
Colorful, fast-paced and diverting for both young and old, directors and co-writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s film is also surprisingly pointed in its satire of conformist consumerism. A format-shifting conclusion showing family bonds trumping selfishness is another asset.
Cartoon mayhem, some peril, a bit of mild scatological humor.

—–

“Robocop” (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.

Man and machine merge — for the fourth time — in this addition to the science-fiction franchise, directed by Jose Padilha. His remake serves up some of the mindless mayhem and gratuitous violence of the 1987 original, but throws in some timely messages about greed, corruption and the dangers of playing God.
In the year 2028, a Detroit cop (Joel Kinnaman) becomes a pawn in a wicked conglomerate’s attempt to convince the American people that the future of crime control lies in their manufacture of a new human-mechanical hybrid. The company’s CEO (Michael Keaton) and its lead scientist (Gary Oldman) soon learn that their creation has a mind of his own — and an agenda not necessarily to their liking.
Intense action violence, including gunplay, some profane and rough language.

—–

“About Last Night” (Screen Gems)

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 trashy take on contemporary dating mores blends coarse comedy with hollow drama as it tracks the romantic fortunes of two best friends and co-workers (Kevin Hart and Michael Ealy) who fall, respectively, in lust (with Regina Hall) and love (with Joy Bryant). The unruly, passion-driven nature of the one relationship is contrasted with the more subdued character of the other. Yet both begin with a casual encounter, while the supposedly more respectable bond culminates in what passes, in this context, for a major mutual commitment: the weighty decision to shack up.
Director Steve Pink’s loose updating of Edward Zwick’s 1986 film — based, like its predecessor, on David Mamet’s 1974 play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” — lacks any semblance of moral maturity. A debased view of human sexuality, strong adult content, including graphic nonmarital sexual activity with partial nudity, cohabitation, drug use, relentless filthy humor, a few instances of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

—–

“Vampire Academy” (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.

Pallid fantasy adventure in which a benign teen vampire (Lucy Fry) and her half-human guardian-in-training (Zoey Deutch), who doubles as her best friend, battle a race of evil bloodsuckers as well as internal threats from within the supposedly safe confines of the titular school (presided over by Olga Kurylenko and Gabriel Byrne).
They also find time for love as the vein-drainer gives her heart to a bad-boy social outcast (Dominic Sherwood), and the apprentice bodyguard falls for her — much older – martial-arts coach (Danila Kozlovsky).
One of the characteristics of the good undead in director Mark Waters’ adaptation of a series of books by novelist Richelle Mead is that they attend a version of church. But fang-sinking as a metaphor for sex is never far from the surface, most problematically when Deutch’s character allows Fry’s to feed on her. That and other ingredients make this unappealing recipe, which relies far too heavily on self-referential mythology, inappropriate fare for targeted teens.
Much hand-to-hand combat as well as action violence with minimal gore, semi-graphic nonmarital sexual activity, numerous sexual references, considerable crass language.

—–

“The Monuments Men” (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.

George Clooney co-wrote, directed and stars in this fact-based World War II drama in which his character, a leading art historian-turned-Army-officer, assembles an eccentric team of similar experts (most prominently Matt Damon, Bill Murray and John Goodman) to trace and rescue the vast store of cultural treasures purloined by the Nazis during their four-years-plus occupation of most of Europe.
As these over-the-hill soldiers adjust to life in uniform and the perils of the Western Front, their attention focuses on a Paris museum curator (Cate Blanchett), who witnessed the Teutonic looting firsthand.
Despite its honorable intentions and a cast of heavy hitters, Clooney’s picture, adapted from the book by Robert M. Edsel (written with Bret Witter), falls well short of the monumental. Though the script’s comic byplay is amusing enough, a firm foundation is never laid for its more solemn moments.
Possibly acceptable for mature teens. Some combat violence with brief gore, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, a few crude and crass terms.

—–

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

A glossy look and skillful performances fail to disguise the improbability at the heart of this romantic drama in which an escaped convict (Josh Brolin) forces a depressed, reclusive divorcee (Kate Winslet) and her adolescent son (Gattlin Griffith) to give him temporary shelter in their home. But then he manages to transform himself, over the course of the titular holiday weekend, from hostage-taker to aspiring husband and dad.
Though its portrayal is restrained throughout, sensuality permeates writer-director Jason Reitman’s screen version of Joyce Maynard’s best-selling 2009 novel which finds the fugitive stoking the banked fires of his hostess’ eroticism, a process uncomfortably juxtaposed with the teen’s emerging sexuality. Though the primary relationship eventually shows itself ready for the long haul, it takes on a physical dimension within hours.
Fleeting violence, brief semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, another unseen but audible encounter of the same nature, at least one use of profanity, several sexual references.

—–

“That Awkward Moment” (Focus)

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.

Though it presents itself as a quip-filled romantic comedy, writer-director Tom Gormican’s film is, sad to say, not much more than a collection of smutty moments. Zac Efron stars as a commitment-phobe who, together with his friends, longs for near-daily sexual encounters but flees at the first sign of stability. They eventually arrive at some form of maturity and wisdom, but the film takes an ugly approach before getting them there.
Frequent nonmarital sexual encounters, partial male nudity, sexual sight gags and banter, constant references to body functions, pervasive rough and crude language.

—–

Dallas Buyers Club” (Focus)

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 onset of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, with its devastating impact on victims and on society as a whole, provides the backdrop for this true story of a macho Texas cowboy (Matthew McConaughey) whose life is turned upside down when he unexpectedly tests positive for HIV.
Refusing to accept the apparent death sentence, he learns there are treatments in Mexico to relieve symptoms and prolong life. Together with an HIV-positive transvestite (Jared Leto), he establishes the organization of the title whose members pay monthly dues for access to experimental smuggled drugs.
Despite all the sinful behavior on display — director Jean-Marc Vallee re-creates a sordid world of sex, drugs, and general decadence — there is a worthy (and Christian) message underlying the proceedings, one that condemns prejudice toward individuals and uplifts compassion for the suffering. Yet the fact that immorality of various stripes is consistently given a pass in screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack’s script precludes endorsement even for a mature and restricted audience.
A benign view of promiscuity and of homosexual acts, strong sexual content, including graphic casual sex, full nudity, masturbation and sexually themed dialogue, drug use, pervasive profane and crude language.

—–

“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.

—–

“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.

—–

“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.

—–

“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.

—–

“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.

—–

“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.

—–

“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.

—–

“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.

—–

“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.

—–

“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.

—–

“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.

—–

“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.

—–

“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.

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
© Copyright 2020 - The Catholic Post || 2 || All Rights Reserved || Design by TBare.com