Recent movies reviewed by CNS on basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe star in a scene from the movie “Noah.” 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.

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“Bad Words” (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.

Jason Bateman stars in and makes his directorial debut with this surly comedy about an abrasive underachiever who exploits a loophole in the rules of a national spelling bee in order to compete against its field of kid contestants.
His maneuver outrages the children’s parents and frustrates the competition’s hard-nosed director (Allison Janney) and professorial founder (Philip Baker Hall). But a relentlessly good-natured, unflappably upbeat fellow entrant (Rohan Chand) is determined to befriend the thick-skinned loner.
The path of screenwriter Andrew Dodge’s script leads, ultimately, toward redemption of a sort for its protagonist. Yet its route takes in not only his strictly physical, and somewhat perverse, relationship with a journalist (Kathryn Hahn) but his deeply corrupt behavior toward Chand’s preteen character which involves introducing the boy to alcohol, shoplifting, pornography and the exposed torso of a prostitute.
Immoral values, including a benign view of petty theft and underage drinking, graphic nonmarital sexual activity, some of it aberrant, upper female nudity, much sexual and brief scatological humor, several uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (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.

The big guy with the red, white, and blue shield returns to save the planet in this rousing follow-up to 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger,” and 2012’s “The Avengers.”
The director (Samuel L. Jackson) of an international crime-fighting bureau discovers the agency has been compromised from within by one of his fellow leaders (Robert Redford). He turns to Captain America and his sidekicks, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), to unravel the conspiracy that threatens world peace and freedom. But first they must defeat the baddies, led by the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), whom Captain America seems to have met before.
This 3-D popcorn movie, directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, is sure to please fans of the Marvel Comics superhero with its patriotic, gung-ho tone and grandiose action sequences (which may be too intense for younger viewers). Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who penned the first Captain America script, expand their horizons with a smart and timely story touching on national security, government surveillance and the price of freedom.
Intense but largely bloodless violence, including gunplay.

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“Noah” (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.

What begins as a fairly straightforward recounting of the biblical story of the flood veers off into a grim, scripturally unfounded drama about a family dispute driven by the titular patriarch’s (Russell Crowe) misguided interpretation of God’s purposes in causing the deluge.
His extreme pro-nature, anti-human reading of the situation brings him into conflict with his wife, Naameh, (Jennifer Connelly), with his two older sons, Shem (Douglas Booth) and Ham (Logan Lerman), and with his adoptive daughter — and Shem’s destined bride — Ila (Emma Watson).
Director and co-writer Darren Aronofsky serves up predictably impressive special effects, and convincingly portrays the wickedness from which the Earth is to be cleansed — a range of sinful tendencies embodied in the impious self-proclaimed “King” Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone). But his script, written with Ari Handel, departs from its inspired source material in order to turn Noah, at least temporarily, into a religious fanatic who will stop at nothing to carry out the mission entrusted to him.
Though it approaches its weighty themes with due seriousness, the film requires mature discernment and a solid grounding in the relevant, sometimes mysterious passages of the Old Testament. Much stylized violence with minimal gore, an off-screen encounter that may be premarital, distant partial nudity, some mild sensuality.

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“Sabotage” (Open Road)

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.

Excessive violence and a flawed moral outlook characterize this Arnold Schwarzenegger action vehicle directed and co-written by David Ayer. Schwarzenegger plays the head of an elite DEA unit made up of skilled but crooked agents, among them Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos, Josh Holloway and Joe Manganiello. After the $10 million they collaborated to steal during a drug raid goes missing, members of the team begin turning up dead, murdered in spectacularly brutal ways.
As the straight-arrow police detective (Olivia Williams) assigned to the case works diligently to get to the bottom of it all, the remaining operatives wonder whether it’s the cartel they robbed that’s hunting them down or one of their own. With the sole exception of Williams’ character, greed and vengeance are the dark motives guiding everyone’s behavior within the seamy environment of this sometimes suspenseful but ethically unanchored film.
Pervasive bloody, sometimes gruesome violence, including torture and extreme images of gore, graphic sexual activity, some of it aberrant, upper female nudity, drug use, much sexual and scatological as well as brief irreverent humor, several uses of profanity, relentless rough and crude language.

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“God’s Not Dead” (Freestyle)

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 be not suitable for children.

Earnest but ineffective message movie in which a college freshman (Shane Harper) takes up his militantly atheistic philosophy professor’s (Kevin Sorbo) challenge to prove God’s existence to the satisfaction of his classmates (including, most prominently, Paul Kwo). He does so despite the active discouragement of his believing but ambitious girlfriend (Cassidy Gifford), who thinks he should go with the flow to avoid ruining their perfect future together.
There might be the kernel of an intriguing documentary buried within director Harold Cronk’s stacked-deck drama about academic hostility toward religion, but even faith-filled moviegoers will sense the claustrophobia of the echo chamber within which this largely unrealistic story unfolds.
Mature themes, brief domestic violence, a potentially upsetting accident scene, vaguely implied cohabitation.

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“Divergent” (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

In post-apocalyptic Chicago, independent will is eliminated, and each person is assigned, at age 16, to a social faction with a specific duty.
One shy young woman (Shailene Woodley), however, discovers that she has a rare gift: she is a “Divergent,” capable of adapting to any group she pleases.
Since such versatility is seen as a threat to the status quo by the evil administrator of the system (Kate Winslet), the malleable lass is forced to hide her secret by leaving the altruistic bloc in which she was raised and joining the very different section of the populace responsible for security. As she undergoes rigorous, even vicious martial arts training, she falls for her instructor (Theo James), and together they uncover a nefarious plot that jeopardizes her family.
Director Neil Burger’s exposition-heavy screen version of Veronica Roth’s novel pushes the boundaries of mayhem to the limit, placing the film squarely outside the proper reach of younger teens. Intense violence, including scenes of torture.

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“Muppets Most Wanted” (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.

Another sprightly musical outing for the beloved puppet ensemble created by Jim Henson, this time hinging on the most unlikely of plot twists: Kermit the Frog’s (voice of Steve Whitmire) confinement in a Siberian gulag.
His imprisonment comes courtesy of a Russian gangster lookalike (voice of Matt Vogel) — “the world’s most dangerous frog” — who, aided by a human confederate (Ricky Gervais), is out to take Kermit’s place on a Muppet world tour as part of his plans for a daring jewel heist.
Director and co-writer James Bobin’s follow-up to his 2011 re-launch “The Muppets” — which also features a hilarious Tina Fey as Kermit’s principal jailer — combines singing, dancing, innocent humor and entertaining cameos. The resulting treat is then topped off with an endearing message about loyalty to friends. Some slapstick violence.

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“Need for Speed” (Disney)

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

The nearly plot-free milieu of director Scott Waugh’s action flick may appeal to young men who prefer their car chases uncomplicated. But many others will find his big-screen version of the eponymous videogame series morally troubling.
Illegal city street racing, at great hazard to passers-by, is glamorized, while the pedal-to-the-metal rivalry between an ex-con (Aaron Paul) and his principal competitor (Dominic Cooper) is fuelled by the convict’s thirst for revenge. Things reach a low point as the speed junkies heedlessly destroy the possessions of a homeless man.
Reckless street racing, rear male nudity, some crude and crass language.

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“Tyler Perry’s Single Moms Club” (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.

There’s an artificial air to this seriocomedy about five socially diverse but uniformly beleaguered single mothers — played by Nia Long, Amy Smart, Cocoa Brown, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Zulay Henao — who form the grouping of the title to offer one another support in their travails. The prospect of new love — with, most prominently, Tyler Perry, William Levy and Terry Crews — helps them cope with such challenges as troubled kids, professional setbacks and domineering exes.
Perry, who also wrote and directed, shows many of the negative effects of divorce. But his script implicitly accepts out-of-wedlock sexual relationships as well as the objectively immoral means by which one of the main characters became a parent. Approval is also given, in passing, to homosexual acts. Adult viewers will have to decide whether the forced proceedings are worth the effort of straining out these currently widespread but scripturally unwarranted attitudes.
Misguided sexual values, a premarital situation, much adult humor, some crass language.

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“The Wind Rises” (Touchstone)

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.

Master Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki takes to the skies in what has been announced as his final animated film, a fictionalized biography of the aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi (voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt) set against the turbulent events of the years leading up to World War II.
In his dreams, Horikoshi visits his hero, Italian airplane designer Giovanni Caproni (voice of Stanley Tucci), who becomes the inspiration for his life’s work. He’s also influenced by his bond with chance acquaintance-turned-love-interest Nahoko (voice of Emily Blunt). Horikoshi isn’t torn between pacifism and militarism; he just wants to design the best and fastest aircraft in the world, which he does.
The film’s attempt to put a human face on the rise of militarism in 1930s Japan may offend some viewers. Miyazaki prefers to honor creativity and technological achievements such as Horikoshi’s “Zero” fighter airplane, rather than dwell on the consequences: hundreds of thousands of lives lost, including those of the victims at Pearl Harbor. Historical themes requiring mature interpretation, action sequences, a few disturbing images.

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“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” (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.

The chronology-defying adventures of a hyper-intellectual dog (voice of Ty Burrell) — whose many accomplishments include the invention of a time machine — and the perky human son (voice of Max Charles) he adopted as an infant turn perilous when the lad takes an unauthorized trip to the past in the company of a classmate (voice of Ariel Winter) he’s anxious to impress.
Director Rob Minkoff’s 3-D updating of a popular TV cartoon of the 1950s and ’60s adds a tiresome amount of potty humor to the elaborate, sometimes groan-inducing puns characteristic of the original material. But basic history lessons for the youngest moviegoers, together with a worthy message about respecting people of different backgrounds — even if they do happen to be canines — endow this more than usually literate children’s film with some countervailing virtues.
Scenes of mild peril, several scatological jokes and sight gags, a single double entendre.

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200: Rise of an Empire” (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.

Directed by Noam Murro, this 3-D war drama, both a prequel and a sequel to 2007’s “200,” is short on dialogue but long on relentless and increasingly repellent action.
As ancient Persians and Greeks once again battle for supremacy of the Aegean peninsula, the film serves up a second helping of the choreographed violence and warrior beefcake that characterized its predecessor.
Following their nation’s victory over the Spartans at Thermopolyae, the Persian king (Rodrigo Santoro) and his sexy naval commander (Eva Green) plan an invasion of Greece, setting their sights on Athens. The stage is set for an epic naval battle, as the Athenian fleet admiral (Sullivan Stapleton) leads a crusade for freedom and democracy over tyranny. Tasteless carnage, needless to say, is the real name of the game, with innumerable gross-out moments.
Relentless gory and sometimes gruesome fighting, a graphic nonmarital sex scene, upper female and rear nudity, skimpy costumes, some rough language.

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“Son of God” (Fox)

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 life of Jesus (Diogo Morgado) is recounted by the aged, exiled St. John the Evangelist (Sebastian Knapp) in this reverent but uneven screen version of the Gospel story.
While director Christopher Spencer’s portrayal of the Passion, and the events leading up to it — with Judas (Joe Wredden), Caiaphas the high priest (Adrian Schiller) and Pontius Pilate (Greg Hicks) all assigned believable motives — is compelling, other aspects of his film range from moving to awkward. Catholic viewers will appreciate the unqualified acknowledgement of St. Peter (Darwin Shaw) as the leader of the Apostles as well as scenes highlighting Mary’s (Roma Downey) closeness to her son.
The first wide-release movie in nearly 50 years to focus on the Savior’s biography as a whole, this outgrowth of the popular History cable channel miniseries “The Bible” offers some solid catechesis and an easy, though sometimes oddly truncated, introduction to the Lord’s ministry, teaching, death and Resurrection. As such, it’s probably acceptable for older teens, despite an unflinching treatment of the Redeemer’s sufferings.
Strong gory violence.

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“3 Days to Kill” (Relativity)

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.

Director McG offsets a great deal of action mayhem with pro-marriage, family-friendly values in this story of a terminally ill CIA agent (Kevin Costner) whose efforts to reconcile with his estranged wife (Connie Nielsen) and teen daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) are complicated when another operative (Amber Heard) lures him back into the spy racket by offering him a potentially life-saving experimental medicine as his reward.
Scenes of domestic life and the protagonist’s compassionate interaction with the African immigrants who have occupied his Paris apartment as squatters are interspersed with car chases, explosions, third-degree interrogation sessions and assassinations in an odd mix of genres suitable only for thick-skinned grownups.
Considerable harsh violence with some gore, torture, brief rear nudity, images of decadent sensuality, several instances of profanity, occasional rough and crude language.

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