CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

Rating: By Catholic News Service

PHOTO: Astrid rides her faithful dragon in a scene from the movie “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” See review below. CNS/DreamWorks Animation

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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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“Transformers: Age of Extinction” (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.

Initially engaging but interminable 3-D action sequel in which a small-time inventor (Mark Wahlberg), his teen daughter (Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) get caught up in a clash between good and evil alien robots capable of changing shape at will.
Director Michael Bay’s fourth installment of a saga based on a set of Hasbro toys benefits from Wahlberg’s strong presence, an amusing turn by Stanley Tucci as a Steve Jobs-like tech pioneer and some pleasant visuals. But scattered religious references and a more sustained theme about the dangers of overreacting to terrorism — Kelsey Grammer plays a top-ranking CIA agent for whom the only good automaton is a dead one — wind up being obscured by constant combat and ridiculous dialogue. Ehren Kruger’s script also includes a wayward relationship and a heavy dose of vulgarity, making this an inappropriate sci-fi slog for the youthful viewers who might best be able to endure it.
Relentless, though largely bloodless, violence, an implied premarital situation, at least one use each of profanity and rough language, numerous crude and crass terms.

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“Jersey Boys” (Warner Bros.)

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.

Lackluster adaptation of the long-running Broadway musical about The Four Seasons, a 1960s vocal group. With hits such as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man,” lead singer Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), guitarist Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), bassist Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and songwriter and keyboardist Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) went from the rough-and-tumble streets of New Jersey to the heights of the pop music world, encountering numerous professional and personal obstacles along the way.
Director Clint Eastwood and his key collaborators, including the writers of the stage show, choose not to fiddle with material that has proven so crowd-pleasing in the theater. They fail to exercise much creative license or make much of an effort to tailor the story for the screen. And yet, because the toe-tapping music is enjoyable, all is not lost.
A few nongraphic encounters, some profanity, frequent rough, crude and crass language, occasional sexual banter, mature references, including to crime and infidelity.

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“Think Like a Man Too” (Screen Gems)

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.

While the adage may hold that “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” plenty of Sin City’s debauchery is shared on screen in this vulgar sequel to the 2012 film based, like its forerunner, on comic Steve Harvey’s best-selling book of relationship advice “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.”
Tim Story occupies the director’s chair again and Keith Merryman and David A. Newman return as screenwriters. Together, they chronicle the misbehavior of couples gathered for a wedding in the Mecca of vice. The happy betrothed (Regina Hall and Terrence J) are joined by the groom’s disgruntled, interfering mother (Jenifer Lewis) and a gaggle of friends. The best man (Kevin Hart) takes the fellows on a pre-nuptial night of binge drinking and strip clubs, while the ladies make their own mischief.
Regrettably, as in the original, the moral compass is skewed for viewers of faith. Premarital sex and cohabitation are taken for granted, regardless of whether the couples involved eventually meet at the altar — the desired outcome. As for various other strains of immorality, sinning with your friends is just fine, so long as you manage to clean up the mess afterward.
Benignly treated premarital relationships and drug use, fleeting partial nudity, some profanity, pervasive crude language and sexual banter.

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“Edge of Tomorrow” (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.

This intriguing sci-fi action epic, set against the background of a devastating worldwide invasion by murderous aliens, finds a combat-averse Army officer (Tom Cruise) paying for his confrontation with a powerful superior (Brendan Gleeson) by being summarily reduced to the ranks and placed in the front line of a D-Day-like attack designed to liberate continental Europe from its extraterrestrial occupiers.
Though the vast operation quickly becomes a rout, the unwilling warrior’s seemingly fatal encounter with the enemy results, not in death, but in his being caught up in a time warp within which he’s forced to live out the day preceding the doomed assault over and over again. He eventually makes contact with a skilled Special Forces operative (Emily Blunt) whose earlier experience of the same phenomenon enabled her to achieve a high-profile but temporary victory over the intruders, and together they try to use the anomaly to reverse humanity’s fading fortunes.
Despite repeated scenes of battlefield chaos, director Doug Liman’s satisfying 3-D adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s teen-targeted novel “All You Need Is Kill” mostly shields viewers from gore, while the leads are too distracted by their military mission to express their mutual attraction in any but the most restrained of ways. Only some salty barracks talk bars a youthful audience. Pervasive action violence with minimal blood, a couple of uses of profanity, about a half-dozen crude and twice as many crass terms, a bit of sexual humor.

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“The Fault in Our Stars” (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.

Lush adaptation of John Green’s novel about two teen cancer patients (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) who meet at an Episcopal Church-sponsored support group in Indianapolis (led by Mike Birbiglia). They bond over a novel that also concerns the disease and, accompanied by her mother (Laura Dern), travel to Amsterdam to seek out its author (Willem Dafoe). But the scribe turns out to be an abusive drunk.
The remainder of director Josh Boone’s drama — which, through Woodley’s performance, presents its audience with an appealingly literate and sensible teen heroine — is a rumination on the harsh reality of dying in which religious faith gets only oblique mentions.
Though sexuality and language put his film on the adult side of the ledger, it may be acceptable for the most mature adolescents. Implied premarital sexual activity, fleeting crude and crass language.

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“How to Train Your Dragon 2” (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.

This animated adventure makes excellent use of 3-D technology as it charts the efforts of a 20-year-old Viking (voice of Jay Baruchel) to defeat a warmongering villain (voice of Djimon Hounsou) who has turned all the dragons domesticated since the end of the original film against mankind. If the lad succeeds, he may finally prove to himself that he’s worthy of being his father’s (voice of Gerard Butler) heir as the chief of his island community.
Writer-director Dean DeBlois oversees the creation of outstanding visuals but more time could have been spent on the script, which — saddled with promoting an ecologically correct agenda — contains clumsy dialogue that seems to elevate dragons above human beings.
Several scenes with mildly scary fantasy action, one instance of potty language, a single demeaning epithet.

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“Obvious Child” (A24)

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 culture of death gets its own romantic comedy with this story of a vulgar-minded stand-up comedian (Jenny Slate) whose drunken encounter with an aspiring business executive (Jake Lacy) she first met a few hours earlier leads to an unplanned pregnancy — and to an abortion mill.
Writer-director Gillian Robespierre’s deplorable film treats the taking of innocent human life as something between an unpleasant necessity — on the order of having your wisdom teeth removed — and a rite of passage. Worse still, the dialogue includes jokes on the subject, and the unlikely couple at the center of the action is shown deepening their initially casual bond partly by colluding in the liquidation of their unborn child.
Baneful propaganda with a message utterly opposed to biblical values. A benign view of abortion, a debased approach to human sexuality, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity, partial nudity, much sexual and scatological humor, a few uses of profanity, frequent rough and crude language.

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“22 Jump Street” (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.

Chaotic, foul-mouthed and ultimately loathsome sequel to 2012’s “21 Jump Street” in which Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum reprise their roles at undercover police partners.
As the duo graduates from posing as high school students to infiltrate a fictional college, where they pretend to be brothers, co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller serve up a couple of expertly staged action sequences strung together by obscenities. In addition to its numerous other faults, this second installment — like its predecessor, a spoof of the Fox series first broadcast in 1987 — tries to have it both ways with the subject of homosexuality, alternately snickering at it and defending it.
Frequent gun and physical violence, much sexual humor, a drug theme, inadvertent narcotics use, a few instances of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“Ida” (Music Box)

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.

Starkly beautiful minimalist masterpiece set in 1962 that adroitly navigates two horrific eras of Polish history. On the eve of taking her vows, an 18-year-old novice nun (Agata Trzebuchowska), who has lived in her convent since being left there as an infant, is instructed by her mother superior (Halina Skoczynska) to visit her only living relative, an aunt (Agata Kulesza) she has never met.
This gruff, hard-drinking atheist — a former Stalinist state prosecutor — curtly informs the girl that she was born Jewish and that her parents died in the Holocaust. To help her learn more, the two set off on a road trip during which director and co-writer Pawel Pawlikowski subtly explores a range of religious and historical contradictions.
Subtitles. Implied nonmarital sexual activity, a suicide, fleeting crass language.

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“Maleficent” (Disney)

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.

Live-action feminist retelling of the Disney version of “Sleeping Beauty” which casts the villainess of that 1959 animated feature — here played by Angelina Jolie — in a more positive light.
Betrayed by the future king (Sharlto Copley) of the human realm that borders the enchanted territory she protects, the initially good fairy of the title — portrayed in youth by Isobelle Molloy — turns bitter and vengeful. She eventually exacts retribution by cursing the sovereign’s infant daughter to fall into an endless slumber on the day before her 16th birthday — a trance from which only “true love’s kiss” will be able to awaken the lass.
As the child (Elle Fanning) grows up, however, her innocent goodness melts the evildoer’s heart. So much so, that — aided by the shape-shifting crow (Sam Riley) who serves as her assistant and scout — the repentant villainess strives to thwart the fulfillment of her own malediction.
Though it can be viewed as an honorable conversion story warning against ambition and the thirst for revenge, director Robert Stromberg 3-D fantasy startlingly subverts its source material in a way that registers as vaguely anti-male and anti-marriage. It also has enough dark imagery and bloodless battling to frighten the smallest moviegoers. Some harsh action violence.

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