CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

Rating: By Catholic News Service

PHOTO: Animated characters appear in the movie “Planes: Fire & Rescue.” See review below. (CNS photo/Disney)

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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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“Hercules” (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.

Dwayne Johnson plays the strongman of the title in director Brett Ratner’s mildly demythologizing take on his legendary exploits. Based on Steve Moore’s graphic novel “Hercules: The Thracian Wars,” this passable 3-D adventure finds the hero — who may or may not be a demigod — leading a band of super-skilled mercenaries (Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolso Berdal and Reece Ritchie) around the political patchwork of ancient Greece.
He and his followers get more than they bargained for, however, when, at the behest of a fetching princess (Rebecca Ferguson), they agree to help her father (John Hurt), the king of Thrace, rid his realm of a marauding rebel (Tobias Santelmann). The odd witticism and some on-target messages about believing in oneself and putting strength at the service of goodness are scattered through Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos’ script.
But the real agenda of Ratner’s sweeping film is large-scale combat and plenty of it. Constant, mostly bloodless violence, some gory images, a glimpse of rear nudity, occasional sexual references, at least one use of the F-word, a handful of crude and crass terms.

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“And So It Goes” (Clarius)

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 indignities of romance in one’s 60s entwine with a mortifyingly weak and implausible script for an aging couple played by Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton, he a grumpy real estate agent, she a lissome aspiring singer.
Director Rob Reiner and screenwriter Mark Andrus have nothing new to say about either the vicissitudes of aging or the need to connect with family members as Douglas’ character learns compassion from his granddaughter (Sterling Jerins) then demonstrates it by aiding Keaton’s late-life career. Implied pre-marital sexual activity, a scene of childbirth, a few uses of profanity, fleeting crass language.

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“Lucy” (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 R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Giddy sci-fi notions pepper this bizarre action thriller in which an unwilling drug mule (Scarlett Johansson) is accidentally exposed to the cutting-edge narcotic that’s been implanted in her at the direction of a Taiwanese crime lord (Choi Min Sik).
The startling result is that she rapidly begins using more and more of her brain’s untapped capacity for thought, a process that not only enables her to escape, but keeps her several steps ahead of the pursuing bad guys (led by Nicolas Phongpheth) who chase her even as she tries to turn her experience to the benefit of science under the guidance of an academic (Morgan Freeman) who’s an expert on the subject of evolutionary consciousness.
No one can accuse French writer-director Luc Besson of having made a dull film. But, as his protagonist approaches intellectual totality, she gains the ability to control the material world while her ever-deepening insights into the nature of things have more to do with a sort of low-rent Zen Buddhism than with revealed religion. These philosophical factors, together with a steady stream of nasty mayhem, suggest a wary stance would be best, even for adults.
Themes requiring mature discernment, considerable gory violence, drug use, a scene of sexual aggression, about a half-dozen crude terms.

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“Boyhood” (IFC)

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.

In a film shot in 39 days over the course of 12 years, writer-director Richard Linklater sets out to chart “the rocky terrain of childhood” as no one has done before. The result is a unique cinematic experience, as characters age naturally — if not gracefully — on the big screen.
This is a work of fiction, however, not a documentary, and its tone of moral indifference ultimately will not resonate well with viewers of faith or with those who cherish the loving bonds of family.
We follow a boy (Ellar Coltrane) from age 6 to 18, as well as his sister (Lorelei Linklater) and his divorced parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke). Mom and Dad’s split looms large as the children are forced to deal with both parents’ inadequacies and their opposing methods of parenting, a situation made all the more challenging when Mom remarries (twice), and Dad finds another wife. In the end, the bratty kids essentially raise themselves, and decide on their own what is right and wrong.
Along the way, the protagonist’s journey — which includes drinking beer in middle school, and smoking pot and having sex in high school — is presented to the audience as perfectly natural, even normal.
A benign attitude toward drug and underage alcohol use, teenage sex, and contraception, an ambivalent portrayal of religion, occasional profanity, frequent crude language.

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“Begin Again” (Weinstein)

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.

Competent pop tunes are strung together by a hackneyed plot line in this musical romantic comedy.
Despite all of the time writer-director John Carney’s script spends railing against cliches and stereotypes in the recording industry, the formulaic dialogue in this redemption story of a plucky singer (Keira Knightley) and an alcoholic record executive (Mark Ruffalo) sounds left over from an inspirational lecture.
Fleeting profanity and frequent rough and crude language.

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“Planes: Fire & Rescue” (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.

Anthropomorphic aircraft take to the skies again in this lively and fun 3-D animated adventure. A follow-up to 2013’s franchise kickoff, “Planes,” it’s directed by Roberts Gannaway from a screenplay by returning writer Jeffrey M. Howard.
The failing condition of his gearbox forces the humble cropduster-turned-racing-champion (voice of Dane Cook) central to the first film to change careers. So he joins an elite firefighting crew. Led by a veteran rescue helicopter (voice of Ed Harris), the team is based in a national park and dedicated to protecting the forest as well as the tourists who frequent a newly opened hotel there.
This is that rare sequel which surpasses the original in action, adventure and visual flair. Some of the nail-biting scenes may be a bit intense for the youngest viewers, and the slightly incongruous presence of a few double entendres — presumably aimed at adults — precludes endorsement for all. Yet these one-liners are likely to pass at an elevation well above kids’ heads, while a positive message about making personal sacrifices on behalf of those in need will be a more welcome aspect of the script to their grownup guardians.
A few perilous situations and some mildly suggestive humor.

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“The Purge: Anarchy” (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.

Brutal horror sequel in which a vigilante (Frank Grillo), out to take advantage of an annual 12-hour suspension of all law enforcement in a dystopian future America, instead winds up shepherding a quartet of potential victims (Carmen Ejogo, Zoe Soul, Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) who have unintentionally become caught up in the savage ritual.
Simplistic social commentary — the rich use the recurring occasion to prey on the impoverished — and a perverse version of religion which favors the officially sanctioned mayhem make writer-director James DeMonaco’s follow-up to his 2013 bloodbath “The Purge” a dubious offering even aside from all the splatter.
Excessive gory violence, a negative portrayal of faith and prayer, brief partial nudity, a few uses of profanity, much rough and crude language.

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“Sex Tape” (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.

In a bid to reignite their flickering passion for each other, a married couple (Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the script, and Cameron Diaz) videotape themselves during a marathon session in the bedroom. But instead of promptly erasing the tape, as she requests, he inadvertently distributes it to various people, including their best friends (Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper) and the toy manufacturer (Rob Lowe) she’s trying to persuade to sponsor her blog about parenting.
Though the mad scramble to recover the tape winds up strengthening the main duo’s already steadfast bond, a debased view of human intimacy hobbles director Jake Kasdan’s often ill-advised pursuit of laughs. The fact that one of the video’s unintended recipients is a teenage boy (Harrison Holzer) only makes the proceedings more distasteful.
Strong sexual content — including graphic premarital sexual activity and marital lovemaking, rear and partial nudity and pervasive sexual humor — drug use, about a half-dozen instances of profanity, relentless rough and crude language.

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“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (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.

A decade after a pandemic wiped out most of the human race, a band of survivors (led by Gary Oldman) occupying the ruins of San Francisco comes into conflict with a community of genetically evolved simians living in nearby Muir Woods. As a potential war looms, the apes’ wise leader (Andy Serkis) works with a peaceable human former architect (Jason Clarke) to prevent bloodshed.
Director Matt Reeves’ 3-D follow-up to the 2011 reboot “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” — the latest addition to a franchise based on the work of French science-fiction author Pierre Boulle — blends combat action with pleas for tolerance and trust. Though the latter are delivered somewhat heavy-handedly, Serkis’ striking performance, together with top-notch special effects, elevates this above run-of-the-mill entertainment.
Frequent stylized violence, at least one use each of profanity and rough language, several crude and crass terms.

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“Tammy” (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.

This saga of a childlike Midwestern woman’s (Melissa McCarthy) journey to put her life in order makes a stab at adding pathos to the well-worn genre of road-trip-with-salty-granny, instead coming off as a botched character sketch bogged down in a moral morass.
McCarthy, who co-wrote the script with director Ben Falcone, evidently had a sympathetic figure in mind. Yet not only does the title character fail to become any more self-aware as the story — and her outing with her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) — proceed, she also lurches through an escalating series of bad choices, including robbery and destruction of property.
An implied bedroom encounter, some profanities and sexual banter, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“Deliver Us From Evil” (Screen Gems)

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.

As exorcism movies go, director and co-writer Scott Derrickson’s screen version of Ralph Sarchie’s memoir “Beware the Night” (written with Lisa Collier Cool) is better than most.
His tale gains credibility from the profile of its main character: a no-nonsense New York City police officer (Eric Bana) and lapsed Catholic whose investigation of a series of peculiar crimes leads him to suspect that more than ordinary evil is at work in them. Teaming with a priest (Edgar Ramirez) whose ties to the church are frayed, but whose spiritual outlook is orthodox enough, the cop gradually accepts the fact that his main suspect (Sean Harris), an Iraq War veteran, is demonically possessed.
Though sensational at times, Derrickson’s effective horror film does treat faith seriously. Even so, its dark subject matter and some intense — and bloody — interludes suggest caution for all but the most resilient screen patrons.
Mature themes, occasional gory violence, about a dozen uses of profanity, frequent rough and crude language, an obscene gesture.

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“Earth to Echo” (Relativity)

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.

About to be separated by the demolition of their suburban Nevada neighborhood, through which a highway is to be built, a trio of young friends (Teo Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley and Reese Hartwig), bound by their shared status as social outcasts, embarks on a final adventure together.
They travel into the desert to locate the source of some mysterious cell phone activity they and others in the doomed community have recently been experiencing. The cause of the disruption turns out to be a small stranded alien whose endearing, petlike personality quickly wins the pals over. They commit themselves to helping him return home, a quest on which they’re eventually joined by one of their most popular classmates (Ella Wahlestedt), a seemingly unattainable lass for whom Halm’s character carries a secret torch.
While its plot is a mash-up of familiar story elements, director Dave Green’s gentle film, which employs a found-footage approach to its narrative and conveys positive lessons about loyalty and trust, is not without its rewards, though these are more reliably found in its humorous moments than in its attempts to be touching. Some teen sexual talk and a few crass terms.

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“Tammy” (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.

This saga of a childlike Midwestern woman’s (Melissa McCarthy) journey to put her life in order makes a stab at adding pathos to the well-worn genre of road-trip-with-salty-granny, instead coming off as a botched character sketch bogged down in a moral morass.
McCarthy, who co-wrote the script with director Ben Falcone, evidently had a sympathetic figure in mind. Yet not only does the title character fail to become any more self-aware as the story — and her outing with her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) — proceed, she also lurches through an escalating series of bad choices, including robbery and destruction of property.
An implied bedroom encounter, some profanities and sexual banter, pervasive rough and crude language.

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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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