CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in a scene from the movie “Magic in the Moonlight.” Catholic News Service classification, 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.

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“The Giver” (Weinstein)

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.

Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel about a utopian world that, on the surface at least, is free from suffering, hunger, and violence arrives on the big screen, directed by Philip Noyce.
A daily injection of every citizen ensures that memories and emotions are suppressed, along with freedom, choice, individuality, religion — and temptation. When of age, each child receives a role to play in society, and the time has come for a mother (Katie Holmes) and father (Alexander Skarsgard) to present their son (Brenton Thwaites). Sensing something unusual about the teen, the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) selects him to inherit the position of Receiver of Memories, a kind of repository of the past, from the current holder (Jeff Bridges).
Experiencing love and joy but also cruelty, war, and death, the teen reaches an epiphany: Without the knowledge of suffering, one cannot appreciate true joy. Discovering the utopia is based on a culture of death, he is determined to restore the proper balance to society.
A disturbing scene involving euthanasia may upset younger viewers. For mature teens and their parents, however, it can spark a necessary conversation on the sanctity of life at all ages, winningly endorsed by this worthy film. Mild action violence.

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“The Expendables 3” (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.

The principal amusement factor for viewers of this second action sequel — which is, thankfully, considerably less gory than its predecessors — is to marvel at how director Patrick Hughes keeps its shoot-’em-up formula, harkening back to the 1980s, from crashing resoundingly onto the shores of ennui.
Sylvester Stallone (who also co-wrote) returns as Barney, leader of an ensemble of government vigilantes, while Arnold Schwarzenegger, as his ally Trench, has just enough screen time to blurt out “We must get to the choppah!”
Frequent gun, knife and physical violence as well as numerous explosions, a few uses of profanity and pervasive crude language.

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“Let’s Be Cops” (Fox)

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.

Weak comedy in which two down-on-their-luck roommates (Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson) pose as Los Angeles police officers. What begins as a practical joke becomes potentially deadly when they cross an Albanian-born crime lord (James D’Arcy), a move that also endangers the waitress (Nina Dobrev) Wayans’ character is dating and a real cop (Rob Riggle) who has fallen for the duo’s act.
Director and co-writer Luke Greenfield’s buddy movie implicitly honors police work. But its combination of a farfetched premise, an obscenity-laden script and ill-advised forays into gross-out as well as kinky humor will fail to lighten the spirits of those few mature viewers for whom his film can be considered somewhat acceptable.
Much action violence with occasional gore, strong sexual content, including full male nudity and many bedroom-themed jokes, drug use, at least one instance of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language, a vulgar gesture.

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“Magic in the Moonlight” (Sony Pictures Classics)

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.

Writer-director Woody Allen revisits the age-old debate between faith and reason, between a strictly rationalist standpoint and openness to Divine Providence, in this, his 44th film, a period comedy set on the French Riviera during the Roaring Twenties. A master magician (Colin Firth) who sidelines as a debunker of spiritualists is summoned by a fellow illusionist (Simon McBurney) to the home of a rich American widow (Jacki Weaver) who has fallen under the spell of a comely clairvoyant (Emma Stone). Even as he tries to expose the latter as a fraud, the conjurer falls madly in love, and her convincing supernatural powers lead him to question his narrow views on God and the afterlife. Amid the twists that follow, believing moviegoers will soon realize they’ve been led down an attractive but dead-end garden path. A cynical view of faith and religion, brief sexual humor, mature references.

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“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (Paramount)

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.

Thirty years after bursting onto the comic book scene, the wise-cracking, pizza-loving heroes created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman re-emerge from the sewers of New York City. Their mission, once again: to save the world.
This fifth film in the franchise, directed by Jonathan Liebesman, ramps up the 3-D action and destruction (which may be too intense for young viewers) but keeps tongue firmly in cheek, and slips in a few good lessons about honor and family. The reptilian quartet — Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher and Jeremy Howard — live beneath the Big Apple with a wise Japanese rat (Danny Woodburn) who has trained them in the martial arts. They emerge from the darkness to fight a seemingly invincible gang of criminals led by a razor-sharp monster (Tohoru Masamune). Helping the turtles navigate the human world are an intrepid TV reporter (Megan Fox) and her cameraman (Will Arnett).
Intense but bloodless cartoon violence, some bathroom humor, a few vague references to sexuality.

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“Step Up All In” (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.

Completists of the dance-showcasing “Step Up” franchise may find this fifth outing in the series enjoyable; others will wonder where the plot went. Director Trish Sie and screenwriter John Swetnam come up way short on dialogue to stitch the terpsichorean segments together as their main character (Ryan Guzman) and two of his toe-tapping buddies (Adam Sevani and Briana Evigan) enter a reality-TV competition in Las Vegas (hosted by Izabella Miko), the winners of which will be rewarded with a guaranteed three-year contract at a Sin City hotel.
Probably acceptable for mature teens. Fleeting sexual banter, at least one instance of rough language.

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“Calvary” (Fox Searchlight)

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.

This bleak but powerful seriocomedy, set in rural Ireland, kicks off with a startling premise: In the confessional, a grown victim of childhood sex abuse by a priest tells the dedicated pastor (Brendan Gleeson) of the County Sligo parish where he now lives that in a week’s time he intends to avenge himself by killing the innocent clergyman.
Writer-director John Michael McDonagh then chronicles the seven days that follow as the cleric, a widower, deals with his emotionally fragile daughter (Kelly Reilly) and with the variety of errant or merely eccentric souls who make up his small flock (including Chris O’Dowd, Orla O’Rourke, Dylan Moran, Aiden Gillen and M. Emmet Walsh), all the while wavering about how to respond to the threat on his life.
Gleeson gives a memorable performance as a thoroughly decent but ordinary man confronted by the ultimate challenge, and McDonagh ably explores themes of faith, moral failure, reconciliation and sacrifice. Unsparing yet mostly respectful in its treatment of the contemporary church, the film is nonetheless a demanding experience with a narrow appropriate audience. Brief but extremely gory violence, drug use, mature themes, including clergy sexual abuse, homosexual prostitution and suicide, a few uses of profanity, much rough and crude language.

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“Get On Up” (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.

Director Tate Taylor’s portrait of the gifted but volatile “godfather of soul,” singer James Brown (1933-2006), features an impassioned performance by Chadwick Boseman in the starring role.
But the nonlinear structure of the narrative tends to diffuse the impact of Brown’s story as it intersperses events from his impoverished childhood, during which he was deserted by his mother (Viola Davis), with episodes from his burgeoning career, which was nurtured by his good-humored manager (Dan Aykroyd) and by his principal collaborator and long-standing best friend (Nelsan Ellis).
As for Brown’s seedy personal life which, as portrayed here, included adultery and physical abuse, it makes this musically compelling but morally troubling biography pungent fare even for adults. Scenes of combat, domestic violence, brief semi-graphic nonmarital sexual activity, partial nudity, drug use, racism, prostitution and adultery themes, a few rough terms, frequent crude and crass language.

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“The Hundred-Foot Journey” (Disney)

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.

Food-themed romantic fantasy in which an Indian clan of restaurateurs (headed by patriarch Om Puri) moves to a small town in France and sets up shop across the road from the region’s most venerable eatery, drawing the disdain of its formidable proprietress (Helen Mirren).
As cultures clash, Puri’s prodigiously gifted son (Manish Dayal) expands his culinary horizons with the help of one of Mirren’s sous chefs (Charlotte Le Bon) beginning a spectacular rise into the stratosphere of haute cuisine. Cupid has a field day in this picturesque, stately, thoroughly unrealistic tale adapted by director Lasse Hallstrom from the bestselling novel by Richard C. Morais. Like an airy souffle, the film has an elegant appearance and a charming taste, but not much substance.
Probably acceptable for mature adolescents. Scenes of mob violence, implications of an intimate encounter, a single crude term.

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“Into the Storm” (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.

A crew of professional storm chasers (led by Matt Walsh and Sarah Wayne Callies) along with some of the residents of a small Midwestern burg — most prominently dad Richard Armitage and sons Max Deacon and Nathan Kress — find their survival skills tested by an unprecedented series of havoc-wreaking tornadoes.
Essentially a found-footage “Poseidon Adventure” for the landlocked, director Steven Quale’s old-fashioned, special effects-driven disaster movie does boast helpful touches of humor as well as such unimpeachable values as family solidarity and life-at-stake altruism. Still, the intensity of the building peril — together with the vocabulary it elicits from the cast — makes this ride on the whirlwind best for fully-grown thrill seekers.
Occasional grim violence and pervasive menace, a few sexual references, a couple of uses of profanity, frequent crude and crass language.

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“The Fluffy Movie” (Open Road)

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.

Rotund Mexican-American comic Gabriel Iglesias, whose stories are as soft around the edges as the man himself, shares engaging accounts of weight loss and the difficulties of being a stepfather to a teenage boy during a concert appearance in San Jose, California, filmed by director Manny Rodriguez.
Iglesias aims to get appreciative nods with his laughs, whether discussing his shedding of a hundred pounds after he became diabetic, the vagaries of driving during a tour in India, or the effort to explain to his privileged stepson how 1980s video games sometimes required mechanical skill. Iglesias doesn’t trade in mordant jabs or lachrymose bitterness. He quietly tells the truth, and trusts that his audience — which is shown as encompassing all generations and ethnicities — will accept it.
A few references to sexuality, fleeting crude language.

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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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