CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Michael Chiklis, Alexander Ludwig, center, and Jim Caviezel star in a scene from the movie When the “When the Game Stands Tall.”

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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“As Above, So Below” (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.

Claustrophobic chiller in which two archaeologists (Perdita Weeks and Ben Feldman) who share both an interest in the occult and a romantic history together search for the legendary, supposedly miraculous philosopher’s stone in the network of catacombs that lie beneath Paris.
Despite the presence of a local expert on the tunnels (Francois Civil), the expedition goes badly wrong as the duo, the guide and the other participants (Edwin Hodge, Marion Lambert and Ali Marhyar) all begin to have hellish hallucinations.
Director and co-writer John Erick Dowdle tries to create a sense of immediacy with a found-footage approach. But the initial promise of his alternate-history tale gets lost as quickly as his characters do, while gory images and an excess of hysteria induced swearing set this off limits to most moviegoers. Intermittent bloody violence, a handful of profanities, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“The Identical” (Freestyle)

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.

Evangelical Elvis fans seem to be the target audience for this reality-related drama in which Blake Rayne plays both a Presley-like entertainer and his identical twin brother. Though the singer believes his sibling died in infancy (as Presley’s sadly did), in fact he was secretly given up for adoption by the duo’s impoverished parents (Brian Geraghty and Amanda Crew) and raised by a Protestant minister (Ray Liotta) and his wife (Ashley Judd).
As the vocalist rockets to stardom, his obscure but equally talented lookalike defies Dad’s plans for him to enter the ministry and instead pursues a career impersonating his long-lost counterpart under the moniker of the title.
Wholesome and faith-friendly, director Dustin Marcellino’s film is a homespun piece of entertainment with a goodhearted but naive tone that will not be to the taste of city slickers. A single vague reference to the connection between romantic passion and the arrival of babies may debar those who are still members of the stork club.

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“Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For” (Weinstein)

This hard-boiled, excessively violent sequel to 2005’s “Sin City,” based, like its predecessor, on Frank Miller’s graphic novels, features a lewd plot, a glib noir style and a title character (Eva Green) who spends more than half her screen time nude. Miller, who wrote the script and co-directed with Robert Rodriguez, emphasizes lurid bloodletting amid the retro black-and-white setting of what amounts to a smutty comic-book adaptation using competent actors — including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Powers Boothe, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke and Rosario Dawson — as bait. Pervasive violence, frequent upper female nudity, much sexual banter and fleeting crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating, R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

“When the Game Stands Tall” (TriStar)

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.

Idealistic fact-based sports drama in which a dedicated football coach (Jim Caviezel), his like-minded assistant (Michael Chiklis) and his players (most prominently Alexander Ludwig, Ser’Darius Blain and Stephan James) struggle to maintain the record-breaking winning streak that has made their Catholic high school renowned.
Motivated by his faith, the coach is more interested in instilling positive values than in gridiron victory for its own sake. But his professional success comes at the cost of tension with his wife (Laura Dern) and son (Matthew Daddario).
There’s little to object to and much to honor in director Thomas Carter’s film, which promotes humility, teamwork, good sportsmanship and, in passing, premarital chastity. Yet his recounting of real-life events registers as more likable than gripping. Brief bloodless violence, a few references to sexuality, a touch of mild scatological humor.

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“A Most Wanted Man” (Roadside)

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.

John le Carre’s 2008 espionage thriller is adapted for the big screen, showcasing the extreme measures spies take to combat terrorism, and the moral compromises that go with them.
Director Anton Corbijn has crafted a tense cat-and-mouse thriller set in Hamburg, Germany. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his final leading role, portrays a veteran German intelligence agent overseeing a top-secret team working to expose terrorist cells by infiltrating the local Muslim community and obtaining information. An idealistic immigration lawyer (Rachel McAdams) is his link to a shady refugee (Grigoriy Dobrygin) from Chechnya, who may or may not be an extremist. Complicating matters are an American spy (Robin Wright) and her agents lurking in the shadows, who have another agenda in mind.
The chase is on, and fans of le Carre’s novels will know to expect the unexpected. The film’s pronounced anti-American bias and cynicism, however, may leave a bitter aftertaste. Stylized violence, frequent profane and crude language.

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“If I Stay” (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.

Comatose after a car accident that claimed the lives of her parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard) and gravely injured her little brother (Jakob Davies), an aspiring cellist (Chloe Grace Moretz) has an out-of-body experience during which she must decide whether to fight for life in order to be reunited with her rocker boyfriend (Jamie Blackley) or follow her folks into eternity.
While director R.J. Cutler’s teen tearjerker, adapted from Gayle Forman’s best-selling novel, implicitly affirms the existence of an afterlife, its glamorization of the physical relationship between Moretz’s character and Blackley’s makes it totally unsuitable for its target audience, all the more so since its high-school-senior heroine may or may not be 18.
A benign view of teen sexuality and homosexual acts, nongraphic premarital — and possibly underage — sexual activity, a same-sex kiss, at least one use of profanity, considerable crude language.

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“The November Man” (Relativity)

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 only thing out of the ordinary about this espionage-themed action flick is the level of visceral violence on display.
Director Roger Donaldson’s screen version of Bill Granger’s novel, “There Are No Spies,” follows a retired CIA agent’s (Pierce Brosnan) struggle with one of his former trainees (Luke Bracey) for custody of a Belgrade social worker (Olga Kurylenko). The social worker may be able to produce a witness to the lurid war crimes committed in Chechnya by the front-runner (Lazar Ristovski) in the race to become the next president of Russia.
The murky, conspiracy-driven story line also involves the shifting fortunes of two Langley bigwigs (Bill Smitrovich and William Patton). Along with the bloodletting, which ranges from skulls exploded by high-powered rifle bullets to major arteries slashed by knives, an explicitly portrayed casual sexual encounter and a visit to a strip club make for a viewing experience that frequently plays on the lowest aspects of human nature.
Excessive gory violence, graphic nonmarital and implied premarital sexual activity, upper female and rear nudity, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, a steady flow of rough and crude terms.

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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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