Capsule movie reviews by CNS on basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy star in a scene from the movie “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.

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 Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” (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.

This absorbing and provocative study of grief and its destructive effects on a young married couple (Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy) has nothing to do with The Beatles’ 1966 hit single, apart from its borrowing of the title character’s name.
The tragic death of their son has driven the duo apart. After a failed suicide bid, she retreats to the sanctuary of her childhood home, still occupied by her quirky parents (Isabelle Huppert and William Hurt), while he searches for her as well as for a way to save his failing business. Written and directed by Ned Benson, the film is one of three telling the same story from different perspectives. What emerges here is a blend of grand romance and therapy session as husband and wife seek healing and a path back to their lost love.
A suicide attempt, adulterous situations, nongraphic sexual activity with brief upper female nudity, some crude language.

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“Dracula Untold” (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.

The world’s most famous bloodsucker gets a makeover in director Gary Shore’s awkward attempt at revisionist horror history, set in the 15th century.
After refusing to hand his young son (Art Parkinson) over as a hostage to the cruel Sultan of Turkey (Dominic Cooper), the formerly savage but now peace-loving Prince of Wallachia (Luke Evans) is facing certain defeat by his Ottoman enemies. So he turns for help to a cave-dwelling vampire, hoping to share in the outcast’s superhuman strength. The terms of their deal give the ruler the powers he needs temporarily. But, while they last, he will have to resist the desperate urge to drink human blood or become undead eternally.
Ambiguities aplenty shade this often ponderous story of a man driven to use evil means to accomplish the good ends of protecting his family –Sarah Gadon plays his beloved wife — and his country. And the film’s treatment of religion is equally hard to pin down, raising red flags for parents despite the script’s laudable freedom from vulgarity and the mostly bloodless nature of the numerous battle scenes.
Pervasive combat violence with occasional gore, some gruesome images, brief nongraphic marital lovemaking.

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“The Judge” (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.

Adequate but overextended drama in which a hotshot Chicago lawyer (Robert Downey Jr.) struggles to defend his estranged father (Robert Duvall) after ornery Dad, a respected small-town judge, is accused of causing a fatal hit-and-run accident.
As the two butt heads, the soon-to-be divorced attorney rekindles his romance with his high-school sweetheart (Vera Farmiga) and revives his relationship with his brothers (Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong).
A seamy subplot, dealt with in an inappropriately offhand manner, mars director David Dobkin’s otherwise mostly warmhearted film and calls for mature discretion on the part of viewers. Nongraphic casual sexual activity involving unintentional incest, some scatological humor and images, about a dozen uses of profanity, considerable rough and crude language.

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“Left Behind” (Freestyle)

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 journalist (Chad Michael Murray), a pilot (Nicolas Cage) and the flyer’s daughter (Cassi Thomson) struggle to cope with the disastrous results when millions of people spontaneously disappear in “The Rapture,” an event some believe will precede the Second Coming of Christ.
Catholic viewers will likely feel left out by director Vic Armstrong’s screen version of the first in a series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins since the underlying interpretation of the Apocalypse on which the film is based is at odds with church teaching on the subject. Given the tedious nature of this low-rent drama, though, they won’t be missing much.
Themes requiring a solid grounding in faith, pervasive mayhem with brief gore, drug use, a single crude term.

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“Gone Girl” (Fox)

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.

A jaundiced view of marriage permeates this abrasive drama in which an apparently happy suburban couple’s dark secrets are revealed after the wife (Rosamund Pike) mysteriously disappears and all clues seem to suggest that her husband (Ben Affleck) has murdered her. Fortunately for him, the lead investigator (Kim Dickens) on the case is reluctant to jump to conclusions and his twin sister (Carrie Coon) proves steadfast in her support despite the mounting negative evidence.
Director David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel features some fine acting, clever plot twists and telling jabs at the manipulative influence of the media. But his film also showcases seedy sexual behavior in an exploitative manner and becomes blood-soaked during a climactic scene that’s played for shock value.
Considerable violence with brief but extreme gore; strong sexual content, including graphic adulterous and aberrant sexual activity as well as upper female and rear nudity; at least one use of profanity; pervasive rough and much crude language.

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“Annabelle” (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 demon-possessed doll tale, a sort-of prequel to 2013’s “The Conjuring,” delivers a reliable series of horror-genre jolts under the direction of John R. Leonetti from Gary Dauberman’s script.
A mother (Annabelle Wallis) in 1970 Southern California tries to protect her baby daughter from satanic forces who want the infant’s soul. Their principal tool is the devil-driven figurine of the title.
Though Mom and Dad (Ward Horton) get helpful aphorisms from a kindly Catholic priest (Tony Amendola) it’s the owner (Alfre Woodard) of a bookstore specializing in the paranormal who proves more vital to the machinations. Occult themes, two scenes of bloody knife violence and intense action sequences.

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The Song” (City on a Hill/Samuel Goldwyn)

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 Old Testament’s Song of Songs is the inspiration for this modern-day parable on love, marriage, and remaining open and faithful to God’s plan, written and directed by Richard Ramsey.
A singer-songwriter (Alan Powell) is looking for his big break and trying to escape the long shadow of his famous musician father (Aaron Benward). His love for his future wife (Ali Faulkner) inspires the song of the film’s title. It becomes a breakout hit, and a worldwide concert tour is arranged. The young couple’s marriage is challenged by fame, separation, and temptation — especially in the form of the band’s new member (Caitlin Nicol-Thomas).
Hollywood can take a lesson from an entertaining film which is openly — and happily — Christian in its outlook, and eager to remind viewers about forgiveness and redemption, as well as the sacredness of married love. Adulterous situations, suicide, and drug use.

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The Equalizer (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.

Vigilante thriller about a retired intelligence operative (Denzel Washington) living quietly in Boston until a prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) he befriends is beaten by her handlers from the Russian mob, prompting him to go after their entire criminal network.
Director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) puts a fairly artful sheen on the violence, and Washington makes the putative hero as compelling as possible, but no matter how intriguing and righteous this avenging character appears to be-and no matter how heinous the behavior he combats-his actions are fundamentally perverse and impossible to cheer, let alone justify.
Excessive gory violence, including stabbings, gunplay, a near decapitation, torture, and a strangling; numerous graphic images; frequent rough, crude and crass language; and some profanity, sexual banter, and race baiting.

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“The Boxtrolls” (Focus)

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.

Alan Snow’s 2005 children’s novel “Here Be Monsters!” becomes a charmingly bizarre fable about rich and poor and things that go bump in the night in this 3-D animated adaptation, directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi.
A quaint village, obsessed by cheese and class, is terrorized by “monsters” that live beneath the streets. The mayor (voice of Jared Harris) accepts an offer from a wicked exterminator (voice of Ben Kingsley) to eliminate the beings. The mayor’s daughter (voice of Elle Fanning) discovers they are actually sweet and benevolent creatures who value family, honesty and loyalty. She joins forces with a boy (voice of Isaac Hempstead Wright), raised underground by the creatures, to expose the truth.
The film’s overall tone is dark and scary, which may be unsuitable for younger viewers. Scary moments, brief rear “nudity,” and some bathroom humor.

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“This Is Where I Leave You” (Warner Bros.)

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.

Dramatic comedy, adapted by Jonathan Tropper from his own novel, tries unsuccessfully to wring laughs and sentiment from one suburban family’s dysfunction.
Despondent over the break-up of his marriage and the loss of his job, Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) returns home for his father’s funeral and, at the insistence of his outspoken mother (Jane Fonda), sits Shiva — a weeklong Jewish custom of mourning — with his stolid older brother (Corey Stoll), sarcastic sister (Tina Fey) and spoiled younger brother (Adam Driver).
Director Shawn Levy gathers an appealing ensemble to play unlikable characters engaged in tawdry, juvenile behavior many viewers will find discomfiting. Although a certain degree of regression is to be expected in such circumstances, actions meant to be outrageous and irreverent are predictable and insufficiently entertaining.
Frequent rough, crude and crass language, much profanity and sexual banter, a number of sexual encounters — one featuring rear male nudity and most involving marital infidelity, drug use, an approvingly depicted same-sex relationship, a glib attitude toward religious faith.

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“The Maze Runner” (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.

Cross “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” and you’ll have this latest angst-ridden drama about teenagers fighting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, based on the 2009 novel by James Dashner and directed by Wes Ball.
The inhabitants of a walled-in expanse of grass and trees are all teenage boys, wiped of their memories. They must work together and build a community from scratch (shades of William Golding’s 1954 novel “Lord of the Flies”), all the while looking for a means to escape through an ever-changing labyrinth beyond the walls.
A new recruit (Dylan O’Brien) threatens to upset the fragile world order built by the boys’ leader (Will Poulter). He is inspired by the arrival of the first-ever girl (Kaya Scodelario) to wage a new assault and gain freedom.
Occasional intense violence, including gory images, and some crude language.

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“A Walk Among the Tombstones” (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.

This grisly thriller, based on the 1992 novel by Lawrence Block, traverses the seamy underbelly of New York City in the 1990s, tracking a gang of serial killers on a deadly rampage. Writer-director Scott Frank serves up a well-acted and absorbing drama, albeit not one for the squeamish. There’s also an interesting moral conundrum, as the victims themselves are criminals, posing the question, “Do bad guys deserve justice?”
A former NYPD cop (Liam Neeson) reluctantly agrees to help a prosperous heroin trafficker (Dan Stevens) to avenge the brutal murder of his wife. As he tracks the killers (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson), he acquires a young sidekick (Brian Bradley) who dreams of being a real-life superhero.
Awash in moral ambiguity, the film injects a degree of faith into the mix, as the hero, a recovering alcoholic, tries to apply the 12-step program of perseverance, forgiveness, and belief in a higher power to his personal crusade for good over evil. He does not always succeed. Bloody violence and torture, a suicide, brief nudity, sexual references, drug use, and pervasive profane and crude language.

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“No Good Deed” (Screen Gems)

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.

Conventionally plotted thriller about a violent escaped convict (Idris Elba) who terrifies a mother (Taraji B. Henson) and her two young children in Atlanta. As directed by Sam Miller and written by Aimee Lagos, its devices are all as stale as its dark and stormy night. Gun and physical violence, five murders and frequent rough and crass language, fleeting profanities.

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“The Trip to Italy” (IFC)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Two British comedians (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon) set out on a grand tour of the Italian peninsula, in this follow-up to 2010’s “The Trip,” directed again by Michael Winterbottom. The lines are blurred between real-life documentary and fictional drama as the duo journey from Turin to Naples in search of fine cuisine, grand hotels, and sites associated with nineteenth-century English Romantic poets. Along the way the lads banter about movies, impersonate famous actors, make vulgar jokes, and fret about work and relationships.
Regrettably, what can be an enchanting travelogue, with breathtaking scenery and mouth-watering meals, is offset by some tasteless humor and sexual situations, placing this film squarely in the adult camp.
Adultery, implied nonmarital sexual activity, sexual humor and innuendo, and frequent crude language.

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“Tusk” (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.

There is no compelling reason even for devoted fans of writer-director Kevin Smith to take in his misguided gross-out horror-comedy. Worse, if you see it, there’s no way to un-see it.
Justin Long plays a wisecracking and insensitive podcast host transformed by a serial killer into a human-flesh walrus. Explicit gory physical violence and maiming, a scene of implied sexual activity, and pervasive crude, crass and profane language.

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“Dolphin Tale 2” (Warner Bros.)

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 real-life story of Winter, the female dolphin with the prosthetic tail, continues in this dramatic follow-up to the 2011 film, directed again by Charles Martin Smith.
Several years have passed at the Florida aquarium where Winter is the star attraction, and her original rescuers — now teenagers — are volunteer guides (Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff). Crisis erupts when Winter’s pool mate and surrogate mother dies (a fleeting scene that may upset young viewers). By law, dolphins in captivity must live in pairs, as they crave companionship and social interaction in the water. The aquarium owner (Harry Connick Jr.) must rally the troops to locate another dolphin fast, or the authorities will step in and take Winter away.
A rare Hollywood film that is wholesome and fun for all ages, with nice messages about family, responsibility, and perseverance.

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“The Last of Robin Hood” (Samuel Goldwyn)

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.

The final years of swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline) are the subject of this film written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, a lurid account of the decline and fall of a once-beloved matinee idol.
In 1957, Flynn is washed up as an actor, but still dashing and debonair, constantly prowling the movie studios for nubile young starlets to seduce. He lands one in Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning), a chorus girl on a Warner Brothers film. Beverly dreams of stardom, groomed from childhood by her pushy mother Florence (Susan Sarandon). In reality, Beverly is 15 years old, which doesn’t matter in the least to Flynn, who has been accused of statutory rape before (and was acquitted).
They embark on a very public affair, with plans to marry. Fate intervenes, and a happy ending is not in store.
A scene of rape, nonmarital sexual activity, partial nudity, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual banter, and frequent profane and crude language.

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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.

“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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