CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

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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“Addicted” (Lionsgate)

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 therapist (Tasha Smith) treats a successful businesswoman and married mother of two (Sharon Leal) who is descending into sex addiction, despite a stable relationship with her architect husband (Boris Kodjoe) and the positive influence of her mother (Maria Howell), who helps run their Atlanta household.
Since director Bille Woodruff’s film is adapted from the first in a series of erotic novels by Kristina Laferne Roberts — who goes by the pen name Zane — gaudy, elaborately choreographed bedroom activity soon overtakes any more serious purpose. From there on, the proceedings, which emphasize considerable undulating in expensive negligees, unusually long shower times and gratuitous peeks at male backsides, might be said to occupy that nether-nether land between soft-core pornography and a big-screen soap opera.
Strong sexual content — including graphically portrayed adultery, aberrant behavior and upper female and rear nudity — frequent rough language, much sexual banter.

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“Fury” (Sony)

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.

Writer-director David Ayer combines brutal realism with a passing admixture of scriptural spirituality in this powerful study of the psychological effects of combat, set during the last stages of World War II in Europe.
Assigned to a veteran tank crew, despite having been trained for a desk job, a novice gunner (Logan Lerman) has difficulty killing the enemy until subjected to the savage mentoring of the vehicle’s commander (Brad Pitt) and the peer pressure of his newfound comrades (Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal). As he navigates the kill-or-be-killed environment into which he has been thrown, the neophyte warrior gradually learns to follow the lead of his superior — suspending some aspects of basic morality while keeping other facets of his humanity intact.
Mature moviegoers will require sound judgment to assess the terms of that bargain as well as a high tolerance for harsh visuals to endure the graphically portrayed circumstances which lead to its adoption. Pervasive wartime violence with much gore, an off-screen nonmarital bedroom encounter, numerous uses of profanity, relentless rough and crude language.

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“The Best of Me” (Relativity)

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.

Based on the 2011 best-selling novel by Catholic author Nicholas Sparks, this entertaining but morally flawed drama about destiny, directed by Michael Hoffman, poses a perennial question: If given a second chance, would you pursue a lost love?
Former high school sweethearts (James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan) are reunited after 20 years apart when they return to their small Louisiana hometown for the funeral of a mutual friend (Gerald McRaney). The duo continues to carry a torch for each other, despite her unhappy marriage and unresolved issues from his past. That history is examined in flashbacks featuring their younger selves (Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato).
For these star-crossed lovers, there are many shocking twists and turns on the road to reconciliation and redemption. There are also a number of ethical lapses at which J. Mills Goodloe and Will Fetters’ script winks, making this appropriate material for mature, discerning viewers only.
Gunplay, domestic violence, drug use, benignly viewed adultery and nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, occasional profane and crude language.

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“The Book of Life” (Fox)

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.

The “Day of the Dead,” the traditional Mexican method of observing All Souls’ Day, is the backdrop for this entertaining and visually stunning 3-D animated adventure directed and co-written by Jorge R. Gutierrez.
A museum guide (voice of Christina Applegate) tells schoolchildren a fairy tale about two best friends (voices of Diego Luna and Channing Tatum) who compete for the affections of a beautiful woman (voice of Zoe Saldana). Their rivalry is witnessed — and influenced — by two gods, one (voice of Kate del Castillo) the overseer of a heaven-like land of remembered souls, the other (voice of Ron Perlman) the ruler of a desolate world populated by forgotten spirits.
Although the film includes mythological aspects that might call for discussion with impressionable youngsters, its basic intentions do not conflict with Catholic teaching. Instead it emphasizes the enduring bonds of family and the importance of praying for the deceased.
Nonscriptural religious themes, some mildly scary sequences, occasional bathroom humor, a few very mild oaths in Spanish.

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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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