Recent movies reviewed by CNS on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Patina Miller, Liam Hemsworth, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Lawrence and Elden Henson star in a scene from the movie “‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.”

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 Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” (Lionsgate)

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.

This third installment of a four-part series based on best-selling novels by Suzanne Collins offers satisfying — and occasionally stirring — action played out against the backdrop of the same disordered futuristic society in which its predecessors were set.
As the heroine of the franchise (Jennifer Lawrence), a veteran of the brutal survival tournament of the title, becomes the symbol of the revolution against its organizers she helped to launch at the end of the last film, her sweetheart (Josh Hutcherson), a prisoner of the oppressive regime (led by Donald Sutherland), becomes a tool in their propaganda campaign aimed at stamping out the rebellion.
While director Francis Lawrence and screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong include a good deal of stylized combat in their teen-targeted tale, other problematic content is entirely absent. In fact, the romantic entanglements are so chaste that a single kiss between Lawrence’s character and the lad (Liam Hemsworth) who pines for her takes on great significance. The script also highlights positive values, including altruism, making this a worry-free choice for parents of the sought-after demographic
Some bloodless but potentially disturbing violence.

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“Dumb and Dumber To” (Universal)

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.

Stupid is as stupid does in this broad comedy sequel reuniting a duo of nitwits (Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels) 20 years after their adventures in the 1994 original. Carrey’s character has spent the interval in a mental asylum pretending to be catatonic as a prolonged practical joke on his buddy. But he snaps out of it on hearing that his friend needs a kidney donor. Together they set off in search of the most likely candidate, the grown daughter (Rachel Melvin) the sick man has only just discovered he has.
While many of the gags in co-directors (and brothers) Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s lowbrow laffer are merely vulgar, a couple of scenes trigger such deep disgust that the whole can be endorsed for no one.
Pervasive sexual and much scatological humor, some of it involving bestiality and other aberrations, brief irreverence, fleeting rear and partial nudity, at least one use each of profanity and the F-word, intermittent crude and crass language.

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“Beyond the Lights” (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.

Well-intended but problematic romance matching a burned-out rap star (Gugu Mbatha Raw) with the policeman assigned to protect her (Nate Parker) after he intervenes to prevent her suicide. Their relationship is opposed by her showbiz mom (Minnie Driver) and by the callous singer (real-life rapper Richard Colson Baker, aka Machine Gun Kelly) who is both her collaborator and her lover.
A sadly realistic atmosphere of degraded sensuality pervades the musical performances in writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film, though the story arc eventually finds the main character rebelling against this aspect of her career. Additionally, the script takes going to bed before strolling down the aisle for granted. Yet this drama does have its appealing aspects, including the positive mutual support that marks the central pair’s interaction.
Brief semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, temporary cohabitation, partial nudity, much strongly suggestive behavior, at least one use of the F-word, considerable crude and crass language.

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“St. Vincent” (Weinstein)

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 PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

When a recently divorced single mother (Melissa McCarthy) moves in next door to a hard-drinking, curmudgeonly loner (a pitch-perfect Bill Murray), the two take an instant dislike to each other. But, with no one else available to mind her bullied 12-year-old son (Jaeden Lieberher) after school, mom is forced to turn to her new neighbor as an unlikely babysitter. He and the boy bond as the youngster learns to look past his gruff caregiver’s obvious flaws and see the hidden goodness within.
Writer-director Ted Melfi’s feature debut is a fundamentally endearing drama that includes a thoroughly positive portrayal of the lad’s Catholic school teacher (Chris O’Dowd), a religious brother. But aspects of the title character’s dodgy lifestyle, including his relationship with a prostitute (Naomi Watts), narrow the scope of the appropriate audience for the film, while the script’s treatment of morality — just how much is excusable in a person who is, at heart, unusually nurturing and generous? — requires mature reflection.
Brief semi-graphic adultery, a benign view of petty theft, a prostitution theme, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word, much crude language.

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“Big Hero 6” (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.

Colorfully set in a fictional city that blends elements of San Francisco and Tokyo, this action-packed 3-D animated adventure, directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, is loosely based on a Marvel Comics series. A teenage inventor (voice of Ryan Potter) uncovers the evil conspiracy that took the life of his older brother (voice of Daniel Henney). To fight the bad guys, he assembles a team made up of his personal robot (voice of Scott Adsit) and a quartet of fellow nerds (voices of Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, and T.J. Miller).
Christening themselves with the phrase of the title, the aspiring superheroes set out to save the day. Noisy smash-bang sequences may be too intense for younger viewers. But the movie’s calmer moments offer good lessons in friendship, self-sacrifice, and resisting temptation. Preceding the film is “Feast,” a charming animated short directed by Patrick Osborne. It offers a dog’s-eye view of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, one meal at a time — and is acceptable for all ages. Mildly scary sequences, references to puberty, some slightly edgy humor.

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“Interstellar” (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.

Ambitious but flawed drama in which a crew of astronauts (led by Matthew McConaughey) uses a wormhole to speed their travel to a selection of distant planets they hope might offer refuge to the whole human race, which is facing worldwide starvation back on a dystopian, dustbowl-plagued version of Earth.
The bond between McConaughey’s character and his daughter (Mackenzie Foy in youth, Jessica Chastain as an adult) is tested by his long absence, while that uniting the professor (Michael Caine) supervising the program to his daughter (Anne Hathaway), the mission’s science officer, is subject to other strains.
Director and co-writer Christopher Nolan’s sprawling space epic is visually dazzling. His film also has most of its values in good order as it weighs familial ties against the sacrifices necessary to advance the common welfare and ponders the place of love within a worldview shaped by quantum mechanics and Darwinian evolution. But unnatural situations involving the relativity of time and other environmental factors create a distance from ordinary reality that blunts the impact of the movie’s human element. Additionally, a subplot involving frozen embryos calls for moral discernment.
Ethical issues, some bloodless violence, a handful of profanities, occasional crude and crass language.

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“Before I Go to Sleep” (Clarius)

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.

The cherished amnesia plot gets dusted off for this thriller, which fans of the genre should enjoy, although it offers only one big twist.
Writer-director Rowan Joffe’s adaptation of S.J. Watson’s novel recounts the story of an assault victim (Nicole Kidman) whose memory erases nightly. As she works with a psychologist (Mark Strong) to recover her past, she recalls her own extramarital affair as well as the one her husband carried on with her best friend (Anne-Marie Duff). Yet now her spouse (Colin Firth) seems so kindly and attentive.
Occasional physical violence, an adultery theme, fleeting rear nudity, a few instances of profanity and crude language.

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“Ouija” (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.

After a seemingly happy teen (Shelley Hennig) mysteriously hangs herself, her best pal (Olivia Cooke) and her boyfriend (Douglas Smith) are left with a host of troubling questions. So, together with some of the other people in her life (Ana Coto, Bianca Santos and Daren Kagasoff), they ill-advisedly try to communicate with the deceased girl using an Ouija board she had recently unearthed in her attic.
A half-baked cautionary tale that nonetheless serves as extended product placement for the Hasbro version of the device, director and co-writer Stiles White’s muddled chiller is an amateurish effort that delivers few jolts and little entertainment. Its ambiguous portrayal of a spiritually dangerous pastime, moreover, makes the film totally unsuitable for impressionable viewers.
Occult themes, brief but harsh violence, a suicide, a couple of crude terms, some mild oaths.

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“Birdman or (The Unexpected Value of Ignorance)” (Fox Searchlight)

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 talky, pretentious black comedy is filled with existential angst when the characters aren’t preoccupied spitting curses.
Michael Keaton stars as a former comic-book film superhero now struggling to redefine himself as a serious Broadway actor. Though undermined by a rival (Edward Norton), he receives the support of his current girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough), his ex-wife (Amy Ryan) and his producer (Zach Galifianakis). Director and co-writer Alejandro G. Inarritu devotes most of his film to angry speeches, making his protagonist’s quest a sad, bilious journey for viewers.
Fleeting rear nudity, much sexual humor, including a crude sight gag, a same-sex kiss, frequent profanity, pervasive crude and crass language.

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“John Wick” (Summit)

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.

Pseudo-stylish action thriller starring Keanu Reeves as a retired hit man who returns to his murderous ways after becoming the victim of a random crime while grieving the death of his wife.
The Russian mobsters (Alfie Allen and Michael Nyqvist) he goes up against don’t stand a chance in this ultra-violent effort, which is set in New York City’s supposedly glamorous criminal underworld and which plays like a long commercial for a fancy imported beer. Making his directorial debut, longtime stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski doesn’t choreograph the action with any appreciable verve and the noir atmosphere he aims for is neither original nor convincingly rendered.
Pervasive bloody violence involving guns, knives, martial arts combat and the brutal treatment of a priest, possible euthanasia, animal cruelty, drug use, an irreverent depiction of a Catholic church, at least one instance of profanity, frequent rough and some crude language.

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“Nightcrawler” (Open Road)

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.

Strikingly creepy character study in which a borderline-autistic loner and petty thief (Jake Gyllenhaal) turns to ambulance-chasing journalism, intrusively videotaping Los Angeles accident and crime scenes as sensationalist fodder for a local TV news program. His total disregard for ethical standards brings him so much success that the show’s producer (Rene Russo) becomes dependent on his output to maintain ratings — and thereby keep her job.
The hidden depths of his obvious eccentricity prove so dark, though, that the homeless drifter (Riz Ahmed) he hires as an assistant and sidekick becomes alarmed. Gyllenhaal is mesmerizingly off-kilter, and writer-director Dan Gilroy adeptly satirizes both the free-for-all of world of yellow reporting and the public hunger for tabloid images that fuels its excesses. But an air of moral nihilism pervades the film’s gritty urban atmosphere, calling for thoughtful assessment by mature, well-grounded viewers.
Considerable, often gory violence, several uses of profanity, brief but coarse references to sexuality, pervasive rough and crude language.

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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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