CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Jack O’Connell stars in a scene from the movie “Unbroken.” The Catholic News Service classification is 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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“Taken 3” (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.

Framed for the murder of his ex-wife (Famke Janssen), a former covert agent (Liam Neeson) goes on the lam, tracked by the detective assigned to the case (Forest Whitaker) and by Russian mobsters (led by Sam Spruell) he suspects are the real culprits. Along with vindicating his innocence, the retired operative is out to protect his daughter (Maggie Grace) from becoming the gangsters’ next target.
Director Olivier Megaton’s lackluster action sequel, which also features Dougray Scott as the rub-out victim’s second husband, fails to engage viewers sufficiently to make them care much about anyone on screen. Though the turmoil portrayed never gets bloody, Neeson’s character recklessly endangers pursuing police as well as civilian bystanders in his efforts to evade capture.
Considerable action violence with minimal gore, a premarital situation resulting in pregnancy, adult dialogue including a possible reference to abortion, a half-dozen uses of profanity, at least one rough and several crude terms.

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“Selma” (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.

A crucial battle in the long struggle for African-American equality is compellingly recreated in director Ava DuVernay fact-based drama.
With the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act behind him, President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) is anxious to concentrate on promoting the economic measures of his Great Society program. But Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) is equally determined to secure long-overdue access to the ballot for minority voters in the South. With Alabama, under its implacably segregationist governor, George Wallace (Tim Roth), continuing to resist such reform, King agrees to lead a long protest march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery.
Screenwriter Paul Webb intersperses the inspiring rhetoric of the time with behind-the-scenes insights into heated debates over strategy among King and his associates, the constant threat of violence under which they were forced to live as well as the emotional burden placed on King’s wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo) by her spouse’s numerous infidelities. Given its historical value, the film is possibly acceptable for mature adolescents.
Some harsh violence, an adultery theme, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, a couple of rough terms, occasional crude and crass language.

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“The Imitation Game” (Weinstein)

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 Morten Tyldum’s fact-based profile of famed mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) who led Britain’s successful effort to break the German military’s Enigma code during World War II jumps between Turing’s boarding-school days, his behind-the-scenes service and his 1952 prosecution for “gross indecency.”
Though much historical nuance is simply pared away to keep this drama afloat, screenwriter Graham Moore’s script treats its subject’s sexual orientation obliquely. Thus, grown viewers need not buy into a contemporary agenda contrary to Judeo-Christian morality in order to recognize the tragedy that resulted from the application of an unwise law.
Mature themes, including homosexuality, brief coarse language.

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“The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death” (Relativity)

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.

Dull haunted house tale in which one of the caretakers (Phoebe Fox) of a group of children (most prominently Oaklee Pendergast) evacuated from World War II London during the Blitz is troubled by strange events in the lonely, decrepit country mansion that serves as the refugees’ temporary dwelling. With the help of her newfound sweetheart (Jeremy Irvine), an RAF pilot based nearby, she researches the estate’s past for clues about the supernatural persona currently threatening her charges.
Director Tom Harper’s follow-up to the 2012 original tones down the earlier film’s theme of children lured to suicide, and Jon Croker’s screenplay excludes all objectionable language. Yet, while their mostly decorous follow-up provides the occasional start, it fails to excite much interest.
Fleeting gore, imperiled children, some potentially disturbing images, references to out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

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“Into the Woods” (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.

Despite its fairy-tale roots, this initially pleasing but ultimately problematic adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s long-running 1987 stage musical is an inappropriate choice for youthful moviegoers.
As scripted by Lapine, the action wittily interweaves a number of classic children’s stories — those of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) among them — with its main narrative tracing a childless couple’s (James Corden and Emily Blunt) quest to undo the curse of barrenness placed on his family by a witch (Meryl Streep) whom his father (Simon Russell Beale) long ago wronged.
All this transpires whimsically enough at first under Rob Marshall’s direction. But late plot developments lead into brooding reflections on the two-edged legacy of gaining worldly experience and, more disturbingly, into an apparent rejection of objective moral standards in favor of do-it-yourself ethics. Possibly acceptable for older teens.
Complex moral themes requiring mature discernment, a scene of adulterous kissing, some stylized violence, the mildly abusive treatment of minors.

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“The Gambler” (Paramount)

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.

Bleak drama in which a cynical college professor (Mark Wahlberg) struggles with the consequences of his gambling addiction. As he fends off the competing claims of an underground casino operator (Alvin Ing) and a loan shark (Michael Kenneth Williams), to both of whom he owes large sums, he puts the squeeze on his wealthy mother (Jessica Lange) and woos his most promising student (Brie Larson).
Director Rupert Wyatt’s remake of Karel Reisz’s 1974 film — which also features John Goodman as yet another underworld figure — veers between materialistic pessimism and naive romanticism. The fact that the egotistical, irresponsible main character has no one to blame but himself for the fix he’s in, moreover, makes it difficult to expend much sympathy on him.
Occasional violence, upper female nudity in a strip club scene, a handful of profanities, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“Unbroken” (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.

Though inspirational, this screen version of Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling account of one U.S. airman’s (Jack O’Connell) experiences during World War II emphasizes its subject’s sufferings at the expense of the remarkable attitude of forgiveness he was eventually able to adopt toward those who had abused him.
A former Olympic runner-turned-bombardier, he and two crewmates (Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock) survived a crash landing at sea, only to face nearly seven weeks adrift on the open ocean. Eventually taken prisoner by the Japanese, he was singled out for mistreatment by the unbalanced commander (Miyavi) of his POW camp. In response, he drew on the same determination that had enabled him to rise to the top as an athlete to endure through a marathon of cruelty.
Director Angelina Jolie vividly re-creates the brutality to which Allied captives in the Pacific Theater were all too often subjected. But she relegates her main character’s unusual, if not unique, spiritual achievement — which seems to have been inspired, at least indirectly, by his Catholic upbringing — to a written epilogue.
Combat and other violence, including torturous beatings, rear male nudity in a non-sexual context, a couple of uses of profanity and of crude language, a few crass terms, a bit of mild sexual humor.

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“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” (Warner Bros.)

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.

Director and co-writer Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films based on Catholic novelist J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 fantasy for children, set in Tolkien’s imaginary world of Middle-earth, reaches a rousing finale as the forces of good and evil, both within and surrounding its characters, confront each other in a climactic struggle.
After the fearsome dragon (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch) who long ago exiled them from their ancestral bastion is slain, the brave band of Dwarves whose quest to reclaim their fabled citadel has been aided by the formerly fainthearted Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is finally able to recover their stronghold. But the untold wealth stored up in the mountain fortress begins to obsess their king (Richard Armitage), making him hopelessly greedy and paranoid just as a vast army of evil Orcs (led by Manu Bennett) is on the march against them.
The warping effects of avarice are poised against the redeeming consequences of heroic selflessness in this combat-heavy parable, which also sees the return of Ian McKellen as the wizard who first prompted Bilbo’s transformation. The film offers valuable lessons for those viewers mature enough to endure its many armed confrontations.
Pervasive, sometimes harsh battle violence with minimal gore, a couple of crass expressions.

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“Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” (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.

All creatures great and small, including some long-dead humans, spring to life when the sun goes down in this good-natured and mostly family-friendly third film in the popular franchise, directed — like its predecessors — by Shawn Levy.
A guard (Ben Stiller) at New York’s American Museum of Natural History harnesses the power of an ancient Egyptian tablet, which makes the exhibits around him come alive at nightfall. But the talisman is decaying, and fixing it requires crossing the Atlantic to London’s British Museum. A gaggle of Gotham-based exhibits, among them President Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams), an Egyptian pharaoh (Rami Malek), Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher) and Lewis and Clark’s Native American guide Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck), accompany the watchman and his rebel teenage son (Skyler Gisondo) on their excursion overseas, where Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens), legendary knight of the Round Table, joins the quest.
Despite occasional toilet humor and outsized dinosaur behavior that might intimidate tots, overall, Levy’s film offers viewers good-natured and amiable fun. Some intense action sequences, childish scatological humor, mild innuendo.

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“Annie” (Columbia)

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.

Exuberant, updated adaptation of the 1977 Broadway musical (and 1982 film), based on the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip by Harold Gray.
In present-day Manhattan, a foster child (Quvenzhane Wallis) dreams of finding her real parents, while living with four other girls and a wicked, drunken mess (Cameron Diaz) of a temporary guardian. Her rescuer arrives in an unlikely form: a billionaire businessman (Jamie Foxx) who takes her in for publicity purposes as he campaigns for mayor. The fun begins as she casts a spell on her new benefactor, and vice versa.
Director and co-writer Will Gluck’s wholesome story for all ages carries positive messages about love, family, and forgiveness. A couple of crass terms, fleeting mature references.

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Exodus: Gods and Kings” (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.

Big but boring, director Ridley Scott’s epic 3-D take on the biblical event of the title is skittish where miracles are concerned and revisionist in its treatment of the relationship between Moses (Christian Bale) and the Almighty.
Raised as a foster son to Egypt’s Pharaoh (John Turturro) and adoptive brother of the heir to the throne (Joel Edgerton), the future patriarch is sent into exile when a corrupt official (Ben Mendelsohn) whose wrongdoing he has uncovered reveals his lowly origin as the child of a Hebrew slave. Working as a shepherd, he finds solace in married life (with Maria Valverde) until his contentment is once again disturbed when God — oddly personified by an 11-year-old boy (Isaac Andrews) — calls on him to lead his enslaved compatriots to freedom.
While Scott’s film has computer-generated effects to spare, especially in the plague scenes, its human interaction is stilted and uninvolving. Considerable combat and other violence with some gore, religious themes requiring mature discernment, restrained sexual content, including a gay innuendo and two marital bedroom scenes.

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“The Pyramid” (Fox)

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.

Cross “The Mummy” with “Alien” and you get this schlock horror film about scary things that go bump in the Egyptian night, directed by Gregory Levasseur.
His documentary format purports to tell the “true” story of an American archeological expedition in Cairo in 2013, set against the upheavals of the Arab Spring. A father-daughter team of scientists (Denis O’Hare and Ashley Hinshaw) have discovered a pyramid buried deep under the desert. A journalist (Christa Nicola) and her wisecracking cameraman (James Buckley) chronicle their excavation of it.
When contact is lost with a robot rover that’s been sent inside the structure, its operator (Amir K) joins the others on a rescue mission. Before long, of course, it’s apparent that something sinister is lurking underground.
Bloody violence and gory images, brief partial female nudity, some profane and crude language.

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“Top Five” (Paramount)

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.

Vaguely autobiographical romantic comedy in which Chris Rock plays a successful stand-up comic and recovering alcoholic who has sold out to Hollywood by starring in a series of absurd action flicks.
On the eve of his publicity-driven marriage to a reality-TV celebrity (Gabrielle Union), he reluctantly agrees to be interviewed by a down-to-earth newspaper reporter (Rosario Dawson) whose frank probing of his past eventually induces him to reassess his priorities.
At its core a well-intentioned look at the redeeming power of love, the film — which Rock also wrote and directed — comes wrapped in layers of smutty humor that suffocate its fundamentally honorable message.
Graphic scenes of group sex and other deviant activities, upper female and rear nudity, a frivolous treatment of homosexuality, at least one use of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“The Theory of Everything” (Focus)

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.

Cosmology and metaphysical arguments don’t blend well with the more usual elements of this autobiographical film.
With a script by Andrew McCarten — based on a memoir by Jane Hawking (Felicity Jones), the ex-wife of famed physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) — director James Marsh’s drama is, for its first hour, an impressive period piece set in 1963 Cambridge University. After that, the story shows the hazards of having to tiptoe decorously around messy domestic complications when all those involved, including Hawking’s nurse-turned-second-spouse Elaine (Maxine Peake), are still very much alive.
Fleeting references to marital infidelity and pornography, some sexual banter.

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“Horrible Bosses 2” (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.

Facing bankruptcy after being victimized by a high-powered executive (Christoph Waltz) they thought would help their fledgling business, three would-be entrepreneurs (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) strike on the idea of kidnapping the tycoon’s grown son (Chris Pine) and using the ransom money to stave off ruin.
While director and co-writer Sean Anders plays on the morally respectable theme of basically decent people making comically inept criminals, his sequel to the 2011 original treats human sexuality in a base and frivolous manner, primarily through a recurring character (Jennifer Aniston) whose addiction to bed hopping is supposed to inspire laughs.
Distant but graphic images of casual and aberrant sex, much sexual humor, mature themes, including adultery and homosexuality, frequent uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language, an obscene gesture.

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“Penguins of Madagascar” (Fox)

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.

Spirited animated adventure in which a quartet of penguins (voiced by Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Conrad Vernon and Christopher Knights) who’ve decided they have what it takes to be avian spies competes with an equally self-appointed team of secret agents (their wolf leader voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) to defeat the schemes of a villainous octopus (voice of John Malkovich). Comic possibilities drive the freewheeling plot of directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith’s family-friendly lark, which sees supporting characters from previous movies in the franchise coming to the fore — and into their own. As it trots around the globe, and indulges, now and then, in genre-typical potty humor, the film instills lessons about the negative effects of seeking revenge as well as the positive results of loyalty, teamwork and cooperation. A handful of mild scatological jokes and insults.

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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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