CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

Rating: By Catholic News Service

PHOTO: Kyle Gallner and Bradley Cooper star in a scene from the movie “American Sniper.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS/Warner Bros.)

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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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“Mortdecai” (Lionsgate)

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.

Tone-deaf action comedy about an eccentric — and somewhat shady — British art dealer (Johnny Depp) who, at the behest of a government spy (Ewan McGregor), gets drawn into a murder investigation that has him searching for a lost masterpiece while fending off an international terrorist (Jonny Pasvolsky) and a Russian mobster (Ulrich Thomsen).
He’s aided by his resourceful bodyguard (Paul Bettany) and devoted wife (Gwyneth Paltrow), though, in a running joke, the latter spends much of the film alienated from her spouse by her dislike of his newly acquired moustache.
Director David Koepp’s screen version of Kyril Bonfiglioli’s novel “Don’t Point That Thing at Me” tries to evoke P.G. Wodehouse and the sort of movies parodied by the “Austin Powers” series. But in place of effervescent satiric champagne, viewers get a gulp of flat ginger ale instead. And, though the successful union shared by Depp and Paltrow’s characters is front and center in screenwriter Eric Aronson’s script, asides in the dialogue hint that the absence of children from their family life has not come about accidentally.
Considerable bloodless violence, a brief premarital bedroom scene, frequent sexual and some scatological humor, including a vulgar anatomical sight gag, at least one use of profanity, occasional rough and crude language.

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“Strange Magic” (Disney)

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.

This leaden animated riff on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is an untidy muddle made all the worse when the characters break into pop tunes from across the decades, outbursts that do nothing either to reveal inner emotions or advance the plot.
Director and co-writer Gary Rydstrom gets completely lost in his not-so-enchanted forest as a princess (voice of Evan Rachel Wood) and her vain suitor (voice of Sam Palladio) navigate the rocky course of love. Some intense action sequences.
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.

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“The Boy Next Door” (Universal)

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.

While separated from her unfaithful husband (John Corbett), a high school English teacher (Jennifer Lopez) is seduced by a newly arrived teen neighbor (Ryan Guzman) who turns out to be an obsessive maniac. Since her ill-chosen paramour has managed to befriend her bullied son (Ian Nelson) and, although of age, will soon be her student, the irresolute educator finds both her family and her career jeopardized by her summertime indiscretion.
Director Rob Cohen’s trashy thriller succeeds in parading its stars’ flesh, but is eye-rollingly inept on every other score. Some harsh violence with brief but extreme gore, strong sexual content, including graphic adultery and other immoral acts, a couple of profanities, frequent rough and crude language.

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“American Sniper” (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.

Sober war drama based on Chris Kyle’s 2012 memoir (written with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice) about his service as a Navy SEAL during the conflict in Iraq.
As Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper, gains a reputation as an expert sharpshooter, he wins the respect of his comrades, but also becomes a prime enemy target with a price on his head. The Texas native’s insistence on returning to combat through four grueling tours of duty, moreover, predictably exacts a psychological toll and strains his relationship with his wife (Sienna Miller).
Working from a script by Jason Hall, director Clint Eastwood successfully conveys the heroic personal commitment that motivated Kyle to protect his fellow fighters. Yet the film avoids any big-picture moral assessment of the specific struggle in which he participated or of armed clashes in general. Stylized violence with some gore, a scene of torture, a premarital situation, some sexual humor and references, several uses of profanity, constant rough and crude language.

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“Still Alice” (Sony 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.

The real depredations of Alzheimer’s disease and its toll on the families of the afflicted are not on display in this flawed drama about a Columbia University linguistics professor (Julianne Moore) who falls prey to the early-onset strain of the illness shortly after turning 50.
While it features a sensitive and appealing performance by Moore, directors and co-writers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s adaptation of Lisa Genova’s 2007 novel fails to follow through on a number of its story lines, including the title character’s preparation for the taking of her own life.
Mature themes, including suicide, a few references to body functions, fleeting crass language.

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“Paddington” (TWC-Dimension)

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.

Written and directed by Paul King, this delightful, warmhearted comedy for the entire family — which mixes animation with live action — is based on the celebrated series of children’s books by Michael Bond.
After an earthquake destroys his home, a talking bear (voice of Ben Whishaw) from “darkest Peru” travels to Britain in search of a fresh start. There he’s adopted by a London family (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, and Samuel Joslin) and initiated into the rituals of townhouse living. But danger lurks around the corner in the guise of a sadistic museum taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) who thinks the newcomer would make a fine addition to her collection.
Some mildly scary action sequences, brief innuendo, a few instances of bathroom humor.

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“Blackhat” (Universal)

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.

A computer hacker (Chris Hemsworth) serving time in federal prison can win his freedom by helping a team of Chinese and American investigators — including Wang Leehom, Tang Wei and Viola Davis — track down the programmer responsible for a lethal cyberattack on a nuclear power plant.
Director Michael Mann’s characteristically stylish, moody crime portrait succeeds up to a point thanks to kinetic visuals that suit the morally shaded material. Yet, while free of grossly offensive elements, the film ultimately turns out to be a standard action-thriller that glorifies physical violence and unintentionally demonstrates that hacking is far from a novel or elevated form of criminality.
Considerable, moderately graphic, action violence, a mostly implied premarital sexual relationship, some crass language.

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“The Wedding Ringer” (Screen Gems)

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.

Lacking close friends, a likeable nebbish (Josh Gad) betrothed to a shallow beauty (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) engages the services of a best-man-for-hire (Kevin Hart) and a hastily assembled — and thoroughly motley — crew of fake groomsmen.
Though it sketchily traces the burgeoning affinity between the husband-to-be and his stand-in bosom buddy, director and co-writer Jeremy Garelick’s potentially touching comedy bogs down in juvenile nastiness. Thus the script takes supposedly humorous swipes at the clergy abuse scandal and tries to garner giggles by involving a dog in a sex act.
Anti-Catholic and irreverent humor, strong sexual content, including depraved activity with partial frontal nudity, a frivolous treatment of homosexuality, about a dozen uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“Inherent Vice” (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.

The meandering plot of this detective yarn starring Joaquin Phoenix is perhaps better appreciated in the 2009 Thomas Pynchon’s novel on which the film is based. On screen, however, its “nothing is as it seems” ambiance has all the charm of a bad sunburn. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation emphasizes the narrative’s amorality and makes the proceedings appear vaguely smutty rather than intriguing. When not aimlessly getting high, characters are being killed or else indulging in joyless sexual encounters. Frequent drug use, strong sexual content, including scenes of aberrant behavior and much crass banter, pervasive rough and crude language.

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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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