CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

Rating: By Catholic News Service

CAPTION: Kevin Costner stars in a scene from the movie “McFarland, USA.” See the review below. (CNS/Disney)

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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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“McFarland, USA” (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.

Uplifting fact-based sports drama, set in 1980s California, about a high school teacher and coach (Kevin Costner) whose downward career spiral leads him to take a job in the impoverished fieldworkers’ community of the title.
As he and his family — Maria Bello plays his wife and Morgan Saylor and Elsie Fisher his daughters — struggle to adjust to the area’s Hispanic culture, the trainer recognizes a widespread gift among his new students for long-distance running, and organizes a cross-country team.
Director Niki Caro’s faith- and family-friendly tale of youthful underdogs pitted against the odds honors its strong central marriage, the bonds of its other close-knit clans as well as the value of education and self-improvement. Highly recommended for moviegoers of most ages.
An out-of-wedlock pregnancy, a single mild oath, a couple of crass terms, occasional ethnic slurs.

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“The DUFF” (Lionsgate)

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.

High school is a battleground where cliques fight for supremacy in this derivative comedy, directed by Ari Sandel and based on the eponymous novel by Kody Keplinger.
The demeaning premise is that certain students are branded the “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” Determined to overcome her relegation to this insulting category, a teen (Mae Whitman) enlists the help of the most popular guy in school (Robbie Amell), and together they battle his ex-girlfriend, the queen of the labelers (Bella Thorne).
Unfortunately, along with lax underlying values, vulgar sex talk and expletives abound, obscuring some positive messages for young people about self-esteem and respecting the dignity of others. A benign view of nonmarital sex, frequent sexual images and references, underage drinking, occasional profane and crude language.

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“Hot Tub Time Machine 2” (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.

This inane comedy sequel finds a crass business tycoon (Rob Corddry), his resentful son (Clark Duke) and his best pal (Craig Robinson) attempting to transport themselves into the past once again using the device of the title. Instead they end up 10 years into the future where, together with the offspring (Adam Scott) of a character from the first outing, they encounter such theoretically humorous cultural developments as a television game show on which contestants can be compelled to engage, via virtual reality, in unwanted sex acts.
Director Steve Pink’s follow-up to his 2010 original is as glaringly stupid as it is vile. Occasional gory violence, strong sexual content, including an aberrant situation, graphic nonmarital sexual activity and full nudity, drug use, a few instances of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“Fifty Shades of Grey” (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.

Unusually explicit for a mainstream film, director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation of the first volume in a trilogy of novels by E. L. James has a pornographically narrow focus and a potentially dangerous message.
Filling in for her roommate (Eloise Mumford), a socially awkward college student (Dakota Johnson) interviews an intimidating business tycoon (Jamie Dornan) for the campus newspaper, and the two fall for each other. As the virginal co-ed tries to bond with her aloof new beau, however, she discovers he’s an obsessive sadist.
Though it’s framed in the familiar context of a good girl’s crusade to redeem a naughty boy, her hesitant cooperation with the mogul’s perversion risks conveying the idea that all women are potentially willing victims of physical abuse and humiliation. The fact that their aberrant interaction is mostly toned down, moreover, only aggravates the damage this armchair flirtation with the darker aspects of human nature has the ability to inflict.
Excessive sexual content, including graphic deviant behavior and nonmarital sexual activity with much nudity, a benign view of casual sex and contraception, several uses of rough language, at least one crude term.

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“Kingsman: The Secret Service” (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.

James Bond gets younger, hipper competition via this suave but excessively violent adaptation of Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ 2012 comic book series “The Secret Service.”
A young hooligan (Taron Egerton) is invited by a spy (Colin Firth) to turn his life around by joining a top-secret independent intelligence agency. The lad’s recruitment coincides with the organization’s efforts to save the world from a wicked megalomaniac (Samuel L. Jackson) bent on mass slaughter.
While it’s intended as an amusing send-up of classic espionage movies, director Matthew Vaughn’s slick film is marred by an amount of bloodletting that even many adults will likely find repellent. Lost along the way is a positive message for wayward youth about achieving reform by learning to look out for others.
Strong gory violence, brief partial female nudity, some sexual innuendo, frequent profane and crude language.

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“Whiplash” (Sony Pictures Classics)

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 amoral jazz-themed drama about the relationship between an ambition-driven student drummer (Miles Teller) and his cruel instructor (an undeniably mesmerizing J.K. Simmons) is to music education what “Mommy Dearest” is to parenting. Writer-director Damien Chazelle has produced a bizarrely caricatured fiction in which both emotional and physical abuse appear to be their own reward.
Misguided values, degrading behavior, pervasive profanities and crass language, occasional ethnic and sexual slurs.

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“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” (Paramount)

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.

Genial mix of animation and live action in which the creature of the title (voice of Tom Kenny), a short-order cook in the seabed city of Bikini Bottom, goes in search of the missing secret formula for the irresistible burger that not only makes his employer’s (voice of Clancy Brown) restaurant the most successful spot in town, but keeps the whole community functioning smoothly as well.
With his patty-starved society falling apart around him, he joins forces with his boss’ long-standing rival (voice of Mr. Lawrence) — who may or may not have become a genuine ally — and with his two best friends, a starfish (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke) and a chipmunk (voice of Carolyn Lawrence), to retrieve the vital recipe. Among those putting obstacles in their way is a richly bearded pirate (Antonio Banderas) who also serves as the tale’s manipulative narrator.
The second film to be based on the long-running Nickelodeon TV series “SpongeBob SquarePants,” director Paul Tibbitt’s fast-paced sequel simultaneously plays with and promotes the commonplace screen message that teamwork is the key to success. Kindergarten-level potty humor and some mildly frightening plot elements aside, this bit of self-proclaimed “nautical nonsense” is appropriate for all. Occasional menace, a few mildly scatological jokes.

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“Jupiter Ascending” (Warner Bros)

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.

Heavenly bodies — human and alien — collide in spectacular fashion in this 3-D science-fiction romp through the cosmos, written and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski.
A young woman (Mila Kunis) leaves her Chicago home with a hunky alien (Channing Tatum) for a grand adventure on distant worlds. She is the unlikely heir to the entire universe, and so a pawn in a power struggle among three alien siblings (Eddie Redmayne, Tuppence Middleton and Douglas Booth), who harvest humans on Earth for an elixir offering eternal youth. Our damsel in distress strives to save her planet and return home to her family.
Confusing, silly, and unintentionally hilarious, the film has strong opinions about industrial might, the abuse of power, and the plight of the individual, but these get lost in the ether. Intense but bloodless sci-fi action, partial rear nudity, some innuendo, a benign view towards egg donation, occasional crude and profane language.

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“Seventh Son” (Universal)

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.

An accessible throwback to Saturday matinee serials and mid-20th-century action-adventure films, this half-baked yet unobjectionable tale follows a knight (Jeff Bridges) and his young apprentice (Ben Barnes) as they battle a demonic cadre of supernatural assassins led by a witch queen (Julianne Moore).
Russian director Sergei Bodrov proves adept at providing stirring 3-D visuals and orchestrating thrilling sequences in which live action and 21st-century special effects mesh in a manner that furthers the plot and showcases the natural beauty of the British Columbia scenery. This facility does not carry over to Bodrov’s handling of his lead actor, however, since Bridges’ distractingly idiosyncratic performance makes it feel as though the Dude from “The Big Lebowski” has been teleported into this action-fantasy milieu.
Frequent strong yet blood-free fantasy violence, much frightening imagery involving monsters and demonic creatures, several uses of crass language, one instance of toilet humor.

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“The Loft” (Open Road)

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.

Despite being blessed with beautiful, accomplished wives, five men — Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet and Matthias Schoenaerts — share a luxurious loft apartment, which they use exclusively as a venue for adultery. When a woman (Isabel Lucas) is found mysteriously murdered there, each member of this tawdry ensemble turns on the others.
Director Erik Van Looy’s remake of his 2008 Dutch-language film “Loft” is a grotesque parody of the most fundamental aspects of human behavior populated by thoroughly unsympathetic characters who somehow manage to be even less than one-dimensional.
A benign view of adultery, a couple of semi-graphic adulterous encounters, brief rear nudity, drug use, vulgar sexual banter, pervasive crude and crass language.

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“Black or White” (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.

Large-scale issues of race and addiction are examined in microcosm in this fact-based drama from writer-director Mike Binder.
After a car accident suddenly leaves him a widower, a prosperous white lawyer (Kevin Costner) struggles to go on raising his half-African-American granddaughter (Jillian Estell). But his reliance on alcohol to assuage his grief raises questions about his fitness as a guardian, leading the girl’s paternal grandmother (Octavia Spencer), a successful entrepreneur, to sue for custody.
As family antagonisms fuel the conflict — the attorney blames the lass’ dad (Andre Holland), a narcotics-dependent ne’er-do-well, for his own daughter’s needless death in childbirth — so too do racial tensions.
Though its avoidance of stereotypes and easy answers is admirable, the film provides only modest entertainment for those grown-up viewers able to appreciate its moral shadings. Brief bloodless violence, a drug theme, incidental affirmation of a same-sex marriage, mature references, several uses of profanity, at least one rough term, frequent crude and crass language.

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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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“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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“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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