CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

Rating: By Catholic News Service

PHOTO: Dev Patel, Richard Gere, Tina Desai, Diana Hardcastle, Judi Dench and Ronald Pickup star in a scene from the movie “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. See review below.

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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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“Do You Believe?” (Pure Flix)

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.

Storytelling takes a back seat to sermonizing in this competent ensemble drama that turns on a Chicago pastor’s (Ted McGinley) preaching about the centrality of the Cross in the lives of Christians and the need to put faith into practice.
He and his wife (Tracy Melchior) do so by taking in a pregnant teen (Madison Pettis) who has been living on the streets; similarly, an older couple (Lee Majors and Cybill Shepherd) provide shelter for a homeless mom (Mira Sorvino) and her irrepressibly sunny daughter (Makenzie Moss) while two despondent near-suicides (Joseph Julian Soria and Alexa PenaVega) find hope-restoring romance together.
Less comfortable plot lines involve an emergency medic’s (Liam Matthews) fraught legal battle to vindicate his right to proselytize patients and the credibility-straining fate of an ex-con-turned-church-janitor (Brian Bosworth) afflicted with terminal cancer.
Working from a script by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, director Jonathan M. Gunn turns out a film better calculated to reinforce evangelical believers in the creed and values to which they already adhere than to invite the inquisitive or convert the doubtful. Some action violence and mature references, including to abortion.

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“The Divergent Series: Insurgent” (Summit)

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.

Teenagers are still on the run — when they’re not too busy killing one other — in this follow-up to the 2014 kick-off of the futuristic franchise. Based on the second book of the trilogy by Veronica Roth, director Robert Schwentke’s thriller — set, like its predecessor, in a post-apocalyptic version of Chicago — finds the two renegades (Shailene Woodley and Theo James) at the center of the previous go-round once again battling the leader (Kate Winslet) of a corrupt government that divides the population under its control into personality-based factions, and hunts down those not so easily categorized.
A considerable increase in violence and moral ambiguity places this sequel squarely outside the proper reach of younger adolescents. Intense violence, including scenes of torture, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity, some crude language.

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“The Gunman” (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.

Plodding thriller about a paid assassin-turned-aid-worker (Sean Penn, who also co-wrote the script) whose criminal past comes back to haunt him when a price is put on his head as the long-delayed result of his murder of an African cabinet minister. As he evades his would-be killers, he turns to his former boss (Mark Rylance) for answers as well as to the ex-colleague (Javier Bardem) who took advantage of his need to go into hiding after the hit to steal — and marry — his live-in girlfriend (Jasmine Trinca).
Director Pierre Morel’s often-gory adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s novel “The Prone Gunman” implicitly justifies the adulterous resumption of the main romantic pairing. It also takes a fashionably anti-capitalist stance by suggesting that all the problems of the developing world result from the machinations of multinational corporations.
Strong, frequently bloody violence, a distorted view of marital fidelity, a semi-graphic scene of adultery, cohabitation, brief rear nudity in a nonsexual context, adult references, including to contraception, a couple of uses of profanity, pervasive rough and occasional crude language.

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“Cinderella” (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.

Director Kenneth Branagh’s exuberant live-action retelling of this oft-filmed fable injects vibrant new life into a venerable fairy tale. He sticks to the basic story and its iconic characters: sunny Cinderella (Lily James), her beloved but soon-deceased parents (Hayley Atwell and Ben Chaplin), her wicked stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and ghastly stepsisters (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger) as well as the charming prince (Richard Madden) and kindly fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) who eventually rescue the put-upon orphan from her misery.
A delightful fantasy for the entire family, Branagh’s affectionate take, at once familiar and fresh, nicely brings to the forefront dual lessons about compassion and forgiveness. The film is preceded by an animated short, “Frozen Fever,” which features characters from the blockbuster 2013 movie “Frozen.”

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“Run All Night” (Warner Bros.)

The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Acrid crime drama in which the estranged, law-abiding son (Joel Kinnaman) of a burned-out hit man (Liam Neeson) is targeted for death by his father’s underworld patron (Ed Harris) after accidentally witnessing a multiple murder carried out by the kingpin’s heir (Boyd Holbrook). With both crooked cops under the boss’ control and the honest chief of homicide (Vincent D’Onofrio) on his trail, the young family man has no choice but to go on the run and entrust himself to his dad’s protection.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby emphasize the veteran killer’s search for redemption and his determination to keep his lad from spilling blood. But their Catholic-inflected film garners a high body count and traverses a gritty urban landscape too sordid for the casual moviegoer. Much harsh and sometimes bloody violence, drug use, a few vulgar sexual references, about a dozen instances of profanity and twice that number each of rough and crude terms.

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“Chappie” (Columbia)

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.

The designer (Dev Patel) of a line of police robots develops a computerized version of human consciousness and uploads it into the discarded chassis of one of his more conventional creations. (The voice and actions of the resulting hybrid are provided by Sharlto Copley.) But when the engineer is carjacked and his breakthrough android is kidnapped by a trio of gangsters (rappers Ninja and Yolandi Visser and Jose Pablo Cantillo), the childlike automaton is left confused by the contradictory influences of his morally upright maker and his criminally minded new owners.
Though it can be read, at least in part, as a religious and moral allegory, director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp’s frequently mayhem-ridden, sporadically moving drama also heavy-handedly defames faith, partly through the character of a villainous rival inventor played by Hugh Jackman.
Pervasive violence, much of it gory, an incidental but negative portrayal of Christianity, a nonmarital situation, several uses of profanity, relentless rough and crude language.

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“Unfinished Business” (Fox)

The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

This vile comedy, directed by Ken Scott, spins a tale of businessmen gone wild while away from the office. Fed up with his belittling boss (Sienna Miller), a salesman (Vince Vaughn) quits his job and, together with a duo of unpromising colleagues (Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco), sets up a rival company. His goal is to steal away his former supervisor’s biggest client (James Marsden), the smarmy head of a global conglomerate.
It’s not a compelling story, and the main trio’s travels serve mainly to satisfy their sexual fantasies and taste for recreational drugs. Graphic images of perversion and parental advice endorsing masturbation indicate that this is not a movie to which young people should have access in any circumstance.
Strong sexual content, including aberrant situations, graphic nonmarital sexual activity as well as numerous images of full nudity, benignly viewed drug use, a few instances of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language.

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“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (Fox Searchlight)

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.

Morally mixed comedy sequel in which the elderly residents of an eccentric Indian hostelry confront a variety of romantic difficulties: Judi Dench and Bill Nighy are too reticent to follow through on their feelings for each other; recovering lothario Ronald Pickup is having difficulty adjusting to his newly exclusive relationship with girlfriend Diana Hardcastle; and marriage-minded Celia Imrie can’t decide which of two ardent — and eminently eligible — suitors to accept.
As for the good-hearted young man (Dev Patel) who shares the management of the place with a sharp-tongued former guest (Maggie Smith), his preoccupation with expanding their business interferes with the preparations for his wedding (to Tina Desai). He also impulsively decides that a self-identified novelist (Richard Gere) is really the undercover inspector a potential investor (David Strathairn) has dispatched to evaluate the lodging.
A vast pool of veteran talent and the appeal of Patel’s grandiloquent patter serve as reliable resources for John Madden’s follow-up to his 2012 ensemble piece. But, in drawing once again on material that originated with Deborah Moggach’s 2004 novel “These Foolish Things,” Madden takes unwed liaisons and living arrangements as a given. And Ol Parker’s screenplay, though its dialogue is, for the most part, suitable for teatime, seems to stack the emotional deck against a long-lived, though turbulent, marriage.
Acceptability of divorce, benignly viewed premarital situations, several sexual references, at least one use of profanity, a few crass terms.

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“Focus” (Warner Bros.)

The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Flimsy crime drama in which a small-time swindler (Margot Robbie) becomes the protege — and lover — of a more accomplished con artist (Will Smith). But romance and robbery make for a volatile mix, leading to a variety of personal and professional conflicts, one involving a sleazy car racing big shot (Rodrigo Santoro) with whom the pair become entangled.
More than most heist movies, this slick little jaunt through the underworld — penned and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa — glamorizes wrongdoing and implicitly portrays most of its protagonists’ victims as suckers who deserve what they get. Distorted values requiring mature discernment, brief scenes of semi-graphic sexual activity, adulterous situations, several uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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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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“The Lazarus Effect” (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.

Four intrepid young medical researchers — Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Evan Peters and Donald Glover — working to develop a treatment to restore neural functions in coma patients discover that their therapy can bring animals back from the dead. When they apply the process to humans, the results are supposedly scary.
Screenwriters Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater work in some bargain-basement theology by way of Wilde’s character, a nominal Catholic. For better or worse, though, director David Gelb zooms past her ruminations and gets down to the genuine business at hand: an unconvincing portrayal of mayhem and death.
Frequent action violence, some sexual banter, fleeting profanity 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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