CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Paul Rudd stars in a scene from the movie “Ant-Man.” The Catholic News Service classification, A-II — adults and adolescents.

Rating: By Catholic News Service

The following movie reviews are supplied by Catholic News Service in conjunction with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Film and Broadcasting.

For full reviews of these films, as well as earlier releases, visit the CNS movie site here.

This list will be updated regularly.

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The 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.

Wretched revival of the comedy franchise that began with 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” In an effort to shake up his family’s summer routine, the now-grown son (Ed Helms) of the original outing embarks with his wife (Christina Applegate) and quarrelsome kids (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) on a road trip to the same California amusement park that served as the destination for that long-ago initial journey.
While the clan’s travels are beset by a variety of disasters, the real calamity befalls viewers who find themselves dragged along on a forced march through a landscape of tastelessness unrelieved by laughs. Co-writers and -directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley try to disguise their steamy material by cloaking it in family values, including the parents’ shared commitment to maintaining the vibrancy of their marriage. But scenes of enthusiastic exhibitionism, together with obscenities uttered by a child and jokes about AIDS and pedophilia, make the underlying rot unmistakable.
Pervasive sexual and extreme scatological humor, frontal male and upper female nudity, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, constant rough and crude language.

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“Pixels” (Columbia)

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.

Aliens attack Earth using monster representation of classic video game characters in this manic 3-D comedy, directed by Chris Columbus.
The president of the United States (Kevin James) summons his boyhood nerdy pals (Adam Sandler, Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage) to come up with a plan to repulse the space invaders, with the assistance of a comely weapons specialist (Michelle Monaghan). Regrettably, the film is short on fun and long on tasteless humor, making what should be a wholesome kids’ movie questionable for even mature teens.
Bawdy humor, some sexual innuendo, a few mild oaths.

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“Paper Towns” (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.

In this faithful adaptation of John Green’s young-adult novel, a mysterious girl (Cara Delevingne) sends five friends on a cross-country road trip as they explore the meaning of their lives on the cusp of heading off to college.
As directed by Jake Schrier from the screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, no one becomes smarter, and everyone’s obsessively focused on their upcoming prom.
Mentions of sexual activity, teenage sexual banter, fleeting rear male nudity, fleeting crude language and profanities.

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“Southpaw” (Weinstein)

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

Visceral boxing drama about a champion (Jake Gyllenhaal) with a masochistic yet effective fighting style who is humbled by personal tragedy and then tries to redeem his life and career with the help of a no-nonsense trainer (Forest Whitaker).
During the first third of the movie, director Antoine Fuqua does a masterful job of making the brutal allure of boxing as palpable as the bond between the pugilist and his devoted wife (Rachel McAdams). Grittily realistic camerawork and tremendous acting by Gyllenhaal and McAdams contribute to an atmosphere that’s simultaneously lurid and heartfelt, before the story takes an implausibly rapid turn into melodrama.
As in most boxing films, boxing is both the problem and the solution, but because it is an inherently violent sport, the story is inescapably, though not completely, problematic on a moral level. Pervasive rough, crude and crass language, much bloody boxing violence, brief foreplay prior to a married couple’s off-screen lovemaking, a character on the verge of suicide, a scene of gun violence, an instance of partial male nudity, some drinking.

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“Ant-Man” (Disney)

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.

The diminutive superhero of the Marvel Comics universe is an ex-con (Paul Rudd) who shrinks to bug size by means of a special suit, acquires super-human strength, and possesses a nifty ability to control his fellow ants. The suit’s inventor (Michael Douglas) and his scientist daughter (Evangeline Lilly) enlist Ant-Man’s help to stop the technology from falling into the wrong hands of a megalomaniac (Corey Stoll) — code name Yellowjacket — bent on world domination.
Director Peyton Reed keeps tongue firmly in cheek as he downsizes the usual over-the-top violence of a Marvel film in favor of a clever heist picture, seasoned with plenty of humor and nice messages about honor and redemption. Cartoonish but bloodless violence, brief innuendo and a few mild oaths.

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“Trainwreck” (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.

In this raunchy romantic comedy, stand-up comedienne Amy Schumer plays a promiscuous New York City magazine writer who falls for a nerdy sports doctor (Bill Hader) she’s assigned to profile.
Schumer, who also wrote the screenplay, is known for combining X-rated humor and a satirical take on gender issues. But her fondness for obscenity and self-debasement renders her material a dubious form of empowerment, feminist or otherwise. While trying to dilute the smut with sentiment, director Judd Apatow allows the momentum to flag and both the novelty of Schumer’s persona and her tweaking of the romantic comedy formula wear thin, exposing her as a one-trick pony.
Many fairly graphic sexual encounters between unmarried men and women; frequent sexual banter, much of it extremely explicit;pervasive rough, crude and crass language;frequent profanity;some rear male nudity;several racially insensitive comments;and much alcohol and drug use.

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“The Gallows” (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.

A haunted high school provides the setting for this inept found-footage horror tale co-written and directed by Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff.
Two decades after a student there suffered a violent and mysterious death during the performance of a play, four teens (Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos and Cassidy Gifford) involved in a staging of the same drama discover that reviving it may not have been such a good idea. Though little blood flows as this panic-fest unfolds, making it possibly acceptable for mature teens, there’s not much brainpower on display, either.
Considerable stylized violence, some gruesome images, at least one use each of profanity and rough language, occasional crude and crass terms.

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“Self/less” (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.

Elderly, dying tycoon (Ben Kingsley) uses the technology offered by an evil biogenetics firm (headed by Matthew Goode) to evade mortality by occupying the body of a handsome, healthy young man (Ryan Reynolds). But the side effects of the swap include flashbacks of the lad’s life which lead the ethics-flouting mogul to reconnect with his counterpart’s wife (Natalie Martinez) and cancer-stricken daughter (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) and, eventually, with his own neglected moral core.
Though director Tarsem Singh’s fable — which touches on the real-world technological movement called Transhumanism — begins on a promising note, the gunfire and car crashes that dominate its second hour are sure signs that this increasingly ponderous property has run out of ideas.
Frequent gunplay and other violence, a non-graphic bedroom scene with partial nudity, at least one use of profanity, occasional crude language.

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“Faith of Our Fathers” (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.

Well-intentioned but awkwardly uneven drama about evangelical Christianity’s impact on two generations of families.
In 1997 California, a God-fearing postman (Kevin Downes) sets out to uncover the truth about his father’s (Sean McGowan) death in the Vietnam War. Together with the ornery son (David A.R. White) of one of his dad’s platoon mates (Scott Whyte), he travels to Washington to visit the Vietnam Memorial. Along the way, the duo gets into all sorts of trouble while debating big-ticket topics like forgiveness and destiny.
Despite hokey dialogue and contrived situations, director Carey Scott’s film deserves some credit for its godly and patriotic outlook. Brief scenes of mostly bloodless combat.

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“Minions” (Universal)

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.

Bright 3-D animated comedy co-directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda in which background characters from the “Despicable Me” franchise come to the fore for an ever upbeat, though not always tightly crafted, adventure set primarily in 1960s London.
A trio of the yellow, capsule-shaped creatures (all voiced by Coffin), whose natural inclination is to serve a villainous master, gets mixed up with a famed criminal (voice of Sandra Bullock), her mad scientist husband (voice of Jon Hamm) and their wild scheme to steal the British crown from Queen Elizabeth II (voice of Jennifer Saunders).
Narrated by Geoffrey Rush, and interspersed with familiar hippie-era musical standards, the freewheeling plot follows its own logic down curious courses, some of which feel like detours. But the consequences of selfishness and disloyalty are clearly portrayed while genuinely objectionable material is absent. Even so, loud scenes of mayhem may be too much for small fry, and some parents may not appreciate the brief comic hay that’s made of a mustachioed bystander whose enthusiasm for Bullock’s character leads him to dress exactly like her.
Occasional cartoonish violence, fleeting anatomical sight gags, a touch of scatological humor.

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“Terminator: Genisys” (Paramount)

Ruminations on the riddles of time travel fill the gaps between explosions as director Alan Taylor adds an easily forgotten chapter to the action franchise that began with 1984’s “The Terminator.” The Messiah-like figure (Jason Clarke) at the head of humanity’s future struggle against a race of murderous machines is threatened by a cyborg (Byung-hun Lee) who has traveled into the past to eliminate the hero’s mother (Emilia Clarke) before she can give birth. So he dispatches his most trusted lieutenant (Jai Courtney) to follow the assassin back in time and protect mom. To his confusion, though, the would-be bodyguard finds that his protege is already being shielded by another chronology-defying robot (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who seems to be fighting on the wrong side. Though there’s mayhem aplenty, little blood is seen to flow, and the fact that time machine passengers must journey in the buff is also treated more as an occasion for smirking jokes than visual exploitation. Together with the relative absence of obscenity in the dialogue, this restrained approach may lead at least some parents to judge the film acceptable for mature teens. Pervasive action violence with minimal gore, several scenes of partial nudity, a few uses of profanity, at least one rough term, occasional crude and crass language. 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.

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“Magic Mike XXL” (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.

Life is skin-deep in this preposterous male-stripper sequel in which the titular star (Channing Tatum) reunites with the Tampa-based trou-dropping group he once headlined, and together they hit the road for an annual convention of clothes shedders in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Director Gregory Jacobs pads out the boys’ lewd routines — one of which uses the trappings of a wedding ceremony to degrading effect — with vacuous reflections on the Zen of masculine burlesque. A debased view of human sexuality, including implicit approval of an off-screen casual encounter, brief but nasty irreverence, drug use, frequent scenes of publicly simulated sex acts, some of them aberrant, rear male nudity, a couple of uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“Max” (Warner Bros.)

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.

A “military working dog” returns from Afghanistan to vanquish evil while mending a broken home in this wholesome — and welcome — family drama. When the eponymous canine’s handler (Robbie Amell), a Marine, is killed, the distraught animal is honorably discharged and sent home to Texas to live with the Leatherneck’s parents (Lauren Graham and Thomas Haden Church) and his troubled younger brother (Josh Wiggins). With the encouragement of the sassy girl (Mia Xitlali), for whom he’s fallen, the rebellious teen overcomes his initial resistance and bonds with his new pet. Together, they uncover a nefarious plot by an ex-Marine (Luke Kleintank) to peddle illegal weapons.
Director and co-writer Boaz Yakin nicely conveys his youthful main character’s evolution from zero to hero while underscoring the importance of telling the truth and respecting your parents. Scenes of combat and human peril as well as dog-fighting, a few mild oaths.

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“Ted 2” (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.

Sequel to the 2013 film is another wallow in sexist, racist, stoner vulgarity. Seth MacFarlane, who directed, co-wrote the screenplay with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild and voices the potty-mouthed teddy bear as a fuzzy, bawdier version of Peter Griffin from “Family Guy,” ventures into crude sexual gags and casually expressed racism along with his trademark pop-culture riffs.
Casual racist remarks including the N-word, references to aberrant sexual behavior, fleeting female nudity, pervasive drug use, pervasive crude, crass and profane language.

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“Dope” (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.

An academically gifted high school student (Shameik Moore) struggles to dodge the lawlessness of his inner-city Los Angeles neighborhood until he accidentally acquires a large stash of narcotics. Together with his two best friends (Kiersey Clemons and Tony Revolori), he then markets the drugs online in what writer-director Rick Famuyiwa’s blend of comedy and drama perversely presents as an ingenious extracurricular activity proving the lad’s resourcefulness and affording him a new level of self-awareness.
While taking a brief sneering swipe at religion, Famuyiwa’s script not only normalizes wayward sexuality but misuses the array of social ills it endeavors to satirize as a justification for criminal behavior. Distorted values, considerable, sometimes gory violence, drug use and underage drinking, strong sexual content — including scenes of masturbation and obscured full nudity as well as tacit approval of homosexual acts — at least one use of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“Inside Out” (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.

Splendid animated comedy, founded on strong values, in which an 11-year-old girl’s (voice of Kaitlyn Dias) personified emotions — principally Joy (voice of Amy Poehler) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) — struggle to help her cope with the crisis brought on by her family’s move from Minnesota to San Francisco.
Aided by top-notch supporting performances from, among others, comedian Lewis Black as the lass’ Anger and Richard Kind as her big-hearted imaginary friend, co-directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen prove equally deft at tickling and touching the wide-ranging audience for which their Pixar production is suitable. A few potentially upsetting incidents, a single mature reference.

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“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” (Fox Searchlight)

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.

Sensitive, though ultimately shallow drama in which, at the insistence of his mother (Connie Britton), a precocious, movie-obsessed high school misfit (Thomas Mann) reluctantly befriends a classmate (Olivia Cooke) afflicted with leukemia. As the two develop a genuine affection for each other, the outcast and his best buddy from childhood (RJ Cyler) — who has also gotten to know, and like, the patient — collaborate on a film paying tribute to their new pal.
Unusually, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s adaptation of screenwriter Jesse Andrews’ best-seller for young adults sidelines romance, keeping the relationship between the central characters strictly platonic. But marginal tinges of sexuality, some of them distasteful, make this a doubtful choice for the source material’s targeted age group. The prospect of death is also considered from a strictly secular perspective, impoverishing the script’s outlook and putting it at odds with a Christian worldview.
Mature themes, unintentional drug use, fleeting images of pornography with implied masturbation, brief, mild irreverence, several uses of profanity, at least one audible and a few bleeped F-words, much crude and crass language.

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“Jurassic World” (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.

Humans are mere dinosaur fodder in this extension of the $2 billion-grossing sci-fi franchise that dates back to 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” Steven Spielberg’s wildly popular adaptation of Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel.
The potential victims of the latest crop of genetically recreated prehistoric predators who, for a price, can be observed at the resort of the title, include a career-focused member of the theme park’s staff (Bryce Dallas Howard), her visiting nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) and the ex-military animal trainer (Chris Pratt) with whom she shares a romantic attraction thinly disguised as mutual dislike.
Anyone looking for interaction more meaningful than that between the DNA disaster of an uber-dino to whose rampage director Colin Trevorrow devotes most of his attention and the anonymous extras on whom the ill-designed creature contentedly munches have come to the wrong fictional island. Though the elements listed below rule out the “Flintstones” crowd, parents of insistent teens who find their patience in danger of extinction need not feel too guilty if resistance proves futile.
Some gory interludes, a bit of comic innuendo, at least one use of profanity, a few crude and crass terms.

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“Love and Mercy” (Roadside)

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.

This profile of Brian Wilson, the driving force behind 1960s chart toppers the Beach Boys, evades a descent into sentimental gloss. Instead, director Bill Pohlad adopts an intelligent, steady approach to his subject, almost like that of a documentary. He focuses on lengthy scenes showing the young Wilson (Paul Dano) laboriously crafting his distinctive sound in recording studios.
But, in an effort to avoid sensationalism, he also undoubtedly strips away uncomfortable details from the story of the troubled musician’s later life, during which he’s portrayed by John Cusack. Though Pohlad ducks explicit portrayals or discussions of the substance abuse that may have led to Wilson’s experience of auditory hallucinations, his film can be appreciated for its celebration of one star’s at least partially successful maneuvering through the moral minefield laid down by wealth and fame.
A premarital bedroom scene, drug use, fleeting instances of profanity and coarse language.

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