The following are capsule reviews of movies recently reviewed by Catholic News Service.
Feel-good nonsense about a rowdy naval officer (Taylor Kitsch) who has to grow up fast when he's called upon to save the world from a seemingly invincible force of invading aliens. He's aided, initially, by his steadier older brother and navy comrade (Alexander Skarsgard) and later by the shore-side efforts of his would-be fiancee (Brooklyn Decker). She's a physical therapist for wounded vets (most prominently real-life Purple Heart-winner Gregory D. Gadson) whose admiral father (Liam Neeson) takes a dim view of her relationship with our hero. And music star Rihanna gets thrown into the mix representing the tough-as-nails distaff side of the duty roster. Director Peter Berg's action adventure, which is supposed to have something to do with the titular Hasbro game, pulls out every patriotic stop and waves every flag within reach, offering a largely harmless, if quickly forgotten, diversion for mature viewers. Much action violence and some painful slapstick, at least one use of profanity, about a dozen crude and a handful of crass terms. (A-III, PG-13)
Dark Shadows (Warner Bros.)
Campy comic take on the gothic TV soap opera first broadcast in 1966. Buried alive by an angry mob of New England townsfolk in the mid-18th century, a vampire (Johnny Depp) is accidentally exhumed in 1972, only to find himself a bemused fish out of water in psychedelic-era America. As he tries to restore the dwindling family fortune for the benefit of his descendants (including Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz and Gully McGrath), he romances the resident governess (Bella Heathcote), who's a dead ringer for his true love of long ago, and battles the still-living witch (Eva Green) whose jealousy-fueled curse transformed him into a bloodsucker in the first place. Though visually striking and initially amusing, director Tim Burton's riff on a property once beloved by teenage baby-boomers introduces some discordant notes as it seeks to garner laughs from casual sexual encounters. Then the melody gets lost altogether amid a crescendo of special effects and supernatural mayhem. Some action violence, semi-graphic sexual activity, an implied aberrant act, a suicide, drug use, mature references, a couple of uses of profanity, about a half-dozen instances each of crude and crass language. (L, PG-13)
The Dictator (Paramount)
Foul language and gross-out sludge predominate in director Larry Charles' comedic portrait of a composite, but Moammar Gadhafi-like tyrant (Sacha Baron Cohen) from the fictional North African nation of Wadiya. After his scheming uncle (Ben Kingsley) uses his absence on a state visit to the United Nations as the opportunity to stage a coup, replacing the outrageously bearded goof with a more pliable imposter, the true leader finds himself wandering the streets of Manhattan, whiskerless and penniless. Taking an alternate identity, he befriends, and eventually romances, a hippy-dippy vegan collective grocer (Anna Faris), muddles his way into a job at her food store and plots to retake his title. Besides the blatantly sexist and racist jokes in which the script trades, there are gags playing on such ripe-for-comedy subjects as rape, pedophilia, prostitution, AIDS, abortion, necrophilia, suicide and homosexuality. Occasional violence, strong sexual content including pervasive sexual humor, fleeting full nudity, a same-sex kiss and an explicit endorsement of aberrant acts, frequent rough and crude language. (O, R)
For Greater Glory (ARC Entertainment)
Powerful historical drama recounting the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico during the 1920s under the presidency of Plutarco Calles (Ruben Blades) and the popular reactions --- both peaceful (led by Eduardo Verastegui) and violent (led by Andy Garcia) --- it provoked. As Garcia's character, a religious skeptic, becomes the unlikely commander of an army of the devout, he gains inspiration from a saintly adolescent volunteer (impressive newcomer Mauricio Kuri). Director Dean Wright's epic --- which also features a brief turn from Peter O'Toole as a wise and venerable priest --- gets off to a slow start. But once the initially varied story lines laid out in Michael Love's script converge, their outcome packs an emotional wallop. The fact-based, faith-quickening tale the movie tells is sufficiently valuable to warrant a younger viewership than would normally be advisable for fare of this kind. Probably acceptable for mature adolescents. Considerable action violence with some gore, the torture of a child and at least one mildly vulgar term. (A-III, R)
Marvel's The Avengers (Disney)
Seemingly destined to haul in wads of cash at the box office, this ensemble adventure will not disappoint fans of the comic books on which it's based, but may prove problematic for the parents of some excited youngsters anxious to ride the juggernaut. Writer-director Joss Whedon's script juggles no fewer than six superheroes: Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Guided by their eye-patched, grizzled leader (Samuel L. Jackson) this dream team confronts a mischievous demigod (Tom Hiddleston) who believes freedom is overrated. Despite the (relatively mild) adult elements listed below, the film may possibly be suitable for older adolescents. Intense but largely bloodless violence, a few mature references, including to suicide and drug use, and a handful of crass terms. (A-III, PG-13)
The Perfect Family (Variance)
This virulently anti-Catholic dramedy ridicules just about every aspect of the church, its teachings and members, offering broad caricatures to score negative points. Director Anne Renton sets a perplexing and often sacrilegious tone in the story of a supermom (Kathleen Turner) who is desperate to win the coveted "Catholic Woman of the Year Award" in her parish. Trouble is, her perfect family is anything but: Her daughter (Emily Deschanel) is a lesbian, pregnant and getting "married." Her son (Jason Ritter) has left his wife and is having an affair. And her husband (Michael McGrady) is a recovering alcoholic and philanderer. It takes a rogue priest (Scott Michael Campbell) to reveal that true happiness is attainable with God's help and not through the church. Together with screenwriters Paula Goldberg and Claire V. Riley, newcomer Renton has concocted a bilious piece of propaganda that amounts to Hollywood hate speech. Pervasive anti-Catholic prejudice, sacrilegious humor, a benign view of premarital sex and homosexual acts as well as of same-sex marriage, an abortion theme, some rough language. (O, PG-13)
Wildly violent action flick charting the efforts of a downtrodden cage fighter (Jason Statham) to protect a 12-year-old Chinese math prodigy (Catherine Chan). Her ability to memorize long sequences of numbers, specifically the elaborately disguised combination to the titular lockbox, makes her the target in a three-way struggle among the Triads (led by James Hong), the Russian mafia (bossed by Sandor Tecsy) and corrupt elements of the New York City Police Department (commanded by Robert John Burke). A potentially touching story about the young stranger's random but redeeming presence in the fighter's life gets trampled underfoot as writer-director Boaz Yakin rushes from one bone-cracking, windpipe-crushing brawl to the next. Excessive graphic violence, brief gruesome images, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, twice that number of rough terms, frequent crude and crass language, and adult references, including to homosexuality. (O, R)
What to Expect When You're Expecting (Lionsgate)
This fruitless reproductive comedy awkwardly juggles the stories of five expectant couples (most prominently Cameron Diaz and Matthew Morrison, Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro) as they prepare for four deliveries and an Ethiopian adoption. Director Kirk Jones' fictionalization of Heidi Murkoff's bestselling advice book veers between vulgar humor and trite sentimentality and showcases misguided contemporary attitudes toward sexuality, pregnancy and parenthood. Errant values, including a benign view of cohabitation, out-of-wedlock pregnancy and in vitro fertilization, pervasive sexual and biological humor, some scatological humor, an implied aberrant sex act, brief rear and partial nudity, a couple of instances of profanity, at least one use of the F-word, much crude and crass language. (L, PG-13)
Catholic News Service classifications: A-I --- general patronage; A-II --- adults and adolescents; A-III --- adults; L --- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; O --- morally offensive. Full-length reviews: www.catholicnews.com/movies.htm.
Prayer of the MonthPapal intentions for November: That priests who experience difficulties may find comfort in their suffering, support in their doubts, and confirmation in their fidelity. That as fruit of the continental mission, Latin American Churches may send missionaries to other Churches.
Papal intentions for December: That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.