Big Miracle (Universal)
In 1988 Barrow, Alaska, a television reporter (John Krasinski) stumbles on a hole in the offshore ice and discovers a family of gray whales. Trapped five miles from open water, they'll drown unless something is done to free them. The story of their plight is broadcast around the world, and soon a varied host of people --- including a Greenpeace activist (Drew Barrymore), an oil magnate (Ted Danson), a local Inupiat boy (Ahmaogak Sweeney) and even President Reagan (Quinn Redeker) --- join in offering assistance. Director Ken Kwapis' screen adaptation of the real-life events recounted in Thomas Rose's 1989 book "Freeing the Whales" makes an inspiring and uplifting feature suitable for all but the youngest viewers. A few mild oaths, one semi-profane expression. (A-II, PG)
The Grey (Open Road)
Survival story set in the Alaskan wilderness has an oil-rig worker struggling to lead six other victims of a plane crash in their battle against marauding wolves. The chases, killings and feats of courage are brisk but routine while the script includes attempts at profundity and spiritual reflection that are wildly uneven. Given the meager rewards of trekking through it, even most adults would be well advised to decline this grueling cinematic journey altogether. Troubling themes --- including suicide and one character's blasphemous expression of despair --- frequent gory animal attacks, at least one use of profanity, pervasive rough, crude and crass language. (L, R)
The Iron Lady (Weinstein)
Touching dramatization of the life of Margaret Thatcher (a glorious Meryl Streep). Shuttling between the present day, with Thatcher suffering from dementia and short-term memory loss, and flashbacks recounting significant passages in her life, director Phylidda Lloyd's film is sympathetic yet fair, despite a few historical inaccuracies and moments of overemotional fluff. Viewers of faith will appreciate its explicitly pro-family celebration of Thatcher's successful marriage as well as its implicitly pro-life vindication of her dignity (and enduring perceptiveness) despite mental frailty. Two scenes of terrorist attacks, documentary footage of real-life violence, a glimpse of upper female nudity, a few instances of crass British slang. (A-III, PG-13)
Man on a Ledge (Summit)
Tedious thriller about an ex-cop wrongly convicted of stealing a fabulously valuable diamond from a morally stained millionaire. As director Asger Leth's wronged-innocence caper piles conspiracy on top of collusion, with dull consequences, the Lord's name is under constant assault in screenwriter Pablo F. Fenjves' risibly bad dialogue. Occasional action violence, an implied premarital situation, much profanity, at least two uses of the F-word, considerable crude and crass language. (A-III, PG-13)
One for the Money (Lionsgate)
Forgettable fish-out-of-water comedy in which an unemployed New Jersey department store saleswoman (Katherine Heigl) takes a job as a bail bondsman, and an old high school boyfriend for whom she still carries a torch becomes her first target for recapture. Director Julie Anne Robinson's slack adaptation of the first of Janet Evanovich's popular series of mystery novels tries to get by on jauntiness but fails to charm. Some action violence, brief rear and partial nudity, an instance of blasphemy and at least 20 uses of profanity, much sexual humor, frequent crude and crass language, a couple of obscene gestures. (A-III, PG-13)
The Woman in Black (CBS)
This big-screen version of Susan Hill's popular 1983 horror novel headlines Daniel Radcliffe as a British barrister struggling to unravel the mysteries of a remote mansion and battling the vengeful ghost who inhabits it. But a high body count and a story line involving kids taking their own lives make this chillfest unsettling in all the wrong ways. Numerous scenes of suicide by children and occasional gore. (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.