NEW YORK (CNS) -- The following are capsule reviews of movies recently reviewed by Catholic News Service.
"Gangster Squad" (Warner Bros.)
Stylish but excessively violent cops-and-robbers tale set in 1940s Los Angeles and based on real events. To thwart an increasingly powerful mobster (Sean Penn) intent on making the City of Angels his own, the metropolis' police chief (Nick Nolte) commissions an idealistic officer (Josh Brolin) to form the team of the title -- made up, most prominently, of Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, and Giovanni Ribisi -- which will operate outside the law to break the thug's power. The main characters in director Ruben Fleischer's drama -- which also stars Emma Stone as the hood's goodhearted moll -- occasionally express second thoughts about their methods. But screenwriter Will Beall's script, adapted from Paul Lieberman's eponymous book, presents their illegal actions as the only practical solution open to them. Moviegoers will require maturity and prudence to work through the tangled ethics of the situation -- and a strong stomach to endure the wild gunplay and interludes of brutality. Vigilantism theme, scenes of gruesome, bloody violence, a premarital situation, brief partial nudity, numerous uses of profanity, much rough and crude language. 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.
"Promised Land" (Focus)
Reasonably entertaining message movie about the environmental dangers of drilling for natural gas using a method called hydraulic fracturing -- fracking for short. Matt Damon and Frances McDormand play a duo of energy company executives out to convince down-on-their-luck farmers in a rural Midwestern town to sell their land to the corporation, glibly promising them instant wealth. When they encounter opposition from a retired science professor (Hal Holbrook) and from a personable environmentalist (John Krasinski), who launches a fervent campaign to thwart them, Damon's character begins to have second thoughts. His change of heart is also driven by his attraction to a local teacher (Rosemarie DeWitt) whose regard he comes to value. A gifted cast and smooth direction by Gus Van Sant help to disguise the simplistic perspective and unmistakable anti-business bias underlying Damon and Krasinski's script. And moviegoers committed to scriptural values will, of course, appreciate the prioritizing of stewardship over greed. But the proper balance between the two may appear quite different when viewed from a failing Iowa homestead rather than a Malibu beach house. About a dozen uses of profanity, much rough and crude language. 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.
"Texas Chainsaw 3D" (Lionsgate)
Desultory sequel to the low-budget 1974 gorefest, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." In updating Tobe Hooper's original, director John Luessenhop provides little to no shock value, but a high body count and splatter factor. Dan Yeager plays Jed Sawyer, aka Leatherface, a chainsaw-wielding loony who's out to avenge his family's long-ago liquidation at the hands of a mob (led by Paul Rae) and to protect his cousin (Alexandra Daddario), the only other survivor of the slaughter. A vengeance theme, extensive gruesome violence, including killings by chainsaw and axe, drug use, pervasive profane, rough and crude language, sexual banter. 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.
"Zero Dark Thirty" (Columbia)
Challenging account, based on real events, of the decade-long hunt for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. The action centers on a relentlessly determined CIA officer (Jessica Chastain) who uses intelligence hints, some obtained by a colleague (Jason Clarke) using torture, to track America's public enemy number one to his fortified compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. There, as enacted in the film's climax, Navy SEALs killed him in May 2011. While director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have crafted a compelling drama, their movie's moral stance is ambiguous. The harsh reality of so-called "enhanced interrogation" is graphically portrayed, yet the results of subjecting prisoners to it are shown to be effective. Viewers will need a strong grounding in their faith to discern the proper balance between the imperative of upholding human dignity and the equally grave obligation to save innocent human lives. They will also need to guard against the temptation to revel in the death of an evildoer. Considerable violence, including scenes of torture and degradation, brief rear nudity, at least one use of profanity, frequent rough and crude language. 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.
Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Movie Review Capsules: "Gangster Squad"; "Promised Land"; "Texas Chainsaw 3D"; "Zero Dark Thirty."