NEW YORK (CNS) -- The following are capsule reviews of movies recently reviewed by Catholic News Service.
"Chasing Mavericks" (Fox)
Compelling fact-based portrait of Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston), a gifted California surfer who, at the tender age of 15, took on the Mavericks, a famously formidable Golden State coastal spot where some of the largest waves in the world are found. Jay enlists his surfer-dude neighbor (Gerard Butler) as his trainer, while trying to help his alcoholic mother (Elisabeth Shue) rebuild her life, and working to win the heart of the prettiest girl (Leven Rambin) in his high school. The film, co-directed by Curtis Hansen and Michael Apted, offers viewers -- particularly teens -- a refreshingly positive role model in the person of a young man who, despite a mountain of obstacles, inspires others with his inherent sense of goodness, perseverance, and self-discipline. Intense sports scenes and some emotionally challenging moments. 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.
"Cloud Atlas" (Warner Bros.)
Sweeping screen version of David Mitchell's 2004 novel -- co-written and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer -- that interweaves six connected stories set at different times between the 19th and 24th centuries. Tom Hanks leads an ensemble cast that also includes Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, and James D'Arcy -- all skillfully juggling multiple roles. The half-dozen tales which make up the plot send mostly positive -- if sometimes ponderously expressed -- messages about the bonds uniting all human beings and the courage required to do the right thing on behalf of others. But one of the central relationships is a sympathetically portrayed romance between two men. An incidental extramarital affair, moreover, is treated as essentially harmless. Another plotline involves the debunking of a fictional faith that may or may not be intended as an attack on real-life religion, and the script at least hints that some of the characters may be reincarnations of people in the earlier sections of the vast chronology. Considerable gory violence, including torture and a suicide, a benign view of homosexual acts and adultery, graphic premarital and nongraphic adulterous sexual activity, upper female and rear nudity, a same-sex kiss, a few uses of profanity, at least 20 rough terms, occasional crude language. 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.
"Fun Size" (Paramount)
In this Halloween-themed comedy, directed by Josh Schwartz, a high school senior (Victoria Justice) is forced by her widowed mom (Chelsea Handler) to take her mischievous little brother (Jackson Nicoll) trick-or-treating, despite her plans to attend a big costume party being given by the boy of her dreams (Thomas McDonell). When the siblings accidentally become separated, she turns to her best friend (Jane Levy) and two nerdy schoolmates (Thomas Mann and Osric Chau) to help find the missing tot. But their search soon descends into farce. Some enjoyable humor -- especially from Thomas Middleditch in the role of a slacker store clerk -- and a pleasingly innocent central romance are drowned out by discordant notes that bar endorsement for the targeted age group. These include the revelation that one of the geeks has been raised by a lesbian couple as well as the pass given to an off-screen sexual encounter between two teens. Frivolous treatment of homosexuality, adult cohabitation, implied nonmarital -- and possibly underage -- sexual activity, obscured rear and partial nudity, some sexual and scatological humor, at least one use of profanity, a few crude and crass terms. 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.
Thought-provoking documentary showcasing a variety of viewpoints on the topic of hell. Filmmaker Kevin Miller interviews writers, theologians, ministers and even some heavy-metal rock musicians, asking questions about the existence of the inferno, its nature and its duration. While the focus is mostly on the debate about this subject within the evangelical community, the Catholic standpoint is ably, albeit briefly, presented by Boston College professor -- and celebrated apologist -- Peter Kreeft. Both he and Orthodox Archbishop Lazar Puhalo of Ottawa, Ontario, come across as more reflective and humane in their outlook than some of the hard-liner Protestant fundamentalists with whom Miller talks -- and with whom he clearly disagrees. Along with the obvious issue of its potentially upsetting theme, some less than kid-friendly images and words make this intelligent exploration of a weighty subject suitable for grown-ups only. A brief act of blasphemy, a few rough and crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
"Paranormal Activity 4" (Paramount)
This extension of the durable horror franchise shifts the focus to a teen couple (Kathryn Newton and Matt Shively) whose lives are disrupted in increasingly eerie ways after her parents (Stephen Dunham and Alexondra Lee) take in her little brother's (Aiden Lovekamp) weird playmate (Brady Allen) because his reclusive single mother (Katie Featherston) has been hospitalized. The found footage conceit behind co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman's flesh-crawler becomes strained at times, leaving moviegoers to wonder who would continue to carry a camera around with them while being terrorized by demons. But the comparatively restrained mayhem that has made this series more commendable than many of its genre competitors endures, though the young leads often express their shock or amazement via expletives and indulge in some sexual banter as well. A few scenes of harsh but bloodless violence, some sexual and scatological humor, a few uses of profanity, about 20 rough and crude terms, references to occult hokum. 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.
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service