The following are capsule reviews of movies recently reviewed by Catholic News Service.
A Thousand Words (DreamWorks)
A fast-talking literary agent (Eddie Murphy) finds his marriage (to Kerry Washington) and his career (assisted by Clark Duke) stymied when he gets on the wrong side of a guru (Cliff Curtis) and is cursed. According to the terms of the jinx, each word he speaks causes a leaf to fall from a tree that has magically sprouted in his backyard. Once the branches are bare, he'll die. Hilarity fails to ensue in director Brian Robbins' barren comedy, and when screenwriter Steve Koren's script turns serious, it mixes fruitful messages about marital fidelity and the importance of family life with shady New Age-style spirituality. Mature content, including scenes of aberrant sensuality within marriage and incidental gay characters, a few uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word, considerable crude and crass language, an obscene gesture. (A-III, PG-13)
The Deep Blue Sea (Music Box)
Writer-director Terence Davies' adaptation of Terence Rattigan's 1952 play charts the downward spiral of a lonely wife (Rachel Weisz) into adultery, divorce and suicide. Whenever caught between the devil and you-know-where, she consistently makes bad, selfish decisions. Her kind but distant husband (Simon Russell Beale) refuses to grant her a divorce, while her lover (Tom Hiddleston) --- with whom she cohabits, masquerading as a happily married couple --- is cruel and vindictive. Mature themes, including suicide and adultery, brief nudity, at least one use of profanity, a few crass references. (L, R)
The Hunger Games (Lionsgate)
Dystopian adventure tracking two teens (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) as they participate in the titular event, a televised survival tournament in which youthful combatants from oppressed outlying districts are forced to battle one another until only one remains alive for the entertainment of their society's decadent urban elite. Director and co-writer Gary Ross' screen version of the first volume in Suzanne Collins' best-selling trilogy of novels is an effective combination of epic spectacle and emotional drama during which humane values are pitted against Darwinian moral chaos. But sensibilities are not spared in the portrayal of the grim contest, so parents need to weigh carefully whether to allow targeted teens to attend. Possibly acceptable for mature adolescents. Considerable, sometimes gory, hand-to-hand and weapons violence and graphic images of bloody wounds. (A-III, PG-13)
Mirror Mirror (Relativity)
Director Tarsem Singh brings high camp style to his fresh live-action take on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." This go-round, the handsome prince (Armie Hammer) is the center of attention, pursued equally by the evil Queen (Julia Roberts) and her fairest-of-them-all stepdaughter (Lily Collins). When the Queen banishes her competition to the forest, Snow White decides to fight back. With the help of a ragtag band of diminutive warriors, she leads a crusade to gain her kingdom and claim her prince. The end result is a bit leaden and somewhat charmless for a children's fairy tale. But remarkable costumes and grand set pieces go a long way to compensate. Mild action violence, some rude humor, one semi-profane utterance. (A-II, PG)
21 Jump Street (Columbia)
Two bungling police partners (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) find their friendship strained when they're assigned to pose as high school students in an undercover operation designed to bust a drug ring. Co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's big-screen version of the once-popular television series --- which first aired on Fox in 1987 --- starts out as a good-hearted, albeit relentlessly foul-mouthed, buddy comedy. But, as the vulgarities continue to fly, the desire to be outrageous leads to scenes of gruesome violence and debased sexuality. Intensely gory gun violence, strong sexual content, including graphically depicted aberrant and nonmarital activity as well as brief rear nudity, drug use, irreverent humor, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language. (O, R)
We Have a Pope ("Habemus Papam") (Sundance Selects)
Gently satiric seriocomedy about a good-hearted but timid cardinal (Michel Piccoli) who reluctantly accepts his election as pope, but then, overcome by the prospective burden of the office, balks before giving his first public blessing. As the world waits, an eminent but nonbelieving psychiatrist (Nanni Moretti) tries to treat the new pontiff, only to have his patient escape the Vatican and seek some form of guidance by wandering the streets of Rome and mingling with the Eternal City's ordinary citizens. Moretti, who also directed and co-wrote, avoids any mean-spirited attack on the church, though he does dabble in such silliness as cardinals competing against each other in a volleyball tournament. He garners some amusement from the contrast between the shrink's secular assumptions and the faith-based attitudes prevailing at the Holy See as well from a range of human foibles. But by the time his protagonist goes on the lam, Moretti has clearly run out of inspiration. In Italian. Subtitles. Much ecclesiastically themed humor that some may find distasteful, at least one use of the F-word, a fleeting reference to sexuality. (L, no MPAA rating)
Wrath of the Titans (Warner Bros.)
Stilted, tedious mythology sequel in which the conflicted demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington) is forced to abandon his quiet life among mortals and intervene in a war that pits his father Zeus (Liam Neeson) against his uncle Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and his half-brother Ares (Edgar Ramirez). Perseus' allies in the struggle include an earthly warrior queen (Rosamund Pike), Poseidon's shifty son Agenor (Toby Kebbell) and the exiled smithy to the gods, Hephaestus (Bill Nighy). Boulders fly and monsters die in director Jonathan Liebesman's 3-D follow-up to 2010's "Clash of the Titans," itself a remake of the 1981 cult hit of the same title. But the effects- and action-driven proceedings are all spectacle and no substance. The pagan theologizing to which some of the pompous dialogue is devoted, moreover, may confuse the impressionable. Possibly acceptable for older teens. Pagan religious themes; constant, occasionally bloody, action violence; at least one mildly sexual joke; and a single crass term. (A-III, 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.