The following are capsule reviews of movies recently reviewed by Catholic News Service.
Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (Universal)
Theodore Geisel's beloved 1971 children's book is brought to the big screen by director Chris Renaud in a 3-D animated adventure that expands the original story while retaining its central message about the responsible stewardship of natural resources. Raised in a town where everything is artificial, a teen (voice of Zac Efron) sets out to win the girl of his dreams (voice of Taylor Swift) by fulfilling her wish to see a real, live tree. His quest leads him to the recluse (voice of Ed Helms) whose unbridled greed and ambition long ago caused the environmental disaster --- an outcome predicted in the dire warnings of the title character (voice of Danny DeVito), the enlightened but curmudgeonly guardian of the forest. First-rate animation and catchy songs forward the theme of respect for God's creation and make this an enjoyable outing for the entire family. Some cartoonish action. (A-I, PG)
John Carter (Disney)
Ambitious and largely successful 3-D adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' first novel propels a 19th-century American (Taylor Kitsch) to the planet Mars, where he becomes embroiled in a war between two city-states and falls in love with a princess (Lynn Collins). Despite an unwieldy and illogical mash-up of now-familiar sci-fi tropes, director Andrew Stanton nicely brings the narrative together in the end. Obstacles along the way include a rather bland star, a protracted running time, and less-than-scintillating dialogue. Yet the epic marries the appeal of a pulp serial with cutting-edge filmmaking techniques. Likely best for older teens and up. Considerable, sometimes intense, action violence, scenes of cruelty, fleeting toilet humor, at least one use of profanity and several instances of crass language. (A-II, PG-13)
Project X (Warner Bros.)
Desperate to become popular, and to have animalistic sex with random strangers, three Los Angeles teens (Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Daniel Brown) throw a decadent party that eventually morphs into a destructive riot. More troubling than mere trash, and pornographic in a way that goes well beyond its frequent displays of flesh, Nima Nourizadeh's would-be comedy --- a portrait of soulless, over-privileged zombies wandering a world of sterile secularism, enslaved by their basest passions --- is, in reality, grotesquely tragic. Perverted values; strong sexual content, including voyeurism, underage casual sex and same-sex kissing as well as upper female and rear nudity; drug use; a few instances of profanity; pervasive rough and crude language. (O, R)
Silent House (Open Road)
Cinematic fixer-upper in which a young girl (Elizabeth Olsen) is chased around the conveniently dark --- and apparently haunted --- summer house that she's helping her father (Adam Trese) and creepy uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) clean out in preparation for selling it. Part horror flick, part psychodrama, co-directors Christopher Kentis and Laura Lau's low-budget remake of a similarly down-market Uruguayan film called "La Casa Muda" ends up being a satisfying representative of neither genre. A gritty subtext, moreover, renders it appropriate fare only for mature adults. References to incestuous sexual abuse, some mildly gory images, implied physical violence and fleeting rough and profane language. (A-III, R)
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.