Movie Review Capsules for September 18

Catholic News Service

9/19/2014

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The following are capsule reviews of movies recently reviewed by Catholic News Service.

"The Maze Runner" (Fox)

Cross "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent" and you'll have this latest angst-ridden drama about teenagers fighting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, based on the 2009 novel by James Dashner and directed by Wes Ball. The inhabitants of a walled-in expanse of grass and trees are all teenage boys, wiped of their memories. They must work together and build a community from scratch (shades of William Golding's 1954 novel "Lord of the Flies"), all the while looking for a means to escape through an ever-changing labyrinth beyond the walls. A new recruit (Dylan O'Brien) threatens to upset the fragile world order built by the boys' leader (Will Poulter). He is inspired by the arrival of the first-ever girl (Kaya Scodelario) to wage a new assault and gain freedom. Occasional intense violence, including gory images, and some crude language. 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.

"No Good Deed" (Screen Gems)

Conventionally plotted thriller about a violent escaped convict (Idris Elba) who terrifies a mother (Taraji B. Henson) and her two young children in Atlanta. As directed by Sam Miller and written by Aimee Lagos, its devices are all as stale as its dark and stormy night. Gun and physical violence, five murders and frequent rough and crass language, fleeting profanities. 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.

"This Is Where I Leave You" (Warner Bros.)

Dramatic comedy, adapted by Jonathan Tropper from his own novel, tries unsuccessfully to wring laughs and sentiment from one suburban family's dysfunction. Despondent over the break-up of his marriage and the loss of his job, Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) returns home for his father's funeral and, at the insistence of his outspoken mother (Jane Fonda), sits Shiva -- a weeklong Jewish custom of mourning -- with his stolid older brother (Corey Stoll), sarcastic sister (Tina Fey) and spoiled younger brother (Adam Driver). Director Shawn Levy gathers an appealing ensemble to play unlikable characters engaged in tawdry, juvenile behavior many viewers will find discomfiting. Although a certain degree of regression is to be expected in such circumstances, actions meant to be outrageous and irreverent are predictable and insufficiently entertaining. Frequent rough, crude and crass language, much profanity and sexual banter, a number of sexual encounters -- one featuring rear male nudity and most involving marital infidelity, drug use, an approvingly depicted same-sex relationship, a glib attitude toward religious faith. 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.

"The Trip to Italy" (IFC)

Two British comedians (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon) set out on a grand tour of the Italian peninsula, in this follow-up to 2010's "The Trip," directed again by Michael Winterbottom. The lines are blurred between real-life documentary and fictional drama as the duo journey from Turin to Naples in search of fine cuisine, grand hotels, and sites associated with nineteenth-century English Romantic poets. Along the way the lads banter about movies, impersonate famous actors, make vulgar jokes, and fret about work and relationships. Regrettably, what can be an enchanting travelogue, with breathtaking scenery and mouth-watering meals, is offset by some tasteless humor and sexual situations, placing this film squarely in the adult camp. Adultery, implied nonmarital sexual activity, sexual humor and innuendo, and frequent crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III - adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

"Tusk" (A24)

There is no compelling reason even for devoted fans of writer-director Kevin Smith to take in his misguided gross-out horror-comedy. Worse, if you see it, there's no way to un-see it. Justin Long plays a wisecracking and insensitive podcast host transformed by a serial killer into a human-flesh walrus. Explicit gory physical violence and maiming, a scene of implied sexual activity, and pervasive crude, crass and profane 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.

"A Walk Among the Tombstones" (Universal)

This grisly thriller, based on the 1992 novel by Lawrence Block, traverses the seamy underbelly of New York City in the 1990s, tracking a gang of serial killers on a deadly rampage. Writer-director Scott Frank serves up a well-acted and absorbing drama, albeit not one for the squeamish. There's also an interesting moral conundrum, as the victims themselves are criminals, posing the question, "Do bad guys deserve justice?" A former NYPD cop (Liam Neeson) reluctantly agrees to help a prosperous heroin trafficker (Dan Stevens) to avenge the brutal murder of his wife. As he tracks the killers (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson), he acquires a young sidekick (Brian Bradley) who dreams of being a real-life superhero. Awash in moral ambiguity, the film injects a degree of faith into the mix, as the hero, a recovering alcoholic, tries to apply the 12-step program of perseverance, forgiveness, and belief in a higher power to his personal crusade for good over evil. He does not always succeed. Bloody violence and torture, a suicide, brief nudity, sexual references, drug use, and pervasive profane 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.

The following is a current list of CNS movie classifications and MPAA ratings:

Copyright (c) 2014 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops  

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The following are capsule reviews of movies recently reviewed by Catholic News Service: The Maze Runner" (Fox;,  "No Good Deed" (Screen Gems); "This is Where I Leave You"(Warner Bros.); "The Trip to Italy"(IFC); "Tusk"(A24); "A Walk Among the Tombstones" (Universal).

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