Reasonably original, curiously dark exploration of the troubling results that ensue when mere mortals obtain godlike powers. After stumbling on a mysterious object, a trio of Seattle teens (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan) find themselves endowed with telekinesis and the ability to fly. Though initially they do no more with their newfound gifts than goof around and play pranks, darker emotions and more serious consequences soon come to the fore, especially for DeHaan's character, who's struggling to cope with an alcoholic father (Michael Kelly) and a dying mother (Bo Petersen). Director Josh Trank conveys all this in the pseudo-found footage style of "The Blair Witch Project." Though it feels more than a little overused, that conceit nonetheless contributes to an atmosphere of realism and lends urgency to the moral debates in which the principals engage --- discussions which, for viewers of faith, will likely represent the film's main appeal. Limited action violence, scenes of physical abuse, an implied premarital encounter, a scattering of profanity, at least one rough term, pervasive crude language and an obscene gesture. (A-III, PG-13)
William Shakespeare's tragedy is brought to the big screen by Ralph Fiennes, who stars as the title character and makes his directorial debut. The setting has been updated to an imaginary version of present-day Rome, where Coriolanus, a general, faces the resentment of a growing mob hungry for food and weary of war. Fortunately for him, there's an enemy at the gates to distract the masses. The warlord repulses their attack and defeats their leader (Gerard Butler). As the people hail his triumph, the victorious commander's mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and a politician (Brian Cox), scheme to make him leader of the government. Which side wins in the bloody and morally ambiguous mayhem that follows, good or evil? That's a conundrum scholars have been trying to unravel for 500 years. One thing at least is certain: This is not a film for the faint of heart. Intense and pervasive violence, including shootings, stabbings, explosions and torture. (L, R)
Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance (Columbia)
Nicolas Cage returns as the monosyllabic Johnny Blaze in the sequel to the 2007 comic book-based cult hit "Ghost Rider." Co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor set the story eight years after the first installment, with a French monk (Idris Elba) promising to lift Johnny's demonic curse -- whereby he's periodically transformed into a skeleton that spits fire --- if he'll rescue a boy (Fergus Riordan) from Satan's clutches. Constant hand-to-hand and gun violence, fleeting crass and profane language. (A-III, PG-13)
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner Bros.)
Leaden adventure --- improbably sourced from books by Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson and Jonathan Swift --- follows an intrepid teenager (Josh Hutcherson) and his stepfather (Dwayne Johnson) to a South Pacific island crawling with natural anomalies and opportunities for derring-do. Joined by a helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) and his daughter (Vanessa Hudgens), the pair encounter the young hero's explorer grandfather (Michael Caine). Director Brad Peyton helms a mostly wholesome sequel to 2008's "Journey to the Center of the Earth," though one marred by a somewhat casual attitude toward youthful sexuality as well as by a few potty jokes. With its merely serviceable visuals, logically suspect script and lame expository dialogue, the project fails to evoke significant awe or wonderment. Some teen sensuality, several moderately scary sequences, a few uses of suggestive language, occasional toilet humor. (A-II, PG)
Safe House (Universal)
Excessively violent and unconvincing espionage thriller in which the low-ranking but loyal CIA operative (Ryan Reynolds) who runs the agency's safe house in Cape Town, South Africa, tries to keep a veteran agent-turned-traitor (Denzel Washington) alive and in custody after a massive raid on the facility leaves everyone else who was guarding the prisoner dead. Perfunctory exchanges about personal and institutional corruption in screenwriter David Guggenheim's script offer no more than a scant cover story for director Daniel Espinosa's real agenda: to showcase lengthy fistfights, bloody stabbings and fatal shootouts. Constant, sometimes gory, violence, torture, cohabitation, fleeting sensuality with partial nudity, occasional rough and crude language. (L, R)
The Secret World of Arrietty (Disney)
Poignant animated fable, based on Mary Norton's 1952 novel "The Borrowers," in which a sickly 14-year-old boy (voice of David Henrie) accidentally discovers a family of miniature people living unobserved in the secluded country house to which he has been sent to prepare for a risky operation. Despite his best intentions, his insistence on befriending the daughter (voice of Bridgit Mendler) of the diminutive clan --- and trying to help her parents (voices of Amy Poehler and Will Arnett) --- imperils the little trio's previously happy life together. Beautifully crafted visuals and a tone of gentle melancholy characterize this English-language version of a 2010 Japanese film, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, which also features voice work by Carol Burnett as the manse's meddlesome housekeeper. The materialism of the protagonist's unseen parents is contrasted with the deep bonds and traditional values that unite his newfound pal and her devoted folks. Brief mild peril. (A-I, G)
This Means War (Fox)
Director McG's ill-conceived blend of action flick and romantic comedy tracks the rivalry between two CIA agents and best friends (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) after both fall for a perky consumer goods tester (Reese Witherspoon). While they bring the resources of the spy world to bear in a frantic effort to thwart each other, she turns for advice to her closest pal (Chelsea Handler) whose pointers, meant to be comic, are more often low-minded. The occasional one-liner aside, the humor rarely works, while the path to a generally moral --- though not unmixed --- wrap-up is strewn with explosions, gunplay and hand-to-hand combat. Considerable action violence, skewed sexual values, brief semigraphic premarital sexual activity, a few instances of profanity, some adult humor and references, at least one use of the F-word and about a dozen crude or crass terms. (A-III, PG-13)
The Vow (Screen Gems)
Stricken with partial amnesia as the result of a car accident, a Chicago artist (Rachel McAdams) awakens from a coma with no memory of her romance with, or marriage to, her husband (Channing Tatum). So he sets out to win her heart all over again, despite the opposition of her controlling parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) who would prefer to see her reunite with her more conventionally respectable ex-fiance (Scott Speedman). Based on real events, director and co-writer Michael Sucsy's well-intentioned but flawed love story celebrates the extraordinarily determined marital fidelity of Tatum's character, and strikes a generally amiable tone as it does so. But shallow characterizations --- mildly bohemian hubby takes on conniving 1-percenter in-laws --- and an initial relationship too cute to be credible undercut its impact. Brief nongraphic marital lovemaking, a premarital situation, fleeting rear nudity, adultery theme, numerous sexual references and jokes, at least one use of profanity, a couple of rough and about a half-dozen crude terms. (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.
Prayer of the MonthPapal intentions for November: That priests who experience difficulties may find comfort in their suffering, support in their doubts, and confirmation in their fidelity. That as fruit of the continental mission, Latin American Churches may send missionaries to other Churches.
Papal intentions for December: That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.