Thinking of heading to the movies this weekend? Our latest selection of reviews arrives just in time for Valentines Day.

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This weekend sees Daniel Radcliffe's first role after the success of Harry Potter in Woman in Black. Is it worth your time and money this Super Bowl weekend?

We also have reviews of Big Miracle, One for the Money and Man on a Ledge.

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NEW YORK - In late 1965, the three-decade-old National Legion of Decency announced that it was changing its name to the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures.

That switch represented more than just altered terminology. It signaled an intent on the part of the U.S. church's officially sanctioned film agency to take a more open and positive -- though by no means uncritical -- approach in its assessment of cinema.

In keeping with this new emphasis, that same year, the film office issued its first list of the 10 best movies released over the previous 12 months.

As with many an innovation, the list gradually became a tradition, one that the Media Review Office of Catholic News Service -- which now performs the work originally done by the Legion and its successors -- intends faithfully to honor. So here -- in alphabetical order - are, first, our choices of the Top 10 films of 2011 suitable for a variety of audiences, followed the 10 best films for family viewing.

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Looking for a movie this weekend? We've got new reviews of two oscar-nominated pictures and two brand new releases.

 

jan26movies01Extremely

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - Few events in recent history have exerted as deeply personal an impact on the lives of millions of Americans, and of people across the globe, as the attacks of 9/11.

So it's odd and a little baffling that a film based on our national tragedy of a decade ago should register -- for most of its two-hour-plus running time, at least -- as uninvolving.

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Looking for a movie for the weekend? This week we've got reviews of two big Hollywood action movies.

 

HaywireFassbender

Haywire

By John P. McCarthy, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - With the fairly suspenseful but frequently brutal thriller "Haywire" (Relativity), filmmaker Steven Soderbergh tries his hand at action-oriented espionage. Stylish and spare, the result plays like the work of a talented yet restless director ticking another genre off his list.

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Movies01Artist

The Artist

- NEW YORK - At a time when Hollywood movies tend to get louder and more offensive, "The Artist" (Weinstein) is a breath of fresh air -- without uttering a word. Who knew a modern-made silent movie could be so charming and entertaining?

French director Michel Hazanavicius displays a flair for re-creating the techniques of old Hollywood, from the lively musical score and use of intertitles to the dramatic lighting and good use of the studio back lot. He also draws from his actors the pure emotions that can be evoked with a simple expression or a single tear.

In this unique film, the sounds of silence ring loud and clear.

It's 1927, and George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a dashing star of the silent screen. In the style of Douglas Fairbanks, he plays every role with panache: the handsome lover, the swashbuckling hero, the athletic comedian with a sidekick Jack Russell terrier (who nearly steals the movie).

Outside the premiere of his latest film, "A Russian Affair," Valentin bumps into an adoring fan, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). The paparazzi do their thing, and soon newspaper headlines blare, "Who's That Girl?"

The notoriety gives Miller the confidence to pursue her acting dream. She auditions at Kinograph Studios, run by Al Zimmer (John Goodman), and lands a bit part in Valentin's next movie. They dance, and the attraction is powerful.

Valentin's sourpuss wife, Doris (Penelope Ann Miller), suspects an affair and leaves him. Far more loyal to the star are Jack (the canine) and Clifton (James Cromwell), his valet.

"The Artist" branches into two stories, as it chronicles the rise of the ingenue and the decline of the star. Hollywood is changing fast; silent films are being phased out for "talkies," and fresh pretty faces like Miller's are preferred to Valentin's dated charms.

Abandoned by Zimmer and the studio, Valentin goes his own way, financing his own silent movie (a flop) while Miller becomes a major star. He never begrudges her success, even as he sinks deeper into debt and despair.

To her credit, Miller, though seduced by fame and fortune, never forgets the kindly man who gave her her first big break in show business.

"The Artist" is pure cinematic magic, at turns zany and hilarious, sad and affecting, uplifting and inspiring. Regrettably, the elements listed below prevent it from being enjoyed by the entire family, for the joyous and (largely) wholesome film that it is.

The film contains one obscene hand gesture and two scenes of attempted suicide. 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.

 

Movies04Joyful

Joyful Noise

NEW YORK - Divas duel and a red-state Romeo and Juliet fall for each other in "Joyful Noise" (Warner Bros.).

Though it gives a pass to an incidental out-of-wedlock fling, and showcases some humor and vocabulary that make it unsuitable for youngsters, writer-director Todd Graff's otherwise uplifting celebration of traditional values emphasizes trust in God and illustrates the positive effects of compassionate and forgiving behavior.

Set in the small, recession-ravaged fictional burgh of Pacashau, Ga., this vibrant, faith-driven blend of comedy, drama and music focuses on the sometimes raucous, but ultimately friendly rivalry between Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) and G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton), two leading members of a local church choir.

Just as their ensemble is preparing to compete in the higher rounds of the singing competition from which the film takes its title, G.G.'s husband, Bernie (Kris Kristofferson), the chorus' long-standing director, suddenly dies. In his place, the pastor (Courtney B. Vance) appoints, not G.G. herself, but her nemesis, Vi Rose.

While the two jostle over whether to alter the group's repertoire and performing style -- despite her enduring love for her late spouse, it's G.G. who urges innovation -- G.G.'s free-spirited, mildly prodigal grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) returns to town. There he's promptly wowed by another of the chorale's stars, Vi Rose's strictly reared daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer).

Despite his reputation as a wayward kid, and his taste for such dubious musical selections as a rap tune called "I'm 'n Luv (Wit a Stripper)," Randy proves himself, in most respects, a model teen.

Not only does his relationship with Olivia unfold in a respectful and restrained manner, but he also takes the opportunity to befriend Olivia's vulnerable brother, Walter (Dexter Darden), whose Asperger's syndrome renders him an outcast. Additionally, though Randy has a fistfight with a competitor for Olivia's affections, he later reconciles with the lad in an exemplary manner.

(With a kind of Andy Hardy, let's-put-on-a-show inevitability, all three of the aforementioned characters turn out to have musical gifts that are eventually deployed for the greater glory of God and the exultation of Pacashau's Divinity Church Choir.)

Though burdened with a difficult lifestyle -- she's effectively separated, against her will, from her absent Army officer husband, Marcus (Jesse L. Martin), and works long hours as a nurse -- Vi Rose's faith never falters. She gives eloquent expression to it both in no-nonsense dialogue and in song; her rendition of the traditional spiritual "Fix Me, Jesus" is one of the movie's emotional highlights.

Catholic viewers may be a bit put off to find Vi Rose, G.G. et al. eventually competing against a choir from "Our Lady of Perpetual Tears." Whether this conflation of two genuine Marian titles -- Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the lesser-known Our Lady of Tears -- is intended as a passing satire on Catholic devotions, or merely arises from unfamiliarity with them, is difficult to determine.

In terms of the broad patrimony of Christian faith and Gospel values, however, "Joyful Noise" is unapologetically, unabashedly affirmative to a degree rarely seen in contemporary Hollywood offerings.

The film contains a premarital situation, occasional sexual references and jokes, about a half-dozen crude expressions and some crass 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.

 

Movies02Devil

The Devil Inside

NEW YORK - "The Devil Inside" (Paramount), so we're told, is a film the Vatican doesn't want you to see. If so, perhaps there's a "Da Vinci Code"-like conspiracy afoot intended to save you 12 of your hard-earned, economic-downturn dollars.

Those foolhardy enough to insist on wading through this cheap, inept piece of storytelling will experience an eye-poppingly bad, grotesque little horror outing. And that's not to mention the consistent spewing forth of lazy, sullen antagonism toward the Catholic Church.

The uninformed bias on display, in fact, can be compared not only to the turgid fantasies of Dan Brown but to the loopy visions of anti-Catholic cartoonist and tract churner Jack Chick. Thus one character declares, "In the eyes of the church, what we're doing is wrong; that's how we know it's so right!"

Keen to learn what provoked her mother Maria (Suzan Crowley) to murder two priests and a nun during an exorcism 20 years earlier, plucky documentary maker Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) jets off to Rome in search of answers, accompanied by her faithful cameraman Mike (Ionut Grama)

While this could be the premise for a faith-friendly (and genuinely terrifying) offering, instead director William Brent Bell, who co-wrote the screenplay with Matthew Peterman, opts to place a mix of poor theology, bizarre conspiracy theories and downright nastiness into the mouths of two rogue priests who ally with the duo of filmmakers in their quest for "truth."

Said clerical types -- Ben (Simon Quarterman) and David (Evan Helmuth) -- are renegade exorcists who step in when the "institutional," "bureaucratic" church is too cowardly, hypocritical or just plain stupid to grant the possessed the rites that will set them free. Ben -- an unshaven, twentysomething Englishman who seems permanently on the edge of forming an "Occupy Vatican City" movement -- is particularly outspoken with his prejudices.

Such bigotry is never challenged. Nor does it ever seem to occur to anyone on screen that the church might have good reason to be wary of granting exorcisms. If performed on someone who is mentally ill -- as opposed to genuinely possessed -- after all, the ritual could potentially cause significant further psychological damage.

The film's opening proudly proclaims that the Vatican didn't assist in its production. That's all-too obvious, given the numerous inaccurate portrayals of both doctrine and practice. These range from made-up rites of exorcism to a blatant misrepresentation of the theology of baptism.

Another distortion is the supposed principle of "demonic transference," whereby an evil spirit can jump from one person to another in a flash, almost like a satanic form of the flu. Carried to farcical extremes, this idea has far less to do with Catholic teaching than with advancing the movie's halting plot.

Other entries in the genre -- such as 1973's "The Exorcist" and the more recent "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" -- inspired fear through implication and tension. Bereft of such subtlety, "The Devil Inside" resorts to loudly cracking bones, enormous amounts of blood and bouts of obscene language -- with results more risible than terrifying.

Don't say Mother Church didn't warn you.

The film contains anti-Catholic animus, a fallacious presentation of church teaching and practice, implied acceptance of abortion, rare but intensely gory violence, a few uses of profanity and frequent rough and 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.

 

Movies03Tinker

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

NEW YORK - There's a double agent on the loose, and seemingly no one can be trusted in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (Focus), a faithful adaptation of John le Carre's best-selling 1974 novel.

Swedish director Tomas Alfredson ("Let the Right One In") sets a deliberately slow pace, especially for an espionage thriller, demanding the viewer's full attention as he introduces pieces of the puzzle and juggles multiple characters and story lines, many told in flashback. It's a journey that's labyrinthine and sometimes confusing, disturbing and often gruesome, and it leads to a morally ambiguous resolution.

The time is 1973, more than 25 years into the Cold War between East and West. At Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, code-named "The Circus," panic is rising. The chief, known as Control (John Hurt), fears that a double agent has infiltrated the highest ranks of the organization and is feeding vital state secrets to the Soviets.

Determined to ferret out the "rotten apple" and plug the "leaky ship," Control dispatches one of his agents, Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong), to Hungary to meet someone who claims to know the mole's identity. The rendezvous is a disaster, and Control lays the blame on his top lieutenant, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), who is consequently sacked.

Smiley, a deep thinker and man of few words, is not out of work for long, though.

Unbeknownst to Control and his colleagues at the Circus, Smiley is rehired by the government to find that troublesome traitor. He identifies four high-ranking Circus suspects: Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), code-named "Tinker"; Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), the "Tailor"; Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds), the "Soldier"; and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), the "Poor Man."

Gaining the help of younger agent Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) -- who has issues of his own -- Smiley embarks on a sophisticated game of cat and mouse, revisiting the demons of his own past while uncovering the hidden lives of his fellow spies.

Things go from simmer to boil when a rogue agent named Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) contacts Smiley and claims to have vital information -- even though Tarr himself was once suspected of being a double agent.

With its stimulating conversations and lengthy ruminations, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is more cerebral than graphic. But the inclusion of the elements listed below nonetheless severely circumscribes its appropriate audience.

The film contains bloody violence including gunplay and torture, a scene of nonmarital sexual activity, brief rear nudity, a homosexual reference and some profane and rough 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.

 

Movies05Contraband

Contraband

NEW YORK - Movies set in criminal milieus are often less than life-affirming because of the nature of the felonious activity being depicted. Yet there's something especially dispiriting about a crime thriller that only succeeds in being gritty on the surface because it doesn't follow through on its own logic.

In the case of "Contraband" (Universal), a movie that promptly bogs down in a sea of expletives, the protagonist is an ex-smuggler who not only thwarts the bad guys while miraculously avoiding harm, but has no compunction about enjoying ill-gotten plunder. This revelation doesn't qualify as a plot spoiler since the story follows a very predictable trajectory.

Moreover, considering all the vulgar language and violence one must endure before the falsely happy ending, the morally suspect message ultimately transmitted by "Contraband" amounts to adding insult to injury.

Mark Wahlberg plays putative hero Chris Farraday. Chris and his best friend, Sebastian Abney, (Ben Foster) are celebrated in New Orleans crime circles as "the Lennon and McCartney" of smuggling. That's in the past, however. When the movie begins, Chris has quit the racket, started a legitimate alarm installation business, and moved to a quiet parish with his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and their two young sons.

When Kate's little brother, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), lands in hot water while trafficking cocaine, Chris decides he must pull one more job to raise the funds Andy owes drug dealer Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), who threatens the entire Farraday family. Reuniting with some of his old associates, Chris joins the crew of a container ship and heads to Panama where there's a stash of counterfeit greenbacks waiting for him to smuggle into the United States.

Sebastian stays in New Orleans and vows to protect Kate and the boys.

Based on the 2008 Nordic thriller "Reykjavik-Rotterdam," "Contraband" features energetic cinematography and ample heist tension. But Baltasar Kormakur, who produced and starred in the original, directs this Hollywood reboot without taking advantage of Big Easy atmospherics, exploiting the relatively novel shipboard setting, or revealing the ins and outs of high-seas smuggling. Plot twists are telegraphed and many of the supporting performances are over the top.

Adults who fancy hard-boiled crime flicks might be willing to withstand the nonstop obscenities (which threaten to sink the picture even before the opening title sequence concludes), if Chris' repudiation of the criminal life wasn't so short-lived and insincere.

Aaron Guzikowski's script, however, shows him profiting from the escapade, and unrealistically avoiding any lasting damage, thus sending the message that crime does pay if you're clever enough. We're asked to believe that the ability to outwit the authorities and your fellow thugs renders a person immune from moral corruption.

The film contains skewed values, much lethal but only moderately graphic violence, one instance of drug use, some profanity and pervasive rough, crude and crass 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.

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January is always a great time for movies and we've got reviews of seven of the most popular current releases.

WarHorse

"War Horse" (Disney)

Epic screen version of Michael Morpurgo's 1982 novel, previously made into a successful stage play, about an English farmer's son (newcomer Jeremy Irvine) who trains and cares for a thoroughbred horse that his father (Peter Mullan) misguidedly buys just to thwart the local squire (David Thewlis).

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It's a big weekend at the movies, check out reviews of two of the most notable releases from a jam-packed festive season.

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The Sitter

The Sitter

Felony child endangerment presented as "life lessons" constitutes the theme, such as it is, of "The Sitter" (Fox).

Director David Gordon Green and screenwriters Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka run the gamut of degradation, tossing in some racism for good measure.

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This weekend we've got reviews of two oscar contenders. Alexander Payne's The Descendants and Michelle Williams' homage to Marily Monroe, My Week with Marilyn.

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With Thanksgiving in the U.S., there are lots of big releases this weekend. If you need help deciding what to see, we've got reviews of Arthur Christmas, Hugo, The Muppets and the latest movie in the The Twilight Saga: "Breaking Dawn - Part 1".

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Looking for a movie this weekend? J. Edgar, Immortals and Jack & Jill are the three big releases.

MOVIES01_jEdgar

"J. Edgar" (Warner Bros.)

Clint Eastwood's polished but taxing biographical drama recounts major events in the long public career of famed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) and attempts to reconstruct his enigmatic personal life. As scripted by Dustin Lance Black, the film informatively chronicles Hoover's rise from obscure bureaucrat to power-besotted keeper of the nation's secrets.

Yet its exploration of the three main relationships in Hoover's life, with his domineering mother (Judi Dench), his girlfriend-turned-secretary (Naomi Watts) and his number two at the bureau (Armie Hammer) -- a man who was certainly Hoover's daily companion over several decades and might have been his lover -- feels sensationalized at times and will prove uncomfortable viewing even for mature audience members.

Brief intense but bloodless violence, a scene of semi-graphic adultery, homosexual and transvestite themes, a same-sex kiss, at least one use of profanity, a couple of rough terms. 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. Some material may not be suitable for children.

MOVIES03_immortals

"Immortals" (Relativity/Universal)

The Greek gods on Mount Olympus watch nervously as the mortals down below go to war in director Tarsem Singh's racy 3-D soap opera that borrows heavily from "300" (2006) and "Clash of the Titans" (2010) in plot and visual style. Centuries have passed since the Olympians vanquished the Titans, bringing tranquility to Greece.

But now an aggressive earthly king (Mickey Rourke) is on the march, vowing the destruction of humankind and "the end of the reign of gods." To close the deal, he must find the Bow of Epirus, "a legendary weapon of unimaginable power," which will allow him to free the Titans (who are in stasis) and become overlord of heaven and earth. Because their code of conduct forbids interference in the affairs of mortals, Zeus (Luke Evans) and his fellow deities look to an ordinary peasant (Henry Cavill) to save the day.

Unfortunately, the good-vs.-evil morality tale behind all this is overpowered -- make that, pulverized -- by persistent mayhem and bloodletting, much of it used for shock value, and not to advance the (rather thin) story. Relentless violence with gore including scenes of torture, upper female and rear nudity, nongraphic premarital sex. 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.

MOVIES02_JackJill

"Jack and Jill" (Columbia)

Half-witted comedy in which Adam Sandler plays both a successful Los Angeles advertising executive and his well-meaning but irksome, Bronx-based twin sister. When Sis comes to town for her annual Thanksgiving visit, the ad man can hardly wait for her to leave again -- until, that is, she artlessly wins the heart of Al Pacino (playing himself), whom he's been trying to convince to appear in a Dunkin' Donuts commercial.

Director Dennis Dugan's grab-bag of potty humor, harsh slapstick and pop-culture gags is too crude for kids and too puerile for their elders. Much violent slapstick and gross scatological humor, brief implied nudity, some sexual jokes and adult references, at least one crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.

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Looking for a movie this weekend? Tower Heist and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas are this week's big releases.

Movies1_HaroldKumar

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

NEW YORK - Viewers of faith beware: In its largely vain pursuit of laughs, the comedy sequel "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" (Warner Bros.) stoops not only to sexual excess but to anti-Catholic animus and even blasphemy.

The result -- as written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg and directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson -- is a consistently vulgar, intermittently loathsome insult to the holiday.

The plot -- such as it is -- begins with reformed pothead Harold (John Cho) and unrepentant stoner Kumar (Kal Penn) accidentally burning down the former's family Christmas tree. Since the now-married Harold's intimidating Hispanic father-in-law (Danny Trejo) is a devotee of all things Yule -- and grew the destroyed stately fir himself -- this sets off a frenzied but rambling quest for a replacement.

Along the journey that follows, a secondary character is revealed to have a rendezvous with a teenage virgin named Mary who ardently longs to be deflowered on Christmas Eve. Similarly, when the titular duo concocts a plot to steal a church's evergreen, their imagined scenario involves pornographic images of lesbian nuns as well as pedophile priests chasing choirboys. Another fantasy is set in heaven where a playboy version of Jesus appears, accompanied by two topless angels.

That's not to mention the attempt to mine amusement from repeated incidents where a toddler is inadvertently made high on a variety of narcotics or the claymation sequence that exploits 3-D in a manner the fertility gods of pagan antiquity might have envied.

The general tastelessness on display, but more particularly the assault on Catholic sensibilities, make it sobering to reflect that Penn left his job as an associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement to be involved in this misbegotten mess.

Anything less engaging than the defamatory interludes and overall "nothing sacred" outlook of his latest project would be difficult to imagine.

The film contains sacrilegious humor, graphic nonmarital and aberrant sexual activity, full nudity, a benign view of drug use, about a half-dozen instances of profanity and pervasive rough and 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.

Movies2_TowerHesit

Tower Heist

NEW YORK - Workers at a luxury Manhattan apartment building plan to rob a felonious financier in the action-comedy "Tower Heist" (Universal).

What could have been a crowd-pleasing caper is marred by a steady stream of crude language. Though it features some amusing moments courtesy of a talented ensemble, the topical romp is also short-circuited by manic energy that comes across as more slapdash than extemporaneously madcap.

Alan Alda plays Arthur Shaw, a Bernie Madoff-like money manager living in the opulent penthouse of "The Tower," which occupies prime New York City real estate across from Central Park.

After Shaw is arrested by the FBI for securities fraud, Tower employees learn he looted their pension fund. Building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), whose job it is to cater to the wealthy residents, feels responsible since he asked Shaw to invest the staff's money. Shaw's patronizing attitude toward him exacerbates Josh's thirst for payback.

Recruiting Slide (Eddie Murphy), a petty criminal from his Queens neighborhood, Josh hatches a scheme to steal Shaw's hidden stash of $20 million. Together with concierge Charlie (Casey Affleck), maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), elevator operator Dev'Reaux (Michael Pena), and bankrupt preppy Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), they put their risky plan into action during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Relying on stereotypical ethnic humor, and using expletives to express most every emotion, screenwriters Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson don't score high marks for imagination. Their main attempt at being clever involves a famous chess move, which they incorporate in a manner that serves to telegraph the plot.

For his part, director Brett Ratner -- known as much for throwing lavish Hollywood parties as for helming raucous comedies -- stages scenes with little regard for logical continuity and an engaging flow. Loud and fast are his default settings.

The humor in "Tower Heist" is broad, so much so that parents thinking it might be acceptable for older children and teens should be forewarned. Inappropriate expressions, combined with some fairly explicit sexual talk, render the movie morally dubious, regardless of the fact it's being offered in the spirit of "harmless fun."

By underestimating their premise as well as their audience, the filmmakers prove there are better ways to give power to the people and seek justice at the multiplex.

The film contains some profanity, frequent crude and crass language, much sexual banter and innuendo, a suicide attempt and a scene glamorizing alcohol abuse. 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 PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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Looking for a movie this weekend? Anonymous, In Time, Paranormal Activity 3,  Puss in Boots, The Rum Diary and The Three Musketeers are this week's big releases.

Anonymous


"Anonymous" (Columbia)

Director Roland Emmerich takes up the old but debunked conspiracy theory that William Shakespeare was a fraud, twisting history to suit a screenplay (by John Orloff) that is preposterous, lewd and farcical. We meet the "real" author of Shakespeare's works, Edward de Vere (Rhys Ifans), the 17th earl of Oxford, as a child prodigy, performing his "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for the young Queen Elizabeth (Joely Richardson). Time passes, Edward writes dozens of manuscripts in secret, has an adulterous affair with the queen, and enlists playwright Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto) to stage his works. Enter unscrupulous -- and illiterate -- actor Will Shakespeare (Rafe Spall), who blackmails Edward and usurps his place in literary history.

Several incestuous and adulterous relationships, nongraphic premarital sexual activity, some bloody violence. 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 PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

In Time


"In Time" (Fox)

Though stylish, this sci-fi thriller fails to follow through on its chilling premise of a dystopian society in which everyone is genetically engineered to die at age 26 unless they can add more time to their biological clock. So time becomes the only currency. After receiving a chronological windfall, a previously impoverished factory worker (Justin Timberlake) flees the ghetto and, together with a mogul's daughter (Amanda Seyfried), attempts to redistribute wealth to the have-nots. Writer-director Andrew Niccol tries to distract the audience from analyzing the details of his intriguing scenario, but his film plays like a glossy fashion spread with a social conscience.

Nongraphic action violence, including gunplay, a suicide, a glimpse of rear female nudity, several nonmarital sexual situations, at least one instance each of profanity and rough language, several crude terms, some innuendo. 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.

Paranormal Activity III


"Paranormal Activity 3" (Paramount)

In 1988 California, a videographer (Chris Smith) records the ominous doings of a malevolent spirit that has taken up residence in the house he shares with his new wife (Lauren Bittner) and two stepdaughters (Chloe Csengery and Jessica Brown). Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman's horror sequel follows a tried and true formula to deliver mostly gore-free jolts. But the satanic elements of the plot that eventually come to the fore will make many want to steer clear.

Occult theme, brief harsh violence, drug use, some nongraphic marital lovemaking, a couple of uses of profanity, several sexual references, considerable rough 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.

Puss in Boots


"Puss in Boots" (DreamWorks)

Screenwriter Tom Wheeler's exceptionally intelligent and energetic script for this 3-D animated "Shrek" spinoff has the title character (voice of Antonio Banderas) -- accompanied by his childhood friend Humpty Dumpty (voice of Zach Galifianakis) and newfound feline love interest (voice of Salma Hayek) -- going in quest of the goose that lays golden eggs. Director Chris Miller's kid-friendly adventure combines imagery from fairy tales with a story line that makes Puss a mischievous, Zorro-like bandit to present a valuable lesson about the perils of greed and dishonesty.

Parents of young children should know in advance, however, that one of the principal characters dies. Intense action sequences. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

The Rum Diary


"The Rum Diary" (FilmDistrict)

Smoke, drink, be hung over, repeat is the lusty refrain of this film memoir, set in 1960 Puerto Rico and based on gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson's roman a clef about his early years in the business. Writer-director Bruce Robinson and star Johnny Depp, who plays Thompson's alter ego, don't try to glamorize the abundant substance abuse. Rather, they highlight the origins of Thompson's well-known rages against injustice, corrupt politicians and corporate greed.

Still, although sweetly nostalgic at times, this material is strictly for mature adults prepared for its portrayal of drunkenness and drug addiction. Implied premarital sexual encounters, brief partial female nudity, drug and abusive alcohol use, pervasive rough and fleeting profane 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 Three Musketeers


"The Three Musketeers" (Summit)

Alexandre Dumas' classic costume epic of 17th-century swordsmanship, French patriotism and political treachery is updated with 3-D, slow-motion fighting and two anachronistic airships, one of which has a flamethrower. Director Paul W.S. Anderson downplays the politics to have Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans and Ray Stevenson as Athos, Aramis and Porthos, respectively, joined by Logan Lerman as D'Artagnan, fighting mostly for the love of their women.

Probably acceptable for mature adolescents. Fleeting crude and crass language, light sexual banter and highly stylized gun- and swordplay. 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.

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Looking for a movie this weekend? The Mighty Macs, Johnny English Reborn and The Big Year are this week's big releases.

The Mighty Macs

The Mighty Macs

"The Mighty Macs" (Freestyle)

The Mighty Macs is the fact-based story of a women's basketball team from a Catholic college who, through the grit and determination of their rookie coach, got a shot at the national title. This old-fashioned, family-friendly film is "Sister Act" without the singing, "Rocky" with basketballs, and "The Trouble with Angels" with Ellen Bursytn in the Rosalind Russell role of the mother superior.

The year is 1972, the feminist movement is picking up steam, and change is in the air. For Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino), 23 and recently married, this means searching for a role to play beyond that of dutiful housewife to her husband, Ed (David Boreanaz). A star basketball player herself, Cathy missed out on her own chance for glory, as her college eliminated the sport.

Against Ed's wishes, Cathy takes a job at Pennsylvania's Immaculata College (now University), run by the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The stern mother superior, Mother St. John (Bursytn), has no time for sports; she's trying to keep the school afloat, fighting off appeals from the board and the church to close its doors. Impatient and irritable, she gives Cathy free rein to build a team from scratch. This is Cathy's big chance and, although not a Catholic, she is determined to fit in and succeed, inspiring a ragtag group of girls to become a fighting force by believing in themselves. They practice despite not having a court, with improvised uniforms fashioned from nuns' smocks.

Cathy's faith never wavers, as she hands out "We Will Be #1" buttons all over town. Help arrives in the form of the youngest nun, Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton). Like Cathy, she is struggling with her vocation, trying to find her place in a traditional world. She also shares an interest in basketball. The two bond, and Sister Sunday becomes the assistant coach, drawing out the older nuns to cheer the team on at games. Against all odds, the "Macs" of Immaculata College make their way to their sport's first-ever national championship game. Cathy not only saves herself and her marriage, but the fortunes of the college -- melting the cold heart of Mother St. John in the process.

Directed by newcomer Tim Chambers, "The Mighty Macs" is a feel-good movie offering lessons in friendship, teamwork, trust and perseverance. For the most part, Catholicism is treated with respect, but it serves more as a colorful backdrop than a source for commentary. Sister Sunday provides some harmless comic relief. She lends Cathy a habit so they can qualify for free tickets on United Airlines. ("Second nun flies for free.")

Explaining her call to the religious life, Sister Sunday expresses her love for Jesus. "That whole Cana thing?" she observes, "Jesus just wanted everyone to have a good time."

The entire family will have a good time at "The Mighty Macs." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. All ages admitted.

The Big Year

The Big Year

"The Big Year" (Fox 2000)

Warm-hearted seriocomedy in which a business tycoon (Steve Martin), a rudderless nuclear power plant worker (Jack Black) and a home contractor (Owen Wilson) vie to win the titular bird-watching competition by spotting the greatest number of different species over the course of a calendar year. As the builder obsessively tries to defend his seemingly insurmountable previous record, the executive and the slacker form an unlikely friendship as well as an alliance intended to best their sometimes unscrupulous rival.

Director David Frankel's mostly agreeable film -- inspired by Mark Obmascik's book of the same name -- affirms the primacy of family life and personal relationships over materialistic or ego-driven goals. Brief nongraphic marital lovemaking, possible cohabitation, a fertility treatment theme, adultery references, at least one use of profanity, an obscene gesture and a few crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Johnny English Reborn

Johnny English Reborn

"Johnny English Reborn" (Universal)

Elaborately constructed spy spoof -- and cleaned-up sequel to the 2003 comedy "Johnny English" -- in which Rowan Atkinson as the titular secret agent overcomes severe odds to discover who was responsible for the assassination of the president of Mozambique. Atkinson and director Oliver Parker put Johnny -- a combination of Atkinson's Mr. Bean and Leslie Nielsen's Frank Drebin of the "Naked Gun" franchise -- through a series of droll set-pieces.

One dubious, and dull, sight gag aside, they also eschew the less-than-family-friendly humor of the original. Some cartoonish violence, a single tasteless visual joke and fleeting mildly crass language. 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.

Published in Movie News