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CNS movie reviews, May 30

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By Catholic News Service

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

“After Earth” (Columbia) Grueling sci-fi adventure set 1,000 years after humans have been forced to evacuate an environmentally despoiled Earth. While on an intergalactic military mission, a general (Will Smith) and his teen son — played by Smith’s real-life son Jaden — become the sole survivors of a crash landing on the Blue Planet. With Dad temporarily disabled as a result, the lad must brave a hostile array of predators in order to reach the other part of their wrecked spacecraft — and the signal beam that represents their only hope of rescue. While the filial relationship at the heart of director and co-writer M. Night Shyamalan’s plodding coming-of-age drama is ultimately characterized by self-sacrificing love, the code by which the father lives — and which he strives to instill in his offspring — seems to have more in common with Zen Buddhism than with the values promoted in Scripture. The script’s glib portrayal of the bonds uniting veterans will also strike at least some viewers as either jingoistic or exploitative. Much action violence, some of it bloody, gory medical images, a stifled crude term, a few mildly crass expressions. 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.

“Epic” (Fox) Pleasant 3-D animated fantasy in which a 17-year-old girl (voice of Amanda Seyfried) finds herself magically transported to a miniature world within nature where the champions of growth and life (their leader voiced by Colin Farrell) battle the dark forces of decay (their commander voiced by Christoph Waltz). While becoming caught up in the conflict, she falls for a youthful warrior (voice of Josh Hutcherson) whose freewheeling ways make him an initially unreliable ally for his fellow good guys. With some of its characters drawn from William Joyce’s book “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs,” director Chris Wedge’s cheerful journey into the undergrowth sends innocuous messages about environmental stewardship, teamwork and responsibility. There’s also some familial bonding via the protagonist’s ultimately appreciative interaction with her stereotypically absent-minded professor of a dad (voiced by Jason Sudeikis). Though the impact falls well short of Wedge’s overly ambitious title, some lovely imagery compensates for various hit-or-miss attempts at humor. Potentially frightening clashes, themes involving death. 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 Reluctant Fundamentalist” (IFC) A thought-provoking — yet flawed — exploration of the wide-ranging impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks both on individuals and on whole cultures. In 2011 Pakistan, a journalist (Liev Schreiber) has been recruited by the CIA to interview the chief suspect (Riz Ahmed) in the kidnapping of an American professor. Things may not be as they appear, however, as the self-professedly peace-loving radical recounts his experiences in the United States — including his meteoric rise to the top within a wicked corporation (run by Kiefer Sutherland), his romance with a bohemian artist (Kate Hudson), and his fall from corporate grace as a result of post-Twin Towers discrimination. Working from the novel by Mohsin Hamid, director Mira Nair lets the audience pass judgment, for better or worse. The result is an absorbing story with a flawed conclusion — one that seems to prioritize the force of circumstance over conscience when choosing between good and evil. Fleeting action violence and gunplay, a gruesome image, brief sensuality, some profane and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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