Meryl Streep stars in a scene from the movie “Into the Woods.” 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. (CNS photo by Peter Mountain, courtesy Disney)
Meryl Streep stars in a scene from the movie “Into the Woods.” 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. (CNS photo by Peter Mountain, courtesy Disney)

New movies this week:

“Unbroken”: Though inspirational, this screen version of Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling account of one U.S. airman’s (Jack O’Connell) experiences during World War II emphasizes its subject’s sufferings at the expense of the remarkable attitude of forgiveness he was eventually able to adopt toward those who had abused him. A former Olympic runner-turned-bombardier, he and two crewmates (Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock) survived a crash landing at sea, only to face nearly seven weeks adrift on the open ocean. Eventually taken prisoner by the Japanese, he was singled out for mistreatment by the unbalanced commander (Miyavi) of his POW camp. In response, he drew on the same determination that had enabled him to rise to the top as an athlete to endure through a marathon of cruelty. Director Angelina Jolie vividly re-creates the brutality to which Allied captives in the Pacific Theater were all too often subjected. But she relegates her main character’s unusual, if not unique, spiritual achievement – which seems to have been inspired, at least indirectly, by his Catholic upbringing – to a written epilogue. Combat and other violence, including torturous beatings, rear male nudity in a non-sexual context, a couple of uses of profanity and of crude language, a few crass terms, a bit of mild sexual humor. 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.

“Into the Woods”: Despite its fairy-tale roots, this initially pleasing but ultimately problematic adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s long-running 1987 stage musical is an inappropriate choice for youthful moviegoers. As scripted by Lapine, the action wittily interweaves a number of classic children’s stories – those of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) among them – with its main narrative tracing a childless couple’s (James Corden and Emily Blunt) quest to undo the curse of barrenness placed on his family by a witch (Meryl Streep) whom his father (Simon Russell Beale) long ago wronged. All this transpires whimsically enough at first under Rob Marshall’s direction. But late plot developments lead into brooding reflections on the two-edged legacy of gaining worldly experience and, more disturbingly, into an apparent rejection of objective moral standards in favor of do-it-yourself ethics. Possibly acceptable for older teens. Complex moral themes requiring mature discernment, a scene of adulterous kissing, some stylized violence, the mildly abusive treatment of minors. The CNS classification is A-III – adults. The MPAA rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”: Director and co-writer Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films based on Catholic novelist J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 fantasy for children, set in Tolkien’s imaginary world of Middle-earth, reaches a rousing finale as the forces of good and evil, both within and surrounding its characters, confront each other in a climactic struggle. After the fearsome dragon (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch) who long ago exiled them from their ancestral bastion is slain, the brave band of Dwarves whose quest to reclaim their fabled citadel has been aided by the formerly fainthearted Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is finally able to recover their stronghold. But the untold wealth stored up in the mountain fortress begins to obsess their king (Richard Armitage), making him hopelessly greedy and paranoid just as a vast army of evil Orcs (led by Manu Bennett) is on the march against them. The warping effects of avarice are poised against the redeeming consequences of heroic selflessness in this combat-heavy parable, which also sees the return of Ian McKellen as the wizard who first prompted Bilbo’s transformation. The film offers valuable lessons for those viewers mature enough to endure its many armed confrontations. Pervasive, sometimes harsh battle violence with minimal gore, a couple of crass expressions. The CNS classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The MPAA rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.