By Jane Horwitz,
Battleship. Teens into war movies, action flicks and anything about space aliens will have fun at this. Attracted by a signal sent into space by scientists looking for intelligent life “out there,” the invaders slam into the Pacific during a huge international naval exercise off Hawaii. And they’re not friendly. There’s news of Hong Kong being attacked, and now the action is just off Oahu, with the aliens’ strange-looking ships setting up a force field that isolates several U.S. destroyers. The battle to save Earth engages our present-day fleet vs. the aliens’ scarily destructive and more advanced weapons.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film almost never depicts graphic injuries, but it’s clear that some people are killed. The only moments that might be too upsetting for middle-schoolers are in a rehab center where real veteran amputees are seen learning to use prosthetic limbs. The film includes occasional strong, partially muffled profanity and mild sexual innuendo. Characters briefly drink, and there’s brief implied nudity.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Several couples, wed and unwed, contemplate parenthood in this star-studded anthology film. High-schoolers, prepped by reality TV, may find the five couples’ travails of passing interest, despite the sparse laughs. Jules is a TV weight-loss guru and celebrity dance champion. She’s pregnant by her dance partner but thinks she can keep up her frenetic schedule. Photographer Holly and her partner are about to adopt, but their finances are shaky. Wendy is a sentimental breast-feeding advocate and kid-lit author. She and her husband have complexes about his race-car driver dad and his extremely young wife. Rosie, a budding food truck chef, has a fling with a rival chef, and her pregnancy throws them together. The “dudes’ group,” a posse of dads who take their babies on power walks, agrees to keep their mistakes within the group.
The bottom line: The dialogue features crass language dealing with bodily functions, midrange profanity and sexual innuendo that is steamy enough to put the film in R-ish territory. Two birth scenes are verbally graphic. The script includes detailed talk about breast-feeding, and even more graphic talk about the discomforts of pregnancy, from flatulence to bladder control.
Where Do We Go Now? High-schoolers who have a personal or intellectual interest in the Middle East and its recent history could be charmed by Lebanese director/
actress/co-screenwriter Nadine Labaki’s touchingly whimsical call for peace. Set in a tiny village, the Christian and Muslim women of the town are all friends. The men, on the other hand, are prone to break into sectarian violence, and scuffles start over stupid things. So the widow Amale and her Muslim and Christian friends bring in a traveling troupe of young, flirty Ukrainian “dancers” to distract the menfolk. Between the Ukrainians’ gyrations and their hashish, the men of the village are disabled long enough for their guns to disappear.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Characters engage in scuffles and fights, but any serious violence, such as the death of a child caught in the crossfire in a strife-torn neighboring village, occurs off-camera and we see only his body. The women use hashish and tranquilizers baked into sweets to sedate the men. The story includes mild, romanticized sexual innuendo.
Dark Shadows. Although there’s not much here that’s inappropriate for them, high-schoolers might lose interest in this slow-moving vampire comedy well before it’s over. The film’s sexual content might be a little too much for middle-schoolers. When the very funny Johnny Depp is on camera as gentleman vampire Barnabas Collins, awakened in the year 1972 after 200 years in a coffin, the film is fun — at first. He is droll, though, in his long nails and and cutaway coat, shocked at all things modern and apologizing before drinking people’s blood and killing them. Barnabus returns to his family’s mansion in Maine. He’s determined to help his descendants restore the family business and stop their arch rival, who turned him into a vampire.
The bottom line: Most of the mayhem in “Dark Shadows” is not especially gross or graphic, although Barnabas Collins drinks the blood of several human victims and tosses others around, implicitly killing them. The finale grows more violent, with one character morphing into a werewolf and another cracking and disintegrating before our eyes. The sexual innuendo gets R-ish in one scene with Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, implying oral sex, but it’s not explicit.
The Dictator. Too bawdy for under-17s without a parental okay, Sacha Baron Cohen’s intermittently riotous new comedy will surely attract high-school-age audiences. The heavily political content may not click with them unless they’re savvy about international affairs. Cohen stirs up a farcical critique of Arab dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa, laced with a deliberately offensive spoof of the culture. He plays Admiral General Aladeen, dictator since childhood of the fictional North African nation of Wadiya. Aladeen’s closest adviser, Uncle Tamir, plots against him while seeming to protect him. With his country under sanctions, Aladeen goes to New York to address the United Nations, claiming he’ll turn Wadiya into a democracy. But Uncle Tamir intends to get rid of Aladeen and rule himself.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Where to start? Aladeen helps to deliver a baby, and when he sees it’s a girl, he asks for the trash can. The dialogue bristles with crude sexual references and a masturbation joke involves movement, but is not explicitly graphic. The language is profane. Gun violence is frequent. Aladeen orders many executions.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.