By Jane Horwitz,
Men in Black III. If they have the patience to get through a draggy first act, high-schoolers and particularly college kids and even parents will get a mild kick out of “Men in Black III.” It’s okay for most middle-schoolers, too, but they may miss some of the humor. Agents J and K are back in their black suits and skinny ties, still busy keeping control of space aliens living incognito on Earth. The alien Boris the Animal escapes from prison on the moon. He impales his guards with what look like high-tech shark teeth. Boris heads to Earth to kill Agent K, who put him in prison decades earlier. Agent J has a dream in which K is dead and was never his partner. J travels back in time to the 1960s and meets up with K’s younger self so they can kill Boris and allow Agent K to survive.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Boris’s murders are not bloody, but quite graphic for a PG-13. The film includes mild sexual innuendo. The dialogue includes occasional midrange profanity and a Viagra joke.
Bernie. For high-schoolers intrigued by character studies and dark comedy, “Bernie” is an offbeat film experience worth having. The film is okay for many middle-schoolers, but its secondary themes dealing with homophobia may be a little too mature for them. Bernie Tiede is a perfectionist as a funeral director, and a comfort to families. He stars in community theater and is everyone’s friend. His life changes, however, when he endears himself to the rich, newly widowed Marjorie Nugent. Marjorie puts Bernie in her will, but also bosses and belittles him mercilessly. One day he snaps and shoots her dead. Bernie confesses, but the townsfolk refuse to believe he did anything wrong.
The bottom line: The murder of Mrs. Nugent by Bernie is not graphic or bloody. The script includes occasional strong language, mild homophobic slurs and corpses.
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. 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 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. Jules is a TV weight-loss guru and celebrity dance champion. She’s pregnant by her dance partner. 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. 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 contain graphic dialogue. The script includes detailed talk about breast-feeding, and even more graphic talk about the discomforts of pregnancy, from flatulence to bladder control.
Hysteria. A perfect film to discuss in a college-level courses on human sexuality or feminist history, “Hysteria” is a low-key comedy with mildly serious overtones geared to college-age filmgoers and older. Many, if not most, parents would not find it appropriate for under-17s. Mortimer Granville is a progressive physician in 1880s London who keeps getting fired for lecturing his superiors about germs, which they don’t yet accept as real. He finally lands a job in the private practice of Dr. Dalrymple, who treats women for “hysteria,” a supposed disorder of the uterus. He comes up with an electrically powered device that is the ancestor of the vibrator.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie includes numerous scenes in which female patients are “treated” for their supposed “hysteria,” and although they’re completely dressed and also covered with a kind of drapery, it is very clear what’s happening. The doctors are never sexually involved. The rest of the film is not R-ish at all, with some drinking and mild, briefly implied violence.
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. Cohen stirs up a farcical critique of Arab dictatorships, 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.
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.