Family Filmgoer guide to movies
By Jane Horwitz,
Snow White and the Huntsman. Teens who like romantic fantasies with an edge could be transported by this long but gorgeous movie. A prologue recounts the Snow White back story most of us know. When Snow White is of age, the evil queen Ravenna must consume her beating heart to stay young. The girl escapes into the awful Dark Forest. Ravenna and Finn hire the Huntsman to capture Snow White, but he decides to protect her instead. The hunted pair find brief respite in a charming enchanted forest, where they meet a band of dwarves. Snow White’s childhood friend William joins them to raise an army against the queen.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The level of violence and disturbing images make the movie a sometimes R-ish PG-13 and probably not entertainment for preteens. Fight scenes include many swords and daggers piercing flesh, although there is not a lot of blood. More disturbing to young or nightmare-prone moviegoers are the images of the queen, the rotting animal corpses in the Dark Forest, tree branches turning into writhing serpents and a huge, roaring troll. There is some sexual innuendo. Ravenna and King Magnus have a nongraphic bedroom scene before she kills him.
Men in Black III. If they have the patience to get through a draggy first act, high-schoolers, 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 might miss some of the humor. Agents J and K are still busy keeping control of space aliens living incognito on Earth. The alien Boris escapes from prison on the moon. He 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.
Moonrise Kingdom. If teens 15 and older recall with pleasure “Fantastic Mr. Fox" filmmaker Wes Anderson’s charming stop-motion animated film with its deadpan vocal performances, they might be primed to love “Moonrise Kingdom.” This oddball love story involving two depressed 12-year-olds, set in 1965, is not for middle-schoolers or preteens. It weaves in rather adult themes and includes a mild sexual encounter between the 12-year-olds. The comedy fits in with all of Anderson’s idiosyncratic work and his terrific cast gives outwardly affectless, but deeply felt performances. Sam is a camper with the Khaki Scouts. He disappears one morning and worried Scout Master Ward notifies the local policeman Capt. Sharp. The two men and the other scouts begin a search. They learn that Sam is an orphan and his foster parents don’t want him back. They also discover that Sam met Suzy the year before during a church concert. Suzy lives with younger brothers and two laconic lawyer parents. Suzy is unhappy and prone to rages. She and Sam plan to run away together.
The bottom line: There is a nongraphic but startling make-out scene between Suzy and Sam. It includes no nudity, but they French kiss and discuss Sam’s feelings of arousal. At her invitation, he touches Suzy’s breasts. During the storm, Sam is struck by lightning, and both young people are in danger of falling off a church roof during a flood. Sam pierces Suzy’s ears and they bleed. Adult characters use midrange profanity, smoke and drink. Capt. Sharp offers Sam swigs of beer. The subtext about childhood (and adult) depression is quite apparent.
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 might be a little too mature for them. Bernie Tiede is a perfectionist as a funeral director. He stars in community theater and is everyone’s friend. His life changes when he endears himself to the newly widowed Marjorie Nugent. Marjorie puts Bernie in her will, but she 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.
For Greater Glory. Scenes of battle and the torture of a boy in this epic saga of religious devotion and violence are upsetting and intense, yet still it is understated for an R rating. It’s okay for most high-schoolers, that doesn’t mean this heavy-handed, sermonizing chronicle will appeal to them. This is a little-known story of Catholics in 1920s Mexico who mounted an armed uprising to fight anti-church laws. Recruited to lead the disorganized Cristeros is retired Gen. Gorostieta, a gruff non-believer who becomes wedded to the cause after he sees the courage of a boy, Jose Luis Sanches, who gives his life for the Cristeros.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The battle scenes are hectic and loud, but none of the deaths or injuries shown are highly graphic. The film shows a priest hanged in his church and another killed by firing squad. The toughest sequence shows the boy Jose tortured by soldiers, then killed.
Chernobyl Diaries. High-school-age horror buffs will get a worthy chill out of this inventive scare fest, even though the blood-and-guts quotient is comparatively understated for an R rating. A small group of 20-something tourists books an “extreme tourism” jaunt with Uri, who takes them to see the abandoned Ukrainian town of Prypiat. About 50,000 residents evacuated the town overnight in 1986 when the Chernobyl nuclear power plant went into meltdown. Guards won’t let Uri enter, so he takes his customers in by stealth. Walking through the empty apartments, the young tourists are moved. But then they encounter a rampaging bear and packs of wolves and dogs. They’re trapped inside a disabled van at night, long past the limit on radiation exposure. Venturing outside proves a bad choice, too.
The bottom line: While the events that unfold are intense, the images are not exceptionally graphic. There are the remains of torn-apart human victims and of dead and decomposing animals, although the images are fleeting and rather unspecific. The dialogue is peppered with strong profanity, and there is moderate sexual innuendo early on.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.