10 and older
Oz the Great and Powerful (PG). Kids 10 and older will be happy passengers on the lush fantasy train that is “Oz the Great and Powerful.” Some of the scarier bits make the film a little much for children younger than 10. Seeing it in 2-D instead of 3-D would tame some of that. We meet Oscar Diggs before he becomes a “wizard.” He’s a cheesy magician in a third-rate traveling carnival. His onetime girlfriend, Annie, tries to convince Oz he can be a better man, but he runs off. Escaping in a hot-air balloon, Oz gets sucked into a cyclone and enters a new land somehow named for him, as we go from black-and-white to color. He encounters Theodora, who tells him that she is a good witch. When Oz rejects her love, she reacts in a fury. He meets Glinda, a truly good witch. With the help of new friends, he contrives to keep the evil witches at bay.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There are plenty of scary moments and images, especially in 3-D, that could give kids younger than 10 shivers. The flying apelike minions who work for the wicked witch are nasty looking, and the battles get loud and showily destructive. Early in the film, the cyclone is nightmarish.
The Last Exorcism Part II. Not for middle-schoolers, this sequel to “The Last Exorcism” should have a mildish R rating. It could enthrall high-schoolers who enjoy tales of the occult. The film recounts what happens to Nell, the pious, innocent, but demonically possessed young woman in the first film. Now released from a New Orleans psychiatric hospital, Nell goes to live in a halfway house. Soon, she starts to have dreams and visions of violence and of people in masks following her. Nell begins to act out violently in ways that frighten her at first and then take her over. A fellowship of devout people sworn to fight demons organizes another exorcism.
THE BOTTOM LINE: This sequel pushes its PG-13 rating to the limit, both with violence and sexual content. Most of the killings are just strongly implied, with disturbing sounds and the sight of blood spattering against a window. Still, such scenes are harrowing. We see a throat-slitting, and lightning flashbacks show violence and what could be a dead human fetus. The film includes scenes in which Nell becomes highly sexually aroused in her sleep, and also at work while cleaning a motel room as she listens to a couple making love next door.
Jack the Giant Slayer. In a sweet prologue, we meet two children in medieval times. Jack is the son of a poor farmer and Isabelle is a princess in a nearby castle. Each delights in hearing the scary rhymed saga of “Jack the Giant Slayer” read to them. Ten years later, a grown-up Jack, sent into town to sell his horse, defends the honor of Isabelle, who likes to venture out of the palace incognito. Jack knows it’s hopeless, but he’s smitten anyway. He sells his horse to a monk for a bag of beans. There’s a rainstorm that night and Isabelle rides to Jack’s cottage seeking shelter. As they talk, one of the beans falls beneath the cottage and explodes into a beanstalk, carrying the house and Isabelle above the clouds while Jack falls off. The king assigns Elmont, the head of his guards, to take his men up the stalk to rescue Isabelle. Jack and Isabelle’s conniving fiance, Roderick, also go.