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.
The bottom line: The giants have disgusting habits. The action sequences become quite heavy, with stabbings and bone-crushing fights. It is strongly implied that the giants eat victims alive. So, it’s not for viewers younger than 10. The giants’ caves are lined with human bones. Many men fall to their death off the beanstalk.
Dark Skies. Too scary and intense for middle-schoolers, this story of a family intruded upon by space aliens has a lot of psychological nuance and drama. That could resonate with high-schoolers. Suburbanites Lacy and Daniel Barrett are struggling, and he’s between jobs. Their son, Jesse, hangs out with a crass older boy. Their younger son, Sam, talks about visits from an invisible “Sand Man.” Unexplained nighttime events in the house, Sam’s drawings of the Sand Man and scary Internet research finally send the parents to an expert on alien invasion.
THE BOTTOM LINE: “Dark Skies” includes creepy visions of “Greys,” with their black eye sockets. The children are shown in danger of alien abduction. Weird happenings include profuse nosebleeds and trances. There are fights and gunfights. Jesse’s pal uses crass profanity to refer to girls and uses crude but not-too-explicit sexual slang. The boys watch a porn video that sounds steamy but visually never gets too graphic. There is a brief depiction of pot. There is mild profanity, and the parents have an implied sexual situation.
21 and Over. Two friends meet at their buddy’s college in order to celebrate his 21st birthday in this boozy, emphatically 17-and-older farce. Miller, a perpetual doofus, and Casey, a brainy “responsible” guy, are pals from high school. They come from their respective colleges to visit another friend, Jeff Chang, a senior in pre-med on the cusp of his 21st birthday. They want to take him out to drink till he drops, but he has a big med school interview the next morning. Of course, they all go out and get wasted.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film contains nonstop profanity, very explicit sexual slang, ethnic stereotype jokes and even a joke about leukemia. Students are depicted smoking pot and binge-drinking and, at least once, projectile vomiting. Someone talks about tripping on LSD. Partying college girls bare their breasts. The mayhem includes gunfire and drunken driving. Serious undertones emerge in talk of an attempted suicide and implications that Jeff’s father may have beat him.
Horwitz is a freelance writer. Read her past reviews at On Parenting.