Safe Haven. Teen fans of romance novels will nestle right into this predictable story. Moments of mostly implied violence occasionally cut into the love story, but not in ways that make the film too intense for middle-schoolers. At the start, we see a young woman running from one house and seeking shelter at a neighbor’s. The next thing we know, she boards a bus heading south out of Boston. We also learn that a police officer named Tierney is trying to find her. She disembarks at a small coastal town in the Carolinas and decides to stay. She changes her name to Katie, gets a job at the local cafe, rents a cabin and befriends a little girl whose dad, Alex, runs the general store. Alex is a widower who is instantly smitten. He tries to charm Katie with offers of neighborly help, but she’s wary.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A couple of flashbacks imply the possibility of murder and, later in the film, drunken spousal abuse. During the climactic confrontation at the end, lethal gunshots occur. At another point, a child falls off a dock and must be rescued. Tierney seems more and more unhinged and drunk. As Alex and Katie’s relationship warms up, they spend the night together, but aside from much kissing and removing of outer garments, nothing is shown.
Beautiful Creatures. Narrated by Ethan, a human who loves a teenage girl from a family of witches, the film unfolds in a contemporary Southern town caught in a time warp of big cars and banned books. Ethan, a motherless teen who loves books, can’t wait to go to college and break loose. He finds instant kinship with Lena Duchannes, the smart and sullen new girl at school. Parentless herself, she has come to live with her rich uncle, Macon Ravenwood. Lena will turn 16 in a few weeks and must go through a ceremony to learn whether she will use her powers for good or evil.
The bottom line: The acts of witchcraft involve a lot of special effects and lightning, but are not graphic. The film includes occasional profanity and one implied teen sexual situation. Nothing explicit occurs, but Ethan and Lena kiss and then drop out of camera view. The film features a potentially lethal shooting. Without preaching, the film says that good or evil is always a choice.
A Good Day to Die Hard. As long as action-movie fans 17 and older don’t require a story to make sense, they can appreciate the vehicular insanity, gun battles and explosions in this deafening and unnecessary sequel. Bruce Willis returns as police officer John McClane. He learns that his long-estranged son, Jack, is under arrest in Moscow, accused of assassinating a gangster/
businessman. McClane discovers that Jack is a CIA agent, trying to salvage a quickly unraveling plan to spirit a jailed Russian billionaire named Komarov out of the country. Komarov has access to weapons-grade nuclear material and has grown a conscience about it. Needless to say, starting with massive explosions at the courthouse where Komarov is on trial, all is not what it seems. Grudgingly, Jack lets his father in on the action.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie consists mostly of eardrum-shattering gun battles and explosions and road-destroying, metal-shearing car chases and crashes. In all of this, the film depicts a few injured bystanders, but in reality the sort of violence they’re imagining would kill or injure many. Wounds are usually less than graphic. The dialogue includes strong profanity.
Identity Thief. Fans 17 and older of riotous, raunchy comedy will laugh at first, then wonder why “Identity Thief” doesn’t maintain the hilarity. Many parents will probably deem the film’s profanity and crude sexual language too strong for those younger than 17. Sandy Patterson is a nice family guy. His wife is pregnant with their third child. The boss is a jerk, so when high-level traders leave to start their own company, Sandy goes, too. Then his identity is stolen by Diana, a shopping addict. Police tell Sandy it could take a year to clear his name, so he goes to Florida to bring his nemesis back and get her to confess. Chaos ensues.
The bottom line: Crude, explicit sexual slang and strong profanity earn the R rating, along with comically explicit sexual situations, though no nudity. The mayhem in the film is more comic than graphic. Some characters drink till they’re blotto.
Side Effects. Fairly explicit sexual situations and sexual themes, along with an intense exploration of mental illness, make “Side Effects” too mature for most viewers younger than 17. Some older, more sophisticated high-schoolers, however, might enjoy this taut, handsomely wrought psychological thriller. Emily is married to Martin, who has just finished a prison term for insider trading. She should be happy to have him home, but she finds her old depression returning. Jonathan Banks becomes her therapist, prescribing various drugs. Separately, Banks agrees to join a pharmaceutical company’s study of a new anti-depressant, and he prescribes the drug for Emily.
The bottom line: The film is not for older teens struggling with depression. It includes a graphic stabbing death with considerable blood. Characters engage in one fairly explicit sexual situation with nearly full nudity. Characters misuse prescription drugs and utter occasional strong profanity.
Horwitz is a freelance writer. Read her past reviews on the On Parenting page.