THE BOTTOM LINE: There is nothing offensive or scary in this odd confection.
15 and older
2016: Obama’s America (PG). This film by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza has made it into the box office top 10 in the past couple of weeks. It is a hard-right take on the president. For high school and college kids interested in the coming election, the film offers a partisan jumping-off point from which they could do their own research, perhaps starting with “Dreams From My Father,” which D’Souza quotes and interprets in his own way. D’Souza and co-director John Sullivan also weave in reenactments of scenes from Obama’s life. These are a dubious tool when not clearly labeled. He concludes that Obama’s background has turned him into an anti-American zealot who aims to reduce the United States to a more socialist equal among nations. Despite D’Souza’s mild-mannered style, his film comes quite close to calling the president a traitor.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Some people are shown smoking.
The Words. A struggling writer, unsure of his own talent, finds a manuscript and passes it off as his own in “The Words.” Literary-minded moviegoers of high-school and college age will be drawn to it, with its attractive cast and its brainy premise. Middle-schoolers could find it tedious. The film starts with a successful author doing a reading from his newest book. We enter the story he tells, about a young would-be writer, Rory Jansen, who lives with his college sweetheart Dora and can’t seem to sell his work. He finally gets a lowly day job at a literary agency. On a trip to Paris, Rory discovers an old manuscript that he loves so much he types it into his computer, just to feel the words go through him, as the narrator says. Dora reads the file and thinks it’s genius. Rory can’t admit the truth. The book is published and becomes a hit. One day, an elderly man confronts Rory and claims he is the author of the manuscript. Rory is agonizes over his theft.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film earns its PG-13 with steamy but non-explicit sexual situations between lovers who eventually become married couples. A subplot about the death of a baby is upsetting, but an important narrative turn. The dialogue includes occasional moderate profanity.
The Possession. Despite its moderate PG-13 rating, this thriller about a 10-year-old girl possessed by a demon could prove too intense for many middle-schoolers. It’s not that the depictions are so graphic, it’s the creepiness factor. Supposedly based on a true story, “The Possession” recounts the horrors that ensue after a girl named Em buys a mysterious box at a yard sale with her recently divorced dad, Clyde. After Em opens the box, her bubbly personality darkens. Clyde learns the antique box has been used to capture evil spirits by certain ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects since medieval times.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Creepy images abound — strange fluttering moths fly out of little Em’s mouth, fill her room and terrorize her father and older sister. Sometimes Em’s eyes roll back and a low voice comes out of her. She sees fingers deep inside her throat. Adults invaded by the demon suffer bizarre contortions. The dialogue includes occasional profanity.
Premium Rush. A seriously fun thrill ride, “Premium Rush” will give teen filmgoers something to talk about. It has adrenaline-pumping chases and a nasty villain, yet with one or two brief exceptions, the film maintains its PG-13 cred. Wilee is a Manhattan bicycle messenger assigned by his dispatcher to transport an envelope to a Chinatown address. We learn that the contents of the envelope have to do with a Chinese financial group and a personal matter. Just as Wilee heads off with the envelope, he’s waylaid by a plainclothes police officer, Bobby Monday. Wilee races off, with Monday giving chase in his car.
The bottom line:
Michael Shannon’s bad cop is scary. He beats one of his gambling creditors to death in one intense scene. The chases are breathtakingly real, and the way Wilee actually visualizes potential crashes at tricky intersections is chilling. The script contains midrange crude language, profanity and a racial slur.
Bachelorette. Too profane, drug-addled and sexually explicit for under-17s, “Bachelorette” is better aimed at adults in their 20s and 30s. It traces the misadventures of three 30-something women friends and the mean and/or self-destructive things they get up to during a pal’s wedding weekend. Regan is the classic “mean girl” who hasn’t changed since high school and is supposedly helping her friend Becky have a great wedding. But as maid of honor, Regan must wrangle fellow bridesmaids Gena, who self-medicates with drugs and alcohol, and Katie, who sleeps with any guy who offers.
THE BOTTOM LINE: In addition to the sheer mean-spiritedness and emotional sterility of the characters, they engage in a couple of pretty explicit sexual situations, a lot of graphic sex talk, strong profanity and free use of drugs and alcohol, with one character nearly overdosing. Two people discuss a long-ago teenage pregnancy and abortion.
Lawless. This tale of bootleggers in Prohibition-era Virginia will sweep film buffs 17 and older into its world and hold them there. In gangster movie tradition, however, the film is exceedingly violent and not for the faint of heart. World War I veteran Forrest Bondurant and his brothers make their living selling illegal moonshine. No one messes with them until a crooked lawman shows up. A war erupts.
The bottom line: The violence in “Lawless” earns an R and then some. The film includes bloody, deafening shootouts and stabbings, as well as fires, explosions, brass-knuckle fights and other bashings. The rape of a woman by two gangsters is strongly implied. And there is a consensual sexual situation that is not explicit. The dialogue includes strong profanity.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.