Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Trouble With the Curve,’ ‘End of Watch’ and ‘The Master’

September 20, 2012
6 and older

Finding Nemo 3D (G). This movie was fine for kids age 6 and older when it was first released in 2003. That remains true, but parents need to be mindful of children getting too scared when seeing the story in 3-D. The fable is unchanged: A timid orange-and-white clownfish, Marlin, travels miles to rescue his son, Nemo, who was captured after venturing too far out on his first day of school. A sweet but forgetful blue tang named Dory joins Marlin on his journey. The film cuts between Marlin and Dory’s travels and little Nemo, imprisoned in a dentist’s office aquarium. A tough old fish named Gill urges Nemo to escape through the aquarium filter before he’s given as a gift to the dentist’s bratty niece.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The 3-D increases the sense of loss and danger and even sadness. In a prologue, we see how Marlin lost Nemo’s mom and her newly laid eggs (except for Nemo) to a hungry barracuda. This crystallizes a theme about parents learning to let go. Dory’s short-term memory loss is played for comedy, but it’s also sad.

PG-13

Trouble With the Curve.Teens who like slower-paced, character-rich films will enjoy this movie, even if they can see every plot twist coming from a mile away. Clint Eastwood plays Gus, an aging scout for the Atlanta Braves. His eyes are failing, but he won’t admit it, and one young executive in the organization longs to put him out to pasture. Gus’s daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), whom he raised alone as a widower, has gone on to become a hotshot lawyer. She follows Gus to North Carolina, where he’s scouting high-school players, and tries to talk some sense into him, except he refuses any help and can’t talk about anything but baseball. Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a discovery of Gus’s who was sidelined by an injury, shows up as a rival scout and Mickey’s potential romantic interest.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The dialogue features a lot of crude, occasionally profane language, most of it well in PG-13 territory. Several scenes involve drinking, and there is a bar fight. When Mickey and Gus finally talk about their longtime estrangement, the scene feels very emotional and real.

R

End of Watch.Due to its close-up violence and profane dialogue, “End of Watch” tells a police story geared exclusively to those 17 and older. The film aims to make you feel the tension, fear and adrenaline rush that police officers experience when they face street gangs and drug thugs. Partners and pals Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala are uniformed officers who cruise South Central Los Angeles in a squad car. They take extra risks and investigate suspicious activity that’s supposed to be the purvue of plainclothes detectives or federal agencies. The film repeatedly shifts between intense scenes on the job, to trash-talking banter back at the station and to off-duty lives with Brian’s girlfriend and Mike’s wife.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The point-blank gun violence and gut punches in “End of Watch” feel so realistic that the film can prove hard to watch. The partners encounter scenes in which very small children are put at risk. They see many dead bodies stacked inside homes and undocumented workers locked in cages. The dialogue includes graphic sexual slang and steaming profanity. Various characters use drugs, drink and smoke and engage in semi-explicit sexual situations.

Liberal Arts. College-age teens and adults of a thoughtful, literary bent will find much to savor in this amiable, if wholly predictable, indie film. Jesse is a 35-year-old college admissions counselor and bookworm living in New York. When his favorite college prof invites him to Ohio for his retirement party, Jesse heads straight to his ivy-covered alma mater. He meets a charming student, Zibby, who tries to start a romance. But Jesse feels too old for her, so he demurs.

The bottom line: The dialogue features occasional crude sexual language and profanity. Characters drink and smoke. One student attempts suicide with a pill overdose. The one sexual situation involves mildly graphic sounds, but shows nothing.

The Master. This film may not appeal to the wide moviegoing public. It is a fly-on-the-wall character study, deeply searching and visually ravishing, but only the most adventurous college-age filmgoers will tune into its wavelength. Joaquin Phoenix, in a raw performance, plays Freddie Quell, a sailor just out of the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II. Freddie, hunched and scowling, struggles with temper, impulse control, depression and alcoholism. Freddie stows away on a yacht anchored near San Francisco. The founder of the onboard party is Lancaster Dodd, a.k.a. the Master, a philosopher and demogogue of dubious credentials who, with his true-believing wife, attracts followers and gets rich widows to underwrite his efforts. The Master makes Freddie his project, putting him through a kind of crackpot psychoanalysis.

The bottom line: The movie includes sudden outbursts of non-lethal physical violence, very strong profanity, very heavy drinking, a couple of graphically implied sexual situations and female nudity.

Resident Evil: Retribution. The fifth installment in this post-apocalyptic sci-fi action series looks and feels like a never-ending video game. The violence is highly stylized, but bloody, and not really for teens younger than 16 or so. Older teens who love the genre and know the series will likely be entertained. Alice wakes up in a research facility run by the evil Umbrella Corporation, which has nearly destroyed humankind by turning people into killer zombies. Alice tries to save what’s left of humanity by fighting Umbrella Corp. and its agent Ada Wong, as the computer and its warrior clones and zombies try to kill them.

The bottom line: The killer zombies chomp down on victims with gross tentacles that pop out of their mouths. In all the heavy gunplay and kick-boxing, much blood is spilled, many bones are cracked, and a few hearts stopped by super-human blows, some of the injuries depicted in “X-ray” images that show the bones cracking and hearts stopping. The film includes little sexual innuendo, apart from the low-cut outfits and very little strong language. A child is put in repeated danger. Nudity is implied in one scene.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.

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