Ice Age: Continental Drift (PG). Continuing the “Ice Age” tradition of wreaking havoc with science, this fourth episode implies that the continents we have today broke apart from a single land mass over a few days. The prehistoric squirrel Scrat seems to cause the breakup after trying to crack open his acorn. It’s an amusing gimmick, though what follows in this animated 3-D confection is harrowing enough at times to push the PG envelope. Manny, his mate, Ellie, their daughter, Peaches, Diego and Sid are doing okay. But when the land breaks up, Manny, Sid and Diego are separated from Ellie and Peaches. A huge storm carries the guys out to sea on an ice floe. They encounter the bloodthirsty orangutan Captain Gutt and his saber-toothed enforcer.
THE BOTTOM LINE: For children younger than 7, there are a lot of potentially disturbing images, especially in 3-D: icebergs breaking apart; capsizing waves; sea sirens who turn into monsters. The violence and threats by Captain Gutt and crew seem intense. There are mild curses, such as “holy crab!” and “screw-up.” Mild sexual tension is implied.
Step Up Revolution. From the first shot of young women’s derrieres in string bikinis (in 3-D, too), it’s clear that “Step Up Revolution” will push the PG-13 envelope. So the film is problematic for middle-schoolers whose parents worry about the hyper-sexualization of pop culture. For high-schoolers — and especially dance fans — the movie includes terrific dancing that almost makes up for the pallid plot. This fourth installment in the “Step Up” series about street dancers takes place in Miami. Sean and his pal Eddy have founded a flash-mob dance group. If they can do a video that attracts 10 million hits, they’ll win a $100,000 prize. Sean falls for Emily, the daughter of a big developer who wants to raze the neighborhood where Sean and his friends live. Emily also is, of course, a dancer who yearns to audition for a major troupe.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The choreography, while flashy and fun, involves a lot of heavily sexual moves. However, the actual plot goes easy on such things, with a little mild kissing and an implied night spent cuddling on a motorboat. The script includes rare mild profanity and crude language.
The Dark Knight Rises. Circuitously plotted and heavy with echoes of 21st-century terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and official lies, this big finish to the “Batman” trilogy will surely transfix high-schoolers. The PG-13 rating seems wrong. Much about the movie strays into R territory with a dark, apocalyptic tone. Bruce Wayne and his crime-fighting persona have gone underground. Gotham City is corrupt. Wayne’s butler, Alfred, urges him to get back into the world. So he goes to a charity ball and allies with philanthropist Miranda Tate to power Gotham with clean fusion energy. A hulking, vengeful masked villain named Bane and his thugs hijack a plane and a Russian nuclear physicist and head for Gotham. They steal the fusion reactor. Soon Wayne has little choice but to don the bat suit and fire up the Batmobile.
The bottom line: The film is too full of realistic death and destruction for most middle-schoolers. SPOILER ALERT: A terrorist act causes buildings, bridges and streets to explode, trapping Gothamites on their island and threatening nuclear annihilation. The villain Bane wears a creepy black rubber mask over his nose and mouth. Scenes in an underground prison are gruesome without being graphic. Flashbacks of the villain Two-Face show part of his badly disfigured face. There is one subtly implied overnight tryst.
The Watch (R). Darkly hilarious and too profane, full of crass sexual language and sci-fi gore for under-17s, “The Watch” unintentionally harkens to the Trayvon Martin case in Florida and the recent killings at the Colorado movie theater. If older teens and college-age kids can put those real-life tragedies out of mind, “The Watch” will prove a hoot. Evan manages the local Costco store. When his nighttime security guard is found murdered, the town’s doofus cop suspects Evan. Evan, meanwhile, recruits a neighborhood watch to solve the crime. Eventually, they encounter the aliens and must defeat the coming invasion.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The dialogue bristles with profanity and crude, graphic sexual slang. There is an orgy, with graphically implied sexual situations and toplessness. There also is a teenage make-out scene in which the girl has to fight off the boy. The alien invaders are humanoid/ lizard hybrids. They impale victims on pincerlike arms. The dead are all minus their innards and skin. The final battle involves gunfire and explosions.
Ruby Sparks. Rated R largely for language, “Ruby Sparks” is the sort of romantic comedy that might charm teens 16 and older who don’t fall for the crass films that pass for Hollywood rom-coms these days. It was made by the team who co-directed “Little Miss Sunshine,” so you know it’s just a tad off-center. Perhaps, if they read about the film, older high-schoolers will discover “Pygmalion” or the 1950’s Broadway musical “My Fair Lady” based on it. Calvin is a 30-ish writer who had a hugely successful first novel but has had writer’s block ever since. Lonely, he finally gets an idea and starts clicking away about a pixie-ish young woman named Ruby Sparks. Suddenly, there she is in his home, as if she’s been his live-in girlfriend for ages. Calvin faces the moral question of whether to rewrite Ruby to make her more compliant.
The bottom line: Characters use very strong profanity and crude sexual language. They also drink, smoke pot and make verbal drug references.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.