The Hunger Games. Even teens who haven’t read Suzanne Collins’s popular trilogy will be gripped by this arresting film adaptation of the first book. However, despite the bravery and selflessness of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, the film has a dark view of human behavior and of the future, which some younger teens — and certainly preteens — might have trouble processing. Katniss lives in District 12 of Panem. Her father died in a mine explosion. Every year, as punishment for a long-ago rebellion, the Capitol requires each district to contribute two teenagers, or “tributes,” to take part in the Hunger Games, a fight to the death in which only one can win. When Katniss’s little sister is chosen in the lottery, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Peeta, the son of a local baker, becomes District 12’s second “tribute.” Once the competitors are let loose in a woodland battlefield, all their actions are tracked and broadcast on TV.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The violence is quite understated, but we do see bloody, painful-looking wounds. The young tributes fight and kill one another with daggers, spears, arrows and even land mines. We see a former winner holding the bloody brick he used to kill a rival. Katniss causes a huge wasps’ nest to fall on a group of rivals. We see multiple dead bodies of teen fighters. Katniss escapes a huge forest fire. The film includes rare, mild profanity and negligible sexual innuendo. A theme of loss runs throughout.
A Thousand Words. The film is okay for most teens, although parents of middle-schoolers might object to the sexual slang and other crude language. Jack McCall is a slick literary agent, married with a young son, but he’s too motormouthed to notice his family craving his attention. A popular guru, Dr. Sinja, sees right through him. A tree pops up in Jack’s yard, and every time Jack utters a word, the tree loses a leaf. Dr. Sinja warns Jack that when the tree’s last 1,000 leaves are gone, Jack will die. Jack must communicate without speaking to preserve his life.
The bottom line: Murphy’s character uses a lot of midrange sexual slang and crude language. His wife tries to seduce him in a hotel, where he’s caught in the hallway in his undies. His assistant talks nongraphically about his own kinky sexual longings and videos he and a co-worker made.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. The charm of the cast and the whimsy of the story make this an enjoyable little movie that high-schoolers 15 and older might find refreshing. Dr. Alfred Jones is a shy fisheries expert. Harriet works for a wealthy, spiritually inclined Yemeni sheik who loves salmon fishing and wants to bring that sport to Yemen. Dr. Jones thinks the idea is ludicrous, but he’s drawn in by Harriet and then ordered to get involved by the British prime minister’s hilariously cynical press secretary.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film features one comical, semi-explicit sexual situation and a couple of other steamy but non-explicit encounters. The prospect of divorce is a sub-theme, as is a report of Harriet’s military boyfriend missing in action. The script includes rare profanity, and some characters drink.
John Carter. This tale of a 19th-century American on Mars (a.k.a. Barsoom) should transport teens who love science fiction and fantastical fables. John Carter is a Confederate veteran of the Civil War. He escapes capture by Army officers, who want him to help fight the Apache. In a cave, he finds an amulet that transports him to Barsoom. Carter is captured by the leader of the green Tharks and learns that a civil war is raging there. He eventually befriends the Tharks and tries to arrange an alliance with the humanoid Heliumites, led by Tardos Mors and his beautiful daughter, Dejah Thoris. Carter must save her and Barsoom.
The bottom line: The film includes battle scenes and other mayhem. The fighting hints at severed limbs. Flashbacks to Carter’s life on Earth imply that his wife burned to death after an attack. Hard-fisted fights take place when he’s forcibly conscripted by the U.S. Army. There is mild sexual innuendo.
21 Jump Street. Teens 17 and older might not know the 1987-91 television series that sent Johnny Depp on the road to stardom; however, they’ll probably be carried along by the go-for-broke high energy of this irreverent and hilarious update. The film is too foully profane for under-17s. The nerdy Schmidt and the handsome, brainless Jenko were opposites in high school. They’re police officers assigned to 21 Jump Street, a special unit run by a profane captain who sends them undercover into a high school to find the source of a new drug. This time Schmidt’s the cool guy and Jenko’s the loser.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The dialogue is unceasingly profane, and the sexual slang and innuendo, highly explicit. The movie has at least one sexual scene — a high-school-age threesome with nudity, although non-explicit. Scenes of gun violence, car chases and explosions do not result in graphic injuries. There is toilet humor.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home. College kids will probably take to this low-tech, off-center tale of two adult brothers and their mom. Jeff lives in his mother Sharon’s basement, unemployed and smoking pot. When he gets a call meant for someone named “Kevin,” Jeff starts following every Kevin he encounters. His brother, Pat, is married to Linda, but they don’t communicate. Sharon suddenly starts to receive instant messages from a “secret admirer” in the office. These seemingly disparate situations cleverly bring the three family members closer.
The bottom line: In addition to Jeff’s marijuana use, the movie shows characters drinking. The dialogue is quite profane, with multiple uses of the F-word.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.