Maleficent (PG). Kids 8 and older may be pulled into — but not truly charmed by — this rather dark and meandering live-action fairy tale from Disney. It may come off to adults as a kind of vanity project for star Angelina Jolie; other characters orbit her like mere satellites. The 8-and-older recommendation reflects the live-action, 3-D nature of the film, in that the effects-driven violence and magical creatures seem more “real.” The narrative offers a back story for the evil Maleficent, from Disney’s 1959 animated classic, “Sleeping Beauty.” In a prologue, Maleficent is a cheery little girl fairy living in an enchanted realm. She makes friends with a human boy, Stefan, from a nearby kingdom that’s hostile to the fairies. As a man, Stefan betrays Maleficent, drugging her and cutting off her wings (not shown) as a trophy to gain the crown. When she wakes, Maleficent is anguished and bent on revenge. When King Stefan and his queen have a child, Maleficent bursts into the castle and curses the infant Aurora: At age 16, Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into a death-like sleep, never to be awakened except by “true love’s kiss.” The king orders three pixies to raise Aurora in hiding, but Maleficent secretly watches the girl grow up. Ignorant of the curse, a teenage Aurora meets Maleficent and the plot thickens.
THE BOTTOM LINE: When Maleficent awakes without her wings, she wails in agony, which could upset kids under 8. A climactic battle in the castle gets serious, with guards in armor going after a key character with daggers, spears, and an iron net. Someone falls to their death. When Maleficent curses the baby, the scene has grown-up intensity. There are big, snarling wolves, and large creatures with lizard-like features.
Documented (Unrated). This emotionally fraught piece of advocacy journalism uses the filmmaker’s own story to explore the fear and suffering caused by our immigration laws. Jose Antonio Vargas, who wrote, produced and directed “Documented,” calls people who live, work and pay taxes in the United States, but who are not here legally, “Undocumented Americans.” He is one of them. A former journalist at The Washington Post, Vargas “came out” as an undocumented immigrant in a 2011 New York Times Magazine piece, explaining how his grandparents, who came to this country legally, smuggled him in at age 12, leaving his mother behind in the Philippines. Vargas says he has lived in constant fear ever since he learned as a teen that he was undocumented. He talks to others in his situation, as well as to lawmakers and ordinary citizens, but the main focus is his own struggle to know his fate and alter the debate.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Vargas and others use fairly strong profanity when expressing surprise or frustration.
X-Men: Days of Future Past.
A smart and visually ravishing new 3-D chapter in the “X-Men” films, “Days of Future Past” should knock out teens and older fans, even if they can’t totally parse the whipsawing plot. This time, in order to prevent a disastrous war between humans and mutants, Wolverine travels back to 1973 to find the young Charles Xavier. Wolverine must persuade a depressed Xavier to use his mutant ability to hear people’s thoughts so that he can get into the head of the shape-shifting Mystique and stop her from assassinating a human scientist, Bolivar Trask. Trask wants the U.S. government to buy his mutant-killing robot warriors, called Sentinels, arguing that otherwise, mutants will destroy humanity.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Scenes of the aftermath of a war between mutants and humans show piles of bodies and skulls. Fight scenes are largely effects-driven, with laserlike zapping, fire, ice, telekinesis, electromagnetism and occasional impalement, all of it bloodless, though characters feel pain. The script features occasional profanity, including one use of the F-word.
Blended. A broad comedy that earns its PG-13 with lots of semi-crude sexual humor, “Blended” is okay for teens, but parents of younger kids may find much that’s inappropriate for little ones. Then again, it’s an Adam Sandler movie, so duh. Jim (Sandler), a widower, and Lauren (Drew Barrymore), who’s divorced, meet on a blind date and instantly hate each other. By coincidence, Jim and his three daughters and Lauren and her two sons wind up at the same resort in South Africa, where they’re constantly thrown together because it’s “blended family” week. Naturally, the grown-ups start to like each other.
The bottom line: The script is full of midrange profanity. There are jokes about teenage masturbation and adult sexual behavior. There is a quick shot of rhinos mating.
Godzilla. Monster movie fans 13 and older can feast their eyes on this effects-laden, narratively murky update of the 1954 Japanese classic, in which Godzilla battles two monsters that look like human-cockroach hybrids. (Teens prone to nightmares and reptile phobias should skip this one.) The movie opens with a prologue set in 1999: A mine in the Philippines collapses, revealing huge, weird fossils, then a nuclear plant in Japan collapses due to underground tremors. The plant’s American boss loses his wife in the disaster. Fifteen years later, their son is a bomb disposal expert in the Navy. He reconnects with his dad, who is certain that whatever destroyed the nuclear plant is back, though the explanation is indecipherable. They investigate and get caught in a crisis: Two monsters of indeterminate origin feed on nuclear power and have awakened Godzilla.
The bottom line: Skyscrapers, railroad tracks and bridges are smashed, aircraft carriers upended and humans killed. It’s all pretty gore-free, computer-crafted and dimly lit. Characters use rare mild profanity.
A Million Ways to Die in the West. Writer/director/star Seth MacFarlane has tried to make the “Blazing Saddles” of his generation, and he surely outdoes Mel Brooks in the toilet humor department and gets lots of other adults-only laughs along the way. The movie is too lewd, profane and gross for viewers younger than 17 without a parental okay, but it is a pretty dadgum good spoof. MacFarlane plays Albert, a doofus sheep farmer who lives near a lawless desert town in Arizona in 1882. After his girlfriend dumps him for the owner of a mustache supply shop, Albert pours his heart out to his best friend, Edward, and Edward’s prostitute fiancee. Albert hates life in the West and is pondering suicide or moving to San Francisco when he meets a mysterious beauty (Charlize Theron) who teaches him to shoot so he can face the mustache man in a gunfight. But the mystery woman is married to a very jealous outlaw.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The R rating is well-deserved because of: nonstop crude and graphically worded sex jokes; sounds of a prostitute with a client; monumentally gross toilet humor; strong and constant profanity; a few bare behinds; and violence ranging from mere slapstick to graphic skull-crushings, bone-crackings and impalements.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.