All Is Lost. Robert Redford gives a powerful performance as a nameless man stranded in the Indian Ocean in his badly damaged yacht and struggling to survive long enough for rescue. Some middle-schoolers and a lot of high-schoolers — it’s okay for most teens — could find this unusual film mesmerizing. Redford’s nearly wordless performance, apart from a brief voice-over at the beginning, is all in his eyes, facial expression and posture. Sailing alone on his small yacht, he’s awakened by a loud noise and finds water pouring in from a gash in the hull. A stray shipping container has collided with his boat. His calm, resourceful efforts to repair the damage are defeated by huge storms. He must eventually get into his life raft.
THE BOTTOM LINE: When things go badly, Redford’s character loudly curses at one point, but the film earns its PG-13 for the existential life-and-death nature of the yachtsman’s struggle and the possibility of a watery — perhaps shark-toothed — death. Close-up shots make certain moments harrowing.
Romeo & Juliet. Fast moving and gorgeously filmed against a backdrop of Italian Renaissance art and architecture, this could well draw in romance-minded teens of middle- and high-school age, as well as those with an early love of language and art. However, the film suffers from an ill-equipped Juliet in Hailee Steinfeld. So terrific in “True Grit,” here she is undone by the language. She hasn’t got the diction, and some of Juliet’s most beautiful speeches sound mushy and indistinct.
The bottom line: The sword and knife fights are highly choreographed and not bloody at all. Nor are Romeo and Juliet’s deaths graphic, though of course he does take poison and she stabs herself. Their one marital night together is not at all explicit.
Carrie. The 1976 film adapted from Stephen King’s novel is considered a classic of the horror movie genre, so this remake has a lot to live up to. It succeeds in many ways. It is not for middle-schoolers, but teens 16 and older could find this story of a girl smothered at home by religious fanaticism and bullied at school by mean girls a mighty ripping yarn. Carrie is a painfully shy, much-teased high-schooler with telekinetic powers. She has a horrendous moment in the locker room when she finds blood on herself and doesn’t realize it’s her first period. The other girls taunt her and pelt her with sanitary supplies. The meanest girl, Chris, shoots a video, posts it online and is banned from attending the prom as a result. Sue, a nice girl, gets her boyfriend, Tommy, to ask Carrie to the prom as a kindness. But Chris and her evil boyfriend, Billy, plan revenge. At the prom, when Tommy and Carrie are crowned king and queen, the plotters dump a bucket of pig blood onto Carrie. She uses her powers to turn the dance into a mass killing.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The horror elements are not exceptionally graphic for an R, though we do see people killed by falling objects and impaled by glass shards. Carrie’s mom cuts herself to assuage guilty feelings. The bad teens kill a pig with a sledgehammer. One teen couple has fairly graphic sex. The dialogue includes strong profanity.