Monsters University (G). Kids 6 and older who loved the original animated “Monsters, Inc.” will be happy to see this 3-D prequel and learn how the monsters Mike Wazowski and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan met in college. We see how Mike fell in love with scaring as a child. He’s determined to get into Monsters University and major in scaring. Once there, he finds that his size and mild demeanor make him a laughingstock. Mike and Sulley are on the same team for the campus Scare Games, and they refuse to lose. Eventually, Mike and Sulley find friendship, have each other’s backs, impress everyone and set their sights on jobs at Monsters, Inc.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Even in 3-D, most of the monsters seem like harmless, funny-looking variations on animal themes. Even the bullies are pretty non-threatening. Only Dean Hardscrabble, who looks like a cross between a giant cockroach and a millipede, will put fear into viewers younger than 6. A 2-D showing might be preferable for them. The guys get stuck in a human kids summer camp, with police coming after them. There’s a bed-wetter joke.
World War Z. A mix of horror and adventure, the film chronicles a worldwide pandemic in which a virus causes people to become “undead” and start infecting others. Gerry is a former top investigator for the United Nations. He, his wife, Karin, and their two young daughters get caught in the middle of an outbreak, with hungry zombies slamming their heads through windshields to get at people. Gerry gets his family to a high-rise housing project in Newark. The U.N. sends a chopper to pick them up. Once they’re safely aboard an aircraft carrier, Gerry’s old boss enlists him to venture out to find the suspected source of the zombie virus so scientists can fashion a vaccine.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The zombies are very disturbing. There is much point-blank gunfire and killing of zombies with knives and tire irons. Humans, too, get impaled. We rarely see metal entering bodies or much blood. Gerry cuts off the hand of an Israeli soldier who has been bitten to prevent her from getting infected. A plane crash sequence is very scary. Early on, panicked people are shown looting. The script includes rare, midrange profanity.
Much Ado About Nothing.
Joss Whedon directs this modern version of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy. He has trimmed the text but hasn’t messed with Shakespeare’s language, and the actors make comprehensible work of it. There is a gathering at the home of Leonato, the governor of Messina. His guests include Don Pedro and his entourage, among them the sarcastic Benedick, his callow friend, Claudio, and Don Pedro’s sullen brother, Don John. Also at the house are Leonato’s daughter, Hero, and her cousin, Beatrice. It’s clear from the prologue that Benedick and Beatrice have a history. They trade Shakespeare’s greatest barbs while Hero and Claudio fall in love. A misunderstanding concocted by Don John nearly derails everything.
The bottom line: The film contains a couple of steamy, fairly explicit sexual situations and strong visual sexual innuendo, so it is more for high-schoolers than middle-schoolers. Characters at one point smoke pot. Some scenes imply nudity without showing any.
Man of Steel. Teens will respond to this Superman origin story. It includes religious imagery and phrases, giving the film a kind of weight that may have the power to move teens in search of depth in their movies. The story is told in flashbacks and flash-forwards, forcing an audience to pay close attention. Jor-El sends his baby, Kal-El, in a space pod toward Earth as their planet is about to disintegrate. General Zod kills Jor-El and vows to trace Kal-El and get revenge. Kal-El’s adoptive parents urge the boy to keep his powers secret until he discovers his purpose. The adult Clark meets Lois Lane at an Arctic dig where an alien spacecraft has been discovered. Inside it, Clark learns his history. General Zod and his minions land on Earth and threaten to destroy humanity.
The bottom line: The violence becomes highly destructive. Thousands surely die, though we only see one person up close, alive and pinned under wreckage. The climactic battle over Metropolis recalls images of Sept. 11. As a boy, Clark freaks out at school when his X-ray vision kicks in. Later, he saves a school bus sinking in a river. Characters use occasional crude language and toilet humor and a modified, abbreviated use of the F-word.
Bling Ring. Those high-schoolers who already pay close attention to the 24-hour celebrity media frenzy will surely take an interest in Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring.” They may come away with a strong sense of how odd it is to live your life through people you don’t know, no matter how famous. Coppola’s film grew out of a 2010 article in Vanity Fair magazine about a group of Los Angeles-area teens who stole more than $3 million in clothing and jewelry from the homes of celebrities.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The teenage burglars snort cocaine, drink and smoke drugs. They use very strong profanity and make sexual references. They fool around with a gun.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.
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