Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and ‘Into the Storm’

August 7, 2014
10 and older

The Hundred-Foot Journey (PG). “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is perfectly fine for most kids 10 and older, but the rather staid story and the savory depictions of gourmet delicacies may prove merely ewwww-inspiring for younger kids and teens with young palates. Burned out of their restaurant during a political riot in Mumbai, the Kadam family, whose matriarch died in the blaze, emigrates to France. Their bereft but determined Papa chooses a charming village in which to open a new restaurant — right across the road from a Michelin-rated bastion of French cuisine, whose sniffy owner, Madame Mallory, finds the Kadams most intrusive. But they have a secret weapon: Son Hassan is a brilliant chef. His romance with a sous-chef in Madame’s kitchen causes complications, as do anti-immigrant acts by local troublemakers.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The lethal fire in India is quite scarily depicted, and an arson attempt by anti-immigrant French ruffians causes injuries. Some characters drink, and there is mild sexual innuendo.

12 and older

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PG-13). Many kids 12 and older will be familiar with the Ninja Turtles franchise in all its decades-old forms, and will get a decent charge out of the new film. As the human-size warrior terrapins explain to television news reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox), they are named for Italian Renaissance artists: Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello and Leonardo. April first glimpses them while trailing the villain Shredder and his notorious Foot Clan as they commit a crime. She can’t believe her eyes as the Turtles foil the bad guys, but when she sees them a second time, she knows they’re real. The Turtles’ wise master, Splinter, a mutant rat, feels they are not ready for battle in the limelight and tries to keep them safe in their sewer hideaway. But that proves impossible.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The fights are hard-hitting, but bloodless. The gunplay and literal cliff-hanger stunts feel more dangerous. Younger teens and grade-schoolers may cringe at flashbacks of a laboratory, with needles and baby turtles. The language is largely tame, except for “bad-ass,” brief toilet humor and mild sexual innuendo.

PG-13

Into the Storm. Impressive digital effects hold up a painfully weak and sentimental script in this climate-change disaster drama set in America’s “tornado alley.” Some middle-schoolers, though, may find the tornadoes a tad too believable. A documentarian eager to shoot a major tornado drives his tank-like vehicle, tricked out in video equipment and ground anchors, toward a growing storm in Oklahoma. In the endangered town of Silverton, the high school’s vice principal tries to protect the graduating class when the storm interrupts the outdoor ceremony and nearly destroys their only shelter — the school itself.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The tornadoes give off a gut-wrenching sense of power, pressure, chaos and danger. The script includes rare profanity, crude sexual slang and mild sexual innuendo.

Guardians of the Galaxy. An out-and-out interstellar riot, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is fine fare for most teens. It will especially delight high-schoolers who savor a big helping of wit with their sci-fi/comic-book adventures. A happy amalgam of Marvel Comics outcast heroes saves the universe from a villain, Ronan, who is backed by a shadowy figure called Thanos. Ronan requires a crucial artifact called the Orb, but Peter Quill, an outlaw scavenger, comes into possession of it first. Gamora, a warrior rebelling against Ronan, accosts Peter Quill to get the Orb. They join forces instead, also teaming with Drax the Destroyer; a smart-mouth, genetically modified raccoon named Rocket; and his treelike pal, Groot. The world of the film is bizarre, yet bracing, and realized in handsome 3-D.

The bottom line: While the destruction is on a galactic scale, the blood and gore stay at a minimum. Some younger kids may balk at the weird-looking beings from other solar systems. The script includes some moderate sexual innuendo and occasional use of the S-word.

What If. Teens longing for a lighthearted rom-com can see “What If” and be satisfied. It may have too much implied sexual content (never explicit) for some middle-schoolers. In the lead, Daniel Radcliffe uses his soulfulness and comedic gifts in a likable, post-“Harry Potter” role. Yet the film as a whole often trips over its own archness. Adapted from a play, it includes mountains of dialogue, much of it laboring to be witty. Cutesy bits of animation flit across the screen now and then, for emphasis. Yet there’s enough real heart in there to keep the movie afloat. Radcliffe plays Wallace, a med-school dropout living in Toronto, writing dreary instruction manuals and feeling lost. Embittered by his divorced parents’ infidelities, he is cynical about love, yet longs for it. At a party thrown by his wacky former roommate, Wallace meets Chantry (charming Zoe Kazan). They click with their offbeat senses of humor and there’s an unspoken romantic spark, too. But Chantry lives with her boyfriend and offers Wallace only friendship. He pretends that’s all he wants, and they go along for ages, despite nudges from friends and family. All those feelings can’t go unexpressed forever. 

THE BOTTOM LINE:  An inexplicably large portion of the  repartee deals with gross discussions of poop. The dialogue includes semi-crude sexual slang and nongraphic sexual innuendo.  There are a couple of steamy make-out moments. Characters drink.

R

Calvary. A Catholic priest in a rural Irish village endures a trial of faith in this dark comedic drama. Rated R for language and a moment of stunning violence, the film isn’t for viewers younger than 17. Brendan Gleeson plays Father James, a 60-ish priest. One Sunday in confession, an unseen man tells the priest how, as a boy, he was brutally molested by another priest. The man then announces that he plans to avenge his ruined life by killing Father James — “a good priest” — in a week’s time. The priest goes out among his flock to try to learn who threatened him. It turns out it could’ve been anyone. So embittered are the villagers over the abuses of the church in Ireland, they feel free to insult Father James and his faith, to corrosive comic effect.

THE BOTTOM LINE: “Calvary” has a climactic scene of brief, startling and bloody violence. In another scene, an animal is found with its throat cut. The dialogue bristles with strong profanity and graphic sexual slang. Some characters use cocaine and drink heavily.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.

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