Heaven Is for Real (PG). This film is better for kids 10 and older because it deals in questions of faith and nonbelief, and because it shows a child ill and in danger of dying. Todd Burpo, a cheerful contractor and church pastor struggling through the bad economy in the heartland, nearly loses his 4-year-old son, Colton, to a burst appendix. (The movie is based on Burpo’s memoir.) Though Colton does not die on the operating table, he later tells his parents that he visited heaven, met Jesus and chatted with a great-grandfather. Todd, nicely played by Greg Kinnear, is a devout Christian, but has trouble believing that Colton’s account is more than a dream.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Scenes of Colton on the operating table, and of his desperate parents praying nearby, are very emotional.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Teens may fall happily back into the world of Spider-Man in this sequel, but the overlong film swings from pillar to post as much as the superhero himself. Charming, athletic Peter Parker agonizes too much over how to balance his public heroics as Spider-Man with a private life and how to solve the mystery of his parents’ disappearance. Still in love with Gwen, Peter worries about compromising her safety. Peter’s creepy childhood pal, Harry, is sick with a genetic disease and injects himself with the dread spider venom from their dads’ research and morphs into the Green Goblin. We’re never quite sure whether Harry is wholly evil or just tortured, which makes things interesting. The same goes for Jamie Foxx as Max, the nerdy electrical engineer at Harry’s company, Oscorp. Max accidentally electrocutes himself, emerging as the power-eating monster Electro. Spider-Man must take on both these villains.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The violence is all high-flying fights and special effects with very little blood. However, there is a lot of veiny sci-fi ookiness when humans turn into monsters. Characters use rare mild profanity and the mood gets very dark as the city dissolves into chaos.
The Other Woman. “The Other Woman” is too sex-focused for middle-schoolers, even though it is not explicit and the language is generally mild. For high-schoolers on up, it is a riotously clever, if cynical, farce about women’s revenge against a serial philanderer. Cameron Diaz plays Carly, a hotshot lawyer who starts a passionate relationship with the handsome Mark, assuming he’s also single. When she appears at his door, she meets his unsuspecting wife, Kate. Carly immediately stops seeing Mark, but Kate has no idea how to proceed, so she seeks Carly’s advice. The hard-bitten lawyer and Kate become unlikely friends. They learn more about Mark’s secret life and decide he needs to be punished. Teaming with his latest 20-something girlfriend, they exact physical (hair remover in his shampoo, estrogen in his health shake, laxatives in his drink) and financial revenge.
The bottom line: The many bedroom scenes are never graphic, yet quite steamy, with the women in skimpy clothing. There is much discussion of sex, though it is non-explicit. Characters drink and occasionally vomit. The script features infrequent mild to midrange profanity.
The Quiet Ones. This ham-fisted tale of demonic possession is too intense for middle-schoolers, despite its rating. Supposedly based on a real experiment conducted in the 1970s, “The Quiet Ones” follows an arrogant Oxford don who, along with two of his students, has taken a “patient” named Jane and installed her as a virtual prisoner in a house where they can observe and “cure” her of what she believes is demonic possession. The professor posits that all occult occurrences are mere manifestations of the human subconscious. A young filmmaker hired to record the research doubts the professor’s theory and his ethics. It all dissolves into disastrous, very occult violence.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The scenes of Jane being taken over by the demon are very intense for a PG-13 movie. Characters smoke many cigarettes, and one appears also to smoke joints. There are brief scenes of partial nudity. Characters use mild profanity and semi-crude sexual slang.
Blue Ruin. Not for viewers younger than 17 or, for that matter, older than 17 with weak stomachs for realistic screen violence, this bloody but artful revenge saga evokes an ugly American underbelly of crime, vengeance and guns. The low-budget thriller, a festival hit, is expertly made, using silence, simple camera moves and point-of-view framing to build great tension; actor Macon Blair, as the loner Dwight, creates a complex character who seems too gentle to engage in the kind of violence he commits. Dwight’s parents were murdered when he was a teen and he has lived off the grid ever since. He learns that the man imprisoned for the crime is getting out. This sets Dwight onto a path of vengeance killings based on a tragic assumption.
The bottom line: The violence is very bloody, including a graphic head-stabbing, a gunshot to the head and a group gun battle. Dwight gets shot in the thigh with a crossbow and tries to operate on himself. Characters use rare strong profanity, and there are a couple of nonsexual semi-nude scenes.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.