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 the heroes while trailing the villain Shredder and his 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 cliff-hanger stunts feel more dangerous in 3-D. 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.
The Giver. “The Giver” ought to fulfill the expectations of many teens who loved Lois Lowry’s 1993 young-adult novel. Those who haven’t read the book ought to be transported by the sheer strangeness of the impressively visualized tale. The young hero, Jonas, lives in a sterile, isolated community. Colors are washed out; strong emotions are not allowed; diversity is nonexistent; and the population is controlled in grim, secret ways. From puberty on, people get daily injections that mute feelings. Upon finishing school, everyone is assigned a vocation. Citing Jonas’s intuitive intelligence, the Chief Elder assigns him to be Receiver of Memories. He will study with the Giver (Jeff Bridges), a grizzled fellow who lives alone in a book-filled edifice. Using telepathy, the Giver transmits to Jonas memories of past human existence: war, cruelty, pain, love and joy, all that the community was formed to protect people from. Jonas can’t tell anyone, but the memories transform him. He stops taking his meds, realizes he loves his friend, Fiona, and comes to believe that being human means experiencing everything. He must save the community from itself or die trying.
THE BOTTOM LINE: One moment in the film depicts a caregiver injecting a baby with something that will gently kill it. The scene is not graphic, but very disturbing. In received memories, Jonas witnesses war and death — some blood, but not graphic — and poachers killing an elephant.
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. Daniel Radcliffe uses his soulfulness and comedic gifts in a likable, post-“Harry Potter” role. He plays Wallace, a med-school dropout, embittered by his divorced parents’ infidelities. He doesn’t trust love, but he longs for it. At a party thrown by his wacky friend, Wallace meets Chantry. They click with their offbeat senses of humor and feel an unspoken spark. But Chantry lives with her boyfriend and offers Wallace only friendship. He pretends that’s all he wants, but true 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.
Step Up All In. Sure, the story is corny and the acting marginal, but the dance sequences crackle with energy in this “Step Up” sequel. Sean, hero of the Miami-set 2012 “Step Up Revolution,” has moved with his street dance crew, the Mob, to Los Angeles. Auditions have been tough and the money’s gone. After a losing dance-off in an L.A. bar against a crew called the Grim Knights, Sean’s Mob buddies head back to Miami. Sean hears about a Las Vegas dance contest, so he recruits a new crew and dubs the new crew LMNTRIX. Their key Vegas opponents will be the same Grim Knights from the bar.
The bottom line: Apart from some sexually suggestive dance moves that go with the style, the dialogue includes rare profanity, including at least one F-word.
Expendables 3 (PG-13). Sylvester Stallone and his roster of aging action stars crack wise and blow up stuff in this ridiculously enjoyable sequel, likely to divert action-loving teens. The deafening, nonstop violence involves little blood or gore and the actors invest full-tilt in their characters. The sheer intensity, however, along with verbal and visual references to war crimes, might be too much for some middle-schoolers. Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team break a former compadre of Ross’s, out of an overseas lock-up. He joins in their mission to waylay illegal bombs delivered to Mogadishu, Somalia. An arms dealer, Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), whom Ross thought he’d killed, outguns them. Fearing that Stonebanks aims to decimate his team, Ross cuts his guys loose and recruits a younger, more tech savvy crew to go after him. CIA honcho Drummer (Harrison Ford), ace pilot Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and a motormouth named Galgo (Antonio Banderas) join in the fight.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The massively destructive gun, tank, helicopter and hand-to-hand combat depicts countless fatalities, but hardly any gore. The script includes occasional profanity, including one or two F-words, and semi-crude sexual innuendo. Photos of war crime victims are grim, but not exceedingly graphic.
Land Ho! Not for viewers younger than 17 because of one character’s crude, profane and sexually charged language, “Land Ho!” is nevertheless a touching buddy film about reigniting one’s sense of adventure in late middle age. Mitch and Colin, now well into their 60s, were once brothers-in-law and best friends. Divorce and loss caused them to drift apart. Then Mitch, a garrulous, profane, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing surgeon, persuades the far more reserved Colin to join him on a trip to Iceland. As the pair check out rockin’ Reykjavik, the moonscape countryside, geysers and hot springs, they bond, fall out, reconcile, meet ladies and have a great, life-affirming time.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Mitch uses a lot of profanity, sexual innuendo and slang. Colin and a woman share an implied tryst. Characters drink and smoke pot.
Let's Be Cops (R). “Let’s Be Cops” starts out dreadful, but gets marginally funnier as it goes — it’s never good, but it’s amusing. Not for under-17s, it more than earns its R rating with crude visual sexual innuendo, strong profanity and one truly gross nude scene. Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.), a struggling video game designer, and his slacker roommate, Ryan (Jake Johnson), go dressed as cops to a masquerade party. They get strong reactions on the streets of L.A. afterwards, trying to startle passersby. Ryan, the nuttier of the two and on a downhill slide ever since his college football years faded, longs to keep up the charade. He drags Justin along for the ride. They talk tough to Eastern European gangsters who harass a cafe owner, his wife and a cute waitress. Instantly, they’re in over their heads.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Besides the strong profanity, crude visual sexual innuendo and that nude scene, the movie includes drug use, punch-ups, and gun battles with a high body count, but little blood. The script does emphasize at various points the illegality of impersonating a police officer.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.