Family Filmgoer - Movie Reviews With Kids in Mind

Liev Schreiber plays Sabretooth, the title character's half brother and nemesis, in
Liev Schreiber plays Sabretooth, the title character's half brother and nemesis, in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." (By James Fisher)
By Jane Horwitz
Friday, May 15, 2009

Angels & Demons (PG-13, 138 minutes)

Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is back uncovering secrets that make the Vatican queasy in "Angels & Demons," only this time it has asked him to help. The pope has died, and several cardinals favored to succeed him have been abducted. The kidnapper has planted clues and threats, implying that Vatican City may be blown up with antimatter, created by scientists in Switzerland. A priest-scientist is killed, and the antimatter stolen.

So beginneth another ponderous -- dare we say leaden and lugubrious? -- thriller based on a bestseller by Dan Brown. Many high-schoolers will enjoy following the clues with Langdon and seeing the (re-created) church interiors filled with art by Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini and da Vinci. However, "Angels & Demons" contains more violence and disturbing images than "The Da Vinci Code" (PG-13, 2006) and may be too intense for middle-schoolers. We see the abductees with brands on their chests. We see two characters burned alive, though not graphically. There are corpses, one being eaten by rats, and a bloodied eyeball on a floor. There are several point-blank shootings and mild profanity.

As with "The Da Vinci Code," Ron Howard directs with a heavy hand and a whole lot of pedantic exposition. This time the lectures are about an underground 18th-century group called the Illuminati, dissident Catholic thinkers who objected to the Church's often brutal censorship of science. Langdon believes an exponent of the Illuminati is behind the modern mischief.

He teams with the gruff commander (Stellan Skarsgard) of the Vatican Swiss Guard and a friendlier inspector from the police (Pierfrancesco Favino), along with the priest (Ewan McGregor) who runs Vatican City while the College of Cardinals chooses the new pope. With a scientist (Ayelet Zurer) from the antimatter experiment, Langdon follows clues from one ancient church and crypt to the next.



"Star Trek." This prequel works just fine as a popcorn flick for everyone as a myth-origin tale for "Star Trek" purists. It recounts in boisterous and occasionally jumbled detail how the young and frisky James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) met on the maiden voyage of the starship USS Enterprise. Okay for teens, the film will also work for many kids 10 to 12, but some may be unsettled by the space battles with the vengeful Romulan leader Nero (Eric Bana) and his planet-killing drill. There is a reference to "billions" dying when planets implode. There is implied torture, intense fighting, an implied impalement and a lobsterish monster, as well as mild sexual humor and innuendo, and rare mild profanity. Kirk and Spock clash over how to fight the Romulans once Capt. Pike (Bruce Greenwood) is taken hostage. Spock struggles with emotions when his Vulcan father (Ben Cross) and human mother (Winona Ryder) are in peril. And thanks to a "disrupted time continuum," young Kirk encounters an old Spock (Leonard Nimoy, who else?), who offers crucial advice.

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine." This brooding film about the back story of X-Man Wolverine is darker than its predecessors, more violent than enlightening and an iffy proposition for middle-schoolers or preteens. Innocents die, and there are implied impalements and a beheading, though little graphic gore in the vicious fights. Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine and Liev Schreiber as his amoral half brother, Victor/Sabretooth, get us over narrative bumps by force of personality. We meet James Logan and Victor as boy mutants. Later, they sign on with a team of mutants recruited by Stryker (Danny Huston). The unit commits war crimes, so Logan quits. Years later, Victor commits a murder just to hurt Logan. Logan goes to Stryker and submits to an experiment that gives him his trademark metal blades. Now called Wolverine, he goes after Victor. There is occasional profanity, sexual innuendo and brief nongraphic long-distance nudity.

"Ghosts of Girlfriends Past." Owing its plot to Charles Dickens and its sensibility to "Sex and the City," this crass yet semi-clever fable lets Matthew McConaughey spoof his image as Connor, a smarmy fashion photographer who beds all his models. The spirit of his late uncle (Michael Douglas), a now-repentant womanizer, appears to Connor, warning that three ghosts will visit to help save his soul. This unfolds during his younger brother's (Breckin Meyer) wedding weekend, where Connor has been trying to fluster the lovely Jenny (Jennifer Garner), who broke his heart. The movie dodges an R with witty euphemisms for sex and promiscuity. There is much sexual innuendo and a few briefly steamy nongraphic sexual situations. There are verbal references to drugs, midrange profanity and toilet humor. Connor shows signs of alcoholism. There is a theme about losing one's parents very young. Too bawdy for middle-schoolers.


"Rudo y Cursi." Brothers from rural Mexico get a chance at the brass ring in this raw, wry look at how professional sports can alter the lives of people who see no other opportunities. The film's sexual content and language make it inappropriate for those younger than 17, but it could fascinate college-age teens looking to enlarge their worldview. An unscrupulous scout for Mexico City's professional soccer teams discovers Tato (Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal) and Beto (Diego Luna), while they are playing with their amateur local league. "Rudo" and "Cursi," meaning "rough" and "corny," are the fans' nicknames for them. The film has an explicit sexual situation with partial nudity and locker-room initiation rituals that are crudely sexual but more implied than explicit. There is strong profanity, drinking, smoking, drug use and nongraphic violence. In Spanish with English subtitles.

"Next Day Air." Violent, profane, lewd, full of drug references (and drug use) and characters on the wrong side of the law, "Next Day Air" is not for children younger than 17. That noted, the movie is funny and likely to attract some teens. It takes an edgy, satirical jab at inner cities where choices seem so limited, drug dealing looks like an answer. Leo (Donald Faison of TV's "Scrubs"), a delivery guy, mistakenly drops a package at the apartment of Brody (Mike Epps) and Guch (Wood Harris of TV's "The Wire"), who find it's full of cocaine. The drug runner down the hall (Cisco Reyes) and his wife (Yasmin Deliz) were supposed to get that package, and the mix-up puts everyone on a collision course. The film also has sexualized comedy and brief partial nudity.

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