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Family Filmgoer: 'Secretariat,' 'Hereafter,' 'Red'

Brian Cox and Helen Mirren are retired spies in "Red."
Brian Cox and Helen Mirren are retired spies in "Red." (Frank Masi)

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By Jane Horwitz
Friday, October 22, 2010

10 and older

Secretariat Teens and preteens may yawn a bit during this reverent and stolidly told tale. "Secretariat" goes a tad heavy on the human story and rather stingily on Secretariat himself. The movie is clearly intended more as a portrait of the horse's devoted and determined owner, Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), and eccentric trainer, Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich). It's the early 1970s and Chenery is dismissed as a "housewife" who doesn't belong in the racing world. She overcomes sexism, financial reversals and family disputes, to raise and race Secretariat.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Some soft-hearted animal-loving preteens may find the horse races hard to watch, though no injuries are shown. Some characters use mildly crude humor.

PG-13

Hereafter Clint Eastwood's surprising new film deals with the idea of an afterlife - not in a traditional religious way, but in a spiritual way, and in a concrete way, too. Thoughtful teens, especially high-schoolers and college kids, will find much to ponder here. Eastwood and screenwriter Peter Morgan tell three stories, which only connect in the last act. Marie, on vacation in Indonesia, nearly drowns in the 2004 tsunami. She's transformed by memories of what she saw when she was near death - a bright light, shadowy figures, a sense of peace and weightlessness. She researches and writes a book about it. In London, twin little boys, Jason and Marcus, living with a drug-addicted mother, are torn asunder after one boy dies after being struck by a car. The desolate surviving child is put into foster care and becomes obsessed with trying to contact his dead brother. And in San Francisco, George Lonegan, a powerful psychic, tries to ignore his gift so he can live a normal life. A connection is woven that is magical, in the cinematic sense, whether you believe or not.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The depiction of the Asian tsunami at the start of the film is harrowing. The terrorist bombing of the London Underground in 2005 is also re-enacted, in an understated way. There is a subtle reference to childhood sexual abuse regarding an adult character. Characters use some midrange profanity, and there is drinking.

Red Teens and adults can savor this spies-in-action comedy, populated by terrific actors and blessed with a consistently funny, occasionally hilarious script. The acronym RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) refers to Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a retired CIA "black ops" agent who keeps calling Sarah, a pension clerk, just to chat. When assassins break into his home, Frank demolishes them, then heads to protect Sarah. Frank tracks down his former colleagues: Joe (Morgan Freeman); Marvin (John Malkovich); Victoria (Helen Mirren); and Ivan (Brian Cox), their onetime Russian adversary.

The bottom line: The script features some rather naughty but vague sexual innuendo, but the PG-13 mostly reflects high-intensity shootouts, explosions and chases, with a few bloody point-blank killings. The script also features infrequent midrange profanity and crude language and references to the CIA's use of LSD.

R

Conviction This gripping, gritty, unsentimental tale (based on fact) of devotion that will move high-schoolers who like character-driven stories. Hilary Swank plays Betty Anne Waters, who's devoted to her brother Kenny. When Kenny gets picked up for a brutal murder and sent to prison, Betty Anne promises she'll prove his innocence. She gets her GED, a college diploma and then a law degree, to help him. Her only friend is a law school classmate who makes Betty Anne's cause her own.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The murder scene is depicted graphically. The film includes a nasty barroom fight, and raw prison scenes, strong profanity, drinking and smoking and back-view nudity.

Jackass 3D Johnny Knoxville and his band of MTV-bred pranksters are back on the big screen, trying ridiculous stunts, such as going into a bungee-bouncing porta potty filled with dog poo, this time in 3-D. High-schoolers and middle-schoolers will probably want to see this movie. It's certainly not for middle-schoolers and problematic for high-schoolers. Whether the profane crew and their brand of entertainment are harmless is a matter for debate. Civilization will survive them, one hopes.

The bottom line: There is frontal nudity, extremely graphic, gag-inducing toilet humor, very strong profanity and dangerous stunts that someone somewhere may try to copy, despite the movie's disclaimer warning people to leave it to the "Jackass" pros.

Tamara Drewe Upper-middle-class Brits who live in the country and have literary pretensions are the targets of this deliciously contemporary comedy of manners. The sexuality and language earn the R and make "Tamara Drewe" more for college kids. It is rather strong stuff for high-schoolers. Based on a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, who was riffing on Thomas Hardy's 19th century "Far From the Madding Crowd," the film is set at a literary retreat. Things explode into scandal with the arrival of Tamara Drewe, a former ugly duckling now gorgeous.

The bottom line: There are semi-explicit sexual situations, near-nudity, strong profanity, drinking and smoking. Marital infidelity and the harm caused by vicious gossip are central themes. Someone is trampled by stampeding cattle.

weekend@washpost.com Horwitz is a freelance reviewer.


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