By Jane Horwitz
Friday, October 29, 2010; T30
10 and older
Teens and preteens may yawn a bit during this reverent, stolidly told tale. The movie is clearly intended more as a portrait of the horse's devoted and determined owner, Penny Chenery, and eccentric trainer, Lucien Laurin. It is the early 1970s, and Chenery is dismissed as a housewife out of place in the racing world. She overcomes sexism, financial pitfalls and family disputes to raise and race Secretariat.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Some softhearted, animal-loving preteens may find the horse races hard to watch, though no injuries are shown. Some characters use mildly crude humor.PG-13
Even high-school-age news junkies may have trouble following the econo-speak and bar graphs in this fascinating, infuriating documentary about the Wall Street crisis of 2008. If high-schoolers stick with it, however, they will come away with a sense of stunned outrage at how the profit motive, mixed with Type A personalities in the world of finance, led some to take risks that destroyed their own companies and worked against their country's economic best interests, often with the blessings of government regulators and politicians.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Some profanity turns up in unlikely places, such as when a U.S. senator quotes a crude e-mail sent inside a Wall Street firm. Other mild profanity turns up, as well as references to financial high rollers using cocaine and hiring prostitutes.
Clint Eastwood's surprising, elegant, profound film deals with the idea of an afterlife. Thoughtful teens, especially high-schoolers and college kids, will find much to ponder in it. The narrative has three strands, which connect only in the last act: Marie nearly drowns in the 2004 tsunami. She researches and writes a book about her near-death experience. Twin boys are torn asunder after one is killed by a car. The surviving child becomes obsessed with contacting his dead brother. And a psychic who seems able to contact dead people tries to ignore his gift so he can have a normal life. A connection is woven that is magical, in the cinematic sense.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The depiction of the Asian tsunami is truly harrowing. The terrorist bombing of the London Underground in 2005 is more understated. There is a subtle reference to childhood sexual abuse. The twin boys' mother is a drug addict. Characters drink and use midrange profanity.
Teens can savor this spies-in-action comedy, full of terrific actors and blessed with a consistently funny, occasionally hilarious script, however ridiculous. Frank is a retired CIA agent, so bored in his suburban home that he likes to chat by phone with a pension clerk, Sarah. When assassins come after him, Frank demolishes them, then heads to protect Sarah and tracks down former colleagues to help.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film includes some rather naughty but vague sexual innuendo and midrange profanity, but the PG-13 rating mostly reflects high-intensity shootouts, explosions and chases, with a few bloody point-blank killings.R
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2
This movie uses the same kind of slow, repetitive sequences to build tension and the same fidgety camerawork around its characters that helped make "Paranormal Activity" a surprise hit in 2007. Neither film, in which ordinary people are visited by hostile, violent spirits, is great, but both are clever riffs on old-fashioned ghost stories. "Paranormal Activity 2," which is a mildish R, could intrigue high-school-age horror buffs, though they may be underwhelmed when it's over. Here, a couple fires their nanny because she keeps praying and burning incense to rid the house of evil spirits. The story starts with the house's being ransacked, they think by intruders. Security cameras are installed. Through a clever narrative hook, the new film manages to be both a prequel to the first movie and, by the end, a sequel to it.
THE BOTTOM LINE: "Paranormal Activity 2" doesn't contain much profanity, apart from midrange sexual slang and innuendo. The violence comes almost entirely in the third act and is quick and not very graphic. An infant is shown to be in danger, as is a family pet.
Based on real events, "Conviction" will move high-schoolers with its rich characters and its gripping, gritty, unsentimental tale of filial devotion. Betty Anne Waters is a working-class mom who's devoted to her ne'er-do-well brother, Kenny. When Kenny gets picked up for a brutal murder, Betty Anne promises she'll prove his innocence. She goes back to school, gets her GED, a college diploma and then a law degree to try to free him.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The murder scene and, later, photos of the victims, are depicted graphically. Other adult elements include a nasty barroom fight, raw prison scenes, strong profanity, drinking and smoking, and back-view nudity.
Johnny Knoxville and his band of MTV-bred merry pranksters are back on the big screen, trying ridiculous stunts, this time in 3-D, and looking a little old for it. Teens may well want to see this movie, but it is certainly not for middle-schoolers and problematic for high-schoolers. Civilization will survive these guys, 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 professional jackasses.
firstname.lastname@example.org Horwitz is a freelance reviewer.