Reviews of family movies: 'The Rite,' 'Another Year,' more
High-schoolers who find occult thrillers fascinating may be drawn into "The Rite." Michael is a skeptical American seminarian. A professor/priest who believes Michael still shows promise sends him to Rome to train as an exorcist. The film's violent episodes are not excessively graphic, but they are disturbing enough to make the movie problematic for some middle-schoolers. Though it incorporates all the cliches of the genre, "The Rite" also benefits from fresh, intelligent writing and a uniformly excellent cast that underplays the lurid aspects of the story.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Exorcism scenes show a young pregnant woman (who we learn was raped by her father) writhing and spitting out iron nails. A boy who has nightmares about a demon mule has hoof and bite marks on his torso. The film implies a fatal hemorrhage. The script includes occasional midrange profanity. A couple of lethal crashes are depicted, and Michael has flashbacks to his childhood, seeing his mother dead and laid out in his father's mortuary.
An utterly un-Hollywood film, this is very much worth the attention of teen cinema buffs on up. Tom and Gerri are a happily married couple who are so genuinely kindhearted that miserable people are constantly drawn into their warm orbit. Chief among them is Mary, a work friend of Gerri's who is in her 40s, unattached and often drunk. The movie follows them through a full year. They are not beautiful or rich, but they are beguiling characters all the same.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Themes that deal with adult loneliness and depression may be too intense for some younger teens. Characters drink to excess and smoke. One estranged relative is threatening in his demeanor. The dialogue includes occasional profanity.
"THE WAY BACK"
Despite its narrative shortcomings, "The Way Back" explores the human yearning for freedom and what that yearning can cost with wrenching urgency. Set in 1940, the story follows a group of Stalin-era political prisoners who escape a gulag and walk to India. Some die from dehydration, exhaustion or illness, but no one is sorry for taking the chance.
THE BOTTOM LINE: "The Way Back" is a true PG-13. The film shows people who freeze to death or die from lack of water. Colin Farrell's character, a killer, stabs a couple of people to death. The threat of torture by Soviet authorities is implied. There are references to cannibalism and a graphic description of a strangulation. The script also includes rare profanity.
"THE GREEN HORNET"
High-schoolers may find the movie highly entertaining, but it is too full of sexual innuendo and profanity for many middle-schoolers. Britt Reid inherits his father's newspaper after Dad dies suddenly. Britt meets a former employee of his father's, Kato, an engineering genius, and decides to form a duo with Kato as masked crime-stoppers, the Green Hornet and his sidekick.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The profanity-peppered dialogue (midrange), the portrayal of boozy nights out and the implication that Britt Reid has serial one-night stands all make this PG-13 more for high-schoolers. The mayhem in the film has a comic tilt but can also be quite intense.