By Jane Horwitz
Thursday, January 27, 2011; 11:48 AM
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.R
"NO STRINGS ATTACHED"
Ashton Kutcher finally exhibits some subtlety and emotional depth in this romantic comedy. Alas, the sexual content makes the movie questionable for most teens younger than 17. Emma and Adam fall into bed for a one-night stand, then decide to continue the relationship as a sex-only fling. It is the softhearted Adam who first finds his arrangement with Emma unsatisfactory.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The sexual situations, though not frequent or with nudity, are quite explicitly played. Characters drink, make condom jokes and drug references, and use strong profanity. The movie deals intelligently with the idea that most people can't have long-term sexual relationships without an emotional anchor.
Teens 17 and older who love to watch Jason Statham do his tough-guy thing won't be disappointed in "The Mechanic," in which he plays a hit man. Arthur usually takes his orders from the genial Harry. Then one day the head guy at the murky organization for which they both work tells Arthur he must kill Harry. Things get more complicated when Harry's bereft son Steve, unaware of Arthur's involvement, asks Arthur to train him as a hit man.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Victims die by drowning, strangulation, stabbing, point-blank gunfire, beating and explosions. The deaths are not as graphic as in some R-rated actions films, but they are still bloody. The script contains strong profanity and a couple of very explicit sexual situations with partial nudity.
"THE COMPANY MEN"
High-school drama lovers will appreciate the smart dialogue and full-blooded characters in "The Company Men," which shows the lives of three men being downsized. Suddenly laid off, it takes Bobby a while to realize he can no longer afford his house, sports car and golf club membership. A top man at the same firm, Gene, eventually finds himself jobless, too. Mid-level exec Phil can't regain his bearings after he's downsized.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The script contains a lot of strong profanity, and some characters drink. Two people engage in an implied non-graphic adulterous affair. The movie also brings in a subtle but well-handled theme about an adolescent boy's fears about his dad's job loss and his parents' marriage.
firstname.lastname@example.org Horwitz is a freelance reviewer.