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Family Filmgoer: 'Mars Needs Moms,' 'Rango,' 'Limitless' and more

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By Jane Horwitz
Friday, March 18, 2011; 12:16 PM

8 and older

_selfMars Needs Moms (PG). Though touching and often amusing, "Mars Needs Moms" can be grim, scary and too intense for many kids younger than 8. Still, it's not without a fun factor for kids 8 and older. Milo has fighting words with his mom, and before he can apologize, she's abducted by Martians. Milo stows away on the ship as it takes off. Martian females are not the mothering kind, so the Martians plan to drain the mothering information from Milo's mom's brain to program nanny-bots to raise their babies. Milo must rescue his mom.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Milo is perpetually falling off high places, and it's visually scary. The males in Martian society are dreadlocked and work on a huge trash heap, which seems oddly racial. The Martian guards have laser guns and threaten the protagonists.

_selfRango (PG). Kids and their parents will get more than a few laughs out of this, a hugely clever animated western. A pet chameleon is separated from his owners and wanders to a town called Dirt, where he becomes the sheriff. He discovers that the mayor may be part of a nefarious water-stealing plot. Rango must find the real courage to save Dirt. There is a battle near the end that becomes a little too violent for under-8s and perhaps for 8-to-10-year-olds.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The PG rating is tested a bit in the battle, when bad guys fly into the fray on huge bats. Creepy. The dialogue makes repeated use of the word "hell," along with at least one "damn."

PG-13

_self Limitless. Since it hinges on drug addiction and has surprisingly tough violence for a PG-13, the film is more for high-schoolers. Eddie is a wannabe writer and slob. Then he's offered a hot little pill. He takes it and seduces his landlord's wife, writes his novel and makes a killing on the stock market. But Eddie is having side effects, suspected of murder by the cops and being pursued by a Russian loan shark. Is it all worth it?

THE BOTTOM LINE: The level of violence comes close to R territory, with high-caliber gunfire, eye-stabbings, face-gashings, bone-cracking fistfights and much blood. Sexual situations occur a few times and are mostly just comically implied with shots of entangled legs and the sound of moans, but there is also a jokey reference to a condom. The film opens and closes with a suicide theme. The script contains midrange profanity.

_self Jane Eyre. This darkly emotional film is darn good and likely to appeal to literary-mined high-schoolers. There's nothing in this "Jane Eyre" that's inappropriate for middle-schoolers. Most already know the story: Edward Rochester takes to Jane's innocence, and she falls in love with him. But when he tries to wed her, his mad first wife proves a moral impediment. Jane flees. Eventually, though, she is drawn back to Thornfield Hall.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The atmosphere in "Jane Eyre" is decidedly dark and chilly. The students at Jane's childhood school are beaten, underfed and freezing. Her best friend there dies in the night. The sexual charge between Jane and Mr. Rochester is quite apparent, though never explicit. After an incident with the madwoman in the attic, a visitor has a bloody gash in his neck.

_selfBattle: Los Angeles. This is a roller-coaster ride likely to carry along action-loving teen audiences. The violence is rather intense for a PG-13, though wounds are not particularly graphic. Marine Michael Nantz, back from a tough tour in the Middle East, learns that alien aircraft spewing robot warriors and major firepower are attacking cities around the world. So he's back on the front lines.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The dialogue includes a bit of non-explicit sexual innuendo amid the occasional soldierly banter, and some occasional midrange profanity. One subplot involves the fears and emotions of a young boy whose civilian dad is injured.

_selfRed Riding Hood. High-schoolers may find it impossible not to giggle through this pseudo-serious horror/thriller. The film's violence is relatively understated, but there is a strong sexual attraction theme that may be inappropriate for middle-schoolers. A clerical "werewolf hunter" arrives, and he uses Valerie as bait to bring the werewolf close enough to kill it.

The bottom line: The attacks are not especially graphic, but there is considerable spattered blood, images of severed hands and bloody tissue. Fights include fatal stabbings and axings. The attraction between Valerie and Peter is highly sexual, and at least one situation becomes very steamy for a PG-13.

R

_self The Lincoln Lawyer.  Juniors and seniors in high school - say, 16 and older - will be entertained and not morally damaged by this character-rich legal thriller. Mick Haller is a charming but less than ethical defense attorney whose office is in his Lincoln. A very wealthy young man, Louis Roulet, hires Mick to clear him of an attempted murder charge.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A relatively mild R, "The Lincoln Lawyer" depicts stylized but still disturbing crime reenactments. Mick and his ex engage in a very steamy sexual situation. The story touches on drugs and prostitution, and the dialogue features occasional strong profanity and a nasty homophobic slur.

_self Paul.  A runaway alien who has been stranded in a secret research facility is escorted to his mothership by two vacationing British sci-fi geeks in this fitfully funny and blisteringly foul-mouthed road-trip comedy. Older, especially male, teens may appreciate the raunchy, juvenile humor, which involves a lot of in jokes about the world of Comic Con and sci-fi fandom.

The bottom line: Drug and sex humor figure prominently, including a running joke about whether the human protagonists are gay.

Horwitz is a freelance reviewer. Staff writer Michael O'Sullivan contributed to this report.


© 2011 The Washington Post Company

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