POKEMON THE FIRST MOVIE (G, 96 minutes)
Kids 10 or 11 and younger, particularly boys, seem to love all things Pokemonish -- from the original video games to the TV show, to trading cards, toys and lunch boxes. They'll no doubt flock to "Pokemon the First Movie" to see the further animated adventures of Ash the Pokemon trainer and his cuddly Pokemonster, Pikachu, as they and their pals face down the evil clone Mewtwo, and learn after a massive fistfight that competition is okay, but fighting is bad. Adults and older siblings will yawn at this pastel-hued entertainment, created in Japan and adapted into English, with lines like "Send in the clones!" The littlest kids may need reassurance when Ash is injured, or Pikachu endangered. "The First Movie" is preceded by a cute short (included in the 96 minutes) about a Pokemon vacation.
ANYWHERE BUT HERE (PG-13, 113 minutes)
So well acted and directed that even the corny stuff crackles, "Anywhere But Here" (based on the novel by Mona Simpson) should speak to all teens -- especially girls -- who've ever been embarrassed by their mothers. It's also about loving them in spite of all that. Free-spirited Adele (Susan Sarandon) drags her unwilling teenage daughter, Ann (Natalie Portman), from a small town in Wisconsin to Beverly Hills. Ann misses home, longs to meet the father who left when she was 4 and resents her mother's flightiness. The rating reflects profanity, sexual innuendo, a mild sexual situation involving Ann and a boyfriend, and smoking. There's also a theme of grief and loss.
THE MESSENGER: THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC (R, 148 minutes)
Alternately impressive and silly, this epic retelling of the Joan of Arc saga is a jumble of bloody battle scenes, surreal religious visions and confusing medieval history. It may appeal to older high-schoolers keen on the Middle Ages or the legend. Aside from combat violence, "The Messenger" portrays a vicious rape and murder and contains strong profanity. Though the film oozes visual authenticity, the international cast creates a cacophony of accents. Milla Jovovich as the pious country girl who felt called by God to help push the English out of France sounds like a Valley Girl and screams as if in a horror film.
LIGHT IT UP (R, 98 minutes)
"Light It Up" tries hard to be a different kind of urban high school drama, but it finally falls back on violence. Teens may still appreciate the film's jabs at high school and its stifling of teen creativity. With its profanity, gun violence, themes of parental abuse (scars shown, not beatings), teen pregnancy and portrayal of kids using marijuana, "Light It Up" isn't for those under high school age. The plot's match is struck when a group of students at a run-down Queens school stage a protest after their favorite teacher (Judd Nelson) is suspended. The principal takes a hard line, one boy pulls a gun, a security guard (Forest Whitaker) is shot, and soon the kids are holding the guard hostage. The quieter scenes reveal stunning character and content, but the violence is cliched.
Fine for 10 and Older
"Music of the Heart" (PG). Meryl Streep in warm, entertaining fact-based tale of violin teacher in East Harlem schools. Themes of divorce, loss; sadness over child killed in off-screen shooting; rare mild profanity.
"The Straight Story" (G). Touching tale, taken from real life of Alvin Straight, elderly Iowan who traveled 300 miles on rider mower to see ailing brother. Smoking, beer drinking; thunderstorms may scare youngest.
"The Bachelor." Chris O'Donnell as bachelor who risks losing huge inheritance if Renee Zellweger as his true love won't accept his bumbling proposal, in amusing but painfully retro comedy alleging men's need for freedom, women's for marriage+money. Mild profanity; smoking.
"Princess Mononoke." Ravishing animated epic from Japan about ancient struggles between human tribes and forest spirits over the land; dubbed into bland American English. Not for many kids under 10-12, with warrior's arms and heads lopped off; monsters, writhing snakes (phobics' note); mild sexual innuendo.
"Dogma." Linda Fiorentino as lapsed Catholic woman chosen by God to save creation by stopping two banished angels -- Matt Damon and Ben Affleck -- from re-entering heaven in Kevin Smith's irreverent but clearly faith-based theological spoof. Profanity; crude humor; sexual innuendo; non-sexual nudity; bloody fight scenes, gun violence; marijuana, liquor, cigarettes. Older high-schoolers.
"The Insider." Al Pacino in smart, acidic, fact-based tale as former "60 Minutes" producer who got interview with tobacco industry whistle-blower only to have nervous CBS kill it. Strong profanity; scary death threats, harrassment; drinking. High-schoolers.
"The Bone Collector." Denzel Washington as quadriplegic forensics wiz in slick, unconvincing serial-killer-thriller; Angelina Jolie as rookie cop who helps him track murderer. Too-grisly murder, torture scenes, aftermath; profanity; sexual innuendo; suicide talk. High-schoolers.
"House on Haunted Hill." Rich man holds party in haunted asylum, in crass, rarely scary, often gross remake of 1958 horror classic. Bloody bodies and parts; shootings, stabbings, sadistic surgeries, electrocution; strong profanity; sexual innuendo; nudity. High-schoolers.
"Being John Malkovich." John Cusack as file clerk who uncovers portal into actor John Malkovich's brain in wildly weird, inventive comedy playing with identity, gender, fame. Explicit sexuality; profanity; marjuana; cigarettes. Mature high-schoolers.
"The Best Man." Taye Diggs as writer whose thinly fictionalized novel infuriates old friends in warm romantic comedy -- rare film portrayal of upper-middle-class African Americans. Explicit sexual situations, language; nudity; smoking, drinking; fistfight. Older high-schoolers.