8 and Older
"A Cinderella Story" (PG). Vivacious, vacuous Hilary Duff in plastic, predictable fairy tale update plays brainy high school senior who longs to go to Princeton but barely has time to study because her nasty, Botox-icated stepmom (droll Jennifer Coolidge) keeps her working at the diner her beloved late father left them; she is tormented by idiot stepsisters (unfunny Andrea Avery and Madeline Zima), bolstered by an eccentric school pal (Dan Byrd), a fellow waitress (Regina King), and an anonymous e-mail romance with a classmate (Chad Michael Murray) she longs to meet. Mild sexual innuendo; theme about life after loss.
"I, Robot." Visually stunning but dramatically clumsy combination of cop flick and sci-fi thriller (based partly on stories by Isaac Asimov) mixes live-action and computer effects; Chicago cop (Will Smith), circa 2035, hates polite helper robots that permeate society, suspects one may have killed a robotics expert (James Cromwell); he investigates with help of prim robotics shrink (Bridget Moynahan). Profanity; hint of nudity; fights, bloodless gunplay, robots torn apart; suicide theme; drinking.
"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." Consistently funny spoof of pre-cable, pre-diversity TV news stars Will Ferrell as boneheaded but well-coiffed 1970s anchorman and Christina Applegate as female reporter he loves but also hates because she aims to co-anchor. Very lewd for the rating with strong verbal sexual innuendo, crude language, sexually graphic visual gag; drinking, smoking; drug reference; rare profanity; dog tossed off bridge in unfunny farcical instant; slapstick violence shows arm lopped off. Not for preteens.
"King Arthur." Engaging, rough-and-tumble, sometimes lyrical reexamination of Arthurian legend portrays "real" Arthur (Clive Owen) as 5th-century Roman soldier keeping barbarian hordes behind Hadrian's Wall with Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd) and other loyal fighters. Disillusioned when Rome abandons Britain, he joins tribal leaders Merlin (Stephen Dillane) and Guinevere (Keira Knightley) to fight Saxon invaders. Intense violence shows little gore but occasional impalement, implied beheading. Strongly implied attempted rape; mildly hinted consensual sex; crude humor; skeletal corpses. Not for middle-schoolers.
"Spider-Man 2." Great sequel artfully blends spectacular action with poetic poignancy as Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) struggles with sense of duty vs. love for Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and faces new villain, tentacled Doc Ock (Alfred Molina). Action is harrowing, so loud it vibrates, but not bloody. Toughest scenes show Doc Ock killing operating room doctors, implied impalement, car hurtling through cafe window, fight atop speeding train; characters taken hostage, child cowers in burning building. Not for under-10s.
"The Door in the Floor." Beautifully acted, visually artful adult drama (based on John Irving's novel "A Widow for One Year") stars Jeff Bridges as philandering children's author, Kim Basinger as his sad wife, both scarred by deaths of their teen sons; a 16-year-old prep school boy (Jon Foster) comes to work as his assistant at their summer house, falls in love with the wife, who returns his passion. Graphic sexual situations with nudity; implied masturbation; drinking; profanity. College-age and older.
"Fahrenheit 9/11." Michael Moore's one-sided but gripping, funny, heart-rending polemic against the Iraq war and what he deems tainted Bush administration motives. Graphic footage of war wounded, including dead babies, video of public beheading (shown from a distance), corpses burned by mob, sexual language, profanity, slurs spoken by soldiers, some directed at Iraqi prisoners; audio montage of 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Mature high schoolers.