THUNDERBIRDS (PG, 87 minutes)
A witty, neon-colored, gadget-filled adventure about a family of international rescuers in 2010, "Thunderbirds" will delight kids 8 and older without curdling their parents' brains. Based on a hit 1960s British TV series, the movie keeps the kids'-show tone but adds live-action glitz and computer-generated effects. The dialogue contains a crude scatological reference and one "damn." Action sequences show kids in martial-arts combat, being chased and occasionally caught by thugs, encountering a nasty scorpion, escaping explosions and flying airships in a dangerous fashion. One child executes the requisite kick in the crotch to a bad guy.
Teen Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet) is the only one in his family who doesn't get to jump into their fleet of rocket-powered ships, the Thunderbirds, to rescue people caught in disasters. Home from boarding school, Alan gets a chance to prove to his billionaire ex-astronaut dad (Bill Paxton) that he has the stuff, too. A villain known as the Hood (Ben Kingsley, a snarling hoot) lures the adult Tracys away from their South Seas island home. That leaves Alan; his friend Fermat (Soren Fulton); Fermat's dad, Brains Hackenbacker (Anthony Edwards); the housekeeper's daughter (Vanessa Anne Hudgens); Lady Penelope (Sophia Myles); and her chauffeur (Ron Cook) to save the day.
THE VILLAGE (PG-13, 107 minutes)
Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has always woven parable into his goose-bumpy tales ("The Sixth Sense," 1999; "Unbreakable," 2000; "Signs," 2002, all PG-13). In "The Village," he sets a period drama in a "Twilight Zone"-ish world and adds a heavy message about fear. The movie is often effective but in a staid, theatrical way. The archaic dialogue, even spoken by a fine cast, will sound stilted to teenagers. The low-level fear factor won't lend much of a thrill either, though the air of menace makes the film a bit much for preteens. The appropriate PG-13 rating covers a stabbing, the remains of skinned animals and the creepy figure of a mysterious, bony, hooded creature. Some characters tell sad tales of loved ones who died violently.
Set in an isolated hamlet in late 19th-century America, the village is a pleasant oasis of civility, where benevolent elder Edward Walker (William Hurt) teaches children never to venture into the woods, where hostile creatures live. Adrien Brody as the backward Noah (a movie cliche Shyamalan might have avoided) seems the only one unafraid of the woods. After Walker's lovely blind daughter Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) and shy, brave Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) declare their love, the woods loom closer.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (R, 130 minutes)
This crackerjack remake neatly shifts Richard Condon's novel (first filmed in 1962 with Frank Sinatra) from 1960s Cold War paranoia to the present. The new conspiracy involves a greedy global corporation whose executives maneuver, brainwash and kill in an effort to get a pawn of theirs into the White House as vice president. Everything about this smartly written and acted update feels fresh under Jonathan Demme's direction. High schoolers into current events and tales of intrigue will tap into the film's layers of secrets and suspense. A conservative R, the movie shows surreal, fairly bloodless murders. Flashbacks to a firefight in the first Gulf War are not graphic, but other scenes show a surgical drill whirring into a skull, electroshock therapy and someone cutting into his own back. The script contains rare profanity and mild sexual innuendo.
Denzel Washington plays a sleepless, haunted Army major who can't shake the notion that his memories of one battle were implanted in his brain. He mistrusts his recollections of a decorated hero from his unit, Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), now a popular congressman tapped to run for vice president. Maj. Marco practically stalks him to get at the source of his nightmares, but Shaw is a slave to his power-mad mother, a senator (Meryl Streep, in a delicious turn), and she is determined to keep his secret.