CELLULAR (PG-13, 89 minutes)
A typical example of the R-ward drift of PG-13 films, particularly in terms of bloody violence, "Cellular" remains an adrenaline pumper despite its flaws. Okay fare for high schoolers attuned to action movies, it will keep them hanging on and guessing where every plot twist leads. Not a great choice for middle schoolers, "Cellular" features not just loud gunplay, but shooting deaths that are very nearly point blank. The movie also shows a strangulation witnessed by a child, head-banging fights, a character bleeding to death from a slashed vein, and high-velocity car chases. The plot hinges on the abduction of a woman, the kidnapping of a child and threats against their lives. The script includes profanity and a few crass sexual jokes. Menacing sexual innuendo infuses scenes with the villain and female captive.
Kim Basinger is science teacher Jessica Martin, who drops her 11-year-old, Ricky (Adam Taylor Gordon), at school, comes home and is grabbed by goons who break into her kitchen. They drive her away, lock her in an attic and threaten to grab Ricky and kill them both if she doesn't give them information. She hot-wires a broken wall phone and secretly calls out. Instead of getting the police, she randomly reaches twenty-something cool guy Ryan (Chris Evans), on his cell at the Santa Monica Pier. He finally believes her story and races to save her.
"Cellular" is not a good movie, really. Cliches such as "I feel so helpless!" abound. The dialogue, acting, emotional authenticity and internal logic vary in quality. The best performances come from William H. Macy as a stolid desk sergeant and Jason Statham as the villain. Yet even when the movie gets silly, director David R. Ellis makes it work on a gut level -- batteries give out, traffic stops -- and keeps surprising his audience.
BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS (R, 105 minutes, limited release)
They dance till dawn, guzzle champagne, snort cocaine and sleep around (by subtle implication) in this lavish look at the sons and daughters of British aristocrats between world wars. Director-scriptwriter Stephen Fry, in adapting Evelyn Waugh's novel "Vile Bodies" for the screen, has gathered a terrific cast and designers for this gorgeous, biting satire about that generation as it headed into the 1940s, not realizing, as the film's fictional prime minister says, "Europe's going up in flames," while they party. A very mild R, "Bright Young Things" should enthrall more sophisticated high schoolers 16 and older, especially those fascinated by the decade leading up to World War II. In addition to the cocaine abuse, drinking and smoking, the film portrays a quiet suicide, a dangerous car race, a graphic seasick moment, a battlefield explosion and a couple of implied sexual trysts that amount to little more than kissing and morning-after chat.
"Oh, Nina, what a lot of parties!" exclaims the film's protagonist, Adam (Stephen Campbell Moore), near the end to the high-born girl he loves (played by Emily Mortimer). A penniless writer, Adam has his manuscript about the partygoing generation impounded by customs as "filth" and can't hand it to his publisher (Dan Aykroyd) to get paid. Nina requires a man with cash, so Adam chases after a slippery chap called the Drunken Major (Jim Broadbent) who owes him money and eventually writes a gossip column for the same publisher's sleazy tabloid. The movie's greatest strength lies in the way it satirizes the idle rich kids and yet also hints at a desperation beneath it all.