6 and Older
"Valiant" (G). Cartoon about British homing pigeons serving king and country in World War II; kids will love the humor, adventure, vivid characters; older buffs will get the clever spoofs of 1940s films; Valiant (voice of Ewan McGregor), signs up for the Royal Homing Pigeon Service; swooping German falcons (Tim Curry as Von Talon) try to attack his unit over France. Harrowing moments -- dodging antiaircraft fire, seeing a British plane crash, pigeons downed by falcons (no injuries shown); one pigeon fears falcons will have "our innards spread like jam on toast''; slapstick silliness -- bug-eating, belching the alphabet; mild sexual innuendo.
"The Baxter." Intermittently amusing, but often labored comedy about Elliot (writer-director-star Michael Showalter) and how he loses his fiancee (Elizabeth Banks) and finds his soul mate (Michelle Williams) by being himself -- a clumsy, humorless, prissy worrywart; he is a "baxter" -- the guy who always loses the girl to a cooler guy; Showalter's Elliot is too annoying a caricature to earn much empathy. Portrayal of unmarried thirty-something couple sharing a bed, basically living together; understated sexual innuendo; one crude sexual remark drowned out just before it could earn an R. High schoolers.
"The Man." Crude, thinly plotted, derivative, but at times grudgingly funny anti-buddy comedy about nebbishy, bespectacled dental supply salesman (Eugene Levy) accidentally caught up in a sting operation run by a tough, even abusive, federal agent (Samuel L. Jackson). Veers cynically close to R range with constant profanity (several uses of the F-word), gross toilet humor, shootings, photo of a murder victim, a nasty beating and homophobic sexual innuendo. Not for middle schoolers.
"The Exorcism of Emily Rose." Relatively muted drama, purportedly based on real incidents, about alleged demonic possession of college girl (Jennifer Carpenter); Tom Wilkinson as priest who tries to exorcise her demon, Laura Linney as lawyer who defends him in court, where tale unfolds in flashback; grim, lugubrious, almost comically laden with rain, eerie lighting. Hallucinatory images of faces morphing into demons, violent seizures, a fall through a glass window; disturbing scenes showing Emily apparently invaded by invisible demons, eating cockroaches; man hit by car; mild profanity; drinking; smoking. Not for nightmare-prone teenagers.
"An Unfinished Life." Cliched, flat-footed drama has flashes of charm when Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman banter as Wyoming geezers; a widow (Jennifer Lopez), fleeing an abusive boyfriend (Damian Lewis), turns up with her daughter (Becca Gardner) at her father-in-law's (Redford) ranch; still grieving for his son, he wants nothing to do with them, but his ranch hand (Freeman) urges reconciliation. Middling profanity; deep scars on ranch hand's body from bear attack, morphine injections in his rump; implied sexual tryst in a car; men acting in subtle but sexually threatening manner toward women; other sexual innuendo; bear growls, rears; drinking; smoking.
"Transporter 2." Silly, stunt-fest sequel about tough guy/driver-for-hire (Jason Statham) trying to stop a kidnapping plot that puts a young child in grave danger throughout the film. Stylized violence has real enough sounds of bones crunching, guns firing; point-blank shootings, impalings, explosions, but little blood; impossible martial arts fights, car and jet ski chases; crass sexual innuendo from female killer in flimsy lingerie; occasional profanity; drinking. Too much mayhem for middle schoolers, some high schoolers. Should be rated R.
"Red Eye." Nifty, tightly-wound thriller with understated violence about young woman (Rachel McAdams) who learns the cute guy (Cillian Murphy) next to her on a bumpy flight is a terrorist who'll have her father (Brian Cox) killed unless she calls the Miami hotel where she works as a manager and orders staff to move a government bigwig to a new room to enable an assassination. Mild mayhem includes gunplay, a throat stabbing, head-banging fights, white-knuckle turbulence; rare profanity; mild sexual innuendo; subtle verbal recollection of a sexual assault. Not for preteens.
"Venom." Straight-to-video-caliber creepshow about zombie killer powered by voodoo and the too-pretty young singles (those who survive, that is) who try voodoo against him; set, most unfortunately given the current tragedy, in a southern Louisiana town and the swamp and graveyard near it (though cast uses no regional accents). Killer gashes victims' throats, impales them, dismembers them (shown mostly in shadow but still gory), uses limbs to smear blood on buildings as a "sign" -- gross even for the genre; gunplay; fang-baring, lunging killer snakes; human fetus in jar; strong profanity; verbal, visual sexual innuendo; drinking.
"The Constant Gardener." Terrific thriller, based on John Le Carre's novel, about gentle British diplomat (Ralph Fiennes) in Kenya who tries to learn why his new wife (Rachel Weisz), a fiery advocate against exploitation of the poor, was murdered. Relatively understated but troubling violence -- beatings, shootings, women and children attacked by marauding tribesmen; bloodied bodies in morgue; hanging victim cut down from tree, remark that he had been mutilated; steamy but nonexplicit sexual situation with partial undress; other sexual innuendo; seminudity; talk of baby dying at birth; strong profanity, drinking, smoking.