Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story (PG, 98 minutes)
Dakota Fanning brings her somber-faced, wise-child charm to this pleasant but unremarkable movie, which is based loosely on a true story. Children 8 and older who enjoy stories that unfold gradually, as in a book, ought to find it a warm and enjoyable ride. An early scene shows the horse falling during a race, breaking its leg (the injury is a bit harrowing but not graphic) and nearly being put down on the spot. This could upset some kids briefly, until (Plot Giveaway:) they see the horse start to recover. The dialogue contains subtle ethnic slurs, mild sexual innuendo and barnyard humor.
Fanning plays Cale Crane, who lives on what was once a Kentucky horse farm. She idolizes her gruff dad, Ben (Kurt Russell), who trains racehorses for a rich owner (David Morse) while his own stable sits empty. Times are tough -- her mom (Elisabeth Shue) works in a diner. When a promising filly Ben has been training is seriously injured, he argues with his boss, who wants her dead. He loses his job but gets the horse. Thrilled, Cale shares popsicles with Sonya (short for Sonador, "dreamer" in Spanish) each night while the filly mends. Her belief that Sonya should race again energizes the embittered Ben and his dad (Kris Kristofferson), who are barely on speaking terms. Once more, kids and animals get adults to do right.
6 and Older
"Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" (G). Riotous stop-motion delight about cheese-loving British inventor Wallace (voice of Peter Sallis) and his smarter, always-silent dog Gromit; W&G guard neighbors' vegetable gardens against rabbits (humanely) but get into trouble when a huge, veg-chomping Were-Rabbit appears with the moon, threatening Lady Tottington's (Helena Bonham Carter) giant vegetable competition; her evil suitor, Victor (Ralph Fiennes), wants to shoot bunnies, big and small. Mild, funny sexual innuendo younger kids will miss; British slang for derriere ("arse"); a bare tush; tots could get scared at 'toonish mayhem.
PG-13s and a PG for Teens
"The Fog." Pale remake of John Carpenter's 1980 film about an island off Oregon coast where townsfolk are visited by vengeful ghosts of a 19th-century shipwreck traveling in a roiling fog; Tom Welling and (acting-challenged) Maggie Grace are lovers who try to understand what's happening; Selma Blair is island's radio DJ. Flashbacks show 19th-century people on fire, being shot, drowning; modern victims get a knife in the head, piercing by glass shards, or outright disintegration -- all bloodless; bodies suddenly reanimate; sexual innuendo; muted tryst in shower, implied nudity; rare profanity. Teenagers.
"Elizabethtown." Writer-director Cameron Crowe's sentimentalized adult coming-of-age tale has nice moments but finally drowns in whimsy; Orlando Bloom in pallid turn as a sports shoe designer who loses his job and learns of his dad's death on same day; Kirsten Dunst in film-rescuing role as a charming, eccentric flight attendant who sets out to win his heart as he navigates his dad's relatives in Elizabethtown, Ky.; Susan Sarandon as his mom, who does stand-up comedy at the memorial celebration (whimsy overdose); comically tinged suicide theme; gently implied overnight tryst; one crude sexual innuendo; occasional profanity; drinking. Most teenagers.
"The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio." TV-movie-ish, but involving account (based on Terry Ryan's book about her mom) of how Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore) kept 10 kids and a broke, alcoholic husband (Woody Harrelson) fed, clothed and housed in 1950s and '60s by winning slogan contests; bittersweet, occasionally whimsical tale shows how much our society has changed. The father drinks, destroys property, swears -- scaring his kids; flashback of him after a car wreck with shard of glass in his neck; household accident leaves Evelyn bloodied; baby with a poopy behind. Most teenagers.
"In Her Shoes." Sentimental, glib but enjoyable dramedy about frumpy lawyer (Toni Collette) and her gorgeous, scatterbrained, promiscuous sister (Cameron Diaz) and how their spat sparks a reunion with their long-estranged grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) and repairs their self-esteem -- chick flick heaven! Strongly implied, though not technically explicit sexual situations, some with partial undress, compromising positions; discussion of a past suicide, losing a parent; verbal sexual innuendo; rare profanity; rude references to body parts; smoking, drinking. Promiscuity theme not for middle-schoolers.
"North Country." Charlize Theron in beautifully acted -- if overlong and a bit melodramatic -- gritty, fact-based blue-collar saga about Josey, a single mom who works in a northern Minnesota iron mine circa 1989 and experiences vile sexual harassment; Woody Harrelson as the lawyer who takes her case; Frances McDormand as her friend, Sissy Spacek and Richard Jenkins as her at-first unsympathetic parents. Crude, obscenely misogynistic sexualized language; other profanity, homophobic slurs; flashback to rape of teenage girl by a man -- not graphic for an R, but intense; men (including her abusive estranged husband in an early scene) rough up and threaten Josey, lay hands on her and female co-workers in sexualized ways, play vicious jokes with feces, a rubber penis; a gynecological exam -- nothing graphic shown. Characters, including teenagers, drink, smoke, use pot. For 16 and older.
"Doom." Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Sarge, leader of a Marine squad in gory but rather dull thriller based on "Doom" video games; lots of dark corridors and a nice flutter near the end using game-player point-of-view. Bloody attacks by mutant monsters; limbs ripped or shot off; crazed man tears his ear off; murdered lab animals; a suicide; graphic autopsy; much gunfire; profanity; mild sexual innuendo -- joke about strip searches, semi-nude poster of a woman; toilet humor; cigarettes; drug use. Violence portrayed with live actors on a big screen has a different feel than a video game. 16 and older.
"Domino." Hyper-stylized, soulless action flick that approaches a kind of pornography in its celebration of guns and machismo; based loosely on experiences of Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley), bored, thrill-seeking daughter of the late British actor Laurence Harvey; she becomes a bounty hunter, working with a seedy old pro (Mickey Rourke) and a cute new one (Edgar Ramirez). Extremely violent scenes, while not clinically graphic, imply bloodbaths, including severing someone's arm with gunfire and an apparent gangland-style shooting of college kids; drug-induced hallucinations; graphic sexual situations; toplessness; suggestive dancing; steaming profanity. 17 and up.
"Two for the Money." Al Pacino as yet another semi-smarmy mentor, brings an ex-quarterback (Matthew McConaughey) with a knack for picking winners into his semi-legal business offering high-priced tips to people who wager on sports; a crass enterprise that pretends to be about giving up the glitz to embrace what's important in life -- but isn't. Semiexplicit sexual situation with silhouetted nudity; strong profanity; brief understated violence. 16 and older.