The Washington Post
PG

Thunderstruck (PG). NBA star Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder proves a likable presence in this clumsily made but genial comedy about a kid who inadvertantly “steals” Durant’s talent. Oklahoma high-schooler Brian Newall loves basketball but is absolutely terrible at it. Then at a  Thunder game, Durant autographs a ball for Brian. As he hands it to him, there’s a weird electrical charge. For the rest of the game, Durant misses every shot, and the next morning Brian finds he can make every shot. He becomes the school’s team’s star player. Durant’s agent deduces that some weird magic occurred, and gets the pro player and the kid together, in hopes of reversing the effect.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The dialogue includes rare semi-crude language. Brian, after he realizes he has somehow “stolen” Durant’s talent, determines he must find a way to give it back. So he’s able to put his ego aside pretty quickly.

10 and older

Paranorman (PG). A little too spooky for kids younger than 10, “ParaNorman” is about an oddball 11-year-old named Norman Babcock who sees and talks to ghosts. Made with stop-motion animation, the film has a surreal picture-book look. Kids younger than 10 might quail at the zombies and ghosts, brains and decomposing corpses, though they’re portrayed with whimsical humor. Norman chats with ghosts all of the time. He learns from his dying Uncle Prenderghast that the town is under a curse, and Norman must break it.

THE BOTTOM LINE: While we see skeletal zombies and there’s much talk about them eating brains, they don’t really do it. There are decomposing bodies, but it’s all quite artsy as opposed to naturalistic, so less scary for children 10 and older.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green (PG). Sentimental and a bit preachy, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” will entertain and move sensitive kids 10 and older. Cindy and Jim Green tell their story to skeptical social workers, and it unfolds as a long flashback: After years of trying to have a baby, they had resigned themselves to a childless marriage. To put their sorrow behind them, they wrote down all of the traits their child might have had and buried the scraps of paper in their yard. After a storm, a muddy boy appeared and called them Mom and Dad. The couple were stunned, but thrilled. By the end, the film becomes a testament to adoption.

The bottom line: There are jokes about flatulence. School bullies are mean but not vicious.

PG-13

PREMIUM RUSH. The action-packed nail-biter follows New York bike messenger Wilee as he attempts to pick up an envelope at Columbia University and drop it off in Chinatown. What should be a straightforward job is complicated by a corrupt cop with a gambling problem who wants the mysterious tiny ticket in Wilee’s messenger bag. It’s all just an excuse for intense action sequences involving a lot of bicycle tricks that most certainly should not be attempted at home.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Along with some high-speed chases (mostly involving bicycles), the film contains profanity and a couple of scenes that might be too violent for kids younger than 13. One character loses a tooth in a fistfight, and another character suffers a shotgun wound to the head.

SPARKLE A remake of the 1976 film (rated PG), this show-business saga doesn’t miss a cliche and unfolds so disjointedly that whole scenes seem to be missing. Yet it is addictively watchable, and teens enthralled by the pop music scene and “American Idol” will revel in the broad-brush characters, costumes and lush music. The story has been moved to 1960s Detroit. Whitney Houston, in her final role, plays Emma, a church lady with a checkered past. Her three daughters form a girl group and encounter success and tragedy.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The mature themes deal with spousal abuse and drug use, but in an understated way. A climactic moment involves a homicide, which is not highly graphic. Emma talks of the shame of having children out-of-wedlock. Characters drink, smoke and use drugs. Some choreography is sexually suggestive. There is rare profanity.

R

HIT & RUN Action-comedy fans among college-age filmgoers will appreciate the crazy, offbeat nature of “Hit & Run.” But the profanity, sexual language and weird instance of nudity put the movie in 17-and-older territory. Charlie Bronson’s idyllic rural life with his wife doesn’t include telling her he has a past. Annie has a chance to teach in Los Angeles. Charlie promises to go with her but fails to mention that he’s in a witness protection program and that moving to L.A. will make him a target. As soon as they set off in his Lincoln Continental, things go crazy.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The script includes strong profanity, explicit sexual language and homophobic slurs. A group of elderly people about to have a sex party in a motel are seen totally nude. The mayhem includes car chases, a couple of bloody fights, gunplay and threats.

COSMOPOLIS Philosophically inclined film fanciers 17 and older may find much profundity in this adaptation of a Don DeLillo novel about the downfall of a 28-year-old billionaire. But sexual situations and nudity make it problematic even for high-school seniors, and the enigmatic dialogue will likely put them off. Eric Packer spends most of the film in a limo, trying to get across Manhattan to his barber. Along the way, he encounters rioters, has explicit sexual encounters and coolly commits a murder.

THE BOTTOM LINE: In addition to sexual situations and nudity, the film includes graphic gun violence and stabbings. Characters drink and smoke and use some profanity.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 There ought to be enough gunfire, explosions and macho banter in this sequel to satisfy action-movie aficionados 16 and older. The mayhem involves enough spattered blood (though it has a fake, post-production look to it) to earn an R and make the film problematic for under-16s and surely not for middle-schoolers. Sylvester Stallone returns as mercenary Barney Ross, sent on a mission to retrieve stolen weapons-grade plutonium. Ross and his team pretend to be cold mercenaries, but they can’t help saving whole villages along the way.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The action features multiple gun battles and explosions, as well as martial-arts combat. The blood flies as bullets hit and knives sink in, but the gore really isn’t graphic for an R-rated film. Characters use occasional profanity, and there is mild sexual innuendo.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.

Staff writer Stephanie Merry contributed to this story.

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