Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Anna Karenina,’ ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Skyfall’
By Jane Horwitz,
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2.
Teens in love with the books by Stephenie Meyer and the four preceding PG-13 films based on them will not be disappointed in this final finale. Bella, new bride of vampire Edward Cullen has become a full-fledged vampire instead of a groupie. She’s now endowed with super trength and senses, intensifying the steamy-dreamy but nongraphic sexual charge between her and Edward. As the film opens, she wakes from a difficult pregnancy and childbirth. Her eyes are now vampire-red and she has a thirst for blood. Bella finally sees her baby, Renesmee. The infant is a human-vampire hybrid. Renesmee grows very fast, and they’re not yet sure if she is immortal. Jacob, a werewolf, imprinted on Renesmee while Bella was unconscious. Bella fumes at that, but Edward makes her understand that Renesmee needs Jacob as a protector. That becomes clear after another vampire mistakes Renesmee for an “immortal child” — a human child who has been turned into a vampire. That is a capital crime in the vampire world because immortal children can’t keep their vampire natures secret. The Cullens call in vampire friends to testify on Renesmee’s behalf before the ruling Volturi Clan and their leader Aro. The confrontation could turn violent and destroy the Cullen Clan forever
THE BOTTOM LINE:
While bloodless, the battle scenes among vampires show heads torn off, and some of the immortal creatures set ablaze. A few werewolves who join the fight alongside the Cullens also get hurt or die. When one Cullen ally causes a huge crevasse to open on the battlefield, some vampires and werewolves fall to their deaths. The sexual charge between Bella and Edward increases a bit in this film. There is really only one bedroom scene, but it’s stylized and non-explicit. At other moments, the pair kiss passionately and joke non-explicitly about the violence of their lust. The newly transformed Bella, trying to sate her thirst for blood, nearly kills a deer, but a snarling mountain lion leaps into the frame. The camera cuts away, but one guesses the predator cat loses its life while the deer survives.
Lincoln. Any fears that Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” would be a preachy epic will fall away for teens who see this extraordinarily entertaining movie about Abraham Lincoln’s struggle to pass the 13th Amendment that would abolish slavery. We watch as the president conspires with Secretary of State William Seward to reel in votes before the end of the Civil War and before Lincoln’s second inauguration. He wants the abolishment of slavery before he makes peace. A trio of smarmy political operatives start courting congressmen. All this unfolds amid the Lincolns’ difficult but loving marriage, with Mary Todd Lincoln unable to stop grieving over the loss of their son Willie. Lincoln delights in their playful son, Tad, and has strained relations with their grown son, Robert, who feels he should enlist, to his mother’s horror.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Three scenes make “Lincoln” problematic for some middle-schoolers. One shows soldiers fighting intensely but non-graphically with bayonets; another shows Lincoln riding through a battlefield seeing endless dead bodies; the third shows Robert watching as a wheelbarrow full of severed limbs is dumped near an army hospital. Characters smoke, drink and curse. The N-word is heard often, along with other racial insults. A marital fight between the Lincolns is upsetting.
Skyfall. Teens who appreciate the “Bourne” films will find plenty to savor in this endlessly clever James Bond film, with its dark humor and worldview, complex characters, moral dilemmas and high-stakes action. The opening chase through Istanbul goes from motorbikes to a moving train, on which Bond is shot, swallowed up by a waterfall and presumed dead. M, the head of MI6, has already written 007’s obituary when he reappears. He goes through tests to prove he’s ready for action, though he feels less than chipper, especially after meeting the new Q. M sends 007 into the fray. The hunt eventually leads to a villain who likes to torture people.
The bottom line: Amid the gunplay, including nongraphic murders, explosions, high-speed chases, subway crashes, attack helicopters, knife duels and fistfights, there is little that is graphic or bloody. A couple of point-blank killings are strongly implied. We see video of an agent as he is shot. The script includes occasional profanity, crude language and frisky but mild verbal sexual innuendo. A brief shower scene with a beauty Bond encounters on his travels hints at nudity, but is non-explicit. A villain reveals a grievous jaw injury.
Anna Karenina. Only the most romantic and literary-minded high-schoolers 16 and older will allow this ravishing film to enthrall them. Much of the movie takes place on a stage, complete with candle footlights and huge set pieces trundled on and off. It is 1874 in St. Petersburg. Anna is a great beauty and loving mother, married to a staid high-level official, Karenin. She travels to Moscow to visit her brother in an effort to reconcile her philandering sibling with his wife. Anna dances with the dashing Vronsky at a ball and falls in love with him.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Anna’s famous suicide and her sex scenes are highly impressionistic. The love scenes are passionate and steamy but never quite explicit. A horse is hurt during a race and has to be shot.
Silver Linings Playbook. Uncomfortable depictions of mental illness make this deliciously offbeat, subtly acted romantic comedy iffy for teens younger than 16. Bradley Cooper is Pat, a former teacher whose mother picks him up from a psychiatric institution as the film opens. We learn that Pat found his wife having an affair. A heretofore undiagnosed bipolar patient, he overreacted. His dad, a bookmaker and gambler, worries that Pat has come home too soon. Things change after Pat meets Tiffany, a young widow.
The bottom line: The script bristles with profanity and includes a rude hand gesture and a scene in which strangers hurl ethnic slurs. The film shows brief toplessness and a strongly implied but non-explicit shower sex scene. Tiffany talks about her extreme promiscuousness after her husband died. Some characters gamble and drink. She and Pat talk about their many prescription drugs.
The Man with the Iron Fists. The blood gushes in every direction in this occasionally amusing martial arts epic geared for audiences 17 and older. It is directed and co-written by rapper, actor, composer and kung-fu enthusiast RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. Set in what appears to be a 19th-century Chinese village whose primary business is a fancy brothel, the action involves warring clans vying for supremacy and a huge cache of gold. The mysterious town blacksmith, who narrates the impossible-to-follow story, forges weapons for whoever pays him. A burly Englishman known as Jack Knife consorts with the brothel women and calls men “dear chap.” But he can hack a bad guy in half.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The violence is intense and exceedingly bloody, with scenes of torture and limbs hacked off. Sexual situations are explicit. Phobics might cringe at a snake inside a dead man’s mouth. Children are shown in danger. The script includes much use of the N-word and strong profanity.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.