Wreck-It Ralph (PG). The trailers make “Wreck-It Ralph” look hilarious and ingenious, but the actual film is something less. Still, kids 8 and older who love arcade and computer games will have good fun. The idea of arcade game figures having lives inside all that circuitry is ripe for invention. Ralph is a villain in a game who stomps on an apartment building so Felix can repair it with his magic hammer. But Ralph would rather be a good guy. After the arcade closes one night, he sneaks into another game and wins a medal. Then he meets a smart-alecky little girl. She annoys Ralph at first, but then he sees that, like him, she’s an outcast. He helps her build a go-cart to win a race. Now he has someone to protect.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There’s a lot of toilet humor in “Wreck-It Ralph.” The level of mayhem and violence gets pretty intense later in the film. Ralph looks like the Hulk at one point.
Brooklyn Castle (PG). Chess is the life-changing activity for the middle-schoolers in “Brooklyn Castle.” Their story easily could enthrall kids 10 and older. The documentary follows the fortunes of the chess team from Brooklyn public middle school I.S. 318, in an area where 65 percent of the kids live below the poverty line. Their school has developed a chess team that has won national championships. The movie shows how the principals, teachers, parents and students make it through a trying time when funds were drastically cut. The concentration and focus required for chess helps the kids in academics, too, and they vie for spots in New York’s best public high schools.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The emotional tension leading up to big tournaments and tears after a child loses are very real and may elicit similar reactions from empathetic children watching this film. They’ll also hear rare crude language.
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 abolishing 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. He 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, 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.
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 rap star, 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 can, if need be, 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.