Oblivion. Sci-fi-loving teens will get thrills from this striking, yet convoluted, film. In a voice-over by the protagonist, Jack, we learn his memory was wiped clean. It is the year 2077. Jack lives and works alongside his occasional lover, Victoria, on a tech station just above the Earth’s atmosphere. The Earth was destroyed in a nuclear war with alien invaders called Scavs. Humans have had to abandon the planet for a colony on Saturn’s largest moon. When a space ship crashes onto Earth, Jack rescues the lone survivor, Julia. She tells him they have a past connection, and he is inclined to learn the truth for himself. It does emerge, but amid so much ear-shattering music and computer-enhanced imagery, those details are never clear.
THE BOTTOM LINE: “Oblivion” contains little graphic violence, but a lot of loud aerial warfare and gunfights. One swimming scene involves backview nudity. Jack and Victoria work together, and also share a bed in their station. The script includes rare profanity.
Scary Movie 5. This installment barely retains its PG-13 rating and tries way too hard, spoofing movies that in some cases are already unwitting self-parodies. But that might not deter high-schoolers. Jody and Dan are a couple whose life seems beset by the weird and occult, lifted from other films. Among them: the “Paranormal Activity” series, with its videos of “visitations”; the latest “Evil Dead” remake, with its dead cats and young possessed people; “Mama,” featuring squirrely stepdaughters and their phantom pal; “Black Swan,” with its bizarre eye make-up, anorexic dancers and lesbian love scene; “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” with its brainy chimps; and “Inception,” with its hallucinatory dreamscapes. Cameos by Charlie Sheen, Mike Tyson, Bow Wow, Snoop Dogg, Lindsay Lohan, Darrell Hammond and Molly Shannon help a little, but most of this is so heavy-handed that the laughs get pounded right out of it.
The bottom line: An R rating seems more appropriate, as the film brims with penis jokes, explicit sexual behaviors and occasional strong profanity. The script includes much bad language and sexual “humor.” We see a guy in a Santa suit with a bare behind. Chimps engage in toilet humor.
42. The Jackie Robinson story will draw teens and even kids 10 to 12 under its spell. For those younger children, the film’s vivid but somewhat sanitized depiction of what mid-20th century life was like for African Americans will be revelatory. Harrison Ford gives a broadly cranky-but-lovable turn as Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey. In 1945, he decides to groom Negro League star Jackie Robinson for a spot with the Dodgers as the first African American in the major leagues. With wife Rachel offering support from the stands, Robinson faces vicious racist taunts from fans and shunning by fellow players. In one scene, Phillies Manager Ben Chapman shouts the N-word at Robinson repeatedly. The film also
re-creates the famous moment when Pee Wee Reese walked up to Robinson on the field and put his arm around him to show solidarity.
The bottom line: The racial slurs and other insults are awful and cringe-inducing. The script also includes some mild profanity and a gratuitous, homophobic attempt at locker-room humor, as well as mild, marital sexual innuendo.
Disconnect. This drama that questions aspects of modern American life contains too much mature material for under-17s. Multiple strands of the story roll out separately. All involve near-tragedies sparked by too much Internet and not enough person-to-person communication. An ambitious reporter wants to do an éxposé about an illegal site where adults can pay to watch and interact sexually with teens. A busy lawyer and his wife don’t know that their 15-year-old son is getting bullied on the Internet by two other boys. Another couple, still grieving over the loss of a child, have grown apart. She finds solace on a seemingly innocent chat room, but her online “friend” steals their identity. They hire an expert to help fix the mess, but he’s a widowed ex-cop whose own son is a school bully.
THE BOTTOM LINE: “Disconnect” contains semi-explicit depictions of teenagers interacting online with adults. These scenes include female toplessness and underage males in partial undress and exploitative settings. The dialogue features crude and explicit sexual slang and other strong profanity. A teenager attempts suicide. Young teens fill water bottles with their own urine and then return the bottles to a store shelf.
To the Wonder. More visual and spiritual poem than narrative film, “To the Wonder” will appeal to rare high-school-age cinema buffs who have the patience and vision for writer/director Terrence Malick’s avant-garde and at times confounding work. Neil, an Oklahoman traveling in Europe, and Marina, a Ukrainian single mother living in Paris, fall in love and commit to be together while visiting Mont St. Michel. They return to Oklahoma, where Neil works as an environmental engineer. Marina’s 10-year-old daughter, Tatiana, loves Neil, but Neil cools toward the free-spirited Marina and she chafes under his laconic personality. When her visa runs out, Marina takes Tatiana and leaves. Neil reconnects with a long-ago love, Jane, but when he learns Marina is having difficulties in Paris he drops Jane and brings Marina back. They marry, but cannot be happy together. Malick also visits their parish priest, Father Quintana, who dedicates himself to the poor, but struggles with his own loss of faith.
The bottom line: The film contains passionate but non-explicit love scenes, occasionally with partial nudity. The couple argues.
Horwitz is a freelance writer. Read her previous reviews at On Parenting.