Mud. Eccentric characters, a mysterious stranger, a wide river, a boat stuck in a tree and two unsupervised teenage boys — that’s a recipe for thrills in this mature-themed but teen-worthy Mark Twain-esque adventure. Ellis and Neckbone are best pals. The boys take a motorboat to a supposedly uninhabited island to scope out a boat caught in a tree. Then they find a drifter named Mud who has been living in it. The boys learn that he’s hiding out because he killed a man for hurting Juniper, the woman Mud has loved since childhood. The bounty hunter dad of the murdered man and his surviving sons come looking for Mud. For Ellis, deeply upset because his own parents plan to separate, Mud’s love for Juniper is precious. But as often happens, the adults fail to meet Ellis’s high ideals.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There is a lethal shoot-out, though none of the deaths are depicted graphically. One child sustains a life-threatening snake bite. The boys use the S-word a lot, and the script includes some crude sexual slang. Ellis punches an older boy to protect his school crush. The boys pull a thug off of Juniper, and Ellis gets a black eye. Bruises on Juniper’s face indicate she has been abused. Ellis’s dad drinks. Mud gives the boys a gun but removes the bullets.
No Place on Earth. An extended family of 38 Jews in western Ukraine escaped Nazi roundups and death by hiding in caves. This gripping and emotional documentary could fascinate teens with a taste for history or a connection to the Holocaust. New York State Investigator Chris Nicola, a dedicated caver, found artifacts in a cave in western Ukraine and began to research what happened there. His project captured the interest of filmmaker Janet Tobias. She includes interviews with surviving members of the Stermer family and films them as they revisit their hideout more than 60 years later.
The bottom line: The film reenacts very little violence, but in one scene, German soldiers raid the first cave the families lived in and take some people away. In another scene, a military officer shoots two captured family members after having promised to let them go.
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 lover, Victoria, on a tech station just above the Earth’s atmosphere. The Earth was destroyed in a 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. But amid so much ear-shattering music and computer-enhanced imagery, those details are never clear.
The bottom line: There is 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.
Pain & Gain. Far too sexually explicit, profane and laced with up-close violence for viewers younger than 17, “Pain & Gain” is an over-the-top caper comedy for adults. Set in mid-1990s Miami, it is the reality-based story of three incredibly stupid Miami bodybuilders and their plot to rob a rich and obnoxious client and take over his mansion and businesses. The only problem: They have no clue how to do it or how to cover their tracks. Daniel Lugo, a self-obsessed, uneducated personal trainer, hatches the scheme and recruits co-worker Adrian Doorbal and ex-con Paul Doyle. They will kidnap Victor Kershaw and force him to sign over his fortune to them. He’s a newly sober alcoholic, so they pour liquor down him, gag him, beat him, hang him from a dry-cleaning conveyor and more. He eventually escapes, but Kershaw’s own history is so shady that the cops don’t believe him. The three doofuses keep coming after him. Eventually, he piques the interest of a private eye who starts going after the three bozos.
THE BOTTOM LINE: “Pain & Gain” includes several scenes with strong and bloody violence. Even dead bodies have hands hacked off and burned in an attempt to destroy evidence. A couple of characters use cocaine and alcohol. The film includes visually and verbally explicit crude sexuality. The script brims with strong profanity.
Arthur Newman. Too sexually explicit for viewers younger than 17, this grown-up Walter Mitty-ish tale may appeal to college-age filmgoers and even more to people in their 40s and 50s. Wallace Avery is divorced and estranged from his son. Even his girlfriend, Mina, finds Wallace boring. So he announces he’s going on a camping on the beach, alone. He picks up a fake passport with his new name, Arthur Newman, leaves his old clothes on the sand and drives off in a new car. At a motel, Arthur witnesses the raucous arrest of Mike, a drunk, stoned shoplifter. Sensing a connection, he bails her out. Though vastly different, they find romantic and emotional common ground, spending a rather odd few days invading the homes of people they know to be out, making love in the homeowners’ beds while pretending to be them.
The bottom line: The film is full of increasingly explicit sexual situations. Mike nearly overdoses. The characters use strong profanity. Arthur nearly chokes on food in one unnerving scene. An unidentified person falls off a bus in medical distress and dies, despite Arthur’s use of CPR.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.
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