Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s. Teens who have a taste for fashion, art and celebrity could be entranced by this unabashed love letter to the high-end Manhattan department store Bergdorf Goodman. Many of the people interviewed are from older generations, but they’re interesting characters. Filmmaker Matthew Miele shows how deeply store regulars love the place, how Bergdorf’s Linda Fargo selects new designers and how designers desperately want Bergdorf’s to feature their collections. The theme of conspicuous consumption by the rich could curdle this film for some, but it also takes a look at fashion as art.
The bottom line: One interviewee makes a remark about “getting laid.” Some interviewees make witty remarks about drinking.
Star Trek Into Darkness. Director J.J. Abrams’s second installment in his series of “Star Trek” prequels, which take place on a starship Enterprise filled with young recruits fresh out of Starfleet Academy, continues to breathe fresh air into a franchise that had been growing stale. Chris Pine brings a familiar swagger and bluster to his James T. Kirk, with Zachary Quinto’s half-Vulcan, half-human Spock being almost as good as — and considerably more of a ladies’ man than — Leonard Nimoy’s original. There are lots of inside jokes for older “Trek” fans, but the story is accessible enough for newbies. As the villain, Benedict Cumberbatch makes a formidable — and scary — screen presence.
The bottom line: Although there’s some mild sexiness here (mostly courtesy of Kirk, who always was a bit of a player), much of the reason for the film’s rating is the violence. While hardly graphic, the action gets intense at times and may frighten some younger children. It’s nothing that most middle-schoolers can’t handle.
Stories We Tell. Filmmaker and actress Sarah Polley turns the lens on her own family and explores how memories diverge among even the closest relatives. Teens with some savvy about experimental films and with a love of character-driven tales can get right into this movie. Polley’s parents, Michael and Diane, met as young stage actors in Toronto. They had other children before Sarah, who was born when they were in their 40s. Diane died when Sarah was 11 years old. During her marriage to Michael, Diane went out of town to do a play and perhaps had an affair. Filmmaker Polley learns more about that and her mother’s death from cancer.
The bottom line: Michael chain-smokes. The interviewees use occasional mid-range profanity. Marital infidelity is a central theme.
The Great Gatsby. Teens will be surprised at how the excesses of the Jazz Age echo the excesses of today. Narrator Nick Carraway tells the story from a sanitarium, where he’s in treatment for alcoholism. Nick rents a cottage in the toniest part of Long Island to spend the summer studying bond trading. Jay Gatsby, a charming mystery man who throws huge parties, lives in the mansion next door. Gatsby befriends Nick because he hopes to reconnect with Nick’s high-born cousin Daisy, a former love who’s now married to Tom Buchanan.
The bottom line: A violent hit-and-run fatality takes place near the end of the film and is replayed in flashback and slow-motion. Gatsby and Daisy begin an affair, though the bedroom scenes never show any nudity. Tom Buchanan harbors viciously racist and ignorant conspiracy theories and has a mistress.
Tyler Perry Presents Peeples. A little too full of sexual humor for middle-schoolers, “Peeples” takes a sitcomish look at family dynamics. A cast of A-list comedic actors makes it an entertaining enough escape that many high-schoolers will buy into it. Wade Walker is a gifted but as yet uncredentialed social worker and child psychologist who supports himself by performing at kids’ parties. Wade’s live-in girlfriend, Grace Peeples, adores him but doesn’t feel ready to bring him to a holiday weekend gathering at her family’s palatial Sag Harbor compound. Wade shows up anyway and makes an instant bad impression.
The bottom line: Issues that weave comedically throughout the film include substance abuse and alcoholism, breast enlargement, nudism, gay adults afraid to come out and teenagers pretending to be streetwise. The dialogue includes frequent sexual innuendo and mild sexual slang. A character makes a mildly racist remark.
The Iceman. Grimly realistic violence makes this fact-based story of serial killer and hit man Richard Kuklinski truly for audiences 17 and older. Kuklinski is a New York tough guy, hardened by childhood beatings and devoid of nearly all emotion. At first he dubs porn movies sold by the mafia. Then he catches the eye of gangster Roy Demeo, who sees the way Kuklinski handles pressure and hires him to kill people. When he makes a mistake and Roy cuts him loose, Kuklinski partners with another freelance killer, the ice-cream-truck-driving Mr. Freezy. He keeps his career a secret from his wife and their daughters.
THE BOTTOM LINE: “The Iceman” contains graphic, bloody violence: point-blank shootings, throat slittings, poisonings and beatings. These scenes are unornamented and all the more intense for how simple they are and how cold Kuklinski appears. We also see him and Mr. Freezy cutting limbs off dead victims. The film includes an explicit marital sexual situation and rare but strong profanity.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.
Read her previous reviews at On Parenting. Michael O’Sullivan contributed to this article.