Johnny English Reborn (PG). This James Bond spoof ought to entertain kids 12 and older. They’ll delight in its inspired physical comedy and goofiness, even if the international intrigue part of the plot escapes them. Johnny English is a disgraced British agent who has spent the past several years in Asia honing his martial arts skills. When his MI7 superiors learn of a plot to assassinate the Chinese premiere, Johnny is brought back from exile to uncover a secret cabal of killers. Atkinson’s silent battle with the up-and-down control on an office chair is gaspingly funny.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie contains some PG-13-ish crude humor and much slapstick mayhem with guns, martial arts and crotch kicks.
The Mighty Macs (G). Teen girls may find inspiration in this somewhat pedestrian docudrama about the basketball team at Immaculata College, a women’s Catholic school in Philadelphia, circa 1971. Cathy Rush lands a job coaching the struggling team. She drills the team to near collapse, but they start to win. The film’s emphasis on respect for women’s sports and how hard-won that respect was is a worthwhile bit of history.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The dialogue includes no strong language, but there is a brief, mild moment of sexual innuendo when Cathy brings male college basketball players to scrimmage against her team.
Footloose. This likable remake is more for high-schoolers than younger teens because of its occasional strong language, sexual slang and innuendo. This time, local minister Shaw Moore gets the town to pass a law banning loud music and public dancing after he loses his son in a car crash. In a prologue, we see the teens drinking at a party, then getting into the car. Three years later, Ren McCormack arrives in town to live with his aunt and uncle, having recently lost his ailing single mom. Ren works to repeal the law and hold a huge dance bash.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The script includes plenty of crude sexual slang, innuendo, the S-word and other gross epithets. At least one teen character smokes pot. The kids race old school buses. A father slaps his daughter when she tells him she’s not a virgin.
Real Steel. Perhaps teens who like the “Transformers” films will find a similar thrill watching battered robots smack one another around. The film is okay for most teens, but it’s a little too hard-edged for preteens. “Real Steel” follows the adventures of former boxer Charlie, who travels the country with a boxing ’bot and enters it in contests for cash. Into his life drops Max, his estranged son with a long-ago ex. The two are able to bond only after Max finds a beat-up boxing ’bot in a dump.
The bottom line: The robot has enough human qualities that you feel for it when it gets smacked down or damaged. The boxing sequences get fairly intense. Charlie gets beaten up. The script includes occasional mild to midrange profanity.
Take Shelter. The psychological and apocalyptic themes in this extraordinary film make it ideal for college kids who like the offbeat and experimental. It’s a rather mild R, but still not for most high-schoolers. Curtis, an oil rig worker, starts to have visions and fears he’s becoming ill with paranoid schizophrenia. His wife really starts to worry when Curtis obsessively expands an old storm shelter on their property, as if he’s expecting the end of the world. The film starts out as a portrait of someone succumbing to mental illness, but ends on a very different and subtly shattering note.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The script includes occasional strong profanity. Curtis’s nightmares are vivid and full of foreboding. Curtis takes too many sleeping pills and has a seizure.
Margin Call. This film could fascinate savvy teens 17 and older with its inside portrayal of a Wall Street firm flouting ethical standards. They may find the financial issues hard to fathom, but the moral questions will be clear. College-age kids will get a partial sense of how the near-collapse of Wall Street came about in 2008. An investment firm is laying off employees, including a seasoned risk management expert. On his way out, he hands a flash drive to Peter, a smart new guy. Peter quickly sees that the firm is over-leveraged. Soon the company’s lawyer and CEO order a selling off of the bad assets to unsuspecting buyers, or else.
The bottom line: There is nearly continuous swearing and a brief discussion of suicide.
The Thing. High-school horror buffs 16 and older will thrill to this compelling prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter film. Though this new “Thing” includes some profanity and a dirty joke, the R rating mainly reflects the gore. Scientists in Antarctica, circa 1982, discover a frozen alien and a spacecraft buried beneath the ice. Paleontologist Kate Lloyd is recruited by a scientist to join his team in Antarctica. She urges caution but is overruled. The most interesting note is how, not knowing which person may have been merged with the alien, team members start suspecting one another.
The bottom line: When the alien breaks out of its human prey, the film shows skulls and bodies cracked open, organs exposed, as the human “host” is rent asunder. This is strong stuff. The movie also includes gunfire, much use of flamethrowers, midrange profanity and some drinking.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.