MAN ON A LEDGE. Teens may lose patience with this irritatingly contrived, oddly miscast crime thriller long before it’s over. A preoccupied mystery man books a room in a New York hotel, has a nice meal, then steps out onto the window ledge. He won’t say much to a police negotiator and demands a female negotiator who’s in disgrace. She and her colleagues learn that the man has a history with the NYPD, has escaped from prison and is determined to prove his innocence.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The action features fights and shootouts but little intensity or gore. Characters drink and smoke and use mild profanity. One character wears revealing outfits and engages in mild sexual innuendo.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Teens who respond to strong drama and historic events will embrace this quirky film about the emotional fallout of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, Oskar Schell (extraordinary newcomer Thomas Horn) is a brilliant, anxiety-plagued 11-year-old trying to absorb the fact that his dad, Thomas, died in the attacks. Oskar adored his father, and now, a year after 9/11, can’t open up to his grieving mother. He has found a key in his father’s closet in an envelope with the name “Black” on it and decides that finding what lock it fits is crucial to his peace of mind.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie explores how children and adults deal with grief. It has images both real and stylized of the burning World Trade Center towers and of falling bodies. While intense and upsetting, the images are not graphic. The script includes occasional crude language and midrange profanity.
THE IRON LADY. It’s unlikely that teens or even most college students, except perhaps history and poli-sci majors, will have much interest in this unusual, rather apolitical study of Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Many will squirm through its stately pace. Teens interested in the finer points of acting, however, can delight in Oscar-nominated Meryl Streep’s infinitely detailed embodiment of the grande dame. Told from the point of view of a widowed and ever more distracted Thatcher, the film will disappoint those who want more of a critique of her policies. Instead they get her history in fragmented flashbacks.
The bottom line: The film includes frightening reenactments of Irish Republican Army bombings, as well as occasionally violent anti-Thatcher demonstrations and strikes. There are archival shots of war violence and brief toplessness. A central theme is Thatcher’s slow descent into dementia. Some characters drink and smoke.
THE GREY. Based on a short story by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, who wrote the script with director Joe Carnahan, “The Grey” feels like a throwback to a Jack London adventure in which men test their mettle against whatever nature throws at them. Kids 15 and older with strong stomachs will find it mighty enthralling. Terrifically acted and handsomely made, “The Grey” is both a thriller and a dark night of the soul for a tough group of men, led by John Ottway, a sharpshooter who protects an oil-drilling crew in Alaska from wolves. Ottway has a Captain Ahab-like obsession with the beasts. The movie isn’t for kids younger than high school age, but it’s an unusually cool piece of work.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The wolf attacks themselves are not highly graphic, but the foreboding leading up to them and the size of the animatronic and computer-animated creatures — yellow eyes, huge teeth — make the attacks feel graphic. And the views of the mutilated victims are graphic. The action includes a harrowing plane crash, gunplay and fist fights. Characters drink and use strong profanity. Themes of suicide, loss of faith and an existential sense of nothingness weave throughout.
UNDERWORLD AWAKENING. High-schoolers who enjoy vampire sagas of a more violent strain than the “Twilight Saga” films will have plenty to chew on in “Underworld Awakening.” The melding of live action and special effects, subtly intensified in 3-D, works handsomely, but the violence is too gory for middle-schoolers. In a prologue, the three previous films are summarized, but the new film is still tough to follow. The vampire heroine Selene recalls how she was captured while trying to save her human/Lycan (werewolf) lover from humans. She was frozen for 12 years and escaped from a lab. An even more deadly form of werewolf has evolved and escaped annihilation. Selene impales, beheads, kicks and chops her way to the truth of what occurred.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The special-effects-enhanced violence includes beheadings, impalings, bone-splinterings and head-bashing fights. The references to genocidal “cleansing” of the “non-humans” are disturbing references to recent human history. One scene includes implied nudity, and there is very occasional profanity.
HAYWIRE. An intriguing, elliptically told tale of international intrigue spiked with martial-arts mayhem, “Haywire” will appeal to high-school-age fans of action and spy thrillers. It contains little profanity or sex but is too intensely violent for middle-schoolers. Directed by Steven Soderbergh with his trademark off-center approach, the film stars female mixed-martial-arts champion Gina Carano as Mallory Kane, who works for a government contractor that does “black ops” work. Following the plot is like searching for a landscape in an abstract painting.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The fights play out in bone-shattering detail, though action sequences with gunplay and chases are more stylized than graphic. There’s rare profanity and one steamy kiss with the start of undressing, but the film cuts away.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.