Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that no character dies in “Frozen.” The king and queen die in a shipwreck. This version has been updated.
Frozen (PG). Lovely for most kids 6 and older, this gorgeous animated 3-D musical is loosely adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” Some scary scenes may be too menacing for viewers younger than 6, and even 6-year-olds may need brief reassurance. In the Scandinavian kingdom of Arendelle live two little princesses, Anna and Elsa. Elsa has a mysterious gift: She can, with a wave of her hands, fill a room with snow and ice. One day, while cavorting with Anna, Elsa injures her little sister. The spell is reversed by magical trolls, but Elsa, afraid her growing powers will do more harm, stays in her room. The trolls erase Anna’s memory of this, so she doesn’t understand why Elsa ignores her now. On the day Elsa is crowned queen, she unintentionally unleashes her powers. Accused of sorcery, she flees to the mountains and creates an ice palace where she’ll live out her life. Elsa doesn’t realize that she also covered Arendelle in permanent winter. Anna decides to find her.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Elsa and Anna’s parents die in a shipwreck, and the film includes life-or-death scenes at the edges of snowy cliffs and battles in which Elsa is stalked by soldiers with crossbows. She nearly impales them on ice shards.
Black Nativity (PG). Fine for kids 10 and older, this sentimental musical parable was loosely adapted by director Kasi Lemmons from the 1950s theater piece by poet Langston Hughes. A young Baltimore teen named Langston learns that he and his single mom are about to be evicted. He wants to help, but she sends him to spend Christmas week with her parents. The stern Rev. Cobbs and his kind wife, Aretha, live in a lovely old Harlem brownstone. Langston refuses to warm up to them. He meets a homeless couple, a pawnbroker and an ex-thug. Through them and the “Black Nativity” service at his grandfather’s church, he finds an understanding of familial love and Christmas.
THE BOTTOM LINE: While there is little or no profanity, the film has many references to the difficulties of inner-city life, including crime, homelessness, violence and drugs.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Teens will probably dive into this second film with gusto, whether they’ve read the books by Suzanne Collins or not. Haunted by dreams and PTSD-like flashbacks to her first, violent Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen isn’t celebrating her victory. She grieves and braces herself for the next challenge, knowing that President Snow, leader of the fascist, futuristic land of Panem, wants her dead. Her defiant performance in her first Hunger Games has inspired a budding revolt he needs to quell. Snow declares that the next games will be played not by new tributes from each district, but by past winners. Katniss, an ace with a bow and arrow, and Peeta, a gentle baker who can’t survive the games without her, must fight again. Competing in the jungle arena, they must fight other humans, predators and poisons. The finale makes it clear that the fight has just begun.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Violent sequences don’t show a lot of gore, but we see characters shot, stabbed and pierced by arrows; their skin ravaged by agonizing boils from a poison fog; their lives threatened by large, vicious monkeys, lightning and a tidal wave. The dialogue includes rare use of the F-word and the S-word.
Philomena. High-schoolers with wide-ranging tastes could discover a new world of storytelling in this fact-based drama. The film’s sexual references may be a little too blunt for middle-schoolers. Former BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith hears about Philomena Lee, a retired Irish nurse who become pregnant as a teen in Ireland in the early 1950s and was sent to a convent to have her baby and work off her “shame” in indentured servitude to the nuns. During that time, her baby, Anthony, was sold to a wealthy American couple, as was often the practice. Now a widow in her 70s, Philomena would like to find Anthony. Sixsmith decides to help her.
The bottom line: The film depicts a painful breach birth, with much screaming. The script includes occasional profanity, crude language and toilet humor.
Oldboy. Emphatically not for viewers younger than 17, “Oldboy” is a tale of revenge, torture and debauchery. It is geared to cinema buffs college age and older. Josh Brolin plays Joe Doucett, a drunk, divorced, womanizing ad man. In 1993, he is imprisoned in what looks like a drab motel room, a television his only link to the world. Joe sees an agonizing news story about his ex-wife’s rape and murder. Twenty years after his abduction, he is mysteriously set free. Armed with a hammer, he sets about learning who did this to him.
The bottom line: “Oldboy” shows extremely strong violence, as Joe kills by slamming a hammer into skulls. Scenes of torture involve throat-cutting. A flashback shows excerpts of the rape and murder of Joe’s ex-wife. The film includes backview nudity and two explicit sexual situations. The script includes strong profanity and sexual language.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.
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