Planes: Fire and Rescue (PG). The adventures of Dusty Crophopper, a single-engine crop-duster, escalate in this surprisingly intense 3-D animated sequel. Kids younger than 6 could find it quite scary, despite the goofy humor between the dangerous bits. (Preschoolers talked and fidgeted during a preview screening attended by the Family Filmgoer.) Now a celebrity after his round-the-world race, Dusty is back at PropWash Junction. One night, his engine stalls and he nearly crashes. During an emergency landing, he clips a fuel storage tank, which catches fire. The old firetruck, Mayday, can’t put out the blaze, so the planes, trucks and forklifts tip over the airport’s water tower to squelch it. The little airport must close until it updates its firefighting capability. Dusty learns that his gearbox is failing and can’t be replaced. If he flies too fast again, he could go down. He decides to study firefighting at Piston Peak National Park. Dusty doesn’t mention his gearbox issue. When a fire threatens the park, Dusty risks everything to help.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Dusty nearly crashes several times, which can be quite scary, especially in 3-D. The forest fires look serious. Dusty’s gearbox trouble injects a sense of mortality that could unsettle the youngest kids.
Guardians of the Galaxy. An out-and-out interstellar riot, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is fine fare for most teens. It will especially delight high-schoolers who savor a big helping of wit with their
sci-fi/comic-book adventures. A happy amalgam of Marvel Comics outcast heroes saves the universe from a villain, Ronan, who is backed by a shadowy figure called Thanos. Ronan requires a crucial artifact called the Orb, but Peter Quill, an outlaw scavenger, comes into possession of it first. Gamora, a warrior rebelling against Ronan, accosts Peter Quill to get the Orb. They join forces instead, also teaming with Drax the Destroyer; a smart-mouth, genetically modified raccoon named Rocket; and his treelike pal, Groot. The world of the film is bizarre, yet bracing, and realized in handsome 3-D.
THE BOTTOM LINE: While the destruction is on a galactic scale, the blood and gore stay at a minimum. Some younger kids may balk at the weird-looking beings from other solar systems. The script includes some moderate sexual innuendo and occasional use of the S-word.
Get On Up. Strong on music, atmosphere and acting, this biopic about the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, has at its core a terrific performance by Chadwick Boseman. Too adult for middle-schoolers, the film should intrigue high-school-age music fans, despite its narrative glitches. The film goes to rewarding lengths to show how Brown came up with his musical style and his moves. Highlights of his concert career are vividly recreated, synching the actors with Brown’s original vocals and those of his backup singers and musicians. Brown’s own faults as an adult — infidelities, mistreatment of employees, a scary temper — seem to reflect in part his difficult early years.
The bottom line: As a boy, Brown sees a lynched man hanging from a tree. The adult Brown is depicted using pot with hints of stronger drugs. There is a clothed, but somewhat explicit, sexual situation for a PG-13. The script includes more than one use of the N-word and a use of the F-word.
Hercules. Handsomely mythic in 3-D, wittily written (with a populist edge) and smartly acted, “Hercules” is rather fun. It is, however, surprisingly violent for a PG-13 — probably okay for most teens, but with the caveat that some, especially middle-schoolers, may cringe at the high-body-count battles. Dwayne Johnson in the title role underplays the hero thing nicely, and he’s supported by top-drawer Brits. The film respects the myths even as it riffs on them, first recapping the tale of Hercules the demigod, offspring of Zeus and a mortal woman, and his fabled labors. Then it explores the legend that Hercules, driven mad by Zeus’s jealous wife, Hera, murdered his own family. The film has him unsure of what occurred. He and his band of mercenaries hire on with Lord Kotys of Thrace. But all is not what it seems.
The bottom line: Battle scenes get very intense: Although blood and gore may not fill the screen, the action depicts deaths and woundings by spear, arrow, ax and dagger, with strongly implied beheadings and impalements. In nightmare flashbacks, Hercules sees his murdered wife and children, covered in blood, and imagines how they died. There is one F-word.
MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT. In Woody Allen’s latest film, a famous magician tries to debunk a young woman who claims to be a gifted medium. A pleasure from start to finish, the movie may charm some teens but put off others with its arch dialogue and 1920s setting. It’s fine for most kids 10 and older. In it, Allen pays tribute to the writing styles of such greats as George Bernard Shaw and Noel Coward. Colin Firth plays Stanley, a British magician whose stage persona as a Chinese conjurer allows him to go incognito in everyday life. A colleague invites him to an estate on the Cote D’Azur to expose as a fraud a young woman named Sophie (Emma Stone) who has earned a following among the aristocracy as a medium. Stanley becomes so charmed by her that his abilities fail him.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Really much more like a PG film, “Magic in the Moonlight” has virtually no profanity and one offhand, barely audible off-color remark. Many characters smoke constantly.
A Most Wanted Man. In one of his final films, a spy thriller based on a 2008 John le Carré novel, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman demonstrates what made him great. Rumpled and doughy, rarely without a drink and a cigarette, German counter-terrorism agent Günther Bachmann (Hoffman) needs to learn more about a half-Russian, half-Chechen young man who has illegally landed in Hamburg. The fellow is a devout Muslim, but is he a radical? Does the lawyer helping him plead for asylum have a covert agenda? Bachmann becomes convinced that the young man, while no terrorist, will lead him to a major funder of terrorism.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The central character smokes and drinks constantly and uses strong profanity. The script includes moderate sexual innuendo.
LUCY. Action and sci-fi buffs 17 and older may click with writer-director Luc Besson’s brainy style of manic mayhem. Scarlett Johansson aces the role of Lucy, a young woman studying in Asia. A scruffy boyfriend traps her into delivering a briefcase to a gangster. Lucy witnesses multiple killings, and the gangster holds her captive. He and his thugs turn her and several men into mules, implanting bags full of a new synthetic drug in their abdomens and sending them to Europe where other gangsters will meet them. One thug tries to assault Lucy and kicks her so hard that the bag breaks and she absorbs the drug. It causes her brain to increase its power rapidly. Lucy becomes a walking supercomputer with kinetic and transformative powers. She calls a police officer in Paris to launch her revenge, then contacts a scientist (Morgan Freeman) who lectures about brain capacity.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Blood-spattering gun deaths, vicious beatings and insane car chases more than earn the R rating, along with graphic close-ups of stabbings and surgical incisions. Innocent people clearly die in the mayhem but aren’t acknowledged. Two scenes strongly imply attempted rape, and other scenes include steamy sexual innuendo. There is occasional strong profanity.
I, Origins. A story of the scientific versus the spiritual, “I, Origins” comes across as intriguing baloney masquerading as deep thought — from the same indie filmmakers who did “Another Earth.” Scientists Ian and Karen are working on a lab project together. Ian, meanwhile, falls for a very unscientific, spiritual young woman, Sofi, who believes in reincarnated souls. Sofi dies before Ian’s eyes in a tragic elevator accident. A few years later, Ian has married his lab partner, Karen. Just as he is gaining fame for a book about their experiment, word comes that the retina scan of a child’s eyes in India matches a scan taken of the late Sofi’s eyes. Does this mean that souls do survive and eyes are their mirrors? Ian heads to India.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film has scenes of nudity and mild nongraphic sexual situations. The elevator accident that kills Sofi involves a very brief, but gory shot of her body cut in half. The script includes some profanity.
Mood Indigo (Unrated). Only high-school and college cinema aesthetes will appreciate this strange film (in French with English subtitles) from Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”). In “Mood Indigo,” based on a cult novel by Boris Vian, Gondry employs a richly visual, sentimentalized form of Dali-esque surrealism, intercut with satiric jabs at Sartre-ian Existentialism and even nods to Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the dialogue. The film is so stylized, in fact, that it’s barely comprehensible, yet somehow still arresting. It is a love story, set in a vaguely modern, magical Paris, where objects spontaneously transform but typewriters are still widely in use. Rich guy Colin, attended by a full-time butler-lawyer, falls for Chloé. On their wedding night, she becomes ill — a flower takes root in one lung and grows. The beauty and whimsy of act one turns shadowy and sad in act two.
THE BOTTOM LINE:Occasional nudity and stylized, non-explicit sexual situations would probably earn an R. The script includes rare mild profanity.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.