The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (PG). Kids 10 and older, especially if they can enjoy quieter films, will find great pleasure in Ben Stiller’s gentle update of James Thurber’s classic story. Stiller’s Walter Mitty is a 40-something drone in Life Magazine’s New York office. His co-workers chuckle at his tendency to zone out. He adores a new employee but can’t summon the nerve to ask her out. Instead, he imagines himself as an action hero, rescuing her and sweeping her off her feet. Word comes down that Life is downsizing, and it is Walter’s job to provide the negative for the final print cover, sent in and specified by photographer Sean O’Connell. But Walter can’t find the negative. Desperate, he decides to go after the notoriously elusive O’Connell.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Walter goes up with an intoxicated helicopter pilot and outruns a potential volcanic eruption. The script includes mildly crude expressions and very mild sexual innuendo.
The Past. While it deals in mature themes, nothing in “The Past” is unsuitable for middle-schoolers and high-schoolers. Ahmad arrives in Paris from Tehran to finalize his divorce after a long separation from his French wife, Marie. Marie’s new lover, Samir, and his rebellious little boy, Fouad, have been staying with her and her two daughters. It is already a contentious household when Ahmad arrives. Lucie and Léa, who are Marie’s children from a previous relationship, like Ahmad and miss him. Tensions grow as we learn that Samir is still married and that his wife is in a coma following a suicide attempt. A dispute erupts among the adults and teenage Lucie over how that came about and who is to blame.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There is occasional midrange profanity in the French dialogue and English subtitles. Characters smoke a lot, even a pregnant woman. There is discussion of an extra-marital affair and an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
Lone Survivor. Too realistically violent to recommend for anyone younger than 17, “Lone Survivor” is a war story for grown-ups. Based on a memoir of former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the film re-creates what happened to him and three fellow SEALs while on a mission in Afghanistan in June 2005. Their target is a Taliban leader in a village near the Pakistan border. While scoping out the village from a wooded hillside, the SEALs encounter several unarmed shepherds. After a brief debate over whether to kill them, detain them or let them go, the SEALs decide that killing them would be a war crime. They release them, knowing that the shepherds will give their location to Taliban fighters. The four Americans are soon surrounded. The battle goes on and on, as Marcus’s buddies die and he, while badly wounded, survives with help from a Pashtun villager.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The endless firefights are edge-of-the-seat depictions and the wounds are painfully realistic and bloody. The SEALs shoot many Taliban fighters, but it is how they themselves take bullets and grenades, plummet down hillsides and die with lungs full of blood that the film shows up-close. The profanity is very strong.
August: Osage County. Not for viewers younger than 17 because of an intensely profane script and mature themes, “August: Osage County” nevertheless offers a sample platter of fine acting. We meet the tempestuous Weston family of rural Oklahoma. Patriarch Beverly, a poet of note, disappears. His ailing, pill-popping, vitriol-spewing wife, Violet, awaits news of him with her offspring, in-laws and grandchildren, all gathered in her unairconditioned house in 90-degree heat. Violet spars with daughter Barbara, who is estranged from her husband and teenage child. Violet’s blabbermouth sister, Mattie Fae, and Mattie Fae’s quiet husband, Charlie, have a secret. Everyone’s dirty laundry billows out of control.
The bottom line: The script contains strong profanity, graphic sexual slang and racial and homophobic slurs. A character abuses prescription drugs. A man offers pot to a 14-year-old girl and flirts inappropriately with her. Central themes involve suicide, incest and terminal cancer.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. Slightly bloodier than the previous four films in the series, this one is still relatively tame for an R, and okay for most high-schoolers. Now set in a blue-collar Latino community in Oxnard, Calif., the story centers on friends Jesse, Hector and Marisol, who’ve just graduated from high school. They use home video technology to try to capture images of spooky goings-on. They spy on their mysterious neighbor Anna, and see the valedictorian of their class, Oscar, running from her apartment. They also glimpse Anna and a young woman, naked and taking part in a witches’ ritual. Soon after, Anna is found dead, and Oscar is a suspect. Oscar leaps off the roof to his death. Hector, Jesse and Marisol try to suss out what’s going on. Jesse starts to grow sullen and violent. A bite mark on his arm is similar to one Oscar had. This does not bode well.
The bottom line: Most of the violence is held back until a climactic finale, which involves high-caliber gunshot wounds and blunt force trauma. The film also includes nudity, strong profanity, a briefly steamy sexual situation, drug use, drinking and street fights.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.