PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE (PG). The adventures of Dusty Crophopper, the single-engine crop-duster that could, continue 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 a lot 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, and Dusty and the other planes, trucks and forklifts go through thick black smoke filled with sparks. Dusty’s gearbox trouble injects a sense of mortality that could unsettle the youngest kids. Some of the dialogue includes mild sexual innuendo that little ones won’t get.
HERCULES. “Hercules” isn't nearly as bad as the pre-release buzz hinted it would be. Handsomely mythic in 3-D, wittily written (with a populist edge) and smartly acted, it’s rather fun. Teens into classic or comic-book takes on the Greek myths may go along with it. It is, however, surprisingly violent for a PG-13. It is probably okay for most teens, but with the big caveat that some, especially middle-schoolers, may cringe at the high-body-count battles. Dwayne Johnson in the title role underplays the heroic attitude nicely. And he’s supported by top-drawer Brits with classical chops. The film also respects the Greek myths on which it riffs. It starts by recapping the tale of Hercules, the demigod offspring of Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmene, and his fabled Labors. Then it reimagines the legend that Hercules, driven mad by Zeus’s jealous wife, Hera, murdered his own family. The film has him grieving and unsure of what occurred. He has a band of mercenaries. They hire on with Lord Kotys of Thrace, whose realm is under siege. But all is not what it seems there.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Battle scenes get very intense. Although blood and gore do not fill the screen, the action depicts deaths and woundings by spear, arrow, ax and dagger. Beheadings and impalements are strongly implied. Fields are strewn with dead fighters and felled horses. In flashbacks, Hercules sees his murdered wife, covered in blood, and imagines how she and his children died. In his mythic Labors, Hercules decapitates the many-headed Hydra and breaks the jaw of the Nemean Lion. There is one F-word, and a sexually tinged joke about bondage.
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.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. This sequel depicts tremendous violence. It stays within its PG-13 rating by cutting back on close-ups of blood and guts and keeping profanity and sexual innuendo to a minimum. Even so, more than a few middle-schoolers could find it too much, especially in 3-D. High-school fans of intellectual sci-fi action flicks, however, may be hooked by the film’s darkly apocalyptic tone and great effects. Ten years after the ape revolt that ended “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” most of humankind has been wiped out by a virus. The chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans have settled in Muir Woods near San Francisco, led by their benevolent chimp hero, Caesar. They clash with human survivors from the city who want to reactivate a hydroelectric dam. Mistrust and vengeful outliers on both sides make it hard for Caesar and a human peacemaker, Malcolm, to avert war.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Battles between apes and humans involve graphically warlike gunplay, with many deaths. Inter-species prejudice, grief and loss are key themes.
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.
Horwitz is a freelance writer. Read her previous reviews at