A scene from “Rio 2.” (Blue Sky Studios/AP)
6 and older

Rio 2 (G). The animated adventures of a South American blue macaw, aptly named Blu, and his mate, Jewel, continue in this richly colored and pleasurable sequel. It’s still fun, but perhaps not quite as sparkling in its humor and inventiveness as the original. Once again, the macaws face both avian and human villains, but nothing too intense for most kids age 6 and older. With their three fledglings, Blu and Jewel lead a quiet life in Rio, but Jewel worries that they’ve become too domesticated. So it’s off to the Amazon jungle to put their offspring in touch with nature, much to the citified Blu’s dismay. In the jungle, Blu and Jewel learn they’re not the only blue macaws left. They meet a whole flock, thought to have been wiped out. Linda and Tulio, their human protectors, learn this, too, but are detained by villains who poach rare birds and cut down trees.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Men operating bulldozers start mowing down trees in the rain forest, which some small children might find disturbing.

8 and older

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar (G). Morgan Freeman uses his most authoritative tones to narrate this nature documentary. At only 39 minutes, and in Imax 3-D format, it will be an excellent sit-down diversion for kids 8 and older on a trip to the National Museum of Natural History. The topic is the long-tailed, saucer-eyed, utterly charming lemurs of Madagascar. Kids will be astonished at the story of how lemurs probably floated from Africa to Madagascar during a storm some 60 million years ago. The filmmakers’ lenses get in close to show the lemurs caring for their young, leaping from tree to tree, “dancing” across the ground and calling to one another. “Island of Lemurs” makes a strong, if awfully repetitive, case for saving the lemurs’ dwindling habitat on the island, the only place on Earth where they live in the wild.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Scenes in which the lemurs’ forest habitat burns or scenes in which scientists capture lemurs to study them might briefly unsettle kids younger than 10, though the film does not show lemurs being hurt.


Draft Day. Teen sports fans with more grown-up tastes in movie characters and humor should get a charge out of “Draft Day” and its portrait of an embattled general manager during the first day of the NFL draft. Kevin Costner’s deadpan delivery is ideal for the fictional role of Sonny Weaver Jr., general manager of the struggling Cleveland Browns. Sonny is on the spot for a number of reasons, and he commits what looks to the team owner, the head coach, ordinary fans and his own girlfriend, who happens to be the team’s salary-cap manager, like a series of huge mistakes. Sonny gives up too much in order to snag the first pick in the draft, then he has second thoughts and starts backtracking and renegotiating and risking even more, right down to the wire.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Not surprisingly, a movie about deal-making in big-time sports has plenty of mid-range and occasionally stronger profanity. Sonny and his girlfriend, Ali, have a long-term intimate relationship, which is implied, and there is other sexual innuendo and crude language. Some characters drink.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s good to stop and consider one’s moral options, even in an action movie, but this sequel does too much of that, unfolding in fits and starts. Teen fans of Marvel Comics films will savor it anyway, because of its winning characters and sharp repartee. They’ll forgive the slow bits and the hardware-heavy special effects. Captain America, a.k.a. Steve Rogers, played as a classic all-American hero by Chris Evans, has been thawed out and awakened from his long sleep after World War II. Now it’s the near future of our 21st century. Steve has a crisis of conscience over his boss, Nick Fury, the head of the secret agency S.H.I.E.L.D., and the violent methods he uses. Suddenly, Steve doesn’t know whom to trust. Fury is sidelined and a government bigwig may not be reliable. So Steve teams with Natasha, a.k.a. the Black Widow, and Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon, to find the truth and, incidentally, save humankind.

The bottom line: High-speed chases punctuated by deafening gun battles and other explosions earn the PG-13 rating, though fatalities are portrayed bloodlessly unless they involve important characters. The script includes occasional use of the S-word and gently implied sexual innuendo.

Noah. A flawed but involving epic, Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” paints a stunning, intimate portrait of a man burning with religious and moral zeal. There’s no reason why teens, devout or not, wouldn’t be pulled into this compelling saga. The film makes vivid the Old Testament tug-of-war between good and evil. True, the clothing looks oddly modern; the fallen angels who help Noah build the ark have a “Transformers” look about them; and the violent descendant of Cain who stows away on the Ark may give biblical scholars the hiccups. But Russell Crowe’s Noah, with his somber, stubborn goodness, makes you believe that his orders come straight from the Creator, as characters call the Deity.

THE BOTTOM LINE: “Noah” contains a lot of violence — clubbings, stabbings, lethal fights, the killing of animals — though not much blood or gore. The film also includes a nongraphic childbirth scene with a lot of screaming. There are a couple of nongraphic sexual situations.


Oculus. Loving parents are suddenly possessed by an evil spirit, then turn violently on their children in “Oculus.” This not-for-under-17s psychological horror film, while not as violent as some, contains images and ideas that are way too grim for middle-schoolers and for many of high-school age, too.  And while the film makes ingenious use of flashbacks and imagery, it leaves a sour aftertaste. Kaylie and Tim are in their early 20s, still dealing with the trauma surrounding the violent deaths of their parents 10 years earlier. Tim has just emerged from a psychiatric hospital, where he was sent after shooting their father. Kaylie was in foster care and now works at an antiques auction house. She has obtained the old mirror that she believes was the source of the evil spirit that overtook their father and then their mother, causing the bloody events that transpired. Kaylie is intent on killing that haggard woman with the glowing eyes she spied in the mirror. But Tim has, through therapy, come to believe that nothing occult happened -- that their father was simply a killer.  

THE BOTTOM LINE: The bloodiest horrors occur in the third act, and are relatively muted for the genre. Even so, the film depicts deaths by gunfire, neck-slashing, strangulation, and a variation on the guillotine. In flashbacks, the siblings recall how their parents went mad and attacked them and each other. The mother is shown in shackles, her mouth bloodied and toothless. The father stalks his children with a gun; the mother tries to strangle one child. The woman in the mirror is fodder for nightmares.  

Horwitz is a freelance writer.