Belle (PG)

Age 10+

Vivid anime has humor, heart, and deals with big themes.

Belle” is a coming-of-age anime fantasy that retells the “Beauty and the Beast” fairy tale in a slightly futuristic setting. Available in the original Japanese (with subtitles) and in a dubbed version, it delicately deals with several big issues within a family, including (spoiler alert) loss, grief, abandonment and abuse. None of those incidents are actually depicted, but kids are shown being threatened, and one receives a bloody scratch. Main character Suzu (voiced by Kaho Nakamura, in Japanese, and Kylie McNeill in English) is still grappling with the past trauma of her mother’s death, and her sadness has left her alienated from most of her classmates over the years. With the encouragement and support of her best friend, she finds comfort (and eventually strength) by
re-creating herself as a beautiful avatar in a virtual environment, emboldened by her anonymity there. Themes include curiosity and beauty coming from who you are inside. Expect some name calling (“idiot,” “loser,” “old fart,” “scumbag,” etc.) and a use of “damn,” as well as jokes about possibly age-inappropriate crushes. (121 minutes)

In theaters.

The 355 (PG-13)

Age 13+

Action violence in fantastic, fierce female spy thriller.

The 355” is an action thriller centered on a formidable, diverse team of international female spies played by Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger and Bingbing Fan. They’re physically skilled, shrewd, brave and untiring in their pursuit to do what’s necessary to save the world from extreme danger. While each is tough and capable as a solo agent, the clear message is that women are stronger together. Each reflects the culture of her country of origin to some degree, and many languages are spoken. Frequent action violence includes highly choreographed combat moves, gunfire, punches, kicks, explosions and stabbings. These scenes aren’t graphic and don’t have a huge amount of emotional impact, but a hostage situation is far tenser and may be too much for sensitive viewers. A long-term friendship gets romantic, with kissing on a bed and the implication of sex. Drinking throughout and reference to selling cocaine. Strong language includes
“a--hole” and one use of “f---.”
(124 minutes)

In theaters.

Scream (R)

Age 16+

Gory “requel” in meta-horror series is still wicked fun.

Scream” is the fifth movie in the horror franchise and is a self-described “requel” (i.e. mix of remake and sequel) intended to send the story in a new direction while still involving “legacy” characters such as Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). In the hands of new filmmakers, the meta-horror idea still has enough juice to produce a lightly flawed but wickedly entertaining shocker for mature fans. Violence is extremely strong and over-the-top, with lots of blood: spurts, sprays and gurgles. Expect to see guns and shooting, characters dying, repeated stabbings, fighting, kicking and punching, etc. Language is also quite strong, with many uses of “f---,” “s---,” “a--hole,” “b----” and more. There are several instances of sex-related dialogue, and two scenes with kissing, plus a discussion about “going upstairs.” Teen drinking is briefly seen at a party, and there’s dialogue about teen drug use and alcohol dependency (many liquor bottles are shown).
(115 minutes)

In theaters.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (PG)


Age 7+

Slapsticky monster sequel has silly laughs, mild peril.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” is the fourth (and supposedly final) installment in the animated Hotel Transylvania series about classic movie monsters. The story focuses on Johnny (voice of Andy Samberg), who uses Van Helsing’s (Jim Gaffigan) “Monsterfication” ray to turn himself into a monster after Dracula (Brian Hull, stepping in for Adam Sandler) lies and tells him that only a monster can inherit the family business. But the device also turns the monsters, including Drac himself, into humans. Expect mild peril (falls from heights, etc.), lots of slapstick physical comedy (mostly at the expense of how frail humans are compared to monsters), property destruction and a fanged and red-eyed, rampaging gerbil monster. There are a few laugh-inducing shots of the Invisible Man’s bare bum once he becomes visible (one shot is especially large and looming), as well as some affection/kissing between couples, mild insults and characters drinking a toast during a celebration. “Humanizing” the monsters makes it clear that the characters are more diverse as monsters than they are as humans. But as with the previous movies, the story has themes of celebrating differences, accepting others as they are and the importance of teamwork. (98 minutes)

Available on Amazon.

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