Just Mercy (Rating)

Age 13+

Effective, intense drama about racism and justice; swearing.

Just Mercy” is a fact-based courtroom drama that tackles the subjects of racism and the death penalty. It centers on idealistic young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), who travels to Alabama to help save a wrongfully convicted man on Death Row (Jamie Foxx). It has strong language, including multiple uses of “s---” and the n-word. There are also some violent and/or upsetting scenes, including a police officer pointing his gun at Bryan’s head and the lead-up to a character’s death by execution. But violence is primarily conveyed through dialogue, including discussions of murder (shooting and strangulation), the planting of a bomb and a character getting burned. There are also moments of anger and hate/racism. Bryan is forced to strip for a search; he’s humiliated as he removes his shirt and (below the frame) pants and underwear. There’s also brief, mild sex-related dialogue, and brief smoking and beer drinking. The story isn’t surprising, but it’s very effective, with clear messages of perseverance, the importance of doing the right thing, fighting hard for those who need it the most and the problematic relationship between bigotry and justice. (137 minutes)

Underwater (PG-13)

Age 14+

Kristen Stewart sci-fi survival thriller has scares, swears.

Underwater” is a sci-fi thriller about a team of researchers who face unknown peril at the bottom of the ocean. This is a monster movie that’s meant to scare you — and it definitely does. But while you can expect deaths (including people imploding inside deep sea suits), near-constant peril and lots of tense moments, nothing is especially graphic. It’s basically an oceanic “Alien,” down to centering on a tough woman, Norah (Kristen Stewart), who has to figure out how to outsmart a terrifying creature. She makes a fantastic role model as a modern-day Ellen Ripley — although just like Ripley, she ends up taking care of some her tasks in her underwear. The male members of the crew aren’t hypermasculine stereotypes (one even carries a stuffed animal), and the group demonstrates both courage and excellent teamwork. Strong language (“s---,” “f---,” etc.) is used but isn’t constant. (93 minutes)

The Grudge (R)

Age 15+

Pointless horror reboot has lots of blood, jump-scares.

The Grudge” is a reboot/revival of the horror series that started in Japan and previously offered three English-language entries. It’s essentially about a cursed house that haunts anyone who dares to enter. Expect lots of blood and gore, rotted corpses, severed fingers, a body falling and smashing to the ground, a gun being drawn and fired (a bloody, failed suicide attempt), a car crash and a fire, plus plenty of jump-scares and frightening sounds. Language includes two uses of “f---,” several uses of “s---” and “oh God” and “Jesus.” There’s no sexual content, but the two main characters smoke cigarettes fairly frequently, and one character sips a whiskey in one scene. (93 minutes)

Fast & Furious: Spy Racers (TV-Y7-FV)


Age 9+

Delightful family-friendly sequel has positive themes.

Fast & Furious: Spy Racers” is an animated series based on the Fast & Furious feature films that follows a new group of teen street racers who join forces with a government agency to take down a gang. To do so, the characters engage in illegal and socially irresponsible behavior, but for the most part, their intentions are good. Even so, young kids won’t grasp the intricacies of the characters’ relationships or fully understand why they do what they do. Expect a fair amount of violence in this fast-paced series. Some scenes imply that people are hurt or even killed, although it’s not shown in detail. Ultimately, though, the main concern here is the show’s relationship to the movies, which are meant for a much older audience. On the upside, there are strong messages about family and loyalty, a diverse cast of characters (including one who may be non-binary), and whip-smart girls who are tech geniuses. (Eight approximately half-hour episodes)

Available via Netflix streaming.

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