All of the big movies opening this week are rated PG-13 or below, so Christy lets us know what to watch out for if you plan on taking the little ones to any of them — with the exception of Masterminds, which wasn’t really widely screened for critics. Read on to find out.
NEW IN THEATERS
Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and peril.
A teenager named Jake (Asa Butterfield) travels back in time to visit an orphanage full of kids with magical abilities in the latest fantasy adventure from director Tim Burton. The material would seem tailor-made for Burton’s tastes. The “peculiars,” as they’re known, can set fire to things just by touching them, or float away, or spit bees from their mouths, to list just a few. But there are some deeply frightening images here, too, including the sight of dead people whose eyes have been plucked from their skulls, leaving them with dark, haunting holes. The murderous villains, meanwhile, have eyes that shine an eerie, bright white. We also see the repeated sight of Nazi planes dropping bombs on the orphanage during World War II. There’s some fun to be had here, too, as well as some moments of beauty and wonder. But the story, based on the Young Adult novel by Ransom Riggs, features a densely packed mythology that’s often hard to follow. My son — who’s almost 7 and never gets scared in movies – found the sight of the hollow-eyed people frightening. And, like me, he often thought the convoluted plot was confusing. But if your kids are interested in seeing Miss Peregrine’s, I’d say it’s OK for viewers around 9 or 10 and older.
Rating: PG-13, for prolonged intense disaster sequences and related disturbing images, and brief strong language.
The April 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which left 11 men dead and dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, is the subject of this intense drama. Director Peter Berg lets us get to know the crew members (Mark Wahlberg, Gina Rodriguez, and Kurt Russell lead the ensemble cast) and provides a glimpse into the arduous, complicated work they do. Then he steadily builds tension leading up to the volatile disaster itself. This is a riveting, well-made, and strongly acted film, but it’s also really tense and difficult to watch for much of the time. Men get pummeled with oil and thrown across rooms by the sheer force of the blasts. Several of them leap from the rig into the fiery water, hoping to survive, but others plummet to their deaths. One character gets hit with shattered glass all over his face and body; another suffers a severe leg injury. And at the end, the credits reveal the names and photographs of the victims, which is stirring. There’s also quite a bit of language: These are blue-collar guys who are boisterously joking with each other and, later, reacting to a disastrous situation. But it’s a worthwhile story in terms of educating young people about the environmental impact of this massive spill, and it has important themes of courage and teamwork. Fine for viewers around 10 and older.
Rating: PG, for thematic elements, an accident scene and some suggestive material.
This feel-good true story, which opened in limited release last week and goes wider this week, is a beautifully acted and inspiring tale of a girl from the slums of Uganda who becomes an unlikely chess champion. The lovely Madina Nalwanga stars as 10-year-old Phiona, who sells corn in the streets to help her family survive. But she’s quick-witted and inquisitive, and she becomes curious when she sees a missionary (David Oyelowo) teaching chess to the local youth. He, in turn, recognizes her smarts and instincts for the game – as well as her fighting spirit – and agrees to coach her. But Phiona’s hardworking and protective mother (Lupita Nyong’o) is apprehensive about letting her compete on an international scale. Director Mira Nair creates a vivid sense of place, both in the daily hardships these kids endure and the small joys they savor. There’s also a subplot involving the questionable choices Phiona’s older sister makes to ensure her own survival. But for the most part, this is a worthwhile, emotionally powerful film for kids to see with lessons about dedication and hope.
NEW ON DVD
Rating: PG-13, for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence.
Kids around age 10 or 11 and older would probably be fine watching this feature-film version of the Warcraft video game – but should they? It’s a giant, noisy, computer-generated extravaganza crammed with massive battles between hulking orcs and sword-wielding knights. If that’s what you’re into, awesome. But if you’ve never played the game before, you’re likely to be confused (as I was), because it’s often difficult to tell who’s doing what to whom. The violence is pummeling and relentless, full of fighting, shooting and stabbing, but it’s also rather fake looking and cartoonish. Having said that, the orcs’ appearance alone may be rather startling to some younger viewers. There’s also quite a bit of magic at play here as warlocks use their powers for good and evil. My son was 6 ½ when I took him with me to a screening of this and he didn’t find anything frightening; actually, he was rather bored and squirming the whole time.
Rating: PG-13, for bloody images, intense sequences of peril, and brief strong language.
Viewers around 12 or 13 and older will be fine with this lean, mean thriller in which Blake Lively battles a hungry shark. Who will win?! Lively stars as a young woman who goes surfing alone at a secluded Mexican beach. Ignoring warnings to return to shore before it gets too dark, she stays for one last wave and becomes the target of a particularly persistent great white. It’s pretty gnarly, I must say – in all the best possible ways. Lively’s character suffers a serious bite on the leg and stitches up the bloody limb in clever, makeshift fashion. The few other people who exist in this remote setting don’t fare nearly so well. She’s in constant peril but she’s also smart, resourceful and skilled as she runs through her options for survival. And she gets the one well-chosen F-bomb you’re allowed in a PG-13 movie. This is an intense, frightening, well-made and surprisingly fun little flick.