Ages 8 and older
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (94 min., PG) The third go-round in the series based on the popular children’s books. A scene in a pool involves a lot of toilet humor — kids peeing in the pool or holding up icky diapers. A locker-room scene right before that shows a kid horrified at the sight of men with hairy backs or bending over in swimsuits and showing a little derriere cleavage. Later, a child pretends to be drowning and is rescued by a man who gives him mouth-to-mouth. The scene is played as farce, but it and the locker-room scenes have a weird, homophobic vibe that seems tasteless and unnecessary.
The middle ground
Step Up Revolution (97 min., PG-13) From the first shot of young women’s derrieres in string bikinis, it’s clear that the PG-13 envelope will be getting pushed in terms of sexuality in dress and dance. So the film is problematic for middle schoolers whose parents worry about the hyper-sexualization of pop culture. The choreography involves a lot of heavily sexual moves. The actual plot treads lightly as regards such matters. The script includes rare mild profanity and crude language.
The Dark Knight Rises (164 min., PG-13) Christopher Nolan impressively concludes his Batman trilogy. The film is too full of realistic death and destruction for most middle schoolers. A terrorist act threatens nuclear annihilation. Other action sequences include bone-crushing fights and heavy gun battles as well as explosions and chases. The villain Bane wears a creepy black rubber mask over his nose and mouth. Scenes in an underground prison somewhere in the Middle East are gruesome without being graphic. Flashbacks of the villain Two-Face show part of his face badly disfigured.
Total Recall (109 min., PG-13) This remake of the 1990 sci-fi movie about manufactured memories may be too relentlessly intense for middle schoolers. The fights are bone-crushing, the chases more cool than scary, with futuristic vehicles zooming along elevated highways. There is little actual gore, but the hero bloodily uses a glass shard to cut an under-the-skin cellphone-global positioning device out of his hand. Early on, there is understated sexuality. In a red light district, we see prostitutes in suggestive clothes and one who bares her triple-breasted chest. The script includes midrange profanity.
Ruby Sparks (104 min., R) The rating for this update of the classic Pygmalion tale is mostly the result of language. Blocked writer Paul Dano imagines a character (Zoe Kazan) whom he falls in love with when she comes to life. Characters use very strong profanity and crude sexual language. They also smoke pot and make other verbal drug references. One scene where Dano very overtly manipulates Kazan’s feelings might disturb younger viewers.
The Watch (95 min., R) This comedy about neighborhood vigilantes on the lookout for extraterrestrials has queasy-making echoes of the Trayvon Martin case earlier this year. The dialogue bristles with profanity and crude, graphic sexual slang. A secondary character has an orgy in his basement, with graphically implied sexual situations and toplessness. A teenage make-out scene involves a girl having to fight off a boy. The alien invaders (humanoid-lizard hybrids, with razor teeth) impale victims on pincerlike arms. The dead are all minus their innards and skin.