Ages 6 and older
The Croods (98 min., PG) A feature-length cartoon about a family that’s paleolithic but sitcom-modern. The Croods manage to survive earthquakes, meteorites, eruptions, and avalanches, as well as encounters with enormous tropical plants and huge creatures with teeth, from land-lubber whales with feet, to saber-tooth tigers. The Croods sometimes disappear into the dust, fog, and smoke of one catastrophe or another, but they always reappear. Seeing the film in 2-D rather than 3-D would be less intense. The script includes very mild sexual innuendo. A character wishes openly for his mother-in-law’s demise.
Ages 10 and older
Oz the Great and Powerful (130 min., PG) A prequel to “The Wizard of Oz.” There are plenty of scary moments and images, especially in 3-D, that could give kids under 10 at least temporary shivers. The flying ape-like minions who work for the wicked witch are nasty-looking in close-up. And the laser-like battles between the bad witches, on one side, and Glinda, the people of Oz, and their new “wizard” on the other, get loud and showily destructive. Even the little China Girl, weeping in her demolished porcelain home, has the look and surroundings of a war refugee. Early in the film, the tornado is nightmarish.
The middle ground
Admission (107 min., PG-13) Tina Fey is a Princeton admissions officer. The dialogue includes occasional strong profanity and at least one misogynist slur. The plot involves out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Fey’s character and Paul Rudd’s spend an implied night together. Characters remark on one rich lady’s racist jockey statues. In a fantasy element of the admissions officers’ meeting, college applicants appear in the meeting room and, if rejected, fall through the floor.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (101 min., PG-13) Fighting and feuding among magicians in Las Vegas. They include Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, and Jim Carrey. Some of their crazy stunts involve bedding down on hot coals, holding in urine for days, drilling a hole into a skull, and seeming to crush a puppy (it’s not hurt). The script contains midrange profanity, including, briefly, the F-word and the B-word, plus a lot of sexual innuendo. One major trick involves the use of an illegal drug.
The Call (90 min., R) A 911 operator (Halle Berry) feels she may have contributed to a teenage girl’s murder. The film becomes semigraphic and creepily psychosexual once we meet the killer up close, so it’s too much for under-17s. We see him drug and hit another teen as he shoves her into his trunk, and we see him bash a man’s head with a shovel and later stab him. He sprays gasoline onto a gas station attendant and sets him on fire. He cuts into a girl’s scalp with a surgical knife. A strong incest theme in his past is implied in photographs and in his actions. Characters use rare but strong profanity.
Dead Man Down (118 min., R) Colin Farrell is a hit man, Noomi Rapace is his facially disfigured neighbor. Violent and morally complex, this film is truly for 17 and older. It features much intense gun violence, with point-blank shootings, though less blood 'n’ guts than is typically R-ish. The mayhem also includes strangulations, beatings, and one unfortunate who is set upon by sewer rats. The film contains a steamy sexual situation interrupted by violence. The script includes occasional strong profanity.
Olympus Has Fallen (119 min., R) North Koreans hit Washington, D.C.! Lethal gunshots become graphic, including a spurting throat wound, and fights are bone-crushing. Buses and other large vehicles are used as bombs and many innocents fall. Gerard Butler’s character kills an invader with a bust of Lincoln and stabs another in the head. The invaders torture members of the Cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, trying to get nuclear codes from them. Characters use strong profanity.
On the Road (124 min., R) This adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s classic novel is definitely for audiences 17 and older. It is far too explicit sexually and shows too much dangerous drug use and drinking for younger teens. Also, the attitude toward female characters among the supposedly rebellious, anti-bourgeois guys is cringe-makingly sexist and dismissive. The movie shows female toplessness and male backview nudity. The dialogue includes profanity. Themes of romantic and marital infidelity run throughout.
Jane Horwitz, Washington Post Writers Group.