Ages 8 and up
Frankenweenie (87 min., PG) This dark stop-motion animated 3-D feature from Tim Burton will likely petrify under-10s, even as this tale about a sad boy who brings his dead dog back to life transfixes older kids. With an unusual film like this, parents really need to think about what their own children can handle on a big screen and in 3-D. When the dead animals are transformed, they emerge as monsters and terrorize the town. Adults react like a mob. No one is shown being hurt or killed, but the overall atmosphere is definitely old-style horror.
Ages 10 and up
Here Comes the Boom (105 min., PG) Kevin James is a high school biology teacher who enters the mixed martial arts ring to raise money for the school. The fight scenes feature major mayhem, and some of it looks painful. There’s an episode of projectile vomiting. The script includes mildly crude language and mild sexual innuendo.
The middle ground
Alex Cross (102 min., PG-13) This thriller starring Tyler Perry as James Patterson’s forensic detective hero is graphic and violent enough to deserve an R. It has scenes of strongly implied torture, including the severing of a victim’s fingers, and then, later, use of a severed thumb to open a fingerprint-sensitive vault. A kinky though nongraphic sexual situation revolves around sadomasochism and turns lethal. Multiple murders are shown with point- blank shootings. They are violent, if not hugely bloody. The film includes thunderous shootouts, car chases, and explosions. The dialogue includes occasional profanity.
Taken 2 (97 min., PG-13) In the original, it was former agent Liam Neeson’s daughter (Maggie Grace) who was kidnapped. Now it’s the turn of Neeson and ex-his wife (Famke Janssen). The mayhem features much plaster-shattering gunplay, but with little blood. Neeson’s character kills several people with his bare hands, and the fights are intense. The dialogue includes occasional mild profanity (the S-word in particular). There are references to sex slavery.
Argo (120 min., R) Ben Affleck directed and stars in this based-on-fact story of how the CIA rescued six US hostages from Iran in 1980. There’s strong profanity throughout. One scene shows Iranian revolutionaries shooting a man in the street. Scenes depicting angry mobs and armed revolutionary guards bristle with tension. Real and reenacted footage of the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran is upsetting to watch.
Seven Psychopaths (109 min., R) Martin McDonagh wrote and directed this very funny — and very gory — criminal farce. The film is full of bloody, up-close gun and knife violence. A reenactment of a Vietnam War-era incident is used, in which a Buddhist monk sets himself on fire as a protest. In addition to steaming profanity, characters use racial and ethnic slurs, including the N-word. The film includes a brief, semi-explicit sexual situation and brief drug use.Jane Horwitz, Washington Post Writers Group.