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    Dec. 16 film picks

    Andy Serkis as the computer-enhanced Gollum in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
    Warner Bros. Pictures
    Andy Serkis as the computer-enhanced Gollum in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

    The middle ground

    The Central Park Five (119 min., unrated) The vicious crime that’s discussed, the Central Park jogger case, and some of the language that’s used make the film too strong for under-16s. It explores the 1989 arrest and eventual conviction of five youths, four African-American and one Latino, in New York City. They were charged with the rape and near-fatal beating of a woman in Central Park. The film briefly shows gruesome photos of the jogger’s face after the attack. Videotapes of the teenagers’ confessions include graphic language about the rape, words often put in their mouths by police detectives heard in the background. The Central Park Five themselves, in present-day interviews, occasionally use profanity.

    The Hobbitt: An Unexpected Journey (169 min., PG-13) Peter Jackson, having triumphed with his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, returns to Middle-earth to adapt the book that began the whole business. There are two more films to follow. Battle scenes involve beheadings, lopping off of arms, and runnings-through with swords. Little if any blood flows, but the mayhem is definitely PG-13-worthy. Gross humor about smelly behinds and loogies seems worse in 3-D. Andy Serkis’s Gollum, computer-enhanced, bug-eyed and insane, continues to be a scary screen creation.

    Playing for Keeps (95 min., PG-13) Gerard Butler plays a former soccer star who coaches his 9-year-old son’s soccer team and suffers — or should that be enjoys? — romantic entanglements with the likes of Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Uma Thurman. In addition to implied sexual liaisons and infidelities, adult characters use crude language and mildish profanity. Father and son take a joy ride in a Ferrari and nearly crash it.



    Hyde Park on Hudson (94 min., R) Bill Murray plays Franklin Delano Roosevelt. One scene only earns the R rating. FDR and his lover have a sexual encounter in a car, shown mostly from a distance, but strongly and rather graphically implied with movement. The film includes little profanity. There are a few veiled verbal jokes about Mrs. Roosevelt’s friends, whom the president calls “she-men.”

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    Killing Them Softly (97 min., R) This small-scale crime film, based on George V. Higgins’s novel “Cogan’s Trade,” stars Brad Pitt as a gangland hit man. The violence occurs less frequently than one might expect. When it does, it involves much blood and often unfolds in slow-motion. One character gets a jaw-crushing beating, and another uses extremely crude and explicit sexual language. The dialogue is highly, comically profane. Several characters drink and use drugs.

    Jane Horwitz, Washington Post Writers Group.