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 one of old-style horror.
Hotel Transylvania (90 min., PG) An animated feature about a hostelry built by none other than Dracula. Its clientele are monsters. Kids under 8 may flinch at seeing vampires turn into bats, and to see the likes of Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, and the Fly, as well as blobs, skeletons, shrunken heads, and more. Some of the monsters lose heads or limbs while roughhousing and then reattach them. There are jokes about drinking blood. Though he’s sworn off violence, Dracula does have a temper, and his face goes scarily red while he seethes.
The middle ground
10 Years (100 min, PG-13) It’s 10th-reunion time for high school classmates Rosario Dawson and Channing Tatum. The reunion-goers really booze it up. A few smoke pot. One of the women turns out to be an unwed mother twice over. The script includes fairly strong cussing for a PG-13. A bullying theme has an uncomfortable ring of truth to it.
House at the End of the Street (100 min., PG-13) This ghost story starring Jennifer Lawrence (“The Hunger Games”) includes violence and implications of insanity and abuse that make it a very problematic choice for middle schoolers. Adults smoke what appears to be crack.
Liberal Arts (97 min., unrated) Josh Radnor, who wrote and directed, plays a 35-year-old who returns to his old college to attend his favorite professor’s retirement celebration. The dialogue features occasional crude sexual language and profanity. One student attempts suicide. The one sexual situation involves mildly graphic sounds, but shows nothing.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (103 min, PG-13) Stephen Chbosky adapted and directs this film made from his novel about high school and its discontents. Several scenes show teens drinking and using pot and LSD. A quick flashback strongly implies that a small child was molested by an older relative. Other scenes flash back to a violent car accident, and someone with wrists scarred by a suicide attempt. There are hospital scenes that portray mental illness. The dialogue includes homophobic slurs, crude sexual slang, and sexual innuendo.
Pitch Perfect (88 min., PG-13) Anna Kendrick stars in this film about college a cappella groups. Lighthearted patter about sexuality and women’s body parts makes the film too adult for a lot of middle schoolers. The dialogue features considerable crude language, some profanity, and lots of pure snarkiness. Ethnic stereotypes abound, used for comic effect. A long scene in the dorm shower implies nudity, but with little sexual innuendo. Projectile vomiting? Yup.
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 his ex-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. There are also references to sex slavery.
Trouble With the Curve (111 min., PG-13) Clint Eastwood plays an aging baseball scout, Gus. Amy Adams is his daughter, Mickey. The dialogue features a lot of crude, occasionally profane language, most of it well in PG-13 territory. Characters use some sexual slang and innuendo, also fairly mild, as well as toilet humor. When Mickey and Gus finally talk about their longtime estrangement, the scene feels very emotional and real.
Won’t Back Down (119 min., PG) A teacher (Viola Davis) and a mom (Maggie Gyllenhaal) join forces to take over a failing Pittsburgh elementary school. The mom and her boyfriend have some steamy kisses.
Dredd 3D (98 min., R) Karl Urban plays the the title character, who originated in a British comic-book series. There is so much bloody, point-blank, high-caliber gun death that the film is not for under-17s. Children and innocent families are shown at risk and dying in deafening and graphic shoot-outs. The bad guys are selling a new drug called Slo-Mo that creates a slow-motion high. The movie includes strong profanity and graphic sexual fantasies.
End of Watch (109 min., R) Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena play Los Angeles cops. The point-blank gun violence and gut punches feel so realistic that the film can be hard to watch at times. The partners encounter scenes in which very small children are put at risk. They also see many dead bodies stashed inside homes used by drug dealers, and they find undocumented workers locked in cages, seemingly enslaved by human traffickers. The dialogue includes graphic sexual slang and steaming profanity. Various characters use drugs and some engage in semi-explicit sexual situations.
Looper (118 min., R) The futuristic film’s title refers to “looping,” a form of time-travel crime-fighting. In addition to graphic, body-shattering violence and occasional torture, the film shows partially nude prostitutes and includes some strong profanity.
The Master (137 min., R) It’s 1950, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the head of a religious cult, and Joaquin Phoenix is one of his disciples. Paul Thomas Anderson’s first movie since “There Will Be Blood” includes sudden outbursts of nonlethal physical violence, very strong profanity, very heavy drinking, a couple of graphically implied sexual situations, and female nudity.
Jane Horwitz, Washington Post Writers Group.