Ages 8 and up
Rise of the Guardians (97 min., PG) This animated feature, adapted from the book by William Joyce, unites the Guardians: Jack Frost, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus, as a kind of traditionalists version of the Justice League. The magical powers wielded in battles get pretty intense, if not downright scary in 3-D. Early in the film, Jack takes a real kid on a harrowing sled ride, invisibly guiding him past cars and other dangers.
The middle ground
Hitchcock (98 min., PG-13) Anthony Hopkins plays the great film director, and Helen Mirren plays his wife, Alma, in this account of the making of “Psycho.” Characters talk about an actor who is a closeted homosexual and use the word “queer.” In Hitchcock’s imagination, he sees a serial killer dispatch someone with a shovel (not too graphic) and drag a woman’s bloodied body (clothed) into a bathtub. In one scene, Hitchcock spies like a peeping Tom on actresses in their dressing rooms. There is much sexual innuendo, but nothing explicit.
Life of Pi (127 min., PG) Despite the PG rating, this adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel is probably more suitable for kids 12 and older. The movie features several intense moments of animal-on-animal violence and life-threatening survival issues for the teen protagonist, adrift in a lifeboat on the stormy Pacific and sharing it with a wild and hungry Bengal tiger. When Pi is in school in India, his friends tease him about his name, using toilet humor. Pi kills a big fish with an ax.
Lincoln (150 min., PG-13) Daniel Day-Lewis plays the title role in Steven Spielberg’s biopic. Three scenes could make “Lincoln” problematic for middle schoolers: One shows soldiers fighting intensely but nongraphically with bayonets; another shows Lincoln riding through a battlefield seeing endless bodies, at least one graphically gutted; and the third shows the dumping of a wheelbarrow full of severed limbs. Characters cuss colorfully. The N-word is heard often, with other racial insults. A marital fight between the Lincolns feels so genuine, it is truly upsetting. They also discuss mental illness.
Red Dawn (93 min., PG-13) North Korea invades the Pacific Northwest in this remake of the 1984 film of the same name. The action sequences feature gunfire and explosions. None of the shootings are graphic, but we do see a wound being sewn up. Resistance fighters kill locals they believe collaborate with the enemy. The dialogue includes occasional crude language, mild profanity, and one rude gesture. There’s occasional understated sexual innuendo.
Skyfall (145 min., PG-13) As you may have heard, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is back. Amid the gunplay, including nongraphic murders, explosions, high-speed chases, crashes, fist- and knife fights, there is little that is graphic or bloody, though the action is intense. A couple of point-blank killings are strongly implied. We see video of someone as he is shot. The script includes occasional profanity, crude language, and frisky but mild verbal sexual innuendo. A brief shower scene with a beauty Bond encounters on his travels hints at nudity but is nonexplicit. It’s unnerving when a villain removes a prosthetic part of his jaw.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 (116 min., PG-13) The series concludes. Battle scenes among vampires, while bloodless, show heads torn off some bodies set ablaze. The sexual charge between Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) reaches new highs, though the one sex scene is stylized and not explicit.
Anna Karenina (130 min., R) Keira Knightley stars in the title role in the latest movie adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel. A character commits suicide (as you likely know). Love scenes are passionate and steamy but never quite explicit. A horse is hurt during a race and has to be shot.
Silver Linings Playbook (122 min., R) A romantic comedy, adapted from Matthew Quick’s novel. The script bristles with profanity and includes a rude hand gesture. In one scene, strangers hurl ethnic slurs. The film shows brief toplessness and a strongly implied but nonexplicit shower sex scene. A character talks about her extreme promiscuousness after her husband died.
Jane Horwitz, Washington Post Writers Group.