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.
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 profanity.
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 is 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.
Deadfall (95 min., R) Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde play siblings who’ve committed a big robbery in the snowy north. Complications ensue. Point-blank gun deaths and non-lethal gunshot wounds are not portrayed especially graphically for an R rating. However, “Deadfall” is graphic when showing a character losing a finger in a fight, and later cauterizing the stump. A police officer has his throat cut when he crashes into a barbed wire fence. A sexual situation has explicit moves, but no nudity. The script includes strong profanity.
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 of the characters drink and use drugs.
The Waiting Room (82 min., unrated) A documentary set in the emergency waiting room of an Oakland, Calif., hospital. Shot in cinema-verite style, it’s full of high drama and troubling questions. A patient takes out all of his anger, fear, and depression on a young doctor, cussing him out with every word in the book. That would earn an R rating. The rest is more PG-13-ish — nongraphic glimpses of emergency surgery on teenage gunshot victims, with understated shots of blood on the floor, bloodied bandages, and instruments. There’s a millisecond view of a partially naked patient on an examining table.
Jane Horwitz, Washington Post Writers Group.