Ages 7 and older
Monsters, Inc. 3D (95 min., G) The Pixar animated feature, first released in 2001, was conceived as a comedy with lots of scary bits defused by laughter. It still is, but in 3-D, some of the monsters and the chase scenes — especially the climactic one where the heroes are dangling from assembly-line doors — will seem more intense to kids under 7, especially to very little ones. It’s just different when it looks like a bad-guy monster is in the room with you.
Ages 8 and older
Parental Guidance (96 min., PG) Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play grandparents baby-sitting for a week. Too many of the gags involve toilet humor. The script also contains mild sexual innuendo and subtle homophobic humor. Crystal’s character gets slammed in the crotch with a baseball bat and
vomits onto the child perpetrator. A child gets bullied (though we only see the aftermath).
The middle ground
The Guilt Trip (95 min., PG-13) Mother (Barbra Streisand) and grown son (Seth Rogen) hit the road. Complications ensue. The script includes several uses of strong language. Mother and son go into a bar that features pole dancers (no toplessness). They discuss sexual experiences and penises in ways that deeply embarrass Rogen’s character.
Jack Reacher (131 min., PG-13) Tom Cruise plays the title character from the popular Lee Child detective series. Young children are shown in danger. The action sequences feature a number of heavy-duty shoot-outs, including a particularly long and lethal finale, as well as bone-crushing fights. The movie avoids an R rating — barely — by showing little blood or gore. The mayhem also includes the implied shooting off of fingers. The dialogue features occasional midrange profanity and sexual innuendo.
Les Miserables (157 min., PG-13) The hit musical comes to the screen. The strongest element that earns the PG-13 rating is the sense of squalor and suffering that the film evokes. Violent clashes between students and soldiers are not graphic, but have a fierceness. Prostitutes in low-cut rags troll the streets and sing crass, suggestive lyrics about their work. A key character jumps off a bridge and we see his body hit.
Django Unchained (165 min., R) Quentin Tarantino reimagines slavery and puts it at the heart of an updated spaghetti western. Several scenes show slaves being whipped and one set upon by dogs. Male slaves are forced to fight each other to the death for the entertainment of whites. This includes the sound of bones breaking. There are explosive, deafening gun battles, great amounts of spattered blood, and bodies ripped open by bullets. The script abounds in racial slurs. A horse is killed in a gunfight. There are strong intimations of rape, and we see a female character briefly naked.
Gangster Squad (113 min., R) Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone star in this tale of fighting the mob in LA after World War II. The film opens with an attempted rape. Shoot-outs are loud, bloody, and frequent. The violence also includes stabbings and bone-breaking fistfights. A stripper is seen nearly topless. The script is filled with profanity and explicit sexual slang. A few ethnic slurs are also used.
Not Fade Away (112 min., R) A slice-of-life drama about a teenager rock ’n’ roller in New Jersey during the ‘60s. Some characters use strong racial and homophobic slurs, strong profanity, and graphic sexual slang. They also smoke marijuana. A sexual situation is quite graphic. Other scenes exude strong sexuality. An adult character is diagnosed with cancer, and another expresses suicidal thoughts. The script includes some toilet humor.
Promised Land (110 min., R) This story about farmers being pressured to sell mineral rights to their land earns its R for occasional strong language, otherwise, it’s OK for viewers 15 and older. A photo of dead cows at a contaminated farm appears several times.
Zero Dark Thirty (157 min., R) A fictional, if highly realistic, look at the search for and killing of Osama bin Laden. Scenes in which CIA operatives use waterboarding and other coercive methods are graphic and disturbing. Other violence includes frightening suicide bombings. Characters use strong profanity. The movie opens in blackness, with recordings of phone calls made by victims trapped in the burning World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Jane Horvitz, Washington Post