Also playing this week:
OK for all ages
"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax"
(Animated, PG, 94 minutes)
'The Lorax' is the latest Dr. Seuss creation to get a shot on film. If the results aren't sublime, they're hardly embarrassing.
Directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda, two of the minds behind "Despicable Me," this animated environmentalist parable is too busy for its own good (gotta keep the little ones engaged), and a little overstuffed with story. But the design is witty and imaginative, and the small grace notes are enough to keep an open-minded adult giggling.
The story unfolds in the town of Thneedville, filled by imitation shrubbery and bottled air. A flashback shows how a misguided entrepreneur wiped out plant life years previous, over the protests of a mustachioed forest guardian called the Lorax (Danny DeVito). Now pollution fills the air and a ruthless, pint-size tycoon (voiced by Rob Riggle) lords over an artificial empire.
What could possibly transform this dire state? Love, of course. Young Ted (Zac Efron) has a thing for young Audrey (Taylor Swift). Audrey wants a tree. So Ted is determined to find one.
Like "Despicable Me," ''The Lorax" shows a fascination with gizmos, elaborate mechanisms and twisty action sequences. We get a high-flying granny (voiced, of course, by Betty White), and a trio of singing goldfish that made me smile with every appearance. It's all pleasant enough, if a bit stretched at 94 minutes.
Info for parents: Rated PG for brief mild language. Running time: 94 minutes. Grade B.
"The Secret World of Arriety"
(Adventure, Animation, G, 94 minutes)
Residing quietly beneath the floorboards are little people who live undetected in a secret world to be discovered, where the smallest may stand tallest of all. From the legendary Studio Ghibli ("Spirited Away," "Ponyo") comes "The Secret World of Arrietty," an animated adventure based on Mary Norton's acclaimed children's book series "The Borrowers." Arrietty (voice of Bridgit Mendler), a tiny, but tenacious 14-year-old, lives with her parents (voices of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper (voice of Carol Burnett). Like all little people, Arrietty remains hidden from view, except during occasional covert ventures beyond the floorboards to "borrow" scrap supplies like sugar cubes from her human hosts. But when 12-year-old Shawn (voice of David Henrie), a human boy who comes to stay in the home, discovers his mysterious housemate one evening, a secret friendship blossoms. If discovered, their relationship could drive Arrietty's family from the home and straight into danger. The English language version of "The Secret World of Arrietty" was executive produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, and directed by Gary Rydstrom.
Info for parents: Rated G, suitable for all audiences
OK for 10 and older
"Journey 2: The Mysterious Island"
(Adventure, Family, PG, 94 minutes)
Playing at the IMAX theater at Tropicana. In this follow-up to the 2008 worldwide hit "Journey to the Center of the Earth," the new 3D family adventure "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" begins when 17-year-old Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) receives a coded distress signal from a mysterious island where no island should exist. It's a place of strange life forms, mountains of gold, deadly volcanoes and more than one astonishing secret. Unable to stop him from going, Sean's new stepfather, Hank (Dwayne Johnson), joins the quest. Together with a helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) and his beautiful, strong-willed daughter (Vanessa Hudgens), they set out to find the island, rescue its lone inhabitant and escape before seismic shockwaves force the island under the sea and bury its treasures forever.
Info for parents: PG for some adventure action, and brief mild language
"Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace 3D"
(Action, Sci-Fi, PG, 133 minutes)
Set against the thrilling and exotic backdrop of a "galaxy far, far away," "Star Wars" is perfectly suited to the immersive 3D theatrical experience, and "Episode I" delivers some of the Saga's most stunning and spectacular sequences - from the Naboo invasion to the Tatooine Podraces to the climactic lightsaber battle between Darth Maul and the Jedi. Supervised by Industrial Light & Magic, the meticulous conversion is being done with utmost respect for the source material, and with a keen eye for both technological considerations and artistic intentions. Naboo, a peaceful planet governed by the young, elusive, but wise Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman), is being threatened by the corrupt Trade Federation, puppets of an evil Sith lord and his terrifying apprentice, Darth Maul (Ray Park). The seemingly benevolent Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is chief advisor to the queen, although there are suspicions surrounding him. Jedi knights Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) are called on to intervene in the trade disputes. Along the way, they acquire an apprentice of their own in the form of young prodigal Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd). They also encounter Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), a goofy, lizardlike creature who has been banished from his underwater world for his clumsiness. When the Trade Federation launches an attack on Naboo, the queen and her allies must battle hordes of robot troopers while Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan face off against the sinister Darth Maul.
Info for parents: Rated PG for sci-fi action/violence
(Adventure, Family, PG, 107 minutes)
A small town news reporter (John Krasinski) and a Greenpeace volunteer (Drew Barrymore) are joined by rival world superpowers to save a family of majestic gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle. Adam Carlson (Krasinski) can't wait to escape the northern tip of Alaska for a bigger market. But just when the story of his career breaks, the world comes chasing it, too. With an oil tycoon, heads of state and hungry journalists descending upon the frigid outpost, the one who worries Adam the most is Rachel Kramer (Barrymore).
Info for parents: Rated PG for language
A Thousand Words
(Comedy, PG-13 91 minutes)
Jack McCall is a fast-talking literary agent who can close any deal, any time, any way. He has set his sights on New Age guru Dr. Sinja for his own selfish purposes. But Dr. Sinja is on to him, and Jack's life comes unglued after a magical Bodhi tree mysteriously appears in his backyard. With every word Jack speaks, a leaf falls from the tree and he realizes that when the last leaf falls, both he and the tree are toast. Words have never failed Jack McCall, but now he's got to stop talking and conjure up some outrageous ways to communicate or he's a goner.
Rating: Not yet rated
Info for parents: Rated PG-13 for sexual situations including dialogue, language and some drug-related humor
(Thriller, PG-13, 95 minutes)
In the new suspense thriller "Gone," Jill Parrish (Amanda Seyfried) comes home from a night shift to discover her sister Molly has been abducted. Jill, who had escaped from a kidnapper a year before, is convinced that the same serial killer has come back for her sister. Afraid that Molly will be dead by sundown, Jill embarks on a heart-pounding chase to find the killer, expose his secrets and save her sister.
Info for parents: Rated PG-13 for violence and terror, some sexual material, brief language and drug references
(Action, PG-13, 131 minutes)
Yes, there is life on Mars, and it's deadly dull. These are not words you would expect to use in describing a film from Andrew Stanton, director of the Oscar-winning Pixar favorites "Finding Nemo" and "WALL-E," who's making his live-action debut. And yet there they are, and they're inescapable. Except for a strong cast, a few striking visuals and some unexpected flashes of humor, "John Carter" is just a dreary, convoluted trudge - a soulless sprawl of computer-generated blippery converted to 3-D. It's the unfortunate film that's loaded with exposition and yet still ends up being massively confusing. It probably will also seem rather derivative, but that's because the source material, Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic pulp tale "A Princess of Mars," has been so influential on pop culture in general and science fiction specifically for the past century. Glimmers of "Star Wars," ''Superman" and "Avatar" are evident, but the uninitiated may still find it impenetrable. "Friday Night Lights" star Taylor Kitsch plays the title character, a Civil War veteran who's suddenly transported to Mars (or Barsoom, as it's known here) and finds himself in the midst of a different kind of civil war as well as an interplanetary romance. Lynn Collins, Ciaran Hinds, Willem Dafoe and Mark Strong co-star.
Info for parents: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.
"Tyler Perry's Good Deeds"
(Drama, Romance, PG-13, 111 minutes)
A successful, wealthy businessman, Wesley Deeds (Tyler Perry) has always done what's expected of him, whether it's assuming the helm of his father's company, tolerating his brother's misbehavior at the office or planning to marry his beautiful but restless fiancee, Natalie (Gabrielle Union). But Wesley is jolted out of his predictable routine when he meets Lindsey (Thandie Newton), a down-on-her-luck single mother who works on the cleaning crew in his office building.
Info for parents: Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, some violence and thematic material
"This Means War"
(Action, Comedy, PG-13, minutes)
CIA operatives FDR Foster (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are inseparable best friends and partners. Together, their good looks, covert abilities and combat skills rank them among the CIA's elite, but their longstanding personal and professional bond is put to the test when they meet Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). FDR and Tuck both fall hard for the beautiful blonde, and turn their deadly skills and an array of high-tech gadgetry against one another in an all-out battle for her love.
Info for parents: Rated PG-13 for some sexual content including references, some violence and action, and for language
(Drama, PG-13, 104 minutes)
Paige and Leo (Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum) are a happy newlywed couple whose lives are changed by a car accident that puts Paige in a coma. Waking up with severe memory loss, Paige has no memory of Leo, a confusing relationship with her parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange), and an ex-fiance (Scott Speedman) she may still have feelings for. Despite these complications, Leo endeavors to win her heart again and rebuild their marriage.
Info for parents: Rated PG-13 for an accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity and some language
(Drama, Sci-Fi, PG-13,
Three high school students make an incredible discovery, leading them to develop uncanny powers beyond their understanding. As they learn to control their abilities, and use them to their advantage, their lives start to spin out of control, and their darker sides begin to take over.
Info for parents: Rated PG-13 for intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking
"Woman in Black"
(Horror, PG-13, 95 minutes)
A young lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), has to travel to a remote village and sort out a recently deceased client's papers. As he works alone in the client's house, Kipps begins to uncover tragic secrets, his unease growing when he glimpses a mysterious woman dressed only in black. Receiving only silence from the locals, Kipps is forced to uncover the true identity of the woman on his own, leading to a desperate race against time when he discovers her true intent.
Info for parents: Rated PG-13 for thematic material and violence/disturbing images
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
(Drama, PG-13, 129 minutes)
Adapted from the acclaimed bestseller by Jonathan Safran Foer, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is a story that unfolds from inside the young mind of Oskar Schell, an inventive eleven year-old New Yorker whose discovery of a key in his deceased father's belongings sets him off on an urgent search across the city for the lock it will open. A year after his father died in the World Trade Center on what Oskar calls "The Worst Day," he is determined to keep his vital connection to the man who playfully cajoled him into confronting his wildest fears. Now, as Oskar crosses the five New York boroughs in quest of the missing lock - encountering an eclectic assortment of people who are each survivors in their own way - he begins to uncover unseen links to the father he misses, to the mother who seems so far away from him and to the whole noisy, dangerous, discombobulating world around him.
Info for parents: Rated PG-13 for emotional thematic material, some disturbing images, and language
(Action/Adventure, PG-13, 125 minutes)
The famed Tuskegee Airmen get the John Wayne-style heroic rendering they very much deserve, but also a hackneyed and weirdly context-less story that does them a disservice. George Lucas' pet project has the laudable goal of proving all-black movies can be a success, but "Red Tails" reduces a historical story of deep cultural significance to merely a flyboy flick. The film, directed by TV veteran Anthony Hemingway, superimposes the tale of the black World War II pilots on a dated, white genre of 1940s patriotic propaganda. "Red Tails" is blatantly old-fashioned, just with a change in color. It focuses entirely on aerial combat in Europe, skipping all that pesky backstory of black men braving the segregation of Jim Crowe America and, against the odds, rising up at the Tuskegee Institute. Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard play higher-ups, but the film is centered on a band of pilots, particularly the brash, talented Joe "Lightning" Little (David Oyelowo) and his alcoholic captain Marty "Easy" Julian (Nate Parker). The script, by John Ridley and Boondocks cartoonist Aaron McGruder is swaggering but hopelessly corny and curiously avoids really fleshing out the Tuskegee Airmen's other battle front: racism at home. The dogfights, though, are elegant and clearly staged, set against a majestic European landscape.
Info for Parents: Rated PG-13 for some sequences of war violence
(Drama, PG-13, 146 minutes)
Men on opposing sides of war find their shared humanity in their love of animals in "War Horse," Steven Spielberg's sentimental epic about a country thoroughbred who travels from the fields of Devonshire to the trenches of the Somme in World War I. The film is a tale told on a vast canvas, with a wide array of characters - each of whom develops a connection to "Joey," one of the prettiest equines ever to grace the silver screen. But that crowded hodge-podge of characters fritters away the potential poignancy as we're taken away from the story's heart and soul - a boy and his horse. This "War Horse" does well by war and justice to the horse. It's the people who are shortchanged.
Info for Parents: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence
"Act of Valor"
(Action, Thriller, R, 111 minutes)
An unprecedented blend of real-life heroism and original filmmaking, "Act of Valor" stars a group of active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs in a film like no other in Hollywood's history. A fictionalized account of real life Navy SEAL operations, "Act of Valor" features a gripping story that takes audiences on an adrenaline-fueled, edge-of-their-seat journey. When a mission to recover a kidnapped CIA operative unexpectedly results in the discovery of an imminent, terrifying global threat, an elite team of highly trained Navy SEALs must immediately embark on a heart-stopping secret operation, the outcome of which will determine the fate of us all. "Act of Valor" combines stunning combat sequences, up-to-the-minute battlefield technology, and heart-pumping emotion for the ultimate action adventure film - showcasing the skills, training and tenacity of the greatest action heroes of them all: real Navy SEALs.
Info for parents: Rated R for strong violence including some torture, and for language
"Friends With Kids"
(Comedy, R, 102 minutes)
Jennifer Westfeldt seems interested in exploring the complications that come with pondering parenthood with a mix of candor and heart. She touches on the stages so many of us find ourselves going through in our 30s: steadfast reluctance, vaguely nagging interest, strong yearning and, eventually, the what-the-hell-have-we-done? realism of it all. Unfortunately, as writer, producer, star and (for the first time) director, Westfeldt takes a topic full of complex emotional shadings and turns it into something that is, for the most part, reductive, cliched and even sitcommy. You want to believe that she means well, that perhaps she has experienced some of these stages herself. She's so adorably neurotic here (as she was in her acclaimed screenwriting debut "Kissing Jessica Stein"), and she's amassed such a strong supporting cast, including her real-life romantic partner Jon Hamm, that you wish "Friends With Kids" were better, truer. Westfeldt and Adam Scott co-star as Julie and Jason, best friends since college who decide to have a baby together to avoid the romantic baggage that burdens their married friends (Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Hamm and Kristen Wiig).
Info for parents: Rated R for sexual content and language.
(Comedy, R, 88 minutes)
"Project X" follows three seemingly anonymous high school seniors as they attempt to finally make a name for themselves. Their idea is innocent enough: let's throw a party that no one will forget ... but nothing could prepare them for this party. Word spreads quickly as dreams are ruined, records are blemished and legends are born. "Project X" is a warning to parents and police everywhere.
Rating: Not yet rated
Info for parents: Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem - all involving teens
(Horror, Thriller, R, 86 minutes)
"Silent House" is a uniquely unsettling horror thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as Sarah, a young woman who finds herself sealed inside her family's secluded lake house. With no contact to the outside world, and no way out, panic turns to terror as events become increasingly ominous in and around the house. Directed by filmmaking duo Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, "Silent House" uses meticulous camera choreography to take the audience on a tension-filled, real time journey, experienced in a single uninterrupted shot. "Silent House" is based on "La Casa Muda," the official Uruguayan entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category to the 84th Academy Awards.
Rating: Not yet rated
Info for parents: Rated R for disturbing violent content and terror
(Comedy, R, 98 minutes)
George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are an overextended, stressed-out Manhattan couple. After George is downsized out of his job, they find themselves with only one option: to move in with George's awful brother in Atlanta. On the way there, George and Linda stumble upon Elysium, an idyllic community populated by colorful characters who embrace a different way of looking at things. Money? It can't buy happiness. Careers? Who needs them? Clothes? Only if you want them.
Info for parents: Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use
"Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance"
(Action, Adventure, PG-13, minutes)
Nicolas Cage reprises his role as Johnny Blaze in "Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance." In this gritty new vision for the character, directed by Neveldine/Taylor ("Crank"), Johnny is still struggling with his curse as the devil's bounty hunter - but he may risk everything as he teams up with the leader of a group of rebel monks (Idris Elba) to save a young boy from the devil... and possibly rid himself of his curse forever.
Rating: Not yet rated
Info for parents: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images and language
(Action, Thriller, R, 115 minutes)
Oscar winner Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds star in the action-thriller "Safe House." Washington plays the most dangerous renegade from the CIA, who comes back onto the grid after a decade on the run. When the South African safe house he's remanded to is attacked by mercenaries, a rookie operative (Reynolds) escapes with him. Now, the unlikely allies must stay alive long enough to uncover who wants them dead. For the past year, Matt Weston has been frustrated by his inactive, backwater post in Cape Town. A "housekeeper" who aspires to be a full-fledged agent, the loyal company man has been waiting for an opportunity to prove himself. When the first and only occupant he's had proves to be the most dangerous man he's ever met, Weston readies for duty. Tobin Frost has eluded capture for almost a decade. One of the best ops men that the CIA's known, the ex-intelligence officer has given up assets and sold military intel to anyone with cash since he turned. From trading secrets to North Korea to aiding splinter cells, the damage he's done to the U.S. is immeasurable. And he's now back on the reservation with a secret. As soon as Frost is brought in for debriefing, mercenaries come and tear apart Weston's safe house. Barely escaping, the unlikely partners must discover if their attackers have been sent by terrorists or someone on the inside who will kill anyone standing in the way. Now it's up to Weston to figure out who he can trust before they're both eliminated from the game.
Info for parents: Rated R for strong violence throughout and some language
(Thriller, R, 117 minutes)
After the thrillers "Taken" and "Unknown," Liam Neeson is back in his new genre of choice, looking quite at home punching a wolf. As the grizzled, morose sniper John Ottway, he's among a roughneck band of Alaskan oil refinery workers who, while being shuttled by plane to Anchorage for vacation, crash violently in a storm, stranding them in the snowy tundra. Ottway, the alpha dog, takes charge among the seven survivors (among them Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts and, most memorably, Frank Grillo) whose predicament severely worsens when a pack of wolves announce themselves by their eerie, glowing eyes on the dark fringes of their campfire. Director Joe Carnahan ("The A-Team," "Narc"), adapting a short story by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, sends their dwindling numbers on a survivalist adventure that grows increasingly bleak and existential. In manly, fireside chats, they parse out philosophical ideas, talking God in a wintery void, faced with the cruel brutality of nature.
Info for parents: Rated R for violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language'Underworld: Awakening'