This week, Christy takes a look at a reimagined literary classic and a Hollywood farce from the Coen brothers, plus a Best Picture nominee, a period drama about women’s rights, and a fantasy thriller on DVD. Read on for details.
NEW IN THEATERS
Rating: PG-13, for zombie violence and action, and brief suggestive material.
Based on the genre-blending, best-selling novel of the same name, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is essentially Pride and Prejudice … with zombies. That means this version of the Jane Austen classic is now a whole lot more violent, filled with shootings, stabbings, beheadings, bloody faces and smashed skulls as the undead stumble and mumble their way through 19th century England in search of brains. This time, the Bennet sisters aren’t just concerned with finding husbands — they’re fighting to stay alive. Many of the classic exchanges between Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) take place either while they’re battling each other or teaming up to fight off a zombie attack. But the effects in writer-director Burr Steers’ film are often so poorly staged, shot and edited, it’s difficult to tell what’s happening. I’d steer your kids toward a different cinematic take on Pride and Prejudice – the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley, for example — but if they’re insistent on seeing this one, it’s probably OK for mature tweens and older.
Rating: PG-13, for some suggestive content and smoking.
The Coen brothers exuberantly embrace Hollywood’s golden era through a variety of classic film genres, tied together by a day in the life of a hard-working studio fixer. Josh Brolin stars as Eddie Mannix, head of production at a major studio who must juggle the kidnapping of a movie idol (George Clooney), the out-of-wedlock pregnancy of a bathing-beauty starlet (Scarlett Johansson) and the casting of an aw-shucks cowboy (Alden Ehrenreich) in a drawing-room drama, among other challenges. There’s a lot going on here, so younger viewers might have trouble keeping track of it all. There’s also some suggestive sexual material and quite a bit of smoking, which was typical of the 1950s. But for older kids and tweens who have an interest in old-school Hollywood or moviemaking in general, this could be a lot of fun. It’s one of the most affectionate and lighthearted films Joel and Ethan Coen have ever made.
NEW ON DVD
Rating: PG-13, for some violence and brief strong language.
If the older kids in your house are interested in history (and excellent filmmaking), Steven Spielberg’s Cold War drama would be a smart, challenging choice for them. It’s based on the true story of the American attorney (Tom Hanks) who negotiated the release of a U-2 spy plane pilot (Austin Stowell) captured in the Soviet Union in exchange for a Russian spy (Mark Rylance) discovered living in New York. Nominated for six Academy Awards including best picture, Bridge of Spies is impeccably made, as you would expect from Spielberg. But it’s a slow burn, and the two-plus-hour running time might make it a tough sit for younger viewers. There’s some violence here: A prisoner endures a harsh interrogation, and some people are shot while trying to escape East Berlin. There’s also quite a bit of language and a general unease that prevails because of U.S.-Soviet tensions. Fine for viewers around 13 and older.
Rating: PG-13, for some intense violence, thematic elements, brief strong language and partial nudity.
Carey Mulligan stars in the true story of the women who fought for the right to vote in 1912 London. Mulligan’s character, a laundress, becomes involved with a group arguing for women’s rights — and choosing increasingly dangerous methods to make their point. Police officers kick, hit and beat some of these women to control and corral them during protests. Mulligan’s character also finds herself out on the street when her husband (Ben Whishaw) forces her from the house and refuses to let her see her young son because he’s ashamed of her activity. There’s also the suggestion that some young women are the victims of sexual assault. But the film also includes worthwhile messages about bravery and equality. Fine for viewers around ages 12-13 and older.
Rating: PG-13, for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images.
If zombies aren’t your kids’ thing, maybe witches will be. Still, I wouldn’t steer them toward this Vin Diesel vehicle, which is boring, confusing, and grim with effects that look murky and cheesy. If you can figure out what’s going on, though, many of the images are super-scary. Diesel stars as a man cursed with immortality who’s been hunting witches for the past 800 years. There’s been a truce between humans and the witches who exist among us, but the most evil being of them all, the Queen Witch, plans to return and unleash the Black Death upon the planet in a fit of revenge. There’s the suggestion that some characters die — or at least they appear to die. There’s some language. But more potentially disturbing is the imagery of the icky witch covered in gooey, oozing glop who releases torrents of insects upon New York City. This movie is terrible, but it’s also probably OK for young teens and up.