The latest entry in the Planet of the Apes franchise barrels its way into theaters this week, and by most accounts, it’s a fantastic film. But if you’re looking to catch up with Caesar and his battle with humanity, you may want to leave your kids at home. Christy explains why, then offers her thoughts on a few DVD releases.
NOW IN THEATERS
Rating: PG-13, for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images.
The latest film in the epic Planet of the Apes saga is beautifully acted, exquisitely crafted and unexpectedly emotional. It’s the best blockbuster of the summer and it might end up being one of the best movies of the year. But while it features apes on horseback – many of whom can talk, and some of whom are funny – this definitely isn’t a film for the entire family. Director Matt Reeves’ movie – the third in a reboot trilogy, following Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – is extremely intense and violent, with protracted battle sequences and multiple deaths. Caesar (Andy Serkis in yet another powerful, detailed performance-capture role) wants to lead his apes to safety, but they all end up in a brutal struggle against the humans, led by the sadistic Colonel (Woody Harrelson). Bullets and arrows fly and many people and apes die, including key characters. Several of the apes are held prisoner for an extended time and are whipped, beaten and forced into hard labor. While it features massive explosions and destruction, War is also disturbing in some of its quieter, darker imagery. And the bold, percussive score from the great composer Michael Giacchino adds to the overall feeling of danger and suspense. But for more mature kids – around 11 and older – it’s a spectacular, thrilling time at the movies.
NEW ON DVD
Rating: PG-13, for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language.
If you and your kids have seen any of the previous movies in the Fast and Furious franchise, you know what you’re in for here. This eighth film in the series is just as nutty as its predecessors in terms of giant action set pieces, but it’s also extremely violent in ways large and small, making it suitable for viewers around 12 or 13 and older. It’s got everything from hand-to-hand combat, gunfights, shootings and stabbings to cars dropping out of windows in the middle of New York City and a submarine emerging from the ice in middle-of-nowhere Russia. And for one extended sequence aboard an airplane, a baby in a car seat is in danger. Oh, and there’s a plot, too: A hacker (Charlize Theron) forces Dom (Vin Diesel) to turn against his F&F fam and help her with a nuclear terrorism plot. Not that it matters. Massive, fiery destruction ensues. Director F. Gary Gray’s film also features quite a bit of language scattered throughout and the requisite amount of gyrating, scantily clad ladies. It’s all about family, as always, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s suitable for everyone in your family.
Rating: PG-13, for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some nudity.
Kids around 12 or 13 and older should be fine watching this historical drama, and they might be interested in its many adventurous elements. But the deliberately languid pacing, which is a trademark of writer-director James Gray’s style, will make it a tough sit for younger viewers. Charlie Hunnam stars in this true story of Percy Fawcett, an explorer who set out in the 1920s to prove the existence of a long-lost South American civilization. He made several journeys to the Amazon, all of which were treacherous and potentially deadly. But Fawcett kept going back for more – and even brought along his teenage son at one point — as new clues tantalized him and stoked his obsession. There are plenty of guns and shootings, including hunting, with smoking and language throughout. The natives frequently seem threatening. And the ending is a bit ambiguous, which could lead to some confusion.
Rating: PG, for some mild action and rude humor.
If you’re looking for a movie the whole family can watch together, the all-new Smurfs animated adventure is a solid pick. It’s better than you might expect – despite what the Tomatometer suggested when it came out theatrically. Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato) wonders what her purpose is in life while every other Smurf’s abilities are clear from their names alone: Brainy, Hefty, Jokey, etc. When she and her friends learn there’s another entire village of Smurfs, they set off to find them – and to warn that Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) is after them to drain them of their power. This is a vibrant and lively film with a valuable central message about female identity and empowerment. It’s also about strong women supporting each other, as Smurfette finds and connects with a tribe of female Smurfs (voiced by Julia Roberts, Ellie Kemper and Michelle Rodriguez, among others). The humor is mostly light and playful and often extremely slapsticky. Kids will enjoy the cute and clever creatures. Gargamel flies into full-on, villainous rampages a couple times, accompanied by dramatic music and lighting, which might seem slightly scary for extremely young kids. Mostly, though, he’s a buffoon whose bumbling schemes are played for laughs.