"Thunderbirds" (PG, 1 hour, 27 minutes)
A witty, neon-colored, gadget-filled adventure about a family of international rescuers in the year 2010, "Thunderbirds" will delight kids 8 and older without curdling their parents' brains. Based on a hit 1960s British TV series, the movie keeps the kids'-show tone but adds live-action glitz and computer-generated effects. The dialogue contains a crude scatological reference and one "damn." Action sequences show kids in martial-arts combat, being chased and occasionally caught by thugs, encountering a nasty scorpion, escaping explosions and flying totally cool airships in a dangerous fashion. One child executes the requisite kick in the crotch to a bad guy.
Teen Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet) stars as the only member of his family who who doesn't get to jump into their fleet of rocket-powered ships, the Thunderbirds, to rescue people caught in disasters.
"The Village" (PG-13, 1 hour, 47 minutes)
Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has always woven parable into his goose-bumpy tales ("The Sixth Sense," 1999; "Unbreakable," 2000; "Signs," 2002, all PG-13). In "The Village," he sets a period drama in a "Twilight Zone"-ish world and adds a heavy message about Fear. The movie is often effective but in a staid, theatrical way. The archaic dialogue, even spoken by a fine cast, will sound stilted to teens. The low-level fear factor won't lend much of a thrill either, though the air of menace makes the film a bit much for preteens. The appropriate PG-13 rating covers a stabbing, the remains of skinned animals and the creepy figure of a mysterious, bony, hooded creature. Some characters tell sad tales of loved ones who died violently long ago.
Set in an isolated hamlet in late 19th-century America, the movie stars William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix,Adrien Brody and newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard.
Intermediate string overflow ~
Beyond the ratings game
8 and older:
"A Cinderella Story" PG -- Hilary Duff plays brainy high-school senior who barely has time to study because her nasty, Botox-icated stepmom (droll Jennifer Coolidge) keeps her working at the diner her beloved late father left them. Mild sexual innuendo; theme about life after loss.
"The Bourne Supremacy" -- Matt Damon deftly blends innocence and experience as former CIA assassin Jason Bourne, roused from his safe haven and amnesia by folks who want to frame and kill him. Intense but nongory mayhem shows a stylized assassination, a gun suicide, naturalistic fights, strangulation, snapped necks; harrowing chases; rare profanity; drinking. Not for preteens.
"Catwoman" -- Halle Berry stars as timid employee at a cosmetics company who is murdered and then resurrected as Catwoman. Strong, nonexplicit sexuality; dominatrix gear sends odd message about female empowerment; implied overnight tryst; bloodless gunplay; stylized fights with whip; child shown in danger on Ferris wheel. Iffy for preteens.
"I, Robot" -- Will Smith stars as a Chicago cop, circa 2035, who hates polite helper robots that permeate society and suspects one may have killed a robotics expert. Profanity; hint of nudity; fights, bloodless gunplay, robots torn apart; suicide theme; drinking.