"Man on a Ledge" (PG-13): Teens may lose patience with this irritatingly contrived, oddly miscast crime thriller long before it's over.
A preoccupied mystery man (Sam Worthington, the Australian actor from "Avatar") walks into the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. He books a room on a high floor, has a nice room service meal, then steps out onto the window ledge. He won't say much to the tough-talking police negotiator (Edward Burns) sent to talk him in. He demands a female negotiator (Elizabeth Banks) who's currently in disgrace.
She and her colleagues gradually learn that the would-be suicide has a history with the NYPD and that he has escaped from prison determined to prove his innocence. Working secretly on his behalf in crime-caper mode are his brother (Jamie Bell) and his brother's hilariously vampy girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez). Both Banks and Worthington seem wrong for their roles. The film gets what thrills it has from the supporting cast.
The action features fights and shoot-outs, but little intensity or gore. Characters drink and smoke and use mild profanity. One female character wears revealing outfits and engages in steamy kisses and some mild sexual innuendo.
"The Grey" (R): Based on a short story by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, who co-wrote the script with director Joe Carnahan, "The Grey" feels like a throwback to a Jack London adventure in which men test their mettle against whatever nature throws at them. High schoolers 15 and up with strong stomachs will find it mighty enthralling.
Terrifically acted and handsomely made, "The Grey" is both a thriller and a dark night of the soul involving a tough group of men, led by Liam Neeson. He's Ottway, a sharpshooter who protects the crews at an oil drilling station in a remote part of Alaska from marauding packs of huge wolves. When he and a group of the boisterous oil workers are flying south from their remote site, their plane crashes (a truly intense sequence). Ottway is thrown clear and begins finding survivors. He becomes their de facto leader, though some of the criminally inclined among them push back. The wolf attacks start right away, and Ottway organizes the men to defend themselves. "The Grey" isn't for kids under high school age, but it's an unusually cool piece of work.
The wolf attacks themselves are not highly graphic, but the foreboding leading up to them and the size of the animatronic and computer-animated creatures -- yellow eyes, huge teeth -- make the attacks feel graphic. And the views of the mutilated victims after the attacks are graphic. There are severed limbs and a lot of blood. The action includes a harrowing plane crash, gunplay, fistfights. Characters drink and use strong profanity.
"Underworld: Awakening" (R): High schoolers who enjoy vampire sagas of a more violent strain than the PG-13-rated "Twilight Saga" films will have plenty to chew on in "Underworld: Awakening." The melding of live-action and special effects, subtly intensified in 3-D, works handsomely in this instance, but the violence is too gory for middle-schoolers. In a prologue, the three previous films are quickly summarized, but the new film is still tough to follow.