Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments.
Summer is officially here. The sequel to the 2012 megahit The Avengers features mass destruction, mayhem and myriad bad guys — most of whom are made of metal. This time, our Marvel superheroes — Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) — must battle a formidable form of artificial intelligence named Ultron (James Spader). Basically, he wants to assemble a robot army to end humanity — especially the Avengers. Besides its massive amounts of fighting, weaponry and carnage (which result in minimal blood, hence the PG-13 rating), writer-director Joss Whedon’s film is probably too long for most younger viewers at nearly 2.5 hours. It’s also got an incredibly convoluted narrative and it’s overstuffed with a ton of characters, which makes it hard to follow regardless of your age. Our heroes also suffer through some frightening and vivid dream sequences, courtesy of the mind games the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) plays on them. This is probably OK for tweens and up.
This adaptation of the classic Thomas Hardy novel follows one of literature’s great heroines, the headstrong Bathsheba Everdene, as she juggles the various men who compete for her affections. Carey Mulligan is radiant in the role as an educated young woman in rural 1870 England who inherits her uncle’s farm after his death. Three very different men try to win her heart, and eventually she marries one of them, although director Thomas Vinterberg only shows the beginnings of what happens on their wedding night. A major character is believed to have drowned, and jealousy prompts one of Bathsheba’s suitors to kill another. Probably fine for mature tweens and older, especially those with an interest in literature and/or Victorian England.
Thoroughly cuddly and sweet, this live-action/CGI-animated take on the tales of an adorable stuffed bear in Britain is mostly fine and even recommended for the whole family. Ben Whishaw voices the beloved children’s book character, who gets an origin story here. We see what prompted Paddington to leave Darkest Peru and travel to London, and how he ends up living with the Brown family. The tone is quite often gentle but dabbles in slight raunchiness here and there, including some literal toilet humor when Paddington has an escapade in the bathroom and a disgusting scene when he cleans out his ears. He does find himself in some peril, though, when Nicole Kidman’s character, a ruthlessly driven taxidermist, wants to capture Paddington and add him to her museum collection. Kidman’s wardrobe is as sharp as the instruments she wants to use to destroy this sweet creature. Her performance is the only element of the movie that frightened my then-5-year-old son.