NEW THIS WEEK
17-year-old girl hides her sexuality from her parents in this strong, beautifully acted independent film
“PARIAH,” Rated R — Geared to audiences 17 and older because of some explicit sexual content and strong language, “Pariah” is, at its heart, a family drama that focuses on attitudes toward homosexuality in the African-American community. College-age film lovers will find it compelling and beautifully acted. Young filmmaker Dee Rees expanded her earlier short film into this impressive feature. She was mentored on the project by director Spike Lee. Brilliant high-school student Alike (ah-lee-kay) (actress Adepero Oduye), a gifted writer/poet, lives in Brooklyn with her parents. Her pious mom (Kim Wayans) worries that Alike is too much of a tomboy. Her police detective dad (Charles Parnell) enjoys his daughter’s personality, but doesn’t pursue his wife’s concerns about Alike’s sexuality. But the teen’s weekend club jaunts with an openly lesbian friend (Pernell Walker) become a tipping point, as Alike, still a virgin, longs for romance. An encounter with a schoolmate wounds her fragile heart. Alike’s and her mother’s views soon clash for good.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A raunchy opening scene with scantily clad pole dancers and music with sexually explicit lyrics earns the R right away. Later, a nonsexual scene involves a sex toy. Characters drink beer and briefly smoke pot. The script includes strong profanity and a subtle infidelity theme. Alike and her younger sister (Sahra Mellesse) cringe and hold each other when they hear their parents argue.
“SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS” — High-schoolers might lose patience with this sequel, which brings little that’s new to the modern banter and jazzy action sequences that made the 2009 film (“Sherlock Holmes,” PG-13) such a departure from traditional “Sherlock Holmes” adaptations. Though the look of 1890s London is gorgeously grimy, the stars and their repartee seem a little tired. The film is overlong and gets truly leaden in the middle. Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) remains jealous of Dr. Watson’s (Jude Law) engagement and now marriage to Mary (Kelly Reilly). He still makes subtly homoerotic jokes about his and Watson’s relationship. This time the sleuth and the good doctor pursue the villain from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), who is helping to arm Germany decades before World War I. Holmes’ brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry), from high in the Foreign Office, helps when he can, as does a Gypsy fortune-teller (Noomi Rapace). THE BOTTOM LINE: Too violent for middle-schoolers, the film depicts shatteringly loud bombings and artillery fire from enormous cannons, bone-crushing fights, and the use of poison darts. Characters smoke opium and tobacco, drink, and use mild sexual innuendo. Holmes still imagines his fights in slow motion before actually decking bad guys.
“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — GHOST PROTOCOL” — Even if they can’t quite follow the endless plot trajectory, teens who like action flicks won’t be disappointed by this fourth installment. The Mission Impossible team — super-agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), computer whiz Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), and new addition Jane Carter (Paula Patton) — finds itself on a collision course with Russian intelligence and a rogue physicist (Michael Nyqvist) intent on sparking a nuclear war. They break Ethan out of a Moscow prison, lose track of crucial missile launch codes, are falsely blamed for an explosion in the Kremlin, see their Cabinet-level boss (Tom Wilkinson) murdered, and are disavowed by the U.S. government. They continue on their own and take into the fold their late boss’ aide (Jeremy Renner), who has secrets of his own. They execute amazing, eye-fooling tricks as the story moves from Budapest to Moscow to Dubai to Mumbai with barely a moment’s reflection. That’s this slick franchise’s MO, and “Ghost Protocol” lives up to it just fine.
THE BOTTOM LINE: This movie is deafening. Punches land with great, cracking thuds, and explosions and car chases could shatter eardrums. The dialogue includes rare mild profanity, and the only sexual innuendo is a couple of low-cut dresses. The idea of nuclear war is a key plot point, yet the film doesn’t examine the threat in any real way. Ethan was in prison for committing unauthorized hits related to the death (before the film starts) of his wife.
“THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO” — This gripping crime thriller contains graphic sexual violence and is not for anyone under 17 — and preferably no one under 20 or so. Director David Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zaillian have put their own stamp on their sleek Hollywood adaptation of the first in a popular trio of crime novels by the late Swedish writer Stieg Larsson. (Three Swedish films based on the books were released in Scandinavia in 2009, and in the U.S. in 2010.) A reclusive millionaire, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), hires disgraced but honest investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) to solve the mysterious disappearance and presumed murder of his niece about 40 years ago. Vanger’s extended family includes one-time Nazis and other odd and disaffected rich folk. To help with his research, Blomkvist is steered toward Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a gifted but emotionally damaged young computer hacker with a pierced punk-Goth aesthetic. The unlikely duo uncover a nasty series of crimes and form their own bond.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Again this film is not for under-17s. There are two scenes of sexual assault and exploitation — one a vile and humiliating act, the other a brutal rape — committed against Lisbeth Salander by a man who is supposed to be her counselor. The plot focuses on a serial killer who tortures victims first. A couple of consensual sexual encounters are explicit and include nudity. Other mayhem involves gunplay, car and motorbike chases, crashes and an explosion. Blomkvist has been in a long-term affair with a married woman. Characters drink and smoke. “YOUNG ADULT” — High-schoolers 16 and older may still be in the midst of the kind of social milieu that spawned Mavis Gary, the disturbing lead character in “Young Adult.” Since it is a relatively mild R, mature teens 16 and up may be engaged by this well-acted but off-center, often squirm-inducing comedy. (The same director, Jason Reitman, and screenwriter, Diablo Cody, brought us “Juno” in 2007, rated PG-13.) It’s about a woman who hasn’t outgrown her mean-girl high-school persona. Charlize Theron is terrific and scary as Mavis, who struggles with depression, alcoholism and truly bad judgment. A divorced hack writer of teen fiction, she shows up in the small Minnesota town where she grew up aiming to fix her life by winning back her high-school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson). Never mind that he’s happily married and the father of a new baby. Mavis confesses her plan to Matt (Patton Oswalt), a pudgy guy who had the locker next to hers for four years, though she barely noticed him. He’s disabled because of a high-school beating by bullies who thought he was gay. Matt and Mavis find a kinship, but he can’t dissuade her from her plan, which goes mortifyingly awry.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Mavis does a lot of heavy drinking. The dialogue includes rare strong profanity and semi-crude sexual language. The one sexual situation is not explicit, but features semi-nudity.