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“Hit & Run” (R): Action comedy fans among college-age filmgoers will appreciate the crazy, offbeat nature of “Hit & Run.” However, the strong profanity, crude sexual language and weird instance of nudity in the film definitely land it in 17-and-older territory. Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard, who wrote the screenplay and co-directed with David Palmer) is living a lie. His idyllic rural life in Southern California with his beloved Annie (Kristen Bell) doesn’t include telling her that he has a past and that it’s catching up with him. Annie, an academic, has a chance to teach at a big university in Los Angeles. Charlie promises to go there with her. What he fails to mention is that he’s in the witness protection program and that moving to L.A. will make him a target. As soon as they set off in his vintage Lincoln Continental, things go crazy. Randy (Tom Arnold), the semi-competent federal marshal charged with protecting Charlie, tries to stop him, but he keeps crashing his car and knocking himself out. Annie’s jealous ex (Michael Rosenbaum) gets word to Charlie’s former criminal cohorts, who are out of prison. They are led by the volatile Alex Demitri (Bradley Cooper, barely recognizable in dreadlocks), intent on revenge. For some reason this movie is a total hoot.
The script includes strong profanity, crudely explicit sexual language and homophobic slurs. A group of elderly people about to have a sex party in a motel are seen totally nude. The mayhem includes crazy car chases, a couple of bloody fist fights, gunplay and threats.
“ParaNorman” (PG): A little too spooky for kids under 10 unless parents determine they can handle it, “ParaNorman” tells a corker of a story about an eccentric 11-year-old named Norman Babcock (voice of Kodi Smit-McPhee) who sees and talks to ghosts. The film bogs down briefly near the end, when it starts sermonizing about accepting children who are different and about adults avoiding mob thinking. But that’s just a speed bump on a great ride.
Made with stop-motion animation using “real” (as opposed to computer-generated) characters and sets made of tangible materials, the film has a surreal picture-book look. Kids might quail at the zombies and ghosts, exposed brains and decomposing corpses, though they’re portrayed with whimsical, rubbery humor, not realism. Norman sees ghosts and chats with them all the time, starting with his late grandmother (Elaine Stritch). His bellicose dad (Jeff Garlin) thinks his son’s a weirdo and his teen sister (Anna Kendrick) thinks he’s a loser. At school, the bone-headed bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) torments him. Only his classmate Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), who’s harassed for being overweight, offers Norman friendship.
While we see skeletal graveyard zombies and there’s much talk about them eating brains, they don’t really do it. There are decomposing bodies, though, with worms and bugs and such around them, but it’s all quite artsy as opposed to naturalistic, so less scary for 10 and older – similar to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (PG, 1993) or “Corpse Bride” (PG, 2005). At the climax, Norman runs through the woods trying to find the witch’s grave and risks impalement on branches that pop out. The witch conjures up scary, swirling clouds and lightning.
“The Expendables 2” (R): There ought to be enough heavy gunfire, explosions and macho banter in this sequel (to “The Expendables,” R, 2010) to satisfy action movie aficionados 16 and older, despite the advanced median age of the cast. The mayhem involves enough spattered blood (though it has a fake, post-production look to it) to earn an R and make the film problematic for under-16s and surely not for middle schoolers.
The action features multiple gun battles and explosions, as well as martial arts combat and fights, with and without brass knuckles and chains. The blood flies as bullets hit and knives sink in, but the gore really isn’t graphic for an R-rated film. Characters use occasional profanity, and there is mild sexual innuendo.