“Quartet” (PG-13): Fine for most teens, but unlikely to interest many, “Quartet” paints a charming, if glamorized, portrait of four faded opera stars living in an English country mansion where retired classical singers and other musicians can live out their days and celebrate their music.
The quality of the actors involved (plus actual musicians in secondary roles) and Dustin Hoffman’s straightforward direction make this bittersweet dramedy a treat. That’s true even though none of the lead actors sings, forcing Hoffman to finesse, rather awkwardly, the finale and other moments. “Quartet” hinges on the juicy cliché that opera singers are catty, jealous people.
The arrival of grande dame Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), a famed soprano, causes ripples at the home. Her long-ago ex-husband Reginald (Tom Courtenay) doesn’t want her there, as she broke his heart. His pal Wilfred (Billy Connolly), urges reconciliation and still chases the ladies himself. Their friend Cecily (Pauline Collins) had a lesser career than Jean’s and now seems to be developing dementia. When all four are asked to perform a famous quartet at a fundraising gala, they must overcome differences and fears.
Characters occasionally talk about sex and use sexual slang, but nothing too explicit. They also get drunk. Connolly’s character is the most blatant of skirt chasers. The script includes some profanity.
“Broken City” (R): The narrative spins itself into a bit of a knot in this handsome, intermittently gripping neo-noir drama, in which all the characters, even the so-called good guys, are less than pure. The complexity of the story and its emphasis on sharp dialogue versus mayhem will appeal to high-schoolers 16 and older, and the relatively understated violence, if not the strong language, makes that mostly OK.
Mark Wahlberg plays Billy Taggart, a New York police detective who, we learn in a quick prologue, is suspected of deliberately killing a rape-and-murder suspect. The mayor (Russell Crowe) and commissioner of police (Jeffrey Wright) force Billy to quietly resign, but they don’t prosecute. Billy becomes a private investigator, and some seven years later, the mayor calls him: He wants his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) followed and her lover identified. Billy thinks he learns the truth, which involves the election campaign of an upstart candidate (Barry Pepper) seeking to unseat the mayor. But what Billy thought was true may not be true at all, and his ability to judge isn’t helped by the fact that he falls off the wagon after years of sobriety.
The violence in “Broken City” is relatively infrequent and not too graphic. We see one point-blank shooting on video and a head-banging, kicking fight. In his work as a private detective, Billy secretly photographs a woman in lingerie about to engage in a sexual encounter with a man, but the film cuts away. Another more explicit sex scene with toplessness occurs. Characters use strong profanity and sexually explicit language. Some of them drink a lot.
“The Last Stand” (R): A clumsily constructed plot doesn’t prevent “The Last Stand” from being stubbornly entertaining, as we watch Arnold Schwarzenegger lock, load and lumber back into action. The occasionally gory violence and strong profanity, lightened by a tongue-in-cheek style, make the movie OK for high-schoolers 16 and older. As R-rated films go, it’s not horrific.
As the sheriff of a tiny Arizona town, Ray Owens’ (Schwarzenegger) big-city years will soon come in handy. The sheriff and his deputies (Luis Guzman, Jaimie Alexander and Zach Gilford) are usually bored stiff in their quiet little hamlet near a canyon that marks the Mexican border. Then the FBI loses a prisoner (Eduardo Noriega), the head of a drug cartel, in a cleverly choreographed escape.
The agent in charge (Forest Whitaker) calls to warn Sheriff Owens that the convict may be heading his way in a supercharged Corvette, but to wait for the FBI to handle it. Clearly, he doesn’t know Sheriff Owens. Soon the sheriff and his deputies, along with a wacky gun collector (Johnny Knoxville) who lets them use his arsenal, and a former Marine (Rodrigo Santoro) sitting in their jail, are facing down the drug lord’s advance team of thugs on the streets of their town. Then the escapee himself vrooms in.
Loud gunfire from all sorts of weapons from antique guns to assault rifles to machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades fills the movie. However, with a couple of exceptions – a body blown apart, a couple of bloody close-ups – the depiction of wounds and the spattering of blood are relatively understated for an R. Characters use a lot of profanity and there is brief, mild sexual innuendo.