“Labor Day” (PG-13): This drama and its big emotions are fine for most teens, though some might execute an eye-roll at the lonely-middle-aged-woman-finds-love saga. But others will appreciate the heartachingly good acting in “Labor Day,” and be able to overlook the too-somber tone.
Adapted from Joyce Maynard’s 2009 novel, the film, while peppered with muddled flashbacks, mainly unfolds in the summer of 1987. Thirteen-year-old Henry (Gattlin Griffith) lives with his reclusive mother Adele (Kate Winslet). His father (Clark Gregg) divorced her and remarried years ago. Adele barely leaves the house.
On a rare mother-son grocery trip, a big man bleeding from a gut wound forces them (not with a weapon) to drive him to their house. Frank (Josh Brolin) tells them he is a convict and that he jumped from a hospital window after being taken there for an appendectomy. From news reports, they learn he’s a convicted murderer, and he seems quite menacing at first, briefly tying Adele up. But Frank soon drops his tough-guy act. He cooks, makes repairs, teaches Henry baseball. He and Adele fall in love, which gets complicated.
In several flashbacks, a woman’s dead body lies on the floor, eyes open. The angry shove that killed her is shown. One semi-explicit sexual situation repeats a few times in quick flashbacks. In another flashback, we see Adele cradle a stillborn child. Her depression, anxiety and agoraphobia are clearly depicted. A neighbor slaps her disabled son in an upsetting scene.
“Gimme Shelter” (PG-13): Clichés and melodrama intrude at times, yet this harrowing tale of a teenage mother could pull in high schoolers in the manner of a good TV docudrama. They’ll be impressed by “High School Musical” (all three films rated G) star Vanessa Hudgens’ performance. The story gets a little too rough for middle schoolers.
Writer/director Ron Krauss’ film is based on firsthand research and blends several true stories. Hudgens plays Agnes “Apple” Bailey. A sullen pierced and tattooed 16-year-old, Apple escapes from her addict/prostitute mom (Rosario Dawson) and runs to the father (Brendan Fraser) she’s never met – now a wealthy Wall Streeter with a mansion.
Married with two children, he and his understandably hesitant wife (Stephanie Szostak) try to help Apple, but her attitude is combative. When they realize she’s pregnant, they take her to have an abortion, though the word is never uttered. Apple runs away from the clinic, has an encounter with her (or her mother’s – it’s not clear) pimp, carjacks his SUV and crashes it. She wakes up in the hospital with a broken leg. The Catholic chaplain (James Earl Jones) gets through to her a little. He takes her to a home for teen mothers run by the kind, devout and determined Kathy (Ann Dowd). The girls are a feisty but loyal bunch. Apple’s life improves.
The film includes some violent but nongraphic outbursts. Late in the film, Apple’s mother goes after her with a razor blade. Apple gives a vivid but nonexplicit description of being sexually molested as a child. Characters use fairly restrained profanity, including the B-word, and occasional crude language.
“I, Frankenstein” (PG-13): If teens can suspend their disbelief a bit more than is usually required for a supernatural 3-D thriller, they might like the high-gothic silliness of “I, Frankenstein.” Based on a graphic novel, the story is more ridiculous than most, but kind of a hoot at non-3-D/matinee prices. The violence is mild enough for middle schoolers.
Demons and sacred gargoyles slash and run one another through with medieval blades, but their wounds merely cause them to disintegrate into sparkly columns of light that either descend into hell or ascend to heaven. There is mild sexual innuendo and almost no profanity.