NEW THIS WEEK
-- WOODY HARRELSON IN A RIVETING CHARACTER STUDY OF A CORRUPT, SELF-DESTRUCTIVE COP:
"RAMPART" R, LIMITED RELEASE -- Teens 17 and older, especially college-age cinema buffs and acting students, will be gripped by Woody Harrelson's portrayal of a downward-spiraling Los Angeles cop in "Rampart." The film takes place in 1999, when the LAPD was going through a major corruption scandal, but the story of street cop Dave Brown (Harrelson) is fiction. Harrelson, along with director and co-writer (with crime novelist James Ellroy) Oren Moverman, examine what happens to a stiff-necked bad-boy cop who refuses to change or admit he's done anything wrong. Dave has two ex-wives (Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche), daughters he loves, and he makes an effort to be around them. But outside his extended family, he has a promiscuous, liquor-fueled personal life, and an approach to police work that is a disaster. He abuses and even shoots minority suspects and plants or steals evidence. After realizing he's under investigation, he tells internal affairs and the district attorney's office where they can go. He refuses to resign, drinks more, abuses prescription drugs and commits more heinous acts, while carrying on a raunchy affair with a defense attorney (Robin Wright). It's quite a show and Harrelson, et al. are terrific. The plot loses credibility toward the end -- he gets away with an awful lot in broad daylight -- but the characterizations are fantastic.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Harrelson's character engages in beatings and point-blank shootings. He smokes constantly, drinks heavily, and abuses drugs. Other characters smoke pot. We see him involved in steamy sexual situations that are semi-explicit. Scenes at a sex club show partial nudity.
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-- FINE FOR KIDS 7 AND OLDER:
"THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY" G -- Children 7 and older will delight in this charmer -- a stunning, artful adaptation of Mary Norton's popular children's book, "The Borrowers," a fable about tiny people who live below the floorboards and "borrow" supplies from the humans above. It was made at the great Japanese animation house, Studio Ghibli, which has brought us "Ponyo" (G, released here in 2009) and "Spirited Away" (PG, released here in 2002), and it has the same hand-drawn quality and delicious detail. Young Shawn (voice of David Henrie), a boy with a heart problem, comes to stay at a country cottage while he awaits surgery. He's shocked and thrilled when he glimpses tiny Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler) and tries to make friends with the salt-shaker-sized girl. But her parents Pod (Will Arnett) and Homily (Amy Poehler) tell her never to trust humans. Eventually, Shawn earns her trust by helping retrieve supplies for her family. When Haru (Carol Burnett), the eccentric housekeeper at the cottage, suspects Shawn has discovered the little people she's always heard about, she tries to capture them. Shawn and a woods-dwelling Borrower named Spiller (Moises Arias) help Arrietty and her parents to safety.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There are moments of suspense when you fear that one or more of the Borrowers will fall in their climbing adventures or be caught by humans. Kids under 7 or so may be upset to see Arrietty's mother imprisoned in a jar. A recurring theme about the human boy Shawn having a possibly terminal heart ailment could worry some children. And the ending, while it is basically happy, has a slightly bittersweet tone.
-- FINE FOR KIDS 8 AND OLDER:
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.