NEW THIS WEEK
-- A SENTIMENTAL, WHOLLY PREDICTABLE ROMANTIC FABLE THAT FANS OF NICHOLAS SPARKS' NOVELS WILL LIKELY ENJOY:
"SAFE HAVEN" PG-13 -- Teen fans of romance novels in any form will nestle right into the predictable, sentimental story, with just a dash of danger, that is "Safe Haven." If it weren't for Josh Duhamel's supremely likable performance, the movie would be a mushy mess. Moments of mostly implied violence occasionally cut into the love story, but not in ways that make the film too intense for middle-schoolers. At the start, we see a frantic, dark-haired young woman (Julianne Hough) running from one house and seeking shelter at a neighbor's. The next thing we know, she's become a blonde and boards a bus heading south out of Boston. We also learn that a cop named Tierney (David Lyons) is trying to find her and is acting pretty odd. She disembarks at a small coastal town in the Carolinas and decides to stay for a bit. Calling herself "Katie," she gets a job at the local cafe, rents a cabin and befriends an adorable little girl (Mimi Kirkland) whose dad Alex (Duhamel) runs the general store. A widower, Alex also has a slightly older son Josh (Noah Lomax) who still grieves for his mom. Instantly smitten, Alex tries to charm Katie with offers of neighborly help, but she's wary. As she grows closer to Alex's kids, however, and at the urging of the nice woman (Cobie Smulders) who is her neighbor, Katie falls for Alex. That's when danger comes to town in the form of that cop. There's a surprise at the end of the film that truly defies credulity.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A couple of flashbacks imply the possibility of murder and, later in the film, drunken spousal abuse. During the climactic confrontation at the end, lethal gunshots occur. At another point, a child falls off a dock and must be rescued. The policeman on Katie's trail seems more and more unhinged and drunk. As Alex and Katie's relationship warms up, they spend the night together, but aside from much kissing and removing of outer garments, nothing is shown.
-- A SURPRISINGLY ENTERTAINING TEEN WITCH SAGA ABOUT MORAL CHOICES, BUT NEVER PREACHY:
"BEAUTIFUL CREATURES" PG-13 -- Even teens not familiar with the novels by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl will get a charge out of this consistently entertaining, wittily scripted film based on the first one, about a teen girl from a family of witches. Narrated by the ordinary human boy Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) who loves her, the film unfolds in a contemporary southern town caught in a time warp of big cars and banned books. Ethan, a motherless teen who loves books, can't wait to go to college and break loose. He finds instant kinship with Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the smart and sullen new girl at school whose family history in the Civil War-era town inspires nasty teen gossip about devil worship. Parentless herself, she has come to live with her rich, elegant uncle, Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), in a mansion that looks mossy on the outside, fabulous on the inside. Ethan earns Lena's trust and affection, and comes to understand that she and her family indeed "have powers." (When enraged, Lena's powers turn to glass-shattering telekinesis.) Lena will become 16 in a few weeks, and go through a ceremony to learn whether she will use her powers for good or evil. She apparently has no choice in the matter. Or does she? Her smooth uncle seems amoral, but is he? And what about that cloying church lady, Mrs. Lincoln (Emma Thompson), who at other times seems possessed by an unholy spirit with a connection to Lena? And is the town librarian Amma (Viola Davis) really a seer?
THE BOTTOM LINE: The acts of witchcraft involve many special effects and lightning, but are not graphic. The film includes occasional profanity and one implied teen sexual situation. Nothing explicit occurs, but Ethan and Lena kiss and then drop out of camera view -- and remember, she's 15. The film features a potentially lethal shooting. Without preaching, the film says that good or evil is always a choice.
-- THIS INCOHERENT PLOT MERELY PROVIDES AN EXCUSE FOR ENDLESS, HIGH-VOLUME MAYHEM:
"A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD" R -- As long as action-movie fans 17 and older don't require a story to make sense, they can appreciate the ingeniously choreographed vehicular insanity, gun battles and explosions in this deafening and unnecessary sequel. Oh, and toss in the stoic, tough-guy dialogue. Bruce Willis returns nearly six years after "Live Free or Die Hard" (PG-13, 2007) as that violence magnet, policeman John McClane. He learns that his long-estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) is under arrest in Moscow, accused of assassinating some gangster/businessman. Once he's on the ground, McClane discovers that Jack is a CIA agent, trying to salvage a quickly unraveling plan to spirit a jailed Russian billioniaire named Komarov (Sebastian Koch) out of the country. Komarov has access to much weapons-grade nuclear material and has grown a conscience about it. Needless to say, starting with massive explosions at the courthouse where Komarov is on trial, all is not what it seems. Grudgingly, Jack lets his father in on the action. It culminates at Chernobyl, the contaminated nuclear plant where they battle Russian nuke-gangsters. It's frustrating that the film never gives a clear sense of how dangerous the nuclear material is, apart from a few "will I grow a third arm" kinds of jokes.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie consists mostly of eardrum-shattering gun battles and explosions, and road-destroying, metal-shearing car chases and crashes. In all of this, the film depicts few injured bystanders, but in reality the sort of violence they're imagining would kill or injure many. Wounds are mostly less than graphic, but not always. One character late in the film falls into a helicopter rotor, which produces a cloud of blood. The dialogue includes strong profanity.
(c) 2013, Washington Post Writers Group.