Summer holiday movie guide

A still from <i>Rise of the Guardians</i>.
A still from Rise of the Guardians

Tweens and young teens are the big winners these holidays. Luckily, parents with younger tots can access some G-rated (and free) re-releases. Don't forget to check your cinemas for specials, and keep your 3D glasses. Happy holiday moviegoing!

Now showing
Story: Animated Christmas fantasy. A secret collective of Guardians - the Santa-like North (voiced by Alec Baldwin), Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and Bunny (Hugh Jackman) - help children fight their fears. When scary Pitch (Jude Law) steals children's memories, the Guardians recruit mischievous Jack Frost (Chris Pine). Based on the books by William Joyce. Language: Two unnecessary six-letter words from a very Aussie Easter Bunny.
Sex: None.
Violence: Punches, scary falls and death themes.
Ages: 3-6 - Pitch is too scary for sensitive tots.
7-12 - Target audience.
13-plus - Vivid action and 3D effects will entertain.
Adult compatibility: The 3D glasses make the night scenes even darker but boost exhilarating sleigh-ride scenes. Critic's rating: 8/10

Now showing
Story: Animated Disney comedy about video game characters. Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is sick of being the villain in the Fix-It Felix arcade game. But when he tries to prove he is a good guy in the Hero's Duty game, Ralph accidentally detours to Sugar Rush. There he befriends youngster Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). She desperately wants to be a go-kart racer but is ostracised because she is a glitch.
Language: Negatory!
Sex: Discreet kisses; cyborg-stomping Sergeant Calhoun is as ridiculously curvy as Lara Croft but luckily voiced by Glee's Jane Lynch.
Violence: Alien attacks, shootouts, death themes.
Ages: 3-6 - Too much gun action wrecks it for younger kids.
7-12 - Perfect audience.
13-plus - Every video gamer will enjoy affectionate nods to Pac-Man and other arcade oldies.
Adult compatibility: This mash-up of Monsters, Inc. and Tron is redeemed by gorgeous visuals. The accompanying animated short, Paperman, is cutesy.
Critic's rating: 8/10

Releases January 1
Story: Live-action and animated version of Yann Martel's best-selling book. Pi (Suraj Sharma) is the teenage son of an Indian zookeeper who decides to relocate his family (and animals) to Canada. But a violent storm sinks their ship, leaving Pi adrift in a lifeboat containing an orang-utan, a hyena, a zebra and a Bengal tiger.
Language: None.
Sex: None.
Violence: Death themes, vivid animal attack scenes.
Ages: 3-6 - Too vivid for this lot.
7-12 - Older kids may fidget at the God chat but they'll thrill to the astounding confrontations between Pi and the computer-generated tiger.
13-plus - Target audience for a terrific adventure story.
Adult compatibility: The 3D glasses darken the images but the artificial look suits the story's fable-like quality. The book's admirers will appreciate the elegant directing from Brokeback Mountain's Ang Lee.
Critic's rating: 8/10

Now showing
Story: Live-action Hollywood musical comedy. New student Beca (Twilight star Anna Kendrick) rejects joining the Bellas, her university's a cappella group, as "organised nerd singing". But when she meets sassy Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), "the best singer in Tasmania with teeth", Beca can't resist competing against the all-male Treblemakers.
Language: Frequent.
Sex: A kiss; explicit references.
Violence: A cappella rumble? (Think riff-off, with shoving). Also, gratuitous vomiting.
Ages: 3-6 - Hits notes out of their range.
7-12 - Ditto.
13-plus - Bullseye! This updates Glee-sugary television musicals with sly, Bring It On-styled wit. Hilarious Australian Wilson stole scenes in Bridesmaids and A Few Best Men. Get that gal her own movie, NOW!
Adult compatibility: A familiar plot hardly even matters; this is perfect to take your teens to. It also passes the female-friendly Bechdel test: the emphasis here is on sisters, not misters.
Critic's rating: 8/10

Now showing
Story: A coming-of-age drama based on Stephen Chbosky's book. Logan Lerman plays the teen-with-a-past who finds high school tough going until he is befriended by two older students (Ezra Miller and Emma Watson).
Language: Frequent.
Sex: Kisses; direct references.
Violence: Fights, slaps.
Ages: 3-6 - Get out of this class!
7-12 - Ditto!
13-plus - For older teens. Kudos for being one of the few American teen movies to sensitively tackle abuse, alienation and gay themes.
Adult compatibility: One vocally enthusiastic preview audience clearly didn't mind author Chbosky's uneven directing. Individually, Harry Potter series star Watson, Percy Jackson's Lerman and Miller (We Need to Talk about Kevin) are mannered. Together, they are riveting.
Critic's rating: 7/10

Now showing
Story: Live-action version of the last of Stephenie Meyer's best-selling vampire-sage books. Newly "made" vampire Bella (Kristen Stewart) joins husband Edward (Robert Pattinson) and foreign supporters to oppose the vengeful Volturi clan. A neat tweak to Meyer's conclusion distracts from the author's creepy "imprinting" themes.
Language: "Frickin"' is it.
Sex: A steamy make-out scene (with slow motion!).
Violence: Plenty of head-twisting-off confrontations.
Ages: 3-6 - Reach for the garlic!
7-12 - If you're happy with your tweens reading the books ...
13-plus - Target audience. Gives fans everything they want, including a recap of the series' best moments.
Adult compatibility: Really only for fans. None of the sequels match the edginess generated by original series director Catherine Hardwicke.
Critic's rating: 7/10

Now showing
Story: Live-action family comedy has old-fashioned grandparents Artie (Billy Crystal) and Diane (Bette Midler) babysitting their very modern, "sensitive" grandkids. Cue voice-activated gadgets, allergies, egg-less egg salads and chaos.
Language: "Frickin"' is it.
Sex: No.
Violence: Grandad "Fartie" is hit with a bat.
Ages: 3-6 - The chat might bore them but nothing to really disturb older tots.
7-12 - They'll love the toilet and vomit scenes and kid characters (two boys, one girl) all under 13.
13-plus - A cameo by skateboarder Tony Hawk nukes any "It's too babyish" complaints.
Adult compatibility: Blockish, but sentimental family-togetherness themes always score at Christmas.
Critic's rating: 6/10

Releases January 10 Story: Animated fantasy with horror themes. Eleven-year-old Norman (voiced by Australian Kodi Smit-Mcphee) sees dead people: in fact, all the local ghosts. His classmates think he's a freak but can Norman's gift save his town from a witch's curse?
Language: Two (moderate) swear words.
Sex: No, thank you, we're ghouls and zombies.
Violence: Electrocution; death themes; an ear drops off.
Ages: 3-6 - Too much for younger tots.
7-12 - Yes, if they liked the stop-motion, puppet look of Coraline and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Despite the scary graveyard visits, the tone is generally reassuring.
13-plus - They'll smirk at the black humour.
Adult compatibility: Feels a tad flat midway due to the slight story and inevitable 3D darkness. But support stars such as Elaine Stritch are amusing.
Critic's rating: 7/10

The trailer feels Lord of the Rings-lite, which should make The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (now showing) more accessible, family entertainment.
This is the first movie in a trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's book and directed by Rings Oscar winner Peter Jackson.
Older teens will want to check out the movie musical Les Miserables (December 26, unpreviewed). The Princess Diaries' Anne Hathaway is earning more advance buzz than her co-stars (Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe).
Finally! Something for tiny tots (and everyone else): the January 17 re-release, in 3D, of Pixar Films' 2001 animated family favourite Monsters, Inc.

Families will also cheer the free, kiddie-friendly flicks screening at Sydney Olympic Park. The Movies by the Boulevard 2013 season includes Hotel Transylvania (January 4), Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (January 5), Brave (January 9), The Muppets (January 10) and Ice Age: Continental Drift (January 12). See for details.