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PG-16 and counting: Standards are shifting

Gradually, in multiple ways, the restraints of decorum — are being loosened, and the edge of that omnipresent envelope is being — pushed. And nowhere is this more evident than in our entertainment. We — may fill the airways with indignant rhetoric when confronted with a wardrobe — malfunction during Superbowl half-time, but in reality, we expect to be — ever more titillated if not hammered by what we see on television and — at the movies.

One case in point is the evolving movie rating system, — a system that is sponsored by the Motion Picture Association of America — (MPAA) and the National Association of Theater Owners. The mission of — the MPAA is to assign a film a rating for guidance, leaving the decision — as to whether their children should or should not see it up to the parents. — The rating is not meant to address whether a film is "good" or "bad."

It is appropriate to ask what criteria the rating board — uses to judge a film. The MPAA will tell you that when deciding whether — a film is suitable viewing for a child it examines theme, language, violence, — nudity, sex and drug use. In a brochure written for the edification of — parents, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Movie Rating — System," the MPAA explains that each of the elements identified is assessed — as to how it is employed in the "context of the individual film. The rating — board places no special emphasis on any of these elements; all are considered — and examined before a rating is given."

But what has happened since the rating system was put — in place is that it has changed. Not overtly, but covertly, reflecting — our changing mores and what we, and apparently the MPAA, deem as acceptable.

Case in point would be the rating PG-13. The MPAA tags — this rating with the admonition that when a film is so rated, parents — are strongly cautioned: "Some material may be inappropriate for children — under 13." When this designation was first created it said that "rough — or persistent violence is absent; sexually oriented nudity is generally — absent; some scenes of drug use may be seen; some use of the harsher sexually — derived words may be heard."

Judge the efficacy of this rating using only the statement — that "rough or persistent violence is absent," it quickly becomes clear — that the definition of "violence" as well as "rough and "persistent" has — changed. In fact, one of the consistent features of many of the films — released with a PG-13 rating is that they have very rough and persistent — violence and yet are judged acceptable for younger audiences.

For example, the just released "Cursed," a horror/thriller — movie has the following parental guideline: "PG-13 for horror, violence/terror, — some sexual references, nudity, language and a brief drug reference." — Opening the same weekend was "Man of the House." The guidelines for this — film warn that while it may have a PG-13 rating, it contains "violence, — sexual content, crude humor and a drug reference." As an aside, both films, — targeted for the teen/preteen audience, are vacuous exercises in what — Hollywood does worst: Plays to the lowest common denominator, assuming — that this demographic does not want to see movies that are rich in content — or complex in narrative.

Clearly, as our sensibilities change, as our society has — become ever more inured to coarse language and violent/terror/sexual content — in our entertainment, the MPAA guidelines have changed as well. And it — seems a PG-13 rating is now closer to R as not.

Perhaps the time has come for the MPAA to reexamine its — guidelines, to include a new rating such as PG-16, a category that could — be used for those horror/violence movies that are not appropriate for — young teens and preteens. Of course, given the manner in which the rating — system works, a PG-16 rating does not mean that young people could not — see the film. With the exception of movies rated R and NC-17, if kids — can get as far as the candy counter, they can see the film. No matter — its violent/terror/sexual content.

What our children see at the movies is no small thing. —

Because visual and special effects are now so sophisticated, — the potential for real and lasting terror in films has increased incrementally. — And because our culture tolerates language that includes sexually derived — words and ever more explicit content, films have gotten ever more coarse — and crude.

It is self-evident that the entertainment juggernaut influences — young people's values, behavior and how they view world. And that view — is no small thing.

Be Cool —

Chili has abandoned the fickle movie industry, as he becomes — the promoter of a struggling singer who is being pursued by the Russian — mafia. Follow up to "Get Shorty". John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Danny DeVito, — Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Cedric the Entertainer.

PG-13 for violence, sensuality, and language including — sexual references, 120 min.

Because of Winn Dixie —

A lonely young girl adopts an orphaned dog who helps her — make friends in a small Florida town. The bond between the girl and her — dog brings together the townspeople, and helps heal the troubled relationship — between her and her father.

Annasophia Robb, Jeff Daniels, Dave Matthews, Cicely Tyson

PG for thematic elements and brief mild language, 105 — min.

Bride and Prejudice —

In English, Hindi and Punjabi with English subtitles It — begins in a modest Indian village when a woman sets out to find husbands — for her four beautiful daughters. The smart and headstrong Lalita announces — she will only marry for love, giving her mother nightmares. When Lalita — meets wealthy AmericanWill Darcy, sparks fly. Music, dance and spectacle — merge with love, vanity and society in this Bollywood adaptation of Jane — Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". Directed by Gurinder Chadha ("Bend it — Like Beckham") Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Daniel Gillies

PG-13 for some sexual references/111 min.

Constantine —

Renegade occultist John Constantine, who has literally — been to Hell and back, teams up with a skeptical policewoman to solve — the mysterious suicide of her twin sister. Their investigation takes them — through the world of demons and angels that exists just beneath the landscape — of contemporary Los Angeles. Based on the comic book Hellblazer.Keanu — Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Tilda Swinton

R for violence and demonic images 121 min.

Hitch

A legendary "date doctor" has helped hundreds of men woo — and win the women of their dreams. But none of his tried and true tricks — of his trade can prepare him for his own true love. Will Smith, Eva Mendes, — Kevin James, Michael Rappaport, Adam Arkin.

PG-13 for sexual material, language and a brief drug reference, — 118 min.

Hostage —

A police officer is wracked by guilt from a prior stint — as a negotiator. When a mafia accountant is taken hostage on his beat, — he must negotiate the standoff, even as his own family is held captive — by the mob to make sure he does what they need. Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak, — Jonathan Tucker, Ben Foster, Rumer Willis

R for strong graphic violence, language and some drug — use/113 min.

Hotel Rwanda —

Ten years ago one million people were brutally murdered — in only three months, an atrocity largely overlooked by the rest of the — world. Inspired by his love for his family, an ordinary man summoned extraordinary — courage to save the lives of over a thousand helpless refugees by granting — them shelter in the hotel he managed.

Directed by Alejandro Amenabar ("The Others," "Open Your — Eyes")

Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo

PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief strong — language, 121 min.

Jacket —

A Vietnam vet who returns to the states suffering from — amnesia is accused of murder and lands in an asylum. There he is put on — a heavy dose of experimental drugs, restrained in a jacket, and locked — in a body drawer. The process sends him on a journey into his future, — where he can foresee his death in a matter of days. Can the woman he meets — in the future help save him? Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, — Kelly Lynch, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Daniel Craig, Brad Renfro.

R for violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity, 103 — min.

Million Dollar Baby —

A fighter turned trainer eventually agrees to train a — woman in her early 30's who is determined to begin a boxing career. The — two discover in each other a sense of family they lost long ago. Directed — by Clint Eastwood; Starring Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman. —

PG-13 for violence, some disturbing images, thematic material — and brief drug use, 137 min.

Pacifier —

After failing to protect a scientist, an undercover agent — agrees to protect the man's children. Vin Diesel, Max Thieriot, Morgan — York, Brittany Snow, Faith Ford

PG for action violence, language and rude humor, 94 min.

Robots —

Set on a world populated entirely by robots, a young genius — wants to make robots capable of making the world a better place. But his — dream is challenged by a corporate tyrant and the sexy corporate robot — trying to seduce him. Voice talents of Ewan McGregor, Robin Williams, — Halle Berry, Greg Kinnear, Mel Brooks, Drew Carey, Jamie Kennedy

PG for some brief language and suggestive humor/92 min. — (including 2 minute "Ice Age 2" short)

Sideways —

A struggling, 40ish novelist is frustrated over his stalled — career and the fact that his struggling actor buddy is about to get married. — With their emotional baggage in tow, the two set off for a week of debauchery — in the Napa Valley wine country before the wedding. Paul Giamatti, Thomas — Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh.

R for language, some strong sexual content and nudity, — 125 min.

Vera Drake —

3 Academy Award Nominations including Best Director, Actress, — Original Screenplay. Set in 1950's London, Vera, a cheerful, grandmotherly — woman performs abortions long before they were legalized in Britain. When — one of her patients nearly dies, Vera's practice is revealed to the police — and she falls into the legal system. Directed by Mike Leigh ("Topsy Turvy", — "Secrets and Lies") Imelda Staunton, Phil Davis, Peter Wight, Adrian Scarborough, — Heather Craney

R for depiction of strong thematic material, 125 min.