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Annie
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

Actors Of Color Discuss Racial Stereotypes In Hollywood

posted by Nell Minow

Film Courage produced this excellent and very compelling film with actors of color talking about the challenges they face in Hollywood. If we did a better job of representing diversity in film, we would not just tell better stories and tell stories better, we would make better progress toward understanding, respect, and justice for all.

Annie

posted by Nell Minow
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
Movie Release Date:December 19, 2014
Copyright Columbia Pictures 2014

Copyright Columbia Pictures 2014

The story of the plucky little Depression-era orphan with the curly red hair has been not just re-booted but re-imagined into the world of rent-a-bikes, viral videos, DNA tests, YOLO, corporate privacy invasions, and Katy Perry tweets. There are some nice shout-outs to the original version, with a character named for Little Orphan Annie creator Harold Gray and a music group named the Leapin’ Lizards after the redhead’s favorite way to express surprise.

A cheeky opening briskly bridges the decades. It begins with a red-headed girl named Annie giving a school report, concluding with a tap dance.  She looks like the Annie we remember.  But then the teacher calls on another Annie, and we meet our Annie, played by “Beasts of the Southern Wild’s” Quvenzhané Wallis.  She gives a rollicking report about Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal that sounds like a call to action from Occupy Wall Street. The whole classroom bangs on their desks along with her. Annie is all about the 99 percent. (The famously very right-wing Gray would be horrified.)

And, as she repeatedly reminds us, she is not an orphan.  She is a foster kid.  Every Friday evening, she waits outside the restaurant where her parents were last seen, in hopes that they will return. She was four when they left her with a note and half of a locket, and since then she has gone from foster home to foster home, now living with Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), a bitter, abusive, alcoholic woman who once sang with C&C Music Factory and was almost a Blowfish. She resents the girls who are her only source of income, and makes them do all the work in the apartment.

Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) is a cell phone company billionaire running for mayor of New York. When he grabs Annie to save her from getting hit by a truck, his approval numbers spike, and his aides encourage him to spend some time with her to give him a more relatable image. Grace (Rose Byrne) is his all-purpose, super-efficient second-in-command and Guy (Bobby Cannavale) is his whatever-it-takes spin-master campaign advisor. Annie, about to be thrown out by Miss Hannigan, persuades Stacks to let her stay in his mega-luxurious apartment, promising that her “game face” will get him good press, combating his image as “a rich elitist who can’t relate to regular people.” It works for a while until some unscrupulous people hire a couple to pose as Annie’s real parents.

Some of the updates work well, and there is a nice energy in the opening scenes as Annie uses the last ten minutes of a bike share to navigate the city, passing street performers riffing on the well-known score. Co-writer/director Will Gluck keeps things bright and bouncy, though his filming of the dance numbers is clumsy to the point of incompetence, undermining even the nearly unkillable numbers like “It’s a Hard Knock Life” with angles and edits that take the energy out of the songs instead of boosting it. Wallis is inconsistent, occasionally appearing checked out of the scene. She is better in the few scenes with the other girls, but she has very little chemistry with Byrne or Foxx. And one barfing scene is bad, but four? Plus a spit take? And a hooker joke? There is a movie-within-the-movie that is very cute, but the cameos are a distraction. The final resolution seems slapped together and feels unsatisfying. Ah, well, the sun will come out tomorrow, so maybe next time they’ll get it right.

Parents should know that this movie has themes of child abandonment and abuse, a character abuses alcohol and there is a joke about alcoholism, and there is some mild peril and potty humor.

Family discussion: What did Annie mean when she said Stax did not know he was good yet? How is Annie different from the other girls?

If you like this, try: the other musical versions and “Game Plan”

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

posted by Nell Minow
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
Movie Release Date:December 19, 2014

Copyright 2014 Twentieth Century Fox

Copyright 2014 Twentieth Century Fox

Fans of the first two “Night at the Museum” films will like this one because it is pretty much the same film. They go to another museum, this time the British Museum in London, and the exhibits come to life and create chaos. The good news: it’s a zippy 90 minutes. The bad news: way too many of those minutes involve a peeing monkey.

The most popular characters from the earlier films are back, including the late Robin Williams in an especially poignant role as Teddy Roosevelt and the late Mickey Rooney as a retired museum guard. Dick Van Dyke almost steals the movie in a brief appearance showing that he can still get down and boogie. But once again the focus of the story is on Larry (Ben Stiller), museum security guard turned wrangler of the exhibit figures when they come to life at night. The museum director, Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais), thinks that Larry has created some sort of special effects, but when a fundraising gala is held at the museum after dark so the guests can marvel at what they think is some kind of animatronic display things go very wrong. The ancient Egyptian tablet that creates the magic is becoming corroded and the result is like a corrupted computer code. The exhibits go wild, and the director is fired.

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Young Egyptian King Ahkmenrah (the terrific Rami Malek) says that the only way to figure out what is wrong with the tablet is to take it to his parents, who are exhibits at the British Museum. With Dr. McPhee’s help, Larry brings Ahkmenrah to the British Museum for “conservation.” Once he arrives, he finds that there are some stowaways — Teddy Roosevelt and Sacajawea (the lovely, elegant Mizuo Peck), a prehistoric man who looks very familiar (Stiller again as Laa), Dexter the monkey, and our fierce little toy soldier-sized friends Octavius the Roman centaurian (Steve Coogan) and Jedediah the cowboy (Owen Wilson).

Ahkmenrah is reunited with his parents (Sir Ben Kingsley and Anjali Jay) who explain the problem — like an iPhone, the tablet need to be recharged. All it needs is moonlight, but getting it there in time is a problem, especially when it is stolen by a very confused Sir Lancelot (“Downton Abbey’s” Dan Stevens). Lots of hijinks and slapstick stunts ensue, with a highlight being entry into a vertiginous M.C. Escher drawing.

There are Muppet Movie’s worth of guest appearances, including Rebel Wilson riffing as a security guard. It zips along briskly, not wasting any time in this episode on any kind of love interest for Larry, though there is a dreary detour about Larry’s high school senior son (Skyler Gisondo taking over for Nick Daley) not wanting to go to college. We’re there for the stunts and special effects, and mostly for the dream that maybe some night at some museum, it does all come to life.

Parents should know that this movie includes comic/fantasy peril. Some characters appear to be hurt but are fine. There is also potty humor and brief schoolyard language.

Family discussion: Do you agree with Nick’s decision about the tablet? Which museum would you like to see come to life and why?

If you like this, try: the first two movies — and read about the real legends and histories of Theodore Roosevelt, Camelot, Sacajawea, ancient Egypt, and M.C. Escher

Listen to People’s Lives: David Plotz’s Working Podcast

posted by Nell Minow

Former Slate editor David Plotz, now at Atlas Obscura, says that he is a big fan of Studs Terkel’s classic book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. He has paid tribute to that great work in the best possible way, by updating it with his podcast series, Working. With thoughtful, insightful questions, he interviews people about how they spend their workday. Some of the people have high profile jobs. The first in the series is Stephen Colbert, and whether the idea of the series appeals to you or not, whether you are a fan of the Colbert Report or not, you have to listen to this one, and I guarantee you will be moved. Other interviews include an LA waiter, a lexicographer (she works on dictionaries), a farmer, a hospice worker, a television writer, a musician, a porn star, a political cartoonist, and a pastor. The stories are fascinating, illuminating, and inspiring. You will not think about the people around you or about your own job the same way again. Highly, highly recommended.

Previous Posts

Actors Of Color Discuss Racial Stereotypes In Hollywood
Film Courage produced this excellent and very compelling film with actors of color talking about the challenges they face in Hollywood. If we did a better job of representing diversity in film, we would not just tell better stories and tell stories better, we would make better progress toward under

posted 8:00:49am Dec. 19, 2014 | read full post »

Annie
The story of the plucky little Depression-era orphan with the curly red hair has been not just re-booted but re-imagined into the world of rent-a-bikes, viral videos, DNA tests, YOLO, corpora

posted 5:59:13pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Fans of the first two "Night at the Museum" films will like this one because it is pretty much the same film. They go to another museum, this time the British Museum in London, and the exhibi

posted 5:23:46pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Listen to People's Lives: David Plotz's Working Podcast
Former Slate editor David Plotz, now at Atlas Obscura, says that he is a big fan of Studs Terkel's classic book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. He has paid tribute to that great work in the best possible way, by updating it with his podcast seri

posted 3:59:23pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Little Orphan Annie: From Comic Strip to Radio, Broadway, Television, and Two Movies
The spunky little girl with the curly red hair and a dog named Sandy began as Little Orphan Annie in 1924, created by Harold Gray.  Her pluck, self-sufficiency, and resilience cau

posted 8:00:48am Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »


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