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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 2014

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Sabotage
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

Lucy

posted by Nell Minow
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Movie Release Date:July 25, 2014
Copyright 2014 Universal Pictures

Copyright 2014 Universal Pictures

I always enjoy Luc Besson’s stylish car chases and shootouts. I like his use of locations, his strong female characters, and unexpected flashes of sentiment in the midst of mayhem.  While I found much to like in this story about a young woman who gains superpowers through a new drug, it was a mistake to have her show less emotion as she becomes physically and emotionally stronger.  Instead of sentiment, this time Besson inserts some preachy ruminations on the meaning of life.  I’m not opposed to existential ponderings in the middle of a crashes and explosions film.  But they need to be a little less silly and a lot less intrusive.

For a moment, I thought we were back on the Planet of the Apes or perhaps picking up some deleted scenes from “Tree of Life” as we returned to the dawn of time with the earliest hominids.  But no, this is just some sort of context for what is to come.  Our heroine, you see, shares a name with the skeleton of the oldest human remains, thought of as the first woman.

We then meet our present-day Lucy, standing on the sidewalk, arguing with her boyfriend of a week, who is trying to persuade her to deliver a briefcase for him.  She may not be very focused, but she is sharp enough to know that he and the deal he is proposing are both very sketchy.  But she is not smart enough to walk away before he can handcuff her to the case and shove her toward the door.  She has no choice.  She walks into the building.  The boyfriend gets shot.  And she is hustled upstairs but a lot of very scary-looking guys in black suits.

She is soon knocked out, and awakens to find that a pouch of a powerful new drug has been sewn into her abdomen.  She is one of four mules to be sent to cities across Europe to deliver the drug.  But before she leaves, a thug kicks her in the belly, the pouch opens, and the drug, a synthetic version of a chemical essential in fetal development, goes into her bloodstream and she is suddenly super-smart, super-powerful, and super-mad.  Also, she can time-travel, sweeping eras to the side like Tinder rejects.

For a while it is fun to see her think, kick, punch, stab, and, yes, levitate the bad guys.  But there are too many returns to Morgan Freeman lecturing a group of students about what would happen if we used more than ten percent of our brains (by the way, that old myth has no more basis in reality than this movie does) and the decision to make Lucy increasingly robotic in demeanor as she gets more cerebrally enhanced lessens the narrative propulsion and emotional heft to the storyline.  I like Luc Besson. But I think he was using less than ten percent of his brain when he wrote this one.

Parents should know that this film includes extensive action-style violence with many characters injured and killed, lots of guns, knives, surgery, car chases and crashes, fights, threat of sexual assault with some grabbing, explicit scenes of animal and brief human sex and childbirth, sexual references, brief strong language, theme of drug dealing and effects of illegal drugs

Family discussion: If you could access more of your brain capacity, what would you use it for? Why did Lucy become less emotional as she got smarter?

If you like this, try: “The Transporter” and “Limitless”

And So It Goes

posted by Nell Minow
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Movie Release Date:July 25, 2014

12 June 2013 Photo by Clay Enos – © 2013 ASIG Productions LLC

A second marriage is, as Samuel Johnson famously said, “The triumph of hope over experience.” And as lyricist Sammy Cahn wrote in the song Bing Crosby sang in “High Time,” “Love is lovelier the second time around.” In this slight but endearing new film, director Rob Reiner and screenwriter Mark Andrus (“As Good as it Gets”) bring us an autumn-years love story. Oscar-winners Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton play two characters with little in common but the experience of great loss, the knowledge that love carries great risks, and the fear that there may not be another chance.

Douglas is Oren, a successful realtor and even more successful misanthrope. He insults people.  He is bitter.  He shoots a dog with a paintball gun.  He does not like anyone and no one likes him, with the exception of his longtime colleague played by the invaluable Frances Sternhagen.   Keaton plays Leah, a widow experimenting with singing at a restaurant.  She is universally beloved, especially by her neighbors in a fourplex and her loyal accompanist (played by the director himself).  Oren lives in the fourplex, too, ironically named “Little Shangri-La,” and is revealed early on to be the owner as well.  He hopes for one last big-ticket house sale so he can retire and move away and never deal with anyone ever again.

But life has a way of entangling those who most try to rid themselves of obligations and relationships — at least in movies.  Oren’s long-estranged son arrives to inform his father that (1) he is no longer a drug addict, (2) he has a daughter, and (3) he needs Oren to care for her while he serves a prison term.

Oren refuses, saying “I already tried to raise a kid and it didn’t work out.”   So Leah steps in and says the girl can stay with her.  She is Sarah (Sterling Jerins).  And anyone who has ever seen a movie (or read “Heidi”) knows that the girl will charm her grandfather and open the hurting hearts of both Oren and Leah to her and to each other.  Oren finally admits to Leah, “I like you and I don’t like anyone.”

Despite contemporary references like “Duck Dynasty” and “Hoarders,” this film has a musty, retro feel, like a script that has been sitting in a drawer for a couple of decades.  The plot is predictable and creaky.  An attempt to return Sarah to her mother goes exactly the way you think.  The caterpillar Sarah collects is exactly the metaphor you think. The pregnant neighbor provides exactly the opportunity for Oren’s showing what he is capable of that you thought but hoped you could avoid.  The racial humor is painfully out of date, so you didn’t predict it, but that does not make it a good surprise.  Far from it.

What the movie does have, though, is Douglas and Keaton, and they triumph over the limitations of the material, making us believe that the greatest love in our lives may still be waiting for us.

Parents should know that this film includes  sexual references, some crude, childbirth scene, some strong language, some racial insults, drinking, drug abuse, references to sad deaths

Family discussion: Why was it so hard for Oren to be nice to people? How did Leah make Sarah feel at home?

If you like this, try: “As Good as It Gets” and “Something’s Gotta Give”

The Memory Book — This Saturday on the Hallmark Channel

posted by Nell Minow

hallmark-channel-movie-the-memory-book-2A budding, young photographer stumbles upon an old photo album chronicling the ideal romance of a happy couple. Intrigued by their love and unable to find her own “true love,” she sets out to find the couple and figure out if true love really exists.  The film stars Meghan Ory (“Once Upon a Time,” “Intelligence”), Luke Macfarlane (“Brothers and Sisters”), Adrienne Barbeau (“Maude,” “General Hospital”) and Art Hindle (“Paradise Falls”).

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Interview: Michael Rossato-Bennett of “Alive Inside”

posted by Nell Minow

Michael Rossato-Bennett agreed to spend one day filming Dan Cohen’s remarkable music therapy work with people struggling with dementia. He ended up spending three years there and the result is “Alive Inside,” an extraordinary documentary about the power of music to reach the human spirit, even when words and memories are gone. And it is also about the devotion of those who care for these people, those who work so hard to reach what seems unreachable. He spoke to me about making the film and about the work that is being done to expand these programs.

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What is it that makes this film so powerful?

It’s so profoundly touching. People that are gone in one part of their being and yet absolutely profound in another. And that’s why I think this is a film that is meant to be seen with other people. I think by accident I’ve shown something that no one has ever seen before. These are people who don’t have any of their personalities, any of their memory, of their mind, they’ve basically lost the ability to lie. So you just see these pure human souls. And these pure souls are living in a world where they’re basically starving for the stuff that makes people alive, connection and music.

And then we brought the one-two punch, we brought music and we brought us. And we said, “Show us who you are. Listen to this music from when you were young and we are going to be here and watch you.” And these people just were like, “Oh my God! This is the music of my soul and you are here with me!” And they woke up. And to experience another person waking is an odd and indescribable experience. Like when you see your child take its first step or see your baby crying, there’s nothing you can do it just cuts into the core of your heart. We are showing people who are lost to themselves and lost to the world and then giving them this miraculous elixir of life that’s called music. And to see them discover the core of what they are and have that bloom in front of our eyes is a gift because that’s who we are, you and I, we’re not like our jobs, that’s not the people we are. That’s what we do to make a living or whatever but the people we are, are the people who deeply love. You know, in the moment of our deepest love, that’s who we are and those are the things that when you go into yourself and say, who am I? What am I? Those are the things that are real and you just sit there and resonate. And I think music is the perfect vehicle to awaken that for all of us. Anyway this is just a huge opportunity to make a difference for a sleeping population and heal ourselves in the process. And I think we’re in desperate need of healing as a people and that’s perhaps why this movie is getting such a good reaction.

As a filmmaker, you had this great gift of the look of coming alive on people’s faces when they heard the music.  You also had archival footage.  Was that real film of these people or was it just intended to evoke the feeling of their pasts and their memories?

It’s a mixture of both.  Some is their home movies and some of it was footage that we found that describes moments that we were told happened in their lives. So it’s either their actual footage from their life or it’s illustration of things we were told about them.

This film made me conscious of my own memory.  I remember one day just walking around in total awe looking at all the people around me, all these elders in these nursing homes and I realize that inside each one of them, that they play for themselves, that is a kind of movie of them with their wives and their kids or their dogs or their friends.  It kind of overwhelmed me this idea that we all have a movie playing in our heads.

You had some people in the movie were dealing with diseases other than dementia.  Tell me a little bit about what the music therapy can do for other kinds of illnesses.

Music therapists have known about the power of music for years. This environment is to some degree a desert of the soul.   Steve was a man with multiple sclerosis.  All he can do is speak listen.  I was literally aghast that no one thought to bring him his music in eight years since he was first hospitalized. If that’s the case, what are we thinking? We certainly need to rethink what we’re doing especially when it had such a profound effect on him.

Music is one of the most profound human creations that we’ve got and its wisdom is phenomenal. I personally believe that music is a precursor to religion. Together we existed in community in rhythm and melody, it thought is that we are together and that we are one and that we vibrate and that the world vibrates. It’s a preverbal expression of everything good we’ve ever expressed.

It’s actually very sad about our state of music right now; you know all music today is quantitized. It means computers put it on micro beats so it doesn’t have human beats.  It’s like robot music.  And a majority of the artists are now auto-tuning their voices.  It is pretty, but it is less human.  It’s like Photoshopping for the ears.

Has working on this film affected your thoughts about your own music?

I never liked the music of the 40′s or 50′s but now I just listen to it through their ears. It literally brings tears to my eyes.   I’m building an app to be a tool for young people. So that a young person could interface with an elder and help them find their music but at the same time get to hear.  So these young people will get to hear this phenomenally profound music, like the music of the Andrews Sisters or Louis Armstrong or Nessun Dorma by Pavarotti.  I think that’s one of the pinnacles of human music.

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What do you want this movie to accomplish?

What I really want this film to do is to inspire people to create connection.  I see this world as a place going more and more individualistic, creating divisions and isolation in many people’s life. We are more connected than ever now with all these phones and everything but we’re not really connected and we’re tweeting each other and Facebooking each other but are we really connecting? How profound are we emotionally? How profound are we musically? How profound are we as dancers? These things are being discarded.  I get it that we are moving forward and we are discovering new things you we can’t get there from here and we will become different beings. We have always evolved but we spent half a million years creating music and I think it has lessons for us.

Previous Posts

Lucy
I always enjoy Luc Besson's stylish car chases and shootouts. I like his use of locations, his strong female characters, and unexpected flashes of sentiment in the midst of mayhem.  While

posted 6:00:51pm Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

And So It Goes
A second marriage is, as Samuel Johnson famously said, "The triumph of hope over experience." And as lyricist Sammy Cahn wrote in the song Bing Crosby sang in "H

posted 6:00:13pm Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

The Memory Book -- This Saturday on the Hallmark Channel
A budding, young photographer stumbles upon an old photo album chronicling the ideal romance of a happy couple. Intrigued by their love and unable to find her own “true love,” she sets out to find the couple and figure out if true love really exists.  The film stars Meghan Ory (“Once Upon a T

posted 8:00:57am Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Michael Rossato-Bennett of "Alive Inside"
Michael Rossato-Bennett agreed to spend one day filming Dan Cohen's remarkable music therapy work with people struggling with dementia. He ended up spending three years there and the result is "Alive Inside," an extraordinary documentary about the power of music to reach the human spirit, even when

posted 3:58:01pm Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Movies' Greatest Mirror Scenes
Anne Billson has a great piece in The Telegraph on mirror scenes in movies, from the Marx brothers clowning in "Duck Soup" and the shootout in "The Lady from Shanghai" to Elizabeth Taylor scrawling on the mirror with lipstick in "Butterfield 8." [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKTT-sy0aLg

posted 8:00:51am Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »


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