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New in Theaters
  New to DVD

The Other Woman
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual references and language (on appeal from the original R rating)
Release Date:
April 25, 2014

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

Finding Vivian Maier
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

 

Ride Along
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language,
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Walking With the Enemy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 28, 2014

 

The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

The Other Woman

posted by Nell Minow

TheOtherWoman-posterThe latest in a female-centered revenge comedy genre that extends from “9 to 5″ through “She-Devil,” “The Other Woman” is intended to be a merry little tale of female empowerment and grrrl power.  Instead it is soggy, haphazard, poorly paced slapstick mansplained by director Nick Cassavetes from a script by Melissa Stack.

Cameron Diaz (who gave one of her best performances in Cassavetes’ soapy “My Sister’s Keeper”) plays Carly, a tough-as-nails corporate lawyer with a beautiful office overlooking Central Park.  She meets handsome Mark King (“Game of Thrones’” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, utterly lost in a thankless role).  For eight weeks he is thoughtful, attentive, and so hot that she has “cleared the bench” of other guys, she explains to a criminally underused Nicki Minaj as her secretary.  (The movie I’d like to see is Nicki Minaj going after a man who cheated on her.)  But then Carly discovers that Mark is married.  To Kate (Leslie Mann, in her “I’m going to pretend I don’t know I’m pretty and act like a total klutzy ditz” mode).  With a house in the Connecticut suburbs.  And a very big dog.

Kate falls apart.  Carly tells her to cry on on the inside “like a winner.”  How long before the big dog makes a mess of Carly’s impeccable white apartment?  How long before the two women are trying on clothes, discussing bikini waxes, doing each other’s hair and make-up and having a big sloppy drunk bonding moment?  How long before they discover that Mark was cheating on both of them with Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover girl Kate Upton?  How long before she goes running toward us on the beach in slo-mo wearing a tiny white bikini?

Except for that last one, the answer to all of the above is way, way too long.  But Kate Upton does look pretty great running in the bikini.

The trio decide that Mark must be punished.  So Kate gives him estrogen in his smoothie and depilatory in his shampoo and Carly puts laxative in his drink.  There’s an excruciating bathroom scene.  Though it is funny when the only replacement pants he can find are red skinny jeans from a hipster.

Then they go after his money.  All of this requires a lot of girly support group stuff, which is bad, and a lot of slapstick, which is much worse.

This is a movie about sisterhood and female empowerment that makes fun of Kate Upton’s character for being a dumb blonde and makes fun of Cameron Diaz for wishing she had Kate Upton’s figure.  This is a comedy that lets us know we are back in New York City by playing Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York” and lets us know the women are having fun with their revenge plan by playing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”  The few witty lines and funny situations are lost in a headache-inducing cacophony of caca and phony.

Parents should know that the theme of the movie is adultery and betrayal.  It includes crude sexual references and non-explicit situations, drinking and drunkenness, smoking, drug reference, comic peril and violence, and gross potty humor.

Family discussion: Why did the women become friends? Why were they so misled by Mark?

If you like this, try: “The First Wives Club” and “9 to 5″

Finding Vivian Maier

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Not rated
Movie Release Date:April 11, 2014

vivian maier posterVivian Maier was a Chicago-area nanny.  Only the children in her care knew how much she loved taking pictures.  After her death, the possessions she had in storage were auctioned off and a man named John Maloof bought some boxes of negatives, thinking he might finds some images for his research about a Chicago neighborhood.  The quality of the photos surprised him.  He put them online and the response was swift and passionate.  Who was this photographer who captured these striking images?  And why had no one ever heard of her?

Maloof bought up the rest of Maier’s negatives and anything else she left behind.  She was something of a hoarder, so there were piles of ephemera as well as rolls of undeveloped film.  Maier’s passion for privacy came up against someone equally obsessive about uncovering her secrets as well as her photographs.   As co-producer of the film, Maloof’s own motives do not get the scrutiny they otherwise might, but it is clear that he has something to gain from promoting her work, and that he is at least aware of the moral dilemma of creating such a public persona for such a private person after she no longer has a say.  Though he is clear about his purpose: “My mission is to put Vivian in the history books.”

It is very rare in this country, where fame and braggadocio are considered virtues and we put people on magazine covers who are just famous for being famous, that gifted people are also private people.  Those who decide to leave the limelight — Salinger, Garbo — are a source of great curiosity for us.  What are they thinking?  And then there are people like Maier and another Chicagoan, Henry Darger (also the subject of a documentary), and James Hampton, who are drawn more by compulsion as well as inspiration.  If there is an intended audience, it is not of this world.

People who knew her, or thought they did, describe her: paradoxical, eccentric, private, loner.  And there is the inevitable snobbery: “Why is a nanny taking all these photos?”  But photographers recognize one of their own.  Joel Mayerowitz, the film’s most engaging voice, says she had “an authentic eye and a real savvy about human nature and photography in the street.” She has human understanding, warmth, playfulness, at least in her photos. An employer said she has “an eye for the bizarre, the grotesque, the incongruous, the folly of humanity.”

Her camera of choice was a twin-lens Rolleiflex, a “great disguise camera…to generate a moment where two presences vibrate together.” Her subjects could look her in the eye while her camera was unobtrusively at her waist. She took up nannying so that she would not have to worry about shelter and she would have an excuse to be out and about. Her charges, now grown, remember her taking them all over, always with her camera, sometimes to rather odd places, like a stockyard.

Some of her secrets are revealed, including her efforts to hide her origins. Some are only indicated. And of course the photographs tell as much about Maier as they do about the people she captured.
As we look at them, though, we realize she captured much of us as well.

Parents should know that this movie includes discussions of abuse, an auto accident, and a sad death.

Family discussion: Which of Maier’s images is your favorite and why? Should her photos be made public after her death even though she kept them secret while she was alive?

If you like this, try: Martha & Ethel and Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens and the book Vivian Maier: Street Photographer

Walking With the Enemy

posted by Nell Minow
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Not rated
Movie Release Date:April 28, 2014

Why do we keep making movies about the Holocaust?

Because we are still trying to understand one of the most shocking, inhumane tragedies in history. Because it is the essence of heightened, dramatic storylines, with the most depraved real-life villains, the bravest heroes, and the direst moral dilemmas, the most devastating sacrifices. Because we have to ask ourselves, “What would I do?”

And because there are still stories left to tell. “Walking With the Enemy” is inspired by the true story of Pinchas Tibor Rosenbaum, a Hungarian student who escaped from a labor camp to help the “Glass House” workers forging Swiss citizenship papers to get Jews out of the country. He impersonated an SS officer to rescue Jews they were about to execute.

This first movie from the brand new Liberty Studios and first-time director Mark Schmidt is a tense and exciting story of a part of the Holocaust not widely known.  Because Hungary’s Regent (played by Sir Ben Kingsley) made an alliance with Germany, the Nazis did not interfere with the country or its Jewish citizens for the first years of World War II.  ”I aligned Hungary with what I thought was the lesser of two evils.”  walking with the enemy

But then, as Germany started to be hemmed in by the Allied forces, it took over Hungary and began to send Jews to labor camps and concentration camps.  A heroic Swiss diplomat named Carl Lutz (played by William Hope) was given permission to issue 8000 passes to Hungarian Jews with family in Switzerland.  He managed to get those passes to tens of thousands, who were able to escape the Nazis.

Handsome and likeable Jonas Armstrong (television’s “Robin Hood”) plays Elek Cohen, a character based on Rosenbaum.  While his uncle worked with Lutz in the “Glass House” (called that because it had been a glass factory), helping to hide Jews, Elek wore a Nazi uniform to infiltrate Nazi offices and operations to free Jews about to be sent away or killed.  Over and over, he takes terrible risks, knowing that even if he survives, he will fail more than he succeeds.  ”Why does it have to be you?” someone asks.  ”Because I have one thing left.”

The first-time director wisely worked with experienced filmmakers, especially cinematographer Dean Cundey (“Apollo 13,” “Jurassic Park”) and a capable cast of top British actors.  The film is ably scripted, shot, and edited.  The sound effects are exceptional; I don’t remember ever hearing gunshot sounds so sharp and directed.  The story is very affecting.  One oddly sterile note is that for a story about Jews, there is very little Jewish activity other than a blessing over a family dinner.  Reminiscences of the Holocaust include many stories of Jews praying together and doing their best to observe rituals and worship, reciting the Shema as they were led to the gas chambers.  Here, even those about to be shot by a firing squad do not say a prayer, an odd oversight in a story that is about those who were trying to preserve their right to maintain their religion and their community.

Parents should know that this is a WWII movie depicting events of the Holocaust.  There are many scenes of wartime and anti-Semitic violence and many characters are injured and killed.

Family discussion: What was Elek’s toughest decision?  Is it hard to help, knowing how much more cannot be fixed?  What can we learn from Elek and Lutz?  Who is most like them today?

If you like this, try: “Schindler’s List” and “Conspiracy”

Ebertfest Kicks Off With “Life Itself”

posted by Nell Minow

chazSteve James (“Hoop Dreams”) presented “Life Itself,” the documentary about Roger Ebert, last night at the majestic Virginia Theater in Roger’s home town of Urbana, Illinois, where Roger watched films as a boy and as a college student at the University of Illinois.  He told us he had always thought there was “a firewall between filmmakers and critics” until he read Roger’s book, which described his friendships with a very few directors.  He was sorry to miss that opportunity, but thought it made him “freer” to create the candid portrait that Roger would have wanted as a critic, as a journalist, and as a man.

“Film the man, not the icon,” was the direction James got, according to Roger’s widow, Chaz Ebert.  And the movie is frank about Roger’s struggles with alcohol and the transformation of his life when he finally found deep, romantic love with Chaz at age 50. It is also frank about his last days, his courage, resilience during his illness and ultimately his peace with the end of life.  It is moving to see his deep engagement with movies, with his friends and family, with his longtime rival and partner Gene Siskel (the outtake footage of their show is even more hilarious than the appalling 70′s outfits and hairstyles), with his passionate romance with Chaz, with journalism as a craft and writing as an art, and his passionate online presence once he could no longer speak.

Roger always said that a film should be an empathy device to help us understand and connect to each other.  While this movie shows that even the greatest film is a virtual experience compared to genuine in-person interaction, it lives up to his highest standards as a critic.  The entire audience gave it thumbs up.

Previous Posts

The Other Woman
The latest in a female-centered revenge comedy genre that extends from "9 to 5" through "She-Devil," "The Other Woman" is intended to be a merry little tale of female empowerment and grrrl power.  Instead it is soggy, haphazard, poorly paced slapstick mansplained by director Nick Cassavetes from a

posted 6:00:59pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Finding Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier was a Chicago-area nanny.  Only the children in her care knew how much she loved taking pictures.  After her death, the possessions she had in storage were auctioned off and a man named John Maloof bought some boxes of negatives, thinking he might finds some images for his research ab

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

Walking With the Enemy
Why do we keep making movies about the Holocaust? Because we are still trying to understand one of the most shocking, inhumane tragedies in history. Because it is the essence of heightened, dramatic storylines, with the most depraved real-life villains, the bravest heroes, and the direst moral di

posted 6:00:01pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Ebertfest Kicks Off With "Life Itself"
Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") presented "Life Itself," the documentary about Roger Ebert, last night at the majestic Virginia Theater in Roger's home town of Urbana, Illinois, where Roger watched films as a boy and as a college student at the University of Illinois.  He told us he had always thought

posted 9:28:24am Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz stars in the revenge comedy, "The Other Woman" this week, so it is a good time to look back at some of the highlights of her remarkably varied career. Director Charles Russell said he wanted to give Diaz the full movie star glamor treatment in her first feature film appearance in "Th

posted 8:00:04am Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »


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