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
Cheers to the understandably anonymous “Miss L,” an actress in Hollywood, for her Tumblr posting real-life casting information that shows how limited and misogynistic Hollywood casting is. Casting Call Woe shows actual casting call notices, most of which require actresses to be hot (no matter what the character). Here’s an example: “We need women comfortable dressing in revealing clothes, for the scenery.” And “She might not be the most beautiful woman in the room, like only a 7 on the typical hotness scale.”
A touch of almost Beckett-ian irony in this one: “Single mom desperate to pay her bills. Salary: no pay.”
And these: “Her scene will include being screamed at by a clown and being gagged briefly.” “Involves some leather clothing to attract YouTube fans.”
Of course it is fair to expect that performers will be attractive. But Miss L is absolutely right to call out these demeaning casting notices and I hope the existence of this Tumblr will mean there will be fewer of them.
Maybe you like Frank Sinatra and your friend likes the Mamas and Papas. Maybe you’ve argued about who is better, the Beach Boys or Simon and Garfunkel, or maybe you prefer Elvis. Each of those monumentally talented performers had a highly distinctive sound but each of them was backed by the same group of astonishingly talented and remarkably versatile studio musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew.” Like other behind the music documentaries 20 Feet from Stardom, Only the Strong Survive – A Celebration of Soul, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, and Muscle Shoals, this is a riveting look at the people just outside spotlight. They may be every bit as good as the performers they stand behind, but for some reason — less charismatic, less determined, less in need of attention, less lucky, they do not get to be stars.
The Wrecking Crew backed up Bing Crosby, Glen Campbell (who was a Wrecking Crew member before he moved to the front of the stage), Herb Alpert, Cher, Nancy Sinatra, and the Monkees. The list of iconic albums that they didn’t play on is shorter than the one they did. Just as unforgettable as the timbre of the voices of superstars are the deedle-deedles or doot-doots (and the dum-dum-dum dum of the “Mission Impossible” theme song) and other musical cues and curlicues that make a song a hit. This movie has the pure joy of creating unforgettable music, and a satisfying chance to appreciate literally unsung heroes, but it also has loss and betrayal and secrets.
This is a love letter from filmmaker Danny Tedesco to his late father, one of the Wrecking Crew musicians, and those like him, who gave their best and were loved all over the world by fans who had no idea who they were. When Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys” tells us that Carol Kaye is the best bass player ever, it is impressive. When she shows us how she played the licks at the heart of “Good Vibrations,” it is soul-stirring. This is also a story that speaks powerfully to all of us who feel that our contributions are not as valued as they should be. And of course, it has some of the greatest music ever made, now to be listened to more thoughtfully and appreciated more than ever.
Parents should know that this movie has some sad stories, some strong language, and smoking.
Family discussion: Would you rather be a star or a studio player and why?
“Home” is a cute and colorful movie about an alien invasion with an important safety tip concerning one of the most destructive forces in the universe, something devastating to every known life form. Yes, it is hitting the dreaded “send to all.”
This is the catastrophe that strikes Oh (Jim Parsons), part of an alien invasion by the Boov, a civilization known for their primary cultural attribute — running away from danger, from problems, and from learning that some of what they believe about the universe may not be right. They are led by the egotistical Smek (Steve Martin), never in doubt and always willing to cut off any disagreement by smacking his fellow Boov with his “susher,” a staff topped by a rock he grabbed during his last unsuccessful negotiation with a terrifying armored alien Commander of a race called Gorg. The Gorg want to destroy the Boov, so the Boov are constantly seeking planets where they can hide. Earth seems homey, so they vacuum up all of the humans and send them off to Australia and settle into their new domicile.
The Boov are not much for socializing, but Oh wants to make friends. He sends out invitations to a housewarming party, but accidentally hits “send to all,” and “all” somehow includes the Gorg. Oh has just alerted their worst enemy to their location. This is one too many mistakes for him (Boov are allowed just three and he is well over that), so he runs away. And that is how he meets Gratuity “Tip” Tucci (Rihanna), a plucky middle-schooler with a cat named Pig. Tip was missed by the Boov vacuums because Pig was on her head so she was not identified as human.
When Oh fixes Tip’s car and promises to help her find her mother, the two of them (plus Pig) go off on a wild ride that includes an upside-down floating Eiffel Tower, plugging themselves into the Boov brain trust network (with a very funny joke about passwords), and, of course, learning a little bit about each other and themselves.
It’s nice to see a person of color as the lead in an animated film and Rihanna gives a warm, spirited vocal performance as Tip, who shares her West Indies heritage. The character design is cute but uninspired. Same for the storyline. But it is bright and colorful — literally. The Boov turn a crayon box of colors to show their emotions. And the briefly glimpsed Gorg add some zingy sharp angles. Playful touches start right at the beginning, with Oh fishing off the Dreamworks logo. The Slushious car, decked out with convenience store staples, is a hoot. And kids will enjoy seeing Oh learn about life on earth, something they know a little about.
Parents should know that this film has some potty humor, mild peril, and cartoon-style violence, and some sci-fi-style scary images.
Family discussion: When do you feel “sad-mad?” Why did Tip decide to be friends with Oh? What was the best thing about the Slushious car?
If you like this, try: “Monsters vs. Aliens” and “Megamind” and the book that inspired this film, The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex.
Actress Speaks Up Against Absurd Hollywood Casting Conventions Cheers to the understandably anonymous "Miss L," an actress in Hollywood, for her Tumblr posting real-life casting information that shows how limited and misogynistic Hollywood casting is. Casting Call Woe shows actual casting call notices, most of which require actresses to be hot (no matter what
The Wrecking Crew
Maybe you like Frank Sinatra and your friend likes the Mamas and Papas. Maybe you've argued about who is better, the Beach Boys or Simon and Garfunkel, or maybe you prefer Elvis. Each of those monumen
"Home" is a cute and colorful movie about an alien invasion with an important safety tip concerning one of the most destructive forces in the universe, something devastating to every known life form.
Ebertfest 2015 Passes are on sale for Ebertfest 2015! I'll be there! From Chaz Ebert's blog:
We are opening with Jean-Luc Godard's silent opus in 3D, "Adieu Au Langage" ("Goodbye To Language"). Some have complained that you were against 3D films, but we know that you were against 3D when it was used onl
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