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Penguins of Madagascar
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
November 26, 2014

 

The Giver
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Little Hope Was Arson
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not Rated
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

The Expendables 3
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:All Ages
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Movie Release Date:November 26, 2014

Copyright DreamWorks 2014

Copyright DreamWorks 2014

The most adorable characters from the first three animated “Madagascar” movies were the penguins, the seldom right but never in doubt leader Skipper (Tom McGrath), the often right but never listened to Kowalski (Chris Miller), the literally explosive Rico (Conrad Vernon), and the ever-loyal Private (Christopher Knights). They spun off into their own television series and now they star in their first feature film, a sublimely silly spy farce that has them globe-hopping through exotic locations with a cosmopolitan spy (Benedict Cumberbatch) in pursuit of a dastardly villain known as Dr. Octavious Brine aka Dave (John Malkovich). It is one of the best family films of the year.

First, we get the origin story, hilariously narrated in the inimitable voice of director/documentarian Werner Herzog. It is Antarctica, and a film crew led by a cartoon Herzog (who did make a movie in Antarctica, “Encounters at the End of the World”) is there to shoot the march of the penguins. But Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico step out of line to rescue an egg that is rolling away, and the decision to think for themselves and to opt for adventure and loyalty to the team over tradition and instinct — plus a more-than-healthy dose of boundless confidence and optimism soon has them floating away from the frozen South Pole and on their way to uncharted lands, or lands uncharted by any penguins anyway. The egg they have saved finally hatches, and while they are a bit distressed to find that the miracle of birth is messier than they thought, they are charmed by the tiny hatchling and especially by the way they imprint on him as the only family he has ever known.

We next see the penguins years later, following the events of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. They are on a mission to break into that most impenetrable of fortresses, Fort Knox, repository of the US Government’s store of gold. But their goal is not what we might think. And the outcome is not what they expect. They are kidnapped by an enormous purple octopus, brilliantly animated, with every tentacle creating comic menace. His human identity is Dr. Octavius Brine, well-known geneticist, aficionado of fine cheeses, and regular contributor to NPR pledge drives. But inside that lab coat is his real persona, the evil purple octopus named…Dave.

Yeah, I know, not too scary, right? And that is just one of the immense frustrations Dave has to confront, which is why he has created the green, ominously glowing Medusa serum. No one knows what it does, but it looks pretty evil.

And it turns out someone has been tracking Dr. Brine. An international organization of crack spies called the North Wind, led by a wolf so deep undercover his name is classified (so the Penguins call him Classified) is trying to find him. The North Wind and the penguins stop in Venice, Rio, Shanghai (which the penguins think is Ireland) and other world capitals, sometimes working together, sometimes trying to beat each other to Dave and the Medusa serum.

But of course, all of this is just an excuse for a never-ending stream of jokes. My favorite is Dave’s disastrously non-threatening Skype call as he tries to figure out how to transmit sound and picture at the same time. “It’s like trying to call my parents,” Classified says impatiently. The break-in to Fort Knox is very funny as the penguins roll over to camouflage themselves on a black and white striped floor. And a running joke featuring puns on celebrity names is delivered with such understated dry humor that it never loses its charm. If, as they say in the theater, dying is easy but comedy is hard, silly comedy may be the hardest of all, but here it is done to perfection, one more item to add to the thanks list on this holiday weekend.

Parents should know that this film has brief potty humor, and some comic peril and action (no one hurt).

Family discussion: Why was Dave so jealous of the penguins? Why didn’t Classified want the penguins to help him?

If you like this, try: “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” and the television series “The Penguins of Madagascar”

Coming Soon: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the Miniseries

posted by Nell Minow

Susanna Clarke’s novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one of those delicious stories that transports the reader to another world, so enthralling that it is difficult to leave.

The setting is historical, England in 1806, as the Napoleonic Wars are being fought on land and at sea. Most people believe that magic no longer exists, but two very different magicians know differently. Mr. Norrell is a scholarly and reserved man who becomes a celebrity overnight when he reveals his powers by making the statues in York Cathedral speak, and bringing back a young woman from the dead (though it is conditioned on her spending half of her time with the fairies). Jonathan Strange is young, handsome, intuitive, and daring. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces to help England defeat France.

I was delighted to learn that the BBC is adapting the book into a miniseries we may see in the US as early as next year, starring Bertie Carvel (Les Misérables) and Eddie Marsan (The World’s End). Stay tuned for more information.

Trailer: Jurassic World with Christ Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard

posted by Nell Minow

Listen In as Betty Jo Tucker, A.J. Hakari and I Discuss the December Movie Releases

posted by Nell Minow

Thanks to Betty Jo Tucker for inviting me back on her show — this afternoon we will be discussing the big holiday season releases, including “Unbroken,” “Inherent Vice,” and “Into the Woods.”

Previous Posts

Penguins of Madagascar
The most adorable characters from the first three animated "Madagascar" movies were the penguins, the seldom right but never in doubt leader Skipper (Tom McGrath), the often right but never listened to

posted 5:17:32pm Nov. 25, 2014 | read full post »

Coming Soon: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the Miniseries
Susanna Clarke's novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one of those delicious stories that transports the reader to another world, so enthralling that it is difficult to leave. The setting is historical, England in 1806, as the Napoleonic Wars are being fought on land and at sea. Most peopl

posted 3:58:53pm Nov. 25, 2014 | read full post »

Trailer: Jurassic World with Christ Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/RFinNxS5KN4?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 3:53:04pm Nov. 25, 2014 | read full post »

Listen In as Betty Jo Tucker, A.J. Hakari and I Discuss the December Movie Releases
Thanks to Betty Jo Tucker for inviting me back on her show -- this afternoon we will be discussing the big holiday season releases, including "Unbroken," "Inherent Vice," and "Into the Woods."

posted 6:38:57am Nov. 25, 2014 | read full post »

MPAA Ratings #Fail on "Horrible Bosses 2"
In yet another example of the inadequacy and the deliberate obfuscation of the MPAA ratings systems, we have the ratings for both the theatrical release of "Horrible Bosses 2" and the upcoming unrated

posted 10:00:11pm Nov. 24, 2014 | read full post »


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