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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

Comic-Con 2014: Day One

posted by Nell Minow
copyright Nell Minow 2014

copyright Nell Minow 2014

Here’s what’s at Comic-Con, which means here’s what’s coming everywhere else: affordable 3D printers with hand-held scanners that transmit 360 degree images to your tablet or laptop instantly. GoPro cameras. Google glasses. Even Oculus Rift, the totally immersive virtual reality headset invented by a teenager and sold for $2 billion that is said to be a literal game-changer (its first commercial use will be in gaming) and could change everything from movies and television to medical imaging.

And, once again, even more fan involvement in everything, the line between creator and consumer of content almost dissolving completely. When you have your photo taken with an alien chasing you, you don’t just get a print-out. You are directed to a console so you can post it to all of your social media. The new Ships of the Line Star Trek calendar will have fan art as well as the official renderings. And the new USA television miniseries from “Heroes” helmer Tim Kring, “Dig,” starring Jason Isaacs, has a virtual scavenger hunt set up at Comic-Con. If you discover the rune-like symbol they have hidden all over the area, you post a photo to Snapchat with their hashtag, you can win a chance to chat with someone from the show.  And you can see prequel footage and engage with the writers via Wattpad.

I attended a press event featuring the people behind the new “Madagascar” animated series spin-off, “Penguins of Madagascar,” including writers/directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith (reuniting for the first time since “Antz”), Tom McGrath (director of the earlier films and voice of Skipper) and John Malkovich, who provides the voice of the villain, an evil octopus.  The film also features Benedict Cumberbatch as a dashing, James Bond-style secret agent.  It takes place just after the end of the last film (not the television series), as the penguins need some rest after the excitement of the circus adventure.  “What starts as a birthday romp turns into a world tour.”  Like the Bond films, they wanted to have a series of exciting locations.

McGrath says he always envisioned Robert Stack as the voice of Skipper, and tries to channel him when he performs the part.  I asked Malkovich what was fun about playing a bad guy.  He said that “this one is quite fun because he seems happy, he’s lazy, not particularly profound or remorseful, and that’s always a pleasure.”

“Dig” looks very impressive, and the chase scenes they showed us from the first episode really highlighted the locations in Jerusalem.  (They will continue filming in New Mexico.)  Isaac said he took the part because “I get to run around and pretend to be cooler, tougher, sexier, and smarter than I am.”  Anne Heche plays his boss (and sometimes more).  “We wanted to make it cinematic, multi-layered, epic,” said the cinematographer.  They used a 90-year-old lens to “embrace the golden light” in Jerusalem, and an up-to-the-minute lens for the “calmer, cooler, beautifully crisp” light of Norway to achieve the maximum contrast.  Because it is a limited “event” series, they know where it is going to end from the beginning, no “art of the stall.”  They warned us that no one in the series is what he or she seems and that we should “look out for the color red,” which is almost another character in the story.

Remembering the Vietnam War: 10 Movies

posted by Nell Minow

gardens of stoneAs we observe the 50th anniversary of the War in Vietnam, here are ten of the best of the movie and documentary depictions of the war and its impact on history and culture in the United States. The best-known films about Vietnam include “Apocalypse Now,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “Platoon,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Coming Home,” “Good Morning Vietnam.” But over 2000 films have touched on or portrayed the Vietnam war and there are sure to be many more to come as we continue to grapple with the strong feelings about the conflict. These are others I think are well worth watching.

1. We Were Soldiers The very first U.S. military involvement in Vietnam is explored in this somber portrayal of military honor and politicians’ hubris.

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2. Gardens of Stone James Caan and James Earl Jones star in this poignant story of the war at home and in Southeast Asia, focusing on the Arlington Cemetery’s “Old Guard.”

3. Hearts and Minds This documentary was made in 1974 so it is as much an artifact of its time as it is an accurate depiction of events as we have come to understand them.  But it is a powerful film with some important footage of the era.

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4. China Beach This beautifully acted television series is a rare look at the war through the eyes of women.

5. Hamburger Hill The story of the 101st Airborne’s attempt to take a single hill in one of the most brutal engagements of the war stars Dylan McDermott and Don Cheadle.

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6. Born on the Fourth of July Tom Cruise plays Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, who became an anti-war protester after he returned.

7. Little Dieter needs to Fly Werner Herzog made a documentary about a German immigrant fell in love with planes and became an American naval pilot in the Vietnam War, where he was captured and then escaped, and then made it again as a feature film called Rescue Dawn with Christian Bale.

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8. Vietnam – A Television History The PBS series about the Vietnam war has been re-edited and updated. It is still a thoughtful, balanced history of the conflict and its context.

9. In Country Bruce Willis stars in the story of a girl who wants to find out what happened to her father, who never returned from Vietnam.

10: Remembering Vietnam: The Wall at 25 Maya Lin’s memorial to the Americans who died in Vietnam is one of the most powerful spaces in Washington D.C. Vietnam veteran Jan Scruggs was determined to build a Vietnam memorial. Maya Lin was the Yale undergraduate whose etched granite memorial was selected by the judges but was considered insulting by some in the veteran community. The site has become a place for thousands of visitors to pay their respects. Many of them leave tokens with deep personal connections, and that is now a part of the memorial as well.

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”

Previous Posts

Comic-Con 2014: Day One
Here's what's at Comic-Con, which means here's what's coming everywhere else: affordable 3D printers with hand-held scanners that transmit 360 degree images to your tablet or laptop instantly. GoPro

posted 11:08:17am Jul. 25, 2014 | read full post »

Remembering the Vietnam War: 10 Movies
As we observe the 50th anniversary of the War in Vietnam, here are ten of the best of the movie and documentary depictions of the war and its impact on history and culture in the United States. The best-known films about Vietnam include "Apocalypse Now," "Full Metal Jacket," "Platoon," "The Deer Hun

posted 8:00:34am Jul. 25, 2014 | read full post »

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 »


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