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Strange Magic
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and scary images
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

 

The Boxtrolls
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

Mortdecai
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some language and sexual material
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

 

The Drop
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some strong violence and pervasive language
Release Date:
September 12, 2014

Cake
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, substance abuse and brief sexuality
Release Date:
January 24, 2015

 

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

Strange Magic

posted by Nell Minow
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some action and scary images
Movie Release Date:January 23, 2015
Copyright 2015 Touchstone Pictures

Copyright 2015 Touchstone Pictures

Despite the big names behind it, including George Lucas, who came up with the story and produced, it feels like a straight-to-DVD, about the level of Disney’s Tinkerbell series. It’s bright, colorful, self-affirming, and bouncy. And, likely to be appreciated more by the adults than the kids in the audience, there is a Glee-style mix, or, perhaps re-mix, of assorted songs from the 60’s through today. But that isn’t enough to make it work on a big screen.

It is supposedly inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the only similarities are the forest, the fairies, and the love potion.

It takes place in an enchanted world that is divided in parts, whose generic names are characteristic of the dim pilot light of the creative imagination at work  here.  The happy, colorful Fairy Kingdom is ruled by a king (Alfred Molina) with two daughters.  The Dark Forest is ruled by the gnarled, bitter Bog King (Alan Cumming) who hates the idea of love because it is chaotic. “Love is dangerous.  It weakens.  It rots.  It destroys order.  Without order, there is chaos.”

The fairy king’s oldest daughter is the brave and responsible Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood), who, as the movie begins, is thrilled that she is about to marry the handsome Roland (Sam Palladio). She flies through the kingdom singing a sweet, girl pop version of the Elvis classic, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.”  Her younger sister is Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull), who has good intentions but is impetuous and a little naive. Her best friend is an elf named Sonny (Elijah Kelley), who patiently listens to Dawn talk about her various crushes and does not let her know that he is in love with her.  They have a cute duet to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”

Marianne discovers Roland kissing another girl and breaks their engagement. But Roland wants to be king, and that means he must persuade Marianne to be his wife. He persuades Sonny to cross the border into the Bog King’s domain to get a love potion from the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth), who was imprisoned by the Bog King. Sonny agrees so he can get some for Dawn, to make her fall in love with him. Sonny has a lot of adventures on the way to obtaining the potion, and the Sugar Plum Fairy insists on getting out of her cage in return for her services. Sonny gets the glowing green potion, but just as in Shakespeare, it does not work as intended.  The Bog King captures Dawn, demanding the potion as ransom.  Marianne flies in to the rescue, but so do Sonny and Roland, creating some confusion and misunderstandings.  And a lot of singing.  The well-chosen tunes include: “What Do You Get When You Fall In Love?,” “Marianne,” “I Want to Dance With Somebody,” “When You’re Strange,” “Love is Strange,” “Sugarpie Honeybunch,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Tell Him,” and “Wild Thing.”

There is an unexpectedly endearing romance, and the usual kids-film messages about the importance of what’s inside us.  But the light-weight storyline is weighed down by sub-standard design and low-level animation that relies too much on algorithms and not enough on imagination.  This is where looks do matter, and this film cannot overcome the clunkiness of its design.

Parents should know that there is some fairytale peril and violence, including some scary creatures, some mild gender humor including an accidental same-sex kiss, and brief potty humor.

Family discussion: Why did Marianne and Bog have trouble trusting others? Why did Bog start to be nice?

If you like this, try: “The Book of Life” and Tinkerbell series

Bad Movies Inspire Great Critics: Mortdecai

posted by Nell Minow

Johnny Depp’s “Mortdecai” is sure of a place of dishonor on the end of the year worst lists.  Business Insider and Huffington Post have some choice quotes from some of the movie’s best bad reviews, and I’ve found some good ones, too, including:

David Edelstein, New York Magazine

Having combed Roget’s Thesaurus in vain for a suitable adjective to describe the Johnny Depp comedy Mortdecai, I’m forced to say it’s just … bad…Depp is very, very bad. Watching his first scene, a bad echo of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I thought he’d finally moved from emulating late (insane) Brando to late, slumming Peter Sellers and would spend the rest of movie swapping out wigs and accents. It quickly became clear that his bad, gap-toothed Terry-Thomas imitation (with extra eyebrow action) would be all she wrote. The badness settled over the audience like nuclear ash.

Rafer Guzman, Newsday

Depp’s grating, bug-eyed performance in this strenuously unfunny film may go down as a kind of psychotic break in his overacting career.

 Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

It’s hard to think of a way in which the experience of watching the newJohnny Depp film could be any worse, unless you returned home afterwards to discover that Depp himself had popped round while you were out and set fire to your house. This is comfortably the actor’s worst film since Alice in Wonderland, and even dedicated fans will find their hearts shrivelling up like week-old party balloons at its all-pervading air of clenched desperation.

Steven Holden, The New York Times

[W]hat a frantically dull spectacle this vanity project is.

 Guy Lodge, Variety

[L]onger on frippery than quippery: There’s a fatal shortage of zingers to supplement its exhausting zaniness.

Four Disney Artists Paint a Tree

posted by Nell Minow

Pure pleasure: Four great Disney artists, Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, Josh Meador, and Walt Peregoy, paint a tree. There’s a reason they call them actors with pencils. Or, just call them geniuses.

Mortdecai

posted by Nell Minow
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for some language and sexual material
Movie Release Date:January 23, 2015
Copyright Lionsgate 2015

Copyright Lionsgate 2015

There’s a lot of noise in “Mortdecai” but what I remember most is the silences where everything pauses for a moment to allow the audience to laugh without drowning out the next witty riposte. Nope, just crickets, as there was no laughter, just grim resolve on the part of those of us professionally obligated to stick it out through the bitter end.

“Mortdecai” is based on series of 1970’s comic novels by Kyril Bonfignioli about an art dealer with connections to the upper class and the criminal underground, which provide him with many opportunities for mischief. I’m sure they are all high-spirited and merry and racy and fun, but by the evidence of this film they are also dated, overly precious, and not susceptible to translation into film. Perhaps it was possible decades ago and in print rather than on screen to find it funny when someone is repeatedly shot and injured, often accidentally by his employer, or when someone else is shot and killed. But not now and not like this. Maybe gag reflexes brought on by Mortdecai’s mustache and widespread barfing brought on by tampering with a sumptuous buffet can be funny when left to the imagination. Not likely, but clever writing might just make it possible as our imaginations are very good at filtering descriptions according to our comfort levels. It’s another thing entirely when it is unavoidably seen and heard. Cue the crickets.

Over the past few years, with the exception of a brief appearance in “Into the Woods” Johnny Depp has made one catastrophically bad movie after another. As proof of the adage that no good deed goes unpunished, the success of his offbeat, fey Captain Jack Sparrow, initially objected to by the studio execs who were very unhappy with the early footage, has given Depp license to go way over the top with quirks and twitches in films like “The Lone Ranger” and “Tusk.” As I noted in my review, in “Transcendence” his performance was so robotic when he was playing a human that it hardly made a difference when he turned into a computer. Here, as the title character, a caricature of a pukka sahib colonial twit/Brit, embodies the fatal combination of profound unpleasantness with the expectation of being seen as irresistibly adorable not just by the other characters but by the audience.

Paul Bettany provides the film’s only bright moments as Jock Strapp, Mordecai’s Swiss army knife of a sidekick, as adept at ironing his lordship’s handkerchiefs as he is at hand-to-hand combat, getaway car driving, anticipating that Lady Mortdecai (Gwyneth Paltrow, looking like the cover of Town and Country in very fetching riding gear) will want the guest room made up for her husband as soon as she sees his new mustache, and bedding many, many, many ladies. Ewan McGregor does his valiant best but is wasted as the Oxbridge-educated MI5 official (and former classmate of Mortdecai, with a crush on Lady M). Director David Koepp, whose “Premium Rush” was a nifty little thriller with unexpected freshness and wit, has stumbled here with a film that is badly conceived in every way, like its title character imagining itself as clever and endearing when in reality it is dull and repellent.

Parents should know that this movie includes strong and crude language, drinking and comic drunkenness, sexual references and situations, some crude, bodily function humor, comic peril and violence including guns, with characters injured and killed.

Family discussion: What was the best way to resolve the issue of the mustache? Who should have the Goya painting?

If you like this, try: The Mortdecai Trilogy and the Austin Powers films

Previous Posts

Strange Magic
Despite the big names behind it, including George Lucas, who came up with the story and produced, it feels like a straight-to-DVD, about the level of Disney's Tinkerbell series. It's bright,

posted 5:25:48pm Jan. 24, 2015 | read full post »

Bad Movies Inspire Great Critics: Mortdecai
Johnny Depp's "Mortdecai" is sure of a place of dishonor on the end of the year worst lists.  Business Insider and Huffington Post have some choice quotes from some of the movie's best bad reviews, and I've found some good ones, too, including: David Edelstein, New York Magazine Having combed

posted 3:35:40pm Jan. 24, 2015 | read full post »

Four Disney Artists Paint a Tree
Pure pleasure: Four great Disney artists, Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, Josh Meador, and Walt Peregoy, paint a tree. There's a reason they call them actors with pencils. Or, just call them geniuses. [iframe width="420" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/9JK9uQNBDxQ?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:31am Jan. 24, 2015 | read full post »

Mortdecai
There's a lot of noise in "Mortdecai" but what I remember most is the silences where everything pauses for a moment to allow the audience to laugh without drowning out the next witty riposte. Nope,

posted 9:36:50am Jan. 23, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer -- The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
This looks adorable.  In theaters February 6, 2015. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/TGjbpO1toTc?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:38am Jan. 23, 2015 | read full post »


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