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New in Theaters
  New to DVD

Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity
Release Date:
July 31, 2015

 

Home
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
March 27, 2015

Best of Enemies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
July 31, 2015

 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some language and suggestive comments
Release Date:
March 6, 2015

Vacation
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
July 29, 2015

 

The Longest Ride
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality, partial nudity, and some war and sports action
Release Date:
April 10, 2015

New in Theaters

grade:
B+

Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity
Release Date:
July 31, 2015
grade:
B+

Best of Enemies

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
July 31, 2015
grade:
D

Vacation

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Release Date:
July 29, 2015

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New to DVD

pick of the week
grade:
B+

Home

Lowest Recommended Age:
Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
March 27, 2015
grade:
B+

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Lowest Recommended Age:
High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some language and suggestive comments
Release Date:
March 6, 2015
grade:
C

The Longest Ride

Lowest Recommended Age:
High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality, partial nudity, and some war and sports action
Release Date:
April 10, 2015

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

posted by Nell Minow
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.
Movie Release Date:May 1, 2009
B-
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.
Movie Release Date: May 1, 2009

Sometimes the mystery is better than the solution. This is one of those times.

Marvel Comics’ X-Men movie trilogy was about a group of mostly young people with special “mutant” powers who were either victimized by or exploited by “regular” humans. These powers were first presented in most cases when the unsuspecting mutants became teenagers. It was effective as fantasy and more effective as metaphor for the changes of adolescence. One of the few grown-up characters is Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), a cigar-chomping tough guy with indestructible claws that slide out from between his knuckles and the power to heal all wounds almost instantly — and large pieces of his memory missing, which is the source of some intrigue.

Now Wolverine gets his own spin-off and it is an “origin” story, which anthropologists and comic fans know is a prequel, an up close and personal look at the superhero’s backstory to give us some insights into what made Logan into his Wolverine-y bad self and a chance to feel knowledgeable when we see the experiences that led to the characteristics and events we already know. Aha, so that’s where the name comes from! And who was behind that operation? And when do we get to see that always indispensable origin moment — Wolverine primal screaming up into the indifferent sky?

The movie’s version of adamantium, that super-strong metal alloy that gives Wolverine the super-powerful skeletal structure and shooting claws, is its three leads, all superb actors as well as action heroes. Liev Schreiber plays Victor, Logan’s similarly-powered brother, and Ryan Reynolds is a motor-mouthed swordsman named Wade Wilson. The evil military man who presides over the hideous medical experiments is Danny Houston and Logan’s romantic interest is the criminally underused Lynn Collins. There are some striking fight scenes, I love the way Wolverine races toward battle, and it has the usual intriguing murkiness about who is on which side that energizes the X-Men stories. But it never taps into the deeper themes of mutantcy as metaphor and the reveals are not especially revelatory.

Tribute: Patrick Swayze

posted by Nell Minow

Patrick Swayze died today as he lived and performed, with class and grace.

Swayze’s association with iconic appearances in Dirty Dancing, Road House, Point Break, and Ghost
are so towering that we forget sometimes what range and skill he showed as an elegant drag queen in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar, as a motivational speaker with a dark side in Donnie Darko, and as an eager finalist for a job as a Chippendale’s dancer on “Saturday Night Live.” No one could say that line about putting Baby in the corner and make us believe it like Swayze. He was a superb performer and a class act. He handled his illness with dignity and courage. I wish there was a psychic like the one Whoopi Goldberg played in “Ghost” who could bring him back for just one more dance.

MPAA Trailer Rule Update

posted by Nell Minow

Top entertainment reporter/commentator for the LA Times Patrick Goldstein wrote a terrific blog post about my story on the MPAA’s secret change to the rules governing the content of trailers, calling the consequences of this change “a whole new level of unintelligibility.” My story in the Chicago Sun-Times and commentary here got nice mentions in Christianity Today (thank you, Brandon Fibbs), Reel Fanatic (thank you, Keith Demko), and Movie Marketing Madness (thank you, Chris Thilk). And thanks to Kevin “BDK” McCarthy for inviting me to discuss this issue in his weekly podcast.
I heard from the MPAA, too. Elizabeth Kaltman, MPAA vice president for corporate communications, who was quoted in my article, wrote a comment here on my blog post. Here it is in full, followed by my response:

Ms. Minow got it wrong. The MPAA’s Advertising Administration has not eliminated restrictions on film advertising; rather, we have further enhanced the process to ensure appropriate content is put in front of the right audiences. To be clear, what this means is that the content of the trailer is appropriate for the audience viewing the trailer with the movie they have chosen to see.

The intent of the change from “All Audience” tags to “Appropriate Audience” tags is to indicate to the audience that we consider the placement of the advertising material is appropriate for that audience, but that it may not be appropriate for all audiences. This change allows distributors greater freedom to accurately target and promote their movies, while at the same time honoring our pledge to parents that stronger advertising material will not reach younger audiences.

As Ms. Minow accurately points out, the Advertising Administration goes to great lengths to limit access to content which is intended for mature audiences.

Over the course of many years we have received feedback from parents that content for some movies in a trailer with an “All Audiences” tag was misleading. This new change reflects the Advertising Administration’s increased vigilance to target advertising to appropriate audiences, in keeping with the purpose of ensuring that advertising content reflects the true spirit of the film.

First, I want to thank Ms. Kaltman, who was extremely helpful and responsive as I was writing my article. I appreciate the difficulty of her position. I know how hard it is to have to try to justify actions and positions like the ones taken by the MPAA here. I well understand the techniques of spin and distraction. I appreciate that she has tried her best, but her comment further reveals the failure of any credibility in the MPAA’s arguments. She is unable to dispute any of the facts or arguments I presented.
Ms. Kaltman begins by saying I am wrong, but she then explicitly or implicitly concedes every point I made. She says “To be clear, what this means is that the content of the trailer is appropriate for the audience viewing the trailer with the movie they have chosen to see.” Well, if some determination has been made about the content of the trailer, why not disclose it? Since a significant number of movie trailers are assigned to films by the theater manager, wouldn’t it be helpful to them as well as to parents to have enough information to be able to understand the basis for the “appropriate” determination? She does not respond to my point that a trailer with PG-13-level violence could be paired with a movie like this week’s “The Informant!” that is rated R for language only.
Significantly, Ms. Kaltman does not address the two most significant objections I made to the policy. The first is that the prevalence of trailers online, uncoupled from any “appropriate” feature films, makes it impossible to limit them to “appropriate” audiences. Aggregator sites like Yahoo! Movies, Apple Trailers, and YouTube show dozens of trailers that can be accessed by anyone, so there is not way to limit them to “appropriate” audiences. She says:

The intent of the change from “All Audience” tags to “Appropriate Audience” tags is to indicate to the audience that we consider the placement of the advertising material is appropriate for that audience, but that it may not be appropriate for all audiences. This change allows distributors greater freedom to accurately target and promote their movies, while at the same time honoring our pledge to parents that stronger advertising material will not reach younger audiences.

But she does not explain how to ensure that “stronger advertising material” that “may not be appropriate for all audiences” will “not reach younger audiences” when they can access the trailers online without any guidance for parents at the beginning of the trailer about the “stronger” material it contains.
My second objection is to the MPAA’s decision to make this change without any public announcement, explanation, or opportunity to comment. In what way is this “honoring our pledge to parents?”
Ms. Kaltman was unable to find a single factual error in what I wrote. She objects only to my characterization of the change in policy as “eliminating restrictions.” In her view they have “further enhanced the process.” I believe the dictionary supports my language. Material that previously was not permitted in a trailer is now permitted. That is what eliminating restrictions means. It is now harder to figure out whether a trailer contains material that may not be suitable for all audience members. That does not meet any definition of enhancing the process. Trying to sneak this change past parents is about as far from an enhancement as it is possible to be. I believe the MPAA knew they were doing something parents would not like and that is why they did not tell anyone.
I have written to the MPAA to ask them to reconsider this decision and to make a commitment to public disclosure of any further changes to the rules. I have also written to the Division of Advertising Practices at the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection to ask them to investigate whether this change violates the rules about marketing inappropriate films to underage children. I have asked for meetings with both, and will keep you posted on any replies.

Fame

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:R
Movie Release Date:1980
DVD Release Date:2009
B+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: R
Movie Release Date: 1980
DVD Release Date: 2009

Less a movie than a mosaic, this remake of the 1980 classic with the Oscar-winning title anthem about the high school for the performing arts has been re-imagined for the hyper-linked and just plain hyper 21st century. As in the original, we follow the stories of aspiring performers from their first audition through four years of high school. But this time, so many characters are thrown at us that we never connect with any of them. This film is as much an artifact of its era as the dancing-in-the-streets first one, perhaps in ways it did not intend. It is a revealing reflection of its target audience: kids used to keeping up to date via tweets and Facebook status lines, the generation that cannot see the line between access to information and understanding the information’s context and import.

It indicates more than it shows, not because it is subtle, but because it is frantic, trying to follow the lives of ten students over four years in less than two hours. Narrative is pushed to one side. Even the too-brief but excellent musical numbers are chopped up and intercut not so much as an artistic statement as a recognition that society as a whole now meets the clinical definition of ADD.

The talented cast passes by so quickly it is like watching a 107-minute trailer. Naturi Naughton makes a strong impression in vocal numbers that include “Out Here on My Own” from the 1980 film. Kay Panabaker has a sweet honesty that comes across well on screen and more than any of the others she shows us the difference in her character as she grows up and gains confidence. An exceptionally strong cast of adults adds some depth to the faculty roles, including “Will and Grace’s” Megan Mullally and “Frasier’s” Bebe Neuwirth and Kelsey Grammer along with movie and theater veteran Charles S. Dutton. If only they had been able to sit down writer Alison Burnett and director Kevin Tancharoen to give them the kind of stern pep talk about craft and discipline that they give to their students, this would have been a better movie.

Previous Posts

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posted 5:54:06pm Jul. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Best of Enemies
Once upon a time, network television news was dignified, objective, and delivered in stentorian, voice-of-God tones by white, vaguely Protestant men, ...

posted 5:23:39pm Jul. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Exclusive Premiere Images: Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism
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posted 4:57:43pm Jul. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Interview: Joshua Oppenheimer of "The Look of Silence"
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posted 11:40:16am Jul. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Tom Cruise Tells Kevin McCarthy about the Airplane Stunt in "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation"
My friend Kevin McCarthy asked Tom Cruise how he shot that incredible stunt that has him holding onto the side of a plane while it takes off for "Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation." The 53-year-old actor did the stunt himself, no green ...

posted 8:59:43am Jul. 30, 2015 | read full post »

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