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Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler MPAA Rating: Rated R for sexual material, full frontal nudity, language throughout, and drug and alcohol content Release Date: July 29, 2016
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Lowest Recommended Age: High School MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language Release Date: July 29, 2016
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Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School MPAA Rating: Release Date: July 15, 2016
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Sing Street

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including strong language and some bullying behavior, a suggestive image, drug material and teen smoking Release Date: April 22, 2016
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Barbershop: The Next Cut

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual material and language Release Date: April 15, 2015
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The Boss

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler MPAA Rating: Rated R for sexual content, language and brief drug use Release Date: April 8, 2016
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Stop right now. I mean it, stop reading. If you have not already seen “Inception,” there is nothing I can tell you that would not diminish your experience of this film. The less you know going in, the better you will appreciate the unfolding, doubling-back, and overall mind-bending stories within stories in one of the year’s best films. So, go see it and then come back and read what I have to say and share your thoughts about what you think it is all about.

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Okay, welcome back.

Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight,” “Memento”) has written and directed that rarest of movie pleasures, a fantasy action movie for people who like to think. It’s kind of, sort of, “The Matrix” crossed with “The Sting,” “Fantastic Voyage,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” On crack. It’s the kind of movie people will argue about all the way home, go see again, and argue about some more. Nolan understands that the power of movies is that they allow the audience to plug into a kind of Jungian collective dream and he takes that idea to the meta-level, and then metas it a couple more times.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is part of a renegade team that has taken corporate espionage to the next level. They do not steal secrets from the offices and memos of corporate executives. They steal secrets from their minds. Cobb has taken techniques developed by his professor father (Michael Caine) and come up with a way to enter into the subconscious of these people by literally entering and manipulating their dreams. This, of course, has led to the development of a whole new industry of counter-dream espionage through bolstering the subject’s psychological defenses. Within a dream, as with other abstract concepts, they are made explicit and concrete as armed assassins. Being shot by them affects the physical reality of the avatar-like representation of the person entering the subject’s dream. It can hurtle them out of the dream entirely. Or, it can push them into an endless mental limbo.

Audiences may feel (enjoyably) as though they have toppled into an endless mental limbo as the characters’ journey takes them into dreams within dreams, each with its own setting, time (moments in one dream level equal weeks in a deeper one), and properties. Sometimes those properties seep across dream boundaries, with vertiginous shifts in physical properties. In one extraordinary sequence, characters in an otherwise-standard-looking hotel become weightless and fights take place as though they are all under water.

The team knows how to extract thoughts from dreams, even the subjects’ most guarded secrets, made material within the minds’ fortresses and vaults. “Create something secure and the mind automatically fills it with something it wants to protect,” explains a character.

A new client insists that they must do something far more difficult — implant an idea, and do it so quietly that the subject will believe he thought it up himself. All of this is in the context of a slyly chosen, well-worn set-up, the last big heist. Dom wants out. He wants to go home. He wants to see the faces of his children. And this is his last chance.

The visual razzle-dazzle is breathtaking, especially as new member of the team Ariadne (“Juno’s” Ellen Page) is introduced to the world of dream architecture. But what makes the film so enthralling is its own fully-realized intellectual architecture, the rules and consequences of its world view that seem so complete they extend far beyond the borders of the story. This is a film that will reward repeated viewings. It will be the subject of late-night dorm discussions, application essays, and possibly some scholarly exegesis because of the way it poses provocative concepts of identity, responsibility, and consciousness. “Reality is not going to be enough for her, now,” Dom says as Ariadne explores an architect’s ultimate fantasy of creation. Yes, and that’s why we have movies. After all, dreams and reality feed each other. As Humphrey Bogart said in “The Maltese Falcon” and Shakespeare said long before that, they’re “the stuff that dreams are made of.”

I Am Number Four is the story of a 15-year-old with special powers, one of nine children who fled a planet called Lorien and landed on Earth ten years earlier along with their adult teachers. As they mature, each child develops powers called Legacies, which help them fight the evil Mogadarians. The Nine can only be killed in order. The Mogadorians have killed One, Two, and Three, and Four is on the run with his guardian, Henri. The movie, starring “Glee’s” Diana Agron, “Deadwood’s” Timothy Olyphant as Henri, and “Alex Ryder’s” Alex Pettyfer as Number Four.

According to the book’s cover, its author is Pittacus Lore, described inside as a 10,000 year old from the planet Lorien. That may be easier to believe than the real-life story of the book’s author, or, I should say, authors.
A remarkable story in New York Magazine explains that the book is a product of James Frey’s “fiction factory.” Frey will forever be known as the best-selling author who got a major on-air take-down from Oprah after it was revealed that he had made up some of the lurid details of his purportedly non-fiction story of his struggles with drug addiction, A Million Little Pieces. Now he is inviting students in graduate writing programs to work with him on developing books designed to be best-sellers.

Frey said he was interested in conceiving commercial ideas that would sell extremely well. He was in the process of hiring writers–he said he’d already been to Princeton and was planning on recruiting from the other New York M.F.A. programs as well. We had probably heard of Jobie Hughes? Hughes was a former Columbia M.F.A. student who had graduated the previous spring. Frey told us that he and Hughes had sold the rights to an alien book they had co-written to Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay.

That book is I Am Number Four, written by Hughes under the direction of Frey. The contract Frey asks his young writers to sign gives them as little as $250 plus a percentage of any revenue — and a $50,000 penalty for revealing the arrangement without permission.
On one hand, this is an established and successful (if discredited) author giving opportunities to aspiring writers. On the other hand, it asks them to give up a great deal in return. I wonder if the relationship with Frey inspired in part the description of the hounded Number Four.

And the Washington Area Film Critic Awards go to…
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Best Film?: “The Social Network
Best Director: David Fincher, “The Social Network”
Best Actor: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, “The Fighter”
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”
Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Social Network
Best Original Screenplay: “Inception
Best Animated Feature: “Toy Story 3Toy-Story-3-Woody-Movie-Poster.jpg
Best Documentary: “Exit Through the Gift Shop
Best Foreign Language Film: “Biutiful
Best Art Direction: “Inception
Best Cinematography: “Inception
Best Score: “Inception
Best Acting Ensemble: “The Town
Many thanks to my dear friends Brandon Fibbs, Dustin Putman, Patrick Jennings, and our fearless leader Tim Gordon for making this a pleasure.

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