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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images
Release Date:
December 12, 2014

 

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

Top Five
Lowest Recommended Age:
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, crude humor, language throughout and some drug use
Release Date:

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

Smoking in Movies

posted by Nell Minow

davis stamp.jpg
Roger Ebert hates smoking — except in movies. And he really objects to the kind of revisionism that has produced one of Bette Davis’ iconic images from “All About Eve” for a new postage stamp but left out her ever-present cigarette.
Ebert’s parents died from smoking-related diseases. He does not permit smoking in his home. But he cannot resist the romanticism of cigarette smoking in movies, especially classic movies.
Two of the most wonderful props in film noir were cigarettes and hats. They added interest to a close up or a two-shot. “Casablanca” without cigarettes would seem to be standing around looking for something to do. These days men don’t smoke and don’t wear hats. When they lower their heads, their eyes aren’t shaded. Cinematographers have lost invaluable compositional tools. The coil of smoke rising around the face of a beautiful women added allure and mystery. Remember Marlene Dietrich. She was smoking when she said, “It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.”eve460.jpg
Everybody smoked cigarettes in the movies. Even Katharine Hepburn. Even Loretta Young. Ronald Reagan posed for Chesterfield ads. On the radio, it wasn’t “The Jack Benny Program,” it was “The Lucky Strike Program with Jack Benny,” although in that PBS documentary you only see him smoking cigars. Robert Mitchum smoked so much, he told me, that when the camera was rolling on “Out of the Past,” Kirk Douglas offered him a pack and asked, “Cigarette?” And Mitchum, realizing he’d carried a cigarette into the scene, held up his fingers and replied, “Smoking.” His improvisation saved the take. They kept it in the movie.
My favorite smoking scene is Lauren Bacall’s first on-screen moment in “To Have and Have Not” — she was an instant star with her first line: “Anybody got a match?”
bacall.jpg
Ebert acknowledges that in today’s world it almost seems absurd to have a character smoking anywhere but standing outside a building on a brief break. Even James Bond no longer smokes. And we no longer need the lighting of a cigarette and the softly rising smoke to demonstrate gallantry and symbolize romance and seduction. in this era of overshares and TMI, perhaps it isn’t the cigarettes we miss so much as the metaphors.

Great Movie Costumes for Halloween

posted by Nell Minow

Rotten Tomatoes has some wonderful ideas for the best (and easiest) Halloween costumes inspired by movies. It includes classics like Indiana Jones and Carrie, current hits like Nurse Joker and some good ideas for friends to coordinate like Gogo Yurbari and the Crazy 88 from “Kill Bill” and costumes that are so easy to make that you can pick up everything at Goodwill for under $5, like The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” and Jay and Silent Bob from the Kevin Smith movies. Happy trick or treating!

Print Critics vs. Online Critics: A Cineaste Roundtable

posted by Nell Minow

Print and new media writers debate the pros and cons of writing about movies online, where everyone’s a critic in a roundtable from Cineaste, a leading publication on film.

In introducing the Critical Symposium on “International Film Criticism Today” in our Winter 2005 issue, we maintained, with a certain resigned pride, that “critics at independent film magazines have virtually complete freedom, and a generous amount of space, to express their opinions if they are willing to endure the relative (or, in some cases, total) penury that results from being unaligned with the corporate media.” In recent months, American critics, having been fired, downsized, or bought out by a host of publications, are realizing that even making compromises with their corporate employers does not guarantee them a job. Given the current economic malaise, the role of online criticism has become increasingly prominent. There has also been, at least in certain quarters, an intensification of the occasional friction between print critics and the denizens of the blogosphere. In a typically ungracious broadside in The New York Press, Armond White wailed that “Internetters…express their ‘expertise,’ which essentially is either their contempt or idiocy about films, filmmakers, or professional critics. The joke inherent in the Internet horde is that they chip away at the professionalism they envy, all the time diminishing critical discourse.”

One goal in coordinating this Critical Symposium on “Film Criticism in the Age of the Internet” was to chip away at some of the hyperbolic rhetoric exemplified by White’s jeremiad.

Twenty-three participants respond to these questions:

1) Has Internet criticism made a significant contribution to film culture? Does it tend to supplement print criticism or can it actually carve out critical terrain that is distinctive from traditional print criticism? Which Internet critics and bloggers do you read on a regular basis?

2) How would you characterize the strengths and weaknesses of critics’ blogs? Which blogs do you consult on a regular basis–and which are you drawn to in terms of content and style? Do you prefer blogs written by professional critics or those by amateur cinephiles?
3) Internet boosters tend to hail its “participatory” aspects–e.g., message boards, the ability to connect with other cinephiles through critics’ forums and email, etc. Do you believe this “participatory” aspect of Internet criticism (film critics form the bulk of the membership lists of message boards such as a film by and Politics and Film) has helped to create a genuinely new kind of “cinematic community” or are such claims overblown?
4) Jasmina Kallay, writing in Film Ireland (September-October 2007), has claimed that, in the age of the Internet, the “traditional film critic… is losing his stature and authority.” Do you agree or disagree with this claim? If you agree, do you regard this as a regrettable or salutary phenomenon?
Some of the advantages of online criticism:
1. Ability to read broadly and deeply — no more being limited to whoever happens to write for the local paper or to the reviews of movies currently in release.
2. A wider range of coverage from a wider range of perspectives. Mike D’Angelo, who went from his own site to Esquire, calls it “the freedom to define your own audience, both in terms of what you choose to address and how you go about addressing it. If you have no editor, maybe nobody’s catching your occasional lapse into self-indulgence; at the same time, though, neither is anybody shooting down your prospective ideas on the grounds that readers don’t give a damn about Guy Maddin or Hong Sang-soo.”
3. Immediacy and vitality of online writing.
4. Interaction and responsiveness between critics and between critics and their readers.
Advantages of print:
1. Editing. As J. Hoberman of The Village Voice puts it, “On the one hand, blogs are spontaneous and unedited; on the other, blogs are spontaneous and unedited.” (NOTE: The Village Voice has let go some of the country’s best film critics.)
2. Difficulty of finding the best that’s out there. Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek says, “Internet criticism has made a significant contribution to film culture in that it’s opened the door for a wide range of voices. But as we’re all seeing, it’s opened the door too wide: There are so many film enthusiasts–if not actual professional critics, either former or current–writing on the Web that now we’re faced with a great deal of noise. Let’s not even talk about the zillions of film bloggers who aren’t worth reading–who cares about them? The bigger problem is that many of the people writing about film on the Web are knowledgeable and have pretty interesting ideas. Unless you’re really systematic about checking up on all of them regularly, there are too many to even read, so good people get lost.”
Be sure to check out the list of recommended online sources for movie reviews and features.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images
Movie Release Date:May 22, 2008
DVD Release Date:September 2, 2008

Some things are different. No more Nazis — it is now a Cold War and the guys on the other side are the Soviets. And there may be enemies at home. A harmless-looking professor could be a Red. Or maybe it is the agents of the U.S. government who are the bad guys when they see enemies who are not there. And teenagers are acting wild. Some of them speed by in jalopies and some of them slick back their hair, drop out of school, and ride motorcycles.

But some things are the same. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford, for the fourth time) still packs a mean punch and carries a bull whip. He still has a way of getting himself into and out of trouble. He still hates snakes. And he is still a lot of fun to watch.

As always, we start right in the midst of the action. A motorcade of soldiers is approaching a “Hanger 51″ Army base in Nevada that is shut down for a test of an atomic bomb. But it turns out not to be what it seems. They are Soviet spies and they want Indiana to find something in storage there (Indy fans will enjoy seeing a familiar item in one of the crates). This time, the artifact everyone wants is a crystal skull from South America that, according to legend, will grant great power to whomever returns it to its home. The Soviets are led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett, severe in an impeccable uniform and a ruthlessly aerodynamic bob), a specialist in the paranormal.

Instead of being congratulated for escaping from the Soviets, Indy becomes a “person of interest” to the FBI due to “this charged climate” and is suspended from his job. When he gets a message from a young man on a motorcycle who looks like he just rode in from the set of “The Wild One” that his old friend Professor Oxley (John Hurt) has been captured, Indy and the young man (“Transformers'” Shia LeBeouf) set out to rescue them.

Ford brings it. He is vitally and vibrantly present every moment on screen. He gets the a-word issue out of the way early on with a wry response to “we’ve gotten out of worse before” — “We were younger then.” He can still throw a credible punch and he has an even better and deeper sense of who he is as an actor and who Indy is as a character dealing with his own issues of aging. Moving the characters forward in time provides many opportunities for fresh and intriguing details that are instantly evocative of the past and lightly resonant for today’s circumstances as well. LeBeouf, Ford, and Karen Allen, who makes a welcome return as Marian, Indy’s best leading lady, have terrific chemistry. The stunts are thrilling and brilliantly paced, and the script, the first three-quarters of it, anyway, if not up to the level of the first Indiana Jones film, is at or better than the other two. The old-school effects are far better than the brief CGI. The unscripted real-life bug swallowed as an ad lib by Rene Belloq in the first movie was far more effective than an army of man-eating ants made from pixels in this one. John Hurt is underused as the addled Oxley as is Ray Winstone (“Beowulf”) as a fellow traveler in more than one sense of the term. And it is a little too long, but that is understandable. Ford, Allen, producer George Lucas, and director Steven Spielberg enjoy spending time with Indiana Jones and don’t want to say goodbye. We feel the same way.

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