Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
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
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
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
There’s only one movie opening up this week, “Bankok Dangerous” with Nicolas Cage. That’s everything I know about it. It isn’t screening for critics, and that means the studio is pretty sure it won’t even get one good review.
But next week, things really pick up! I am very excited about “Righteous Kill,” starring Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino.
And I am even more excited about “Burn Before Reading,” from the Coen Brothers (“Fargo,” “No Country for Old Men”), starring George Clooney, Frances McDormand, and Brad Pitt.
Neda Ulaby’s column on NPR starts with a rule established by Alison Bechdel, author of one of my favorite books, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. In Bechdel’s comic strip, a character said she’d only go to see a movie if it had:
1. At least two female characters, who …
2. talk to each other about…
3. something besides a man.
Ulaby quotes Eric Deggans, who covers television for the St. Petersburg Times. He says it comes down to who’s writing the scripts: There’s not a lot of diversity among successful TV writers. As a result, Deggans says, there aren’t a lot of fully realized African American characters, and not many conversations between women on a convincing range of topics. He notes that shows like “Sex in the City” fail to meet that test. But she recommends one, “The Middleman” on ABC Family that qualifies. I’ll have to check it out. I think “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” qualifies, too. Ulaby asked Deggans and “The Middleman’s” Natalie Morales for their variations on the Bechdel rule. The Deggans Rule
(from Eric Deggans, The St. Petersburg Times)
1. At least two nonwhite characters in the main cast …
2. in a show that’s not about race.
The Morales Rule (from Natalie Morales, ABC Family’s The Middleman)
1. Nobody calls anybody Papi.
2. No dancing to salsa music.
3. No gratuitous Spanish.
Check out the comments on the rules, which include more variations and recommendations.
Loyal reader jestrfyl left a provocative comment about my post on the 1939 and 2008 versions of “The Women.” He’s a skeptic about all-star casts. He writes:
There is no Constellation that is made of all first magnitude stars, and I wonder if that lesson from nature should apply to films. However, if they can gel as a company and not only work with each other, but encourage and embolden each other, it could be an amazing experience. Are there any other films that are good examples of many combined super-celebrities?
It is sometimes called “stunt casting” when the point of selecting a particular actor relates not to talent or fitness for the part but to what the audience knows outside of the movie that they bring with them when they watch. As that suggests, it can be a distraction. And stars used to, well, star treatment can have a clash of egos that can lead to scene-stealing. But there’s a reason stars are stars and those who are truly talented and committed love to work with people who can challenge them to do their best.
Some good, bad, and ugly examples of all-star casts:
1. Oscar-winners Shirley Maclaine, Sally Field, and Olympia Dukakis are joined by force-of-nature Dolly Parton and all of them are eclipsed by then-newcomer Julia Roberts in one of the great weepies, “Steel Magnolias”
2. One of the first high-profile all-star casts was in 1956 Best Picture Oscar-winner “Around the World in 80 Days.” Mike Todd (who was married to Elizabeth Taylor until his tragic death in an airplane crash) produced and used his considerable charm to get extra publicity by coaxing just about everyone in Hollywood to appear in the film. For example, when a honky-tonk piano player turns around for a moment we see that it’s Frank Sinatra. Todd made it seem like a tiny part was not disrespectful. On the contrary, it was something special and highly coveted. He even coined the word for a brief appearance by a big star, using the name of a small, valuable piece of jewelry: a cameo. (And Shirley Maclaine is in that one, too!)
3. One of the most popular recent all-star casts was “Oceans 11″ and its sequels. Just like the original, which had “the Rat Pack” (Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., etc. — and Frank Sinatra), this one was filled with big-time Hollywood names. It was like a People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” reunion with winners George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt. (And Julia Roberts is in that one, too, with joke billing “introducing” her.)
4. One of the most prestigious all-star casts was in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” with Oscar-winners Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin, and Al Pacino, and equally brilliant work by Alec Baldwin, and Ed Harris.
5. One of the smallest all-star casts was a film, recently remade with one of the original stars. The original is the only movie with the entire cast nominated for Oscars. Any guesses?
6. “How the West Was Won” and other episodic or compilation films like “O. Henry’s Full House” or “Zeigfield Follies” have all-star casts. Disaster films like “Airport” and “The Towering Inferno” also frequently have all-star casts.
7. “Murder on the Orient Express” had a train car full of suspects, every one of them played by a star.
8. “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World” had a big big big big big big cast of almost every comedian in Hollywood, including Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante, the Three Stooges, Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle…and Spencer Tracy.
9. “Bobby,” about the night Robert Kennedy was killed, stars Sharon Stone, Anthony Hopkins, Lindsay Lohan, Laurence Fishburne, Martin Sheen, Helen Hunt, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, and Elijah Wood.
9. And then there’s the ugly. Some all-star casts have no-star scripts. Stay away from the original “Casino Royale,” with David Niven, William Holden, Ursula Andress, Deborah Kerr, Orson Welles, and Woody Allen.
The Washington Post Metro section has an article about a pastor who uses movies to bring spiritual lessons to his congregation.
For a special series of sermons this summer, Senior Pastor Rob Seagears at Christ Chapel Mountaintop in Prince William County tied his sermons to whatever movie was top at the box office that week, often appearing in costume. This presented him with a daunting challenge as the summer was filled with blockbusters featuring a lot of violence and bad language.
“It’s kind of risky to be watching to see what the number one movie is going to be and figuring out how to flip this thing for God,” he said.
Sometimes, as with “Tropic Thunder,” he was able to tie the movie to an important message but sill ended up recommending that the congregation stay away from the film. For that movie, by the way, he appeared in church as Kirk Lazarus, the white actor portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. who has medical treatment to darken his skin so he can play a black man on screen. Pastor Seagears began with a joke about being a black man pretending to be a white man pretending to be a black man. While there have been some objections, the pastor’s series proved to be very popular with the parishioners and a draw for new worshipers as well. And it was especially appreciated by teenagers.
If there were an Oscar for sermons, Seagears would be a contender. There’s his “Dark Knight” performance, when he roared up to the pulpit astride a Suzuki motorcycle, dressed like Batman. And his whip-cracking Indiana Jones, and his green-suited Hulk.
Perhaps most memorable was when he bumbled out wearing a ratty wig and a blood-red smile across his face, ranting like a maniac.
“When I went into the church as the Joker, there was complete silence,” Seagears recalled fondly. “People were stunned because I was acting as if I was evil.”
For those who complain,
Seagears responds that preaching through movies allows him to meet people where they are and is similar to Jesus’s use of parables.
“It’s all about engaging your audience,” he said. “That’s what Jesus did, telling stories.”
What Happened to All the Great Quotable Movie Lines? Michael Cieply has a fascinating piece in the New York Times about the movie lines we love to quote and why there don't seem to be any new ones. Look through all of the top ten lists of the year, and see if you can think of one quotable line from any of them. That doesn't mean they aren't well wri
George Clooney and the Cast of Downton Abbey You don't have to be a fan of "Downton Abbey" (or "Mr. Selfridge") to love this hilarious spoof, with guest appearances by Jeremy Piven, George Clooney and the Absolutely Fabulous Joanna Lumley.
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Ask Amy Says: A Book on Every Bed I love to remind people about Amy Dickinson's wonderful "Book on Every Bed" proposal:
Here’s how it happens: You take a book (it can be new or a favorite from your own childhood).
You wrap it. On Christmas Eve (or whatever holiday you celebrate), you leave the book in a place where Santa is
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