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If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
May 2, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

When the Game Stands Tall
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material, a scene of violence, and brief smoking
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Need for Speed
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language
Release Date:
March 14, 2014

TMNT

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for animated action violence, some scary cartoon images and mild language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

They’re teenagers, they’re mutants, they’re ninjas, and they’re turtles.

Up from the sewers by way of some handy toxic waste, those Renaissance-named, three-fingered, ninja-fighting, pizza-eating turtle siblings are back in their first all-CGI adventure. They say funny-tough things like, “I’m gonna drop-kick you to hurty-town.” They squabble with each other, but when it matters, they fight together. This time, their challenge is zillionaire Max Winters (voice of Captain Picard/Professor Xavier Patrick Stewart), a huge man in a huge office at the top of a huge skyscraper. Helping out the Turtles are their sensei (teacher), Master Splinter (voice of Mako) and their ninja-tastic pals April (voice of “Buffy’s” Sarah Michele Geller) and Casey (voice of Fantastic Four‘s Johnny Storm, Chris Evans).


Once again, the fate of the world is at stake. Thousands of years ago, the stars aligned to “open a portal of unknown power.” It also released 13 monsters and turned an army into stone. Now, that portal is poised to re-open. Unless all of the monsters are returned, well, a lot of bad stuff is going to happpen.


But before that can happen, the estranged turtles have to find a way to become a team again. Leonardo has been sent off by Master Splinter to learn some lessons of leadership. The others have gone off on their own, one entertaining at kids’ birthday parties, one doing computer tech support, and one, well, the TMNTs may be great fighters, but they aren’t too swift if they can’t figure out that when Raphael sleeps all day and there’s a mysterious Nightwatcher vigilante fighting crime every night, there just might be a connection.


The real power in the TMNT stories is the transformation, but in this movie that’s all in the past, and it is difficult to get much satisfaction from the comeback premise or the attempts to create some sibling rivalry. And there is no way the intended audience could be interested in the generic commitment-phobic romance between April and Casey (“I don’t know if I can be the grown-up she needs me to be”) or the references to the Gilmore Girls and “those kind of” phone lines. The movie has the challenge of creating a sense of danger and combat without exceeding the limits of the G rating. The bad guys have red glowy eyes and there’s some fancy footwork and weapons-wielding peril but, even with a nifty skateboarding scene, it’s more video game than story.

Parents should know that there is a lot of cartoon-style violence in this film, mostly martial arts, with kicking and weapons, including knives. We do not see any injuries but some characters are evaporated and a tranquilizer gun is used. There is brief crude humor and there are some rude comments and epithets (“Dirtbag”). April has the wasp waist and bare midriff of a Barbie doll, raising body image and expectation issues for both boys and girls.

Families who see this film should talk about the sibling rivalry among the turtle brothers. Why was it hard for them to be nice to each other? How were they different? How were they alike? Where do you see the importance of compassion and humility in your own lives?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy the earlier live-action movies and the 3 Ninjas Trilogy.

Hot Fuzz

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for violent content including some graphic images, and language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Those Shaun of the Dead guys are at it again. Having put a comedic stake through the heart of the zombie movie, they are now going after brainless cop films. Simon Pegg, the clueless Shaun in the last film, here plays crackerjack cop Sergeant Nicholas Angel, whose ruthless efficiency is so dispiriting to his colleagues that they send him off to a sleepy suburb to make sure he will stop making them look bad by comparison.


And so, instead of tracking down murderers and drug dealers, Angel is stuck in a relentlessly quaint little village, sort of a Masterpiece Theatre version of Mayberry, with a touch of Kinkade and a gloss from the British Tourism Bureau. Instead of high-speed chases with squealing breaks and kevlar vests, he finds himself carding teenagers in a pub and trying to find a wayward swan. Oh, he tries to keep up his record. Even before he officially starts work, he makes an arrest, a drunk who turns out to be not just the son of the local police chief but his new partner, Danny Butterman (fellow “Shaun” veteran Nick Frost).

The closest Danny has come to crime is his comprehensive DVD library of every single cop film ever made. He dreams of being like Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys II. He wants to go on a high-speed pursuit and fire two guns at once while jumping through the air. But he’s stuck in Sandford, which might as well be named Quicksandford from Angel’s point of view.


Is this one of those movies where the tough guy gets all cuddly and finds out what really matters, like Kindergarten Cop? I am relieved to say it is not. This is one of those movies where sleepy little Sandford turns out to have a crime rate that would terrify the Bad Boys and carnage that would horrify even the implacable Keanu Reeves of Point Break.


Wright and Pegg have a lot of fun transplanting the tropes of big Hollywood buddy cop explosion movies to a seemingly sleepy little village. As with “Shaun,” director Wright (whose work can also be glimpsed in the faux trailer for “Don’t” in the faux double feature “Grindhouse”) is very good at using quick-cut ironic juxtapositions, graphic images, and unexpected behavior — good and bad — from people we think we know to excellent comic effect.

Parents should know that this is a very grisly comedy with extremely graphic, blood-spurting violence. Heads are chopped off. A woman is stabbed in the chest with scissors and a man is stabbed in the hand. Many characters are shot. There are also images of dead and decomposing bodies and skeletons. The violence is comic but it is very explicit. Characters smoke and drink a great deal and get drunk (many scenes in a pub). They use very strong language. There are sexual references, including adultery.


Families who see this movie should talk about how the people who made it were inspired by the films they saw. They might also like to talk about some of the film techniques used to tell the story, including the quick cuts and sped-up footage.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Shaun of the Dead and some of the films referred to by the characters, including Point Break.

Away From Her

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some strong language.
Movie Release Date:2007

Parents should know that this is a very sad movie with themes that may be disturbing to some audience members. Characters use brief strong language.


Families who see this movie should talk about some of their own stories about losing people who were dear to them. Do you agree with what Grant did?


Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate I Never Sang for My Father and Iris. And they should see the other fine films of Oscar-winners Julie Christie and Olympia Dukakis, including Darling, Doctor Zhivago, and Moonstruck.

I Think I Love My Wife

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for pervasive language and some sexual content.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Chris Rock has often said he admires the work of Woody Allen, and in Rock’s latest film, “I Think I Love My Wife,” the comedian tries to channel a very “Allen” vibe. Like Allen, he writes, directs, and stars. And the story is a classic Allen-esque set-up, as a married man wonders whether he would be better off single. But, as with the lesser Allen films, it never achieves a heightened level of dialogue or insight.


Based on a 1972 Eric Rohmer film Chloe in the Afternoon, in this version, it is “Nikki” who presents temptation by repeatedly visiting a married man at work and insisting on less-than-innocent lunches. Richard Cooper (Rock) is a family man who excels in business but finds his personal life intolerably “boring.” He questions the fairness of fidelity and laments the lack of intimacy with his wife. When Richard runs into Nikki — an old friend whose only purpose in life appears to be garnering attention from men, married or not — the rest of the film is not hard to guess.


The concept of a rumination on temptation, especially one that deals with the notion of what it really means to cheat (Nikki and Richard remain platonic; is it “cheating” even if no sex is involved?) is not a terrible idea in itself. As far as realizing the idea, Rock does an adequate job of portraying the ways in which Richard and Nikki’s “platonic” relationship becomes detrimental to his wife and family. Even though no sex is involved it forces Richard to concoct elaborate lies and detracts attention from his other relationships. The film ultimately fails to make Nikki an enticing character. She is just a one-dimensional manipulator. This removes the drama, the danger, and the interest from the story. With no charm in her personality, it becomes painfully clear how heavily her controlling personality highlights the deficiencies of others (most notably, Richard and his inability to say “Go away”). The near entirety of the film has audiences accompanying Richard to crossroad after crossroad, only to watch him make bad choice after bad choice. The overwhelming sense is that Richard is likeable, but sympathy wears thin as it becomes obvious that he’s not a victim of Nikki’s persistence as much as he is a victim of his own lack of resolve.


Parents should know that although the film seems intended to be quirky, the very adult themes of sex and lust are crucial aspects of both plot and dialogue. Rock’s well-established observations on racially determined cultural stereotypes are also extremely prevalent. Viewers should know that the n-word appears repeatedly in conversational dialogue.


Families who see this film should discuss the concept of marriage and what it can mean for a couple to be in a committed relationship. At which point did Richard’s relationship with Nikki become a threat to his marriage? Can the moment be pinpointed to a specific incident, such as when Richard lies to his wife about how long it’s been since he last saw Nikki? Or is it more general, such as the fact that spending time with Nikki begins to have a negative effect on his job performance and leads him to be argumentative with his wife and friends? Richard is also depicted as being devoted to his children; parents might discuss how this devotion could translate into better choices, such as focusing on providing a safe atmosphere at home and building a more positive relationship with his wife.


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Alfie, the story of a womanizing Londoner that first came to theatres in 1966 and has since been remade to star Jude Law. Families might also consider watching any of the many available Woody Allen films, including Manhattan and Stardust Memories, which focus on sex, fidelity, and relationships.

Previous Posts

If I Stay
Hamlet asked it best. "To be, or not to be: That is the question." We struggle through, worrying about whether someone likes us or whether we will be accepted at the school of our choice

posted 6:00:09pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
If you want to not just see but hear an eyeball being pulverized, then see "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For."  If you want to see and hear it in the company of an audience who thinks that's

posted 5:59:27pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

When the Game Stands Tall
This dreary assemblage of every possible sports cliché has one thing in common with the game it portrays. Every time it seems to be going somewhere, it stops. More frustratingly, it wastes the opportunity to tell a good story by trying to squeeze in too many great ones. There are too many crises

posted 5:59:00pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Christian Indie Films of 2014
This year has already seen a remarkable and perhaps unprecedented number of Christian and Biblically-based films, from big-budget epics like "Noah" and "Son of God" to small faith-oriented films like "God's Not Dead."  There is an excellent summary of four Christian independent films of 2014 on In

posted 3:59:03pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Frank: The Real Story of the Singer With the Paper-Mache Mask
One of the handsomest men alive spends almost the entire movie wearing a huge round paper maché head in "Frank," a moving film inspired by the real-life story of the late Frank Sidebottom.  Michael Fassbender plays Frank, a sweet-natured but very quirky musician who wears his big head mask even in

posted 9:10:16am Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »


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