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Believe Me
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

Tracks
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
Release Date:
June 27, 2014

The Boxtrolls
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Neighbors
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

Crying movies

posted by Nell Minow

Movies that make you cry (or sob or blubber uncontrollably)
Desson Thomson has a wonderful piece in the Washington Post about movies that make us cry, and a list of some examples sent in by readers. The usual suspects are there, from “Dumbo” to “Field of Dreams,” but some surprises, including Adam Sandler’s “Click” (“Never thought I would cry at an Adam Sandler movie — I usually don’t even admit to even going to one.”), “Star Trek: The Search for Spock,” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” I admit to tearing up at the end of that one, too. Some of the other movies that have made me cry: Waterloo Bridge, A Little Princess, Steel Magnolias, the one Thomson refers to as “that Michael Keaton movie” (My Life) and yes, An Affair to Remember.
Be sure to listen to Thomson’s graceful audio commentary on his own list, with such classic choices as “Old Yeller” and “Terms of Endearment.” I enjoyed the quotes from experts, especially Professor Mary Beth Oliver of Penn State, who said that these movies
cause us to contemplate what it is about human life that’s important and meaningful. . . . Those thoughts are associated with a mixture of emotions that can be joyful but also nostalgic and wistful, tender and poignant. Tears aren’t just tears of sadness, they’re tears of searching for the meaning of our fleeting existence.
Just reading those words made me a little damp-eyed. Sorry, I just need a minute here.

O Jerusalem

posted by Nell Minow
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for some war scenes
Movie Release Date:October 17, 2007

Good intentions often make bad movies.

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Ira & Abby

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language and some sexual content.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Everyone can tell that Abby (played by screenwriter Jennifer Westfeldt) is adorable. Her parents dote on her. A jittery subway mugger is disarmed by her – literally. She has not managed to sell a single membership at the health club where she works, but she has the affection, esteem, and devotion of everyone who works (and works out) there. When Ira (Chris Messina) wanders in, she tells him not to bother with a membership and he is immediately smitten.


Yes, everybody loves Abby. That is a problem for Ira, who has to learn to trust his feelings for her and hers for him. But it becomes a problem for the audience, too. Westfeldt as screenwriter is a little too much in love with the character she has created for Westfeldt the actress, but a strong cast and its willingness to go beyond the usual conventions of romantic comedies keep us rooting for the young couple to find a happily ever after ending.


Just after they meet, Abby impulsively proposes to Ira and he accepts. Up to that point, Ira has had a terrible time making decisions. His psychotherapy, his doctoral thesis, and his romantic relationship have all stalled. He overthinks everything to the point of implosion.


But Abby is irresistible, because she appeals to Ira’s heart, not his head, because marrying her represents action and progress, and because he loves the feeling that he makes her happy. Most important, she represents that Life Force often found in romantic comedies, which frequently focus on an uptight character learning how much more there is to life from a free spirit.


As with her first film “Kissing Jessica Stein,” Westfeldt has written a clever screenplay with some zingy one-liners and sharp characterizations. It flirts with farce, even satire when the main characters and their multiple therapists all sit down in a big circle to talk things over. The final act becomes over-plotted when old and new relationships threaten to derail the happiness that so quickly came to Ira and Abby.


What keeps it all on course is its grounding in some important insights about relationships that are overlooked in movies that fade out after the couple gets together. This movie begins where most comedies end, allowing it to gently raise some thoughtful points about relationships. The very thing that first draws Ira to Abby, her ability to see the best in him, becomes the thing that frightens him. Does he love her for who she is, and not just for the vision of himself he enjoys in her eyes? The very thing he first loves about her, her ability to be happy, scares him, too. If she can be so easily delighted, how can he be sure he is special to her? Ira discovers that what can be most terrifying for him is not loving but allowing himself to be loved.


The movie benefits from an exceptionally strong line-up of supporting characters beautifully played by a top-notch cast. Fred Willard and Frances Conroy are Abby’s jingle-writer parents, so endlessly cheerful that they make Santa look grumpy. Ira’s therapist parents are played by Judith Light and Robert Klein, brittle as the ice clinking in their highballs. The hilarious parade of counselors includes “Seinfeld’s” Jason Alexander, “Saturday Night Live’s” Chris Parnell and Darrell Hammond, and the always-exquisite Donna Murphy. Maddie Corman displays all the expected neuroses but also some unexpected vulnerability as Ira’s ex. Ramon Rodriguez is nicely disconcerted as the subway mugger. Each of the characters captures our interest and attention. And both as screenwriter and as star, Westfeldt keeps the center of the story sweet and the movie as impossible to resist as its irrepressibly warm-hearted heroine.

Parents should know that the movie includes strong languages, drinking, references to drug abuse, and sexual references and non-explicit situations, including adultery.


Viewers who see this movie should talk about why it was so easy for Abby to connect to people. Why was it so hard for Ira to feel that he deserved love? What should they have talked about before getting married?


Viewers who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Annie Hall” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

The Jane Austen Book Club

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content, brief strong language and some drug use
Movie Release Date:October 4, 2007
DVD Release Date:2008

I’m pretty sure that Jane Austen never thought of including a lesbian jumping out of an airplane in any of her books, and yet somehow that scene fits in just fine in this story of six people who get together to read all six of Austen’s novels. Austen did manage to cover, in six books all taking place almost entirely in the quiet British countryside of the late 18th century, many variations on the themes of love and learning, and this film shows us how her stories continue to inspire and connect people who realize that very little has changed in the last 200 plus years.
The book club starts as a way to cheer up Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), just dumped by her husband (Jimmy Smits). Sylvia’s friends, the free-spirited Bernadette (Kathy Baker) and the dog-breeding loner Jocelyn (Maria Bello), invite Sylvia’s daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace), an impetuous, extreme sport-loving lesbian. Bernadette impulsively invites Prudie (Emily Blunt), a prim high school French teacher who has never been to France. And Jocelyn even more impulsively invites a man — Hugh Dancy as Grig, a sci-fi loving techie who asks if some of the six Austen books are sequels.
Once a month, they meet to talk about the books, each of them taking turns to host and present. And the themes of the book — from the patient hoping of Mansfield Park and Persuasion to the jump-to-the-wrong conclusions of Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma, to Sense and Sensibility, which has both, each book seems to resonate to one or more of the characters and their own paths to love.
The movie is a big improvement over the wispy novel, which teetered between being cutesy and being cloying. One reason is a brilliant cast, each of whom adds tremendous heart and vibrancy to the story. It also benefits from lively direction and high spirits provided by screenwriter Robin Swicord. The opening credit sequence sets the stage with a collection of scenes showing the frustrations of modern life. And the pacing keeps things light and bubbly, making it clear that, like Austen’s heroines, a happy ending will be in store.
Parents should know that this movie includes explicit sexual references and situations, gay and straight. A character commits adultery and another considers having sex with a very inappropriate partner. The movie includes brief strong language, alcohol, and drug use.
Families who see this movie should talk about how the stories of the characters parallel the novels by Jane Austen. What are some other examples of “the humbling of the know-it-all pretty girl?” Do you agree that “high school is never over?”
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “In Her Shoes,” and the movies based on and inspired by Jane Austen’s novels, including “Sense and Sensibility,” “Emma,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Bride and Prejudice,” “Clueless,” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

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