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Fading Gigolo
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

Philomena
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
Release Date:
November 22, 2013

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

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

 

Grudge Match
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

13 Going on 30

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

A girl who suffers total humiliation at her 13th birthday party wishes she could be 30. The next morning, she is all grown up, living in a swanky Manhattan apartment with a gorgeous face and figure (played by Jennifer Garner). That part is pretty exciting. But the guy in the shower who seems to know her pretty well is pretty scary. And she can’t find her parents. Jenna races out of the building and a woman who seems to know her tells her to get into a limo and is talking a mile a minute about some job she seems to have as editor of Poise magazine.

Jenna will eventually realize that this is what she wished for, but she will also figure out that it was not really what she wanted. Her parents are away on a cruise, but she tracks down her very best friend, Matt (Mark Ruffalo), now a photographer. When he tells her he has not seen her since high school, she begins to understand that in order to become what she wished for, she has lost some of the things that mattered most.

Okay, we knew all of that from not only every body-switching movie ever made but from every wishing story ever told. And yes, there are all the expected collisions between the lives of the 13 and 30-year-olds. Jenna raises her hand to be called on in a meeting and responds “Ew, gross!” to the advances of her boyfriend. And darned if she won’t be the only one to come up with those save-the-day ideas for the magazine. But the script has some bright moments and there is also some nicely understated humor. The only possible environment where a 13-year-old’s sense of appropriate hair and fashion might be considered acceptable for an adult is, of course, in the offices of a fashion magazine, where the more outrageous something is, the more everyone else will feel that they are the ones who are missing something for not having it themselves. Jena writes her name at the top of the page at a meeting and keeps her office files in middle-school folders.

Ruffalo, as always, adds class and sweetness to the boyfriend role, and has impressive delicacy in providing romantic interest for someone who is, after all, emotionally just 13 years old. But what makes this one work is Garner, who is enormously touching and hilarious as the 13-year-old living in the body and life of a 30-year-old. Playing a child in an adult body gives her license to show every emotion without any pretense of sophistication. She is wonderfully open and vulnerable but she handles it lightly and with a lot of charm. And she captures it all perfectly, from her panic at not understanding what is going on to her rapture as she selects clothes and make-up for her grown-up self as though dressing a Barbie. Garner even gets the walk of a 13-year-old just right, from the shoulders, not the hips. And the look on her face as she does the dance to “Thriller” is so winning you won’t just smile with her; you might just start to dance along a little.

Parents should know that there is some sexual humor. Jenna is horrified to find a naked man in her apartment (the boyfriend of her grown-up self) and grossed-out by his advances. There are sexual references (“raunchy strip tease,” “57 ways to have an orgasm,” “jump your bones” and the 13-year-olds play a party game that is supposed to go a lot farther than Spin the Bottle. Unlike the male take on this situation in Big, the main character does not take advantage of the adult persona to have sex. Characters use brief strong language. Characters drink and drinking is shown as part of the fun of being a grown-up.

Families who see this movie should talk about how being a grown-up may be different than it appears to a child. What was the biggest surprise for Jenna? Do you agree with what Jenna’s mother said about mistakes? Families might also want to talk about the way middle-schoolers treat each other and how to make sure that you don’t grow up with the kind of regrets that Jenna does. Is/was there a “6 Chicks”-type group in your school?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Tom Hanks in a similar role in Big. There are many other movies with this theme, including Freaky Friday, 18 Again (with George Burns), 17 Again (with Tia and Tamara Mowry), Like Father, Like Son (with Dudley Moore), and Vice Versa, with Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage. Fans of The Lord of the Rings trilogy will enjoy seeing Andy Serkis, who provided the voice and movements for Gollum, as Richard, Jenna’s boss.

Dogville

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

“Dogville” will inspire passionate responses, partly because it is deliberately provocative but more because it

The Alamo

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:PG-13
Movie Release Date:2004

There is only one reason to see “The Alamo,” and it is Billy Bob Thornton. His portrayal of Davy Crockett is magnificently vibrant, fully imagined, and so breathtakingly evocative of the essence of the American hero that it may be worth seeing the film just to spend some time with him. As he quietly asks to be called “David” while he signs autographs and answers questions about his famous exploits, as he asks a dying young soldier his name, and as he accepts defeat with spirit and grace, Thornton shows mastery of a range of conflicting emotions that is unforgetably touching.

In addition, the battle sequences are well staged, putting the audience in the center of the action.

And the movie has the grace to address the issue of racism, with slaves owned by the officers at the Alamo talking about whether they would be better off as Mexicans, because they would be free, and with Hispanic Texans explaining why they chose to fight the Mexicans.

Despite all of that, however, the movie just does not work. Reportedly cut down from an original running time of three hours, it feels jumpy and disjointed. It makes the fatal mistake of assuming that it is enough to put American icons on one side and a choleric popinjay of a general who wears a uniform out of a Friml operetta, barks at his subordinates, and preys on young women on the other. It isn’t. We do not seem to be at a moment in history — perhaps we never will be again — when it is easy for us to choose our heroes and villains in a war over land. This is not a fight about religious freedom or taxation without representation or stopping a despotic marauder. It is a fight over who will own the land that probably both sides took from the Native Americans. And it is hard to cheer for the independence of the “Texians” when we know they’re just going to end up part of America anyway.

Just in case there might be someone out there who forgot to remember the Alamo, the movie begins with shots of the carnage and a soldier crying, “They’re all dead! Oh, God!” Then we go back a year earlier to see how the Alamo, designed as a mission, has become a fort, “the only thing that stands between Santa Anna’s army and our settlements.” A new young commander is assured that “a good rifleman and a 12 pounder should hold it” because Santa Anna’s men would need to march 300 miles through the snow to get there. We cut to thousands of Mexican soldiers trudging through the snow, and we know what has to happen. We meet our cast of characters, including Jason Patric as Jim Bowie of knife fame with a strong heart and weak lungs in the Doc Holliday role of a consumptive who has seen it all and done most of it, too, Dennis Quaid as Sam Houston, who knows the price that must be paid for independence, and Patrick Wilson as a man who is looking for a second chance.

So do the men at the Alamo. The way they face their inevitable fate is stirring. But the narrative is so muddled and the pace so choppy that we never connect with the characters or their cause.

Parents should know that the movie has intense battle violence with many deaths. Everyone in the Alamo is killed (made clear at the very beginning of the movie). Characters drink and smoke and use some strong language, including insults like “catamite” that might be unfamiliar to today’s audiences. There is a sexual situation with a hint of coercion. A character refuses to free his slave, saying, “You’re my property until I die.”

Families who see this movie should talk about why it made such a difference when Travis picked up the cannonball. What did Travis mean when he said, “Texas has been a second chance for me. We will sell our lives dearly?” Why didn’t Travis and Bowie get along? Do you agree that “one crowded hour of glory is worth an age without a name?” How did Crockett’s understanding of what he represented to his fans affect his decision about how to respond? How did the white and non-white characters see their priorities differently? How does this story relate to current conflicts in Israel, Iraq, and Afganistan?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy an early and less historically accurate 1960 version also called The Alamo, with John Wayne as Davy Crockett. They should read up on the legendary characters like Jim Bowie, David Crockett, and Sam Houston and discuss how each generation filters history with its own perspective. Families will also appreciate some other movies about famous defeats, including Errol Flynn’s highly fictionalized They Died With Their Boots On, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and Denzel Washington’s Glory.

The Whole Ten Yards

posted by rkumar
F
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

Could it BE any more atrocious?

This stupifyingly appalling mess of a movie takes the definition of “not funny” to a new low. The gravitational pull of its massive lack of humor is so strong that if you listen carefully you may be able to hear it sucking comedy out of actual funny movies right this minute.

Scardy-cat dentist Oz (Matthew Perry), retired hit-man Jimmy (Bruce Willis), former dental receptionist and wanna-be hitperson Jill (Amanda Peet), now married to Jimmy, and former wife of Jimmy Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge), now married to Oz, are all back for this sequel to The Whole Nine Yards. But someone forgot to invite a screenwriter. There is no story. There are no jokes. All we get is Oz slamming into walls, failed attempts at hitman humor and a lot of anticipation with no pay-off whatsoever.

Kevin Pollack provides a couple of bright moments as bad-guy Lazlo, father of the bad guy killed off in the last movie (also played by Pollack). But the rest of the movie is nothing but the teeth-rattling thud of one failed joke after another. The dialogue is terrible. The physical humor is almost painfully bad. The plot (Lazlo wants to kill Jimmy; Jimmy wants Lazlo’s money) is muddled and incoherent. Perhaps the most painful is the movie’s timing, which in overly optimistic fashion leaves moments for audience laughter that never comes, so there are excruciating sags in momentum after every would-be quip and pratfall.

With Almost Heroes and Serving Sara, Matthew Perry has now appeared in what could someday be a triple feature at the legendary Hell’s Multiplex theater in Esquire’s Dubious Achievement awards.

Parents should know that the movie is violent for a PG-13, with characters who are hired assassins. There is fighting and gunplay and characters are shot and killed. Some of this is intended to be humorous. Characters use strong language and drink, including getting drunk. This is also intended to be humorous. Characters use strong language. There are sexual references and situations, including off-screen sex vividly portrayed through sound and two naked men waking up in bed together wondering what happened. This is also intended to be humorous. It isn’t. Boy, it isn’t.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it is such an awful failure.

Families who might be interested in this movie will enjoy the better (R-rated) original as well as better films with Bruce Willis, including Die Hard and The Sixth Sense. And until Perry makes a good movie, they should stick to watching him on Friends.

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