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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

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2005

It’s the details that matter in this movie more than the characters, the story, or even the music, all blander than in writer/director Tim Burton’s first claymation movie, Nightmare Before Christmas. Still, there is a goulishly enchanting love triangle and spectacularly spot-on voice talent. And, what really matters, every moment is filled with wonderfully witty Daumier-like caricatures and sly Charles Addams-style macabre humor. The main characters and the story are not nearly as intriguing as who and what is going on around them.

The Van Dorts have money but no social position. And they have a son, Victor (voice of Johnny Depp). The Everglots have social position but no money. And they have a daughter, Victoria (voice of Emily Watson). Victor and Victoria have not met, but what does that matter? Their parents arrange a marriage. The wedding rehearsal is about to begin. Nothing must go wrong.

Victor and Victoria meet — shyly — and are relieved and a shyly excited to find themselves drawn to one another. But Victor is so nervous that he keeps getting mixed up on his vows. He runs to the forest, practicing, and accidentally places the ring on what appears to be a twig. But it is the sepulchral finger of the Corpse Bride (voice of Helena Bonham Carter). Jilted on her wedding day, she has been waiting for a groom ever since. And now that she has one, she is not about to let him go, even though they have the pesky little problem that he is alive while she is dead and live in literally different worlds. It’s a mixed marriage at a rather fundamental level.

Victor is honorable and does not want his accidental and very sensitive bride to be hurt again. In her own way, other than the odd maggot or decaying body part, she is very appealing. He cannot allow himself to be the second man to desert her, even if that means that he will have to join her in the underworld for good.

Victoria turns out to have more spirit and determination than she or her parents expected, especially after they inform her that with Victor out of the picture, they plan to marry her off to a mysterious nobleman named Lord Barkis, who seems in an awful hurry. And Victor, in part through his struggle to decide what duty requires, discovers his own sense of purpose and independence.

Burton, always the most wildly and happily goulish of visionaries, has created a thrillingly intricate world, or, rather two of them. The gray, Victorian setting of for the Van Dorts and the Everglots is filled with looming structures and old, stately, portraits. And the world of Emily and her after-life compatriots is, well, lively and deliciously macabre, with the kind of gleefully demented pleasure of Disney World’s Haunted Mansion (the ride, not the awful movie).

Echoing dance with death themes from Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday to 1930′s cartoons with skeletons playing each other’s ribs like xylophones, this movie explores not just our fear of death but our ways of confronting that fear, from humor to myth, to music, to love. With made-for-pause-button attention to detail, some unexpectedly understated humor, and a surprisingly touching conclusion, it proves again that humanity is sometimes best found and conveyed in unexpected places.

Parents should know that this movie may be disurbing to young and sensitive viewers. It has some grotesque and scary images, including decomposing bodies and skeletons. Characters are in peril and some are injured or killed. There is some crude humor. Characters drink alcohol.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Victor ran away and why Victoria was loyal to him. They may also want to talk about the appeal of ghost stories and their own thoughts on the supernatural.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the always imaginative Burton’s other movies, including Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands (with Depp in the title role). They may also enjoy the Noel Coward ghostly romantic comedy classic, Blithe Spirit.

An Unfinished Life

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some violence including domestic abuse, and language.
Movie Release Date:2005

A bear is wandering through farms looking for something to eat. An angry and abusive man is following the woman who left him because he wants her to come back, or because he wants to hit her again, or both. Neither appears threatening at the moment, but both can and have inflicted great damage and are willing to do more.

A man has lost his son, a woman has lost her husband, a child has lost her father. This has left each of them isolated and fragile. They will learn that it is the not the loss but the isolation that makes them so vulnerable.

Jean (Jennifer Lopez) has a fresh bruise on her jaw. Gary (Damien Lewis) tells her that he loves her and hates to hurt her, but sometimes she just makes him do it.

She has stayed, before. But this time, she takes her daughter, Griff (lovely newcomer Becca Gardner) and leaves. She had hoped never to return to the place she grew up, but she has nowhere else to go. So she returns to the ranch owned by Einar Gilkyson (Robert Redford) and asks if she can stay just until she can get enough money to leave. And that is how Griff and her grandfather Einar meet for the first time.

Einar has given up most of his cattle and spends much of his time caring for his closest friend and former ranch hand, Mitch (Morgan Freeman), now disabled. His only other regular conversation is with the grave of his son, Griff’s father. He is angry with Jean; he can barely bring himself to look at her. But he agrees to let her stay.

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Most directors would take this material and hit us over the head with it. But Lasse Hallstrom trusts us and he trusts the story and the characters, taking his time, letting the story tell itself, helping us learn to care for the characters as they learn to care for each other. We know going in that this is going to be a story with revelations and confrontations and thawing and forgiveness. Hallstrom makes it work, with the able assistance of Redford and Freeman, who make us believe that they have been working that ranch together every day of the past 40 years. They have the affectionate rhythm of an old married couple (as the indispensible Freeman did with Clint Eastwood in “Million Dollar Baby”). Lopez does not have the range to inhabit her role fully, but she has a nice chemistry with the talented Gardner and with Josh Lucas as a sympathetic sheriff.

Parents should know that this movie has some disturbing violence, including references to domestic abuse and fatal accidents, guns, punching, peril, and injuries, and a bear attack. There is some strong language. Characters drink and there are references to alcohol abuse. The movie includes sexual references, including sex without emotional involvement, and non-explicit sexual situations.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Einer blamed Jean and why Jean blamed herself. What made Jean decide to think differently about herself? What makes people decide when it is time to tell the truth about themselves? What does Mitch think about the bear and why does he want the bear to have what he cannot have? What is an unfinished life and who in this movie has one?

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate some of Hallstrom’s other films, including Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, the under-appreciated Once Around, and The Shipping News. They will also appreciate movies Redford directed, includingOrdinary People (directed by Redford) andThe Horse Whisperer (also starring Redford and a very young Scarlett Johansson).

A Sound of Thunder

posted by rkumar
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2005

The most remarkable special effect in this movie based on Ray Bradbury’s classic science fiction short story is Ben Kingsley’s hair. The usually-bald actor has been given a thick thatch so white it almost glows in the dark. He even has a little white soul patch under his lip. Now that’s scary.

It is set in Chicago in the year 2055. Kingsley plays Charles Hatton, who happily admits that his ambition is to own pretty much everything. He runs a time travel tour that takes wealthy people looking for thrills on a five-minute visit to the late cretaceous era, where they get a chance to kill an allosaurus before they come back to champagne and a 3-D recording of their big adventure.

Dr. Travis Ryer (Edward Burns) works for Hatton because it permits him to pursue his own research on extinct animals — pretty much every non-domesticated species, which all died out due to a virus. Ryer is confident that the protocols they have set up will ensure that nothing in the past will change, because even the slightest interaction with the past could create a variation with massive consequences for the present, 65 million years later. The allosaurus they kill was about to die anyway, and they shoot it with bullets made from water, leaving no residue of the future.

But, as another scientist expalains, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle a sort of cosmic Murphy’s law tells us that nothing is ever fool-proof. One of the clients makes a mistake, and when the group returns to the present, time waves, like a temporal sonic boom, bring about massive evolutionary changes. Ryer and his group have to figure out what happened and then go back again to prevent it as the city crumbles around them and huge predators from an alternate evolutionary chain chase after them.

This is an excuse for a lot of racing around and a lot of CGI, all of it pretty standard and unimaginative. The characters are dull, the actors all seem to wish they were somewhere else, and some of the special effects get downright silly. Keeping up with each wave of changes as they come through is more trouble than it’s worth. Sound of thunder? More like the whine of a petulant lapdog.

Parents should know that this movie has a great deal of action-style violence and intense peril, including scary-looking monsters and poisonous plants. A character commits suicide. It also includes brief strong language, social drinking, some sexual references, and a sexual situation with implied nudity.

Families who see this film should talk about the meaning of the butterfly effect. What kinds of controls can we put in place to prevent scientific advances from being exploited for short-term gains?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Jurassic Park and some of the other movies that play with the idea of the way changing past events can affect the present, like the Back to the Future trilogy and the underrated Frequency. They may also enjoy Grand Tour: Disaster in Time. And everyone should read Ray Bradbury’s original influential and very fine short story.

The Greatest Game Ever Played

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2005

When you give a movie the title “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” expectations will be pretty high. When it turns out that the game in question is a golf match that occured almost a century ago between two people most people have never heard of, expectations plummet. This movie is somewhere in the middle.

Golf is not the most cinematic of sports. Director Bill Paxton has a nicely kinetic feel for the game, and does the best anyone could to give us a sense of the game’s beauty in the power of the drives and the precision of the putts. He also gives us some insight into the mental state of the competitors, as they try to clear their minds of fears and distractions. But any golf movie is going to have many, many shots of little white balls going into (or just missing) the hole, hitting the ball out of sand traps and water hazards, men with furrowed brows peering down the course, and the spectators in the gallery trudging along to the next shot. This one, with a three-day tournament to get through, has too many players and too many holes and gets a little lost in the rough.

But straight down the middle is a nice underdog story about a 20-year-old former caddy who beats the greatest player in the world. The talented Shia LeBoeuf plays Francis Ouimet who grew up across the street from the local golf course. He loves golf, but his father forces him to give it up. Then his idol, British champion Harry Varden (Stephen Dillane), comes to play in the U.S. Open, at the very golf club across the street from his house.

Francis enters as an amateur. He is treated with contempt by the members of the club, who believe that golf is a game only for the upper classes. The only caddy he can get is a 10-year-old boy hardly as big as the bag he has to carry. But if he didn’t have what it takes, we wouldn’t be making a movie about him, now, would we?

The best part of the movie is the interaction between Ouimet and Varden, who had more in common with each other than the minor difference of a world-class competition. Varden, too, was looked down on by the British golf establishment because of his humble origins. As somone who believed that

Parents should know that the movie has brief mild language, some ugly insults, and some tense emotional confrontations. Characters smoke cigarettes and a pipe. One character punches another in the nose.

Families who see this movie should talk about why golf was so important to Francis Ouimet and Harry Vardon. Why was it important to the wealthy and powerful people to keep talented but poor players out of the game? What made Francis change his mind about playing? What made his father change his mind? Why did Francis stay an amateur? Why doesn’t he tell Varden that they met once before?

Families who want to find out more about Francis Ouimet can read the book, also called The Greatest Game Ever Played.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of the classic golf movies, like the Tracy-Heburn comedy Pat and Mike (featuring some of the golf legends of the era and a very young Charles Bronson, still using his original name) and Tin Cup (mature material). Golf fans will enjoy the golf stories of P.G. Wodehouse, collected in Fore!: The Best of Wodehouse on Golf.

Previous Posts

Yes, Another "Happy" Video, But You Will Love This One, I Promise
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posted 11:35:09am Aug. 22, 2014 | read full post »

An R Rating for Being Gay?
"Love is Strange," a tender, beautifully written and performed love story about a three decade relationship, stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.  The MPAA has given the movie an R rating even though there is nothing in the film that normally triggers an R in the categories of language, violence,

posted 10:00:58am Aug. 22, 2014 | read full post »

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 »


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