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Annie
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Pride
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and brief sexual content
Release Date:
October 9, 2014

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
Release Date:
December 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

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

Shrek the Third

posted by jmiller

Did you ever wonder what happens to the villains while the hero and heroine are living happily ever after? We get to find out in this third chapter in the saga of Shrek. In the previous episode, Prince Charming failed in his attempt to marry Princess Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) and take over the Kingdom of Far Far Away. Now he has been consigned to the vile dust from whence he sprung, unwept, unhonor’d, and unsung. In other words, he’s doing dinner theater.


Meanwhile, over in Far Far Away, Shrek (voice of Michael Meyers) and Fiona are a few happilys short of an ever after themselves. Fiona’s father, the king (voice of John Cleese), transformed back into a frog at the end of the second film, is very ill. And after he, uh, croaks, Shrek and Fiona will have to take over, unless they can find the next in line for the throne, cousin Arthur (voice of Justin Timberlake). And just as the journey to find Arthur begins, Shrek is presented with an even more terrifying new responsibility. He’s going to be a father.


Shrek, Donkey (voice of Eddie Murphy), and Puss in Boots (voice of Antonio Banderas) find Arthur in a terrifying environment filled with pain beyond measure — high school. Meanwhile, Prince Charming and all the other villains decide that they are entitled to some happily ever after, too. Captain Hook, the Wicked Witch, the Cyclops, some enchanted trees, and the rest of the baddies take over Far Far Away capture Fiona and the Queen (voice of Julie Andrews) along with the princesses who are visiting for a baby shower, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel (voices of Amy Poehler, Amy Sedaris, Maya Rudolph, and Cheri Oteri). And Prince Charming gets ready to settle things with Shrek once and for all — in front of an audience.


It’s still funny and even a little heartwarming, but it isn’t fresh anymore and — it has to be said — the character of Arthur isn’t very interesting. Because he is at the center of much of the story, for the first time the Shrek saga drags. The new voices and characters add very little. When Regis Philbin joins Larry King as the voice of the ugly step-sisters, there’s a joke about Merlin’s robe not quite covering all it is supposed to, and Donkey and Puss switch bodies, it feels like they’re running out of ideas.


The animation continues to get better and better and the faces are marvelously expressive, especially Arthur’s dimple and the frog king’s…croaking. The fairy-tale high school is a hoot, it is fun to see the princesses learn to rescue themselves, and it is a treat to see how cleverly the film avoids much of the predictable violence. The po-mo humor sensibility continues to stay on the safe side of snarky, though one has to wonder in the midst of all this grrrl power why it is that no one ever thinks of making Fiona the ruler after her father’s death. But by the time Shrek and Arthur are learning that it is okay for them to be themselves, it is starting have that “very special episode” feeling that even a kickin’ rendition of “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” can’t make work and we’re wondering if Shrek wasn’t a little more fun when he was a little more ogre-ish.

Parents should know that, like the earlier films, this one has some mildly mature material, including some schoolyard crude humor (the gingerbread man poops a gumdrop), some potty humor, and a mild drug joke (reference to puffing on “frankincense and myrrh”). There is some cartoon violence and some drinking (scenes in a bar, references to alcoholic drinks). Parents should also know that while the Shrek character is being used by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote healthy eating and exercise, he has also been licensed to promote more than seventy different products, including many different kinds of candy and junk food.

Families who see this movie should talk about why some people might think it is scary to be a parent. Why did Arthur change his mind about Shrek? Do you ever feel that people want you to be something different from what you are?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Shrek and Shrek 2, as well as Ella Enchanted, Hoodwinked, and The Best of Fractured Fairy Tales, Vol. 1 (1961). They will also enjoy books like Outspoken Princess and the Gentle Knight, Tatterhood and Other Tales: Stories of Magic and Adventure, and the original book by William Steig that inspired the series, though its Shrek is not as cuddly.

Georgia Rule

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

Minow rule: If Hector Elizondo barely makes an appearance in a Garry Marshall film, watch out.

Or, I should say, don’t watch.

Marshall wisely does his best to include the talented Elizondo in every one of his films. If the only place Marshall can find for him is a few seconds on screen as a character with a ponytail and a funny name, the movie is in trouble. Especially when that brief appearance has more class and authenticity than anything else in this uneven mess of a film.


The title refers to the no-questions, no-arguments, no-compromises, no-prisoners edicts handed down by Georgia (Jane Fonda, still looking great in jeans and a t-shirt) to just about everyone, especially her angry daughter Lily (Felicity Huffman) and rebellious granddaughter Rachel (Lindsay Lohan).

In what must feel like a reprise of On Golden Pond, where Fonda’s character dumped an unhappy teenager on her parents for the summer so that she could spend time with his father and so that everyone could Learn Important Lessons about Life, Lily dumps Rachel on Georgia for the summer. Let the Life Lessons begin.


Georgia lives in a small town in Idaho, set design seemingly inspired by Norman Rockwell by way of Kinkade. Intended-to-be-cute cuddly little small town moments collide uneasily with grand drama and dysfunctional laundry-airing among and between the three generations of women. What we get are less life lessons than a lot of recrimination and more “you were never there for me” accusations than a week with Dr. Phil.


While she was making this film, Lindsay Lohan received a widely circulated letter of admonishment from the producer for “ongoing all night heavy partying” and missing her call times. Onscreen, she looks uncomfortable and jittery. Her character is supposed to be struggling with desperation, self-hatred, and deep sadness, to be vulnerable and needy. But all she shows us is the character’s anger, which comes across more like brattiness. She can’t let go of the cute thing.

Huffman seems to still be channeling her Transamerica character’s obsession with meticulous attention to external appearances as a cover-up and compensation for internal disarray. Lily is very big on high high heels and just-right clothes and exquisitely tasteful gifts. But she’s a mess and she knows it, even though she tries everything she can — including booze — to help her run away from her insecurity and doubt. Cary Elwes shows up more pudgy than sleek as a big-time, big-city lawyer who may or may not be a very bad guy.

Fonda injects powerful rays of real emotion as often as she can and Dermot Mulroney manages some nice moments as the town vet who is just too darned nice to refuse to treat those adorable townsfolk, doing his best in spite of a cornpone set-up and the tiredest of revelations.


Comedy and drama can combine beautifully as this film’s screenwriter, Mark Andrus, did so well with As Good as it Gets. But this time it just doesn’t work, lurching unevenly back and forth with at least two too many fake-outs that make Rachel seem like the girl who cried wolf. And you know what that means — when she calls, stay home.

Parents should know that this film has a good deal of very mature material, including themes of child sexual abuse and incest. Rachel is sexually provocative and seductive in a number of inappropriate situations involving a young boy, a young man who is engaged and has made a moral and religious commitment to chastity, and an older man. Characters use strong and crude language. A character has a drinking problem and gets drunk. There are references to drug use and tense and emotional confrontations and some mild violence.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Lily was angry with Georgia and why Rachel did not think she could tell Lily the truth.


Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate Charms for an Easy Life and Down in the Delta.

Fast Track

posted by jmiller
F+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief language and a drug reference.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Painfully overlong at under 90 minutes, “The Ex” (formerly known as “Fast Track”) is a clunky, lead-footed disaster, the stunning incompetence of its script and direction only exceeded by the shocking array of talented and successful performers who struggle in it as though they are going down for the third time. In quicksand.


All that before we get to how offensive it is. This film tries to be outrageous, daring, and edgy but it is just crude, sluggish, cheap, and boring. There is a long list of groups who could file defamation actions against the producers of this movie, including disabled people, little boys, anyone with a job, citizens of Ohio, and pretty much the entire human race.


This is the story of Tom (Zach Braff) and Sofia (Amanda Peet), who move to Ohio with their new baby so that Tom can go to work in his father-in-law’s advertising agency and Sofia can be a full-time mom. Tom is assigned to work with Chip (Jason Bateman) — think Eddie Haskell with a touch of Charles Boyer in Gaslight. A creepy guy in a wheelchair that everyone but our hero thinks is an Eagle Scout! And wait, there’s more! He and Sofia knew each other in high school. They were cheerleaders and he hoisted her up high with his hand on her rump. And they had sex once. And he still likes her! Add in some attempts at The Office-style humor — this is the kind of place where people throw an imaginary YES ball at each other to keep that teamwork going — pratfalls and crotch hits, moments of excruciating embarrassment, professional mishaps, a kid who stuffs a whole hamburger in his mouth at once (many, many times), potty humor (many, many times), references to private parts, a marriage counselor who has his clients smack each other with bats, a plot twist stolen from every single episode of Bewitched and it has to be funny!


Not. Especially after a ludicrous fake-out near the end that shrieks of reshoots following understandably horrendous feedback from test audiences.


Some of the wittiest and classiest actors in movies today somehow ended up in this mess, which will certainly appear in a gag reel in any future award show tributes. In addition to stars Peet and Braff, we gasp in horror as yet another previously-unsullied reputation is, well, sullied. Donal Logue as a long-haired hippie CEO! Amy Poehler as an office drone! (Wasn’t Envy bad enough?) Oscar-nominee Amy Smart as a mom who believes in baby massage! For this, Charles Grodin makes his first movie in 13 years? What’s the matter, Mia Farrow? All those kids need tuition payments?


Every one of these questions was more interesting to think about than the plodding storyline and the pointless pratfalls. This movie gets a big NO ball from me.

Parents should know that this movie has very crude material for a PG-13. There is a lot of comic violence, including pushing a disabled character down the stairs. Characters use strong language (one f-word) and make offensive jokes. There is brief drug humor.


Families who see this movie should talk about why it was hard for the characters in this movie to tell each other what they were thinking.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Saving Silverman and Stuck on You, by no means classics but far better than this one.

Jindabyne

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for disturbing images, language and some nudity.
Movie Release Date:2007

Parents should know that this film deals with very disturbing themes, including the discovery of the dead body of a young woman who may have been raped. There are scenes of nudity and graphic wounds. Characters drink (sometimes to excess), smoke, use very strong and crude language, and have tense and unhappy confrontations. There are references to mental illness and the death of a little girl’s mother. Children are in peril. They also get in trouble for bringing a knife to school and killing the class pet. The situation in the film raises issues of gender, race, ethnic, and cultural differences as well as differences of opinion about how to respond to painful and confusing circumstances.


Families who see this movie should talk about why the different characters felt differently about the right way to respond to the discovery of the body. What do their different attitudes tell us about what was most important to each of them? What is the role of the children in helping to tell the story?

Families who like this movie will also like The Vanishing (the original, not the American remake) and Deliverance (both with very mature material). They might also like to read some of the short stories by Raymond Carver, including “So Much Water So Close to Home,” in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories, which was the basis for this film.

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posted 8:00:23am Dec. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Pride
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posted 6:00:25am Dec. 22, 2014 | read full post »

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posted 9:41:45pm Dec. 21, 2014 | read full post »

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