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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

The Wedding Date

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

All the romantic comedy gloss in the world can’t save a script as stale as last week’s wedding cake. Despite a promising set-up and talented performers, it leaks air like a tire that ran over a tack.

Debra Messing (“Will and Grace”) is one of television’s all-time funniest women with impeccable timing, brilliant with both verbal and physical comedy. But she gets a lot of help on the show from the writers who created a terrifically appealing and witty character. Here, she plays Kat, an insecure and not especially interesting young woman who is in a panic over what she thinks of as two of the most terrifying words in the English language on her sister’s wedding invitation. They are: “and guest.”

Her younger sister Amy (Amy Adams) is getting married. And Kat’s ex-fiance is the best man. Kat needs a date to bring to the wedding so that “the ex-fiance will be sorry that he left you and your family will think we are in love.”

With $6000 from her retirement account, Kat hires Nick (Dermot Mulroney), a male escort she read about in the New York Times Magazine. Kat and Nick pretend to be in love to reassure the family and torture the ex. But there is an undeniable attraction between them as well.

So they tell us, anyway, which is one thing that is wrong with this movie. They describe, but they do not show. The movie wants us to find Kat adorable and endearing. She is just fluttery, self-centered, and insecure. The movie wants us to find Nick desirable. But we hear about it more than we feel it. Kat’s cousin is supposed to be delightfully outrageous. But raunchy is not the same thing as outrageous, even if a few supportive comments are tossed in, and it is especially not the same thing as delightfully outrageous. Give us something specific, people! That’s why they call it “writing.”

Then there is the troubling Pretty Woman problem of having a light romantic comedy with characters whose behavior is unsavory. This lends a sour tinge to the purported hijinks.

Most of the people behind this movie are women. They show some sensitivity to just what it is that someone like Kat would want from Nick, but, regrettably, they don’t show any more wit, insight, heart, or imagination than we find in the dozens of dull movies about female characters made by men.

Parents should know that the movie includes some strong material for a PG-13, including brief partial nudity, explicit sexual references (including prostitution, infidelity, a joke about an orgasm, the idea that “the best sex is make-up sex,” and a drunken sexual encounter that is supposed to be romantic), smoking and a lot of drinking (characters get drunk and hung over)

Families who see this movie should talk about whether it is true that people get the love life that they want. Why does it take courage to let someone love you?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Runaway Bride and French Kiss.

Fascination

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Lust. Betrayal. Revenge. Greed. Murder. Somehow, all of these things become dull in the preposterous and yet decidedly un-fascinating “Fascination,” a movie that plays as though the script was being made up on the spot. By aliens not quite familiar with human beings or the English language but who had seen a couple of Ed Wood movies.

Wealthy Patrick Doherty (James Naughton), a former Olympic swimmer, is killed in a swimming accident. His widow, Maureen (Jaqueline Bisset), comes back from a post-funeral cruise with a new boyfriend and marries him a week later. Her son, Scott (Adam Garcia) finds this at first unsettling and then suspicious. But his attempts to investigate the possibility that Maureen and her new husband, Oliver (Stuart Wilson), may have murdered Patrick are sidetracked by his attraction to Oliver’s daughter Kelly (Alice Evans), who slinks around looking femme fatale-ish in a series of the most hideously fluttering little outfits ever worn in a movie.

The set-up is not so bad. At least it wasn’t the last time I took a look at, what was that again — oh, yes, Hamlet. But the stunning incompetence of every single aspect of this movie makes it such a thudding bore that it does not even rise to the level of being laughable. That’s despite howler plot turns that include a do-it-yourself exhumation, a character who appears to be turned on by bloody wounds, a character who has some weird unexplained throat injury (an indicator that the film was rechopped at some point, giving rise to the concern that there may be an even worse version out there) and another man with a bloody wound who can somehow wake up on sheets as pristine as though they came from a commercial for laundry detergent. Badly written, poorly acted, horrendously edited, dreadfully directed, the only thing worth watching in this movie is the still-lovely Bisset and some nice location photography.

Parents should know that this movie includes explicit sexual references and situations, including some with incestuous overtones. Characters drink and smoke and use very strong language. There are several violent situations and characters are killed.

Families who see this movie should talk about the difficulty Scott and his mother had in trying to communicate with each other.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the overheated Hush with Jessica Lange and Gwenyth Paltrow and better movies like Body Heat and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Hide and Seek

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

A spooky child, creepy rural setting, and eccentric characters are the key props in this atmospheric thriller, where strong acting and quiet scenes are more terrifying than on-screen mayhem.

Dr. David Callaway (Robert De Niro, in a solid but uninspired performance) is a quietly grieving widower who takes his daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) away from the city to live in a small town in the woods of upstate New York to help her escape the memories of his wife’s suicide. Emily discovered her mother’s dead and bloody body in the bathtub and has withdrawn into near-total silence in response to the trauma.

Once they move into the town of Woodland (population 2,206), they meet the local police officer, the jumpy real estate agent, and a married couple who live next door, trying to cope with the recent loss of their daughter, who was Emily’s age. David seeks out the company of vivacious Elizabeth (Elisabeth Shue), baby-sitter to her niece, Amy, also Emily’s age. And he reaches out to child psychiatrist Katherine (Famke Jannson), who is the understanding adult trying to help Emily and coach David through the grieving process.

With the stage set, Emily introduces a new character into their lives when she starts talking about all the fun games she is playing with “Charlie,” her imaginary friend. The disfigured dolls, scrawled threats, and dead cat that follow alarm David enough to leave his study, where he spends most of the day listening to music on his headphones and writing up Emily’s behavior. The strange drawings Emily has been hanging up in her room hint that Charlie might be positioning himself to be Emily’s only friend, and the mysterious death that follows finally drives father and daughter to action.

To say anything more would make Charlie very, very angry.

Most of the movie comprises a slow but steady-paced thriller with the camera drinking in little Emily’s eerie stare and propensity for standing in the doorway whenever something spooky is happening.

The last twenty minutes of the movie will satisfy audiences looking for a cathartic terror and a good twist. For some jaded audiences, however, the ending might seem self-conscious, forced, and dragged-out, especially when Charlie’s secret is revealed.

Dakota Fanning does a lovely job in this movie, out-gothing even Wednesday Addams (The Addams Family) and out-acting the grown-ups with breathtaking grace and dignity. She genuinely seems to break, well, just like a little girl when during the big showdown. At the end, you wish you could give this talented young actress a break and take her to something like The Incredibles so she could laugh and be a normal kid for once.

Parents should know that it is a very scary movie with intense peril and upsetting deaths. For those who have dealt with loss, the killer, “Charlie” will be especially disturbing since he wins Emily as a friend when she most needs someone to help her. Issues of trust and the suffering of main characters, including a child, are themes in this movie. Relationships are strained by inability of characters to handle trauma. There is social drinking, infidelity, and implied psychological spousal abuse.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Emily did not feel like she could talk about her emotions directly and what other characters might have done to let Emily know she was not alone. What does the last picture that we see on-screen mean about Emily and about the future?

Families who enjoy watching scary movies together might want to see taut psychological thrillers like Identity, The Shining, The Sixth Sense, or The Ring. Each feature child protagonists that hold the key to a mystery that the adults cannot see or solve. And they will enjoy the very chilling story about a child whose father refuses to believe in his imaginary friend, Thus I Refute Beezly by John Collier.

Alone in the Dark

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:R
Movie Release Date:2005

There’s something far scarier about this movie than its CGI monsters, whose lack of any apparent weight makes them seem as threatening as the floating Clifford balloon in the Macy’s parade. What’s scary is the premise: it’s based on a computer game by Atari.

Yes, video games can have ominous atmosphere and relentless bad guys, but they seldom provide much by way of dialogue, character, or plot. You know, those things in movies that make up for the absence of a joystick that enables the player to blow stuff up.

The movie tries to create a story with an astoundingly boring 10-paragraph crawl at the beginning of the film, some mumbo-jumbo about a lost civilization, blah blah, and then there is a second prologue with a child being chased through the woods as a stock company mad scientist explains to a nun why she must support his story about the 20 children he has taken from the orphanage for medical experiments. “It’s not about a few children!” he barks at her. “It’s about the future of our species!”

Finally, we make it to the present day, and that runaway child, Edward (Christian Slater), is all grown up and a paranormal investigator who is being followed by some guy who really, really wants this artifact that Edward has hidden in his snazzy leather jacket. And then it turns into one of those now-they-battle-bad-guys-in-the open market, the Chinatown warehouse, the deserted underground laboratory, etc. etc. movies. There are a couple of good “boo!” surprises, a couple of cool fight moves, and some gross-out visuals, but they keep getting lost under the cardboard dialogue, the throbbing bass accompaniment to both a sex scene and a shoot-out, and the absence of that thing we often look for in movies — what is it again? Oh, yes, acting.

If I almost forgot that for a minute, it’s because everyone in the movie seems to have forgotten it, too. Slater just appears embarassed, understandable in these circumstances. And if our expectations for Tara Reid are low, also understandable in these circumstances, she still does not quite manage to live up to them. The pixels in the CGI monsters give a more believable performance than she does. Preposterously cast as an archeologist, with her hair pulled back and drugstore black-rimmed specs on her nose, she delivers her lines as though she is calling for another round of Mai Tais for the house. And no one seems to have explained to her that in English, the interrogative is usually expressed with a rising inflection.

Parents should know that this is a horror film with constant, intense, graphic violence. Many characters are killed in a wide variety of creative manners, including being impaled. There are monsters and other grisly images. Characters use some strong language and there is a moderately explicit sexual situation.

Families who see this movie should talk about the “greatest good for the greatest number” approach taken by Hudgens.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the movies that handle these themes far better, including Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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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