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Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

John Wick
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

23 Blast
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some teen drinking
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

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.

Transporter 2

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

Silly but stylish, this sequel to The Transporter is, like the original, all about the chases and fight scenes. It’s about the usual for a sequel — 2/3 of the quality of the original, but like its title character, it still delivers.

Jason Statham returns as Frank, the unflappable former special services guy who is prepared for anything and never gives up.

We get into the action right away when Frank, now located in Miami, is the subject of an attempted carjacking by the Black Eyed Peas. Okay, the carjackers just look like them. Fergie-wannabe and the rest are quickly dispatched, and Frank is on time for his pick up — Jack, the young son of the fabulously wealthy US Drug Czar (Mathew Modine). Frank has been driving him for a month, and they have become good friends. Frank has also become friendly with Audrey (Amber Valletta), Jack’s mother. She asks Frank to take Jack to his doctor’s appointment so she can get the house ready for his surprise party. But things go wrong, and Jack is kidnapped.

It will be many car chases, shoot-outs, and kicks and punches later before it all gets resolved. The fight choreography (by fight master Corey Yuen) is imaginative and entertaining, the chases are a popcorn pleasure, and the pacing is pure adrenaline. Frank does things with a fire extinguisher that, even when seen, are hard to believe — but lots of fun to watch.

The chemistry between Frank and Audrey and the visit from Frank’s old friend Tarconi (François Berleand) are distractions that don’t add much, and there’s not a lot of interest or energy in the villains and what they are trying to do. There’s one killer (Katie Nauta) who tries to be all twisted and crazy, but doesn’t quite make it, even though she likes to shoot people while she is wearing little more than bikini underwear, stockings and garter belt and high, high red heels. But like the rest of the movie, she’s less than meets the eye.

Parents should know that the movie has non-stop action violence, with many scary and dangerous car chases, shoot-outs, and kicking/punching fights. Many characters are injured or killed. Crotch injuries are played for humor. The movie includes mild sexual references, a sexual situation, brief nudity, and someone giving “the finger.” There are references to a cocaine cartel and to bioterrorism.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Frank decides what he will and will not do. Why didn’t he work with the police? Why are he and Tarconi friends?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original The Transporter and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and The Professional (both very violent).

G

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

Audacious, ambitious, and provocative but uneven and ultimately unsatisfying, this long-delayed film adapts F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of class, love, and power, The Great Gatsby, to the present. Instead of Jay Gatsby, the gangster who can’t forget the girl he lost, we have Summer G, the gangsta, the head of a successful hip-hop recording label.

Richard T. Jones is commanding as Summer G, whose college romance with Skye (Chenoa Maxwell) ended when she married Chip Hightower (Blair Underwood), heir to a publishing dynasty. He has taken a house in the Hamptons not far from where the Hightowers have a home.

When Skye’s cousin Tre (Andre Royo) comes to interview Summer G, Chip asks him to cover for him so that he can see his girlfriend without Skye’s finding out. Tre refuses, until Chip reminds him that the magazine Tre works for is owned by Chip’s father.

Summer G then puts the same kind of pressure on Tre. He will not cooperate with the interview unless Tre helps him see Skye. Again, Tre refuses at first, then reluctantly agrees.

Summer G’s recording artists are staying with him. One who has not had a hit for a while becomes increasingly dependent on his girlfriend, who goes away for what she says will be just a few days and then stops returning his calls. Another becomes bitter and manipulative when she believes Summer G is not giving her the chance she deserves.

The Fitzgerald novel has plenty of material for an update that raises some contemporary issues of race and class and culture, but this film falters and misses the point and butchers the metaphors, turning a brilliant story into a soapy love triangle.

Jones has a commanding presence and Underwood does what he can with a cardboard cad of a character. But Royo is weak and Maxwell is hopelessly bad and the uneven, bumpy narrative and long delay between completion and release support the rumor that the movie has been recut following unssuccessful test screenings. Fitzgerald famously placed a green light on the dock in this novel. This review is intended to place a red light on any plan to see this film.

Parents should know that this movie has extremely strong language (including the n-word), drinking, smoking, drug references, sexual references and situations, and violence, including guns, with characters injured and killed.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Skye decided to stay with Chip instead of Summer G and how the movie differs from the original book.

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy the earlier film versions of “The Great Gatsby,” especially the with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow and a television miniseries.

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