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Selma
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief strong language
Release Date:
December 25, 2014

 

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

Into the Woods
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material
Release Date:
December 25, 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

Unbroken
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language
Release Date:
December 25, 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

Two for the Money

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

There’s only one possible reason that Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey), a one-time quarterback with a busted knee turned 900-number sportsline win-predictor sticks around after he finds out what is really going on in the big-money sports betting advice, and it’s the same reason we stick around, too. We can’t take our eyes off of Al Pacino as Walter Abrams.

Brandon’s entire life has been sports for as long as he can remember. First it was because he thought if he was really, really good at sports, his father wouldn’t leave. Then, after his father left, it was because of the purity of sports, because it was a place where everything could be made right with just one play, just one score.

But Brandon’s hopes for a professional career ended with the knee injury. He worked the 900-number job in Las Vegas for a while and then one day got a call and an airplane ticket from Walter, offering him a chance at the big time.

Walter and his wife Toni (Rene Russo) introduce Brandon to the finer things in life — $12 bottles of water, thousand dollar suits, four-figure-a-night female companionship, use of the f-word, and a roomy apartment in a brownstone that also houses Walter, Toni, and their 6-year-old daughter and his company’s offices. It’s like a sort of “Real World: High Stakes Gambling” edition.

It’s a Faustian hubris story, with aw-shucks Brandon being transformed by Walter. Brandon gets a new look and even a new name. Betting is illegal in 49 states, but giving people advice on betting is not, and Walter has made a thriving business out of a cable show (Call 1-800-Bet-it!) that, like a drug dealer, gives away the first hit for free, and then pushes the high fliers to go for more.

Walter knows that the agression, testosterone, competitiveness, and impulse control problems of gamblers makes them very susceptible to sales pressure, and he has no qualms about applying pressure to his employees to get them to squeeze the suckers even harder. He even trolls Gamblers Anonymous meetings for those who might be ready to fall off the wagon. “You’re selling the world’s rarest commodity,” he tells Brandon, “certainty in an uncertain world.”

And Walter knows uncertainty. He insists he can beat anyone else’s rotten childhood story with his own. As Toni explains, he belongs to any group with an “Anonymous” at the end of it. The fun of this movie is seeing Pacino dive into the part and hang on for dear life.

That almost makes it possible to ignore the storyline, which zigzags from predictable to inconsistent with a slight detour into makes-no-sense-ville.

Parents should know that the movie has constant use of the f-word and other bad language. The movie includes sexual references (including prostitution and abuse) and an explicit sexual situation with brief nudity. Characters drink and smoke. A character is pushed around and threatened with a gun.

Families who see this movie should talk about what drew Brandon and Walter to each other and what made it hard for them to keep working together.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Boiler Room and On Any Sunday.

In Her Shoes

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

Siblings divide up the world to prove who they are, and the closer they are to each other, the more they depend on each other, the harder they would to stake their claim to being different from each other. In this formulaic but affecting movie, two sisters are connected by — and torn apart by — the way that only the two of them understand what it was like to grow up in their house.

Rose (Toni Collette) is the good girl, the responsible, honor roll daughter, now a very serious lawyer whose romantic encounters are so rare that when we first see her, she is taking a photograph of the man sleeping in her bed as a souvenir. She works all the time and the closest she gets to having fun is spending money on insanely extravagant shoes, which sit neatly lined up in her closet in mint condition.

Her younger sister Maggie (Cameron Diaz) is the mess, nothing neatly lined up about her. She drinks too much, sleeps around too much, and is happy to take what she can get, lifting cash from family members’ sock drawers and smiling at men to get them pick up her bar tab. She gets fired a lot because she is dyslexic. She is afraid people will believe she is stupid. She wonders if they would be right. When her stepmother Sydelle (Candace Azarra) throws Maggie out of the house, all her things stuffed in a trash bag, she moves in with Rose.

Things begin badly and get worse. Maggie takes Rose’s money, messes up her apartment, wears her shoes, and seduces he man Rose is hoping will be her boyfriend. Rose throws Maggie out.

Maggie discovers a hidden drawer of undelivered letters from a grandmother she never knew she had, so she takes the train to Florida to meet her. Ella (Shirley MacLaine) lives in “a retirement community for active seniors.” At first, Maggie is as hostile and unyielding as a sullen teenager. But Ella’s patience and grandmotherly combination of wisdom and unconditional love get Maggie off of the lounge chair by the pool and into scrubs as an attendant at the local assisted living facility. Her sense of accomplishment there, especially her friendship with a blind former professor (Lloyd Nolan) who patiently encourages her to read, help her to find a way to a job that is just right for her.

Meanwhile, Rose is also exploring a different career path, and feeling better about herself allows her to see that there is someone who knew how special she was, even before she did.

The set-up is as heavy-handed as the shoe metaphor, but heartfelt performances, sympathetic direction from Curtis Hansen (L.A. Confidential, 8 Mile), and some sharp writing make up for some soapiness and inconsistency. The very different performing styles of Diaz (star dazzle), Collette (drama school), and MacLaine (old-time Hollywood) help convey the clash of their characters. The supporting cast, especially Nolan, go far to try to overcome the usual stereotyping — perfect boyfriend, adorable oldsters, witchy stepmother. And it has several of what my husband considers the definitive requirement of a chick flick — a big, fat apology. You might not want to walk a mile in these shoes, but for a couple of hours, they fit pretty well.

Parents should know that Maggie is promiscuous and drinks too much. When we first see her, she is drunk and having sex with someone whose name she does not quite know — until she interrupts sho she can throw up. There are sexual references and non-explicit sexual situations. Characters drink and smoke and use some strong language. There are references to mental illness and suicide and there is a sad death.

Families who see this movie should talk about all of the different feelings Rose and Maggie had about each other. What connected them? What drove them apart? How did they compete with each other? How did they help each other? How did their new jobs change the way they felt about themselves? Why did Simon say he could not marry Rose? What did Maggie and Rose find hardest to like about themselves? Families may also want to talk about people like Sydelle — why do they hurt other people’s feelings?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Terms of Endearment (with MacLaine’s Oscar-winning performance), Down in the Delta with Alfre Woodard, and 28 Days with Sandra Bullock. They should also read the poems read by Maggie in the movie, One Art by Elizabeth Bishop and i carry your heart with me by E.E. Cummings.

Domino

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

“Based on a true story.”

“Sort of.”

Domino Harvey was the daughter of British movie star Laurence Harvey (The Manchurian Candidate<img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=nellminowthemovi&l=ur2&o=1" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;"). She grew up in luxurious surroundings, worked as a model, and then became a bounty hunter. She died of a drug overdose a few months before the movie’s release date.

You’d think all of that would be plenty for a movie, but director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Days of Thunder) feels he has to MTV it up with quick cuts, swooping pans, what feels like half the shots either sped up or slowed down and “Three Hours Later”-type titles marching across the screen.

It’s not enough that Domino (Kiera Knightly, about as tough as Bounty Hunter Barbie) and her colleagues break into a trailer after some stolen loot, bringing a severed arm with the combination to the safe on it; the trailer has to have the television on so Domino can see her father and Frank Sinatra in a scene from The Manchurian Candidate.

It’s a lot of sizzle with no steak, all style and attitude but no real energy or flair. Scott is using the same tricks that were tired in his last film, Man on Fire, and what makes us tired, too, is the way he expects us to think it all means something.

There are brief glints of something more, thanks to a script co-written by Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko). The narration explains that the one place everyone has to go through is the DMV, which means that the world is run by “sassy black women.” We meet one of them, Lateesha (Mo’Nique Imes-Jackson) as she is putting the finishing touch on fingernails as intricate as an illuminated manuscript, looking past them at her next customer with infinite contempt. Lateesha (who later identifies herself as a “Blacktina” and as the world’s youngest minority grandmother) will turn out to have more to do with that situation in the trailer with the tv set and the severed arm than we think.

Less successful is the attempt to be searingly provocative about such over-worked topics as our fascination with celebrity (two Beverly Hills 90210 alums either get props for being good sports or are way too desperate for jobs or money).

It’s loud, it goes on too long, it never makes us care about the title character or about what happens to her, and its uneven tone and pacing make the violence seem excessive and distracting and literal overkill. A diversion into reality television would be a complete waste of time except that it includes the two best performances in the movie, from Christopher Walken and Mena Suvari who counterpunch with clever underplaying and make everyone else look even sillier and more shrill. A last minute redemption and reconciliation are insincere and unsupported. The movie is loud and empty, and I don’t mean sort of.

Parents should know that this is a very violent movie, with intense and graphic fighting, gunplay, and explosions. A man’s arm is hacked off and characters are wounded and killed. Characters smoke, drink, and use drugs. They also use very strong language. The film includes nudity and sexual references and situations, porn, a lap dance, and scenes in a strip club.

Families who see this movie should talk about the appeal of the bounty hunter life for a young woman raised in Beverly Hills and about the movie’s perspective on “celebrity.”

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the better Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Get Shorty.

Oliver Twist

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