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Love is Strange
Lowest Recommended Age:
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:

 

Adventure Planet
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

 

Blended
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language.
Release Date:
May 23, 2014

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

 

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some scary images and mild peril
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

Grind

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

The press materials for this movie explain that “grind” refers to a particularly spectacular skateboarding move. In my case, it referred to what my teeth were doing as I had to sit through this dumb and boring movie.

What a shame, because I was really up for a good skateboarding movie after last year’s wonderful documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys. But this wasn’t it.

Instead, “Grind” is a complete time-waster about four guys who hit the road in hopes of becoming professional skateboarders, and the characters are all straight from cliche-land. One is the guy with the dream. One is the obnoxious guy who never changes his clothes and talks about sex all the time even though he’s never had it. One is the risk-averse guy who just wants to save all his money for college. And one is the guy with the van who can get any lady he wants just by asking if she wants to make out with him.

They hit the road for all kinds of highly un-funny adventures involving gross-out moments (one of the guys gets barfed on and peed on), and various un-funny hijinks (one gets involved with a girl who steals the van, the guys scam free food and try to scam their way into competition and into getting reviewed for sponsorship), and various un-funny encounters with the otherwise funny Randy Quaid and the never funny Tom Green, all to a pounding soundtrack of mediocre hip-hop music. And then there is the credit sequence out-takes, just as uninteresting and annoying as the movie itself. There are some guest appearances by real skateboarding champs that are fun for fans.

Okay, you might be saying, but what about the skateboarding? Surely that is a sport made for the movies and those scenes make it all worthwhile. I wish, I reply. While there are some terrific stunts, the final skate-off with the arrogant leader of the championship team is filmed without any sense of tension or exhilaration.

Indeed, it is exhilaration that is what is most missing from this movie. You never believe that these guys really love to skateboard; it seems that they just don’t want to do anything else.

Parents should know that the movie has strong language and sexual references and situations for a PG-13. The characters cheat and steal. Characters drink, sometimes to excess. There is a lot of gross humor involving bodily functions. One strong point is the presence of some classy and capable female characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Matt is so hurt by his parents decision and why his behavior toward women is so inconsistent with what he says he wants from them. Why do the guys want sponsorship so badly? Will they behave differently toward other aspiring professionals than the way the current professionals treated them?

Families who enjoy this movie should see the much better Dogtown and Z-Boys and Breaking Away.

The Fighting Temptations

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2003

You may or may not believe that gospel music saves the soul of an out of work advertising executive, but you just might believe that it saves the movie in in “The Fighting Temptations,” and that might be enough to make you say “Amen.”

Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Darren, who goes home to a small Southern town for the first time in many years after his aunt’s death. She leaves him $150,000, provided that he can get her beloved church choir to win a competition.

Darren has spent his life staying far away from the place where his mother was thrown out of the church for singing music that wasn’t considered appropriate. Although he is still bitter and angry, he is also insecure, so unsure of himself that he fabricates a background he thinks makes him more acceptable. He is so eager to be successful that he does not hesitate to come up with a proposed ad campaign that would exploit small-town blacks in order to sell more malt liquor.

But his lies about his qualifications are exposed and he is fired. He owes a great deal of money. That $150,000 is one temptation he cannot resist, especially when he sees a singer named Lilly (Beyonce Knowles of Destiny’s Child) who could not just win the competition but make some of his other dreams come true as well.

There is nothing particularly fresh or distinctive about what happens next. Beyonce Knowles cannot act, but she has a nice presence and a beautiful smile. Cuba Gooding, Jr. can act, but based on the evidence of this movie and several before it, he is chosing not to for the time being. There is some very broad attempted humor, as when they have to bring in a high-voiced convict in chains to sing in the choir. But that music is just plain glorious, especially when Knowles, the O Jays, Melba Moore, Faith Evans, and real-life gospel star Shirley Caesar raise up their voices.

Parents should know that one character is an unwed mother who is shunned by the church. There are some sexual references, including a man who brags about his conquests and asks children if they know he is their daddy and a crude reference to Mary Magdalene. One of the church leaders is exposed as a hypocrite who lied about her husband leaving her. Darren smokes expensive cigars and several characters drink, one to excess in a manner that is intended to be humorous.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether the church should have refused to include Darren’s mother and Lilly. What do you think of the admonition to “beware of brief delight and lasting shame?” What is the best way to help people who have made mistakes? Do you agree that gospel music gives people comfort? Is that its purpose?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Sister Act.

S.W.A.T.

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2003

If this movie was going to be sold in a grocery store, it would be in a plain white box with black letters that say, “GENERIC SUMMER EXPLOSION MOVIE.” It is as predictable as the rhymes in a limerick, but as predictably entertaining as well. There are no surprises in the story, but the action sequences deliver the goods that audiences for this film are there to receive.

The story follows Jim Street (Colin Farrell) and Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner) — the character names taken from the TV show give you an idea of the level of creative inspiration here — Special Weapons and Tactics officers who get into trouble in a hostage situation when Gamble shoots without authorization. They are thrown off of the SWAT squad, and Gamble quits in disgust. Street stays on, willing to serve time in the gun cage and earn his way back onto SWAT. Gamble feels betrayed.

Hondo Harrison (Samuel L. Jackson), a former SWAT commander, is called back into action and assembles a new team, including Street, Deke (LL Cool J), and Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez). We get to see them bond in a generic training montage and pass their big test just in time for the biggest SWAT challenge ever. An international dealer in drugs, weapons, and every sort of generic bad thing has offered a reward of $100 million to anyone who can break him out of jail. This attracts every kind of thug and the ones with no idea about what they are doing are just as big a threat as the ones who do.

It is a shame to assemble a high-powered cast of some of the most talented and charismatic people in Hollywood and then not give them any opportunities to let them show us what they can do. There is nothing distinctive about the characters (they are, yes, generic), despite brief attempts to sketch in some details by showing one with a child, another on a date, and some tender partings when the officers’ beepers go off. All these moments do is make stupifyingly obvious the supposed surprise plot twist half an hour before it occurs. Even more obvious is a “You’re Chris Sanchez?” surprise that the officer played by Rodriguez is a woman; this from someone who is supposed to have selected her by reading through her file.

Parents should know that the movie has extensive action peril and violence (not much blood, not too graphic). Characters are hurt and killed. There are some bad words. There are sexual references and situations, but nothing explicit. A character barfs onscreen. Suicide is portrayed as an honorable choice following disgrace. There is a politically incorrect Polish joke.

Families who see this movie should talk about the choice the captain presented to Street and how he responded. When do you decide not to follow rules or orders? They should also talk about the other alternatives the character who commits suicide might have chosen.

Families who enjoy this movie might like to take a look at the original television series, S.W.A.T. – The Complete First Season, now available on DVD. they will also enjoy The Dirty Dozen and The Magnificent Seven.

Le Divorce

posted by rkumar
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

“Le Divorce” may look and sound like a glossy romantic comedy but it is instead an uneven take on the culture clash between America and France.

Kate Hudson plays Isabel, a California girl arriving in Paris to help her pregnant sister Roxy (Naomi Watts). But just as Isabel arrives, Roxy’s artist husband Charles-Henri (Melvil Poupaud) leaves. So Isabel and Roxy are set adrift in a culture and legal system that is, well, foreign to them.

Both are very drawn to France where, as American expatriate writer Olivia Pace (Glenn Close) says, you could write a book chapter just about the way French women wear their scarves. Isabel, who arrives in California pastels and shell jewelry, is soon exploring French culture just as Americans have done for centuries — she becomes romantically involved. And not with one Frenchman, but two — Olivia Pace’s young assistant and an elegant, distinguished, and wealthy older man who is Charles-Henri’s uncle Edgar (a very dapper Thierry Lhermitte). Edgar is very direct with Isabel, asking her to be his mistress and sending her an Hermes Kelly bag (a very expensive purse).

But Isabel and Roxy do not know how to deal with the subtlety and indirection of the rest of Charles-Henri’s family, led by his mother (Leslie Caron). They serve exquisite meals and make soothing comments, but do not provide any opportunities for Roxy to talk about her situation. Meanwhile, they appear to be plotting to have a painting hanging in Roxy’s apartment declared to be part of the marital assets to be divided in the divorce. Roxy says that the painting belonged to her family, who just loaned it to her for her apartment. But it now appears that the painting might be much more valuable than they had thought, and Charles-Henri’s brother brings in a curator from the Louvre to authenticate it as a Georges de la Tour.

The ambiguity of the painting’s provenance (three different experts come to see it and all have different opinions) and its status as a marital asset parallels the precariousness Roxy and Isabel experience in their relationships. Roxy wants Charles-Henri to stay with her and their daughter and new baby, but he is in love with a Russian woman whose American husband (Matthew Modine) is frantic with grief. Isabel has something of a French makeover through her relationship with Edgar, but it doesn’t quite take — Edgar has to keep reminding her that she is carrying the Kelly bag on the wrong occasions.

All of the performances sparkle and there are some witty and sharply observed moments. But the movie’s own perspective becomes too ambiguous, especially when it veers into a tragedy that throws everything out of balance.

Parents should know that the movie has mature themes, sexual references and situations, including adultery. There is some strong language. And there is an attempted suicide, a character who threatens other characters with a gun, and serious (off-screen) violence.

Families who see this movie should talk about the way the different characters see and react to the same things — for example, the painting, marital fidelity, discussion of sensitive topics. Is that due to differences in culture or to something else?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Amelie.

Previous Posts

Love is Strange
Love is strange.  As this movie opens, a deeply devoted couple of more than three decades wakes up and prepares for a big, important, emotional, happy occasion.  They bicker a little bit, but it is clear to them and to us that these are reassuringly familiar rhythms for them, almost a contrapuntal

posted 5:59:53pm Aug. 28, 2014 | read full post »

See Great Directors -- in TV and Music Videos
Top directors do more than movies.  Take a look at these clips from Emmy-nominated television series and these music videos made by some of the most talented directors working in Hollywood, including Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"), David Fincher ("Fight Club"), and Paul Tho

posted 3:46:47pm Aug. 28, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Daniel Schechter, Writer/Director of "Life of Crime"
Newcomer Daniel Schechter, who wrote one of my favorite neglected gems, The Big Bad Swim, worked with an all-star cast in "Life of Crime," which he adapted from The Switch by Elmore Leonard and directed.  It is set in 1970's Detroit and it is the story of a woman played by Jennifer Aniston who i

posted 3:59:35pm Aug. 27, 2014 | read full post »

The November Man
Pierce Brosnan knows what it is like to play a spy in a big-budget, glamorous, blockbuster. He was the most urbane of Bonds in four movies. He knows what it is to play a seedier spy in a prestige, mildly meta movie, the 2001 film "The Tailor of Panama" (with Daniel Radcliffe in a pre-Potter role). S

posted 10:57:58am Aug. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Trailer: Thunder and the House of Magic
"Thunder and the House of Magic" opens September 5, 2014. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6VKG3lZEIg[/youtube]

posted 8:00:02am Aug. 27, 2014 | read full post »


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