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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 2014

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Sabotage
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

Minority Report

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

It is fifty years from now, in Washington, D.C., where familiar landmarks like the Washington Monument are surrounded by vertical highways and where computers in The Gap not only recognize you when you walk in the door but remember what you bought the last time you were there.

John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is a top detective in an experimental “pre-crime” unit. An experimental program wires the brains of genetically altered “precogs” (short for “precognition”) to computers that display their glimpses of the future. Anderton stands before the display like he is conducting a symphony and directs the images so that he can find the perpetrators before they kill. There is no way to know if everyone who is arrested under this program would in fact have become a murderer, but the fact is that since the program has been in place, there has not been a single murder in Washington. It has been so successful that it may be expanded to the whole country.

Anderton only feels alive when he is stopping a crime. When he is not at work, he numbs himself with drugs and watches his old home movies. He was so devastated by the abduction and probable murder of his son that his marriage fell apart. The only feeling he allows himself to feel is the satisfaction that he is sparing others from the agonizing pain that he has suffered. And then the precogs’ next vision identifies Anderton himself as the next killer. He has to run, and as he is running he has to figure out how you prove that you are not going to commit murder.

As with Blade Runner, also based on a story by Philip K. Dick, this is a very traditional noir-ish detective plot set in an ominous future where the apparent ease created by technology has overtaken human individuality. How much privacy and justice would you be willing to give up to bring the murder rate down to zero? Anderton finds that it is less than he thought.

The three precogs are named for mystery novel greats: Agatha, Arthur, and Dashiell (for Christie, Conan Doyle, and Hammett). They turn out to be the result of an experiment that went wrong. The most striking scene in the movie is Alderton’s meeting with the scientist who created them (a brilliant performance by Lois Smith). This is yet another tradition of movies – and before movies, fairy tales and sagas, as the hero makes a journey through thickets of plants to the isolated home of the wise person who will give him the answers he needs to help him solve the mystery. These creatures who can predict the future were ironically the product of a scientist who never anticipated the direction her experiment would take. Like Odin, Anderton must give up his eyes to find wisdom; it is only when he literally sees through someone else’s eyes that he can understand what he is seeing.

The movie is visually stunning, with brilliantly staged action sequences and vividly realized characters. Colin Farrell is mesmerizing as Anderton’s rival and Ingmar Bergman star Max von Sydow brings great depth to his role as Anderton’s boss.

Parents should know that the movie has some graphic violence, including sci-fi shooting, fist-fights, brutal and graphic murders, and suicides. Anderton abuses illegal drugs. We see a flashback of his son’s abduction. The movie also has some gross and grisly visuals, particularly when Anderton has his eyes replaced as a way of avoiding the retinal scans that the police use to track everyone’s whereabouts.

Families who see this movie should talk about how it relates to the challenges our FBI and CIA are facing right now in interrogating and imprisoning possible terrorists. Is it worth violating the rights of some innocent people in order to prevent another terrorist attack? How would Anderton answer that question at the beginning of the movie, and how would he answer it at the end? What about the rights of the precogs? Is it fair to ask them to give up any kind of normal life if it will prevent people from being killed? Families should also talk about Anderton’s inability to come to terms with the loss of his son. How do people go on after devastating losses? And they should talk about their own notions of what life will be like half a century from now.

Families who enjoy this movie might like to take a look at Spielberg’s other movie about the future, A.I. Critics and audiences were not enthusiastic about this collaboration with Stanley Kubrick (“2001″), but it makes an interesting companion piece to “Minority Report.” Families will enjoy Spielberg’s more successful movies about contact with extraterrestrials Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. They may also want to try Blade Runner.

Men in Black II

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2002

The original Men in Black (1997) is one of my all-time favorite movies, just for originality and sheer attitude. Director Barry Sonnenfeld, production designer Bo Welch, and stars Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, and Vincent D’Onofrio achieved near perfection with a tone that was just off-center and the essence of cool. The story and special effects were perfectly satisfying, but the movie was all about throwaway lines like “Now I’m going to have to buy the white album again” and “We’re not hosting an intergalactic kegger down here.” I highly recommend the DVD, which has one of the best packages of extras I have ever seen, especially the commentary from Jones and Sonnenfeld.

The sequel has flickers of the original spirit, but it is like a fifth generation photocopy, a blurry reproduction rather than a re-imagined original.

Sonnenfeld, Welch, Jones, and Smith return, along with MiB1’s Rip Torn and Tony Shaloub, but the movie squanders our pleasure at seeing favorite characters return and then makes things worse when the additions and new characters are not up to their level. Worst of all, the underlying story line is lackluster, with plot holes and a brief running time that suggest that we may get a lot of deleted scenes on the DVD.

At the end of MiB1, agent J (Smith) erases the memories of his partner, K (Jones), so that he can return to a normal life. But as MiB2 begins, a scary-looking alien (disguised, of course, as a Victoria’s Secret model and played by Lara Flynn Boyle) returns to earth and only K knows how to deal with her. J has to track K down (he works for a post office in Massachusetts), un-erase his memory, and work with him to save the planet from the scum of the universe.

Along the way, they meet up with a variety of characters, both alien (a subway-swallowing serpentish thing named Jeff and the cutest little furry guys since Dr. Seuss) and human (the very lovely Rosario Dawson). The talking dog and smart-alecky worm guys from MiB1 are back with more screen time as well.

Parents should know that the PG-13 rating is for intense peril, graphic violence (comic-book-style), some gross-out special effects, and some vulgar humor, including a sight gag about kneeing an alien’s most vulnerable spot. Some viewers will find the resolution of the story unsettling.

Families who see this movie should talk about what they think creatures from other planets might be like, and why the way we think about them tells us more about us than it does about them. Why doesn’t J want to erase Rita’s memory? Why is it important to find someone you can tell your real feelings to?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the original and director Sonnenfeld’s Addams Family Values.

Mary Poppins

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:G
Movie Release Date:1964
DVD Release Date:December 09, 2013

marypoppins5In honor of the upcoming “Saving Mr. Banks” and the 50th anniversary of the original film, Disney is releasing a superclifragilisticexplialidocious new edition of Mary Poppins.

Based on books by P.L. Travers (whose reluctance to allow a film to be made is the subject of “Saving Mr. Banks,” the film switches the 1930′s-era setting to the more picturesque London of 1910, where the Banks family has a loving, if rather chaotic, household. A nanny has just stormed out, fed up with the “incorrigible” children, Jane and Michael. Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) writes an ad for a new nanny and the children compose their own, which he tears up and throws into the fireplace. The pieces fly up the chimney, where they reassemble for Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews), who is sitting on a cloud. The next day, a great wind blows away all of the nannies waiting to be interviewed, as Mary floats down.

Somehow, she has a mended copy of the qualifications written by the children that Mr. Banks tore up and threw into the fireplace.  To the children’s astonishment, she slides up the banister.Out of her magically capacious carpetbag she takes out a tape measure to determine the measure of the children (“stubborn and suspicious” and “prone to giggling and not tidying up”) and her own (“practically perfect in every way”).  She directs them to clean up the nursery, and shows them how to make it into a game (“A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down”). Once it is clean, they go out for a walk, and they meet Mary Poppins’ friend Bert (Dick Van Dyke) drawing chalk pictures on the sidewalk. They hop into the picture and have a lovely time, or, rather, a “Jolly Holiday” in a mixture of live-action and animation that has Bert dancing with carousel horses and penguins.

Mary-Poppins-RooftopMary takes the children ato see her Uncle Arthur (Ed Wynn), who floats up to the ceiling when he laughs, and they find this delightfully buoyant condition is catching. Later, Mr. Banks takes the children to the bank where he works, and Michael embarasses him by refusing to deposit his tuppence because he wants to use it to buy crumbs to feed the birds. There is a misunderstanding, and this starts a run on the bank, with everyone taking out their money. Mr. Banks is fired.

Mr. Banks realizes that he has been too rigid and demanding. He invites the children to fly a kite with him. Mrs. Banks realizes that in working for the vote for women, she had neglected the children. Her work done, Mary Poppins says goodbye, and floats away.

YouTube Preview Image

This sumptuous production deserved its many awards (including Oscars for Andrews and for “Chim Chimeree” as best song) and its enormous box office. It is fresh and imaginative, and the performances are outstanding. (Watch the credits carefully to see that Van Dyke also plays the rubber-limbed Mr. Dawes.) The “jolly holiday” sequence, featuring the live-action characters interacting with animated ones, is superb, especially Van Dyke’s dance with the penguin waiters.

The resolution may grate a bit for today’s families with two working parents, but the real lesson is that parents should take time to enjoy their children, not that they should forego all other interests and responsibilities to spend all of their time with them.

Family discussion:  If you were writing a job notice for a nanny, what would it include?  Which of the children’s adventures did you most enjoy and why?

If you like this, try: books by P.L. Travers and the documentary about this film’s Oscar-winning song-writers, The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story. And go fly a kite!

Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat

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

Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat is a personal, autobiographical stand-up act from Martin Lawrence that should please his fans.

Runteldat is a live comedy concert that opens with reels of newsmen talking about Lawrence’s tumultuous last few years, including his arrest for disturbing the peace and his collapse and subsequent coma while jogging on the hottest day of the year. Lawrence gives a voiceover monologue about the struggles both in his life and on the job as a stand-up comedian and we see him backstage calmly preparing himself to deliver his act to an enthusiastic Washington DC audience. When he gets to the show, he gives his notoriously raunchy act and has his fans in stitches, but also finds time to take a comedic but responsible look at his life. By the end of the show, even those turned off by his dialogue will be impressed by what he’s learned.

Martin Lawrence is undeniably gifted, and always shines even when his material doesn’t. He’s better off here than in some of his recent movies, as he just gets a chance to make us laugh rather than having to worry about a plot. The movie title comes from his life being a topic for public discussion and speculation (“Guess what Martin just did, run n’ tell dat”) and he doesn’t hesitate to tell his side of the story. His language, as well as his takes on sex and race, are filthier than all four comics in The Original Kings of Comedy but he’s always likeable and relatively unegotistical, making this film a real treat for fans of stand-up comedy.

Parents should know that this film has more coarse language than anything else you are likely to see all year, and anyone who has been offended by his previous acts, from You So Crazy! to Def Comedy Jam should skip this one. He avoids being sexist or racist himself, and addresses both topics extensively. Interestingly, his only references to drugs and alcohol are commenting on what an ass he made of himself when he had too much of either.

Martin consistently brings up the theme of living life to its fullest. Families can discuss the risks and rewards of working as hard as Lawrence does (he talks about stand-up being one of the hardest things anyone can do) and getting as far as he has if that means embarrassing oneself with substance abuse and having his private life in the public eye.

Anyone who enjoys Martin Lawrence Live should check out the aforementioned stand-up concert films as well as Martin’s best, Bad Boys and Blue Streak.

Previous Posts

Lucy
I always enjoy Luc Besson's stylish car chases and shootouts. I like his use of locations, his strong female characters, and unexpected flashes of sentiment in the midst of mayhem.  While

posted 6:00:51pm Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

And So It Goes
A second marriage is, as Samuel Johnson famously said, "The triumph of hope over experience." And as lyricist Sammy Cahn wrote in the song Bing Crosby sang in "H

posted 6:00:13pm Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

The Memory Book -- This Saturday on the Hallmark Channel
A budding, young photographer stumbles upon an old photo album chronicling the ideal romance of a happy couple. Intrigued by their love and unable to find her own “true love,” she sets out to find the couple and figure out if true love really exists.  The film stars Meghan Ory (“Once Upon a T

posted 8:00:57am Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Michael Rossato-Bennett of "Alive Inside"
Michael Rossato-Bennett agreed to spend one day filming Dan Cohen's remarkable music therapy work with people struggling with dementia. He ended up spending three years there and the result is "Alive Inside," an extraordinary documentary about the power of music to reach the human spirit, even when

posted 3:58:01pm Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Movies' Greatest Mirror Scenes
Anne Billson has a great piece in The Telegraph on mirror scenes in movies, from the Marx brothers clowning in "Duck Soup" and the shootout in "The Lady from Shanghai" to Elizabeth Taylor scrawling on the mirror with lipstick in "Butterfield 8." [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKTT-sy0aLg

posted 8:00:51am Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »


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