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The Wrecking Crew
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for language, thematic elements and smoking images
Release Date:
March 27. 2015

 

The Imitation Game
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

Home
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
March 27, 2015

 

Wild
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language
Release Date:
December 5, 2014

Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Secret Ocean 3D
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
March 20, 2015

 

Interstellar
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some intense perilous action and brief strong language
Release Date:
November 7, 2014

The Last Kiss

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for sexuality, nudity and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

A man tells his pregnant girlfriend he will marry her when she can name three couples who have been happy together for more than five years. She offers her parents and “that cute couple from the pond.” He reminds her that ducks don’t count.


Fans of Zach Braff may be disconcerted to see him as Michael, a more complex and unlikeable character than his sweet and adorably lost characters in “Scrubs” and Garden State. But that is a function of his character’s age and situation more than his personality. Michael is 29 years old and his girlfriend is pregnant. The stakes are much higher. Bad decisions will have devastating consequences. And that is what makes it interesting. Although at first it has the feel of a safe romantic comedy-drama, this is not an “almost” story. People inflict great pain on each other, and we don’t get a lot of tidy happy endings.


Michael is an architect who wants to let more air and light into his buildings. He’s feeling a little claustrophobic in his life, too. The pregnancy was unplanned. Now other scary words are coming into the conversation — house, m-m-marriage, c-c-commitment, n-n-n-n-never. That last one refers to when he will get to kiss another girl. Yes, Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) is beautiful, sexy, smart, and devoted. But she is just one woman. Will that be enough for him?


Michael’s old friends don’t present him with any appealing alternatives. One has become a near-stalker of the woman who broke up with him. One is a bartender who parties all the time. One is a new father feeling inadequate and smothered. And his girlfriend’s parents (Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkenson), the ones from the example of long-term relationships, are separated. An appealing alternative is Kim (Rachel Bilson), a music student, whose openness and admiration makes him feel ten years younger. Can you have a mid-life crisis at age 29? Is anything ever as uncomplicated as it seems?


Braff creates a likeable character who makes some unlikeable choices. But none of the ultimate resolutions feel as satsifying as they are intended to, and Kim always seems like a plot device, not a person. She is as imaginary as the Bo Derek character in the similarly-themed 10, but this story, like its main character, fails to give her the consideration she deserves.

Braff, who produced the superb soundtrack for Garden State, delivers another superb selection of heartfelt indie gems. But this time, they are more heartfelt and memorable than the movie they adorn.

Parents should know that this movie has very explicit sexual situations and references and very strong language. Characters drink, sometimes to excess. They make foolish and hurtful choices and there are tense and emotional confrontations.

Families who see this movie should talk about some of the tough choices we make when we grow up and what we do to learn to forgive and heal and move on after terrible and painful mistakes. Who in this film do you respect and why?


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Diner, The Wood, and the grand-daddy of all groping toward grown-up intimacy movies, the Oscar-winning Marty.

The Black Dahlia

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for strong violence, some grisly images, sexual content and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

Director Brian de Palma is all about the look and the mood and paying tribute to the classic old movies he loves. He loves them so much he crawls inside them. He imitates them like an art student sitting in front of an old master at a museum, matching every brushstroke. If his characters capture the audience’s interest or the story makes sense, it’s almost an afterthought or happenstance. This time he takes a famous real-life unsolved murder and makes it a starting point for a murky story of corruption, betrayal, and duality.

One boxer is called fire and one is called ice. One’s name suggests black: Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and one’s suggests white: Leland “Lee” Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart).

But they have a lot in common. Both leave the fight game and become cops. First assigned to fight each other as a publicity stunt, they become partners, and then friends. And they have one more very important thing in common. Bucky likes Lee’s girl Kay (Scarlett Johansson) very much.


Kay’s hair is blonde and her clothes are, too, soft white sweaters and champagne satin peignoir and step-ins. She is the only one who calls Bleichert “Dwight.” She lets him know she is interested, but he is loyal to his friend and partner.


Bleichert is also drawn to a brunette who dresses in black, a spoiled rich girl named Madeleine Linscott (Hillary Swank). She may know something about the shocking murder and mutilation of an aspiring starlet named Elizabeth Scott (Mia Kirshner), another dark-haired woman who loved black.


By the time all of this gets sorted out, the fire and ice cops and the blonde and brunette women will come into contact with every imagineable kind of degredation and corruption and more lives will be destroyed. It’s plenty stylish, with its dusty golden sepia tones, fedoras, and cigarette holders. In a nightclub, k.d. laing croons in a tux. Even the blood splatter and the falling bodies have a twisted elegance. And there are assorted references to film canon masterpieces, especially The Big Sleep, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.


But De Plama losses control of the tone as the story and its characters spin wildly over the top. As we see the dead girl in bits of screen test footage, there is a greater and greater gulf between her natural, heart-breaking performance and the shrill and screechy rest of the film.

Parents should know that this movie has very mature material in every category. There is very graphic and intense violence. Characters injured, mutilated, and killed in brutal boxing match, shoot-outs, knives, punching, and falling. Characters use very strong language, including ethnic slurs. The film includes explicit sexual references and situations, gay and straight, including pornography, references to prostitution, and implied incest.


Families who see this movie should talk about the meaning of the many dualities it includes and how this contemporary re-telling draws on the tropes and conventions of the movies of its era.

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy DePlama’s The Untouchables and the films that inspired this one, including The Big Sleep, The Blue Dahlia, Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, or True Confessions, also inspired by the Black Dahlia murder. Those who are interested in the story might like to read the book or find out more about the real-life Black Dahlia murder that inspired it. There are a number of books and websites that purport to solve the murder, but no one really knows for sure.

Everyone’s Hero

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated G
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

The indomitable spirit of Christopher Reeve shines through this little story of a boy who will not give up his quest to retrieve the baseball bat belonging to the greatest player ever, Babe Ruth.


Ten-year-old Yankee Irving (that’s his name) loves baseball, but when he stands at the plate, the kids in the outfield jeer, “Easy out!”


He loves the game and dreams of playing in the major leagues. But he is ready to give up trying to play when he finds a talking baseball (voice of Rob Reiner) in the sandlot. He brings it home and then takes it with him to bring dinner to his father, who works at Yankee Stadium. While he is there, Babe Ruth’s bat Darlin’ is stolen by a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. But Yankee Irving’s father is blamed, and he is fired. Yankee and his talking baseball go out to bring it back home.


They have many adventures and encounters along the way, most notably with a young girl who teaches him to throw a ball. When he tells her he needs to get to Chicago to give the bat to the Babe, she sends him to her baseball player father so he can travel on the team bus, where he gets some lessons about balance and hitting a ball. He finally makes it to Chicago, where he gets a chance to make his grandest dreams come true.


The animation is uninspired, except for a couple of lively moments, most notably a chase scene when Lefty the cheating Cubs pitcher has to dodge a barrage of hazards. And the voice talent adds some warmth and character, especially Whoopi Goldberg as Darlin’ the bat, William H. Macy as Lefty, and the world’s most instantly recognizable “surprise guest star” as the choleric head of the Cubs. The late Dana Reeves is quietly lovely as the voice of Yankee’s mother, and the poignance of her loss as well as her husband’s adds to the movie’s theme of never giving up on dreams.

Parents should know that this movie has some mild schoolyard language and potty jokes. The issue of the segregated Negro League is handled in a respectful, understated way, but parents should be prepared to talk with children about why whites and blacks played on different teams.

Families who see this movie should talk about who in the movie is everyone’s hero? Why? What does it mean that “it’s not the bat, but the batter” and “just keep swinging?” Have you ever had something that made you feel lucky? Why were the bullies so mean to Yankee at the beginning of the movie? What will they be like when he gets home? Families with very young children will want to remind them that in real life children are not allowed to go off without their parents.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Chicken Little and some of the many wonderful films about baseball, especially It Happens Every Spring (a professor becomes an unbeatable pitcher when he invents a chemical to put on the ball that repells wood), Angels in the Outfield (the original is the best version but the remake is pretty good, too), Take Me Out to the Ballgame (with Gene Kelly as a dancing ball-player), Damn Yankees (a Washington Senators fan sells his soul to the devil to beat the Yankees), Rookie of the Year, The Sandlot, and The Rookie. Older audiences should watch Ken Burns’ 9-part series Baseball. They might also like to visit the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

The Protector

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for pervasive strong violence and some sexual content.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

Martial arts actor Tony Jaa’s follow-up to his breakout performance, 2003’s Ong-bak, could be called Kill Bill with a conscience. The violence is so pervasive that viewers can’t help but become increasingly desensitized, and there’s a clear attention to style that results in some brilliant scenes dripping with flair and fashion. But where directors like Quentin Tarantino revel in the
gratuitousness of their films’ guts and gore, Prachya Pinkaew, director of The Protector, seems unwilling to have a bloody mess without a message.


The result, as can be guessed, is a rather conflicted film. Its personality lies somewhere between the story-book
sincerity of The NeverEnding Story and the slash-happy wantonness of Tarantino, resulting in an unclear message and an ambiguous intended
audience (children will identify with the bond between Kham and his elephant, but will likely be disturbed by the violent images and unexpected deaths).


The premise is both absurd and intricate — boiled down, the plot is that Kham (Jaa) follows the thieves who have murdered his father and also stolen his father’s elephant to Australia. With the exception of a few pastoral scenes and the
pivotal moment when the elephant-stealing takes place, most of the film is set in a dark underbelly of Australia, where meetings are held in backrooms and basements and life is corrupt, depraved, and cheap. With Kham’s arrival, this underbelly becomes the backdrop for
a battle between good and evil.


Kham, with his respect for the “old-ways” and his
appreciation of friendship and loyalty, kicks and screams his way
through countless enemies. He’s no less violent than his
counterparts, yet it’s made abundantly clear that he’s fighting
for “honorable” reasons — mainly fighting on behalf of those who
have been wronged and cannot fight for themselves — while the
enemies are unmistakably driven by greed, power, and selfishness.


But let’s face it, this film is not about the plot. It is about the fight scenes. Jaa’s signature is performing without tricks of any kind — no wires, no sped-up cameras, no special effects. He is his own special effect and his ability and speed is astonishing.


Parents should know that this film is exceptionally
violent, and that while some aspects of the plot notably its themes
of friendship, loyalty, and passion — are suitable for young
children, there are many elements of the film that are not.
Characters are killed in unexpected and brutal ways, and violence is
the first resort in conflict resolution. The physical combat
overshadows the relatively mild language, but nudity and sexual images with very
disturbing contexts are strong in some scenes.


Families who see this film should discuss what Kham is
fighting for, and how, although combat and injuring others is
portrayed as “cool,” there are ways of impressing others with
physical strength that make physical injury a last resort. For
daughters and sons interested in martial arts, Parents might suggest
forms that focus on self-defense, confidence and evasion of contact.
Families might also discuss the film’s villains, and talk about what
paths they could have chosen that would have been more virtuous and
rewarding.


Families who enjoy this film might also enjoy Ong-bak,
as well as Jet-Li and Jackie Chan films and the ultra-violent, Tarantino’s films,
notably Kill Bill and Kill Bill 2. For more light-hearted fare, families will enjoy
Stephen Chow’s films, especially Shaolin Soccer.

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