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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

K-19: The Widowmaker

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

It’s a bad sign when a movie can’t make up its mind between two titles and just goes with both of them. In the case of “K-19: The Widowmaker,” that is an accurate indicator of its ambivalent, pretentious, inflated, and heavy-handed tone.

It begins with that dreaded signal of fake profundity, the notice that what we are about to see is “inspired by real events.” That all too often means that we will see a lot of fake human drama around some real-life challenge or turning point.

And what that means in this case is a tired retelling of the submarine movie conventions that we have seen in much better form in movies like “The Hunt for Red October” and even potboilers like “Crimson Tide.”

The setting is the USSR in 1961, at the height of the cold war. “Comrade Captain” Polenin (Liam Neeson) is the honorable and beloved leader of the Navy’s flagship, a zillion-dollar nuclear-powered submarine. Moscow is eager to get it out onto the water, but Polenin says it is not ready. So, he is replaced by taciturn tough guy Captain Vostrikov (Harrison Ford), the kind of officer who fires the ship’s only reactor specialist on the spot and whips out his stopwatch to call simultaneous drills.

Thus, we get some good comrade captain/bad comrade captain moments, the kinds of scenes where someone says “You’re pushing them too hard!” and someone responds by saying that it is the only way to teach them what they are capable of. Then it’s good ship/bad ship, as a perfect test missile firing is followed by a reactor leak that puts not only the ship but the whole world at risk.

If you don’t know what is going to happen when you see one sailor hanging a little white mouse in a cage over his bunk and we see one handsome young officer (played by Peter Sarsgaard of “Boys Don’t Cry) just out of school both (1) extol the wonders of atomic energy and (2) jump off of the truck to the sub to kiss his pretty girlfriend goodbye, then there are plenty of better movies that will give you the answer in a manner that is less ham-handed than this one.

Neeson and Sarsgaard do their best, but Ford, in trying to make his character complex, just makes him muddled. Director Kathryn Bigelow has a marvelous fluidity in maneuvering the camera within the tightly confined spaces, but her gifts are best used with action (as in the under-rated Point Break), not tension, which is what is called for here. The movie effectively conveys the decay of petty bureaucracy, but it is slow and too long. And it has one of the worst uses of music in years, all plinking balalaikas, syrupy strings, and, in the moments of greatest peril, angelic choirs, like a Carol Burnett Show parody of a WWII-era propaganda film. And then there is the old-age make-up in the last scene, which is just silly.

Parents should know that the movie is at the farthest edges of the PG-13 rating, with very graphic and tragic scenes and intense peril. Major characters die. There is drinking (some tipsiness) and smoking. There are also some bare bottoms.

Families who watch this movie will want to talk about many of the choices faced by characters in this movie, including those who knowingly sacrificed their lives – or who ordered others to sacrifice theirs — for their country and for their colleagues. The men on the sub watch propoganda movies about the Klu Klux Klan and other problems in the U.S. How do we know that what we hear about other countries is a fair and accurate picture? They should talk about how people can strike the right balance between insisting on a high standard of performance and making sure they have enough information to make the right decisions. U.S. examples like the Challenger disaster and the corporate corruption of 2002 raise these issues. Families might also want to look into some of the issues raised by the use of nuclear power and the problems of disposing of all of the hardware from the Cold War that gave rise to the acronym MAD for “mutually assured destruction.”

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy The Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide. They may also want to try Das Boot, probably the most vivid depiction ever of the terror submariners live with. For movies about the complexities of command, try “Patton,” “A Few Good Men,” and “The Caine Mutiny.”

Juwanna Mann

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

If you know the premise of this movie, you know the plot and you undoubtedly know the jokes. Here’s the premise: Tootsie on a basketball team. A conceited pro basketball player gets fired, and the only job he can get is on a woman’s team. So, he dresses up like a woman. He’s in for some lessons about life, and we’re in for some locker room humor.

The film was a bit of a surprise, though with a nice spirit and a willingness to avoid the obvious. It’s nowhere near “Some Like it Hot” or “Tootsie,” or even “Mrs. Doubtfire,” but it is better than recent cross-dressing films like “Big Momma’s House” and the abominable “Sorority Boys.”

Jamal Jeffries (Miguel A. Nunez Jr., in his first starring role) is a star basketball player whose bad attitude and poor sportsmanship are constantly getting him in trouble. He is indefinitely suspended after one particular mishap (which, in the real world, could have landed him in jail) and he loses his fake friends as fast as the money he spent so irresponsibly. With his main priority making back some money and playing the game he loves, he takes up his only option, dressing like woman and playing women’s basketball.

Through the women he reluctantly learns to be a supportive team player and falls for the team’s star, Michelle (“Independence Day’s” lovely Vivica A. Fox). Obviously the usual chaos ensues, and Jamal has to learn several lessons to stay on the team as well as maintain his cover. Besides the talented stars, a supporting cast consisting of reliable character actors like Kevin Pollak, Tommy Davidson, and Wayans’ sister Kim, as well as good turns from hip-hop stars Genuwine and Lil’ Kim. The “dude looks like a lady” plot has been done many times before and there’s nothing new here, from the awkward moments with the love interest to the big moment where all is revealed to the men who were hitting on the main character. So the plot is predictable and a lot of the jokes are lazy. Although there were no surprises and some gratuitous stereotypes, I found myself caring about the characters.

Parents should know that this movie has a lot of raunchy humor, mostly revolving around Jamal’s anatomical differences from his teammates, but pretty typical for the increasingly graphic PG-13 rating. Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Tootsie and Some Like it Hot selected by the American Film Institute as the funniest movie ever. They may also want to try a more serious story about romantic relationship between hoops players, Love and Basketball.

I Spy

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

Once upon a time, there was a television show that was genuinely cool. Robert Culp and Bill Cosby played smart, laid-back guys who traveled around to exotic and romantic locations saving the world. Everyone thought they were a tennis player and a coach who didn’t take anything very seriously, but we knew that they were in reality really smart guys who knew all kinds of great stuff and exchanged effortlessly witty wisecracks. The show was also quietly revolutionary. Bill Cosby was not only the first black actor to star in a television drama, but he played a supremely smart and capable spy who could also play tennis. The casual equality of the two leads just a few years after the march on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech was a milestone of the civil rights movement.

Now that television show has been remade as a forgettable buddy movie that feels like a rejected script for “Rush Hour 3.” Eddie Murphy plays an egotistical heavyweight champion who is teamed up with a spy played by Owen Wilson to go after a stolen invisible plane before it is sold to the highest bidder.

Murphy mugs, Wilson pines for his beautiful fellow spy (Famke Janssen), stuff blows up, and the credits roll. This movie is designed to be forgotten before you get the popcorn out of your teeth.

Parents should know that the movie is rough for a PG-13 with some raunchy humor and many knee-to-the-groin scenes.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was so hard for Scott to tell Rachel how he felt.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Rush Hour” and “Shanghai Noon.”

Hey Arnold! The Movie

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2002

“Hey Arnold! The Movie” is as unimaginative as its title and far too long at 74 minutes. Hard core fans of the television series (if there are any) will enjoy seeing the characters on the big screen, but anyone else, particularly those who’ve seen a movie or two, are going to be bored with the characters, the animation, and the utterly predictable chain of events.

“Hey Arnold!” finds its football-headed hero with a heart of gold in a save-the-neighborhood situation. A big bad wolf industrialist named Scheck (voiced by Paul Sorvino) wants to turn Arnold’s happy suburb into a “mall-plex.” Most of the adults reluctantly sell their homes, but Arnold arranges benefits does research on how to save the town, undiscouraged by Scheck’s constant attempts to crush him and the pessimism of everyone else. He eventually finds out about a Boston Tea Party-esque event that occurred in his town during the revolutionary war and works to get the town saved as a historical landmark.

There’s nothing remotely new or exiting about the plot, and nearly all of the situations are annoyingly dumb. Kids may enjoy seeing Arnold save the day, but adults will snooze through it, due to a storyline everyone’s seen before, animation that is below the “Fat Albert” level, and characters that range from uninteresting to unappealing. There are some amusing voice cameos from Jennifer Jason Leigh and Christopher Lloyd, as well as timely references to Men in Black II and The Hulk. And if anyone these days comes close to being Mel Blanc, its Dan Castellaneta (“The Simpsons”), who gives wildly different characters such genuine personality that one would never guess that they come from the same guy. If only those voices had a better script.

Parent should know that “Hey Arnold!” is just violent enough to get a PG rating, but there’s really nothing that most kids over six can’t handle. More disturbing are the stereotyped characters, from Arnold’s best friend/token black kid Gerald to Arnold’s grandparents to a one-legged bus driver.

Families can discuss what exactly it is that keeps Arnold so positive during such stressful times, and why his neighbor Helga (who looks and acts almost exactly like Rugrats’ Angelica) feels the need to hide her crush on Arnold by being mean to him.

Families who like this movie will probably enjoy the other Nickelodeon films, from the animated Rugrats, Doug’s 1st Movie and Jimmy Neutron to the live-action Snow Day and Harriet the Spy.

Previous Posts

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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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