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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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

Just Like Heaven

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

Many romantic comedies have a Sleeping Beauty theme, but few as literally as this by-the-book but enjoyable trifle.

Elizabeth (Reese Witherspoon) is a dedicated doctor who has no life outside the hospital. One night her car is hit by a truck. The next thing she knows, some man is in her apartment. She does not realize that three months have gone by, her apartment has been sublet, and that no one can see her but her new tenant, a sad and lonely man named David (Mark Ruffalo).

David tries everything to get rid of what appears to be a ghost, from urging her to “walk into the light” to bringing in a priest and consulting an expert in the occult (Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder).

As Elizabeth and David try to find out who she is and what is going on, they both realize that neither one has been fully alive. Each must find a way to rescue the other to find a way for them to be together.

Witherspoon and Ruffalo are so good that they make old formulas seem fresh. Both are actors who fully inhabit their characters, both handle comedy, romance, and drama with equal skill (a quiet scene about a sad loss is beautifully done), and both bring a little movie star magic to every scene. Heder’s character is like a slightly stoned version of Napoleon Dynamite, but it is worth it just to hear the way he says “cola.” Not quite heaven-sent — there are no surprises here and every bit of it is overly careful, including the too on-the-nose songs on the soundtrack — but it moves along sweetly and has a nice combination of froth and tenderness.

Parents should know that the movie has some crude language, someone giving “the finger,” brief non-sexual (comic) nudity, and some sexual references. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of a man who turns down a beautiful and willing woman who offers him sex because it would interfere with the relationship he hopes to have with someone else. Characters drink, including excessive drinking to numb pain and a description of drinking a lot of Margaritas as being fun. A character punches another in the nose and there are tense scenes. Some viewers may be disturbed by the question of “pulling the plug.” While it is certainly a good idea to have a balanced life, for a moment this movie seems to suggest that failing and getting drunk are better than working hard and making a contribution. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of characters of different races who treat each other with respect and affection.

Families who see this movie should talk about their own end of life wishes. They should also talk about how we can achieve a balance between working for the future and taking time to appreciate the present. What dream for the future can you start making come true today?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy All of Me, Beatlejuice, Ghost, Topper (with a very young Cary Grant), and Here Comes Mr. Jordan and the remake Heaven Can Wait.

Proof

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

People often speak of “opening up” a play when it is made into a movie. In one sense the Tony- and Pulitzer-prize winning Broadway production of “Proof” has been opened up. Instead of entirely taking place at one house near the University of Chicago, this story about a young woman who doubts her own sanity after caring for her brilliant but mentally ill father has scenes at a chic downtown clothing store, Northwestern University, O’Hare airport, and the University’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

But the play is never “opened up” the way it should be. In all likelihood because it has been so acclaimed, it has been transferred to screen as though it was antique porcelain packed in bubblewrap, each line perfectly preserved and perfectly delivered. But it’s more like watching a documentary about an acting master class than like watching the story of these four people. Plays are about talk, but movies are about showing. Director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) has transferred his London production to the screen instead of reimagining the way the story should be told on film.

That is especially damaging to this particular story because it does not have the depth to overcome the stuffy quality of its presentation. The characters and the situation engage our attention because they are smart people confronting painful choices, but the whole thing is more smart than wise, and the stagey, Serious-Play-Treatment and artificial talkiness of it just makes that more obvious.

Gwyneth Paltrow plays Catherine, the devoted daughter of a brilliant mathematician (Anthony Hopkins) who produced important work in his early 20’s but became mentally ill in the last years before his death. While her sister Claire (Hope Davis) has had an independent life, working on Wall Street and becoming engaged, Catherine dropped out of school to care for her father.

The stress of that situation is devastating. Catherine must struggle with the reversal of the parent-child relationship, of seeing a brilliant mind deteriorate, of being removed from interaction with the rest of the world, and, perhaps most unsettling of all, the fear that she may have inherited her father’s mental illness as well as his genius — the fear that the two are as inextricably linked as Catherine and her father are themselves. Catherine misses her father terribly but she is also relieved that he is gone, and horrified to feel that way.

Claire is upbeat and believes in being cheerful and using hair conditioner with jojoba. “It’s a funeral, but we don’t have to be completely grim about it!” she chirps. She wants Catherine to come to New York with her. But Catherine has lost so much and wants to stay in the house. It feels safe and familiar. And she is drawn to Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal), a student of her father’s who is going through the notebooks he scribbled in constantly during his illness, in case there was some flash of lucidity.

One notebook has what appears to be a “proof” of stunning import and insight. But the question of proving who did the proof and whether that should even be necessary is trickier and more ambiguous than the mathematics of prime numbers. And mathematics can only go so far in helping us understand human behavior.

Therefore, it seems especially unfortunate as though form and content are at odds when the movie turns disappointingly formulaic. Powerhouse acting talent and movie star charisma are always striking, involving, even illuminating, but they take us only so far. Paltrow’s impeccably elegant furrowed brow and Hopkins’ megawatt twinkle (with that white beard, he could give Santa a run for the money) and perfectly calibrated disintegration are all just a little too careful, a little too respectful of material that would have benefited from a less antiseptic approach.

Parents should know that while it is rated PG-13, this movie has material that may be disturbing for younger or sensitive audience members, including mental illness, drinking (and getting drunk), and tense emotional confrontations. Characters use some strong language and there is a non-explicit and tender sexual situation.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether it is possible to say which daughter was “right” — the one who pursued the opportunities available (and paid the bills) or the one who gave up her own aspirations to care for their sick father. Why was it so hard for Claire and Catherine to communicate? Why was it so hard for Katherine to believe in her own ability? Was it fair for her to expect Hal to believe her without “proof”? Outside of mathematics, how much proof can we expect to find?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy A Beautiful Mind and Pi. They will also enjoy the many other films featuring this brilliant cast, including Shadowlands with Hopkins, October Sky with Gyllenhaal, and Moonlight and Valentino and Great Expectations with Paltrow.

The Thing About My Folks

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

You never know.”

What does that mean? Of course you never know, but why would someone adopt that as an all-purpose rejoinder?

Writer/producer/actor Paul Reiser has a good feel for the way families talk to each other, especially the talk that goes around the subject the long way rather than addressing it directly. The subjects here are the ones families find hardest to talk about, the ones

Parents should know that this movie has some very strong material for a PG-13 (and that it will be unlikely to be of interest to teenagers anyway). It has some very strong language, bathroom humor, some frank sexual references (including a father and son talking about the parents’ sex life and some objectifying treatment of pretty young women), drinking (and drinking too much), smoking, a fight (characters hit in the crotch), and sad scenes of illness and death.

Families who see this movie should talk about what Ben learned from his father and his mother. Why was it hard for him to hear what his wife was telling him about the house in the country? What did Sam learn from Ben? One of the movie’s most important lessons is that it is never too late to resolve old issues. And another is that even though our families drive us crazy and are never all we want them to be, they are still the most precious thing we have.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy others on this theme, including Memories of me (Billy Crystal and Alan King), Nothing in Common (Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason), Dad (Ted Danson and Jack Lemmon), the current King of the Corner (Peter Riegert and Eli Wallach), and I Never Sang for my Father (Gene Hackman and Melvin Douglas). They will also appreciate Reiser’s fine television work in “Mad About You” and Falk’s in “Columbo.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2005

There are so many reasons to love writer-director Nick Park’s dim, gentle, cheese-loving inventor Wallace and his patient, practical, and loyal dog, Gromit. First, they are brilliant at every kind of funny, from sophisticated wit to sly parody to outrageous puns, to this-is-what-pause-buttons-on-DVD-players-are-made for detail and fall-down, lose-the-toupee farce. Second, their adventures are hilarious and genuinely exciting. And third, W&G themselves and their world are more alive and expressive and endearing than most “real life” human actors filming on “real life” locations. (Did I forget to mention that they are made out of clay and their movies are filmed in painstaking one-frame-at-a-time, one-or-two-seconds-a-day stop motion photography?)

Perhaps the best reason to love them is that they are irresistibly quirky, completely un-focus grouped, the plot never driven by product placement or marketing synergies (though the new movie does have some fast food and other tie-ins). In an era of loud, homogenized, generic, undistinguished and indistinguishable films, and CGI perfection, this is unquestionably the work of one adorably demented sensibility, with an engagingly handmade feel. It has a cheerfully, sometimes opaque, understated Britishness that doesn’t really translate (though they did redub one word — what are called “marrows” in England are referred to as “melons” in this release). And it has wildly funny tributes to a range of classic movies. It is fabulously funny, endlessly inventive, and utterly charming.

In three short films (two won Oscars; the third was nominated but lost to another one of Park’s movies), Wallace and Gromit have gone to the moon (in search of cheese, of course), rented a room to a diabolical jewel thief who happens to be a penguin, and outsmarted a sheep-rustling dog. Wallace creates remarkable contraptions (like dog-walking automatic pants) that work very well (his rocket does take them to the moon), but always create terrible problems and only Gromit can save the day. He’s a bit like a middle-class Jeeves to Wallace’s Bertie.

In their first full-length feature, Wallace and Gromit have a successful humane pest-control business serving the local gardeners, who have the very British passion for both vegetable-growing. Just about everyone in town is growing something to enter into the upcoming competition, so the prospect of a rabbit invasion is frenzy-making all around.

Fortunately, Wallace and Gromit and their company, Anti-Pesto, are on the case. At any hour of the day or night, if a rabbit appears in a garden, an alarm goes off and our heroes, using Wallace’s inventions, are almost-instantly on the job. Moments later, the rabbits are humanely extracted via Wallace’s invention. The tender-hearted W&G end up taking them all home and feeding them. The customers are very happy, especially Lady Campanula Tottington (voice of Helena Bonham Carter). But her suitor, Victor Quartermaine (voice of Ralph Fiennes), is furious and jealous. He wants to hunt the rabbits. And he wants to marry Lady Tottington.

Wallace decides that if he comes up with a machine to brainwash the bunnies so that they don’t want to eat veggies anymore, that will solve all their problems. Unfortunately, there’s a disturbance and things don’t go exactly the way Wallace planned and soon a terrifying, vegetable-loving creature is causing “califlower carnage.”

The feature length suits Wallace and Gromit perfectly. The new characters are brilliantly imagined, especially Lady Tottington and Quartermaine who both sport a W&G first — lips. Bonham Carter and Fiennes, clearly enjoying themselves, provide silly toff accents that are part Ealing comedy and part Monty Python. The result is hilarious, thrilling, and utterly engaging. If it takes five years to make one of these, I hope they’re already four years into the next one.

Parents should know that although this movie is rated G, some scenes of peril may be too intense for younger children. One character is a hunter who uses guns. There is brief crude humor, including a bare behind.

Families who see this movie should talk about which of Wallace’s inventions they might like to try or what he should make next. And they might like to try to make a claymation film (Park began making films at home when he was 12) or maybe grow their own vegetables!

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Park’s other movies, including A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, and A Close Shave, and the series Creature Comforts. They may also enjoy learning about Rube Goldberg, whose hilariously complicated contraptions would fit right into Wallace’s workshop.

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The Wrecking Crew
Maybe you like Frank Sinatra and your friend likes the Mamas and Papas. Maybe you've argued about who is better, the Beach Boys or Simon and Garfunkel, or maybe you prefer Elvis. Each of those monumen

posted 9:48:37pm Mar. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Home
"Home" is a cute and colorful movie about an alien invasion with an important safety tip concerning one of the most destructive forces in the universe, something devastating to every known life form.

posted 5:59:44pm Mar. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Ebertfest 2015
Passes are on sale for Ebertfest 2015!  I'll be there!  From Chaz Ebert's blog: We are opening with Jean-Luc Godard's silent opus in 3D, "Adieu Au Langage" ("Goodbye To Language"). Some have complained that you were against 3D films, but we know that you were against 3D when it was used onl

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