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New in Theaters
  New to DVD

Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity
Release Date:
July 31, 2015

 

Far from the Madding Crowd
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and violence
Release Date:
May 1, 2015

Best of Enemies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
July 31, 2015

 

True Story
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some disturbing material
Release Date:
April 17, 2015

Vacation
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
July 29, 2015

 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some language and suggestive comments
Release Date:
March 6, 2015

New in Theaters

grade:
B+

Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity
Release Date:
July 31, 2015
grade:
B+

Best of Enemies

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
July 31, 2015
grade:
D

Vacation

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Release Date:
July 29, 2015

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New to DVD

pick of the week
grade:
B+

Far from the Madding Crowd

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and violence
Release Date:
May 1, 2015
grade:
B

True Story

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some disturbing material
Release Date:
April 17, 2015
grade:
B+

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Lowest Recommended Age:
High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some language and suggestive comments
Release Date:
March 6, 2015

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Sicko

posted by jmiller
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
Movie Release Date:2007
A-
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
Movie Release Date: 2007

Presenting symptoms: queasiness, fever, hyperventilation, and mood swings.


Diagnosis: You’ve just seen Michael Moore’s latest film, “Sicko.” As the tagline says, “This might hurt a little.”


Moore’s record-breaking documentaries have taken on guns (Bowling for Columbine), the war in Iraq (Fahrenheit 9/11), and General Motors (Roger & Me). This time, he takes on the American health care system, comparing it to nationalized medicine in Canada, England, France, and Cuba.


Moore begins with three devastating cases. A middle-class couple were wiped out by health care costs and have to move into their daughter’s basement storage room, their lives reduced to what can fit into three dresser drawers, their pride and dignity reduced to nothing. A man who sliced off two fingers in an accident is forced to choose reattaching the ring finger for $12,000 vs. the middle finger for $60,000. Another man has to sew up his own wound. This takes just a few minutes. And then Moore tells us that this movie is not about these people, who are uninsured and thus fit into a “them” category for most people who buy tickets to movies. This movie is about “us” — the 250 million Americans who are insured, and the way the health care and insurance industries undermine our physical, financial, and political health.


Moore invited people to share their horror stories and we hear from a woman who was not able to get access to care for a brain tumor, a 79-year-old man who can never retire because he has to work at Pathmark to be able to afford his medications, an emergency ambulance ride that was not covered because it was not pre-approved, a woman who was kicked out of her coverage for not disclosing a pre-existing condition — a minor (and cured) yeast infection, a deaf child who could only get approval for a cochlear implant in one ear, and two people, one a baby, who died because they did not receive treatment.


But the real horror stories come from people within the industry, the insurance executives who explain that the payment of a claim was called “a loss,” that they were told that when they declined a claim they were not denying treatment, just denying funding, the claims adjuster who is first told that the minimum is a ten percent denial rate, then told it has to be higher, and paid a bonus based on how many claims are denied.


If our health care system is diagnosed as pathological, what is the cure? Moore visits facilities in Canada, England, and France. He speaks to Americans who have experienced medical treatment under both systems, including a young single mother who pretends to be Canadian so she can have her child treated across the border.

He traces back the origins of the problem to a moment recorded on Richard Nixon’s White House tapes, as he approves support for legislation creating a private system of Health Maintenance Organizations because “the incentives run the right way” — the less care they give, the more money they make. He shows us politicians lining up for a photo op for the signing of the prescription drug legislation, and gives each of them a dangling box showing the campaign contributions made by the industry. He sympathetically recounts Hillary Clinton’s disastrous attempt to try to create a universal health care system in the US only to see it demolished by a $100 million attack from the industry. He is less sympathetic when he ties her more recent “moderation” of her views to her own lavish campaign contributions. The health care industry employs four lobbyists for every representative on Capitol Hill. Senator Clinton receives its second-largest contributions. After the prescription drug legislation was passed, benefiting — according to Moore — the prescription drug companies more than the patients, 44 congressional aides and one Congressman went to work for the industry.


Moore shows us the shameful way we have denied treatment to the people we called heroes, the rescue workers at Ground Zero after 9/11. Yes, it is a stunt when Moore takes them to Guantanamo Bay to see if they can get the same top-notch medical care the US provides for the prisoners there, the people suspected or proven to have supported the terrorist attacks. And it is a stunt when he sets off in three little boats, like the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, to take them to Cuba, where they receive kindness and medication from the local health professionals. Like the stunt he pulled when he took a bunch of tobacco-related cancer survivors to sing Christmas carols at cigarette companies, it is horrifying and mesmerizing — and guaranteed to raise your temperature, which is the point.


The movie makes three significant contributions. First, though it does not emphasize this point, the film makes it clear that the primary benefit of the other systems is that the incentives promote prevention. A British doctor explains that he gets a bonus based on how many patients he gets to quit smoking, for example. The perverse incentives of our system promote neglect until the problem becomes dire or catastrophic.


The second theme, as in Moore’s previous movies, is the corrupting role that money plays in politics and policy. Moore does not say this, but the cost of campaigns in the United States is vastly in excess of the other countries he visits. Thus, politicians need to raise millions of dollars and thus they are vulnerable to pressure from the people who write checks.


Third and most important is the way this film shifts the burden of proof. Americans take it for granted that everything is better here than anywhere else in the world. But the movie’s statisitics about infant mortality and life span place us far down the list. Moore does not pretend to give both sides of the story. Our infant mortality rate is in part a reflection of our bringing more high-risk pregnancies to term. But Moore lays down the intellectual and moral gauntlet and dares the insurance companies and politicians to respond. The audiences who see this film will be waiting to hear what they have to say.

Parents should know that this movie has themes that may be disturbing, including injuries, illness, and death, including a baby. There is a brief graphic shot of a wound and brief strong language. The focus of the film is on unjust and unkind treatment of people who are sick and poor or middle-class, and one (white) character says she believes her husband would have received better treatment if he had been white. As with all of his movies, Michael Moore makes very provocative statements, often in a humorous way, but some audiences may find them offensive.


Families who see this movie should talk about their good and bad experiences with the health care system. They may want to talk with their health care professionals about their own experiences and what they think we can do better. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the US system? The nationalized health system? Who is in the best position to advocate for improvements? Who is in the best position to obstruct them? Moore is the first to admit that he is not a journalist but an advocate. As with any advocacy, viewers should challenge its assertions and omissions by examining the responses from other perspectives. The most important contribution of movies like this is that they inspire people to find out more and research the facts and the issues to justify their beliefs and positions.


Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Moore’s other films, including Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine, and Fahrenheit 9/11. The John Grisham film The Rainmaker is the story of a lawsuit over the kind of insurance company policies portrayed in this film. Families should look at Michael Moore’s website and at the anti-Moore site Moorewatch, especially its response to Moore’s $12,000 check and the rebuttal film Fahrenhype 9/11. And they should view the films from The Moving Picture Institute, which uses Moore-style tactics and techniques for a conservative take on issues like environmentalism vs. economic development and freedom of speech on college campuses.

Evan Almighty

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for mild rude humor and some peril.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007
B
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild rude humor and some peril.
Movie Release Date: 2007
DVD Release Date: 2007

There isn’t one single surprise in this movie, at least not for anyone who has seen the trailer, except perhaps for its sweetness. Yes, this is another movie about a family that is brought together by an unusual adventure and a dream. What separates it from the interchangeable RV and Deck the Halls multiplex fodder is that somewhere amid all the poop jokes and Davey and Goliath-level piety there is a little glimmer of sincerity.


It us less of a sequel than a spin-off from Bruce Almighty. In that film, God (Morgan Freeman) loaned his powers to a television news correspondent (Jim Carrey), who celebrated by using them to find a great parking space, see a woman’s panties, part the red…soup, and give his girlfriend a bigger chest. He also inflicted a fury of tics and grimaces on his biggest competitor, Evan, a breakout performance by then-newcomer Steve Carell.


Now Evan takes center stage. He has just been elected to Congress, so he packs up his family in his shiny SUV and drives to Washington, all ready to deliver on his campaign promise to “change the world.”


But as they say, when people make plans, God laughs. This time, God (Freeman again) shows up and tells Evan it is time to build an ark. He presents him with a copy of Ark Building for Dummies and a pile of planks from Go-4-wood (gopher wood, get it?). And everywhere he goes he sees Gen 6:14, the Biblical reference to God’s direction to Noah to build an ark.


This is not what Evan had in mind. He is a very meticulous guy who does not like anything messy, uncontrolled, or out of place. He merrily opts for the old growth Brazilian cherry wood for his kitchen and won’t even think of allowing anything so unsanitary as a dog into the house. Evan cares very much what others think of him And he commits Hollywood’s favorite shorthand sin requiring redemption — he lets down his kids by canceling a planned outing.


He uses that time to read through some legislation he has been asked to co-sponsor by big-time power broker and neighbor in the McMansion community, Congressman Long. We know Long is a bad guy because he has the same last name as Huey Long, because he moves Evan into a fancy new office he does not deserve, and because he is played by John Goodman, whose very eye twinkles glitter with corruption.


Evan tries to get along, but it is increasingly more difficult as two of every species begin following him around and his beard becomes first unshaveable and then snowy white. Is he crazy or is that that ark going to come in mighty handy?



The warm likeability and atomic-clock comic timing of Carell, Lauren Graham (television’s Gilmore Girls) as his wife, and Wanda Sykes as his Congressional aide keep it mildly entertaining and its brief running time ensures that it ends before wearing out its welcome. But it is theologically shaky and logically even shakier. Is Evan building the ark out of respect for God’s direction or because God forecloses every other option? Who is feeding and who is cleaning up after all those animals? The ending tries to have it not just both ways, but about four or five different ways. And, speaking of miracles, how did that house go from being under construction to being complete and fully furnished in a matter of hours without a single moving van?

Parents should know that this movie has some crude potty humor, implied comic nudity, and an in-joke reference to Carell’s recent film The 40 Year Old Virgin. There is brief mild language. There is also some peril and mild fanciful violence — no one hurt. Some of the themes (political corruption, family stress, portrayal of God) may be disturbing to some audience members.


Families who see this movie should talk about what Evan meant when he said he wanted to change the world and what God meant when he said “Whatever I do, I do because I love you.” They should read one or more of the Biblical versions of the Noah story. And of course they should all try a little dance.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Bill Cosby’s classic routine about Noah and the George Burns film Oh, God!.

Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for sequences of action violence, some mild language and innuendo.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007
B-
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for sequences of action violence, some mild language and innuendo.
Movie Release Date: 2007
DVD Release Date: 2007

If not exactly meriting the term “fantastic” yet, this second installment is a slight improvement over the “first” film. (“First” is in quotes because there was a legendary 1994 never-released quickie made only to preserve the studio’s rights to the characters.) This is the sequel to the 2005 major release, which spent too much time on the origins of the characters’ superpowers (we get it, they got gamma-rayed and now one can stretch, one can flame and fly, one is invisible, and one looks like he is made of rock and is super-strong). Superhero movies are all about the bad guys, and the 2005 film’s Dr. Doom just didn’t seem very doom-y.


This time, things take off more quickly, Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is less dour and the villain is the Silver Surfer, cooler and more intruiging. The premise is more involving and the action scenes more organic. Dr. Doom shows up, too, but no one pays much attention to him.


The FF are all aflutter as the “wedding of the century” is about to take place. Richards and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) are getting married. They’ve tried three times before and been interrupted by world-in-the-balance emergencies, but this time Reed has promised nothing can get in their way. And you know what that means. Enter, Silver Surfer, looking like a hood ornament made from mercury, creating massive pock-marky round caverns around the globe.


Sue is fretting about a skin break-out on the big day and wondering whether they can ever have a “normal” life, John (Chris Evans) (“Focus testing showed that ‘Johnny’ skewed a little young”) wants so many endorsement deals that their uniforms will look like something from NASCAR, and The Thing (Michael Chiklis) is playing kissy-poo with Alicia (Kerry Washington). Then General Hager (Andre Braugher) shows up to say that the world just might explode if Reed can’t figure out what Silvy is up to and how to stop him.

Time to reschedule for wedding-of-the-century attempt number five.


In 1961, the Fantastic Four shattered superhero traditions. No secret identities. No sidekicks. And most important, no perfection. The Fantastic Four were a deliciously dysfunctional family. They might take their job of saving the world seriously, but they did not take themselves seriously. Their success led to a new generation of angsty, edgy, well, adolescent-y superheroes who have so dominated the genre that the FF seem a little, well, old.


This is in part because it has cardboard dialogue that often sounds like a parody of a 50’s cheapie: “As you may know, there have been recent unusual occurances all over the world.” And when Reed taunts Doom that he is “about to marry the hottest girl on the planet,” he sounds like a 7th grader, not a guy who squints intently at equations with little Greek letters in them all day. The “jokes” are just as weak: “My lips would be sealed if I had them.” We expect more from the “clobberin’ time” guy. And what is the deal with dance numbers in superhero movies this summer? Please, stop.


But when the action comes, it is fun, especially after one of the FF temporarily gets to try on all the powers at once, so he coils around the villain like a python at the same time that pounds him with rocky Thing-fists and goes in and out of visibility and flame. And Silvy turns out to have some depth and complexity (and the voice of Laurence Fishburne) that strengthens the story. It is good to have a PG action film for that most-neglected of audiences, kids who are getting too old for kiddie fare but are still too young for PG-13s. And at this pace, by number 5 or 6, they just might make it all the way to “Fantastic” after all.

Parents should know that a character is incinerated in this film and we see his ashy remains. There is also a reference to torture (offscreen). Other than that, we see mostly “action violence,” with a lot of peril but very few injuries. Characters use brief language (“crap,” “screwed up”) and there is some drinking. There are brief mild sexual references, but the movie makes it clear that what matters is having a committed relationship.


Families who see this movie should talk about why the FF might sometimes want to be “normal.” Which of their superpowers would you most like to have and why? What makes the Silver Surfer change his mind?


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy reading the comics and learning more about Silver Surfer.

Inappropriate Themes in ‘Ratatouille’ and ‘Nancy Drew?’

posted by Nell Minow

Two movies for kids coming out this month devote a significant amount of story-telling time to plot twists involving secret out-of-wedlock children whose fathers were never told that they existed. One is the PG “Nancy Drew” and the other is the G-rated “Ratatouille.” Is there anyone who thinks that this is an appropriate storyline for movies marketed for children? Is there anyone out there who looks forward to questions from a six-year-old about what a DNA test is for or how a father could be surprised to find out that he has a grown-up child or why a mother would want to keep such a secret?
It is not as though either of these is a sensitive treatment of a subject that may be of interest or concern to children living in a world of blended families and reproductive technology. In both cases, they are tossed into the plot more for convenience than for the expression of art or creativity. If the film-makers could not show some effort in designing a plot with more imagination, they could have taken the time to think about finding a plot with more resonance for children.

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