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Believe Me
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

Tracks
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
Release Date:
June 27, 2014

The Boxtrolls
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Neighbors
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

The Sum of All Fears

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

Part of the magic of movies is the way they make us not just willing – even eager to suspend all kinds of disbelief. It isn’t just that we are willing to believe that Jet Li can knock out a guy with one kick or that Harry Potter can soar through a Quidditch match on his broomstick – we want to. That’s part of what movies are for.

And we have lived through five different actors asking for martinis that are shaken, not stirred, as James Bond – so far. So I don’t think audiences will have any problem accepting the fact that Russia analyst Jack Ryan of the CIA, played by 50-something Harrison Ford in two previous films set in the 1990′s based on Tom Clancy novels (and Alec Baldwin in a third) has now lost some thirty years and turned into Ben Affleck. There may not be much suspense in the love story – we already know who Jack Ryan marries – but that isn’t what the movie is about.

What it is about is a new Russian president. The U.S. is concerned that he is a hard-liner. Ryan believes that he is only trying to sound tough to get the support of hard-liners in the Russian government. U.S. officials get even more concerned when Chechnya is hit with chemical weapons. And then the U.S. is attacked with an atomic bomb and it seems that America’s only choice is to retaliate. It is up to Jack Ryan to save the world.

The movie is ably done, a big time Hollywood production with big time actors (Morgan Freeman as the head of the CIA, James Cromwell as the U.S. President), and big time special effects. Everything is very professional. But as easy as it is to settle back with our popcorn and adjust our notion of a Jack Ryan of the 21st century, there are some parts of the story that are so hard to accept that they seem to violate the covenant between the audience and mainstream movies. There is a level of destruction that might be acceptable in a book but feels excessive to the point of pornography on screen, even more so in an era of suicide bombings and terrorism. The fact that the bad guys in this movie are so much less scary than the ones on the news adds to the sense that the story is more about sensation than about sense. And the ultimate resolution does not feel either ultimate or resolved. Movies like these need interesting villains and satisfying conclusions. Like people who make roller coasters, they need to strike a balance between making us pleasantly dizzy and making us sick. On that scale and at this time, this movie does not work.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of graphic violence and destruction of unimaginable proportions. There is prolonged, intense peril and characters die. Characters use very strong language, drink and smoke. There is a non-graphic sexual situation.

Families who see this movie should talk about how people at any level, from heads of state to siblings, learn to trust one another.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the other Jack Ryan movies (and the other Jack Ryans), especially “The Hunt for Red October” and “Patriot Games.” Two other movies, both made in 1964, dealt with the prospect of an accidental missile attack by the U.S. on Russia and both are worth watching. One is the thoughtful drama “Failsafe” and the other is the unforgettable classic, “Dr. Strangelove.”

The Sixth Sense

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:1999

This is one of the rarest of movie treats, a thinking person’s thriller that is genuinely haunting. You’re lucky if you see a movie that you are still thinking about by the time you reach your car; this one you may find yourself thinking about for days. Its ultimate conclusion is stunning but, in retrospect, inevitable.

Parents should not be misled by the PG-13 rating. This movie is in some ways far scarier than the R-rated “The Blair Witch Project.” Parents should be cautious about allowing children under high school age to attend, and should be prepared to talk to kids about the movie, because even teens may find it upsetting.

Bruce Willis plays Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a gifted therapist who specializes in children. The night he receives an award for his work, a former patient breaks into his house and shoots Dr. Crowe and then himself. Months later, Dr. Crowe is still very shaken. He feels that he cannot communicate with his wife. He is treating just one patient, a boy named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), who reminds him of the patient he believes he failed. Malcolm gradually wins Cole’s trust, and Cole confides that he sees “dead people.” At first, Malcolm thinks this is a symptom of deep psychological disturbance, but then he comes to believe that Cole really does see the spirits of people who have died and he must find a way to make that experience less terrifying for him.

Osment is truly sensational, one of the finest performances ever given by a child. Willis complements him perfectly, and the interaction between the two of them is deeply touching. This movie has some thoughtful and meaningful views on life and death that some viewers may find comforting, and others may find sad or disturbing. The ghosts that Cole sees are of people who died violently and they are gruesome, even shockingly so, in appearance. Some are children, one killed by her own mother. Parents whose children see this movie should talk with them about their views on the afterlife and on the importance of telling those we love what is in our hearts while we can.

Video tip: Teens who like this movie will also like “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” a romantic and highly satisfying story of a young woman trying to cope with the death of her lover.

The Shipping News

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2001

Quoyle (Kevin Spacey) is a huge, almost-silent lump of a man who married the first woman who spoke to him, a selfish good-time girl named Petal (Cate Blanchett). She ignores him and their daughter, Bunny. She spends most of her time out drinking, and when she comes home she brings men back with her. But Bunny and Quoyle love her, and keep hoping that she will love them back.

Petal is killed in a car accident, and Quoyle goes to Newfoundland to stay with his aunt Agniss (Judi Dench). In that cold, desolate place, he learns enough about his past and himself to begin to heal.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Annie Proulx presented a real challenge to filmmakers. Its dense descriptions of crafts and weather do not translate to the screen. The real action in the story goes on inside the undemonstrative Quoyle, and only an actor of extraordinary range and power could communicate that to a movie audience.

Screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs (nominated for an Oscar for last year’s “Chocolat”) and director Lasse Halleström (“Chocolat” and “The Cider House Rules”) have done a masterful job of adapting the story, with cinematic equivalents for some of the book’s best prose. Kevin Spacey, one of the most brilliant actors ever to appear in movies, provides Quoyle with emotional eloquence, even when he does not speak. Every performance is jewel-like, including Judi Dench as Agniss, Cate Blanchett as Petal, Julianne Moore as Wavey (Proulx is a little cutesy with names), Bunny’s teacher who befriends Quoyle, Scott Glenn as Quoyle’s boss, and, incredibly, triplets who together play the part of Bunny.

Parents should know that the movie has some mature material, including references to homosexuality, adultery, rape, and incest. Petal is selfish. cruel, and promiscuous. There are images of dead bodies, one separated from the head. Characters drink and smoke. When some characters get drunk, they destroy property and one embarrasses himself by behaving badly to someone he cares about.

Families who see this movie should talk about why some families seem to be trapped by their history. Why was kindness so hard to come by in Quoyle’s family? Why did Tert become so angry at Quoyle? Who in the movie finds it hard to talk about feelings? Why? What made Quoyle begin to think that he could change things for himself and Bunny? How did the lesson about headlines make Quoyle think differently? What would be your headline today? Quoyle learns that every boat has a story. Is that true about cars? Houses? Families? Anything else? What does water symbolize in the movie? The weather? Where is the beating heart at the center of your story?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Halleström’s The Cider House Rules and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. They may also want to try My Life as a Dog (subtitled).

The Scorpion King

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

Some very scary looking guys are about to kill a guy who would be even scarier-looking if he wasn’t tied up. But then everyone steps back in awe of a guy who steps in looking scariest of all and as they hesitate, he cocks an eyebrow and says simply, “Boo.” That is the Rock (WWF star Dwayne Johnson) and he plays the title role in this prequel to the “Mummy” movies, giving us the background of the character who appeared briefly but memorably in the second one as half-man, half very large bug.

This movie does not pretend to having anything like the wit and charm of the “Mummy” movies, which were a loving tribute to Saturday morning serials. It is produced by Vince McMahon, Chairman of the WWF (and one of its star performers). McMahon has made a fortune making wrestling matches into stories, with vivid characters and dramatic confrontations. “The Scorpion King” just takes it one step further, a three-act wrestling drama with computer graphics. Maybe the next step will be adding arias and turning it into an opera.

On the silly popcorn scale, it works pretty well, largely due to its star. The Rock has genuine screen presence. He even manages most of the material better than Michael Clarke Duncan (“The Green Mile,” “The Whole Nine Yards”) who is just too much of an actor to deliver the cheesy dialogue with the right mix of sincerity and irony, and Peter Facinelli (“Can’t Hardly Wait,” “The Big Kahuna”), whose thin-voiced delivery doesn’t convey the necessary petulant malevolence.

The Rock is the good guy. He has a comical sidekick. No one bothered to give him a name. He is actually listed in the credits as “Comical Sidekick” (Grant Heslov). There is also a bad guy (English accented, of course), evil dictator Memnon (Steven Brand), who relies on a sorceress (Kelly Hu) to guide him in battle. The sorceress is beautiful. You get where this is all going; I don’t have to spell it out.

There is one innovation worth mentioning. In action movies, the hero is almost always stoic, even when he gets hurt. Think of Rambo sewing up his own wounds. But the Rock, carrying over the conventions of professional wrestling, grimaces in pain when he gets hurt. It doesn’t rise to the level of acting, but in a funny way I think that it adds some heart to the story.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of action violence, meaning that it is not too graphic or gory. There are some vivid images, including attacking cobras, an impaled body, and a dead child. And there are very vivid sound effects making on- and off-screen violence more explicit with spurting and squishing sounds. There are sexual references and non-explicit sexual situations, including two women in a man’s bed. There are no four-letter words, but there are some strong epithets.

Families who see this movie should talk about Memnon’s claim that order was better than freedom. They may also want to talk about how the sorceress protected herself from Memnon.

Families who enjoy this movie should watch The Mummy and The Mummy Returns.

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