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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

Heist

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

David Mamet, writer/director of “Heist,” is fascinated by the con. He has written movies about an ordinary person who becomes involved with professional con men (“House of Games”) and about men who sell vacation property by selling a dream to people who cannot afford it. His most recent film was “State and Main,” about people who said and did anything to get their movie made. When one character was accused of lying, he explained it was just “a talent for fiction.” But it may be that the con that interests Mamet most is the story itself, with the storyteller as the con man who spins a yarn so enticing that the listener is utterly captivated.

And it is a pleasure to be captivated by Mamet, the master of tired, tough, talk. The characters in “Heist,” long-time thieves on their last big job, have had everything burned off of them but the coolness at their core. They do not talk to communicate. They talk to test each other and show off in front of each other and sometimes to show off in front of those who don’t get it. Their talk is like their thievery, stripped down, cynical, and clever. It’s like a secret language from Planet Cool and it makes you feel that it just might be worth breaking the law just to be able to speak it. Main character Joe Moore (Gene Hackman) is “so cool that when he sleeps, sheep count him.” His pretty, young wife (Rebecca Pidgeon) “can talk her way out of a sunburn.” And everyone wants money; “That’s why they call it money.”

More archetype than stereotype, the set-up is the veteran with one last big job, the one that will get him out of the business for good. Moore’s fence (Danny DeVito) will not pay off on a jewel robbery unless Moore goes for a gold shipment being held on a plane. If this part sounds familiar, it’s because you just saw the same set-up with Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro in “The Score.” Just as in “The Score,” the fence brings a new young partner into the deal. In this movie, it is Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell), young and arrogant. Will Moore get away with the gold? Will there be double, triple, and quadruple crosses? Is there ever any honor among thieves? It is a treat to explore these questions in such capable hands.

Parents should know that the movie has very strong language, sexual references and situations (including sex used as a bargaining chip), drinking, smoking, robbery, and a very violent shoot-out.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether it is possible to be loyal to people who are professional betrayers. Are there any good guys in this movie? How can you tell?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy seeing Hackman, DeVito, and Lindo working together in Get Shorty and some of Mamet’s other movies, including Glengarry Glen Ross and State and Main.

Hearts in Atlantis

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

If you’re allergic to the kind of movie that starts with a funeral and then goes into a flashback about a sensitive kid’s last childhood summer, then stay away. But audiences with an appreciation or even a tolerance of this genre will find this to be above average. It is based on a story by Stephen King. There is some tension and an element of the supernatural, but this is King’s coming of age mode (“Stand By Me”) and contact with an extraordinary character mode (“The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile”), not a horror movie.

It is summertime, and Billy has just turned 11. His mother’s birthday gift is not the bicycle he dreams of but an adult library card. She is quick to remind him that they have very little money, since Billy’s father died leaving them with unpaid bills and no insurance. Billy’s friend Carol points out that his mother buys new clothes for herself, but Billy defends her, saying that she has to look good for work.

A stranger comes to live above Billy and his mother. His name is Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins). He hires Billy to read him the newspaper and watch out for “the low men,” who wear hats, drive fancy cars, and leave odd messages in code on telephone poles. Billy thinks Ted is a little loony, but he agrees, at first because he wants to earn money for the bicycle, and then because he is drawn to Ted’s warmth, humor, and even to his strangeness. He begins to see signs of the low men, but he does not tell Ted. He knows that when Ted hears that the low men have come, he will have to leave.

Billy gets a chance to see through Ted’s eyes, which may be weak when it comes to reading but which see important things very clearly. When Billy touches Ted, he gets a little bit of Ted’s ability to somehow “know” things. All of a sudden, in the next room, Billy can tell that what Ted is wondering about is his cigarettes. And a surprised three-card monte shark (well-played by “A Knight’s Tale’s” Alan Tudyk) finds that Billy can tell him where the Queen of Hearts is without even looking at the cards. Even more important, though, is that way that Ted, like all special grown-ups in the lives of children, guides Billy to a new knowledge of himself and the world. Ted helps Billy realize that his friend Carol is more special to him than he thought, that he deserves better treatment from his mother, and that the town bully is not as powerful as he thinks.

Parents should know that there is some strong language, characters are in peril and some are injured, and a character is raped (inexplicit and mostly offscreen). A character is wrongfully accused of molesting a child. A bully who accuses others of being “queer” turns out to be acting on his fears about his own sexuality. Fighting back is portrayed as heroic. There are a couple of chaste kisses.

Families who see this movie should talk about the grown-ups who inspired them the most, and might also want to discuss how we decide whom we will trust.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Stand By Me – Special Edition(some mature material).

Heartbreakers

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

William Tensy (Gene Hackman), a chain-smoking tobacco zillionaire, goes into a little rant about the ridiculous notion that second-hand smoke is harmful and turns to blast a cloud of cigarette smoke at his parrot, who immediately keels over. If only the second-hand comedy in this movie was as powerful. It is clear that the dream cast members are all enjoying themselves immensely, but that does not translate into much fun for the audience.

Sigourney Weaver plays Max, a con woman who marries wealthy men, denies them sex, and then sues them for divorce when they make a pass at her partner, Page (Jennifer Love Hewitt), who is also her daughter. Weaver and Hewitt are at their most delectable in outfits that Erin Brockovich could only dream of. If there were ever an Oscar for cleavage, this movie would be the one to beat.

After they take New Jersey chop shop owner Dean (Ray Liotta), Page is restless and wants to go off on her own. When they run into a little problem with the IRS, they agree to take on one last big con together and head off for Palm Beach. Max wants to go after Tensy, but Page is drawn to a sweet bartender named Jack (Jason Lee) who owns some land worth $3 million. Max’s challenges include a ferocious guard dog of a housekeeper (“Saturday Night Live’s” Nora Dunn), and Tensy’s constant coughing and terrible tobacco-stained teeth. Page’s challenge is keeping her plan secret from her mother and keeping herself from falling in love with Jack.

It isn’t a terrible movie, but it just does not work very well. We like the characters too much to enjoy their greedy behavior but we do not like them enough to care whether they end up happily. Max and Page are awful to just about everyone and have no sense that their behavior hurts other people. They are selfish and amoral, operating entirely out of expediency with no thought for the consequences for themselves or others. The script tries to make us believe that this is all because Max is trying to protect Page from being hurt, but that is a con job that we just don’t fall for. And despite a few con-job twists, the script is just weak and unoriginal. In real life, these con women would not fool Forrest Gump. Can it possibly be true that this is the second movie in two months to have a supposedly funny scene in which the genitals are knocked off of a nude male statue? This one is even less funny than the one in “The Wedding Planner.”

Aside from the cleavage already mentioned, the best reason to watch the movie is to see Weaver and Hewitt doing their bombshell best and Hackman’s odious performance as the mark who just might not be worth marrying to get $20 million.

Parents should know that this is yet another example of the MPAA’s comedy rule, meaning that material that would get an R rating in a drama gets a PG-13 rating because it is supposed to be funny. The movie contains continual sexual humor that can get very raunchy, including references to group sex. There is no nudity and nothing too graphic onscreen except for the statue. It has very strong language, especially for a PG-13, smoking (comic) and drinking. As noted, the main characters are con women with no concerns about stealing from anyone and everyone.

Families who see the movie should talk about how Max tried to protect Page from hurt, and whether that is wise or even possible. What does it mean to say, “you might as well get hurt in your own healthy ways?” What was it about Jack that made Page think differently about herself and about the possibilities? What do you have to think about the world to be able to rob everyone you meet? Why did it take Page so long to tell Jack her real name, and what did it mean when she did?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy one of the all-time classics, “The Lady Eve,” about a father-daughter team of con artists, and “The Sting” (some mature material), about two con men who take on an even bigger crook for one of the most intricate and satisfying con jobs of all time.

Head Over Heels

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

Amanda Pierce (Monica Potter) is an art restorer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with very bad taste in men. When she comes home to find her current beau in bed with another woman (“This isn’t what it looks like,” he protests), she has to find another apartment. She moves in with four towering fashion models and promptly falls (literally) for Jim Winston (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), the Prince Charming across the street who makes her weak in the knees. One little problem — as she gazes into his window, it appears that he has killed someone. Amanda is caught between fear and longing as the models act as sort of combination Greek chorus members/evil stepsisters/fairy godmothers guiding her to solve both the mystery and the romantic dilemma.

This plot could be played a number of ways from slapstick (think Lucille Ball) to terror (think “Rear Window” or “Gaslight”). The tone this version tries to strike is something like “date movie for teenage girls whose boyfriends love Adam Sandler.” So what we get is some swoony romance, a lot of pratfalls, and intermittent gross-out jokes. For example, not once, but twice the snooty supermodels are trapped in the bathroom to no end of would-be comic chaos. The first time they are hiding out in Jim’s shower while he has a post-pirogi visit to the bathroom. The models get to engage in frantic breath-holding and face-squinching. The second time they are in a restaurant men’s room and listen to two plumbers engage in conversation misperceived as sexual before a toilet explodes. The movie’s first ten minutes include two gay jokes and a crack about menopause, all of which, like the bathroom scenes, miss rising to the level of actually being funny.

The models are good sports and enjoy making fun of their image as vapid gold-diggers. Potter (the wife in “Con Air” and the girlfriend in “Patch Adams”) is pretty and appealing but she has no comic sparkle. The movie needs Meg Ryan or Jenna Elfman (and a better script). What we get instead is a standard-issue blue-eyed blonde with an acting range as narrow as her roommates’ hips. Prinze has real star appeal, but deserves much better than this generic role.

Parents should know that the humor and plot may be juvenile, but the movie is raunchier than many PG-13s, with some very strong and graphic language. When the models do a makeover on Amanda, they tell her to clench her behind and tweak her nipples. Amanda’s lesbian friend grabs her breast. The dog Prinze walks for a neighbor tries to mount Amanda, which is supposed to be funny. There is violence, including an apparent murder and some shooting, but it is not explicit or very threatening. Some parents may also be concerned about the way that the models exploit the men who want to date them and about the foolish chances taken by the characters.

Families who see the movie should talk about why some people make mistakes in trusting the wrong people. They may also want to talk about whether a life devoted to looking beautiful can lead someone to be superficial and self-centered.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Charade” (the perfect combination of thrills and romance) and romantic comedies like “If a Man Answers.”

Previous Posts

Love is Strange
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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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