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McFarland USA
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material, some violence and language
Release Date:
February 20, 2015

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

The DUFF
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying
Release Date:
February 20, 2015

 

Foxcatcher
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some drug use and a scene of violence
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content
Release Date:
February 13, 2015

 

Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

The Order

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

Oh, there are so many things wrong with this movie.

First, it is very badly written. The story is not good and the dialogue is not good. It is about a “sin eater” who performs a relic ceremony from a discredited Catholic sect that expiates the sins of a dying person with a ritual that includes eating a piece of bread that was placed on the person’s chest just before death. This provides many opportunities for boring and pretentiously portenteous dialogue that sounds like a bad parody: “You surpass even the Jesuits in your heretical search for knowledge,” or “Knowledge is the enemy of faith,” or “We’re the Catholic Pete, Linc, and Julie.” Yep, we can always use a “Mod Squad” reference in what is supposed to be a dark and disturbing gothic thriller.

Second, it does not look good. Scenes are either washed out or too dark. Settings feature the typical crumbling manuscripts and dripping candles, a decaying mansion, an underground lair, a graveyard at midnight. A pair of silent children are supposed to look threatening, but they just look like a Keene painting. The female lead (Shannyn Sossamon as Mara) wears awful clothes that look like they were made from 1960’s bedsheets.

Third, there is no energy to move the narrative along, dissapating any tension and providing much too much time to dwell on the logical inconsistencies.

Fourth, there is a priest in this movie whose affectionate nickname for another priest is “Spaghettio.” I believe that is all that needs to be said.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of peril and violence, some very graphic, including suicide and murder. There is brief strong language. There is a moderately explicit sexual situation with some nudity. Some audience members will be offended by the portrayal of the Catholic church and the behavior of the priests and a cardinal. Some may also be offended by the idea of the sin eaters, believing that sins should only be expiated through sincere atonement and not through some spiritual “get out of jail free” card.

Families who see this movie should talk about their notion of expiation of sin. How will Alex’s life differ from William’s? Families might also want to talk about Father Tom’s view of the importance of laughter.

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate The Name of the Rose.

Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2003

“Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” just isn’t a very funny movie. At best, audiences who don’t think too much will laugh once or twice then forget the whole thing before they reach the door of the theater.

This is yet another in the increasingly inert and generic assembly line created by Adam Sandler for SNL alums like Rob Schneider. It has Sandler’s “Happy Madison” production company trademarks: lame middle-school-style jokes that seem racy to younger kids and stuck-in-the-80’s humor for older viewers who, like Sandler, suffer from arrested development.

The SNL-alum of choice in this one is David Spade as a former child star trying to make a comeback. But it fails to take advantage of Spade’s snarky sensibility, relying mostly on the stunt casting of real-life faded child stars to make the audience feel smugly superior to the people who were once featured on their lunch boxes and locker posters.

Dickie Roberts was the son of an overbearing mother who pushed him to be the child star of a hugely successful TV show called The Glimmer Gang, complete with a precious tagline (“This is nucking futs!”—cute, huh?) that propelled him into stardom and had him washed up by the time he was seven. Now he’s fighting to get back in the picture, starting with a pitiful celebrity boxing match where he gets his butt kicked by “Webster” (Emmanuel Lewis).

Dickie begs director Rob Reiner to cast him in a role that Sean Penn is competing for about a guy building a big house who finds Heaven in his backyard.

When Reiner tells Dickie that he’s unsuitable for the part because he has no idea of what it’s like to have a normal childhood, Dickie puts an ad in the paper to find a family that will let him move into their house and live like a kid, as one character says, to “reboot him like a computer.”

He’s adopted by the father (Craig Bierko) of a picturesque American family. Mommy (Mary McCormack) and the two kids (Scott Terra and Jenna Boyd) don’t really like him at first, but…you know the rest.

Of course the premise makes no sense, but then the way it’s carried out doesn’t make any sense either. It’s just a string of listless skits. The movie feels haphazard and thrown together, with a bike-riding scene that ends up like a Jackass stunt and a disturbingly Oedipal “your mom’s hot” running joke. Just to show how lazy this film is, when Dickie gets back on the scene, instead of writing something funny, they use use old footage of David Spade on Jay Leno’s show, on the cover of Rolling Stone, and performing with Aerosmith. Or maybe that was in hopes of reminding us that despite this movie, David Spade is actually a pretty cool guy.

There are a few moments that remind you how talented Spade is, particularly when he spouts off smart-aleck remarks, but they are more suitable for stand-up routines than for depiction on screen with other actors. His insults to some school bullies would be funnier if we didn’t see him actually using that language to people who are, after all, children. The movie seems to applaud him not just for for crudely insulting children, but also for making a fake 911 call and giving someone the finger.

Episodes like giving a bath to a dead rabbit, applauding “Mom” for rudely telling off an imperious neighbor, the exchange of a kidney transplant for an audition, and hitting someone in the head with a champagne cork are sour and weird.

It’s impossible not to get the feeling that the real-life Spade, the co-writer and star, is closer to the twisted Dickie at the beginning of the movie than the loving family man of the end. The way he wastes the talents of Jon Lovitz (as Dickie’s agent), McCormack, Bierko, SNL’s Rachel Dratch, Brendan Fraser, and former child star Alyssa Milano, and his inability to interact with anyone else on screen just demonstrates that Spade is as self-absorbed as Dickie is.

Ultimately, though, the movie’s lame humor is less painful than the supposedly touching material about how love is all that really matters.

In a sense, it may seem almost kind to give cameos to all the former child stars, given this reminder of how empty their lives can feel when they are no longer adorable. But there is something un-funnily awkward about seeing them debase themselves in this movie just for another shot at an audience and a paycheck. And there is some irony that by far the brighest moments of the movie come from one of its child stars — Boyd has a lovely comic snap and gives the most genuine perfomance in the film.

Parents should know that this film contains very strong language for a PG-13, including crude humor, alcohol and drug references, a child’s use of a swear word portrayed as funny, and a joke about Jesus that some people will find offensive.

Families who see this movie should talk about some of their favorite child stars and what they would and would not like about being famous.

Families who enjoy this movie should try Back to School or watch Spade shine with the late Chris Farley in Tommy Boy.

The Eye

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

The Eye is a Taiwanese ghost film that will please the American audiences who flocked to The Sixth Sense, The Others, and The Ring, far superior to recent American trash that has been made to cash in on the fascination with ghost stories.

The Eye focuses on Mun (Angelica Lee), a blind girl as she is about to receive some donated retinas in an operation that will give her vision. The operation is successful, and over time she can see as well as anyone and better communicate with her supportive family, her doctor, and a sickly child she has befriended in the hospital. However, one night, she sees the old lady near her in the hospital being escorted out by a stranger after visiting hours, and the next morning she is dead. When Mun is finally out in the real world, she sees people that others can’t see, all of them very strange and some of them particularly frightening. By the time her doctor recommends her to his nephew psychiatrist Dr. Wah (Lawrence Chou), it is clear that she is seeing ghosts, and while trying to get someone to believe she tries to find out more about the donor.

It’s no surprise that this film has already been optioned for an American remake, especially with the success of the Ringu remake The Ring. The US version may have more expensive special effects and a more upbeat resolution, but this version is a very likeable movie. It is beautifully filmed by the Pang brothers and it has some ambitions to be more than a typical mindless scarefest, taking on important topics like intolerance. It’s very easy to make a bad scary movie and hard to make a good one, especially considering how many have been made recently (I hope you all missed The Mothman Prophecies and Dragonfly), The Eye delivers the goods without insulting anyone’s intelligence.

Lee and Chou both have charm and talent and are great finds for the Pang brothers, who have proven themselves worthy of an American audience. Scenes like Lee’s operation are done with warts and all realism, and Mun and Dr. Wah’s relationship is very believable when it could have easily been contrived. These realistic elements convince the biggest naysayers that even the ghosts could be real, and situations, from the horrific climax to full, intriguing stories that link the ghosts with their past lives will send chills down your spine.

Parents should know that the movie is very scary and has pervasive tension, violence, and some disturbing images.

People who enjoy this movie should try the recent popular (and chilling) ghost stories, particularly the aforementioned The Sixth Sense, The Others, and The Ring and the original Ringu. Families might also enjoy two other movies about blind people who gain their sight, Blink and At First Sight.

The Other Side of the Bed

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

As the credits roll in this first entry in the Sundance series, we meet two couples, the men asleep in their beds, their girlfriends both crooning a silly pop song about honeymoons and sunlight. Then, in a restaurant, Paula (Natalia Verbeke) tells Pedro (Guillermo Toledo) that she is leaving him because she is in love with another man. Pedro goes to tell his best friends, Javier (Ernesto Alterio) and Sonia (Paz Vega) that his heart is broken. The reason for Javier’s discomfort is revealed when we find out that it is Javier for whom Paula has left Pedro. And he becomes even more uncomfortable when she pushes him to tell Sonia about their affair.

That leads to a light-hearted romp of musical beds with real music — every so often one of the characters breaks into song with assorted bystanders as a chorus line.

The result is a lightweight but highly enjoyable romantic farce, as ever-sillier complications mount until things are sorted out and everyone gets to live happily ever after.

Parents should know that the movie has very explicit sexual references and situations, nudity, very strong language, comic violence, and drinking and smoking. Some characters discuss homosexuality in an ignorant manner, but the gay character is dignified and not at all stereotyped.

Families who see this movie should ask whether the characters have learned anything and will be likely to behave differently in the future.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Noises Off.

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