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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

 

The Imitation Game
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

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

 

Wild
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language
Release Date:
December 5, 2014

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

 

Interstellar
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some intense perilous action and brief strong language
Release Date:
November 7, 2014

Welcome to Mooseport

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

It’s a juicy premise: The most popular President of modern times retires to his summer home in the tiny town of Mooseport, Maine and ends up running for mayor against the handyman who owns the local hardware store — and dating his girlfriend, too.

And it’s an even juicier cast, with two Oscar winners and three top talents from television: Gene Hackman as former President Monroe Eagle Cole, Marcia Gay Harden as his longtime aide, Ray Romano (“Everyone Loves Raymond”) as “Handy” Harrison, Maura Tierney (“ER”) as the veterinarian who has been dating Handy for six years and is getting tired of waiting for him to propose, and Christine Baranski (“Cybill”) as Cole’s ex-wife.

So, if the script never rises above the sitcom level, at least the lines are delivered by people who are so good they almost seem like wit. Romano makes a respectable transition from television to film, and if he looks uncomfortable in the love scenes, at least that works with the character. Hackman is sheer pleasure, showing us everything that made Cole want to be President, get to be President, and succeed as President. There are some nice low-key details and some sly digs at modern politics and celebrity. But please, can we now have a moratorium on guys-who-can’t-take-risks-or-commit plot lines? And shrewish she-got-the-mine-I-got-the-shaft first wives? And long-suffering-but-devoted-aides-de-camp with a crush on the boss? And cutesy old folks who use terms like “booty poodle?”

Parents should know that the movie has some crude humor and non-sexual nudity (rear view of a nude male jogger). Characters drink in response to stress and get tipsy and there is a marijuana joke. Characters use brief strong language and there is some comic violence.

Families who see this movie should talk about their own elected officials and whether they would ever like to run for office.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy My Fellow Americans and Guarding Tess.

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

Somebody, please put this baby in a corner.

Before we get into the reasons, let’s recap briefly why the original Dirty Dancing was so irresistibly watchable, because that will remind us of everything that this version is missing. The original had: Jennifer Gray, who lit up the screen. Wonderfully steamy dancing and music that made you long for summer nights in the Catskills. The sparks and even wit that Gray and Patrick Swayze brought to each other. A genuine sense of lessons learned and hearts expanded. All of this made up for an unabashedly cheesy script and everyone went home happy.

Despite the name, this movie is not a sequel. In Hollywood terms, it is a “re-imagining” of the first film, which basically means it has attempted to recreate it but completely missed the point. It does not have the characters, setting, or plot of the original. It does not have the heart or the charm or the chemistry. Worst of all, it does not have the dancing.

There are some slinky moves, but the camera keeps cutting away from the big dance numbers for reaction shots. Since there is barely enough of a plot to sustain a heartbeat, this probably means that the leads were not good enough dancers to do several different steps in a row, and it was intended to be distracting, pretty much defeating the entire purpose of the movie in the first place.

It all takes place before the first movie, in 1958 Cuba, just before Castro’s revolution. Kate (Romola Garai) and her family have just arrived. It does not take her long to figure out that the other American kids are rich snobs and that what she really wants to do is dance with the pool boy, Javier (Diego Luna). Her parents (James Slattery and Sela Ward) were once dancers, but gave it up to provide a conventional and comfortable home for their family. While they think she is with the boy they want her to date, she is off practicing with Javier so they can enter the dance contest and he can win enough money to take his family to America.

I have seen mayonnaise with more personality than the stars of this movie. And I have seen jello with more excitement than the plot of this movie. It isn’t that Garai and Luna have no chemistry with each other. They have anti-chemistry so powerful it seems to slow down the whole time-space continuum.

There’s a subtle reprise of the first movie’s theme song and Patrick Swayze appears briefly as a dance teacher, just to underscore’s this version’s inferiority.

Parents should know that the movie is rated PG-13 “for sensuality,” but that it is very mild compared to most PG-13 releases. As per the title, the dancing is suggestive. There is a discreet sexual situation — a couple spend the night together on the beach and the next morning she is wearing his shirt. Characters drink and smoke and use some mild language, including an ugly racial epithet. There is some violence connected with the revolution, but nothing graphic.

Families who see this movie should learn more about what happened in Cuba in the 1950’s and the results of the revolution led by Fidel Castro. They should talk about why Kate lied to her parents and how they feel about the way Kate blackmailed James into lying for her. Fans of the original movie should talk about what a better sequel would have included.

Families who enjoy this movie should watch the splendid documentary Buena Vista Social Club about Cuban musicians and their music. And of course they should watch the original Dirty Dancing.

50 First Dates

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 on appeal for crude sexual humor and drug references
Movie Release Date:2004
DVD Release Date:2004

Lucy (Drew Barrymore) wakes up every morning with no memory of anything that happened since her brain was injured in a car crash 18 months before. For the rest of us, everything that happens in this movie is just too, too familiar.

Yes, it’s another Adam Sandler movie, which means that a sweet but very immature man will fall for a winsome young lady amidst many, many, many attempts to find humor in sexual orientation, the impact of steroid use on sexual function, the relative merits of different sexual partners, getting walloped on the head, getting walloped on the stomach, getting bit by a shark, various physical disabilities and impairments, and more references to penis size and sexual stamina than an e-mailbox full of spam.

Sandler plays Henry Roth, an affable marine veterinarian at a Hawaiian acquarium whose only long-lasting relationships are with the walruses and penguins and with the goofy guy who cleans the tanks (Rob Schneider). Henry has many, many short-term relationships with female tourists, which keep him safe from commitment. Then he meets Lucy, whose short-term memory impairment makes it impossible for her to make any kind of commitment. He can’t break her heart because no matter what happens, she won’t remember him. But he falls in love with her. The girl who can’t remember is the one he can’t forget.

Barrymore is as delicious as ever, and, as in The Wedding Singer, she and Sandler have an easy chemistry that showcases their offbeat appeal. Even with an exceptionally sweet and tender romantic conclusion, some audience members will find there is too little romance and too much gross-out humor (did I mention the part where the walrus barfs all over the sexually frustrated but mannish woman with an accent?). Then there are some who will think the romance is just a distraction while waiting for the next joke about penis size. Some will be sorry about the waste of talented performers like Dan (“Saturday Night Live”) Ackroyd, as Lucy’s doctor, and Sean (Lord of the Rings) Astin as Lucy’s lisping, steroid-using brother. There may also be some who just wish everyone would get out of the way of the beautiful Hawaiian scenery. This movie has something to disappoint just about everyone.

Parents should know that this movie has exceptionally gross and crude humor, with extremely strong language for a PG-13 and comments that could be considered homophobic. Humor is drawn from drug use, disability, and injury, all portrayed as grotesque, including a clouded eyeball and a lisp. There are sexual references and situations. The movie includes a tragic car crash and comic violence, including a gross sharkbite wound and many, many very hard bonks on the head. Those who have not yet seen The Sixth Sense should know that this movie gives away the surprise. One positive note is that diverse characters demonstrate compassion and loyalty.

Families who see this movie should talk about the memories they would put into a book or tape like the one Henry makes for Lucy. How does your family try to help the members who have injuries or disabilities? They might want to talk about the way that Henry tried to protect his feelings with casual affairs and why that became unsatisfying for him. Families might be interested in more serious treatments of brain dysfunction like Lucy’s. In the book that became Awakenings Oliver Sachs also wrote about a patient with short term memory loss, which inspired the legendary Harold Pinter to write “A Kind of Alaska.” A syrupy but touching book by Nicholas Sparks called The Notebook describes a couple like Henry and Lucy.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy seeing Barrymore and Sandler together in The Wedding Singer. They will have fun with another comedy about someone who lives the same day over and over in Groundhog Day and another comedy about men who have many short-term relationships, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Families might like to compare Lucy to Dory in Finding Nemo — including the fact that both appear in movies with characters named Marlin!

Miracle

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2004

Sportscaster Al Michaels unforgettably called out “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” as the 1980 US Olympic hockey team beat the Russians. They then went on to win the gold medal. And so the team, the last group of amateurs sent by the US to play ice hockey, has been known ever after as the “Miracle on Ice.”

But as this movie shows, miracle is the very last word to be used to describe this team. It’s better than a miracle because it is the story of a team that succeeded through heart and hard work and commitment. If it is a miracle, it is in the “God helps those who help themselves” category.

This is not an “up close and personal” saga. You’re not going to get to find out all the quirky personal details or love lives of the members of the team. This is a movie first of all for hard core hockey fans. Its meticulous re-creation of the training, strategy, and the key moments of the team’s games is the movie’s greatest strength. The silver medal goes to Kurt Russell’s fine performance as coach Herb Brooks. Russell is willing to be unattractive in appearance and behavior to convey Brooks’ famously tough and withholding style.

The movie is less successful when it gives us the inevitable toll-on-the-family scenes, even with the ascerbic Patricia Clarkson as Mrs. Brooks. She brings a warmth and even some sexiness to the inevitable complaints that just because Herb is coaching the Olympic team does not mean that he can shirk his responsibilities at home. And the movie’s weakest point is its attempt to make the team’s triumph too much of a symbol. It spends too much time trying to convey the sense of the era, with an opening credit sequence of clips showing lines at the gas station and Jimmy Carter’s speech about how depressed everyone was. Yes, the miracle on ice was immensely satisfying at a moment when America needed some heroes. But trying to re-create that mood takes away from the genuine splendor of the team’s achivement, which is more than enough on its own.

Parents should know that the movie has brief strong language (including calling someone a “pansy”) and some intense sports scenes. There is a discussion of a team member’s loss of a parent. Some younger viewers may be uncomfortable with the pressure Brooks puts on the team and his dismissal of a loyal player.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Brooks picked the team he wanted — “not the best players, but the right players.” He was not much of a team player himself, when it came to the committee members. Families should talk about the coaches and teachers and mentors who have inspired them to do their best — probably not always the ones who were the nicest. Do you think that Brooks intentionally made the players hate him so that they would bond with each other? Families might also want to talk about how the game has changed for the better and worse since the players are now professionals instead of college kids.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Cool Runnings. The made-for-tv movie Miracle on Ice, with Karl Malden as Brooks, tells the same story from the perspective of the team.

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