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New in Theaters
  New to DVD

Tomorrowland
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language
Release Date:
May 22, 2015

 

American Sniper
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references
Release Date:
January 16, 2015

I'll See You in My Dreams
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, drug use and brief strong language
Release Date:
May 22, 2015

 

Strange Magic
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and scary images
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images
Release Date:
May 15, 2015

 

Mortdecai
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some language and sexual material
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

New in Theaters

grade:
B+

Tomorrowland

Lowest Recommended Age:
4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language
Release Date:
May 22, 2015
grade:
B+

I'll See You in My Dreams

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, drug use and brief strong language
Release Date:
May 22, 2015
grade:
B+

Mad Max: Fury Road

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images
Release Date:
May 15, 2015

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New to DVD

pick of the week
grade:
B+

American Sniper

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references
Release Date:
January 16, 2015
grade:
C

Strange Magic

Lowest Recommended Age:
Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and scary images
Release Date:
January 23, 2015
grade:
D

Mortdecai

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some language and sexual material
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

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Tomorrowland

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language
Movie Release Date: May 22, 2015
Copyright 2015 Disney

Copyright 2015 Disney

It begins with an argument. Frank (George Clooney) is trying to tell us the story. But he is repeatedly interrupted by someone we will learn is Casey (Britt Robertson). “Try to be a little more upbeat,” she urges him. The only way he can do that is to go back to when he last felt upbeat, as a child in 1964, when he brought his not-quite-working-yet invention to the New York World’s Fair to submit it in competition. The judge (Hugh Laurie) rejected it, but a young girl who was watching them follows Frank, hands him a pin, and tells him to follow her without being noticed. She is Athena, played with saucer-eyed charm by Raffey Cassidy. That leads him to the “It’s a Small World” ride, which had its premiere at the 1964 World’s Fair, but in this version of the ride, there is a portal to a fabulous Oz-like city of the future.

We then meet Casey in the present day, where she is engaging in a little breaking and entering at a NASA facility in Cape Canaveral, trying to stop the machines that are tearing it down. Her father (a warm and wonderfully natural Tim McGraw) is a NASA engineer who has been laid off as his entire program is shutting down. Casey is caught and arrested, and when she is being released, among her things is the same pin. And when she touches it, she is transported to a wheat field with that same city in the distance. The shot is an homage to the iconic image of the Emerald City from the poppy field. She wants to get back there. She feels that she needs to get back there. And so she tries to track down the pin, which takes her to a store filled with sci-fi artifacts run by Kathryn Hahn and Keegan-Michael Key, who manage to be both very funny and surprisingly menacing. The store is called Blast from the Past, a name that turns out to be quite literal when some guys dressed in black with scary grins and big guns show up.

Athena shows up, looking not a day older than in 1964, and takes Casey to see Frank, now a grumpy recluse with a grizzly gray beard stubble and a holographic dog. When the guys in black show up, they are held back by Frank’s elaborate system of booby traps long enough for Frank, Casey, and Athena to escape. Eventually they make it back to Tomorrowland, which looks quite different from the pristine and joyful version Casey first saw.

Co-writer/director Brad Bird, working with “Lost’s” Damon Lindelof, combines some of the themes from his earlier films, “The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” and even “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” so that the story’s superbly staged action sequences and gorgeously imagined settings underlie ideas about creativity, optimism, and the power of ideas and imagination. It is all in the tradition and the spirit of the man behind the theme park area that inspired the film. Early on, Casey tells her dispirited father, who describes himself as “a NASA engineer without a launch,” the Cherokee story he used to tell her. Two wolves are fighting. One represents darkness and despair. One represents light and hope. Which one will win? The one that you feed. It is clear that Bird wants us to feed the wolf of light and hope, and this film gives that wolf some real nourishment.

Parents should know that this film includes sci-fi/action/fantasy peril and violence including weapons, characters injured and killed, themes of dystopia and destruction, and some mild language (hell, damn).

Family discussion: What made Casey special? What invention would you like to create to make a better future? Would you like to have a friend like Athena?

If you like this, try: Disney classics from the original Tomorrowland era like “Escape from Witch Mountain” and “Swiss Family Robinson”

I’ll See You in My Dreams

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexual material, drug use and brief strong language
Movie Release Date:May 22, 2015
B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual material, drug use and brief strong language
Movie Release Date: May 22, 2015
Copyright 2015 Bleeker Street

Copyright 2015 Bleeker Street

Blythe Danner gives a performance of exquisite sensitivity in “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” the story of a lonely widow. She plays Carol, a singer-turned teacher who retired 20 years ago after her husband died. Her friends in a nearby retirement community urge her to join them but she prefers to stay in her home, her primary companions her dog and her glass of white wine.

The movie begins by taking us through a day we surmise is just like hundreds of others. She plays cards with friends, she plays golf, she feeds the dog, she sips wine and watches television. She keeps busy and she is not unhappy. She has plans, and she has fun, but she does not have much of a sense of purpose. When a rat invades her home, it is unsettling. She asks her new pool cleaner for help.

His name is Lloyd (Martin Starr), and he is lost in a way that makes her feel able to talk to him.  Her feelings toward him are not maternal or romantic. But he is smart, and funny and self-deprecating and he was willing to help her with the rat.  And he is newly back in town and living with his parents, so he can use a friend, too.  When he tells her about going to do karaoke, she agrees to go with him.

A speed dating event with her friends is a hilarious disaster, but that may make an overture from a handsome stranger named Bill (Sam Elliott) seem more appealing.  Writer/director Brett Haley has a good sense for the way people who have no time for trivialities get to the point with each other, wasting little time on getting-to-know-you trivialities.  Carol’s conversations with Lloyd and Bill are direct without being intrusive, and especially without being judgmental.  When she is with her friends, there are easy exchanges that reflect the kind of connection based on the shared experience of being an older woman.  A scene where they all get high on one friend’s medical marijuana is completely charming.

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It is almost beyond belief that this is Danner’s first romantic lead in a film.  She is breathtaking.  Haley wisely just leaves the camera on her beautiful face as she sits with her beloved dog while he slowly stops breathing in the vet’s office.  Her grief is devastating.  Her devotion is deeply moving.  Her performance of “Cry Me a River” in karaoke is also magnificent.  The incandescence she brings to the story of a woman who is still struggling for connection makes this one of the most touching performances of the year.

Parents should know that this movie has strong language, drinking and drugs, sexual references and situations, and a sad death.

Family discussion: What do we learn about Carol from the karaoke scenes? Why did she become friends with Lloyd? How is dating different for older people than for younger people?

If you like this, try: “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and its sequel

Interview: Brett Haley, Writer/Director of “I’ll See You in My Dreams”

posted by Nell Minow
Copyright 2015 Bleeker Street

Copyright 2015 Bleeker Street

Brett Haley wrote and directed “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” a bittersweet romance starring the luminous Blythe Danner as Carol, a widow taking some tentative steps toward love with Bill, a handsome new neighbor played by Sam Elliott. Haley talked to me about why he chose to make his story about people in their 70’s and why music plays such an important role in the film.

Blythe Danner is magnificent in the film. In the scene where her beloved dog is put to sleep, she is mesmerizing.

Yes, that was a very challenging scene to film because we’re obviously dealing with an animal and animals are unpredictable. We have really amazing trainers and they really got the dog to a level of calmness that I’ve never seen. He’s trained to just get very, very calm and then I just let Blythe take her time and do what she wanted in there and she knew the script, she knew what we were doing and I just let kind of roll with it and we just set multiple takes back to back to back so that the dog would just stay calm. I didn’t want to come in and say cut and reset and all that. So we just rolled the camera and Blythe would just do the scene and then stop. And then she’d take a breath and then she’d do it again. It was a really tough scene to shoot obviously. It was a very sad scene and I thought, “Oh boy am I being manipulative? Am I being exploitative in any way?” But no, I really stand by it. I think the way it’s done was honest and truthful and that is my ultimate goal with everything that I do.

What interested you in writing about people of that age?

I’m very sort of intrigued and curious and fascinated by older people because I think they have a lot of life experience and they’ve gone through so much more than what I’ve gone through. I’m starting to ask questions about life and loss and why are we here and why do people die and how do you deal with loss and things like that. I think older people have experience quite a bit more of that. So to me it was a no brainer if I wanted to make a movie about those themes I should make it about older people. And then I think on the same hand when you think about it and you go yes, it’s like older characters especially in films are marginalized. They always put on the sidelines, supporting characters or plot movers, wacky characters.  They’re never the leads, they’re never fully dimensional, three dimensional leads or rarely I should say. And especially rare being romantic in any way and that was something that I was really intrigued by.

What are the biggest differences between romance early in your adult life and romance near the end?

People who are towards the end don’t have as much time to mess around. They cut to the chase more and I found that actually really refreshing to write. Bill certainly knows what he want and he goes for it. And I think there’s less time to sort of beat around the bush so to speak. I think when you’re young you think the world is ahead of you. You just don’t think about the realities as much when you’re young. You’re sort of caught up in a moment which is a great beautiful thing but I think when you’re older you can feel the weight of that ticking clock a little bit more. I think you’re a little bit more decisive. You just go after what you want more. I thought that was really fun. That was really fun to write.

Music is very important to the film.

Music does play a huge role in the film. There’s karaoke and Carol was a singer in her younger years and Martin’s character, Lloyd was in a band and a poet. I don’t want to spoil it for people but there’s a huge emotional moment in the film that is centered around the song of the title and I think it’s really crucial. I love music and I felt that it a really fun way to explore some of the emotions in the film.

Malin Akerman plays Carol’s daughter. What do we learn from the relationship between the two of them?

I think it’s unfortunately a bit of a common one. I think we get pretty self-obsessed in this world. I think we kind of we forget about the other people around us, who we love and who we think about. I think that they both had sort of been drifting naturally. No hard feelings but living in their own lives. They live on different coast and that sort of adds to the drift. I was trying to get at something to show a different side of Carol, that she is not perfect and neither is her daughter. I think they both should probably put more effort in their relationship. I wanted it to just be real. I didn’t want her daughter to show up in the movie and just be this perfect daughter and have this perfect relationship because that’s just not the way people are. There’s always something more there; there’s always something more layered. To me it rang true to pick them as slightly distant but then it’s really about them realizing how much they need other, how much they truly love each other and that they shouldn’t take each other for granted. The film is all about relationships really, and connection.

One of the highlights of the film is Carol’s relationship with her friends, played by three fabulous actresses, June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, and Mary Kay Place.

Everyone was my first choice and everybody just came on board this small budget movie without too much hoopla. They just responded to the material, I think they appreciated a three dimensional role that was on the page for all of them and I think that they just wanted to be a part of it. I was just super blessed to have them want to join the party. Blythe described it as a repertory company, in this together and not in it for the money but in it for the passion of the piece. And we just had a wonderful time, it was just a wonderful experience and so lucky to have these amazing actors believe in me and put their fate in me to go and make this film and gosh, I’m a lucky guy.

Did they have a lot of fun filming the pot smoking scene?

Yeah the girls were having a great time shooting that scene and it just shows how funny they are. They’re all comic geniuses. Obviously they were not really smoking pot, but everybody has been asking me if they were really high! Of course not. I think it’s very interesting that these ladies, they didn’t go for the cheap laugh. They went for the really honest stuff that comes out of that scene and I think that’s why it works. They don’t yuck it up too much. They keep it really grounded and honest.

What’s the best advice you ever get about directing?

The best advice I ever got was to be kind and gracious to everyone who works on your movie. Understand that no one is better or worse than you on a film set. A lot of directors take their power into their head and feel like they can treat people without respect. I’m a big believer and especially on the set but in life you should treat everyone with kindness. And then you should be grateful to everyone for their hard work especially when they’re working on your film. It’s very important to me that everybody gets treated with equal amounts of respect and no one is better than everybody else on a movie set or in the world. If you’re kind to people they’re going to be good to you and I think that’s the big life lesson. I think we forgot that. The energy that we had on that set did come through on the screen as well, from Sam Eliot down to the PA. Everybody wanted to be there and felt a part of this film and there was a really nice energy and I think it translated to the film.

Friar’s Club Documentary — Tonight on WNET and Online

posted by Nell Minow

Tonight on New York PBS station WNET, “Treasures of New York: Friars Club” will explore the rich history of the exclusive private club through never-before-seen footage of Frairs roasts and interviews with some of the club’s most prominent members. Larry King, Joy Behar, Lisa Lampanelli, Susie Essman, Jerry Lewis, Jeffrey Ross and Mark Simone are among those interviewed. The Friars Club is best known for its outrageously insulting (and extremely dirty) roasts, but it is also the home territory for superstar performers, including the greatest comedians of the last century, from the vaudeville era to the YouTube era.

The documentary will also be available online.

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