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New in Theaters
  New to DVD

The Age of Adaline
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a suggestive comment
Release Date:
April 24, 2015

 

Paddington
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 16, 2015

The Water Diviner
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for war violence including some disturbing images
Release Date:
April 24, 2015

 

The Boy Next Door
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, sexual content/nudity and language
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

Monkey Kingdom
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 17, 2015

 

Big Eyes
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language
Release Date:
December 25, 2014

New in Theaters

grade:
B

The Age of Adaline

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a suggestive comment
Release Date:
April 24, 2015
grade:
B-

The Water Diviner

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for war violence including some disturbing images
Release Date:
April 24, 2015
grade:
B+

Monkey Kingdom

Lowest Recommended Age:
Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 17, 2015

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New to DVD

pick of the week
grade:
B

Paddington

Lowest Recommended Age:
All Ages
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 16, 2015
grade:
D

The Boy Next Door

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, sexual content/nudity and language
Release Date:
January 23, 2015
grade:
B+

Big Eyes

Lowest Recommended Age:
High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language
Release Date:
December 25, 2014

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The Age of Adaline

posted by Nell Minow
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for a suggestive comment
Movie Release Date:April 24, 2015
B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for a suggestive comment
Movie Release Date: April 24, 2015

Be careful what you wish for.  You think it would be great to stay 29 forever?  Adaline (Blake Lively) finds out that it is not great to become unstuck from time, to watch everyone you love grow old and die, to hurt those you care about because you cannot be honest about who you are.  It is as though the whole world is on a conveyer belt moving everyone inexorably forward, and just one person has stepped off, rooted in one spot and left all alone. Life becomes a series of goodbyes.

Copyright 2015 Lakeshore Entertainment

Copyright 2015 Lakeshore Entertainment

Adaline made headlines as the first baby born in 1908 San Francisco.  She lived a normal life, with an engineer husband and a baby girl.  But her husband was killed in an accident when he was working on the Golden Gate Bridge.  And then, when a very rare snowfall came to San Francisco, her car went off the road and into a pond.  She was at the same time frozen and shocked by lightning.  And, we are told by the narrator, as scientists will discover in 2015, the effect of these two forces on her DNA somehow stops the aging process.  At first, she is able to get away with explaining that she eats right and uses a very good face cream.  But as more than a decade goes by and she does not change, she begins to unsettle people and attract the attention of government investigators.  So, she has to say goodbye to her now-teenage daughter and come up with a plan where she changes identities and locations every ten years, and never gets close to anyone.

Adaline is living in San Francisco as Jenny and working at a library, but is about to switch identities again and move to Oregon. She has just bought a new fake passport and drivers license and arranged for her new identity to have access to her bank account (one thing perpetual youth is very good for is accumulating capital) when she meets Ellis (Dutch “Game of Thrones” dreamboat Michiel Huisman). He is handsome, wealthy, philanthropic, nuts about her, and knows how to give swooningly romantic gifts and cook charming and delicious dinners in his aw-shucks-I’m-just-living-in-a-zillion-dollar-fixer-upper. Doesn’t Adaline have the right to take a chance on love?

She agrees to spend the weekend with Ellis’ parents for their 40th anniversary party. But as soon as they arrive, Ellis’ father, William (Harrison Ford) says “Adaline!” They were “very close” in the 1960’s. “Jenny” explains that Adaline was her mother. But William remembers Adaline too well to be fooled for long.

The script and story were both co-written by first-time screenwriter Salvador Paskowitz, whose own unconventional life was documented in Surfwise. It has a conceptual delicacy that translates unevenly on screen, especially the omniscient narrator and underwritten romantic scenes. But Lively gives a thoughtful, complex performance, with undertones of melancholy and a yearning for connection that struggles with her determination to stay isolated. And she looks sensational in the costumes from Angus Strathie, which show a consistency of style throughout the century that shows us how strong and determined Adaline’s well-defined persona is, despite the various aliases and disguises and changes in fashion.

The romanticism of the storyline was thrown off course for me by the idea that Adaline was involved with both father and son, even decades apart. But if that does not create too much of an ick factor, the bittersweet fantasy of eternal youth and the just-sweet fantasy of the perfect boyfriend make it work.

Parents should know that this film includes sexual references and non-explicit situations, some mature themes of loss and disappointment, and drinking.

Family discussion: What did the comet signify? If you could stay the same age forever, what age would you pick? Is there a “just-miss” in your life?

If you like this, try: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Passion of Mind,” and “Tuck Everlasting”

The Water Diviner

posted by Nell Minow
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for war violence including some disturbing images
Movie Release Date:April 24, 2015
B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for war violence including some disturbing images
Movie Release Date: April 24, 2015
Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers

Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers

Before it detours into not one, not two, but at least three preposterous Hollywood twists, “The Water Diviner” is an absorbing drama about Joshua Connor, an Australian farmer (Russell Crowe, making his directing debut as well) who travels to Turkey to find the remains of his three sons, all killed in the battle of Gallipoli, so he can bring them home for burial. We first see Joshua dowsing for water. He selects the spot he is drawn to, then digs with skill, focus, and determination, until he hits water. He has a well.

He returns to the house where his wife tells him to read a bedtime story to their three sons. It is too much for her to accept that they are long gone to war and killed in battle. Finally, she is so overwhelmed by grief that she commits suicide. Joshua insists that she be buried in the church cemetery, and then leaves to bring their sons home and bury them next to her.

Crowe’s greatest asset as a director is himself as leading man, and his performance is powerful, with a muscular masculinity and sense of honor, but shredded by the loss of his family and by his fears that he may be responsible because he “filled their heads with heroic nonsense.” The clash of cultures and the unthinkable tragedies are intriguing. The best part of the film is the depiction of the way the defeated Australian command must work with the Turkish nationals to bury their dead as respectfully as possible, the tensions are inevitable. Was the end of the battle a “retreat” or an “evacuation?” “You killed my sons.” “You sent them. You invaded us.” Both, of course, are right. When one says, “I don’t know if I forgive any of us,” the other side has to agree.

“Four years ago you’d have given me a VC [medal] for shooting that bastard,” one of the ANZAC (Australian/New Zealand) officers growls. “That bastard” is Major Hasan (Yılmaz Erdoğan). The former enemies must work together on a task of unimaginable sadness and defeat, creating a sacred burial ground for thousands of dead soldiers, who will remain for eternity in the site of their defeat. “This is the first war anyone has given a damn,” to do even that much, says an ANZAC officer. Previous war dead were piled into pit graves with the horses.

Joshua finds a place to stay — or rather, it finds him, as a boy takes his bag and runs to the home where his mother and uncle have established a small hotel. They do not want an Australian there, but they need the money, so they gingerly make him welcome. The boy’s mother, Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), is still insisting that her husband will return from battle, to keep her son’s hope alive more than her own, and perhaps also to protect her from the pressures put on a single mother to remarry. Joshua is forbidden from going to the burial ground, but Ayshe helps him find a way. Once he gets there, no one wants to help him. But “because he is the only father who came looking,” they grudgingly allow him to look through the piles of bones.

And then it starts to get Hollywood. The water diviner somehow uses that same skill to locate the remains of two of his sons. And then it may be that the third is still alive. The last section of the film takes a turn that even Indiana Jones would find daunting and a romance even Nicholas Sparks would find improbable. It is too bad that the earlier part of the film’s appreciation of conflicts and complexity is followed by a fairy tale ending.

Parents should know that this movie features wartime scenes of battle violence and terrorism with some disturbing and graphic images and a suicide and a mercy killing. Characters are wounded and killed. In addition, it includes some strong language, domestic abuse, sexual references, drinking, and smoking.

Family discussion: What did Joshua and Major Hasan have in common? What do we learn from the flashback to the sandstorm? What should Arthur have done?

If you like this, try: Gallipoli and “A Very Long Engagement”

Critics Write About Our First Encounters with Star Wars

posted by Nell Minow
Copyright 20th Century Fox 1977

Copyright 20th Century Fox 1977

The latest Criticwire survey asks for our first encounters with “Star Wars.” I had a lot of fun writing about mine:

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far away, or at least that’s how it seems now, my then boyfriend and I finished the bar exam, following three years of law school and six weeks of intensive cramming and even more intensive panicking, and walked outside, blinking in the sunlight we barely recognized. Dazed, we barely made it to the theater for the prize we had promised ourselves all summer. We were going to see “Star Wars.” We loved it. The hologram message from the princess with the awful hair. The bar. The garbage compactor. The droids. Obi-Wan. The wookiee. To go from listing the elements of a negotiable instrument and the factors required for a temporary restraining order and the exemptions to the hearsay rule to Jedi and the Death Star was such an overwhelming experience that we decided to sit through it again. (I did say it was a long time ago.)

We were lucky enough to see them as they came out, to be shocked by the revelations, to suffer for more than a year while Han was frozen, wondering how he could escape. We still love them. The original trilogy, anyway. Unadulterated by later tweaks, please. Han shot first and we are okay with that. Can’t wait for the next one.

Fans should check out the terrific A Galaxy Not So Far Away: Writers and Artists on Twenty-five Years of Star Wars for more stories about the impact of the “Star Wars” saga.

Behind the Scenes with Avengers: Age of Ultron

posted by Nell Minow

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” opens May 1, 2015.

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