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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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More Problems with YouTube Kids

posted by Nell Minow

The public interest and child advocacy groups that have charged Google and YouTube Kids with failing to meet their promise to screen videos and ensure that there is no material inappropriate for young children has come back to add new claims to the complaint they have filed with the FTC.

The complaint lists findings that the search function of the app provides children with access to a wide range of troubling content, such as:

Explicit sexual language presented amidst cartoon animation
Graphic adult discussions about family violence, pornography and child suicide
Jokes about pedophilia and drug use
Modeling of unsafe behaviors such as playing with lit matches
Advertising for alcohol products

Examples of videos accessible through the app and information about how to support the complaint are here.

Interview: Junkie XL, Composer of “Mad Max: Fury Road”

posted by Nell Minow
Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers

Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers

It was a treat to talk to Junkie XL (aka Tom Holkenborg), the award-winning, multi-platinum producer/composer who created the sensational soundtrack for Mad Max: Fury Road, ranging from orchestral to heavy metal, and now available for purchase. Coming up next, he is working on the remake of “Point Break,” “Black Mass,” and “Batman v. Superman.”

Junkie XL told me about working side by side with writer/director George Miller and about the unexpected member of his household who is heard on the soundtrack.

I’ve been listening to the score and the track called “Escape” sounds Metallica if its lead singer was a Tyrannosaur Rex.

It’s a part of the movie where Max breaks loose from his capturers but this is a really strange world. It’s so over the top, the scenery is so intense, all the detail that goes into the set and the costumes, what these people looked like, the cars, it’s unheard of. And so the music needed to live up to that standard. I said to George, “Let’s do this insane rock opera where everything clashes and there is like choir and there’s sound design and there’s mad drums and mad electronic sounds and over the top strings and very small strings and very emotional little things and he said, “Yeah let’s do it.”

And so “Escape” was one of the earlier cues that I started on and it needed to be crazy. Max in this case is a very troubled character. He’s not the stable, funny guy that we know from the earlier Mad Max movies in the 80s. He’s been through this so many times and he’s got post-traumatic stress and whatever he has, he’s very troubled. And so the music needed to be very troubling too.

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Is that all together electronically? did you have an orchestra?

There’s an orchestra in there but I actually set with the string players and the bass players and we created these really crazy tones that normally do not come out of these instruments. They have to play them in a certain way. They have to get really out of tune. There’s that whole string section in there with a really haunting motif which was very inspired on the great late 40s, 50s, 60s, the golden era of Bernard Hermann and some other classical composers. It’s really like a golden time period and we really have to record it multiple, multiple times to get the right feel and the right tone.

Yes, some of the tracks are very lush and orchestral.

I grew up classically trained and I have a really strong relationship with pieces written, let’s say from 1850 to 1950/1960 and it was played a lot around our house. George is very familiar with that time period too and he loves that style. So that is what we use when there are parts of the film where these characters step out of that dystopian madness and they actually warm up to one another as human beings. That’s when we need to go to that tone. That’s when we need to go to that musical language and again we discuss the 50s, late 20s, 50s early 60s and we took best elements out of that era and we use it in a very modern film score.

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Everything in the films looks like it has been assembled from pieces in a junkyard. How do you reflect that aesthetic in the music?

It’s like there’s a lot of sounds used in the score that actually come from a metal cans, oil drums, all kinds of metal objects that I sampled and did some sound design on that are being used. I mean, generally, in music, I come from a world where you sample bits and pieces from other records so you compile it together into what then becomes a dance track. That’s the world that I come from, so when George starts talking about creating objects out of other objects I was like, “Oh I know that world.”

What were some of the more exotic sounds that you sampled in the soundtrack?

Animals. There’s a lot of those sounds are in the score. The sound that you hear right at beginning of “Escape” is coming from my dog. You need some electronic treatment, and then you get it pretty far. He’s the sweetest dog in the planet. But if he bark and you treat that a certain way, yeah it becomes really scary.

The last time we talked it was about “Divergent.”

“Divergent” is quite different. It was this movie about a young girl that grows up and becomes this heroine. In “Mad Max” you get thrown into the film. You see all these really tough characters that tried to survive had to find their own methods of surviving. So we meet Furiosa played by Charlize Theron, who did a stunning job playing this character, and you meet these other extremely tough women. It’s almost like the reverse. We start with all that violence and throughout the film we warm up with these characters as we get to know them. Whereas in “Divergent” we definitely know the characters and then once we know the characters we go through the story and she becomes this really powerful heroine at the end.

How closely did you work with writer/director George Miller?

It was a remarkable process. George and I worked really intensely on this. It was a true collaboration where he got inspired by the music and to change certain things with the scene and then I got inspired because he did that and then I would do something else and we went back and forth like that multiple times. Eventually I packed up my studio with my assistants and my family and music editors and we all went shooting for eleven weeks roughly and worked with George from early morning till late at night until we were really satisfied. He’s fantastic and we have two things in common. One is we’re extremely precise and we put the bar really high for ourselves and we won’t rest until all the details are right. I drive my assistants to absolute madness and when I was in Nerv in my artist era, I would drive my fellow band members completely to madness because I wanted to do it again and I want to make it different, I wanted to try something else and then back and George is exactly the same thing, the same way. So we really admire that with one another, that you can only strive for the best constantly. You constantly have to second guess, “Is this the best I can do?”

And the second thing is we’re both extremely curious. So when certain things work out a certain way we always start wondering why and we want to know why and then when we know why we apply a little theory to it. We try to understand why it’s so great and then we apply that theory on another scene of the film. Could this be potentially as great as we did there? And how should we do that? Constantly being curious is frustrating but it also enriches your knowledge and your work ethic and also ultimately your results.

At Comic-Con last year, George talked about how excited he was to use the Edge camera car. How did that affect the way you thought about the score?

The first thought is how can we make this experience as thrilling for the audience as possible? So the fact that these cameras make the audience almost part of what you’re going to be seeing on screen, and that goes for the music too. When I saw the movie I know there’s no way I can get away with a cello and a flute.

Interview: Sandy McLeod on “Seeds of Time”

posted by Nell Minow
Copyright Kino Lorber 2014

Copyright Kino Lorber 2014

Seeds of Time is a documentary that seems like a terrifying science fiction story. It is about the efforts of Cary Fowler, funded by Bill Gates, to find, preserve, and store seeds from plants necessary for all life forms on the planet, as over 90 percent of the plant species we use for food have become extinct in the last century. For the best and worst reasons, most of our food now comes from modified plants (and the animals who eat them), created to be more efficient to grow and ship — and to be able to be patented and thus a better investment for agribusiness.

Seeds of Time is in some theaters now, and anyone can bring a screening to any community via Theatrical On Demand film distribution service Gathr®, which is free if it “tips,” meaning enough tickets are reserved.

I spoke to director Sandy McLeod about the film.

How did you come to this project?

I had been sent an article that was in the New Yorker by two friends and I was reading it one morning at breakfast. My husband was on the speaker phone and I’m reading about Cary Fowler and I hear my husband talking to a guy named Cary on the phone and I don’t really think much it. But I read a line in the article that says Cary Fowler was given $30 million to collect the seeds through the Gates Foundation and I hear my husband ask this person on the phone. How much were you given by the Gates Foundation? And I hear the person on the other end say “$30 million.” And when my husband hang up the phone I said, “Was that Cary Fowler by any chance?” and he said, “Yeah, how did you know?” So I ask my husband if he could introduce me to Cary and that summer I read Cary’s book which is called Shattering: Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity/. I realized that there are so many things in that book that I had no clue about even though at I’m a foodie and I know quite a lot about food, and it is of fundamental to having an intelligent conversation about the status of the food system today. And so I went to Memphis and I interviewed Cary and he really blew my mind. I realized that if this was something that people really need to know about in order to have an intelligent conversation about food and that I was going to learn along with my audience. So I felt like I was a good guinea pig for them.

The extinction statistics are staggering. How do you respond to people who say, “Well, that’s Darwinism. It’s just natural selection, right?”

It’s not in this case because we actually domesticated those plants and we ate those plants and we had tremendous diversity and a lot of different kinds of fruit and vegetables that we no longer have. In fact 93% of all the fruit and vegetables that were in the United States in the last 80 years has gone extinct. So that is huge, that’s a tremendous number and with agriculture now facing so many difficulties including limited lands, limited water, low availability of fertilizers, population expansion, and now climate change, having lost that diversity means that there are less tricks in the tool bag to let genetics be able to give to the farmers to work with to have a radish that’s going to survive, to have heat tolerance or drought resistance or all the things that farmers are starting to feel in terms of what’s happening with the climate. So that loss would have continued if Cary hadn’t done what he did. It’s an ongoing battle. Seed banks are still becoming extinct and if they’re not backed up, those seeds will go with them.

The scenes in the seed storage facility between Norway and the North Pole were like something out of a James Bond movie. What was it like to film there?

Well, it was very cold there. It was 50 below and 30 below in the vault. and I didn’t fully appreciate what that would mean. I have a lot of cold weather gear because I’ve shot in a lot of strange places, very cold places but I’ve never really been in any place like that. It’s very other wordly. It’s ironic that we store all those seeds up there because nothing could ever really grow up there. There’s a very short season where it’s day all the time and then the rest of the year starts again and it is very, very cold. And in my exuberance as soon as I go there I wanted to go to the seed vault and I jumped out of the car and ran up the hill and found a shot that I wanted to get and I very quickly realized that my nose hurt. I didn’t have anything on my face. You have to cover everything up. You can’t really run around in those kinds of temperatures. And it was funny because when we went into the seed vault which is 30 below it actually felt really warm to me. If you decide you’re going to shoot outdoors you have to stay outdoors all day because once you bring the cameras in they have to go through a thawing process and the lenses fog up. But we were lucky in a way that we’re in a modern enough time where we weren’t shooting film, because the film can break under those conditions. Also, it’s a really expensive of place to be. All the food that’s there has to be brought in and hotels are really expensive there so we couldn’t really stay there very long but we ran around as much as we could, while we could.

Your opening shot is so beautiful. It really invites you into the film even though it’s going to be a scary and disturbing stories. So tell me a little bit about the cinematography.

I come from a feature film background. I used to do continuity on feature films and I’ve worked with a lot of great cinematographers. And so I’ve learned what good lighting looks like and how to frame the shot. One of the biggest problems I had on this film was that I couldn’t have the same cinematographer with me all the time. I worked with lots of different people, so I had to keep trying to keep the look unified. It was really challenging but so far most people don’t seem to notice that. And because it’s about seeds, first of all I wanted people to see how beautiful seeds can really be because they’re so tiny we don’t really look at them. These two guys in London did a beautiful book of photography on seeds and I had seen it and they let me use some of those images in the film. They’re amazing when you look at them and, they are beautifully engineered, they have incredible subtlety and nuance and diversity. So finding things like that to shoot was really, really fun and we went to a lot of great locations. Peru is a beautiful country and the Peruvian farmers are incredibly beautiful people. They dress up in their indigenous gear and they look phenomenal in the film. And we were shooting in the Sacred Valley, which is a very lush mountainous part of Peru and which is incredibly photogenic. We were lucky and the film lends itself to lots of lush imagery.

How has working on the film changed the way that you shop?

I eat a lot more fruits and vegetables now than I ever had and I really look for things that were unusual. I’m interested in tasting new things. I’ve always been pretty healthy eater, except probably when I was in my teens. But I appreciate diversity in the supermarket now more than I ever have and I also appreciate what the farmer does more than I ever have. I really do appreciate actually having a relationship with someone that I know who’s growing my food.
It’s something really…that feels really connected to me and I like knowing what can grow seasonally where I lived and when it becomes available. Even though I live in the city, I live in a loft so I do grow some herbs on my fire escape. At least I can participate in that way and know what’s sort of growing around me. I think it’s healthier to do that.

How do you think of the people who were in their 20s today see these issue different than the last generation?

I have godsons in their 20s, and they are really much more interested in the land and their food, than I was when I was their age. Even though I was interested in it I was, I mean, I would go to the health food store and that sort of thing. One of them is taking a permaculture in class now. One of them has to come a really good chef and is interested in this new ideas of more nutrition per acre and how acre and how do you that instead of being so concerned about yield per acre. So I think that they are more aware because they see the issues that they’re about to confront. There are economic issues, though, too. I mean the whole farmers market phenomenon and I know that’s a certain…it has a certain…I know that Walmart is sourcing a lot more food locally and trying to make organic food more readily available. We need to have more democracy in our food. Consumers can help drive that. I know a lot of the big companies are trying to make healthier products now they see that they sell and that people are making a lot of money on this stuff. So I don’t think most people realize how powerful their dollars are and they can cast a vote on the food that they want by not buying what they don’t want to eat. And I know that their people who don’t know we have that choice because they’re in a hurry and they don’t have time to think about it. I think we should be responsible about what we do because it definitely influences the powers that be. They’re in the business of selling things and if they can’t sell them they’re not going to make them. So we can help drive that.

Trailer: We Are Your Friends

posted by Nell Minow

Zac Efron stars in “We Are Your Friends,” opening in August 2015.

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