Adrift

Posted on May 31, 2018 at 3:36 pm

C
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol, brief drug use
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: June 1, 2018

Copyright 2018 STX Films
If I ever decide to pursue a PhD, I think I will go for a combined film/economics degree and study the correlation between the quality of a film and the star also being the producer. There will be plenty of data.

Shailene Woodley produces and stars in “Adrift,” based on the true story of a young couple sailing across the Pacific Ocean in the early 1980’s, who were caught in a deadly hurricane. There is obviously a lot of appeal for an actress in a story of the struggle to survive with the opportunity to show courage, resilience, and determination. But the back-and-forth flashbacks weaken the intensity of that struggle and a weak script with a Gothika Rule-worthy twist ending make even a story of survival more disappointing than inspiring.

Tami (Woodley) is a free spirit as we see when the immigration official in Tahiti asks her what her profession is and she replies, “Whatever job pays me enough to get me to the next place.” She has been traveling full-time since she graduated from high school five years earlier, most recently as chef on a schooner. She meets Richard (Sam Claflin), a British Naval Academy drop-out who worked in a boatyard so that he could build his own sailboat and has been on the water pretty much full-time ever since. Though he tells her that being at sea alone is mostly being “sunburnt, sleep-deprived, seasick, or all three at once. And after a few days, there’s the hallucinations.” But there is something both of them find irresistible in sailing into the horizon, and both have an unquenchable desire to see what the world has to offer. In one of the movie’s best scenes, she says a sunset at sea is red (as in “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight”), and he makes her see all the different shades and colors within the red. While she teases him about it later, she loves seeing the world through his eyes. And he loves her spirit of adventure.

When a wealthy friend offers Richard $10,000 and two first-class plane tickets to sail his yacht to San Diego, it seems like a perfect way for them to begin their life of adventure. But we know from the movie’s first shot that they are sailing into terrible trouble. We first see Tami submerged, and then we see her come to, disoriented, in the wrecked and waterlogged hull of the yacht, with Richard gone. Later we will see their tiny ship buffeted about by waves (the special effects are fine but nothing we didn’t see in “The Perfect Storm”) interspersed with scenes of their early romance and scenes of the 41 days adrift, with no way to get help or let anyone know where they were.

I don’t want to spoil the movie’s twist here, but per the Gothika Rule will be happy to share it to anyone who writes to me at moviemom@moviemom.com. I’ll just saw that while I am sure it was a deeply spiritual and sustaining experience for Tami, it comes across poorly on screen, leaving the audience, yes, adrift.

Parents should know that this film includes intense mortal peril with severe and graphic injuries, some strong language, sexual references, nudity, brief drug use, alcohol, reference to suicide and teen pregnancy, and a sad death.

Family discussion: How many ways can you think of to describe red? Why was the frangipani so meaningful? Why did Tami say she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything? What problem-solving skills helped her the most?

If you like this, try: “Touching the Void” and “The Life of Pi”

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Everything, Everything

Posted on May 18, 2017 at 5:57 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief sensuality
Alcohol/ Drugs: Medication
Violence/ Scariness: Theme of potentially deadly illness, reference to sad death, domestic abuse
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 19, 2017

Copyright Warner Brothers 2017
Copyright Warner Brothers 2017
“Everything, Everything,” based on the novel by Nicola Yoon, is an updated fairy tale about a princess trapped in a castle and the prince who does not exactly rescue her but gives her a reason to rescue herself.

It’s not an enchantment or a curse that keeps her inside. It’s an illness that means any exposure to bacteria or a virus could be fatal. Maddy (Amandla Stenberg, Rue in “The Hunger Games”) cannot remember a time when she was allowed to be outdoors.

Diagnosed at 2 with the immune deficiency SCID, Maddy lives in an irradiated and sterile environment. She has never left her home and has never met anyone other than her doctor mother (Anika Noni Rose), her nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera), and Carla’s daughter Rosa (Danube R. Hermosillo). She has books, she has an exercise machine, she has 100 identical white t-shirts, and she has an online SCID support group. She and her mother watch movies and play phonetic scrabble. Maddy studies architecture and builds model rooms, placing the figure of an astronaut in each one. This avatar is her opposite. Her world is measured in square feet; the astronaut’s is unlimited.

Maddy stands at the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the backyard and imagines what it would feel like to stand on grass or feel a breeze of unfiltered air. And she has a seat in the corner of her bedroom overlooking the house next door, which is how she peers down at a new family moving in, a new family with a boy who has a beautiful smile. He is Olly (Nick Robinson of “Kings of Summer”). He draws his phone number on his window opposite her bedroom, and soon they are texting each other, sweetly portrayed as a face-to-face conversation at a table in Maddy’s model diner, with the astronaut looking on. She wears white; he wears black. She says, “When I talk to him, I feel like I’m outside.” But when she talks to him, she wants to go outside. And both of them find their worlds getting less black and white.

The elements of a young teen romantic fantasy are all here, primarily the disapproving parent, the utterly devoted and hunky but not too aggressive young male, adoring and supportive, and the big reason that they cannot get too physical, except maybe one perfect time. In “Twilight,” he was a vampire who could lose control and kill her. Here it’s just his normal human germs. Anyone over the age of 15 may be distracted by impracticalities and plot developments that go from improbable to preposterous, but even people who know that you have to have ID to get on an airplane and money to pay a credit card bill might just enjoy the pleasures of watching Maddy wake up to the world and Olly, through her, wake up to a few of his own.

Parents should know that this film includes risky teen behavior, some strong language, serious illness, and a non-explicit sexual situation.

Family discussion: Did Carla make the right decision? Why does Maddy put an astronaut in her model rooms?

If you like this, try: “My Sister’s Keeper,” “Before I Fall” and “The Fault in Our Stars”

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No Good Deed — A Twist on the Gothika Rule

Posted on September 11, 2014 at 10:10 am

The critics screening of this week’s release, “No Good Deed,” was cancelled just hours before we were supposed to see it.  The reason: “There is a plot twist in the film that they do not want to reveal as it will affect the audiences’ experience when they see the film in theaters.”

Translation: The movie is so awful we can’t risk having it come out without a single good review.  It’s hard to believe they would have been harsher than the reactions of the critics to being excluded from seeing it. Here’s my favorite:

A couple of times a year I invoke my legendary Gothika rule — if an ending is truly terrible, I will give it away to anyone who sends me an email to ask for it. Since I haven’t seen this one, I’m going to let you guess the twist and send it to me. Give me your best ideas at moviemom@moviemom.com — if I hear from you by September 14th, I’ll send you a free e-copy of my book 101 Must-See Movie Moments.

Here’s my guess: I’m going with the full Bobby Ewing. It was all a dream.

It may be that the good deed here was allowing us to skip the film. GOTHIKA RULE ALERT: I will be happy to spoil the twist for anyone who wants to send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com.

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“Gothika Rule”

Upcoming Show Business Memoirs

Posted on July 8, 2014 at 8:00 am

oprah coverMashable has a very intriguing list of upcoming show business memoirs, by everyone from Oprah Winfrey (What I Know For Sure) to rapper Ja Rule (Unruly: The Highs and Lows of Becoming a Man). I’m particularly looking forward to Yes Please, by Amy Poehler (more a series of essays than a memoir), and Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir, by Alan Cumming of “The Good Wife” and Broadway’s “Cabaret.” I’m not a fan of “Girls,” but I respect Lena Dunham and would like to read her upcoming Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”. I think I’ll skip Joan Rivers’ Diary of a Mad Diva, though. I read and enjoyed her earlier memoir, but even before last week’s distasteful controversy, it seems to me she had become more sad than funny.

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Red Riding Hood

Posted on March 12, 2011 at 8:00 am

Oh, Grandmother, what a big, bad movie you have.

So, apparently what happened here is that for whatever reason director Catherine Hardwicke did not get to make the second and third “Twilight” movies, so she decided to make a different hot supernatural teenage romance triangle instead, even keeping one of the same actors in a similar role (Billy Burke as the girl’s father). Twilight may not be great literature but it sure feels like it next to this mess.

Hardwicke’s two great strengths are her background as a production designer and her skill in working with teenagers. Both desert her here. We’re in trouble right from the start, when we see the little village. Instead of evoking fairy tales or rustic, rough-hewn country construction, it looks over-produced and over-designed, like a Christmas ornament rejected by Thomas Kinkade.

The village has maintained an uneasy peace with a savage wolf. Each full moon, they leave out their choicest livestock for him, and the rest of the time he leaves them alone. But the fragile pact is broken when a girl in the village is killed. Valerie (doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried) is the younger sister of the girl who was killed. She is a spirited young woman who has been betrothed by her parents to Henry (Max Irons) but plans to run away with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). With her sister gone and the town at risk, she is not sure about leaving her parents and grandmother (Julie Christie).

Henry’s father is killed in an expedition to kill the wolf, but the hunters bring back a wolf head and prepare to celebrate. But the local priest (Lukas Haas of “Witness”) has brought in an expert (Gary Oldman), who tells them that the animal they killed was an ordinary wolf. The creature they must kill is a werewolf. That means he or she is human by day. And that means that the killer they are looking for is one of them, someone who lives in the village. Suspicion and betrayal become as critical a threat to the village as the wolf itself.

But neither as as big a threat to the movie as the inability of Hardwicke and screenwriter David Johnson to maintain a consistent tone, with drippy voiceovers (“he always had a way of making me want to break the rules”), anachronistic howlers like “Get me outta here,” and a sort of 18th century rave dance-off. The fake-outs intended to be archetypal and creepy are simply silly, and by the time someone yells, “What happened to the rabbit, Valerie!” any connection to the power of the original story is gone for good.

Those of you who know what the Gothika rule is know what to do!

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