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Aardvark

Posted on April 12, 2018 at 5:27 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic issues, language, some sexuality and violence
Profanity: Some strong language
Nudity/ Sex: Sexual references and situation
Alcohol/ Drugs: Some drinking, references to psychotropic medication
Violence/ Scariness: Some violence, character injured, references to sad deaths
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: April 13, 2018

Copyright 2018 Great Point Media
“Aardvark” has three thoughtful performances and a couple of intriguing interactions, but is ultimately undermined by an underwritten script. The parts are greater than the whole.

Zachary Quinto, who also produced, plays Josh, and we meet him on his first visit to a new therapist, which conveniently gives us a chance to learn very quickly that (1) he is underemployed in a coffee shop but sees it as progress so he must have been pretty badly off, (2) he has plenty of money, but keeps it crumpled up in his pocket so does not seem too on top of things, and (3) he has a brother who — he says — is a successful and very talented actor named Craig, and who is back in their home town for the first time in many years.

Josh is clearly fragile, but is he an unreliable narrator? Should we believe him? The new therapist, Emily (Jenny Slate) is not sure, and neither are well. Josh emphasizes that his brother is such a gifted actor that he can appear as anyone. In a couple of exceptional scenes, Josh speaks to an older homeless white woman and a black cop, who — are we seeing into his mind? — turn out to be Craig.

Is there a Craig? Is he anything like Josh’s description? We probably have concluded it is unlikely as perhaps Emily has, too, until he does, in fact, show up at Emily’s door, played by Jon Hamm. And this is where the movie starts to run out of ideas.

Slate gives an underwritten character as much depth as possible, and two intriguing encounters suggest that perhaps there were other versions of the story that provided more background (or should have). It is disappointing that writer/director Brian Shoaf could not come up with a less well-worn set of conflicts for her. Hamm continues to be one of today’s most thoughtful and adept performers. Especially in his early scenes, Hamm is able to show us the personality distortion of Craig’s years of semi-stardom (as the lead in a popular television series) and distance from his home and his brother. And Quinto is perceptive as he portrays Josh in different stages of his illness, with and without medication.

It is very good to see a movie about someone with mental illness who is not portrayed as cute or a savant, and especially good to see one that grapples with the survivor guilt and exhaustion of family members. Shoaf shows some promise as a writer and director and we look forward to what he comes next.

Parents should know that this movie’s themes include severe mental illness and psychotropic medications, references to sad loss of family members, some violence, strong language, sexual references and situation

Family discussion: Why didn’t Craig want to see Josh? What did Josh miss when he was taking his medication?

If you like this, try; “Entanglement,” “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

Royal Wedding Watch on PBS

Posted on April 11, 2018 at 4:43 pm

It seems just yesterday we watched his parents get married, but now we are looking forward to the wedding of Prince Harry and his American bride, Meghan Markle. Not since Princess Grace married Prince Rainier of Monaco has there been such a real-life Cinderella story, and the prince and his bride have captivated the world with their obvious affection and commitment to good works.

Today, PBS announced Royal Wedding Watch, premiering Monday-Thursday, May 14-17, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET and Friday, May 18, 10:30-11:30 p.m. ET (check local listings), a five-part nightly series of special programs leading up to the live broadcast of the royal wedding on Saturday morning, May 19, on PBS.

It will be hosted by American news anchor Meredith Vieira and British television presenter Matt Baker, who will update viewers on the preparations for the much-anticipated wedding of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle.

During the week prior to the ceremony, which will occur in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor, the hosts will be joined in-studio by experts, commentators and special guests. BBC presenter and host Anita Rani will report live from Windsor each night, and English historian Lucy Worsley, Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, will delve into the pageantry, pomp and protocol surrounding Harry and Meghan’s nuptials.

Royal Wedding Watch will also showcase Britain’s rich royal heritage and illuminate how history and tradition will influence the union of this modern couple.

“From cakes to choristers, banquets to bouquets, gowns to crowns, viewers will get a fun and informative insider’s briefing on royal etiquette, and an unprecedented look at the elaborate planning, secrecy and care that goes into this royal wedding that has captured the imagination of people around the world,” said Shawn Halford, PBS’ Senior Director, Programming.

Lisa Ausden, Creative Director, BBC Studios’ Topical and Live Unit, added: “BBC Studios is thrilled to be working with PBS in this unique collaboration, giving U.S. viewers a front row seat in the build-up to the big day. We’ll capture all the excitement as Windsor becomes the focus of the world, and we’ll have unrivaled expertise in our central London studio to discuss the history and tradition of royal weddings, plus, of course, the romance which brought the Prince and his American bride together.”

Rampage

Posted on April 11, 2018 at 4:00 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures
Profanity: About a dozen bad words
Nudity/ Sex: Brief crude humor
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended peril and action-style violence with chases, explosions, guns, bombs, monsters, many human and animal characters injured and killed, some graphic and disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: April 13, 2018

Copyright New Line Cinema 2018
Pay attention, my friends, this one is a little bit tricky. In his last movie, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson played an avatar in a movie about a video game. In this one, he plays a human in a movie based on a video game, though in the video game, big in arcades in the 1980’s, it was the animals who were the avatars, and your task as player was to help them destroy the city while Johnson’s human character in the film is there to protect it.

Still with me?

Well, maybe “human” does not adequately describe Johnson’s character, the primatologist/Special Forces veteran Davis Okoye, the essence of movie hero, always ready with his fists or a quip or both at the same time. And, you know, he looks like The Rock.

Okoye works at a San Diego animal preserve, where he is especially close to an albino gorilla named George. They communicate via sign language. And it’s all downright Edenic until George is hit with spray from one of three canisters of gene-altering material that “edit” his DNA to make him grow to King Kong size and make him furious, aggressive, and destructive.

With the help of the beautiful scientist who developed the gene-editing juice, hoping to help humanity and not in any way aware that the evil corporation she was working for was planning to weaponize it. Naomie Harris plays Dr. Kate Caldwell, and Jake Lacy and Malin Akerman are the oh-so-evil brother and sister who run the corporation. Well, she’s evil; he’s way over his head. Then there’s Joe Manganiello as a mercenary hired by the evil sister, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a FBI official with a Southern accent, and a walloping lot of CGI as the three monsters — those two other canisters — Okoye has to find a way to stop.

If they ever give out an Oscar for efficiency of set-up, this movie is a contender. It quickly assigns an attribute to each character and lets us know immediately what the stakes are in every scene. Director Brad Peyton (“San Andreas,” also starring Johnson) knows we’re here for the action, and spends just enough time between scenes of shootouts, explosions, and chases to remind us why we should care what happens to the characters. Manganiello’s character has a big scar on his face, so we know he’s tough. The evil sister says, “There’s a reason we were doing these experiments in space and it wasn’t for the betterment of humanity,” just to make it clear that she is the bad guy. In case we missed it the first time, when her hapless brother says, “You can’t liquidate all your problems,” she snaps back, “Agree to disagree.”

And Dr. Kate lies to her boss on the phone, so we know that she is not a rule follower. Plus, we glimpse a photo in her apartment showing her hugging a cancer patient, so we know she is nice and probably bereaved. Morgan’s FBI character has a seen-it-all, heard-it-all look but a bit of a twinkle in his eye. And a homing device has the three giant, hungry, and very hostile animals going full-speed to Chicago.

Does any of it make sense? Not really. Do we care? Not really. Just don’t think too hard about how long it would take for debris to fall from space, what condition it might be in, or how long it would take an antidote to work. This is a movie based on an arcade game, and it is much better than most game-based films.

In part that is because the game was from the 80’s and didn’t really have a storyline, so there was no risk of being too faithful or not faithful enough, and in part because it never takes itself too seriously. It takes the stunts and action seriously, though. There’s a wow of a plane crash some good moments in the midst of a massive destruction of Chicago’s Loop. And George (motion capture actor Jason Liles) is, if not realistic, believable. Johnson is right in his sweet spot here, and so are we, with a popcorn treat to kick off the summer season.

Parents should know that this film includes extended peril and action-style violence with chases, explosions, guns, bombs, monsters, many human and animal characters injured and killed, some graphic and disturbing images, some strong language, and some crude humor.

Family discussion: Who should make the rules about genetic experimentation? Who in this film follows orders and who does not? Why did Davis say he was not a “people person?”

If you like this, try: “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Transformers”

Movie MVP of the Month: American Sign Language in “Rampage” and “A Quiet Place”

Posted on April 11, 2018 at 8:22 am

Two April movies feature ASL (American Sign Language), the beautiful, complex language based on hands, gestures, and facial expressions that is used by Deaf and non-speaking people in America and English-speaking Canada. “A Quiet Place” is about a family trying to survive in a world overrun with vicious blind animals who attack by using their hyper-acute hearing. So they communicate via ASL, which they all know because they have a Deaf daughter, played by Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds of “Wonderstruck.”

In this week’s “Rampage,” the primatologist played by Dwayne Johnson uses ASL to communicate with an ape called George, along the lines of the famous experiments with Koko the gorilla and Washoe the chimp.

And the 2017 Oscar-winner for Best Picture and Best Director was “The Shape of Water,” which also featured ASL, as Sally Hawkins played a mute woman who communicated with a highly evolved amphibian.

Other movies featuring character using ASL to communicate include: “Children of a Lesser God,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” “Johnny Bedelia,” “The Miracle Worker,” and “Baby Driver.”