The Wicker Man

Posted on September 1, 2006 at 2:54 pm

F+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for disturbing images and violence, language and thematic issues.
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Prescription drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Very scary images and abrupt and startling moments of terror. Sudden, high-speed crashes, dead bodies and mutilation
Diversity Issues: Diverse communities, paganism
Date Released to Theaters: 2006
Date Released to DVD: 2007
Amazon.com ASIN: B000FUF6QS

Fans of the original The Wicker Man appreciate the film for many reasons: Its dichotomy of paganism and Christianity, its skillful use of Celtic folk music, its eerie and overbearing ambience. Although some might find it slow, disturbing, and at times absurd, it is redeemed by a general sense that the actors and filmmakers felt a genuine passion about setting a mood, posing philosophical questions, and making the audience feel and think. Somehow, with the mystery and horror meant to achieve a higher goal than just shock and alarm, so it’s not a total enigma — on some levels, anyway — why some consider the 1973 film a “classic.”


A classic remake, on the other hand, tends to be an oxymoron. Unless classic is used as a sarcastic term, and remake in the most derogatory sense of the word, which, in the case of director Neil LaBute’s version seems entirely appropriate.


While the original relies on an impending sense of doom to carry viewers to the chilling end, the remake piles on a steady steam of violence, flashes of very disturbing and shocking images, and outbursts of nonsensical emotion to give the film weight. The gimmicky horror-flick conventions ultimately drag the film to a screeching halt when it becomes clear that no deeper meaning will be found and no redemption attained. Most bizarre, however, is the film’s attempt at humor. Comic relief to break the tension in the action/horror genre is not uncommon — take, for example, Lake Placid, Anaconda, and to recent extremes Snakes on a Plane — but this film’s almost slapstick stunts, most courtesy of star Nicholas Cage, have no continuity or context. Most of the concepts presented — such as human sacrifice, betrayal, murder of one’s own family members, and mutilation — have no place alongside desperate attempts to garner laughter at the absurdity of life.

Ultimately, even as the film leaves viewers with a terrible and horrific final scene, the audience leaves questioning not the meanings of evil and murder in our society but the validity of a film that puts such concepts on display with no greater purpose or goal.


Parents should know that this film has many highly disturbing images and presents upsetting concepts such as human sacrifice and torture. In one scene, a car blows up with a mother and daughter inside, and in another a young girl is tied to a tree with the implication that she is to be killed as a sacrificial offering. The individual relationships in this film are meant to shock and awe, such as a woman deceiving her ex-fiance to his death and a daughter lighting the fire that is used to kill her father.Many images are as shocking as they are memorable, and impressionable children and adults alike may be left with highly unpleasant images in their mind.


Some main themes of the film include a female-dominant society (in this case, unfortunately tied to the negativity of the film) and betrayal of loved ones. Families should discuss the meaning of community, and what makes some communities healthy and some oppressive. Families should also talk about different cultures and societies, and what makes our societies and others prosper or fail.


Families who enjoyed this film might also enjoy 1973’s Soylent Green, and the original Wicker Man of the same year.

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Crank

Posted on September 1, 2006 at 2:49 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexuality, nudity and drug use.
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, street and pharmaceutical drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Extreme, intense, graphic, and grisly violence, guns, knives, fighting, torture, many characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: 2006
Date Released to DVD: 2007
Amazon.com ASIN: B000K7UBSO

Crank — as in the highly potent and highly agitating street drug, as in cranked up, as in dizzying cuts and swoops with the camera to replicate a disorienting strung-out high followed by an even more disorienting and strung-out crash.


Actually, it begins with the crash. Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) wakes up feeling like death, which turns out to be just about right. According to a DVD left for him, he has been injected with poison and has about one hour left to live. But Chev is a guy who knows how to fill an hour. He needs to get his revenge, say goodbye to his girlfriend, and look very, very hard for a loophole.


And he has to do it at full speed. The poison he’s taken can be slowed down if he can keep his adrenaline pumping. You might think that just knowing you’ve been poisoned and racing around trying to find the guy who did it before it kicks in would be enough to keep the fight-or-flight juices going, but Chev finds a way to kick it up a notch with just about everything available, from cocaine to sex to defibrillator paddles and a waffle iron as he races around in real time, crashing his car through a shopping mall, trying to get a shot of epinephrine from a hospital, and knocking his girlfriend’s purse out of her hands so she won’t notice that he’s knocking off some baddies as she retrieves her keys and lipstick.


Statham’s coolness is always a treat to watch and the movie has some great set-pieces and action sequences. But it overdoes the gallows humor (okay, you slice a guy’s gun hand off with a meat cleaver, maybe the hand will still be on the gun when you pick it up, but do you have to keep it on while you shoot and then throw the hand at a guy?). Amy Smart brings a lovely slow vibe counterpoint as Chev’s warm-hearted but clueless girlfriend, even when she is called upon to participate in a bizarre sex scene in front of fascinated crowd inlcuding a schoolbus of girls in uniforms. Country star Dwight Yoakum is terrific as Chev’s unschockable doctor. But as the body count mounts up, the story runs out of ideas, and it goes from crank to crummy.

Parents should know that this movie has non-stop and very graphic and grisly violence. Not only is a man’s hand sliced off, the hand is still holding the gun when it is picked up, it gets thrown at someone, and it is later displayed on a table. There are guns and knives, car crashes, punches, head butts, and kicks, a guy gets thrown off a building, another guy gets tortured and killed, and of course the main character is poisoned. Characters drink, smoke, and abuse street and pharmaceutical drugs, and they use very strong and crude language, including the n-word (used humorously to refer to a white man). There are explicit sexual references and situations and sexual and non-sexual nudity.


Families who see this movie should talk about what their priorities would be if they had one hour to live.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the 1950 version of D.O.A., about a man who must solve his own murder before the poison kills him, and the 1988 remake with Dennis Quaid. They will also enjoy Speed, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch.

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