The Fall Guy

Posted on May 1, 2024 at 10:00 am

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for action and violence, drug content and some strong language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol, jokes about getting tipsy, drug use, including hallucinations
Violence/ Scariness: Extended real and fictional peril and action, fights, guns and other weapons, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 3, 2024

“The Fall Guy” is a love letter to movie-making, to all of the work, all of the heart, all of the expertise from hundreds of people that goes into telling our stories. It is a love letter to the audience, filled with action, romance, comedy, impossibly gorgeous, magnificently talented ,and endlessly charismatic performers, and with joy. Most of all, it is a love letter to the unsung heroes who do the crazy daredevil stunts that make the world’s most beloved movie stars look athletic and courageous. It is pure popcorn pleasure and I cannot wait to see it again.

There’s just a tincture of the 80s television series that lends its name, its theme song, character name, and a brief cameo from its star, Lee Majors). This is the story of stunt man Ryan Gosling as Colt Seavers, who is the long-time substitute for one of the world’s biggest Hollywood action stars, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) when the script calls for anything that might be dangerous. The job of the stunt performers is to do the crazy things that make audiences gasp and cheer: cars rolling over, falls from great heights, fighting with fists, feet, and weapons, dangling from helicopters, racing speedboats. Basically, they get paid a minuscule fraction of what the star is paid to get all of the bruises, burns. and broken bones, do to it over and over, to make sure their faces do not show and ruin the illusion, and to give a thumbs-up to show that they are fine after every take.

Colt has a crush on a cinematographer and would-be director, Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt). But when Tom insists on a re-do of a fall from the top of a skyscraper atrium because he thinks too much of Colt’s chin was showing, something goes wrong and Colt is badly injured. Over the next 18 months, as he slowly recovers, he works as a parking valet and his relationship with Jody ends in hurt and disappointment.

And then Colt gets a call from Tom’s long-time producer, Gail Meyer (“Ted Lasso’s” Hannah Waddingham). Tom is making a huge sci-fi film in Australia and Gail wants Colt to do the stunts. He says no. She says Jody asked for him. He says, “Get me an aisle seat.”

Once he gets to Sydney, Gail tells Colt that Tom has disappeared and she wants Colt to find him. He also finds out that Jody did not ask for him because (1) she is surprised to see him and not happy about it and (2) she fires him. Literally. Like, she has him do a stunt where he’s on fire and gets slammed into a rock — three times.

There is so much more I’m longing to tell you about what happens next but I want you to have the pleasure of discovering it all for yourselves. I will just say that Gosling and Blunt have chemistry for days and are clearly having a blast perfecting the balance between action, comedy, romance, and mystery, there are dozens of sly jokes about Hollywood and filmmaking, Winston Duke is a dream as the stunt coordinator (if you have not seen him in “Black Panther” and “Nine Days” and “Us,” three roles that could not be more different, watch them!), there’s a stunt dog who only understands French, and while you may expect the stunts to be amazing, they are amazing times amazing. Real-life stunt performer-turned director David Leitch likes to take Hollywood’s handsomest leading men (Brad Pitt in “Bullet Train,” Gosling here) and make them scruffy and in need of a comeback, always a choice choice. Be sure to stay through the credits for behind the scenes footage of the real stunt performers and an extra scene.

Parents should know that this is an action film with extended real and fictional (stunt) peril and violence, with guns and other weapons, fight scenes, characters injured and killed, drinking and jokes about being tipsy, drugs, and some strong language.

Family discussion: What’s your go-to karaoke song and why? Why is it hard to apologize? Would you like to see the movie Colt and Jody are making?

If you like this, try: “The Stunt Man” (some mature material) with Peter O’Toole as the director of a WWI movie who impulsively hires an escaped convict as a stunt performer, and stunt-filled films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Fast X” and another movie from this director, also with Taylor-Johnson, “Bullet Train”

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Based on a television show Date movie movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Romance Scene After the Credits

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Posted on December 21, 2023 at 2:12 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for language and sci-fi violence
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Beer
Violence/ Scariness: Extended comic-book style fantasy action, some disturbing images of characters getting burned and stabbed, zombie-like characters, monsters
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: December 22, 2023

Copyright WB 2023
I get the feeling everyone was just calling it in on this one. The DCCU is getting a makeover under James Gunn and Peter Safran and who knows what will happen given the prospect of the catastrophic leadership of David Zaslav burying his bad decisions and collecting a huge paycheck with a possible sale of Warner-Discovery to Paramount. And Jason Mamoa already made it clear this was his last Aquaman movie. Whether the behind-the-scenes is the reason for this lackluster, derivative entry in the DC Cinematic Universe or not, the movie is a wait-for-streaming for all but the most devoted fans.

In our last episode, Aquaman (Momoa) killed a pirate named Jesse Kane, and his son, David (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) vows to kill Aquaman in revenge. And Aquaman seizes control of the underwater kingdom from his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson). An extra scene in the credits has David Kane joining forces with marine scientist Stephen Shin (Randall Park), who promises to help David get his revenge if David will help him find the lost kingdom under the sea.

We pick up a few years later, where, in the first of a series of clangingly obvious foreshadowing signals, Arthur/Aquaman is now married to Mera (Amber Heard) and he tells us the most important thing in the world to him is their baby son, Junior. Aquaman divides his time between his home at the shore, with his human father, Tom (Temuera Morrison) helping to care for Junior, and his undersea kingdom. He is often frustrated with the bureaucracy of the kingdom’s council. And he is very concerned about the land countries destroying the environment, but, with his kingdom’s long history of secrecy, he cannot reach out to the upper world.

David has found the lost kingdom and the source of immense evil power in the black trident. A frozen spirit who looks like a cross between Groot and the Green Goblin says he will give that power to David if he will bring him the descendent of his enemy, which turns out to be guess who.

Actually, it’s guess whos, but that comes later. In order to fight David, Aquaman will have to team up with Orm, the half-brother who tried to kill him, and who is now in prison. The council will never approve, knowing that breaking Orm out of prison will start a war with his captors, but no matter, Aquaman does it anyway.

Much of the storyline is similar to “The Black Panther,” a kingdom with superior technology trying to decide whether to let the rest of the world know who they are and a villain seeking revenge with a conclusion for one character very reminiscent of Killmonger. And the mechanical octopus-like machine seems an awful lot like the one from “The Incredibles.” Topo, the real (CGI) octopus, is, fun, though, and I wish we’d seen more of him. The special effects range from okay to pretty good. Martin Short makes the best of a character who seems like a cross between Jabba the Hutt and a champion from RuPaul’s drag race.

It swings back and forth between meaningless nods to the issue of climate change (the most damaging technology is imaginary), action scenes with lots of monsters and machines, cliche dialog (“It’s time for me to reclaim my destiny!”), and corny winks at the audience. Here’s hoping the Gunn/Safran regime can do better.

NOTE: Stay for one mid-credits scene

Parents should know that this film has some strong language and constant comic book-style action with some grisly images of monsters. Characters are in peril and there are graphic wounds.

Family discussion: What influenced the relationship between Arthur and Orm? How would we think of environmental threats differently if we thought humanoid creatures lived there? Why did Aquaman try to save David?

If you like this, try: the other DC comics films and the comic books, especially the Neal Adams versions

Related Tags:

 

3D Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Scene After the Credits Series/Sequel Superhero

Candy Cane Lane

Posted on November 30, 2023 at 5:32 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for language throughout and some suggestive references
Profanity: Some schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Comic/fantasy peril
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: December 1, 2023

Copyright Amazon 2023
Chris (Eddie Murphy) loves Christmas so much his children are named Nick (Thaddeus J. Mixson), Joy (Genneya Walton), and Holly (Madison Thomas). Possibly, it’s not a coincidence that his wife is named Carol (Tracee Ellis Ross). The family lives in the Southern California town of El Segundo, on a street called Candy Cane Lane that is famous for the elaborate Christmas (and, at one house, Hanukkah) decorations.

As the movie begins, Chris has an extra reason to try to win the competition for best decorations. His across-the-street neighbor Bruce (Ken Marino) has won the past four years. But this year, Chris has just been laid off and for the first time the local television channel that covers Candy Cane Lane is offering a $100,000 prize for the winner.

He discovers a pop-up Christmas store called Kringle’s, run by Pepper (Jillian Bell). He sees a gigantic tree-shaped, “!2 Days of Christmas”-themed decoration and buys it, so enthusiastic and in such a hurry to get it home that does not check to see how much it costs, not just in money, but in more. He signs without reading the fine print. It turns out Pepper was once an elf at the North Pole. She was thrown out for putting too many people on the Naughty list. Now she sets impossible tasks and when people cannot complete them she turns them into little ceramic Dickensian Christmas figurines, charmingly CGI-animated and endearingly voiced by Nick Offerman, Robin Thede, and Chris Redd, with the fabulous a cappella group Pentatonix as a carol-singing choir.

The “12 Days of Christmas” ornaments start to come to life, creating chaos at Carol’s job, just as she is up for a promotion and at Joy’s track meet, just as a scout from her dream college is in the stands (the lords a leaping are very impressive). The impossible task for Chris is to get the golden rings from each of the ornaments before midnight, or he will be trapped forever as one of the ceramic figures.

Murphy gives a lower-key, nearly anti-less performance than we’ve seen from him in the past, letting the concept and the special effects take the lead, with him grounding the fantasy by focusing on Chris as a devoted father. The strength of the family keeps the story from getting lost in the silliness. Some elements of the film are less successful, especially the cut-aways to the local television show, with one of the hosts increasingly irritated with the other. But it all comes together at the end, with David Alan Grier as Santa and a satisfying resolution for Chris and his family.

Parents should know that this film has extended fantasy peril and some schoolyard language.

Family discussion: What made Chris and Carol change their minds about Joy’s school choice? What’s your favorite Christmas decoration?

If you like this, try: “Family Switch”

Related Tags:

 

Comedy Family Issues Fantasy movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Scene After the Credits

The Marvels

Posted on November 9, 2023 at 5:24 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for action violence and brief language
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended comic book/action-style violence, references to genocide
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: November 10, 2023

Copyright 2023 Marvel Studios
“The Marvels” is not your father’s superhero movie. If you don’t want to see superheroes cry or apologize, skip this one. If you’re looking for grand-scale, innovative action sequences with wow-inspiring special effects, maybe wait for “Dead Reckoning; Part 2.’ In other words, “The Marvels” is not what many ticket-buyers and comic book fans look for in an Avengers movie. But for those who are looking for something other than the usual CGI superpowers, it has some satisfying pleasures.

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) can be a problematic character because even in the world of superheroes, she is the first among equals. She can pretty much do anything and has very little in the way of a kryptonite-style vulnerability. That is why she is the Marvel version of the Lone Ranger, used only sparingly in the Avengers movie, with the explanation that she is so powerful her highest and best use is somewhere out in the galaxy. There is such a thing sa being too super; it means the stakes are not dire enough to be interesting. So her vulnerabilities are one internal — some memory loss — and one external — she has made mistakes with tragic consequences. What made the first Captain Marvel movie its superpower was the realization that what she had been taught about who were the good and bad guys was not true.

As “The Marvels” begins, Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers is using a memory band to try to restore the blank spots. Meanwhile, Monica Rambeau (Teyhonah Harris of “Chi-Raq” and “They Cloned Tyrone”), the daughter of Carol’s best friend, has grown up and is an astronaut. She also has some superpowers involving electrical energy. Also meanwhile, Kamala Kahn (the adorable Iman Vellani from the Disney+ series) is a high school student with powers that are also elextricity-based, thanks to a cuff bracelet she was given by her grandmother. When she is not doing her homework, spending time with her close-knit Pakistani-American family, or saving the day, she creates fan-fiction about joining forces with her idol, Captain Marvel.Her comic strips are amusingly animated for us to enjoy.

and *also* meanwhile, we have Dar-Benn, played by Zawe Ashton. She has Kintsugi’d teeth and the indispensable quality of a supervillain, an imperious British accent (though very far from “Mr. Malcolm’s List”). Ashton is really underused here, stuck with a one-note villain role that has her more petulant than evil. Also, even by comic book standards, that is an unimpressive name. After what appears to be a long and arduous search, she has found one super-power-granting cuff bracelet, and now must locate the other one of the pair, the one currently on the wrist of a Pakistani-American teenager. Dar-Benn wants to use the power of the bracelets to save her people, and if that means wiping out another group of refugees, no problem, perhaps a side benefit.

Somehow, whatever tear Dar-Benn has made in the fabric of the universe or time or reality or all three leads to a very entertaining glitch. Captain Marvel, Monica, and Kamala discover that when they use their powers at the same time, they switch places. So Captain Marvel finds herself in a teenager’s suburban bedroom and Monica (who, like Captain Marvel, can fly) and Kamala (who cannot, though she can create presumed energy blocks that can help protect her from a fall) find themselves in Captain Marvel’s spaceship or outside of Nick Fury’s outpost.

Finally the three Marvels get together, with Goose, the cat-appearing Flerken, and go after those “surges in the jump point systems” that lead to Dar-Benn.

So, be aware: this movie is more about relationships than bam-pow-chase-explosion. There is crying and there are apologies and even some praying. There’s one scene that is so over-the-top it involves the word “princess” and singing. Goose gets into some Tribble-ific territory with a song from “Cats” on the soundtrack. I was into it; many people will not be.

NOTE: Watch the credits for one extra scene.

Parents should know that this film includes some strong language and extended comic book-style action and peril with characters injured and killed (or killed-ish). There is a situation where not everyone can be saved, and it is handled clumsily.

Family discussion: Should Carol have gone home as she promised? Why didn’t she? What do you think the legal issue was on the ocean planet?

If you like this, try: the other “Captain Marvel” movies, the “Ms. Marvel” series, and the comic books

Related Tags:

 

movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Scene After the Credits Series/Sequel Superhero

Gran Turismo

Posted on August 24, 2023 at 5:13 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense action and some strong language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Intense sequences of car races with crashes, explosions, and fire, characters injured and an of-screen death, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: August 25, 2023

Copyright 2023 Columbia Pictures
Imagine a Cinderella story, but instead of a fairy godmother there’s a huge multi-national corporation and instead of a glass slipper there’s a race car, and instead of a prince there’s a trophy. We do love our underdog stories, and “Gran Turismo” is a doozy because, unlike Cinderella, it is based on a true story. The millions of teenagers locked in their bedrooms all day and night playing games on their computers can now respond to the parents who urge them to get outside, get a job, and get a life by directing them to this one-in-a-million story about a guy who turned his hours in front of a computer into a career as a professional race car driver.

That guy is Jann (pronounced Yann) Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), who lives in Cardiff, Wales, with his parents, Lesley (former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell Horner), and Steve (Djimon Hounsou), a former athlete, now a rail yard worker.

Before the dreams of the teenager at the console, there was the dream of the program itself. It’s not a game, we are reminded in the film; it’s a sim (simulation). Developer Kazunori Yamauchi, an amateur race car driver, was determined to make the most authentically detailed sim in the world so that people like Jann could share the experience of driving 200 miles an hour in the most realistic cars and on the most realistic tracks in the world.

And then there was another dream. Orlando Bloom plays Danny Moore, based on the real-life executive Darren Cox. Moore goes to meet with the top Nissan executives in Tokyo to sell them on his idea: a competition among the 80 million sim players worldwide to get the best of the best, train them, and find one who can really race. It will make car buyers “associate their cars with adventure.” This is like Willy Wonka having a video candy-making competition to pick the next master chocolatier. But Nissan agrees, provided there is a master engineer to keep these competition winners safe. As that engineer, Jack Salter (David Harbour) points out, in a game when you crash, you hit reset. In real life, you could die. (Salter is a composite character, based on some real people and also, apparently, on Yoda and on Burgess Meredith, Clint Eastwood, and every crusty old character actor who has played a young boxer’s grumpy cornerman.)

The lanky Madekwe is an appealing hero, one might say an avatar for us in the audience. And director Neill Blomkamp does a terrific job of making Jann’s time at the console seem “real” and the real racetrack align with the sim. In a funny moment, Jann, who has hardly ever been behind the wheel of any car, uses what he learned in the sim to evade police after a minor fender bender. The racing scenes are dynamic and exciting. And the film parallels a game, with each goal and hazard set out clearly. And then, when the goal is achieved, the next level is unlocked and a new set of more difficult goals and hazards are in place. Most fun, we learn at the end that the real-life Jann, now a veteran of hundreds of races, is the film’s co-producer and stunt driver, a new level-up for him.

Parents should know that this film includes a scary crash with injuries and an off-screen death, other crashes, collisions, and cars repeatedly rolled over. Characters use some strong language and social drinking.

Family discussion: What did Jann learn from his crash? What would you want to create an accurate sim for?

If you like this, try: “Rock Star” and “The Last Straighter”

Related Tags:

 

Based on a true story Based on a video game movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Scene After the Credits
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik