Juliet, Naked

Posted on August 23, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: References to alcoholism and drug abuse, alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Medical issues
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: August 24, 2018
Date Released to DVD: November 13, 2018
Copyright 2018 Lionsgate

Nick Hornby understands passionate fans of rock music and the people who create it. His novel High Fidelity and the film starring John Cusack are classics. He also wrote About a Boy, the story of a man who, years after his father’s one novelty hit, is living off the royalties and not doing much else. It became a beloved film starring Hugh Grant and television series. He brought those two ideas together in Juliet, Naked, the story of a passionate fan and a faded rock star who are connected by the woman they both love.

Annie (Rose Byrne) cannot quite figure out how she got where she is and is even less able to figure out how to get anywhere else. When her parents died, she took over her father’s job as curator of a small history museum and raised her younger sister, who now works there with her. She has been living with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), her boyfriend of 15 years, a professor of popular culture who shows his students clips from “The Wire” and who operates a fan site for the elusive Tucker Crowe, a rock star whose disappearance has only increased the interest in his one classic album, called “Juliet” and inspired by a break-up.

Duncan receives some previously unreleased Crowe songs, the original demos of “Juliet,” “naked” because they have no studio sweetening or instruments other than Crowe’s guitar. For a fan who obsessively collects Crowe arcana, this is the ultimate treasure. Annie, irritated with him for his fixation on a musician who has not released any new music in decades, writes a bad review of the new tracks on Duncan’s fan site, calling it a cash grab, and she gets an email from Crowe himself, agreeing with her. This leads to an email correspondence, “You’ve Got Mail”-style. And then to a meeting IRL.

The movie was directed by a real-life rock star, Jesse Peretz of The Lemonheads, and he has a feel for the life of a rock star and the life of a fan. He (and Hornby) have less of a feel for Byrne’s character, and even Byrne’s endless charm and skill cannot make up for an underwritten role. Hawke does better. Crowe is so shaggily rueful about his own failings as a performer, a person, and a father that we almost forget just how irresponsible he has been. It’s a slight story, but it’s a sweet one.

Parents should know that this film has very strong language, sexual references and non-explicit situations, references to alcoholism and drug abuse, references to irresponsible behavior, and a medical issue.

Family discussion: What makes some people into super-dedicated fans? Was Annie right about the museum exhibit?

If you like this, try: “About a Boy” and “High Fidelity”

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Based on a book Comedy Critics Choice Seal of Distinction DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies -- Reviews Romance


Posted on June 22, 2017 at 5:29 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some thematic content and brief sexuality
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Tense family confrontations, domestic abuse, illness, sad death
Date Released to Theaters: June 24, 2017
Date Released to DVD: October 10, 2017
Copyright Sony Pictures Classics 2017

Maudie Lewis was severely disabled and abused. She lived in a tiny house with no electricity or running water in the unforgiving climate of Nova Scotia. And she decorated her tiny world with vibrant, joyful images that captivated the people who came to her door to buy them, usually for as little as $5. Her home, the walls covered with bright flowers and birds and cats painted over 35 years, is now seen by art lovers in the museum where it has been lovingly preserved, and she is recognized as one of the foremost “outsider” (untrained) artists of the mid-20th century.

In “Maudie,” the infinitely gifted Sally Hawkins gives an incandescent performance as the woman whose indomitable spirit shines through her art.

After her parents died, Maudie lived with an aunt who treated her with contempt. She left to take a job as a live-in housekeeper for Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke), a fisherman taciturn to the point of being a recluse. “You walk funny. Are you a cripple?” he asks bluntly. And he tells her that she comes after the dogs and the chickens in importance. And that he expects her to sleep in his bed as a part of the job. When he wants more, she tells him that he must marry her, and he does.

With some leftover house paint, holding the brush in her arthritic fingers, she paints a flower on the wall. And surprisingly, Everett does not disapprove; he only tells her to leave one section of the wall alone. A summer visitor from the US spots one of her paintings and brings it back to New York. Vice President Richard Nixon buys one, too. Everett is glad for the income and worried that Maudie will become independent and leave him.

Director Aisling Walsh insisted on filming on location and created a meticulous replica of the tiny Lewis home, and the setting itself, bleak and beautiful, with minimal musical score becomes a character in the film. So do Maudie’s pure, simple paintings, expressing her unquenchable joy in observing the world around her and in expressing what she sees. Hawkins is a marvel in every scene; like Maudie herself, she commits herself completely to the creative spirit.

Parents should know that this film includes sexual references and situations, references to out of wedlock child, mistreatment of disabled character, and a sad death. Characters drink and smoke.

Family discussion: Why did Everett tell Maudie not to paint one part of the wall? Why did he change his mind about selling the painting she said was not finished? What was happiness to Maudie?

If you like this, try: “The Straight Story”

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Based on a true story Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Romance

Trailer: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets from Luc Besson

Posted on November 10, 2016 at 11:14 am

Get ready to have your socks knocked off — I saw some concept art and unfinished footage from Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” at Comic-Con last summer and it is going to be AWESOME. And yep, that’s Riri.

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips

The Phenom

Posted on June 23, 2016 at 5:38 pm

Copyright 2016 Bron Capital Partners
Copyright 2016 Bron Capital Partners
For writer/director Noah Buschel, “The Phenom” is clearly a labor of love. For the audience, it is a small gem filled with unexpected insight and performances of exceptional precision and intelligence. We may think we know what to expect from a film about a gifted athlete who explores the impact of his abusive father with the help of an understanding therapist. But each scene has surprises, with sharp dialogue, vivid characters, and a lot to say about the business of both sports and media. This is a sports movie that quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald. And there’s a brief but powerful scene as the athlete talks to the press that reminds us of how mch this film rewards careful attention.

Johnny Simmons plays Hopper, a “phenom” of a pitcher who has had trouble delivering in the major leagues. He’s sent to the team’s psychologist, a former phenom himself, who was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine at age 22 because of his pioneering work in helping athletes achieve focus and overcome fear. Dr. Mobley is played by Paul Giamatti, who has another connection to baseball — his father, Bart Giamatti served as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Giamatti’s Dr. Mobley is understated, reassuring, and accessible. “A lot of young pitchers struggle with control,” he tells Hopper. It’s “a passing thing.” He does not even want to give it a name because that would “legitimize” it. He tells Hopper that it can be good to look back because damage from the past can be “vaseline on the lens” that interferes with our ability to understand the present and accomplish what we hope for.

Hopper’s whole life has been about getting to the major leagues. His father, Hopper senior (Ethan Hawke) is a volatile bully Hopper’s teacher describes as “an expert at cutting corners and when there weren’t any corners, he’d make circles around her.” He constantly berates his son, bragging that he taught him everything he knows, forcing him to run splits as punishment for smiling. “Never show emotion on the mound. And you’re always on the mound.” He tells Hopper to develop an “intimidation face.”

Hopper has dinner at his girlfriend’s house and is so disconnected from life off the field that he has no idea of how to respond in a home where people discuss ideas and events at the dinner table. Later, when he hurts the girl’s feelings and she speaks up, he tells her the only thing he knows: “You need to toughen up.”

Hopper clearly has to choose between two father figures — his biological father, whose approval he cannot help seeking, and Mobley, whose safe space could be something Hopper could learn to trust. Simmons finds a way to show us the feelings the repressed young pitcher still cannot acknowledge, and his scenes with both Giamatti and Hawke are all the stronger for being understated, never overly dramatic. Owing more to “Ordinary People” than to baseball classics like “Bang the Drum Slowly,” this is a touching drama made up of small moments told with truth and care.

Parents should know that this unrated film has some adult material including drugs and drug dealing, an abusive parent, and strong language.

Family discussion: Why didn’t Hopper know how to talk to Dorothy? Should Dr. Mobley have told him the truth? What was his best advice?

If you like this, try: “Ordinary People” and “Fear Strikes Out”

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Drama Family Issues Sports VOD and Streaming

Trailer: The Phenom

Posted on May 14, 2016 at 8:00 am

In “The Phenom,” a major League rookie pitcher loses control over his pitching and is sent down to the minor leagues, where he begins sessions with an unorthodox sports psychologist. In the process, hidden conflicts with his overbearing father are brought to light.

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips
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