Sing 2

Posted on December 22, 2021 at 11:00 am

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some rude material, mild peril/violence
Profanity: Some schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Some peril and threats of violence
Diversity Issues: Some humor about a disabled character
Date Released to Theaters: December 22, 2021
Date Released to DVD: March 28, 2022

Copyright 2021 Illumination
This sequel wisely jettisons the less interesting plot lines from the original, the backstories of the animals with dreams of singing before cheering audiences, in favor of what worked best the first time, the performances themselves. “Sing 2” is all about putting on a show, and it begins with a smashing version of Prince’s “Let’s go Crazy.” There’s a lot happening, but take a moment to notice the costumes worn by the performers. They were created by high fashion house Rodarte.

Koala impressario Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) has a bigger dream than ever. He wants to take his performers to the entertainment capital of the world, Redshore City, with its enormous and ultra-glamorous theater, the Crystal Tower. It is run by Mr. Crystal (Bobby Cannavale), a tough-talking wolf who only agrees to let them put on their show if they can promise to deliver the lion rock star-turned recluse Clay Calloway (Bono). Moon promises that he will, though he has no idea where Calloway is or how to persuade him to return to performing. There’s a bigger problem. He has the performers, including porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson), pig and mother of innumerable piglets Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton), and shy elephant Meena (Tori Kelly). But despite what they promised Mr. Crystal, they do not have a show, only a concept from Gunter (Nick Kroll) of a space opera titled “Out of this World.” They don’t have enough information to tell the crew what kind of sets to build except that it is set on four different planets and there is a spaceship.

All of which sets up various shenanigans as the little group tries to keep Mr. Crystal from finding out what is going on as they track down Clay Calloway and get the show ready. There are some additional complicating factors. Crystal’s spoiled daughter Porsha wants to be in the show even though her acting is terrible (she can sing, though; she is voiced by pop star Halsey), and her daddy thinks she should have whatever she wants. Johnny cannot learn the complicated moves from the choreographer. Meena’s new co-star is an arrogant Yak (Eric André), who intimidates her. The ice cream guy, though, has her bashful heart fluttering.

All of this is done with heart and humor that will delight young audiences while the parents will get a kick out of the eclectic mix of songs, from Grammy-winning favorites to esoteric Indies and even a little Prokofiev. The audition scene is like a lightning round of Name That Tune. Bono’s rumble makes a great vocal contribution as Clay, and the poignance of his grief gives the story greater heft. There’s even a new U2 song on the soundtrack to underscore in both senses of the word) the way that music can heal and connect. It adds to the ebullience of the film, and like all great music, inspires calls for an encore.

Parents should know that there is some cartoon-style peril and threats of violence and some mild humor about a character’s disability, in addition to some schoolyard language.

Family discussion: Which character is your favorite? What musical show would you like to create? What is Porsha good at?

If you like this, try: the first “Sing” and the Trolls movies.

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Animation Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Fantasy For the Whole Family movie review Movies -- format Musical Series/Sequel Talking animals

The Gentlemen

Posted on January 23, 2020 at 5:47 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence, language throughout, sexual references and drug content
Profanity: Constant very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drugs and drug dealing, overdose
Violence/ Scariness: Constant very intense and graphic violence, guns, poison, arson, many characters injured and killed including young adults
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 24, 2020
Date Released to DVD: April 20, 2020
Copyright 2019 STX

Writer-director Guy Ritchie is back where he belongs. “The Gentlemen” is, like his early films “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch,” a nasty, twisty, stylish, and darkly comic crime thriller set in England and featuring low-life characters with impenetrable accents. This is a relief after his plodding mis-matches like “Aladdin” and “King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword,” though I got a kick out of seeing the poster for his underrated “Man from UNCLE” in this film.

It starts with a bang (a blood-spattered shooting in a pub) and then goes back in time, a story within a story, with Hugh Grant, as someone Ritchie considers even less worthy of respect than murderous, drug-dealing criminals — a sleazy tabloid reporter named Fletcher with a long-lens camera, a friend who can lip-read, and a story he wants to sell for 20 million pounds. Grant himself has had his problems with sleazy tabloid reporters and is clearly enjoying himself tremendously and getting some revenge in the role. His performance is deliciously devastating.

The person he wants to blackmail is Michael Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), an American expat with a highly successful marijuana growing and distribution business. Pearson is trying to sell the business so he can retire, and is about to close on an offer from another American expat drug dealer, the effete Matthew (“Succession’s” Jeremy Strong). They’re in the stage that business types call due diligence, confirming the valuation of 400 million pounds. Michael has another offer, from a thuggish upstart known as Dry Eye (“Crazy Rich Asians'” Henry Golding). His bid is much lower in cash, but he plans to make up the difference with threats.

All of this is well known by Michael’s closest associate, Ray (Charlie Hunnam). But Fletcher, who has shown up unexpected and uninvited in Ray’s home, is relishing the chance to tell the story, even setting it up as though he is pitching a movie, even providing details of film stock and lenses, which the movie we are watching obediently demonstrates, reminding us of the air quotes that keep the bloodiest parts of the story from getting too bleak.

Michelle Dockery, a long way from Lady Mary on “Downton Abbey,” is also having a lot of fun playing Michael’s wife, as tough as he is or tougher, with a Cockney accent and as sharp as her Louboutin stilettos. You could almost see the Lady Mary of 2020 having the same cooperative arrangement with Michael that the other estate-poor gentry do in the film. Some of the twists are not as twisty as they intend and some of the characters are not as colorful as the movie thinks they are, but it is still a welcome return to what Ritchie does best.

Parents should know that this is a crime drama with extended and very graphic violence, many characters injured and killed including young adults with devastated parents, disturbing images, guns, poison, arson, murder, kidnapping, sexual references, drug dealing and overdose, and constant very strong and crude language.

Family discussion: Would you say that there are any good guys in this movie, or at least better guys? Who, and why? What will happen to Michael next?

If you like this, try: “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Get Shorty,” and “Layer Cake”

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Crime DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies -- Reviews

Serenity

Posted on January 24, 2019 at 5:34 pm

D
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout, sexual content, and some bloody images
Profanity: Constant very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Peril and violence, domestic abuse, murder
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 25, 2019
Date Released to DVD: May 1, 2019
Copyright 2018 Avrion Pictures

Even by the very low standards of January movies, “Serenity” is a dreary, dumb mess that makes the ultimate mistake of thinking it is smart.

At first, it wants us to think it is a throwback to the classic twisty noir thrillers like “Out of the Past” and “The Lady from Shanghai.” Matthew McConaughey plays a man called Baker Dill (note: I did not say a man named Baker Dill), a veteran who lives on remote Plymouth Island, where he takes out feckless tourists on a fishing boat called Serenity. We glimpse a Purple Heart medal in the corrugated metal shack where he lives, and we can see that he is bitter and struggling with psychological damage and maybe some physical damage as well. There’s a World’s Greatest Father mug in the shack as well. He pours his whiskey into it. Dill has an Ahab-like fascination with a giant tuna he has named….Justice. And he has a relationship with a local woman (Diane Lane, slumming), who pays him to “find her cat,” which is both literal and euphemistic. Same with the only bar on the island, which used to have Hope in its name but then switched to Rope.  This is not a subtle movie.  We also see a mysterious, very proper, precise man in a suit who carries a briefcase (Jeremy Strong), who seems to be looking for Dill. At one point, he removes his shoes to wade robotically across a stream.

And then, the second act complication arrives: femme fatale Karen (Anne Hathaway), honey blonde hair and dressed in white. She is married to Frank (Jason Clarke), a wealthy boor who abuses her and terrifies her son, who is Dill’s son as well. She says Frank will kill her if she tries to leave him, so the only way to protect her is to get Frank drunk out at sea and throw him to the sharks. If Dill will do that, he will not only save his son, but he will get $10 million in cash.

There are some hints that this is not the usual thriller story of seduction, betrayal, and murder, though all of those elements are there. Something is a little off, though. Dill has some sort of mystical mental Skype thing going with the son he has not seen in ten years.  Where is Plymouth Island? The music is Cajun and there are references to Miami but it is becomes increasingly clear that it is strangely isolated and insular. “Everyone knows everything,” we hear repeatedly. At first, it seems to refer to the gossip in any tiny community. But then we begin to wonder “What is Plymouth Island?” when it goes from “everyone knows everything” about the details of what Dill is buying and selling and catching and where he is at all times to “no one knows anything” when it comes to the choices Dill is facing and how he will decide. The best way to enjoy this film is to have a drinking game that lets you take a swig every time a character says either line.

The four leads do their best to persuade us that their stilted dialogue and increasingly artificial interactions are archetypal, not underwritten, but they never find a tone that will withstand the groaner of a twist, which I will be happy to spoil per my legendary Gothika rule*. Trust me, it’s a worthy addition.

*Gothika Rule: If is movie has a truly bad or dumb ending, I will happily give it away to anyone who sends me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com.

Parents should know that this film includes domestic abuse, murder, characters injured and killed, some disturbing images, very strong language, explicit sexual situations, nudity, drinking and drunkenness, and smoking.

Family discussion: In what way did “everybody know everything” and in what way did “nobody know anything?” What were the clues that things were not what they seemed?

If you like this, try: “Out of Time,” “Body Heat,” “The Lady from Shanghai,” and “The Cafe”

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“Gothika Rule” DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies -- Reviews Thriller

Gold

Posted on January 26, 2017 at 5:30 pm

Copyright TWC 2016

In “Gold,” People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive Matthew McConaughey has more fun playing a bald, overweight, often obnoxious character than we have watching him. The problem, as so often the case when stars produce their own vehicles, is that the movie assumes more affection for the character than it is able to generate. McConaughey plays prospector Kenny Walls (based on real-life goldbug John Felderhof — don’t Google him if you don’t want spoilers). The film, directed by Stephen Gaghan (“Traffic,” “Syriana”) is a rise and fall (and rise and fall and I won’t reveal which one he ends up on) story of a third generation prospector, always on the search for gold. A dream inspires him to go to Indonesia, where he teams up with a legendary specialist in finding gold, Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez), who takes him deep into the jungle.

They don’t have enough money. The workers desert them. Kenny gets malaria. The assay reports come back negative.

And then great news. They’ve struck gold.

And then the real challenge comes. The jungles of Indonesia are not nearly as treacherous as the jungles of Wall Street. Once the gold has been found, everyone wants a piece of the action. The qualities that made Kenny succeed in finding gold may not be the ones he needs to keep it. A smooth investment banker (Corey Stoll) and the head of the world’s biggest gold operation want Kenny’s mine. They have the resources to get the greatest value from it. They also have the resources to make life very, very unpleasant if he does not cooperate. When Kenny rejects the first option, the second kicks in.

There’s a lot going on here. There’s the relationship between Kenny and his girlfriend (Howard brings enormous warmth and intelligence to a one-dimensional role). There’s the bromance between Kenny and Mike, the search for gold, the struggles with the money people, the issues with Kenny’s original colleagues. Kenny speaks feelingly about the quality that unites all prospectors: the belief that something is there. So we are supposed to think of him as a loveable dreamer. But the movie keeps undercutting that by portraying him as selfish, not very smart, and not nearly as interesting as his buddy Mike or the characters played by Bruce Greenwood and Toby Kebbell. Flash forwards give away too much, too early. The film keeps panning for the gold of storytelling and coming up with lesser metal.

Parents should know that this film includes constant very strong and crude language, some peril and violence including guns and predatory animal, and illness, some disturbing images, drinking and drunkenness, chain smoking, fraud and betrayal.

Family discussion: Would you trust Kenny with your money? Should he have taken the deal? What should he do with the package he receives at the end?

If you like this, try: “The Wolf of Wall Street,” also featuring McConaughey

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Not specified

Happy 2017! Here’s What’s Coming to Theaters This Month

Posted on January 1, 2017 at 7:00 am

Happy new year! Happy January! Here’s what’s coming to theaters this month, with a little bit about what else we’ll be seeing in 2017.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 6

Silence

Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver star in Martin Scorsese’s epic about faith and culture in 17th century Japan.

A Monster Calls

Liam Neeson won the DC film critics first-ever award for a voice performance for the title role in this story of a boy coming to terms with his mother’s terminal illness.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 13

Live By Night

Ben Affleck wrote and directed this film about 1930’s gangsters, co-starring Elle Fanning.

Patriots Day

Mark Wahlberg stars in the story of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack and the hunt for the bombers.

20th Century Women

Set in the late 1970’s, this story of women trying to find their place stars Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning and is loosely based on the memories of writer/director Mike Mills (“Beginners”).

Monster Trucks

They are trucks and they are also monsters. What else do you need to know?

FRIDAY, JANUARY 20

The Founder

Ray Kroc was a milkshake machine salesman who wanted to know why the McDonald brothers’ hamburger stand was buying so many of his products. He ended up joining the company and making McDonald’s into the most successful fast food operation in the world. Michael Keaton stars as Kroc, with Laura Dern as his wife.

XXX: The Return of Xander Cage

Well, Vin Diesel has to have something to do between “Fast and Furious” movies, right?

FRIDAY, JANUARY 27

Gold

Matthew McConaughey stars in the story of a literal gold-digger, inspired by the rise and fall of John Felderhof.

A Dog’s Purpose

Just try to watch the trailer without tearing up. Just try.

And coming for the rest of 2017:

Justice League, Power Rangers, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Star Wars VIII, Kong: Skull Island, John Wick 2, Despicable Me 3, Cars 3, The Dark Tower, World War Z 2, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Fate of the Furious, Table 19, Coco, and, best of all, the movies that we don’t expect to fall in love with that change our lives.

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