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

Barbie

Posted on July 18, 2023 at 7:15 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for suggestive references and brief language
Profanity: One bleeped strong word
Alcohol/ Drugs: Kens drink a lot of "brewski"
Violence/ Scariness: Fantasy peril, no one hurt
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: July 21, 2023

Copyright 2023 Warner Brothers
I came out of the “Barbie” movie feeling better about Barbie’s world and better about mine, and I think you will, too. Greta Gerwig directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Noah Baumbach, and it is utterly captivating, engaging honestly with all that is enticing and all that is troubling about the world’s most popular doll and the way she is both symbol and perpetuator of positive and negative aspirations. Barbie is available in every possible profession, from pilot to doctor to President to nine different Olympic athletes, twelve different kinds of chef, seven different kinds of musician and five kinds of singer including jazz and rap. She works at McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and See’s Candy, and operates a stall at the farmer’s market. She is a pet groomer, a corporate Chief Sustainability Officer, and she sells Mary Kay products. There are dozens more, plus whatever the girls (mostly) who play with her can dream, but her ridiculously exaggerated feminine shape and essential plastic, consumerist role are concerning. I admit, I had and loved my Barbie, then tried to dissuade my daughter from Barbie-ism. She was given a Barbie and Ken by an aunt, and she loved them. I was wrong. Resistance is futile.

This film begins with all of the fun of Barbie world, as we meet “stereotypical” or original Barbie (Margot Robbie), whose life is one perfect day after another. She wakes up in her Barbie dream house, enjoys her pretend breakfast, then stops by the beach, where the Kens hang out (their job is “beach” — not lifeguard, not surfer, just beach). She believes that the Barbies took over from the centuries-old tradition of giving little girls baby dolls, so they could pretend only to be mothers and housewives, the chance to play with adult woman dolls mastering every profession led to unobstructed opportunity and accomplishment in the real world. In Barbie world, everything is pink and pristine, and everyone (almost) is a Barbie or a Ken. The Supreme Court is all Barbies. Construction crews are all Barbies. President Barbie (Issa Rae) presides in a pink version of the White House. The Barbies love to have girls’ night sleepovers and huge parties with choreography. Kens are just there to admire and support the Barbies. Ryan Gosling plays the Ken who lives for the brief moments each day when Barbie notices him.

Every day is the same and every day is perfect…until one day things start to go wrong. Barbie starts to ponder the prospect of death. Just as disturbing, her perfectly arched, high-heel-ready feet are suddenly FLAT!! She visits Weird Barbie (no one does weird better than Kate McKinnon), who offers her the red pill/blue pill option: does she want to stay in blissful ignorance or does she want to visit the real world, where the dark thoughts of the person playing with the doll are coming from.

And so Barbie and Ken find themselves rollerblading on a real beach, and immediately getting into trouble. For all of her consumer purchases, Barbie does not have any money. When they escape the real world and get back to Barbie world and bring that trouble with him. Ken has learned about the patriarchy and likes the idea of men running everything. The Barbies have never had to face a challenge like that. Will the Kens take over Barbie world?

The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto and production design by Sarah Greenwood make Barbie world enticing and Robbie and Gosling inhabit their roles with endless charm that almost disguises the precision of their craft. This is not a parody or a high satire. The terrific screenplay skillfully mixes the silly with the heartfelt and the actors deliver with every shift.

Adorably, Gerwig and Baumbach bring in some of the most strange and esoteric aspects of real-life Barbie history and as we see in the closing credits all of it is real. Michael Cera plays Allan, based on a briefly available friend for Ken. We also see the pregnant Midge, the Barbie who is also a camera, and pubescent “Growing Up Skipper.” And we get a monologue from working mother Gloria (America Ferrara) that ties together the crushingly unrealistic expectations of women that Barbie represents and perpetuates. And narration from Dame Helen Mirren is a lovely touch. The Barbies and Kens are diverse in race and body type, with Simu Liu and Rae so good they left me wishing for a spin-off. The movie comes down on the side of heart and brain, fantasy and reality, and, of course, the Indigo Girls.

There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
Closer I am to fine.

Parents should know that this movie is not for children. There are references to the dolls’ lack of genitals and some mild sexual references, Kens drink a lot of beer, and there is a bleeped out bad word. More important, the film deals with issues of purpose and meaning and struggle that younger viewers may find troubling.

Family discussion: Have you ever played with a Barbie? If not, why not and if so, which Barbie did you like?

If you like this, try: Forever Barbie, a terrific history of the doll, and Barbie and Ruth, the story of the real-life Ruth Handler, played by Rhea Perlman in the film

Related Tags:

 

Fantasy movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews

Blade Runner 2049

Posted on October 3, 2017 at 1:59 am

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Extended and explicit peril and violence, characters injured and killed,
Date Released to Theaters: October 6, 2017

Copyright Warner Brothers 2017
I’ve got a bit of a conundrum here. As has been widely reported, the filmmakers have asked the critics to avoid spoilers (no problem, we are always careful about that), but they have done so with a very specific list of topics/characters/developments they don’t want us to reveal, so exhaustive that it leaves us with little to say beyond: the camerawork is outstanding (please, give Roger Deakins that Oscar already) and the movie is magnificently imagined, stunningly designed, thoughtful and provocative, and one of the best of the year.

I hate to admit it, but I think they’re right. I really do want you to have the same experience I did, including all of the movie’s surprises. So forgive me for being oblique, and after you’ve seen it, come back and we can discuss it in detail, all right?

In the original “Blade Runner,” based on the story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick, Harrison Ford played Deckard, a 21st century detective sent to find and terminate four “replicants,” humanoid robots created to perform physical labor but who somehow are evolving to the point where they want to be independent of human control. Replicants are so close to being human in appearance and manner (and, in the future, life is so dystopic that humans have become less feeling, less compassionate) that it is increasingly difficult to figure out who is human and what being human means. Like Deckard, K (Ryan Gosling) is a blade runner, sent by Joshi, his human boss (Robin Wright), to find the older generation of replicants and terminate them. The new generation of replicants is more obedient, or at least that is the way they are programmed. “It’s my job to keep order,” she tells him. She gives him a new assignment and when he hesitates she asks, “Are you saying no?” “I wasn’t aware that was an option.” “Atta boy,” she says approvingly. K has uncovered something that Joshi believes is an extermination-level threat to humanity as what accountants call a going concern.

This film explores ideas of memory, identity, and, yes, humanity. And it does that through a detective story that is grounded in a Raymond Chandler noir world of deception and betrayal, taking place in a gorgeous, brilliantly designed dystopian future of perpetual rain where organic material is barely a memory and huge, Ozymandias-like ruins carry faint reminders of better times and grander ambitions. Most people have never seen a tree, even a dead one, and a crudely carved wooden toy is priceless. A woman creates pleasant childhood memories to be implanted so that replicants will be more stable, more empathetic, and easier to control. The trick about control, though, is that nature will rebel against it, and those who try to maintain control by sending people or replicants or anyone out to investigate and ask questions is going to find that knowledge can dissolve authority.

That’s about all I can say except to add that Gosling and Ford are outstanding and Sylvia Hoeks is a standout as a character I can’t tell you anything more about, while Jared Leto is the movie’s weak spot as another character I can’t tell you anything about. So I’ll end by saying that this is that rare sequel deserving of its original version, not because it replicates — for want of a better word — the first one, but because it pays tribute (note touches like the see-through raincoat) and then finds its own reason for being, and we are lucky enough to come along.

Parents should know that this film includes extended sci-fi/action violence with graphic and disturbing images, characters injured and killed, reference to torture, drinking, smoking, some strong language, sexual references and situations, prostitutes, and nudity.

Family discussion: What elements or concerns about today’s society are the basis for this vision of the future? What rules would you make about replicants? What is the most human aspect of the replicants?

If you like this, try: the original “Blade Runner,” “Terminator 2,” “Total Recall,” “Children of Men,” and the writing of Philip K. Dick

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Based on a book Drama DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Science-Fiction Series/Sequel Thriller

Daily Beast: Best Overlooked Movie Performances

Posted on December 28, 2016 at 1:36 pm

At The Daily Beast, Marlow Stern has an excellent list of the most overlooked movie performances of the year, including Ryan Gosling in “The Nice Guys” (a masterpiece of comic timing and physical grace — great work from everyone in that film), Ralph Fiennes in “A Bigger Splash” (he said he took the role because of the dance scene, and he clearly has a blast with it), and Craig Robinson in “Morris from America.” All worth watching at least twice.

Related Tags:

 

Actors For Your Netflix Queue

La La Land

Posted on December 15, 2016 at 5:52 pm

A
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: December 9, 2016
Date Released to DVD: April 24, 2017
Amazon.com ASIN: B01LTI1WAI

lalalandThe nickname for the California town whose literal translation is “City of Angels” comes from its initials: LA for Los Angeles. But “La La Land” also refers to the culture of its most notable industry, whether the reference is to the magic of its images of pretty people doing pretty things or to the instability of the various deals, relationships, and people behind them. The title of this exquisite film from writer/director Damien Chazelle refers to all of that and to the “la la” of music as well. Its bravura, breathtaking opening scene introduces us to the world of the story, with one of LA’s defining experiences — being stuck in traffic on a sunny day — transforming into a stunning, joyous, candy-colored musical number, with the camera swooping along as a part of the choreography in, apparently, one long shot.

Among the Angelenos on the 105 Freeway are barrista and aspiring actress Mia (Best Actress Oscar winner Emma Stone), rehearsing some dialog for an upcoming audition, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz musician with retro taste, as we can see from his watch, ring, and car. He honks the horn. She flips him the finger. They go their separate ways and we follow her to work at a coffee shop on a movie studio lot, near the window where Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman looked out as the Germans marched into Paris in “Casablanca.” The magic of movies — both the way they move and inspire us and the gulf between illusion and reality — shimmer throughout the film.

Mia and Sebastian bump into each other (once literally) a few more times, as we see each of them struggle. He wants to own a jazz club, but his business partner has betrayed him and he has had to take a job playing bland Christmas tunes in a restaurant for a demanding boss (played by J.K. Simmons, who won an Oscar for Chazelle’s first film, “Whiplash”). He can’t help himself, and seques into jazz, just as Mia wanders in and hears him. She is transfixed. He is fired.

They meet up again when he is playing another demeaning gig — an 80’s cover band performing at a party. And then, after another party, he chivalrously walks her to her car, and they begin to like each other — so much that they swing into a cheeky song and dance about how much they don’t. The song is “A Lovely Night,” and in the classic tradition of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers tunes like “A Fine Romance.” The lyrics may suggest they have no interest in each other, but we and they know from the way their dance seems so effortless, that it is very much the contrary.

The story moves through the seasons (though of course the weather never changes) and soon Mia and Sebastian are happily living together and encouraging each other. But he feels pressure to take a job with an old friend (John Legend) that means good money but constant travel. And good intentions and true affection are sometimes not enough.

Chazelle’s deep and spacious romanticism includes the city and its dreamers and music and movies and love itself. There are dozens of sure-handed, thoughtful touches, from the imperfect perfection of the singing and dancing, which lends an intimate, accessible quality, to the telling glimpses of life in Hollywood — the brief glimpse of a big star or a scene being filmed, the humiliation of auditions, the people who get halfway through a pastry and then demand their money back because it is not gluten-free, the endless wait for the valet parking after a party, the way Mia’s clothes go from bright primary colors to patterns, subdued hues, and then black and white. The songs, with music by Justin Hurwitz and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are captivating and evocative. Sebastian walks along the pier, whistling and then singing about whether he dares to hope. Mia and her roommates wear bright, primary-colored dresses and sing about going out to a party. And in one gorgeous number, the exhilaration of love is made literal as the couple dance up into the stars of the Griffith Observatory.

There are tributes/references to classic films like “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Rebel Without a Cause,” and “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” but this movie is not derivative. The storyline is deceptively simple, but the specificity of the detail, depth of understanding, and beautiful performances create true movie magic. “La La Land” is narratively ambitious and emotionally resonant, with a final ten minutes that are pure, wistful poetry. Chazelle and Hurwitz understand that some feelings are just so big they have to be sung and danced. And this movie made me so happy I wanted to create a musical number of my own. But I settled for watching this more two more times instead.

Parents should know that this film includes brief strong language and some emotional confrontations.

Family discussion: What did Mia and Sebastian learn from each other? How did their support for each other’s dreams change their careers? How did the music help tell the story?

If you like this, try: “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” — both inspirations for this film

Related Tags:

 

DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Musical Romance
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