Posted on May 31, 2018 at 3:36 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol, brief drug use
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: June 1, 2018
Date Released to DVD: September 3, 2018
Copyright 2018 STX Films

If I ever decide to pursue a PhD, I think I will go for a combined film/economics degree and study the correlation between the quality of a film and the star also being the producer. There will be plenty of data.

Shailene Woodley produces and stars in “Adrift,” based on the true story of a young couple sailing across the Pacific Ocean in the early 1980’s, who were caught in a deadly hurricane. There is obviously a lot of appeal for an actress in a story of the struggle to survive with the opportunity to show courage, resilience, and determination. But the back-and-forth flashbacks weaken the intensity of that struggle and a weak script with a Gothika Rule-worthy twist ending make even a story of survival more disappointing than inspiring.

Tami (Woodley) is a free spirit as we see when the immigration official in Tahiti asks her what her profession is and she replies, “Whatever job pays me enough to get me to the next place.” She has been traveling full-time since she graduated from high school five years earlier, most recently as chef on a schooner. She meets Richard (Sam Claflin), a British Naval Academy drop-out who worked in a boatyard so that he could build his own sailboat and has been on the water pretty much full-time ever since. Though he tells her that being at sea alone is mostly being “sunburnt, sleep-deprived, seasick, or all three at once. And after a few days, there’s the hallucinations.” But there is something both of them find irresistible in sailing into the horizon, and both have an unquenchable desire to see what the world has to offer. In one of the movie’s best scenes, she says a sunset at sea is red (as in “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight”), and he makes her see all the different shades and colors within the red. While she teases him about it later, she loves seeing the world through his eyes. And he loves her spirit of adventure.

When a wealthy friend offers Richard $10,000 and two first-class plane tickets to sail his yacht to San Diego, it seems like a perfect way for them to begin their life of adventure. But we know from the movie’s first shot that they are sailing into terrible trouble. We first see Tami submerged, and then we see her come to, disoriented, in the wrecked and waterlogged hull of the yacht, with Richard gone. Later we will see their tiny ship buffeted about by waves (the special effects are fine but nothing we didn’t see in “The Perfect Storm”) interspersed with scenes of their early romance and scenes of the 41 days adrift, with no way to get help or let anyone know where they were.

I don’t want to spoil the movie’s twist here, but per the Gothika Rule will be happy to share it to anyone who writes to me at I’ll just saw that while I am sure it was a deeply spiritual and sustaining experience for Tami, it comes across poorly on screen, leaving the audience, yes, adrift.

Parents should know that this film includes intense mortal peril with severe and graphic injuries, some strong language, sexual references, nudity, brief drug use, alcohol, reference to suicide and teen pregnancy, and a sad death.

Family discussion: How many ways can you think of to describe red? Why was the frangipani so meaningful? Why did Tami say she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything? What problem-solving skills helped her the most?

If you like this, try: “Touching the Void” and “The Life of Pi”

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“Gothika Rule” Action/Adventure Based on a book Based on a true story DVD/Blu-Ray movie review

Me Before You

Posted on June 2, 2016 at 5:21 pm

Copyright 2016 New Line Cinema
Copyright 2016 New Line Cinema
It’s all about the eyebrows. Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”) has gamine-like “natural” eyebrows ideal for expressing wonder, hurt feelings, and enthusiasm, and Sam Claflin (“Hunger Games”) has circumflex-like eyebrows ideal for expressing skepticism, irony, and stoicism. All four eyebrows get an extensive workout in “Me Before You,” based on the international best-seller by JoJo Moyes about Louisa Clark (Clarke), a high-spirited, warm-hearted pixie of a girl, just laid off from her job behind the counter at a bakery, and Will Traynor (Claflin), a once-energetic, once-successful finance type from a wealthy family who is now paralyzed below the shoulders following an accident. Lou is hired by Will’s mother (the redoubtable Janet McTeer) as a “companion” for Will, a position that only exists in novels about warm-hearted young women sent to castles with names like Thornhill that have eligible but tortured men waiting to have their hearts warmed. Will has an Aussie aide who handles the icky physical stuff (Stephen Peacocke), so Lou is there to bring cheer to Will, who has no intention of being cheered. And did I mention he lives in a literal castle?

Lou’s family depends on her for money, because her father has been laid off (due, as we will find, to the financial engineering of Will’s one-time protege). And so she accepts the job with no real understanding of caring for a severely disabled person and stays in it even when he refuses to speak to her or to accept her many offers of a cup of tea. Ultimately, through a combination of ennui, frustration, and the impossibility of resisting the charm of Lou’s kindergarten teacher meets Lisa Frank and Hello Kitty-style attire, Will begins to thaw a little. The immense pressure of what he has lost inspires him to want more for her than she wants for herself, and he feels impelled to show her that, even with a castle in its midst, her little town cannot be enough for all she should want from life. Did I mention that his name is Traynor?

This is not a movie that leaves anything to the imagination. Just in case you were not sure of that, Lou’s boyfriend Patrick (one-time Neville Longbottom Matthew Lewis) is Will’s polar opposite, a fitness instructor and “motivational coach” who thinks a few more reps can solve any problem. And just in case that isn’t enough, there’s a brief encounter with the divine Joanna Lumley to spell it all out for Louisa and for us as well.

Okay, so no surprises here, especially if you’ve read the book. Bring a handkerchief, maybe two. But Clarke and Claflin have palpable chemistry, and we are no more able to resist Lou than Will is. As she takes him back out into the world, she thinks it is for him, but he knows it is for her, and we find that the real hero of the story is Will’s, well, will.

SPOILER ALERT: Some groups have raised concerns about the film’s portrayal/advocacy of assisted death, adapting the movie’s #liveboldly tagline to urge movies to portray disabled people who are active and engaged.

Parents should know that this film includes non-explicit sexual references and situation, mild language, severe injury and discussion of assisted death.

Family discussion: Should Will have changed his mind? What will Louisa do next?

If you like this, try: “Love Story” and “A Walk to Remember”

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Based on a book Illness, Medicine, and Health Care Romance

Trailer: Me Before You

Posted on February 3, 2016 at 1:49 pm

Me Before You, the international best-seller by Jojo Moyes, is the story of a wealthy young man paralyzed in an accident and the happy — if sometimes hapless — girl who takes a job as his caregiver. Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”) and Sam Claflin (“The Hunger Games” series), star under the direction of Thea Sharrock, making her feature film directorial debut.

While you wait for the movie, fans of the first book can read the sequel, After You.

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Based on a book Date movie Illness, Medicine, and Health Care Trailers, Previews, and Clips
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