I Want You Back

Posted on February 10, 2022 at 5:23 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some rear-end nudity, brief sex scenes, drug use and language
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol and recreational drug use
Violence/ Scariness: Punch
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: February 11, 2022

Copyright 2021 Amazon Studios
Yes, the title song appears in the romantic comedy “I Want You Back” along with a bunch of other lively and well-chosen selections, but it might as well have included another classic hit single, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.”

Two characters are devastated by being dumped by their significant others in the movie’s opening scenes. Emma (Jenny Slate) is at a restaurant with Noah (Scott Eastwood), her boyfriend of 18 months, who offers her some of his steak because he says she needs to get more iron. “Are you trying to be the nicest, sweetest, cutest boyfriend in the world?” she says lovingly. Nope, he’s about to tell her that he’s met someone else. Peter (Charlie Day) is attending a birthday party for the young son of friends when Anne (Gina Rodriguez) tells him that after six years together she wants to break up because she wants “a bigger life,” not “making salmon and watching ‘Dancing With the Stars,” which is what she says is all they ever do.

Emma and Peter work in the same office building and they meet when they are both sobbing in the stairwell. When they discover they are there for the same reason, they go off to get drunk and sing sad karaoke, including “Oughta Know.” They christen themselves the “Sadness Sisters” and after a couple of commiserating meetings and a lot of cyber-stalking of their exes’ social media, they hatch the kind of plan you only (I hope) see in rom-coms; they are each going to break up the new relationships of their former significant others. Emma will seduce Logan (Manny Jacinto of “The Good Place” and “Nine Perfect Strangers”), a middle school drama teacher and Peter will befriend Noah. And so, Emma volunteers to help out with Logan’s middle school production of “Little Shop of Horrors” and Peter hires Noah as a personal trainer.

Slate and Day are better known for more heightened comedic roles — and for their distinctive husky but sometimes squeaky voices. But here they are wonderfully warm and endearing as two good people who are very sad and a little lost. Plus, they get strong support from comedy all-stars Jacinto and Rodriguez, Eastwood is game, and we get to see Slate in a wild blonde wig singing “Suddenly Seymour.” The skillful and witty screenplay by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (“Love, Simon” and “This is Us”) makes them three-dimensional characters. As we see Emma interact with an unhappy 12 year old stagehand and Peter out at a club with Noah we have more reason to want them to find happiness than just seeing them mope in a bar about their break-ups. It also makes some of their antics a little less crazy. Slate and Day are an appealing couple and that puts the rom in the rom-com.

Parents should know that this movie has mature themes including sexual references, a proposed threesome, nudity, strong language, and alcohol and drug use.

Family discussion: Why do Peter and Emma see each other differently than Noah and Anne saw them? What bothered them the most about their breakups, their hurt pride, their fear of being alone, or their affection for the people who broke up with them?

If you like this, try: Another movie with a title taken from a song that is about two people who join forces after break-ups, “Addicted to Love”

Related Tags:

 

Comedy movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Romance

Wrath of Man

Posted on May 6, 2021 at 5:34 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some sexual references, pervasive language, and strong violence throughout
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Extreme, visceral, bloody violence, many characters injured and killed, lots of blood
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 7, 2021
Date Released to DVD: July 5, 2021

Copyright 2021 MGM
So, some guy applying for a job has to score at least 70 percent on his weapons test gets exactly 70 percent. Now, that could be because he can only hit the bullseye two-thirds of the time. Or it can mean that he is so good he can make it look like he can only hit the bullseye two-thirds of the time. If Jason Statham is playing that guy, you’d be wise to bet on the latter.

Teaming up with Guy Ritchie, writer/director of the film that was a star-maker for both of them, “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” Statham stars as the job applicant who is more than he appears in “Wrath of Man,” based on the French crime drama “Le Convoyeur” (“Cash Truck”). The film features Ritchie favorites: brutally violent lowlife characters who like to steal and don’t mind killing in a time-twisting storyline. Statham is fine, as always, but this is second-tier Ritchie, a faint echo of what made his early films distinctive and surprising.

I’m going to minimize spoilers here, but if you don’t want any, stop reading now and come back after you’ve seen the movie.

We will call Statham’s character H. That is what he is dubbed by “Bullet” (Holt McCallany) when he applies for a job as a security guard for a delivery truck service that may carry as much as $15 million a day. We know how dangerous it is because in a pre-credit sequence we saw a robbery where the guards were all killed. So, this is the kind of environment where let’s just say there’s pervasive toxic masculinity (even the woman), a lot of tough talk, macho posturing, and cocky attitude. Part of the fun of Ritchie’s Britain-based crime films has been the delightfully audacious dialogue (remember Brad Pitt’s impenetrable accent in “Snatch”), and maybe it is the American accents or the heightened awareness that make the difference but in this film the insults and bragging are, well, a little dull.

H does not stay low-profile long. Very soon after he is on the job there is a robbery. Among the many un-surprising surprises in the film, one of the toughest-talking, most aggressively competitive security guards turns out to be not very cool under pressure. But we know H because he is played by Jason Statham and he is always cool. He surprises his new colleagues by being very very good with defending their cargo — and defending them. The big boss (Rob Delaney, last seen with Statham in “Hobbs & Shaw“) is very impressed. And the next robbery is even more impressive. Literally all he has to do is show his face, and the would-be robbers run in the other direction. This is what I call the “Who is that chef?” moment, as discussed in my “Under Siege” chapter in my 101 Must-See Movie Moments book. Those are always fun.

And this being Ritchie, now we get some backstory, seeing what happened five months earlier that led to this moment. Given the title, I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that revenge is involved. Or that you do not want Jason Statham coming after you.

Chapter titles for the flashbacks add nothing and it is a shame to see Eddie Marsan, another Ritchie regular, and Andy Garcia barely have a chance to make an impression, along with actors who can do much better given the right circumstances, Scott Eastwood, Jeffrey Donovan, and Josh Hartnett. The bang-bang is all well-staged, but it is barely enough to make up for a storyline that thinks it is more innovative than it is.

Parents should know that this film is extremely violent with shoot-outs and explosions, automatic weapons, knives, torture, a lot of spurting blood and other graphic images, and a very sad death. Characters use strong and crude language and misogynistic insults. There is a suggestive situation.

Family discussion: What made H’s team different from Jackson’s? Would you take a job working for Fortico? Why do Terry and the boss have different ideas about how to treat H following the first incident?

If you like this, try: “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” and “The Transporter”

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Crime DVD/Blu-Ray Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews

The Outpost

Posted on July 2, 2020 at 5:50 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for war violence and grisly images, pervasive language, and sexual references
Profanity: Constant very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Substance abuse, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Intense wartime peril and violence, very graphic and disturbing images, many characters injured and killed, possible suicide attempt
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: July 3, 2020

Copyright ScreenMedia 2020
There are war stories that are about strategy and courage and triumph over evil that let us channel the heroism of the characters on screen. And then there are war stories that are all of that but also engage in the most visceral terms with questions of purpose and meaning that touch us all. “The Outpost,” based on the book by news correspondent Jake Tapper, is that rare film in the second category, an intimate, immersive drama from director Rod Lurie, a West Point graduate and Army veteran who knows this world inside out and brings us from the outside in.

The script by Eric Johnson and Paul Tamasy wisely avoids the usual expository dialogue as a newcomer is introduced to the group. Instead, we get a crisp, military briefing-style scene-setting with on-screen text informing us that the military has set up outposts in areas that are impossible to defend and given the 53 soldiers there the impossible task of both befriending the locals and fighting off the Taliban. This one is Combat Outpost Keating, located in a near-indefensible mountain-enclosed area in Afghanistan 14 miles from the Pakistani border.

Lurie and his cast, including Orlando Bloom, Scott Eastwood, and breakout star Caleb Landry Jones, understand the small revelatory moments, the trash-talk and taunting that is the way people away from home and coping with unendurable uncertainty connect to each other. Then there are the brief calls home when they pretend to be normal and maintain those connections. As a sign nearby reminds them to keep the calls to 10 minutes, one soldier puffs away while assuring his wife that he stopped smoking. A series of new commanding officers each bring his own ideas and style of communication. Over the course of the movie, we see how much we expect from the military, from 21st century warfare to diplomacy. Over the closing credits, we get a devastating reminder of how heartbreakingly young these soldiers are.

There are telling moments in the interactions with the locals. The soldiers do their best to implement the policies they are there to carry out, which means “soft power” like paying them for their people who have been killed as collateral damage or even as enemy or possibly those who are dead by other means but maybe a way to get more money from the Americans. “I will lose my honor with my elders,” one explains via a translator. “I can regain my honor one of two ways. One way is for all of you to lay down your arms and watch as your communities flourish with the help of the US and Allah.” That support comes in the form of “money, contracts, projects.” The other way does not need to be explained to the Afghanis or to us. The outpost also has to develop sources of intelligence in a place where there is no reason for anyone to trust them and they do not speak the language. There is a local version of the boy who cried wolf, constantly warning of an attack but with no useful details. And then there are the attacks, always expected yet always unexpected because they never know when.

Impeccable camerawork from Lorenzo Senatore and editing by Michael J. Duthie give the film a documentary feel matched by understated, natural performances from the cast. We feel their exhaustion. And we feel their dedication, more important even than their training or their courage. Their loyalty to each other in the face of risk so dire the outpost is known as Camp Custer is itself the answer to the question the story raises about purpose, meaning, and why we are here. The question of why we are there it is wise enough not to try to resolve.

Parents should know that this is a war movie with constant, intense, and graphic military and terrorist violence, disturbing images, characters injured and killed, constant very strong and crude language, sexual humor, smoking and substance abuse.

Family discussion: Which was the best commanding officer of the outpost? How do the soldiers manage their stress?

If you like this, try: “Beaufort” and “1917”

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Based on a true story Drama movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews War

Pacific Rim Uprising

Posted on March 22, 2018 at 5:06 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended peril and violence with disturbing images, giant robots, alien monsters, explosions, mass destruction, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: March 23, 2018
Copyright Universal 2018

I know you’re all eager to hear whether you will understand this movie if you haven’t seen (or, more likely, saw and forgot) the first one. Here is my answer: you won’t understand this film even if you did see and remember the first one and it just doesn’t matter. The first one was about giant robots fighting alien monsters and it ended with Idris Elba giving a great pep talk to the troops and then sacrificing himself to save the world.

Second verse, same as the first. Even bigger robots.  Even meaner monster aliens.  Even dumber dialogue.  Buildings knocked down and shattered as though they were made of eggshells.  A volcano. Plus mutant robot monster aliens.  A near-feral girl with a gift for creating robots.  A pilot with daddy issues.

And, I can’t help it, since it takes two pilots who mind-meld in a process called “drift” to operate the giant robots called Jaegers in perfect synchronization, every time they do it I keep thinking they’re playing Dance Dance Revolution.

That would be only slightly more silly than the actual storyline (hmm, a “Step Up”/”Pacific Rim” crossover — I offer this idea freely, noting that there is a promise of a third chapter at the end of the film).

“Star Wars'” John Boyega (who also co-produced) plays Jake, the son of the Idris Elba character. As he explains in a striking opening scene, the world has in some ways returned to normal after the defeat of the Kaiju monsters, though their enormous skeletons are still a reminder of the fight, one right next to the pool where Jake is enjoying a life of girls and parties. He has no interest in following in his father’s footsteps as a pilot or a hero. Like his “Star Wars” pal Rey, he is a scavenger, looking Jaeger robot junkyards. But things go wrong when a helmeted motorcycle rider steals the special part he promised to some very unforgiving guys. I note here the famous Roger Ebert rule that a mysterious helmeted figure will always turn out to be female. Yes, Amara (Cailee Spaeny) is not only female but young, and a Shuri-like tech whiz who is building her own Jaeger. The two of them end up in jail, and then, of course, sent to pilot training. “Ender’s Game”-style, younger recruits are taken because they are better at drifting.

When they arrive, Amara excitedly recognizes all the various Jaegers as a way of reintroducing us to them, and, discovering who Jake is, reminds us again that his father was a hero and he is not too happy about that. The tough, this-is-serious-business commanding officer is Nate (Scott Eastwood, channeling his dad), who says things like, “You and I both know you could have been great.”

There’s also a lot of “We need it now.” “It can’t be done.” “Do it anyway” “I need more time!” “We don’t have any!” “You got this!” “Let’s do this!” “Will it work?” “One way to find out!” talk and a lot of “20 kilometers to impact” military/tech language. And Jake says he can’t give a pep talk like his dad but he does. Does it include “This is OUR time!” Yes, it does.

The good thing is that the movie does not just know how silly it is — it embraces the silliness. The better thing is that it has EVEN BIGGER ROBOTS fighting EVEN BIGGER MUTANT ROBOT ALIENS! No matter how dumb it gets, no matter that the robots and monsters have more personality than the humans, no matter how much it seems like a mash-up of “Transformers,” “Ender’s Game,” “Starship Troopers,” and anime, it is undeniably fun to see robots bashing monsters, and thankfully there isn’t much in between the battles to slow things down.

Parents should know that this film includes extended and sometimes graphic peril and violence, many characters injured and killed, chases, explosions, scary monsters, some disturbing images, sad death of parents, issues of sacrifice, brief strong language, brief crude humor

Family discussion: Why did Jake insist that he was not like his father? How do you think the drift works? How do you prevent being defined by other people?

If you like this, try: The first “Pacific Rim,” “Ender’s Game,” and “Starship Troopers”

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure IMAX movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Scene After the Credits Science-Fiction Series/Sequel

The Famous Families of the Longest Ride Cast

Posted on April 10, 2015 at 3:55 pm

The cast of this week’s big release, the Nicholas Sparks movie “The Longest Ride,” includes three actors with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars in their family trees. It’s a good reminder to check out some of their best films.

Scott Eastwood plays Luke, the rodeo rider. It is obvious from his face as well as his name that his father is Oscar-winning actor/producer/director Clint Eastwood. Here are three samples from Eastwood’s long and varied career.

Jack Huston plays Ira as a young man in the 1940’s. Houston comes from Hollywood royalty. His grandfather, great-grandfather, and aunt have all won Oscars. What’s really nice is that his grandfather, John Huston, was the director of both the Oscar-winning performances of his father, Walter Huston (in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”) and his daughter, Anjelica Huston (in “Prizzi’s Honor”).

Walter Huston won his Oscar for “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”

But my favorite Walter Huston performance is in “Dodsworth.” The look on his face in the last scene is unforgettable.

John Huston directed some of the greatest films of all time, including “The Maltese Falcon,” “Key Largo,” and “The African Queen.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wjIAM0ixzY

He had some memorable acting roles, too, especially in “Chinatown.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPfrCIKhEoA

Jack’s aunt Anjelica starred in many films including “The Witches,” “The Addams Family” and its sequel, “The Grifters,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

And his uncle Danny starred in television’s “Magic City” and “American Horror Story” and played a key role in Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes.”

Ira’s wife is played by Oona Chaplin, whose grandfather and great-grandfather were two of the greatest talents of the 20th century. Her grandfather was Charlie Chaplin.

She is named for her grandmother, Oona O’Neill, the daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill.

And her mother is Geraldine Chaplin, who appeared in several films, including “Doctor Zhivago.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2EVab2FgLg

Ira as an old man is played by Alan Alda, who is also the son of a well-known performer, Robert Alda, who originated the role of Skye Masterson in the Broadway musical “Guys and Dolls.” Here he is doing a duet on an old television show.

You can see the progeny of these stars in “The Longest Ride” trailer.

And watch out for more next-generation performers coming soon!

Related Tags:

 

Actors Film History For Your Netflix Queue
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