The Greatest Game Ever Played

B

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Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
Profanity: Brief mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Emotional confrontations, a punch in the nose
Diversity Issues: Class issues
Date Released to Theaters: 2005

When you give a movie the title “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” expectations will be pretty high. When it turns out that the game in question is a golf match that occured almost a century ago between two people most people have never heard of, expectations plummet. This movie is somewhere in the middle.

Golf is not the most cinematic of sports. Director Bill Paxton has a nicely kinetic feel for the game, and does the best anyone could to give us a sense of the game’s beauty in the power of the drives and the precision of the putts. He also gives us some insight into the mental state of the competitors, as they try to clear their minds of fears and distractions. But any golf movie is going to have many, many shots of little white balls going into (or just missing) the hole, hitting the ball out of sand traps and water hazards, men with furrowed brows peering down the course, and the spectators in the gallery trudging along to the next shot. This one, with a three-day tournament to get through, has too many players and too many holes and gets a little lost in the rough.

But straight down the middle is a nice underdog story about a 20-year-old former caddy who beats the greatest player in the world. The talented Shia LeBoeuf plays Francis Ouimet who grew up across the street from the local golf course. He loves golf, but his father forces him to give it up. Then his idol, British champion Harry Varden (Stephen Dillane), comes to play in the U.S. Open, at the very golf club across the street from his house.

Francis enters as an amateur. He is treated with contempt by the members of the club, who believe that golf is a game only for the upper classes. The only caddy he can get is a 10-year-old boy hardly as big as the bag he has to carry. But if he didn’t have what it takes, we wouldn’t be making a movie about him, now, would we?

The best part of the movie is the interaction between Ouimet and Varden, who had more in common with each other than the minor difference of a world-class competition. Varden, too, was looked down on by the British golf establishment because of his humble origins. As somone who believed that

Parents should know that the movie has brief mild language, some ugly insults, and some tense emotional confrontations. Characters smoke cigarettes and a pipe. One character punches another in the nose.

Families who see this movie should talk about why golf was so important to Francis Ouimet and Harry Vardon. Why was it important to the wealthy and powerful people to keep talented but poor players out of the game? What made Francis change his mind about playing? What made his father change his mind? Why did Francis stay an amateur? Why doesn’t he tell Varden that they met once before?

Families who want to find out more about Francis Ouimet can read the book, also called The Greatest Game Ever Played.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of the classic golf movies, like the Tracy-Heburn comedy Pat and Mike (featuring some of the golf legends of the era and a very young Charles Bronson, still using his original name) and Tin Cup (mature material). Golf fans will enjoy the golf stories of P.G. Wodehouse, collected in Fore!: The Best of Wodehouse on Golf.

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Transporter 2

B

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Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Cocaine dealers
Violence/ Scariness: Near-constant peril, fighting, shooting, car chases, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: 2005

Silly but stylish, this sequel to The Transporter is, like the original, all about the chases and fight scenes. It’s about the usual for a sequel — 2/3 of the quality of the original, but like its title character, it still delivers.

Jason Statham returns as Frank, the unflappable former special services guy who is prepared for anything and never gives up.

We get into the action right away when Frank, now located in Miami, is the subject of an attempted carjacking by the Black Eyed Peas. Okay, the carjackers just look like them. Fergie-wannabe and the rest are quickly dispatched, and Frank is on time for his pick up — Jack, the young son of the fabulously wealthy US Drug Czar (Mathew Modine). Frank has been driving him for a month, and they have become good friends. Frank has also become friendly with Audrey (Amber Valletta), Jack’s mother. She asks Frank to take Jack to his doctor’s appointment so she can get the house ready for his surprise party. But things go wrong, and Jack is kidnapped.

It will be many car chases, shoot-outs, and kicks and punches later before it all gets resolved. The fight choreography (by fight master Corey Yuen) is imaginative and entertaining, the chases are a popcorn pleasure, and the pacing is pure adrenaline. Frank does things with a fire extinguisher that, even when seen, are hard to believe — but lots of fun to watch.

The chemistry between Frank and Audrey and the visit from Frank’s old friend Tarconi (François Berleand) are distractions that don’t add much, and there’s not a lot of interest or energy in the villains and what they are trying to do. There’s one killer (Katie Nauta) who tries to be all twisted and crazy, but doesn’t quite make it, even though she likes to shoot people while she is wearing little more than bikini underwear, stockings and garter belt and high, high red heels. But like the rest of the movie, she’s less than meets the eye.

Parents should know that the movie has non-stop action violence, with many scary and dangerous car chases, shoot-outs, and kicking/punching fights. Many characters are injured or killed. Crotch injuries are played for humor. The movie includes mild sexual references, a sexual situation, brief nudity, and someone giving “the finger.” There are references to a cocaine cartel and to bioterrorism.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Frank decides what he will and will not do. Why didn’t he work with the police? Why are he and Tarconi friends?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original The Transporter and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and The Professional (both very violent).

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G

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Profanity: Some very strong and crude language, including the n-word
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Gun violence, some fighting
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2002

Audacious, ambitious, and provocative but uneven and ultimately unsatisfying, this long-delayed film adapts F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of class, love, and power, The Great Gatsby, to the present. Instead of Jay Gatsby, the gangster who can’t forget the girl he lost, we have Summer G, the gangsta, the head of a successful hip-hop recording label.

Richard T. Jones is commanding as Summer G, whose college romance with Skye (Chenoa Maxwell) ended when she married Chip Hightower (Blair Underwood), heir to a publishing dynasty. He has taken a house in the Hamptons not far from where the Hightowers have a home.

When Skye’s cousin Tre (Andre Royo) comes to interview Summer G, Chip asks him to cover for him so that he can see his girlfriend without Skye’s finding out. Tre refuses, until Chip reminds him that the magazine Tre works for is owned by Chip’s father.

Summer G then puts the same kind of pressure on Tre. He will not cooperate with the interview unless Tre helps him see Skye. Again, Tre refuses at first, then reluctantly agrees.

Summer G’s recording artists are staying with him. One who has not had a hit for a while becomes increasingly dependent on his girlfriend, who goes away for what she says will be just a few days and then stops returning his calls. Another becomes bitter and manipulative when she believes Summer G is not giving her the chance she deserves.

The Fitzgerald novel has plenty of material for an update that raises some contemporary issues of race and class and culture, but this film falters and misses the point and butchers the metaphors, turning a brilliant story into a soapy love triangle.

Jones has a commanding presence and Underwood does what he can with a cardboard cad of a character. But Royo is weak and Maxwell is hopelessly bad and the uneven, bumpy narrative and long delay between completion and release support the rumor that the movie has been recut following unssuccessful test screenings. Fitzgerald famously placed a green light on the dock in this novel. This review is intended to place a red light on any plan to see this film.

Parents should know that this movie has extremely strong language (including the n-word), drinking, smoking, drug references, sexual references and situations, and violence, including guns, with characters injured and killed.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Skye decided to stay with Chip instead of Summer G and how the movie differs from the original book.

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy the earlier film versions of “The Great Gatsby,” especially the with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow and a television miniseries.

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Based on a book Drama

Lord of War

A-

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Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, drug use and drug dealing, character becomes addicted to cocaine
Violence/ Scariness: A theme of the movie -- a great deal of brutal and graphic gun and other weapons-related violence and peril, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Characters of different races and cultures
Date Released to Theaters: 2005

It’s a classic American success story. An immigrant with a dream and a vision works hard and becomes wealthy and successful. He marries the girl he fell in love with at age 10 and they and their son live in a beautiful apartment in New York, on top of the world. Unfortunately, all of this is built on selling hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal weapons to the very last people in the world we would trust with a water pistol. “There are 550 million firearms — one for every 12 people on the plant,” he tells us. “The only question is: how do we arm the other eleven?”

Nicolas Cage is Yuri Orlav, who moved from the Soviet Union to New York’s “Little Odessa” with his parents when he was a boy. They pretended to be Jewish to be allowed to emigrate and his father got so into it that he attends services at the local synagogue. Yuri’s brother Vitaly (Jared Leto) puts a “Beware of the Dog” poster in the kitchen of the family’s restaurant. They have no pet — it means “beware of the dog in me.” Yuri asks Vitaly to help him in his purchase and sale of illegal arms, because he is the only one Yuri trusts. They agree to be “brothers in arms.”

Yuri has good luck and good timing. He arrives on the scene just as the market for illegal guns and other weapons is heating up. He picks up weapons abandoned by the US because it is cheaper to leave them behind than to ship them.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, almost all of its stockpile of arms goes to Yuri and his competition, due to corruption and neglect. “Those who know don’t care and those who care don’t know.” Yuri is selling Kalashnikov assault rifles, grenades, and bombs into eight of the world’s top ten war zones. He arranges to meet the successful model he has loved from afar since he was a child, and they get married and have a baby. They live in a beautiful apartment and have plenty of money. If Yuri thinks about what people do with what he is selling, it is just to “hope they miss.” So he can sell them some more.

After all, he says, “guns and tobacco kill more people. At least mine has a safety.”

Then things begin to go wrong. In the illegal arms business, neither the competitors nor the customers play by the rules.

This is a classic hubris rise-and-fall story, chillingly real, contemporary, and very scary. Cage is perfectly cast — the arms dealer as rock star — and Leto delivers a sensitive performance as the volatile and vulnerable younger brother.

The movie’s biggest weakness is that it gets so overheated by its message that it gets heavy-handed, especially when Ethan Hawke as an incorruptable federal agent stands in for the screenwriter to remind us of the meaning of what we have just seen. The conclusion is powerful enough to deliver that message without the speeches.

Parents should know that this is a very violent film about arms dealers that makes its points by portraying frequent, brutal, and explicit gun and other weapons-related peril and violence. Characters are wounded and killed. Characters also use very strong language, drink, smoke, use and sell drugs, and one develops a substance abuse problem. The movie includes explicit sexual references and situations, including nudity, adultery, prostitutes, and group sex.

Families who see this movie should talk about how they can learn more about illegal arms dealers and the challenges of dealing with them under international law. They should also look into the movie’s statement about the role that governments, incuding the US, play in providing weapons to other countries.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Traffic, Goodfellas, and Blow.

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Movies

Underclassman

B

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Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
Profanity: Some strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Teen drinking, illegal drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Action violence and peril, some graphic injuries, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2005

Apparently, when Nick Cannon was growing up, he dreamed of being Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop. It seems he also wanted to be Jon Cryer in Hiding Out. So, when he got a chance to produce a feature film for himself, he combined the two and came up with “The Underclassman.”

From Beverly Hills Cop we have the opening sequence. Bust goes wrong, cover gets blown, damage gets done, and back at the station the choleric police chief yells about how our hero has to learn to follow the rules and start respecting authority. And they even throw in a father who had a distinguished record as a cop before he died, so our hero has a daunting standard to live up to and an empty place to fill. (Do you think young Nick Cannon might have been influenced by, say, a couple of Tom Cruise movies like Top Gun or A Few Good Men?)

Then a kid at a posh private school is found dead and the police need an officer who can go undercover as a student, so Tracey (Cannon) gets one more chance. Now we move into Hiding Out mode, as Tracy enrolls as a senior to see if he can find out what happened, and, oh yes, possibly to see if he can finish out his senior year and qualify for a high school diploma to replace that G.E.D.

Tracey’s culture-clash encounters with the rich kids at the school are more race-related than age- or class-related. While he is trying to become best friends with the school’s alpha male and getting acquainted with a pretty Spanish teacher (Roselyn Sanchez) who agrees to some private lessons, he finds time for assorted wisecracks and shoot-outs. It’s straight off the assembly line with no surprises, but pleasantly entertaining thanks to Cannon’s being almost as charming as he thinks he is.

Parents should know that the movie has a good deal of violence, including shoot-outs. Characters are injured and killed. There is some strong and crude language, including jokes about herpes and potty humor. The movie includes teen drinking and illegal drugs. A drug is given to a teenager without his knowledge or consent.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was hard for Tracey to take himself and other people seriously. What was the most important thing he learned from his experience at the school?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Hiding Out and Never Been Kissed.

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