Rifftrax Meets Five Doctor Whos

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Rifftrax will be in theaters on August 24, 2017 to present five Doctor Whos! The stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000®, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, are back on the big screen for a legendary riffing of the 1983 Doctor Who film “The Five Doctors.”

Someone is taking the Doctor’s past selves out of time and space, placing them in a vast wilderness – a battle arena with a sinister tower at its center. As the various incarnations of the Doctor join forces, they learn they are in the Death Zone on their home world of Gallifrey, fighting Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti and a devious Time Lord Traitor who is using the Doctor and his companions to discover the ancient secrets of Rassilon, the first and most powerful ruler of Gallifrey.

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Comic-Con 2017: Day One

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Yesterday’s first panel was one that has become an annual highlight: the composers of scores for movie superheroes.  Ray Costa moderated a conversation with Mark Isham (the upcoming “Cloak & Dagger”),  Brian Tyler (“The Mummy,” “Power Rangers”), David Russo (“Gotham”), and Ludwig Göransson (the eagerly anticipated “Black Panther”).  I interviewed Stephen Lane from The Prop Store about his upcoming auction of movie treasures including Jack Nicholson’s purple Joker suit from “Batman” (did you know he picked that color because he loves the Lakers?)  I also interviewed Jake Monaco, composer for the Scooby-Doo reboot and “Dinotrux,” and social media star Splack (more on them coming soon).  I went to a panel on storytelling with Disney artists and another of my annual favorites, the MAD Magazine panel with the usual gang of idiots and the fans who love them.  And I got to talk to Caldecott award-winning writer/illustrator Brian Selznick about his upcoming film, “Wonderstruck,” starring Julianne Moore and directed by Todd Haynes.  More coming soon!

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Is it the Critics’ Fault if People Don’t Go to the Movie?

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They’re blaming the critics again.  Quartz’s Ashley Rodriguez writes:

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Baywatch were never going to be critical darlings. The former is the fifth film in a franchise that should have been retired years ago, if Hollywood had any mercy at all. And the other is an action-comedy about lifeguards. Enough said. Both movies led the domestic box office to its worst Memorial Day weekend showing in nearly 20 years.

In the fallout, are Hollywood producers blaming the writers? The actors? Themselves? (Of course not.) No, they are reportedly blaming Rotten Tomatoes.

They say the movie-review site, which forces critics to assign either a rotten or fresh tomato to each title when submitting reviews, regardless of the nuances of their critiques, poisoned viewers against the films before they were released.

Don’t kill the messenger.  If people want to show a little caution before spending the money for a movie ticket by checking with a trusted critic or even a quick look at an aggregate score, then that is their right.  If the studios do not like the reviews, they should make better movies.  The fact that the audience score is almost always higher than the critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes is due to a selection bias; the people who buy tickets for a film do so because they think they will like it and once they’ve spent the time and money they are literally invested in the film.  More important, that score is on Rotten Tomatoes for any potential ticket-buyer who would like to be guided by it.

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Megan Leavey

B +

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Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for war violence, language, suggestive material, and thematic elements
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness, drug references
Violence/ Scariness: Wartime violence
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: June 9, 2017
Copyright 2017 Bleeker Street

Devastated by the loss of a close friend, fired from a dead-end job, without any sense of worth or meaning, a young rural New Yorker enlists in the Marines and learns about honor, loyalty, and purpose, and finds unconditional love, too.

What makes that familiar story less familiar in this fact-based retelling is that the Marine in question is a woman and the love story is with her partner, a German Shepard.

Kate Mara is both vulnerable and determined as Megan Leavey, who was lost until she joined the Marines and got assigned to the K-9 division of military dogs trained to sniff out bombs and guns. Leavey had two tours of duty alongside Rex until they were blown up together by a bomb. The most significant part of her recovery came from a renewed sense of purpose in fighting for the chance to give Rex a home when he could no longer work.

The film, which has some dramatic (and romantic) heightening, shows Leavey being fired by a supervisor who tells her, “You don’t connect with people very well.” Her mother (Edie Falco, terrific as always) does not want her to go into the military but has nothing else to offer. After basic training, she gets drunk with friends and is sentenced to clean up the dog kennels. That is the moment when a part of her wakes up. Instead of resisting what she does not want, for the first time there is something she does want.

The Leavey equivalent in the K-9 corps is Rex, a handsome German shepherd described by the veterinarian as “the most aggressive dog I’ve ever treated.” The woman who does not connect with people very well is a perfect match for the dog who does not connect with people very well, either.

Leavey wants to become a part of the K-9 program, but in order to qualify she has to meet some very tough standards for her skills and behavior. She makes it in and the training includes learning how to bandage a wounded dog, a powerful reminder of the risks ahead.

The story has four distinct chapters: Leavey before the Marines, her training and getting to know Rex, their deployment, and her efforts to bring him home so she can care for him in his last months. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and star Mara wisely keep the focus on Leavey’s spirit-enlarging journey. Cowperthwaite is a documentarian (“Blackfish”) and brings a low-key naturalism to the storytelling, and Mara is excellent in revealing Leavey’s growing sense of confidence and purpose. “We were injured in Iraq,” she says, simply, compellingly. They are both wounded warriors and their best path to healing is to be together.

Parents should know that this film includes wartime violence with guns, bombs, explosions, characters injured and killed, drinking and drunkenness, strong language, sexual references and a non-explicit situation.

Family discussion: What was it about the dog corps that made Megan want to qualify to be a part of it?  Why did Gunny give her a chance?

If you like this, try: “Max”

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