John Hanlon
(”Love the Coopers” is briefly mentioned in this.)
The end of 2016 is quickly approaching. With that in mind, patient I went back and created a list of all of the films that I reviewed this year and the different ratings I gave them. Of course, story this isn’t a complete list of all of the films I saw this year.... <img src="http://www.johnhanlonreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens-Photo-270x350.jpg" type="image/jpeg"/>
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John Hanlon
This past weekend, cheapest three new films opened domestically in over 1500 theaters. One of them featured an ensemble cast that included three Oscar winners. Another one told the inspirational true story of thirty-three men who were trapped in a mine together for over two... <img src="http://www.johnhanlonreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Box-office-report-Spectre1-270x400.jpg" type="image/jpeg"/>
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John Hanlon
For all of its obvious faults (and there are plenty of them), information pills Love the Coopers offers one valuable lesson. When a police officer is advising an unrepentant thief in the film, page he offers this advice: “Try and be the person... <img src="http://www.johnhanlonreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Love-the-Coopers-Review-105x88.jpg" type="image/jpeg"/>
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Crosswalk
Movies DVD Release Date: February 9, 2016Theatrical Release Date: November 13, 2015Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, language and some sexuality)Genre: ComedyRun Time: 105 min.Director: Jessie NelsonCast: Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Jake Lacy, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde Lightweight rom-coms have become part and parcel of the holiday season, although such films in recent years haven't all been aimed at the whole family. Love Actually (2003) is a recent template for this type of film, which focuses on numerous couples who are somehow connected, and who are working through various trials. Among the many other entries are The Holiday (2006) and Best Man Holiday (2013), the latter of which showed that the formula could work across racial lines. But Love Actually and Best Man Holiday also demonstrated that Hollywood isn't always interested in appealing across age lines with these holiday-themed movies. Unafraid to push the content limits, these films exclude younger viewers by focusing on more mature content, adding a lot of frank dialogue and garnering a more restrictive R rating. Love the Coopers, this year's entry in the holiday rom-com sweepstakes, doesn't go as far as Love Actually and Best Man Holiday did—Coopers is rated PG-13, as The Holiday was—but it traffics in lame cultural stereotypes and pokes conservative religious viewers in the eye with one of its story threads—all in its first few minutes. The story then offsets its very rough start by introducing some softer, sweeter characters in separate storylines. Nevertheless, although it improves as it goes, Love the Coopers digs a deep enough hole early on that, by the time it manages to dig itself out, it’s hard to know if the effort was worthwhile. The film's central couple (of several) is Charlotte (Diane Keaton, And So It Goes) and Sam (John Goodman, Flight), who are preparing to separate after decades of marriage. They need to break the news to their children, but Charlotte insists they put on a happy face for one more Christmas family dinner.SEE ALSO: Christmas Spirit Fights Coarse Dialogue in Best Man Holiday googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-1'); }); Granddad Bucky (Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine) spends his days at a restaurant he doesn't care for, just so he can visit with Ruby (Amanda Seyfried, Pan), a young waitress with whom he's bonded. He shares movie recommendations with Ruby, who watches the films and then discusses her reactions with Bucky. Their friendship is the first sign that Love the Coopers isn't going to be without some sweetness to its mostly sour story. Emma (Marisa Tomei—mystifyingly cast as Keaton's sister, despite an 18-year age difference in real life) is an amateur psychologist who, while doing some holiday shopping, decides to steal a brooch. Nabbed by security, Emma is taken into custody and transported across the city in a police cruiser by Officer Williams (Anthony Mackie, Our Brand is Crisis). The chatty Emma uses the trip to pepper Williams with personal questions from the back seat of his cruiser, quickly determining, in a way that only could happen in a corny screenplay, that Williams is a closeted homosexual. Did I mention that Love the Coopers is supposed to be a comedy? A daughter, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde, Butter), is a struggling playwright who's involved with a married man. Dreading the trip home, and her mom's requisite disapproval of her life choices, Eleanor strikes up a conversation with Joe (Jake Lacy, Obvious Child), a soldier. Their attraction is obvious, but she bluntly expresses contempt for the culturally conservative positions she suspects Joe, a Christian, probably holds. Joe tries to give as good as he gets in their conversation, but the screenwriters have rigged the game by giving Eleanor the more memorable (if poorly justified) zingers. Still, Eleanor is not without her own problems, and, eager to hide some of them from her parents, she convinces Joe to pose as her boyfriend and tag along during her Christmas visit.SEE ALSO: Brothers Buries Its Most Interesting Themes The hapless Hank (Ed Helms, The Hangover), Charlotte and Sam's son, has lost his job as a department-store photographer and wants to hide his unemployment from his parents and siblings. His marriage has ended, and he can barely keep up with his boys, the older of whom is determined to kiss the girl for whom the boy has been pining. The characters will all come together for the holiday dinner—even the family dog plays a role in the story—and maybe, just maybe, there will be some form of happy ending for each character. It all feels contrived, of course, but the Bucky/Ruby storyline is genuinely sweet, and even the Eleanor/Joe thread, which starts so poorly, has us rooting for the couple by the end. But those plusses are up against some strong negatives—a crude running joke about a young girl's favorite phrase, the lazy stereotyping, the forced intimacy of Tomei's interrogation of Mackie, and a "kooky" aunt (June Squibb, Nebraska) who's there mainly to be laughed at—most of which are set in motion early in the film. Because the film isn't completely without redeeming characters and qualities, you might find yourself in a forgiving mood while watching Love the Coopers. But you don't have to be a Scrooge to sum up the film with your own personal humbug. Coopers may not rate as a Christmas turkey, but with so many superior holiday films available to see at home, why pay first-run admission prices for this borderline (at best) movie?SEE ALSO: A Madea Christmas is a Bit Naughty, a Bit Nice CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers): googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-2'); }); if (gptClientWidth >= 992 && gptClientWidth <= 1000000) googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-3'); }); Language/Profanity: Lord's name taken in vain; a young girl repeats “you’re such a d-ck” more than once during the film; a suggestion that a misheard hymn lyric makes it sound like “God had an orgasm”; a man is encouraged to “go out and get some”; “bull-hit” Drinking/Smoking/Drugs: Drinking; a memory of spiked eggnog; people meet at a bar; a toast Sex/Nudity: Kissing,including first kiss and early attempts at French kissing; a man notices how a dressed woman at a restaurant rests her breasts on the table; discussion of a man’s sex life; a couple who confess to being former hippies acknowledge past pot smoking; a memory of a couple's first time having sex Violence/Crime: Vomiting; a boy imagines punching an older boy who actually does punch the younger boy’s brother; a woman has scars on her wrists Religion/Morals/Marriage: Christmas hymns are sung, but with the wrong words inadvertently; a character remembers her fiancé's betrayal; a man says he's gay "only in bed"; a couple's marriage is ending after 40 years; a woman asks a man if he's "one of those churchy Republicans," and she says Nina Simone's voice is the closest she gets to believing in God; a boy is said to have felt "unclaimed" after his parents divorce; a woman is seeing a married man and says she doesn't believe in marriage; a bumper sticker says that the family that prays together stays together; a man is encouraged to go along with a woman's lie; a family is encouraged to say grace before their meal, but no one wants to say it Publication date: November 12, 2015 ]]>
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Plugged In
ComedyDrama We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.Movie ReviewChristmas is supposed to be a season that brings "tidings of comfort and joy." That's certainly what the rollicking old carol "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" proclaims. But for some families, the holidays stir up ghosts of Christmas past, memories of better times … and deep pain. Instead of bringing comfort and joy, Christmas comes freighted with discomfort and despair—not to mention dysfunction and deception. So it is with the Coopers, a family with a lot of unresolved relational baggage—not exactly the kind of packages anyone wants to unwrap. Sam and Charlotte have been holding their failing marriage together for a long time. Their union has endured 40 years, six months and three days, we're told by our omniscient narrator, the Coopers' loyal dog, Rags. But three decades before, Sam had planned a dream trip to Africa that never happened. Instead, bills happened. And life. And death. And conflict. (Charlotte's never cared much about her husband's longing to travel someplace exotic with her.) So they've decided to call it quits. But not, Charlotte insists, until after one last yuletide celebration. "I want the kids to have the memory of one last perfect Christmas," she begs. Sam agrees to pretend that everything's OK. But it isn't. Not surprisingly, the Cooper offspring also have a hard time telling the truth. There's Hank, a single father of three (Charlie, Bo and Madison) who doesn't have the heart to tell his family (or his ex-wife, Angie) that he's been laid off. Then there's Eleanor, who's never gotten over a breakup years before—or, for that matter, her sense that she's always a disappointment to her mother. So when she meets a charming soldier named Joe at an airport bar, flirting leads to Eleanor hatching a crazy gambit: impressing Mom by bringing Joe home and introducing him as her new boyfriend. Charlotte's never-married sister, Emma, also struggles with lifelong resentment toward her older sibling. But when she gets arrested for shoplifting a Christmas gift for big sis (because Emma resents having to spend any money on Charlotte), it's not clear she's even going to make it for dinner. (Doing so will require sweet-talking taciturn police officer Percy Williams out of taking her to jail.) And this being an ensemble dramedy, we're not done yet. Bucky (Charlotte and Emma's father) spends his lonely days (after his wife's passing) hanging out at a diner, tended to faithfully by an equally lonely waitress. Ruby and Bucky enjoy each other's camaraderie—more than either of them will let on, in fact. So when Bucky finds out Ruby's moving away to try to jumpstart her disappointing life, he's furious. So furious he … invites her to come with him to the Coopers' for Christmas. If all that sounds like a recipe for a heaping helping of conflict for Christmas dinner, well, it most certainly is. Positive ElementsEarly on, Sam and Charlotte play with their granddaughter, Madison, in the snow. Rags notes how we often miss the significance of such terrific moments in life. In other words, experiencing and embracing happiness is an elusive thing, the movie says, because when we're most joyful, we may not be paying attention. Each character remembers key moments in the past when he or she was happy. And as the story progresses, most of them gradually realize that they're having good moments right now, too, even in their messy present. To embrace those moments, these family members must unclench their grip on old grievances. Though the film never talks about forgiveness, per se, it does convey a sense that happiness requires letting go of the stuff that hurt us so we can be aware of the best things happening now. That theme is paired with the observation that true intimacy and lasting companionship doesn't magically evolve in marriage. In Sam and Charlotte's sad relationship, both have refused to let go of decades-old disappointments. Rags says of that emotional erosion, "It was about the thousand microscopic hurts that accumulate over 40 years." In the end, though, Sam and Charlotte realize that they really do still love each other, even though their union hasn't been as perfect as Charlotte had hoped—or as she'd frequently wanted the world to believe. Speaking of Charlotte's perfectionist tendencies, both her daughter (Eleanor) and her sister (Emma) ultimately have confrontational heart-to-heart talks with her about how she's hurt them—something Charlotte has never really grappled with. Eleanor, for her part, has walled off her heart, preferring to live vicariously through others' emotions. But Joe connects with her, getting underneath her thick emotional armor, and a real romance blossoms even as they pretend to be in one. Eleanor is also self-aware about her significant flaws and her ambivalence toward her family. "Doesn't it suck how we want to run from our families and impress them at the same time?" she asks. A moment later, she says her attitude toward her family might be best summed up by her made-up word anticipointment: She longs for their approval, but she suspects she probably won't get it. Hank has lessons to learn about being honest, too. He can't pay alimony due to his financial woes, and he laments, "I was a failure at marriage; I don't want to be a failure at divorce." Bucky, especially, encourages him to keep trying. Bucky and Ruby enjoy a sweet relationship, with the older man often giving her movies to watch so they can talk about them. Theirs is not a romance, but rather a tender, innocent, grandfather-granddaughter kind of love. He tries to convince Ruby that everyone feels sadness and loneliness sometimes, and that simply moving someplace new won't solve her problems.Spiritual ContentJoe and Eleanor are spiritual opposites, with each mocking the other's convictions. Joe is a conservative Republican Christian soldier, and those elements clash with Eleanor's aggressively liberal atheism. She's a big believer in evolution; she says the closest she's ever gotten to God was listening to jazz singer Nina Simone; and she summarizes Christianity by saying it's God telling us, "Love me most, or go to hell." But while Eleanor playfully mocks Joe's faith, the film at tries to reserve judgment. And eventually Eleanor confesses to Joe that she actually finds his faith attractive. As the Cooper clan digs in to eat Christmas dinner, Joe says they need to say grace … while giving a nod to the various beliefs of others. (His prayer is interrupted by a jarring abuse of Jesus' name.) Christmas carols turn up throughout the movie. They're even sung by the family, and the majority of them aren't secular carols like "Jingle Bells." Instead, we hear songs that focus on the real reason for the season, such as "Silent Night," "We Three Kings," "Little Drummer Boy," "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "Joy to the World." Sam's a Scrooge in that he deliberately mis-sings some carols, which always prompts correction from Charlotte. Sexual ContentEleanor and Joe share passionate kisses. She confesses to him that she has been having an ongoing affair with a married man. Charlie, who's in high school, is determined to kiss a girl named Lauren. He visits her at the mall where she's working, telling himself internally, "Don't look at her boobs," which of course he does. (She's wearing a cleavage-revealing outfit.) They eventually kiss … a lot … sloppily and intensely. We see her practically crawl on top of him as they make out. Sam and Charlotte also make out. He fondly references his "first time" with her. We see them changing their pants. (She's in leggings and a long shirt, he's in boxers.) Elsewhere, we hear that Hank got Angie (now his ex-wife) pregnant when they were in high school. There's talk of Percy being gay "only in bed." It's hinted that he's hidden his lifestyle choices to avoid his demanding mother's censure. Bucky tells Hank he just needs to go out and have sex to get over his divorce. "Don't let one woman define your life," he says. Sam relates an orgasm joke to a Christmas carol's lyrics. Bucky jokes about an aging woman's breasts. A young boy tells a girl, "Show me yours, I'll show you mine." She lifts up her dress, revealing tights and a full-length slip; he runs away leaving her feeling taken advantage of. Gingerbread cookies "wear" g-strings.Recommended ResourceA Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey With Your Kids About SexKevin LemanEven the bravest parents feel timid about discussing sex with their 8- to 14-year-olds! This resource offers reassuring, humorous, real-life anecdotes along with reliable information to help you with this challenging task.Buy NowViolent ContentCharlie gets punched by Lauren's ex. Charlie's little brother, Bo, imagines yanking his brother's assailant's pants down, then decking him. Bucky notices scars on Ruby's wrists that imply she's attempted suicide.Crude or Profane LanguageOne s-word. "P---y" is used once as a putdown. We hear "h---" and variants of "d--n" twice each. Little Madison has gotten into the habit of telling people, "You're such a d--k!" a phrase we hear from her twice. (It's implied that she picked up the vulgarity from her dad, who uses it once). There are at least two dozen misuses of God's name. (Several times His name is paired with "d--n"). Jesus' is abused once.Drug and Alcohol ContentJoe and Eleanor have drinks (martinis, shots) at the airport bar. There's wine at Christmas dinner and a joke about hard eggnog. While talking with a teen who admits he's been busted for smoking weed, Sam and Charlotte joke about their drug use back in the '60s.Other Negative ElementsRude jokes are made about a Christmas dish that gives a child diarrhea. Rags' flatulence drives the Cooper family from the dining room.ConclusionChristmas can be a time when we want everything to be perfect. Charlotte Cooper definitely does. But what if everything isn't just so? What if, under the surface, insecurities and old hurts and unresolved conflict still linger? Those are the kinds of questions Love the Coopers digs into, sprinkling comedy into the struggles this family faces. Family is the place where we expect and long for unconditional love. And when it doesn't happen, the resulting wounds can go deep. In Eleanor's case, it prompts her to say to Joe, "Sometimes I think that I might be unlovable." The temptation with such wounds is not to tell the truth about them, because telling the truth is risky. Lying—whether in "little white" ways or via whoppers like Eleanor and Joe's concocted romance—seems safer. What Love the Coopers does effectively is show how "playing it safe" through such deception ultimately makes us feel more alienated and isolated from those whose love and affirmation we long for the most. “Don’t we all sort of struggle with this fraud complex?” actor Ed Helms (who plays Hank) asked in an interview with USA Today. "Everyone is afraid of being exposed for everything that they are. We present a sort of edited version of ourselves to the world, especially with our families, where there’s just so much baggage and so much expectation. When you get to explore that, it’s actually kind of uplifting because it reinforces that we’re in this together. We’re all kind of stumbling through and just trying to make the best of it. … There’s frustration, there’s love, there’s support, there are long-held grudges, but ultimately, there’s this sense that we’re actually better off all being together.” That is indeed the core message in Love the Coopers. We're better off together. Better off telling the truth than lying. Better off trusting that our family can accept us just as we are than trying so hard to pretend we're in better shape than we really are. The core content in the movie, though, is another Christmas story. It's not Bad Santa, thankfully. Not even close. But foul and profane language, along with some sexual stuff still treat those mashed potatoes on the table in just about the same way Rags does. And slobber like that doesn't make the big meal nearly as appetizing as you'd like it to be.Pro-social ContentObjectionable ContentSummary AdvisoryPlot SummaryChristian BeliefsOther Belief SystemsAuthority RolesProfanity/ViolenceKissing/Sex/HomosexualityDiscussion TopicsAdditional Comments/NotesEpisode Reviews]]>
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Plugged In
Thought that James Bond’s newest movie couldn’t top the box office for a second straight week? Never say never again, people. The world’s most famous secret agent used his gold finger to climb to the top again, renewing Spectre‘s license to make a killing. Spectre rolled another strike with its thunderball, earning an estimated $35.4 million this weekend. That brings the flick’s domestic haul to $130.7 million. Worldwide, it’s already made more than half a billion dollars or thereabouts, including the equivalent of $6.3 million in a big chunk of the former Soviet Union. Talk about from Russia with love. Keep this up, and Bond won’t have to rely on Her Majesty’s secret service to make ends meet anymore. (Perhaps he could invest in diamonds. They’re forever, you know.) But there was more to the weekend’s numbers than 007. Charlie Brown and company also made the box office’s little red-haired girl smile. The Peanuts Movie earned $24.2 million to finish second for the second straight week. And that ain’t, y’know, peanuts. The Bond-Brown partnership was way, way too much for the weekend’s strongest newcomer. While audiences didn’t hate Love the Coopers, they certainly didn’t seem to like ’em, either. The star-studded Christmas comedy earned just $8.4 million—about a third of what Peanuts did and less than a fourth of Spectre’s haul. The Martian finished fourth with $6.7 million, undermining (ahem) the debut of The 33. Antonio Banderas’ inspirational rescue drama earned applause from those who saw it (including me), but only $5.8 million got dumped down the shaft leading to the studio’s coffers. Perhaps it’ll dig up some additional treasure in the weeks to come. For now, it seems, the world is not enough for Spectre—at least not until its returns rake the moon. But given that the grand finale of The Hunger Games series is coming to theaters, next weekend may be when we see moviegoers’ affections dwindle for the spy who loved them. Final figures update: 1. Spectre, $33.7 million; 2. The Peanuts Movie, $24 million; 3. Love the Coopers, $8.3 million; 4. The Martian, $6.7 million; 5. The 33, $5.8 million. ]]>
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Society Reviews
Love Wedding Repeat is a fun movie and considering it's one of the few things you can do without your neighbors calling the cops on you right now, there are worse ways to spend you time. 
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VJ Morton
Big Time Adolescence, Brittany Runs a Marathon, Before You Know It and more
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VJ Morton
The best, the worst, the most political, the biggest crowd-pleasers and more.
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VJ Morton
Crosswalk
Movies from Film Forum, 08/01/02The stream of low-profile "art films" is increasing as we head towards fall. Soon the big Oscar-begging dramas will start popping up. (Some argue that the first big "Fall movie" actually opened in June: Road to Perdition.)Critics are praising writer/director Nicole Holofcener's Lovely and Amazingand its talented cast, which includes Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich) and Brenda Blethyn (Secrets and Lies). The film follows Michelle (Keener) as she struggles in a troubled marriage and then plunges headlong into an affair with her adolescent boss. The self-absorption and poor self-image of Michelle and her two sisters stem from the similarly flawed perspective of their mother (Blethyn), and the film explores this surface tension—reportedly with little insight. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-1'); }); J. Robert Parks (The Phantom Tollbooth) says the film contains its own criticism. "Once Lovely and Amazing has established [its] characters and their damaged relationships, the movie doesn't know what to do with them. Instead of moving forward or backwards, the script just gives us more of the same. With such an outstanding cast, it's no surprise that the acting is top-notch. Lovely and Amazing starts off well and then loses its way." googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-2'); }); if (gptClientWidth >= 992 && gptClientWidth <= 1000000) googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-3'); }); The USCCB's critic writes, "Holofcener asks how children—biological or not—deal with and internalize their parents qualities and fixations. Can similar obsessions dominate a family? The film is mostly engaging as it deconstructs American women's insecurities in general, and in particular their anxious attitude about body weight. Yet Holofcener's light touch remains superficial, rarely delving deeply into the psychological or emotional depths that such issues can withstand. And as the characters make attempts to improve their lives, their choices and behavior can be off-putting." ]]>
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Kyle Smith
A small but emotional movie about a sudden romance between two old folks, “Lovely, Still” is a nice showcase for the talents of Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn. My review is up.]]>
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Sonny Bunch

Nothing happens. It looks good and it sounds great. But it's almost entirely free of stakes and I have no reason to care about any of these people other than in the sense that we should care about everyone, everywhere, yada yada. You know that gif where Obama spreads his hands and he's like "what the f**k"? That's how I felt about three minutes into that sequence where the music goes away and everyone's just singing. Just gonna sit here and twirl my finger until we've wrapped it up.

I did like it when all the dudes were listening to their angry music at the end. Angry-time music > sexy-time music.

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Sonny Bunch
On this week’s episode, Sonny Bunch (The Bulwark), Alyssa Rosenberg (The Washington Post), and Peter Suderman (Reason) discuss the ways in which culture and technology helped influence the unchecked spread of QAnon-style conspiracy theories. And the gang reviews “Lovers Rock,” the much-ballyhooed installment of Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe” series on Amazon and BBC. Also: make sure to check out this week’s special bonus episode (https://atma.thebulwark.com/p/schwarzenegger-bonus) of Across the Movie Aisle, in which Sonny, Alyssa, and Peter discuss Arnold Schwarzenegger’s moving address to the American people.
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Armond White
Steve McQueen predicts a race revolution at the 58th New York Film Festival.
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