Furious 7


Rating: PG-13, for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language.

It’s the seventh film in the blockbuster Fast and Furious franchise, so if you’ve seen any of the previous movies, you know what you’re in for here — except the gravity-defying chases, crashes and stunts are even bigger and more insane than usual. Cars drop from planes, float beneath parachutes and fly between skyscrapers. They smash into each other at alarming speeds and tumble down craggy cliffs. Explosions and gunfire abound, some of which result in characters’ deaths. In between the big set pieces, Vin Diesel and his crew engage in brutal fistfights with enemies of various ethnicities. There’s also quite a bit of language as well as scantily clad women dancing and grinding into each other in cartoonish, music-video fashion. It’s all over-the-top, silly fun, but it’s also probably best suited for mature tweens and older.

New On DVD:



Rating: PG-13, for some intense perilous action and brief strong language.

Christopher Nolan’s nearly-three-hour space odyssey will be too overwhelming for the vast majority of young viewers. It’s just too long and too intense, with a dense script filled with dry talk of wormholes, time-space relativity issues and what’s on the other side of the horizon line. It also presents the possibility of the end of life on Earth as we know it, and the need to repopulate the species in a galaxy far, far away. Matthew McConaughey stars as a pilot-turned-farmer who dares take a crew of brilliant scientists (including Anne Hathaway) into the vast unknown to see whether life is possible on a trio of distant planets. He’s also a widower who has made a promise to return to his daughter, played as a child by Mackenzie Foy and as an adult by Jessica Chastain. Much of the scenery is beautiful and dazzling — Nolan does not mess around when it comes to special effects, as we know — but there’s also quite a bit that’s frightening, including massive dust storms, a powerful tidal wave and various explosions and technical complications. This is probably suitable for viewers around 12 or 13 and older.

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar


Rating: G

This beautiful and intimate documentary, which follows the playful adventures of lemurs in the wild, will be totally suitable and quite enjoyable for the whole family. Morgan Freeman narrates, sharing the story of how these furry creatures floated on a raft of vegetation across the Indian Ocean from Africa to a remote, exotic island 60 million years ago. Now, many types of lemur face extinction, as well as a shortage of rainforest in Madagascar because so much land has been burned for farming. The film offers a powerful ecological message that older kids will understand; younger ones will probably just revel in the gorgeous imagery and the lemurs’ hilarious, adorable antics.

The Imitation Game


Rating: PG-13, for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in this well-made historical drama as Alan Turing, the brilliant British mathematician who devised a system to crack the Germans’ highly complicated Enigma code during World War II. But Turing also was a closeted homosexual, which was illegal at the time. Flashbacks to his childhood reveal his torment as well as the bullying he suffered from his peers. The wartime segments, meanwhile, feature references to loss of life. The whole film will be too restrained — and probably boring — for most younger viewers. But those around 12 or 13, especially ones with an interest in history, might connect with it. And Keira Knightley’s character, who functions as a rare female figure in this predominately male world, is a strong role model for her keen scientific mind.

This week on home video, we’ve got a couple of Oscar-winning films, another that received a couple nominations of its own, and an Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated HBO sitcom. Then we’ve got a few other notable films, including two more from the Criterion Collection. Read on for details:

Interstellar (2014) 72%

Christopher Nolan was coming off the completion of a critically and commercially successful Batman trilogy, and Matthew McConaughey was still riding high from the praise he got for True Detective and Dallas Buyers Club. There’s no question Interstellar was going to be a hit. The mindbending outer space tale wasn’t for everyone, though, and it earned Nolan the lowest Tomatometer score of his directorial career at 72 percent. Of course, that’s still not too shabby, and when you consider his flair for visual spectacle and a supporting cast that included Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, and Michael Caine, it’s a little difficult to say this isn’t worth at least a look. It might not blow your mind, but then again, it just might.

The Imitation Game (2014) 89%

This is the Best Picture nominee about the scientist who wasn’t Stephen Hawking. To be fair, The Imitation Game was quite different from The Theory of Everything, its spiritual cousin in this year’s Best Picture race. While Theory focused more on the story of the individual (and earned its lead a Best Actor win), Imitation was much more plot-driven, unfolding a bit like a spy thriller with a handful of obligatory biopic plot developments and Alan Turing at its center. Lest we make it sound like it’s an inferior film, we’ll just point out that it earned a Certified Fresh 89 percent on the Tomatometer, over $200 million at the box office, and nominations in eight Oscar categories, taking home the trophy for Best Adapted Screenplay. This film is no slouch; if you want to see a solid drama about how one of the smartest men of the last century helped defeat the Nazis in WWII by essentially inventing the world’s first digital computer, give this a watch.

Wild (2014) 90%

How about another Oscar nominee? This film might be considered the capstone to Reese Witherspoon’s recent resurgence, following roles in Mud and The Good Lie. After all, it was her portrayal of Cheryl Strayed on an introspective 1,000-mile hike that earned her her second Best Actress nomination at this year’s Academy Awards. Co-star Laura Dern also got a nod in the Supporting Actress category, so even if you’re not especially into nomadic, soul-searching journeys, you know the performances are top notch. As for Witherspoon, she’s due next in a couple of comedies, so if you want her more serious side, this may be your last chance to see it for at least a little while, and since it’s Certified Fresh at 90 percent, it’s a fair bet it won’t be a waste of your time.

Silicon Valley – Season One (2014) 94%

Mike Judge and social satire go together like baseball bats and office printers, so everyone was naturally geeked to see how the man behind Beavis and Butt-head, Idiocracy, and Office Space would skewer millennial entrepreneurs in the tech sector. And it looks like everyone was right to be excited; Silicon Valley‘s first season, which follows a handful of hopeful programmers as they launch a potentially lucrative startup, is Certified Fresh at 94 percent, and it’s all set to return for its second season on HBO on April 12. If you haven’t seen the show yet, that gives you a little less than two weeks to get caught up, but it’s only eight episodes, so you’ll be in good shape if you pick up the DVD or Blu-ray set when it hits shelves this week.



Island of Lemurs: Madagascar (2014) (79 percent), a documentary about the quirky primates narrated by Morgan Freeman.
The Rewrite (2014) (64 percent), starring Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei in a romantic comedy about a washed up screenwriter who takes up teaching at a university and falls for one of his students.
Meet the Mormons (2014) (11 percent), a documentary following six average Mormons in various corners of the world, going about their daily routines.
Veep – Season Three (2014) (100 percent), starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer in HBO’s hugely popular Emmy-winning comedy series.
Cries and Whispers (1972) (89 percent), Ingmar Bergman’s Oscar-winning meditation on death as experienced by three sisters, is the first of two Criterion releases, available in a new Blu-ray transfer.
Hoop Dreams (1994) (98 percent), Steve James’ powerful documentary that follows two young boys over five years as they pursue their dreams of playing professional basketball, is the second Criterion release available in a new Blu-ray.

This week on streaming video, we’ve got a couple of buzzworthy dramas from last year, a nature documentary narrated by one of the best voices in the business (Morgan Freeman), and a Canadian horror-comedy. Plus, Netflix offers up a brand new original comedy from Tina Fey and a couple of other new additions to their library. Read on for details:

A Most Violent Year

Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, and Albert Brooks star in this slow-burning thriller about a heating oil supplier whose business is attacked by an unknown rival.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar

Morgan Freeman narrates this nature documentary about the adorable but endangered primates.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes


Angelina Jolie’s second directorial effort tells the true story of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, a track star who served in World War II, where he survived a plane crash by clinging to a raft for more than a month before being captured by Japanese troops and held in a prisoner of war camp for more than two years.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play


He’s a wolf. But he’s also a Cop. Also, he’s Canadian.

Available now on: iTunes, Vudu

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season One

Ellie Kemper stars in this Certified Fresh, Tina Fey-produced Netflix sitcom about an impossibly upbeat young woman who is rescued from an underground apocalypse cult and moves to New York to start a new life.

Available now on: Netflix

Archer: Season Five

Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), Malory (Jessica Walter), Cheryl (Judy Greer), Pam (Kate Nash), and the rest of the ISIS gang take an unexpected new direction in Archer‘s fifth season.

Available now on: Netflix


Paul Haggis’ Best Picture-winning drama examines the dangers of bigotry and xenophobia in the lives of interconnected Angelenos, whose ranks include Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Terrence Howard, Brendan Fraser, and many more.

Available now on: Netflix

In Theaters This Week:

Captain America: The Winter Soldier


Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of violence, gunplay, and action throughout.

As is always the case in these effects-laden blockbusters based on comic books, the second Captain America movie is chock full of shootouts, martial arts butt kicking and the kind of prolonged, punishing brawls in which only physically altered specimens can engage. But beneath the well-staged mayhem, much darker themes – as well as the debate over freedom vs. security — are at work. This time, Cap (Chris Evans), with the help of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), must uncover a conspiracy within the secret government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. There’s an incredibly violent car chase which causes a ton of damage involving their boss, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), as well as a climactic battle in the skies above Washington featuring massive machines that were built to take out millions of people. This is probably fine for mature tweens and older.

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar


Rating: G.

Lemurs, people! How do you not love them? The playful yet intense primates are the focus of this beautiful and intimate 3-D IMAX documentary. Morgan Freeman narrates, sharing the story of how these furry creatures floated on a raft of vegetation across the Indian Ocean from Africa to a remote, exotic island 60 million years ago. Now, several kinds of lemur face extinction, as well as a shortage of rainforest in Madagascar because so much land has been burned for farming. It’s a powerful ecological message that older kids will understand; younger ones will probably just revel in the gorgeous imagery and the lemurs’ hilarious, adorable antics. Totally suitable for the entire family.

New On DVD:

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues


Rating: PG-13, for drug use, crude and sexual content, comic violence, and language.

You know what you’re getting here. If you’ve seen the 2004 cult comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, you’re in for more of the same kind of raucous comedy in the sequel, in which Ron Burgundy and his pals help launch the first 24-hour cable news channel. Will Ferrell’s buffoonish news anchor and his equally inept colleagues smoke crack on the air, cavort with women in uncomfortable, lustful ways and take part in an even bigger brawl with their rival TV news teams. There’s a lot of over-the-top banging and clanging that goes on. It’s all very silly – would you expect anything different? – but it feels even more slapped together than usual for this genre. Still, this is probably fine for older kids and up.

Morgan Freeman narrates The Island of Lemurs: Madagascar and talks to Grae Drake about his deep connection with nature. He discusses not only the plight of the lemurs but also how he envisions a perfect harmony with the ocean.



Click here to watch more video interviews

This week at the movies, we’ve got just one new wide release: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, starring Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, and Scarlett Johansson in the latest Marvel superhero adventure. What do the critics have to say?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier


It’s become fashionable in some film-going circles to dismiss the recent spate of comic book adaptations as evidence that Hollywood is bereft of ideas. Critics say Captain America: The Winter Soldier offers a powerful rebuttal, delivering outstanding performances and a thoughtful political undercurrent to complement its visceral thrills. This time out, Captain America (Chris Evans) is working undercover for S.H.I.EL.D., but quickly discovers that the organization is far more secretive than he suspected. Meanwhile, a mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier has carried out a series of killings — and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) seems to know more about his identity than she’s telling. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Captain America: The Winter Soldier should please both newcomers and Marvel diehards — it’s slick and action-packed, and most intriguingly, often has the feel of a paranoid thriller from the 1970s. (Check out this week’s Total Recall for a list of memorable superhero franchise part twos..)

Also opening this week in limited release:

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