‘The Flowers of War’
What is it? As the movie opens, Japanese soldiers have just overtaken Nanking, China, and schoolgirls attempting to return to their convent duck trigger-happy enemies. American mortician John Miller, who turns out to be an alcoholic cad, is also headed toward the cathedral to bury a recently deceased priest. The church is a designated safe zone, so a group of prostitutes from the nearby red-light district also seeks the cathedral’s refuge. But when the motley crew ends up under the watchful eye of Japanese soldiers purporting to protect them, the group struggles to escape the city. All the arresting images in the world can’t overcome the story, which seems to exist in a far-fetched reality where grown women giggle and joke while bombs explode nearby, a money-hungry pig transforms himself instantaneously into a selfless father figure and people leave a safe haven under implausible circumstances. In these cases, it’s simpler to shake one’s head in disbelief than hang it in sorrow.
Rated R for brutal violence, rape and strong language.
Time : 2 hrs., 21 min.
Language : In Mandarin, Japanese and English with English subtitles.
The film did not play in Kansas City. It has a MetaCritic score of 46 (out of 100) and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 41 (out of 100).
Extras : A five-part feature-length making-of documentary.
What is it? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. That is the message of Paul Weitz’s mostly well-crafted adaptation of poet Nick Flynn’s memoir. The movie centers on the bizarre-yet-true circumstances of the author’s reconciliation with his estranged, alcoholic father. Both are struggling if gifted writers, and both have substance-abuse issues. The elder Flynn, Jonathan (Robert De Niro), likes his booze, which has prevented him from ever finishing the single manuscript he carries around. Nick, his 20-something son (Paul Dano), hasn’t been writing long enough to be considered a failure. Still, his own addictions put him on the path of becoming his father. There are some really nice touches, including Weitz’s technique of dueling narrators. The characters of Nick and Jonathan attempt to frame the story by speaking in alternating voice-overs. It’s a clever gimmick, but it’s also a surprisingly apt way of underscoring their competitiveness and their intertwined fates.
Rated R for obscenity, brief nudity, sex scenes, drug use and violence.
Time : 1 hr., 26 min.
The Star gave the film :
Extras : A featurette that contains interviews with De Niro, Dano and Weitz.
What is it? Like Stifler, “American Reunion,” another sequel to “American Pie,” refuses to grow up. The obsession with sex has not changed. The subject of coupling, uncoupling and re-coupling with exes is almost the sole subject of conversation at this reunion. There’s precious little comedy mined from the fact that people change. It pushes R-rated movie boundaries: If you’ve ever wondered what a nude Biggs looks like smooshed up against glass, your prayers will be answered. At times it goes beyond tweaking taboos to the downright inappropriate. A subplot about a neighborhood girl (Ali Cobrin) — she’s turning 18 and has the hots for Jim, her former babysitter — borders on the pedophiliac. It’s slightly creepy.
Rated R for obscenity, nudity, comic violence, drug references and a constant drumbeat of raunchy humor.
Time : 1 hr., 53 min.
The Star gave the film : 1/2
Extras : Unrated version; commentary with co-directors/co-writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg; gag reel; seven deleted scenes; a “Reunion: Re-Launching the Series” featurette and two additional featurettes. Also, on Blu-ray: 13 extended scenes, alternate takes and four more featurettes .