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Unfinished Business
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some strong risque sexual content/graphic nudity, and for language and drug use
Release Date:
March 6, 2015

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

Chappie
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and brief nudity
Release Date:
March 6, 2015

 

Foxcatcher
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some drug use and a scene of violence
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
March 6, 2015

 

Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

Trailer: The Lady in the Van with Maggie Smith

posted by Nell Minow

Writer Alan Bennett (“The Madness of King George”) was not sure about the right way to respond when a near-homeless woman in a fragile mental state moved her dilapidated van in front of his house. He did not want her there but he could not bring himself to send her away. What began as a three week stay led to fifteen years, most of it parked in his driveway. It also led to The Lady in the Van, which The Village Voice called “one of the finest bursts of comic writing the twentieth century has produced,” Bennett recounts the strange life of Miss Shepherd, a London eccentric who parked her van (overstuffed with decades’ worth of old clothes, oozing batteries, and kitchen utensils still in their original packaging) in the author’s driveway for more than fifteen years. It is a sympathetic portrait of an outsider with an acquisitive taste and an indomitable spirit, drawn with equal parts fascination and compassion.

And now it is a movie, with Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd, coming to the US in December 2015.

Unfinished Business

posted by Nell Minow
Copyright 20th Century Fox 2015

Copyright 20th Century Fox 2015

“Unfinished Business” is a story about three renegade renegades from bureaucracy going up against The Man and the importance of the individual in an era of soul-grinding corporatism. But the movie itself is clearly the product of institutional over-management, as though it was put together by a committee and then circulated for sign-off through a dozen different divisions. The result is a weird and sadly sour mash-up of wild, raunchy comedy, underdog triumph, and treacly family story about how much daddies love their children. Plus random switches of location, tired jokes about glory holes in gay bars, and stunningly off-kilter “humor” about developmental challenges. And much assumed hilarity about someone’s funny name, which is not even that funny. Vince Vaughn looks tired throughout and not just because his character is exhausted. The original title, “Business Trip,” would have better described the storyline. The current title better describes the film.

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Vaughn plays Daniel, who in a “Jerry Maguire” moment begins the film by quitting his job as a salesman for some faceless conglomerate that sells something. His boss, Chuck (Sienna Miller, very funny and underused) has told him he has to take a pay cut. So he walks out, and two men come along. One is old and bitter (Tom Wilkinson as Timothy). One is young and naive (Dave Franco as Mike). But they have grit and dreams and determination. A year later, they have just one last chance to keep their enterprise going. The deal has been approved. They just need to fly to Portland, Maine for the handshake. Yes, a handshake is all it takes to shake that money tree. We won’t waste time on the sloppiness in the portrayal of “business” in this film, except to note that it is consistent with the lack of energy throughout.

But before they can get to the handshake, they have to get through Chuck, who is there chatting up the client with jokes that are just smutty enough to make her look like a “cool girl,” and undercutting their prices to drive them out of business. This means they end up going to Germany for yet another meeting, so that lots of things can go wrong in ways that are supposed to be funny along the way. The car flips over. A crucial agreement cannot happen unless they track down a female colleague in a co-ed spa, who of course insists that Daniel remove his clothes to show his, uh, commitment or something. The guys end up at a gay bar, a youth hostel, an anti-G8 demonstration, and a very revealing art installation, as Daniel tries to re-do his numbers to undercut Chuck and keep up with some bullying problems his children are dealing with at home. At one point, he ends up walking (and then running) around in teal eyeshadow, and we perk up for a moment, thinking something that isn’t banal and formulaic is going to happen, but no such luck.  The storyline, like the comedy, is unfinished, too.

Parents should know that this movie includes constant very strong language, extended male and female nudity, very explicit sexual references and situations, drinking, drug use, bullying, and comic peril and violence.

Family discussion: Why did Daniel have trouble with the homework assignment? Should he have told his wife the truth? How did he help his children?

If you like this, try: “The Hangover” and “The Big Kahuna”

Chappie

posted by Nell Minow
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for violence, language and brief nudity
Movie Release Date:March 6, 2015
Copyright Sony 2015

Copyright Sony 2015

So, basically, no one here saw “Terminator.” Or “Frankenstein.” But maybe they did see “Robocop?” Or “Short Circuit?”

Writer/director Neill Blomkamp likes sci-fi allegories of social and political conflicts, as we saw in “District 9″ and “Elysium.” Here he imagines that a couple of years from now South Africa will replace most of its front-line police force with robots from a government contractor. Efficient and just about unstoppable, they bring the crime rate down substantially. They are trusted by the law-abiding population and feared by the criminals. The CEO of the contractor is Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver), who has turned down requests from two of her staff. Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) wants to develop artificial intelligence to see if he can create a form of mechanical consciousness. Counter to his Athenian dreams of a holistic robot spirit that can create poetry and assess the merits of works of art, there is the Spartan, Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), whose pet project is a super-powerful weapon called Moose that is all brawn and no brain. It operates entirely under human control, through a helmet that reads its operator’s thoughts. One dreams of heart and brains, one believes in brawn and firepower.

Michelle reminds them that she is CEO of a publicly traded weapons corporation. Her job is to provide powerful but obedient robot foot soldiers to the police force, not to explore existential questions or create military-force destructive capacity.

In brief opening scene set a year before the events of the film, a journalist explains, “Historically, when we look at evolution, it’s not surprising that Chappie’s left turn happened.” So we know from the beginning that Chappie will be a major turning point in human history. Then we go back to see how he is created, as Deon takes a discarded robot with an unreplaceable fused battery that has just five days before it will run down and brings the not-so-failsafe guard key card from the office to his apartment (where of course he has created a cute little wall-eyed home robot with decorative red glasses). He revs up on Redbull and slams down some bangin’ code to, you know, play God.

Just to make it clear, he introduces himself to the robot, who will be dubbed Chappie, as his maker. And just to show you how human sentient consciousness, at least as conceived by human screenwriters, will inevitably be, Chappie’s relationship to his creator is more conflicted than his relationship to the couple he sees as his mommy and daddy. These underground, off the grid, self-styled gangsta characters share the names of the performers who play the roles, Ninja and Yo-Landi (rappers from Die Antwoord) and “America” (Jose Pablo Cantillo), who live in an abandoned building covered with graffiti. Chappie is caught in a tug of war between the idealistic Deon, who sees him as having infinite possibilities beyond the capacities of humans, and the gangstas, who see him as the key to bigger and better ways to create mayhem and steal cars and money. Deon makes him promise never to commit a crime. But Ninja covers him in bling and promises him a new body before the battery dies.

Blomkamp’s ambition is admirable and the broad scope of his imagination is impressive. The action scenes are vividly staged and the special effects are superb. It is Chappie’s movement that makes him seem human as much as his curiosity and spirit. seeing him gently stroke a dog’s back is so endearing we barely stop to consider whether his “hands” have the sensory capacity to “feel” the softness of the fur or the warmth underneath. When a human character transitions to robot form, the fact that his voice transitions as well makes no sense as a matter of mechanics, but this is more allegory than science. Unfortunately, the fact that the robot is more human than the humans is, to put it in computing terms, a bug, not a feature.

Parents should know that this film has constant very strong language and intense and graphic violence with some disturbing images and many characters injured and killed, as well as drinking, drugs, and brief nudity.

Family discussion: If you had the chance to upload your consciousness to a robot, would you do it? Could robot police ever work? How did Chappie’s innocence affect the people around him?

If you like this, try: “District 9” and “Elysium,” from the same director

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
Movie Release Date:March 6, 2015

A documentary called “Young at Heart” had a choir of singers in their 80’s performing contemporary rock songs.  The very fact of their age and experience gave an unexpectedly profound meaning to the words.  And in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a plot that ranges from silly to very silly still resonates, because the people in the silly situations are running out of time.  And because they are played by actors of such superb skill that they give power even to fortune-cookie aphorisms like “There is no present like the time.”  The characters in this film have more romantic complications and far more opportunities than the average teen sex comedy — and a lot more sex, too.  But their situation gives it all grace and poignance.

You could give Maggie Smith “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and she would make it sound like repartee written by Oscar Wilde. Here, she has a couple of very good insults and delivers them with wit as dry as a martini made of gin over which the word “vermouth” has just been whispered.  Just listen to her crisply explain that tea is an HERB requiring boiling water to release its flavor.  No tea bags limply dipped in lukewarm temperatures for her.  “How was America?” she is asked on her return.  “It made death more tempting.  I went with low expectations and came back disappointed.”

In the original The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a group of expatriate Brits came to India, mostly because they could no longer afford to live in the UK.  The energetic and eternally optimistic young owner of a dilapidated hotel decided to “outsource old age.”  Just as he saw the beauty of the ancient, crumbling building, he saw the grace, and the revenue stream, of people no longer valued in the place they had lived their lives.

This sequel, with all of the surviving main characters returning, takes us from Sonny’s engagement party to the family party, and then the wedding.  As it begins, Sonny (Dev Patel) and Mrs. Donnelly (Smith) are driving (in a convertible!) to San Diego to make a pitch for financing to Ty Burley (David Strathairn), so they can expand. Burley promises to send an undercover inspector to check out the hotel. When an American named Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) arrives, Sonny assumes that he is the inspector and lavishes attention on him, ignoring another recent arrival, Lavinia Beech (Tamsin Greig of “Episodes”), who says she is checking out the place for her mother.

Meanwhile, Sonny is frothing with jealousy over another arrival, a friend of his fiancee’s brother who is handsome, wealthy, and very attentive to Sunaina (Tina Desai). Evelyn (Judi Dench), who has not quite managed to move things ahead with Douglas (Bill Nighy), is so successful in her free-lance work as a scout for textiles that she is offered a big promotion. Madge (Celia Imbrie, whose lush figure prompted Helen Mirren’s call for “bigger buns” in “Calendar Girls”), is happily “dating” two wealthy men and having trouble deciding between them. And in the silliest of all of these flyweight storylines, Norman (Ronald Pickup), who is trying out monogamy for the first time, thinks he may have accidentally put out a hit on his lady friend Carol (Diana Hardcastle).

In other words, the movie gently disrupts all of the happy endings of the first film just enough to allow for some minor misunderstandings, some pithy and pointed commentary, and another round of even happier endings, leaving, I hope, the possibility of a third chapter.  Fans of the first film will arrive with high expectations and come home happy.

Parents should know that this film include brief mild language and many sexual references including infidelity and multiple partners.

Family discussion: Why was it difficult for Evelyn and Douglas to reach an understanding about their relationship? What was Sonny’s biggest mistake?

If you like this, try: the original “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “The Lunchbox”

Previous Posts

Trailer: The Lady in the Van with Maggie Smith
Writer Alan Bennett ("The Madness of King George") was not sure about the right way to respond when a near-homeless woman in a fragile mental state moved her dilapidated van in front of his house. He did not want her there but he could not bring himself to send her away. What began as a three week

posted 8:00:47am Mar. 06, 2015 | read full post »

Unfinished Business
"Unfinished Business" is a story about three renegade renegades from bureaucracy going up against The Man and the importance of the individual in an era of soul-grinding corporatism. But the mo

posted 5:59:57pm Mar. 05, 2015 | read full post »

Chappie
So, basically, no one here saw "Terminator." Or "Frankenstein." But maybe they did see "Robocop?" Or "Short Circuit?" Writer/director Neill Blomkamp likes sci-fi allegories of social and political conf

posted 5:59:11pm Mar. 05, 2015 | read full post »

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
A documentary called "Young at Heart" had a choir of singers in their 80's performing contemporary rock songs.  The very fact of their age and experience gave an unexpectedly profound meaning to the words.  And in "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," a plot that ranges from silly to very silly

posted 5:55:14pm Mar. 05, 2015 | read full post »

Merchants of Doubt
Do you remember the tobacco executives standing up before a Congressional Committee, their right hands raised, each of them swearing that they did not believe that tobacco caused cancer?  That was in 1994, three decades after the US Surgeon General's report showing the adverse health effects of cig

posted 5:30:43pm Mar. 05, 2015 | read full post »


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