Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 2014

 

Philomena
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
Release Date:
November 22, 2013

Under the Skin
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

 

The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Rio 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

 

Grudge Match
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

Black Snake Moan

posted by jmiller
C-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for strong sexual content, language, some violence and drug use.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Things are not going well for Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson). He has been living a life right out of a blues song. His wife left him. For his brother.


And now, he has found an almost-naked young woman, badly beaten, outside his house. Things have not been going well for Rae (Christina Ricci) either. She has slept with just about everyone, but the only man she has ever loved is Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) and he has joined the military. Rae is no good at being on her own, and she has an unfortunate tendency to respond to stress by drinking, taking drugs, and having sex. Lazarus lives up to his name by bringing her back to life.


His technique for doing this involves chaining her to his radiator.


It is fair to say this raises some issues — male/female, black/white, sacred/profane for example. And that, too, sounds like a blues song.


The music in the film is terrific — searing, gut-twisting wails of loss and despair. This is a film in which Samuel L. Jackson sings (well) and Justin Timberlake does not. There are some powerful moments, particularly those featuring John Cothran Jr. as a preacher named Reverend R.L. But the characters are — even by blues standards — so over the top that we never feel their connection to us or to each other. A relationship like Lazarus and Rae needs some authentic moments — a confession, exchanges of confidence, a willingness to let each other see them at their best and their worst. But we never get any of that.

The confrontation between Rae and her mother approaches a parody of the long line of Southern slattern films from Baby Doll to Temple Drake. There is nothing approaching the subtle complexity of the relationships in Hustle & Flow, the previous movie from writer/director Craig Brewer. Worst of all, it undermines Lazarus’ attempt to give Rae some dignity and sense of self-worth in its own treatment of her — and of the actress who plays her. The portrayal of Rae
‘s compulsive need for sex and of her always-perfect, always exposed little body (really little, even more troubling given Ricci’s history of anorexia) is exploitive, more trashy than steamy. Rae’s got a right to sing the blues — and this movie is just one more reason why.

Parents should know that this film has extremely mature material that may be offensive even to adults. There are very explicit sexual references and situations, including nudity and promiscuity. Characters drink, smoke, use drugs, and use very strong and crude language, including racial epithets. There is violence, including punching and guns. Strengths of the movie include the portrayal of an inter-racial friendship (with frank acknowledgement of the concerns it could raise in parts of the community) and the portrayal of a sincere and honorable religious leader.


Families who see this movie should talk about why it was important for Lazarus to try to help Rae. What is the significance of his name? Why was Rae so troubled? Why did she care about Ronnie? What is likely to happen to them?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy exploring some of the work of the Southern blues artists featured on the soundtrack, including Son House’s The Original Delta Blues and R.L. Burnside’s A Bothered Mind.

Bridge to Terabithia

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for thematic elements including bullying, some peril and mild language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Thirty years ago, a young mother named Katherine Paterson wrote a book to console her son David after his close friend was killed in an accident. That book went on to win the Newberry, children’s publishing’s highest honor, and to become a schoolroom classic for its vivid portrayal of the enchanted land of friendship and sensitive exploration of the range of emotions that accompany a wrenching loss. Now David Paterson has lovingly adapted the novel into a first-rate family film that does justice to the novel and its characters and themes.


Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson of Zathura) feels isolated though he lives with his parents and three sisters. His family is struggling and no one seems to pay much attention to him except to bark at him about chores. He practices running because he wants to be the fastest kid in his class. And he draws pictures because there is something in him that loves to put the images that fill his eyes and heart on paper.


The first day of school there is a big race. A new student — a girl named Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb of Because of Winn-Dixie and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) — enters, and wins. She and Jesse become friends and together they imagine a magical land they call Terabithia. Jesse is happy. Together, their adventures teach them not just about imagination and exploration but about bullies, different kinds of families, growing up.


But Leslie must also teach Jesse the hardest lesson of all about growing up, the pain of loss.


One of the great strengths of the book is its perfect pitch in exploring Jesse’s thoughts and reactions, all presented in a matter-of-fact tone of understanding and acceptance. It is a very interior story, an enormous challenge for adaptation to film. The movie gently makes all of that work on screen through an understated screenplay and sensitive performances by its young actors. And Terabithia itself, only imagined on the page, is brought to life with imagination and heart. We only get glimpses, but they are tantalizing and witty, with glimmers that show us how even the most fantastical creations are grounded in our own thoughts and experiences.

Parents should know that the movie includes the very sad death of a child. There are also some family tensions, including money problems, and a reference to child abuse. The movie’s strengths include the portrayal of intelligent, kind, imaginative, and capable female characters and a rare Hollywood portrayal of sincere religious faith and the kinds of questions that concern children (and adults).


Families who see this movie should talk about what was most special about Leslie and why her friendship was so important to Jesse. They should also talk about what their own Terabithias would look like and draw some pictures. Why didn’t Jesse invite Leslie along on the trip with Miss Edmonds? Jesse had many different feelings about what happened to Leslie. What were some of them? Why is the title about the bridge?


Families who enjoy this film should read the book and some of the author’s other popular titles, including The Great Gilly Hopkins and The King’s Equal. They might also like to see the PBS version of the story. Other classic books that deal with sad losses include Roller Skates and The Yearling.


Other movies families will enjoy are The Secret Garden (all movie versions of this book are excellent, but my favorite is the BBC miniseries), The Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland.

The Namesake

posted by jmiller
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexuality/nudity, a scene of drug use, some disturbing images and brief language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Ashima (Indian superstar Tabu) pauses before entering the living room to meet her prospective bridegroom and his family. Their shoes have been left outside the door, according to the customs of her home in India. Ashima sees that inside the shoes it says “Made in the USA.” She quietly slips her foot inside, trying them on for size. This lovely moment sets the stage for a thoughtful and engrossing study of identity, assimilation, and finding the way home.


Years later, when that prospective bridegroom, Ashoke Ganguli (Irfan Khan) has been her husband for decades and the father of her children, he asks why she picked him over the other candidates her parents presented to her. She smiles and says he was better than the alternatives. But we know that she, like us, is thinking back to that moment of slipping her foot in his shoe. Later in the film, Ashoke’s son Gogol (Kal Penn) will also try on his father’s shoes, and again it will mean the beginning of a journey.


In fact, there are many journeys in this story about the Ganguli family and their life in America — trains, airplanes, carts, and automobiles fill the screen. It begins with Ashoke on a train ride that has significance we will not learn until Gogol does, near the end of the film. It is not until then that he learns the meaning of his name.


Or, one of his names. In the American hospital, a nurse asks Ashima the baby’s name for the birth certificate. Ashima explains that they must wait until they hear from the maternal grandmother what the name will be. It is her responsibility to select the child’s “good name.” But the hospital needs a name right away, so it is his “pet name” of Gogol that goes onto the birth certificate.


Gogol grows up very American, a little embarrassed by his funny-sounding name and his family’s traditional customs. He is bored on his family’s trips back to India. But it is there that he decides what he will become — the Taj Mahal inspires him to study architecture. He becomes engaged to a pretty blonde whose family accepts him warmly (though introducing him as “the Indian architect”). But he comes to feel — and need to feel — a deeper connection with his heritage, though it will take a while to understand what that means.


Director Mira Nair and a superb cast tell the story of Jhumpa Lahiri’s prize-winning book beautifully. It is so spacious and epic in scope that it feels a little truncated at times, especially when there are great leaps in time. But the engrossing and multi-layered performances of Penn, Kahn, and Tabu and Nair’s luscious imagery constantly draw us in, making the story at the same time very particular and utterly universal.

Parents should know that this movie includes some strong language, sexual references and situations (including adultery), and brief nudity. Characters drink and smoke cigarettes and marijuana. There is a train accident and in the aftermath we see dead and injured people, and there are sad deaths. A strength of the movie is its sensitive and perceptive exploration of racial and cultural issues.


Families who watch this movie should talk about their own family heritage and the issues that arise in the United States from its history as a “melting pot.” Most American families have stories about efforts of family members to either be “more American” or to hold on to cultural and ethnic traditions. What made Gogol change his mind about his name? Why was his name so important? What do you think about the idea of having a “good name” and a “pet name?”

Families who enjoy this movie will want to read the book by Jhumpa Lahiri and, of course The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol. Another good book exploring the immigrant experience is Anne Tyler’s Digging to America. Families will also enjoy Nair’s other films, including Mississippi Masala and Monsoon Wedding and Gurinder Chadha’s films Bend It Like Beckham and What’s Cooking?

The Messengers

posted by jmiller
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing violence and terror.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

The trailers for “The Messengers” don’t do it justice —
there’s a lot more potential in this movie than appears in the
Grudge- and The Omen-like snippets shown as teasers. The idea isn’t bad. It’s in living up
to this potential that the film slips from an enjoyable, somewhat
innocuous PG-13 fright fest (on par with Signs and The Twilight Zone)
to a dead-end dragger with way too much buildup for the minimal reveal.


At the center of the story is Jess Solomon (Kristen
Stewart), who moves with her mother, father and little
brother from Chicago to the farmlands of North Dakota. As the parents
(played by Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller) continually hint,
Jess has some growing up to do — after being teased for what seems
like decades, audiences finally learn that 6 months prior, Jess was tipsy when got into an accident with her brother in the
car, which lead not only to obvious strife in the family but also to
the family’s savings being spent on medical bills for the toddler. His only remaining effect from the injuries is a reluctance to speak. How Original. That fact alone should tell you all you need to know about the big
finale.

The family is moving to make a fresh start, and what better
place than a rickety abandoned structure that despite being
surrounded by sunny fields remains perpetually in shadow.


As the father, McDermott seems content to act as if the
role of dad could be accomplished by simply directing the phrases
“We’ve got to make this work,” “That’s what I’m talking
about,” and “I love you sport,” to his wife, guy friend, and
daughter, respectively. He is determined to deny all the signs of a
family about to enter a horror movie, in favor of proving that he can
do it — he can run the farm, he can hold the family together, he can
be completely oblivious to every bad omen possible cliche.


By the time all the family secrets are revealed,
however, hints about the family’s past — Jess’s “mistake”
especially — have been hinted at so much that the satisfaction of
finally being told is outweighed by both resentment for
having been teased and (in “mistake’s” case) distaste at the
seriousness of the offense. This pattern of excessively long, drawn
out teases followed by anticlimactic unveilings and ultimate
disappointment is not, to put it diplomatically, limited to this one
instance.


As Jess begins to experience haunting that only she and
her little brother perceive, the film shows glimpses of
promise. The intensity of the suspense and creepy images and the intensified trust issues between Jess and her parents lies a glimmer of a better film. The
shock at realizing that walls torn apart, lamps broken and windows
shattered reassemble miraculously before the mother and father return
home is thrilling in a surreal, psychological way, bringing not only
ghosts and ghouls to the table but dream-like mind games as well.
Given this and a few moments of strategic misdirection, and it’s
refreshing to see a horror film that tries to get its shocks from plot twists rather
than gore. But ultimately, these messengers show up empty-handed.


Parents should know that characters refer to driving
under the influence, and the opening scenes depict a mother and
daughter being beaten by an invisible force while a young son looks
on in terror. There are moments of suspense and some
frightening and disturbing images of ghosts. Most of the film’s
violence stems from the spirit world, but there are several instances
of living characters directing violence at one another. Keeping the
film well under the R-rating radar, however, the language is tame and
sexual content limited to a bad pun on the Kama Sutra.


Families who see this film should talk about the
importance of trust between parents and children. Jess tells a peer
that when her parents asked her to pick up her brother and drive him
home, she was afraid to tell them she had been drinking with friends
(and thus made the incredible mistake of going to pick up her brother
while still under the influence). Why does staying silent about
having been drinking betray her parents’ trust? Could Jess have
trusted her parents to respect her honesty if she told them the truth
about not being able to drive, even if it meant facing their
disappointment in her decision to drink?


Families who enjoy this film might also enjoy Poltergeist and the
classic television series The Twilight Zone — the complete series is now available on DVD. Families will also be
interested in the work of M. Night Shyamalan, the director behind thrillers featuring children
Signs and The Sixth Sense, and might also explore the previous work
of Danny and Oxide Pang, twin brothers who only recently Americanized
their angle after being active in the Hong Kong filmmaking world for
nearly a decade.

Previous Posts

Heaven is for Real
A movie like "Heaven is for Real" requires two different reviews, one for believers/fans of the 1.5 million-volume best-selling book, one for those who are unfamiliar with the book and whose views about faith and heaven and proof may differ from the evangelical beliefs of the Wesleyan pastor who wro

posted 6:00:04pm Apr. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Heaven is for Real: The Real Story
"Heaven is for Real" opens tomorrow, with Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo, a Nebraska pastor whose four-year-old son says that he visited heaven during surgery for a ruptured appendix.  It is based on a best-selling book Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back,

posted 3:59:56pm Apr. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Movie Critic Ann Hornaday Comes Out as...a Christian
Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday wrote a brave and very moving essay about being a writer sustained by Christian faith and how that affects the way she approaches all films and especially those with religious themes. As a critic, my first obligation is to assess each of these films not as

posted 3:59:22pm Apr. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Trailer: Gone Girl with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike
Take a look at the very creepy trailer from director David Fincher for the upcoming "Gone Girl" based on the best-seller by Gillian Flynn. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esGn-xKFZdU[/youtube]

posted 2:33:38pm Apr. 15, 2014 | read full post »

SFX: The Foundry's Dazzling Reel of Special Effects
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posted 8:00:16am Apr. 15, 2014 | read full post »


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