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

Over the Hedge

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some rude humor and mild comic action.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Computer technology has always had the advantage in animation when it comes to texture and three-dimensionality, and it is superb for physical properties like “shiny” and “bouncy,” but it has lagged behind hand-drawn when it came to expressions. “Over the Hedge” takes a big leap forward with computer animation that adds a delightful elasticity and verve to the characters’s “performances.”


Raccoon R.J. (voice of Bruce Willis), a brash scavenger, tries to steal the enormous pile of goodies that a big bear named Vincent (voice of Nick Nolte) had hidden away for a post-hibernation breakfast. When the food is destroyed, Vincent gives him one week to replace it all, including the red wagon and blue cooler. R.J., very much a loner, needs some help.


Waking up from their own hibernation nearby are Verne the turtle (voice of Garry Shandling), a sweet-natured porcupine family headed by Lou (voice of Eugene Levy) and Penny (voice of Catherine O’Hara), a highly excitable squirrel named Hammy (voice of Steve Carrell), a possum dad (voice of William Shatner) and daughter (voice of pop star Avril Lavigne), and an outspoken skunk named Stella (voice of Wanda Sykes).

R.J. arrives just as they learn that while they were sleeping, suburbia took over most of their woods. He tells them that this is very good news because people bring FOOD — and not just bark and berries. He introduces them to nacho chips and cookies and, despite Verne’s best efforts to persuade them to be cautious, there’s no turning back.


R.J. plans to teach the group to forage in human territory and then steal it all to give to Vince. But R.J. starts to have second thoughts when he begins to learn that he likes having friends. And the head of the new community’s homeowners’ association (voice of Allison Janney) hires an exterminator (voice of Thomas Hayden Church) to get rid of any animals that come through the hedge separating the houses from the woods.


The characters are clever and endearing and the script is fast and funny, keeping the focus on the story and avoiding the stream of pop-culture wisecracks that these days pass for humor in most animated films. Instead, the laughs come from the situations and the relationships. The voice talent is perfectly matched, especially Nolte’s growl, Sykes’ snap, and Carrell’s hyper but always piercingly sincere screech. One caveat is the mildly retro portrayal of the female characters. But with just the right balance of heart and comedy, this will be a pleasure for kids and their families.

Parents should know that this movie includes a good deal of peril and cartoon violence (no serious injuries) other than the zapping of a bug. There is some potty humor and schoolyard-style crude language (references to “licking privates” and “find my nuts”). A mother tells upset children to go watch television to calm down. The characters, appealing as they are and as much as we root for them, are stealing food, and parents may want to talk to kids about why that is wrong. While the movie has diverse characters, its retro attitude toward the females (one gets a makeover so she can use her “feminine wiles,” pretending to like another character as a way of distracting him) is something families may wish to discuss.


Families who see this movie should talk about the different ways the characters approach problems, from “playing possum” to lying and trying to exploit others to working together. They can also talk about what makes a leader. What made the others decide when they wanted to follow R.J. and when they wanted to follow Vern? What is important to you about a leader and when do you like to be a leader? And they should talk about the animals’ ideas about the role that food and television play in the lives of humans — and about the impact that junk food has on animals and on people.


Families who enjoy this movie should read the comic strip that inspired it. They should also go outside and see what creatures they might have been overlooking. What is the best way for humans and animals to live together? Families will also enjoy A Bug’s Life and look at the comic strip that inspired this film, which won the Religious Communicators Council’s 1998 Wilbur Award for “excellence in the communication of religious issues, values and themes.” And they will want to check out the difference between reptiles and amphibians.

Poseidon

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of disaster and peril.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

This remake is so stripped down it doesn’t even have time for two of the three words of the original: this isn’t The Poseidon Adventure — it’s just “Poseidon.” If they remake it, it will be called “Pos.” Top-notch action director Wolfgang Peterson (Air Force One, Das Boot) gets the two most important things right in this thrill ride of an update on the corny classic.


First, the special effects are stunning. It is astonishing how far the technology has come even since Peterson’s The Perfect Storm. The effects are the star of the movie and, with a couple of exceptions, they are so powerfully vertiginously believeable that audiences looking for the roller-coaster sensation of controlled chaos will happily spill their popcorn.


Second, Peterson is a master of pacing, knowing exactly how much tension to string out before a crash or a laugh or a twist is needed to let audiences catch their breath, even if it’s a gasp. The characters and plot are stripped down to the basics to keep the action center stage.


It operates like a well-designed wind-up toy. A few cranks of the plot key efficiently introduce the characters and the story shoots out in a straight line retaining its top speed until the end. Here is the entire movie: an enormous ocean liner hit with a “rogue wave” flips over and just about every character played by an actor whose name is in the opening credits, each with some knowledge, experience, ability, or tool that will prove crucial, spends the next 90 minutes trying to find a way off the ship, while a lot of stuff crashes, explodes, floods, and ignites all around them.


Peterson wisely relies on the appeal of his cast rather than the script to carry our interest. All we need to know about each of them is (1) what he or she has to contribute, and (2) what he or she has to triumph over. All of that is neatly laid out and just as neatly tied up without getting in the way of (1) the special effects and (2) the action, though some insensitivity to diversity issues is careless and distracting.

An architect (Richard Dreyfus), a fire fighter-turned mayor (Kurt Russell), a Naval veteran-turned gambler (Josh Lucas), a single mom (Jacinda Barrett) with her son, a steward (Freddy Rodriguez) and a stowaway (Mia Maestro) — for tonight’s performance their skills play the role normally played by those gadgets that Q hands out to James Bond. We know what they can do. The fun is seeing how each of them will be required.

A character who contemplated suicide will find why and how much he wants to stay alive. A character who can’t let go of what matters most to him learns that letting go can be the best way to hold on. Characters learn what they are capable of — whether it means great sacrifice on behalf of the group or devastating choices to ensure survival.


But mostly, it’s about the special effects and the stunts, which are, for all the good and bad that implies and with the significant and jarring exception noted in the spoiler below, the best of what Hollywood has to offer when it comes to summer action films. As for the dialogue — well, someday I forsee a college drinking game that will require everyone to take a swig every time someone says something like, “Do it or we DIE!”


Parents should know the movie has non-stop intense peril and violence, some quite graphic. Characters are injured and killed and there are many dead bodies. Characters drink and at least one gets inebriated. There are sexual references, some crude, including the exchange of sexual favors for other benefits. SPOILER ALERT: A serious problem with the movie is its portrayal of the minority characters. While the white leads are professionals, the two Hispanics are a steward and a stowaway, both sacrificed to move the plot along and keep the white characters alive. A strength of the movie is the low-key, positive portrayal of a gay character.


Families who see this movie should talk about the decisions made by Nelson and Ramsey — what went through their minds as they evaluated their options?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original, as well as disaster film classic The Towering Inferno.

Mission Impossible III

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of frenetic violence and menace, disturbing images and some sensuality.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

At this point, the impossible mission may be finding some way to make this story work once more.


That Lalo Schifrin score still jumps and in this version there is a propulsive shot of percussive adrenalin. The idea of super-spies who speak every language, are in superb condition, and know every aspect of spycraft from shooting to fighting to explosives to computers to physics to finding the coolest sunglasses — that still works pretty well, too, and it’s always a treat to see who the new bad guy will be. But making it more than ever-bigger explosions and chases? That’s where this mission self-destructs long before it’s over.


This time, it’s personal — the script tries to turn up the heat by giving the hero a love interest and the movie begins with both of them tied up and man threatening to kill her if Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) does not give him something called a rabbit’s foot. She is Julia (Michelle Monaghan), a nurse. Flashback to their engagement party, where he is explaining his boring job with the state Department of Transportation monitoring traffic patterns.


The men find him snoozerific, but the women in essence, say, “Hey, he’s Tom Cruise! We’d marry him even if he jumps on sofas.”
Hunt has given up spying for love, and now has a nice, safe, teaching job underneath that boring Transportation Department office building. But his best student (“Felicity’s” Keri Russell) has been captured, so he’s quickly back on board with old friends (Ving Rhames as computer whiz Luther) and new ones (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Maggie Q).


The bad guy at the center of all this is Owen Davian (“Capote” Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman). And that rabbit’s foot is some kind of end of the world device (“the anti-God”) locked away in some kind of impenetrable building blah blah blah. And maybe one of the good guys isn’t good all the way through. And maybe there will be some of that face-and-voice switching we always expect from the MI series.


That’s the problem. It’s just what we expect. It’s been a long dry stretch since last summer’s bang-bangs, and all those months of Oscar-bait dramas and winter doldrum leftovers have left audiences so parched for blow-em-ups that they might not notice the under-written script. Just don’t try to think.


The bright spots are Hoffman, who gets more out of the word “fun” than Cruise gets out of his big dramatic reaction to seeing his fiancee at gunpoint, Laurence Fishburne, as a superspy boss-man, who dryly points out that his reference to The Invisible Man is “Welles, not Ellison, in case you want to be cute again,” and the Q-equivalent, “Shaun of the Dead’s” Simon Pegg. Decidedly unbright spots are Cruise, who seems to have suffered charisma-extraction, the bantering about getting married in the middle of split-second calculations, chases, and explosions and seeing a character disguised as another doing stunts that even by the low standards of probability for this genre just seem silly.


Same with all the just-miss bullet dodging. For a bunch of characters who are supposed to be the world’s most accurate shots, they miss a lot. And with the “make the explosions really loud and they won’t notice” plot omissions and inconsistencies.
The real problem that keeps interfering with what would otherwise suffice as popcorn pleasures of the movie-as-thrill-ride is that in the midst of all the faux resolute jaw clenches and corny banter there is something genuinely troubling — the specter of torture of prisoners and Machiavellian corruption. Intended to give the movie a jolt of “Law and Order”-style ripped-from-the-headlines electricity, instead it throws the movie fatally off-kilter.


Parents should know that this movie features extensive and explicit peril and violence with many explosions and chases, torture, and many injuries and deaths. There are some sexual references and brief, non-explicit sexual situations. Characters drink, smoke, and use brief strong language.


Families who see this movie should talk about the conflict Ethan faces between doing what makes him happy and doing what he thinks is right and between telling Julia the truth and protecting her from it. They should also talk about one character’s comment that you can always tell people’s characters by the way they treat someone they don’t have to treat well.
Families who see this movie will enjoy the two earlier films and the James Bond series and Lord of War. They might also enjoy taking a look at the original television series, which is available on DVD.

Goal!

posted by jmiller

A soccer-mad friend sat beside me in the theater, leaning over from time to time to explain what was going on in the game on the screen or point out an in-joke about the appearance of a real-life figure from the world of what everyone outside the US calls football. People like me who need such assistance will not find enough in the thin story and thinner performances to make this film a satisfying experience, but those knowledgeable enough to be able to provide those asides might find something to enjoy in the depictions of the game and the challenges faced by players on and off the field.


It’s the basic kid-with-a-dream story, stripped down not to a Rocky-style essentials but to its surface, without one spec of imagination or specificity of detail to capture our attention.


Santiago (Kuno Becker) is a talented player, but his father, an embittered Mexican immigrant, tells him his dreams are a foolish waste of time. What he wants is his own gardening company, so he takes the money Santiago has saved to buy a truck. Fortunately, the same grandmother whose tough love got him out of the local gang finds a way to get him a ticket to London where he has a chance to try out for a top team.


But Santiago is from Los Angeles and is used to playing in the sun, and his try-out on a drenched and muddy field goes badly. Given another chance, he faces opportunities and setbacks, friends and rivals and distractions — including a pretty nurse — and the challenges of failure and success — including a high-living star player. But other than a flicker of something interesting in the performance of Alessandro Nivola as a hard-partying star player there is always something distant and antiseptic about it all. This movie is the first of a trilogy, but it has already run out the clock.


Parents should know that the movie includes some mild sexual content, brief strong language, and a drug reference. A character is a partier who abuses various substances and has many groupies. There are some tense scenes and a sad death, and there is some sports-related violence.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Santiago’s father and grandmother had different ideas about his dreams. What matters most to Santiago? To Gavin? Why did Glen want to help him? Who has helped you that way and who can you help?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The History of Soccer.

Previous Posts

Trailer #2: The Box Trolls
Did I mention how excited I am about this?  Coming in September, from the people who did "Coraline" and "ParaNorman." [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDr_ZY37RFg[/youtube]

posted 12:12:22pm Apr. 16, 2014 | read full post »

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 »


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