Movie Mom

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Fading Gigolo
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

Ride Along
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language,
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 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

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.

Hoot

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for mild bullying and brief language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Kids take on developers to protect endangered owls in this mildly pleasant story based on the award-winning book by Carl Hiaasen. Parents will admire some of the messages — care for the environment, self-reliance, loyalty, and communication skills. But they will be less pleased with a one-sided, ends-justify-the-means approach that suggests that any action taken on behalf of endangered species is justified.


“Six schools in the last eight years? What are you, in the Witness Protection Program?”


14-year-old Roy (Logan Lerman) felt at home for the first time in Montana among the horses and the mountains. He is not at all happy about being uprooted to Florida, about as different from Montana as you can get.


It doesn’t help that there’s a big, mean bully on the schoolbus. But Roy is not afraid of him. He is curious, though, about a boy he sees running very fast, barefoot, and about a girl who seems angry at him but won’t tell him why.


It turns out Beatrice (Brie Larson) and her step-brother Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley) have a lot of secrets. For one, he is supposed to be away at boarding school. And for another, he is the one who has been vandalizing the site for a new pancake house to hold up construction because he wants to protect some burrowing owls.


Despite the efforts of the bully, an earnest but dim policeman (Luke Wilson), and an executive with the pancake company who has a secret of his own, the three kids find a way to bring about a happy ending for everyone, especially the owls.


All of the kids have a nice, natural quality and an easy chemistry with each other. Co-producer Jimmy Buffett appears as their marine biology teacher. He’s no actor, but it is so clear they all are enjoying themselves that it makes us want to enjoy them, too.

One of the movie’s great strengths is the way Roy avoids many of the usual problems of middle schoolers — especially those in movies. He is not afraid of the bully or of Beatrice. His frankness and courtesy in talking to her about the way she treats him is something every teenager can learn from — and a few parents, too. Roy’s parents trust and respect him, even when his behavior concerns them. This partially makes up for some cheesy slapstick and caricatured bad guys, but the superficial approach to the issues and casual attitude toward dangerous and illegal behavior by the kids undermines the story’s credibility. Nature boy Mullet Fingers may be all about protecting those darling owls, but he doesn’t seem too concerned about the poisonous snakes he captures or the dogs he sics them on. Or the humans they might easily reach.

Parents should know that the movie has some schoolyard language (“screwing up”) and some bullying and name-calling. Roy is derisively called “Cowgirl.” Parents should also know that the children’s behavior in the movie raises many parental concerns, including vandalism, theft, lying, truancy, and violence.


Families who see this movie should talk about whether the ends here (protecting the owls) justified the means (breaking the rules and the law). When do you cross the line? What consequences must you be prepared to accept? Families should also learn more about the Endangered Species Protection Program and about things that kids can do to help protect the environment.

Families who enjoy this film should read the book and see Al Gore’s new movie, An Inconvenient Truth. They will also enjoy Holes. And they should listen to my podcast interview with co-star Brie Larson.

Stick It

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some crude remarks
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:July 29, 2012

If the Olympics has sparked an interest in gymnastics, take a look at this fresh, fun, funny, and smart story about a teenager “sentenced” to return to the gymnastics training she thought she had left behind.  It has all the sizzling attitude of a great floor routine, and all of the discipline and heart as well.

Missy Peregrym plays Haley, who walked away in the middle of the world championship competition, forfeiting her team’s chance for a gold medal. She got her high school equivalency degree at age 15 and spends her days doing extreme bike stunts and getting into trouble. And she wears everyone’s favorite signifier of punk attitude: a Ramones t-shirt. One of the stunts lands her in front of a judge who gives her a choice: a military academy or a gymnastics academy. She opts for the military, but her father and the judge decide otherwise.

So, she walks into “the middle of an ‘I hate you’ sandwich,” the gymnastics training facility run by Vic (Jeff Bridges). The other gymnasts don’t want her there. Some of them are still angry about her walk-out; some don’t like her attitude; some don’t want the competition. She does not want to be there. She has no respect for a sport that gives judges the power to reward conformity and tradition instead of risk-taking and innovation. And she doesn’t want to cooperate with or trust anyone, especially a grown-up.

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But Vic allows her to train her own way and tells her that the prize money from the upcoming competition could help her pay for the property damage she caused. And he shows her that she can’t calcute danger and risk if she does not respect the rules.

Sure, we’ve seen it before, the kid and the mentor learning to trust each other, the first trial, the set-back, the training montage-with-rock-song, the lessons learned, the triumph. That saga is so indestructable it could produce an acceptably entertaining movie on automatic pilot. Indeed, it has, many, many times. Those films are as safe and conventional and sythetic as the color-inside-the-lines athletes Haley refuses to be like when she advises a team-mate: “If you’re going to eat mat, eat mat hard.”

What makes this movie irresistable is that the people making it don’t care how many times it has been done before. They don’t even seem to know. They make us feel that this isn’t just the only sports movie ever made; it’s the only movie ever made, and they came to play.

That means that they abandon, re-think, and transcend the conventions of the genre. It is filmed in a brash, insoucient style but with a sense of humor about itself and its audience and an assured and always -engaging visual style, starting with the graffiti-style credits. The gymnastic routines are kinetically staged (though cut around the limitations of the performers, who are athletic but not competitive gymnasts). A Busby Berkeley-style kalideoscopic version of one set of exercises is delightful but also genuinely breathtaking. And a romp through a department store is a slyly post-modern and slightly gender-bending take on Brady Bunch-style musical numbers.
The movie also deserves a lot of credit for giving us a heroine who defines herself and does not need a makeover to feel pretty or a boyfriend to make her feel complete. Most arresting and unusual, though, is its take on the sport itself and the nature of competition and teamwork, which is exceptionally well handled. Jeff Bridges brings both warmth and edge to the part of the coach and Pergrym knows how to make both attitude and vulnerability believable. The film is far better than it had to be, entertaining and reassuringly meaningful as well. If it were a gymnastics routine, I’d give it a 9.

Parents should know that characters use some strong and crude language (the s-word, the b-word) and there is some disrespectful, rule-breaking, and rude behavior. There is a reference to adultery, to being “hit on” and a gay joke. There are some dangerous stunts with injuries and a reference to serious injury. A strength of the movie is its frank and direct exploration of some of the issues of competition and a sport that gives the judges the power to decide who wins. And another is the way it avoids the usual romantic happily ever after ending.

Families who see this movie should talk about what the movie has to say about competition, cooperation, and teamwork. Hayley learns to respect some rules but not others. How does she determine the difference? Vic tells Hayley, “For someone who hates being judged, you’re one of the most judgmental people I ever met.” Where do we see her being judgmental and where do we see her changing some of her judgments? The girls who do gymnastics have to give up just about everything else in order to succeed. What would you be willing to give up to achieve something that was important to you? What does Haley learn from the judge’s comment that “A lot of great people have jerks for parents?” How do people overcome those kinds of disappointments?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Bring it On (some crude humor) and The Cutting Edge (some mature material) and Flashdance (more mature material).

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont

posted by jmiller
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Mrs. Palfrey (Joan Plowright) did not think of herself as someone who would live in the shabby gentility of the Claremont, a residential hotel in London. We never learn the details of what brought her there or keeps her there, but we do not need to. We learn everything we need to know from the resigned but not cheerless sigh of acceptance as she sees her room for the first time, and from her quiet courage as she walks into the dining room

Mrs. Palfrey has hopes of hearing from her grandson, who works in London. And she may have hopes of finding companionship at the Claremont. But it is an unexpected encounter with a young writer named Ludovic (Rupert Friend) that leads to a true friendship.

A lovely antidote to summer movies filled with crashes, explosions, aliens, and teenagers, this is a bittersweet but touching story for grown-ups told with grace and wisdom.

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