Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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The Other Woman
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual references and language (on appeal from the original R rating)
Release Date:
April 25, 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

Finding Vivian Maier
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 11, 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

Walking With the Enemy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 28, 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

Imagine Me & You

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for some language and sexual material.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Love at first sight can be thrilling, but it can very very inconvenient when it happens to a bride who is walking down the aisle at the time. Especially if the loved-at-first-sight object of affection is another woman.


Rachel (Piper Perabo) is about to get married to Heck (Matthew Goode). But then she sees Luce (Lena Headey), the florist, and the connection is immediate and irreversible. And so we get the usual do-si-do until everyone lives happily ever after.


Romantic comedies take place between the meet (usually “cute”) and the happily ever after.

In between, the movie’s job is to get us rooting for the couple while it comes up with entertaining ways to keep them apart long enough for us to finish our popcorn and well enough that we feel that they’ve earned that happy ending.

Two traditional rom-com set-ups are immediate conflict (Bringing Up Baby, where a character summarizes the meta-theme of romantic comedies: “The love impulse in men frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict.”) and what I call the “boy who cried wolf” theme, where someone tells a lie and gets deeper and deeper, afraid to tell the truth to the trusting soul he/she now adores.

The first catgory (The African Queen, My Fair Lady, It Happened One Night, Moonstruck, When Harry Met Sally) depicts the sparks and the chemistry while the second (Some Like it Hot, Roman Holiday, Guys and Dolls) is a metaphor for the conflicts we feel as we reach for intimacy and authenticity but resist the vulnerability. Some set-ups, like The Taming of the Shrew combine the two.


In dramas, too, there has to be something keeping the couple apart. We often see the barriers of family (West Side Story, Slpendor in the Grass) or history (Casablanca, The English Patient). But romantic comedies are usually about overcoming initial dislike or becoming more honest.


This film’s trendy twist is that the heroine leaves the man she thought she loved for the female florist who decorated her wedding. But the real departure is not the gender of the loved one — it is the violation of the “almost” rule of comedy. Brides are supposed to run away just before the “I now pronounce.” In this film, she goes through with the wedding, one of several reasons that keep it from achieving the spirit of lightness and possibility that are essential for any romantic comedy, no matter what the gender of the couple. Despite some clever dialogue and the sympathy it creates for its characters, the movie’s essential mis-handling of its tone keeps it from working. The problem is not the same-sex romance; it is the disconnect between the lightness of atmosphere and the seriousness of a heart-breaking betrayal. If the movie is going to be named for a bubble-gummy 1960′s pop song, it had better stay just at the “almost” edge. Once this one goes over, giving us a groom who does not deserve to be treated this way, the movie just can’t recover.

Parents should know that the subject of this movie is a previously heterosexual woman who falls in love with another woman. There are sexual references and non-explicit situations, including same-sex kisses and references to watching porn (with some spicy titles) and to a man who likes sleeping with lots of women and propositions many of them. All of this is played for humor. Characters use some strong and crude language. There are references to depression and some unpleasant family situations. Characters drink alcohol.


Families who watch this movie should talk about what the parents of the characters most wanted for their children.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love, Actually.

Big Momma’s House 2

posted by jmiller
C-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some sexual humor and a humorous drug reference.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

The poster for this movie shows Martin Lawrence in fat-lady drag tugging at a wedgie. This is as funny as it gets.


A completely unnecessary sequel to a mildly amusing 2000 movie with Martin Lawrence as an FBI agent who goes undercover as an outspoken grandmother, this time has him under-undercover as nanny to a computer whiz named Fuller who may be involved with a program to hack into national security databases.

Malcolm’s now married to Sherry (Nia Long), who is expecting a baby, so he has taken a desk job because field work is too dangerous. (Though dressing up as the Safety Eagle for school assemblies has its own dangers; he accidentally sets himself on fire, mortifying his stepson.)

But he misses working on cases. So he tells the office he is taking leave and puts on Big Momma’s fatsuit, muumuu and gigantic lace thong to apply for a nanny position with Fuller’s dysfunctional family.


It’s a little The Pacifier and a little Bringing Down the House, as Malcolm solves the problems of the over-scheduled, under-loved Fuller children (sullen teen, neglected girl, two-year-old who doesn’t talk) while tracking down the bad guys, visiting a spa (ogling the pretty girls, melting the fat suit with a hot rock treatment, advising the other women that the secret to a happy marriage is “giving it up”), running in slo-mo down the beach with Bo Derek-style cornrows, wearing funny outfits and making funny faces. Well, they’re supposed to be funny, but so is the scene where Malcolm cheers up the depressed family dog by feeding him tequila. And so is the scene where Big Momma makes the little girl suddenly popular by teaching all her friends to move like pole dancers. And those aren’t funny, either.


In other words, it’s not just disappointingly lackluster, derivative, and lazy, it’s also out of touch and creepy.

Parents should know that the movie includes
crude humor, with jokes about dirty diapers, nudity, what teenaged boys want from girls,
thong underwear, “naked pictures of Billy D.,” and
some slang terms for body parts. It is supposed to be
endearing that Big Momma teaches a group of little
girls to sway their hips and thrust their pelvises
like strippers, with a mother happily bumping and grinding along. Big Momma gives the dog tequila.
Characters use some strong and crude language and
there are mild sexual references. The movie also
includes some violence, including shooting and
punching. Some viewers will be offended by the magical Negro concept of a non-white person whose role in the story is to bring authenticity and values to clueless white people, an inverse form of bigotry.


Families who see this movie should tal about why Malcolm
did not tell Sherry the truth. Why was his stepson ashamed of him? What was the most important lesson the Fuller family?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original and Mrs. Doubtfire.

Roving Mars

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated G
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Imagine standing in Los Angeles, trying to shoot a basketball all the way to New York, where it must hit the basket without touching the hoop. That’s the magnitude of the challenge faced by NASA scientists and engineers in trying to land probes on Mars. Two-thirds of the time, they fail.

This is the story of the most recent effort to send two identical exploratory vehicles, named Spirit and Opportunity, 306 million miles to Mars in April 2004.


Oh, and that basketball hoop we’re trying to reach? It’s moving. The launch has to be timed exactly to the moment when Mars will be best aligned with Earth. As we see the engineers performing their last-minute tests, shredding the parachute they were planning to send to Mars, we realize that they have days — sometimes less — to figure out what went wrong and fix it.


Spirit and Opportunity have to be able to launch and fly like a rocket ship, survive the landing without burning up or breaking any of their instruments, drive like a remote (VERY remote)-controlled vehicle over rocky (VERY rocky) terrain, keep working through Mars-size “days” and report back, through pictures and geologic analysis, detailed data about what they find. It is so enormously complex that “No one person can understand everything about the vehicle,” says one scientist. “It’s burst the bounds of our brain.”


Unlike most IMAX films, which have a stately, almost static feeling, this movie has moments as immediate and involving as a feature film. Yet it makes great use of the size and resolution of the IMAX technology, using the images the rovers sent back to create an astonishingly vivid Mars landscape.


The visuals are magnificent but what makes the movie work is the story — the dream of Mars and the hard work that goes into getting there. It shows how cool science — and hard work — can be as we look at the range of questions and problems the scientists and engineers must solve.

Best of all, it shows kids something parents and teachers often forget to tell them: you have to make mistakes. Two-thirds of the Mars initiatives failed. “Mars is a spacecraft graveyard,” one scientist says. This is a movie about Mars and about dreams, but most of all it is a movie about how mistakes are not just okay but expected and necessary in order to learn what we need to learn to do what we dream of doing.


Parents should know that this movie has no issues of parental concern but will probably be of most interest to ages 7 or 8 and above.


Families who see this movie should talk about how the smartest scientists and engineers in the world expect to make a lot of mistakes before they finish. What can we do to make sure we make the right number of mistakes. Families should know that the names for the two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, were suggested by an 8-year-old girl named Sofi Collis, whose own journey is almost as remarkable as that of the rovers she named. If you got a chance to name a rover, what would you pick? If you could go to Mars, what would you do first?

Families who enjoy this movie will want to learn more about the Mars rovers and they read my interview with the people who made the movie. Families will also enjoy Tom Hanks’ brilliant miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, especially episode 5 about the design of the lunar module and episode 10 about teaching the astronauts to be what Spirit and Opportunity do in this film — geologists. They will enjoy Voyage to Mars by Laurence Bergreen and Roving Mars by Steven Squyres, who appears in this film.

Families might enjoy some whimsical notions of space exploration, including one of the very first movies with special effects, the silent film A Trip to the Moon (How do the explorers get home again? They jump off!), Wallace and Gromit’s A Grand Day Out, and Forbidden Planet, inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

Annapolis

posted by jmiller
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some violence, sexual content and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Sincere performances and some star charisma can’t save this movie from its derivative screenplay, a retread of every “callow youth learns what it means to be a man” service drama. This movie samples An Officer and a Gentleman and Top Gun the way Vanilla Ice sampled Bowie.


James Franco plays Jake Huard, a kid who has been putting rivets in battleships as he gazed across the water at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. His friends and his father think that places like the Naval Academy are not for the likes of them. But at the last minute, despite grades and scores below the Academy’s standards, Jake is accepted. That night, his friends give him a big send off, and tell him the elegant-looking lady at the bar is a paid escort they have reserved for him. He politely tells her he is not interested but offers her a tour of the Academy. If you don’t think she’s going to show up the next day as someone who outranks him, you haven’t seen many movies.


And if you’re surprised that Jake’s future also includes a Benneton-ad range of racially diverse roommates, who also have a neatly assorted range of issues, one of which includes not being able to get over the climb-y thing on the obstacle course, and a tough superior officer who thinks Jakes doesn’t have what it takes, then you probably have never seen a movie of any kind.


But as long as you’re not looking for originality, this film is modestly enjoyable. Franco is nicely broodish, and Tyrese Gibson shows some star power as the superior officer who knows what it takes to be a successful leader. Chi McBride (Roll Bounce, The Terminal), Donnie Wahlberg (The Sixth Sense) and Vicellous Reon Shannon (The Hurricane) provide able support, and the movie’s predicability is offset by boxing scenes that are excitingly staged, with a sense of immediacy, and a slightly old-fashioned feeling — this is a film that takes kissing seriously.

Parents should know that the boxing and other fight scenes are intense and there are some scenes of peril and a suicide attempt. There are some sexual references, including a prank allegation that a woman is a paid escort, and characters use some strong and crude language.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Jake’s father had a hard time believing he could succeed at Annapolis. What made going to Annapolis so important to Jake? Why did he say that seeing where he came from made it possible for him to be there? They might want to find out about the real-life U.S. Naval Academy, as academically rigorous as it is physically demanding.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy An Officer and a Gentleman (for mature audiences).

Previous Posts

The Other Woman
The latest in a female-centered revenge comedy genre that extends from "9 to 5" through "She-Devil," "The Other Woman" is intended to be a merry little tale of female empowerment and grrrl power.  Instead it is soggy, haphazard, poorly paced slapstick mansplained by director Nick Cassavetes from a

posted 6:00:59pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Finding Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier was a Chicago-area nanny.  Only the children in her care knew how much she loved taking pictures.  After her death, the possessions she had in storage were auctioned off and a man named John Maloof bought some boxes of negatives, thinking he might finds some images for his research ab

posted 6:00:24pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Walking With the Enemy
Why do we keep making movies about the Holocaust? Because we are still trying to understand one of the most shocking, inhumane tragedies in history. Because it is the essence of heightened, dramatic storylines, with the most depraved real-life villains, the bravest heroes, and the direst moral di

posted 6:00:01pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Ebertfest Kicks Off With "Life Itself"
Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") presented "Life Itself," the documentary about Roger Ebert, last night at the majestic Virginia Theater in Roger's home town of Urbana, Illinois, where Roger watched films as a boy and as a college student at the University of Illinois.  He told us he had always thought

posted 9:28:24am Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz stars in the revenge comedy, "The Other Woman" this week, so it is a good time to look back at some of the highlights of her remarkably varied career. Director Charles Russell said he wanted to give Diaz the full movie star glamor treatment in her first feature film appearance in "Th

posted 8:00:04am Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »


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