Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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

Hoodwinked!

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

Adorable Little Red Riding Hood opens the door to Granny’s charming cottage in the woods and walks into the bedroom with her basket of goodies. But Granny looks a little different. It is the wolf, in disguise. He lunges toward Red, who, instead of screaming and running away, says, “You again? What do I have to do, get a restraining order?” and goes into her judo stance.


So it’s pretty clear right from the beginning that this computer-animated retelling is not your grandmother’s fairy tale. The characters are the same: Red, the wolf, the sweet grandmother (tied up in the closet), and an enormous woodsman who crashes into the cabin, ax in hand. But then things get a little twisted and a little po-mo — all of a sudden there is yellow crime scene tape surrounding the place and the police — a stork, a bear, and a frog — are there to interrogate the witnesses.


It seems that this may be tied to a crime wave — the theft of the best recipes from everyone in the community.


Still, we think we know what’s coming. RRH was on her way to bring her sweet, gentle, grandmother a basket of treats, the wolf is there to eat Red and Granny, and the woodsman was coming to the rescue, right?


Well, not so much.


As each of the witnesses takes a turn, we find out that nothing was what we thought. Each one has secrets and surprises.


The script is fast, fresh, and witty, with great characters, some clever satire, a couple of surprising plot twists, and a lot of good old-fashioned silly fun.

It has outstanding voice talent as well. As Red, Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries) has a nicely dry delivery that really gets a chance to shine when it is not connected to her princessy prettiness. Glenn Close gives Granny a lot of spirit, and Patrick Warburton (“Seinfeld’s” Puddy) is a master of understated wit. They get able support from Anthony Anderson as the stork, rapper Xzibit as the bear, and David Ogden Stiers (television’s “M*A*S*H” and Beauty and the Beast) as the detective frog.


What’s best, though, about the film is the way it keeps tweaking your expectations. As each story unfolds, we have to confront our assumptions and prejudices in a way that not only keeps us guessing about the real culprit but gives us some real insight into the importance of keeping an open mind.


The animation is just serviceable — the film was made with a limited budget that would barely cover one of Chicken Little’s feathers. That means the textures are superb, but the movements and facial expressions are static and sometimes distracting. The action sequences work pretty well, but when characters are just standing and talking to each other or making smaller movements, the film slows down. But thanks to the clever script and witty performances, this is as filled with goodies as Little Red’s basket.


Parents should know that the movie has some cartoon-ish action sequences and peril that may be too intense for younger children, even though no one gets hurt. Characters use some fresh and sassy language.


Families who see this movie should talk about why we are surprised when the characters do not conform to our expectations. This is a terrific opportunity to talk about point of view and about how different people can draw different conclusions from the same set of facts. They can have some fun taking some other well-known stories and seeing if they can re-engineer them. What would “Goldilocks” be like if the story was told by the bears?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the brilliantly hilarious books A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears by Jules Feiffer, 10 in a Bed by Allan Ahlberg, and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

Glory Road

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for racial issues including violence and epithets, and momentary language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

A man who coaches high school girls’ basketball gets a job at a small Texas school and not only takes them to the nationals, where they defeat the long-time champions in a stunning upset, he changes the course of college sports history by being the first coach to have five black players in his starting line-up.


Now, that sounds like a Disney movie.


And it is, but before that, it was the true story of coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas), and his career at Texas Western college (now University of Texas at El Paso).


Haskins arrived at Texas Western in 1965. The school was so poor that the coach’s family had to live in the men’s dorms. There was no money to recruit players. But it had an NCAA spot, and Haskins came to play.


Haskins did not intend to be a civil rights pioneer. He just wanted the best players he could find. And in that era, there were plenty of black basketball players who were not getting offers from anyone else. So Haskins put together a team with a lot of talent and a lot of passion for the game, and then he showed them how to be better players and an even better team than they had ever imagined.


So, yes, there are stirring half-time speeches and montages of winning games, players who are intially wary and resentful and then learn the true meaning of teamwork, heart-stopping overtime tie-breakers, brief “what became of” summaries, and everything else we expect. And you know what? It works just fine because it makes us care about the details and the characters — and the game. The performers serve the story, acting with humility and respect, never going for the glamour or the drama. Derek Luke (Friday Night Lights and Lucas have all the movie star magnetism in the world, but here they show us (again) that they are actors first. The only one who is over the top is Jon Voight, who seems to be working his way through an increasingly grotesque series of putty noses in his recent roles, appears as Coach Adolph Rupp of Kentucky.

The relationships feel real. The games are exciting. The story is touching and exciting. And over the credits, we get to see and hear from Haskins and the real members of that legendary team — and from Pat Riley, who explains why Haskins’ team beat him and his teammates for the national championship. “They were just better.”

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Remember the Titans and Hoosiers. They may also like to read Haskins’
book.

Tristan + Isolde

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences and some sexuality.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Tristan and Isolde have suffered enough. This movie feels like overkill.


Oh, their legend will survive. But this classic comics-style perfume commercial of a re-telling will not.


The ampersand is a giveaway. “And” isn’t good enough? An ampersand is, what, edgier?


Who needs edgier when you’ve got James Franco? His cheekbones alone could cut glass, but, though he played James Dean in a made for television biopic, he is more sullen than brooding.

Edge isn’t exactly what this story needs. It is, after all, a classic of thwarted love. King Mark (Rufus Sewell), who is trying to hold together a fragile coalition of British lords, sends Tristan to win his bride Isolde (Sophia Myles), the sister of the king of Ireland. This is a strategic move. The Irish have been looting and oppressing the English, and Mark thinks that if he can unite the English and marry the Irish king’s sister, he may be able to achieve peace.


Tristan wins the bride, not knowing she is the woman he loves. After an earlier battle, she found him and nursed him back to health without telling him who she was. They fell in love. And now he has to delive her to another man. Mark saved Tristan’s life and raised him like a son after his parents were killed by the Irish. And Isolde’s marriage to Mark is the only chance for peace. It’s time for that noble speech — you know, the one about how “I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more.”


Okay, that poem was about 400 years from being written. But that’s the idea.


It’s not awful — except for the instant camp of a scene where Isolde decides to warm up the injured Tristan by — taking off all her clothes and wrapping him in them and then hugging him nude, ordering her lady’s maid to do the same. It’s just syrupy. In this version, T&I get swept away not by grand passion but by pulsating hormones. Though they talk about honor and posterity and doing what’s best for others, they behave like a couple from “Desperate Housewives.”

Families who enjoy this movie might want to find out more about the real story or explore some of the other versions, like the opera by Wagner or the traditional poetic versions. They may also enjoy the story of King Arthur, which was inspired in part by this legend. They will also enjoy A Knight’s Tale, a silly but enteertaining story of knights and jousting with Sewell (who can out-brood Franco with one eye shut) as the bad guy.

The Corn is Green

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:N/A
Movie Release Date:1945
DVD Release Date:2006

Miss Moffat (Bette Davis), an educated and very independent woman,
arrives in a small Welsh mining village in 1895 to live in a house she inherited
and start a school for the miners’ children. She is told, “Down here, they’re only
children until they’re twelve. Then they are sent away to the mine and are old
men in a week.”


None of the children can read or write, and few know any English at all. She
persuades Miss Ronberry (Mildred Dunnock) and Mr. Jones (Rhys Williams) to
help her, but the local landowner, called “the Squire” (Nigel Bruce), and the
owners of the mine are opposed and do everything they can to stop her. She is
about to give up when she sees an essay by Morgan Evans (John Dall), a young
mine worker, that shows a real gift. She tells him he is “clever,” which makes him
“want to get more clever.”


They work together for two years, but she does not realize he is becoming
resentful and impatient. His friends make fun of him for learning and call him
the schoolmistress’s dog. He quits. Later, when Mr. Jones persuades him to come
back, Miss Moffat prepares him for Oxford and even uses “soft soap and curtsying”
to persuade the Squire to recommend him. He wins a scholarship.

Bessie,
the dishonest and slatternly daughter of Miss Moffat’s housekeeper, is pregnant
with Morgan’s child. Miss Moffat adopts the child so that Morgan will be able to
go to Oxford. She tells him his duty is to the world. Then she tells herself, “You
mustn’t be clumsy this time,” and resolves to be more sensitive in raising Morgan’s
child than she was with him.


This movie is an adaptation of a play by Emlyn Williams, who
was actually saved from the coal mines by an understanding teacher. It has a lot
of parallels to My Fair Lady and Born Yesterday, which also deal with intense
teacher-student relationships that transform the lives of both.

Like Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday
and Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Morgan is excited and disturbed by the way learning changes
him; he panics at the thought of losing everything familiar to him (including
ignorance), and he gets angry and impatient. Eliza would understand Morgan’s
telling Miss Moffat, “I don’t want to be thankful to no strange woman.” Like
Henry Higgins, Miss Moffat does not want thanks.


Miss Moffat is different because of her reason for teaching Morgan. She
responds to his spirit and his potential in that first essay. Perhaps because she
responds so strongly, she stays very distant from him, admitting she knows every
part of his brain, but does not know him at all. She cares for him deeply. The
contrast between her spirited response to the Squire when he prevents her from
using the barn for a school and her “soft soap and curtsying” to get him to help
Morgan shows how far she is willing to go.
Ultimately, she takes on Morgan’s child, knowing it means she will never see
him again, because both of them believe the child will be better off if the break is
permanent.


Also worth discussing: the consequences of careless sexual involvement, the idea
that there may be something more important to some women than getting married (especially in that era, when married women had so little say over what happened
to them), and Bessie’s statement that she only had sex with Morgan to
spite Miss Moffat. Families should also discuss:


• Why didn’t the Squire want the Welsh children to learn?


• Why did the miners make Morgan feel bad about learning?


• Why did telling Morgan he was clever make him want to learn more? Why did
Bessie’s telling him he was clever have a different effect?


• What did Miss Moffat mean by “soft soap and curtsying” and how did she use
them? How did she feel about using them?


• Why was Morgan so angry about having to be grateful?


The real-life Morgan Evans, Emlyn Williams, became a
playwright and actor and can be seen in Major Barbara as Snobby Price. The
Squire is played by Nigel Bruce, best known as Dr. Watson in the Americanmade
series of Sherlock Holmes’ movies. Bessie’s mother belongs to a group like
the one Sister Sarah belongs to in Guys and Dolls, or Major Barbara does in the
film of the same name.


A good book about this part of the world is On the Black Hills, by
Bruce Chatwin, and there are some outstanding books about the history of coal
miners in many different parts of the world.

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