Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

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

 

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

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

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.

Match Point

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

In Stardust Memories, Woody Allen’s character refers to his mother’s cooking as putting food through the “deflavorizing machine.” His latest movie feels as though he has taken his complex and powerful Crimes and Misdemeanors abd put it through a deflavorizing machine. It raises many of the same themes, but it is flatter, more superficial, less heartfelt, and less involving. Fans who have been disappointed with Allen’s lightweight, almost listless recent films have called this his best film in years, but it is just a weaker version of his favorite themes. Changing the location (and the accents) from Manhattan to England (a decision made for tax reasons, not artistic ones) and substituting opera for jazz creates only the semblence of substance, a cinematic emperor’s new clothes.


It begins with a nod to luck, the force that determines outcomes from a tennis ball’s being in or out to a chance meeting that leads to love or heartbreak.


Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers of Bend it Like Beckham) is a professional tennis player who was never quite good enough. So he take a job as a teenis pro at a luxurious country club.


He meets and hits it off with Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), the son of a wealthy family. Their common interests in tennis and opera land Chris an invitation to the Hewett’s estate, where he meets Tom’s sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer) and Tom’s American fiancee, Nola (Scarlett Johansson), an actress. Chloe likes Chris. Chris likes Nola.


But Nola is not available. And marriage to Chloe means a very comfortable life with a beautiful and generous woman who is devoted to him. So Chris marries Chloe, and her father finds him a job that pays much better than tennis.


And then Nola is available. She and Tom break up, and she and Chris begin to have an affair. He is enthralled by her. But things change, and she becomes an inconvenience. Is Nola worth giving up everything Chloe and her family have given him?


I can accept that what appears to be arbitrary in the script is intended to illustrate the role of luck and chance. But there is no such justification for the thinly written roles of the characters. The females in particular are just narrative conveniences. They exist for no other reason than to put Chris into various contrivances of the plot. And there’s no reason other than financial to set the story in England, except maybe switching from New York ersatz country squire a la Ralph Lauren to the real thing.


The whole question of the movie’s theme is suspect as well. Is it really a matter of luck whether a tennis ball is inside or outside of the line? Isn’t the whole idea of athletic competition based on the premise that it is a matter of skill? Is it a matter of luck or judgment that a man decides to have an affair or commit a crime? Chris goes from being a tennis pro to the cushy job his father-in-law finds for him without any effort whatsoever.

We are supposed to believe that Chris has no problem whatsoever in performing satisfactorily (not better than anyone else but certainly more than adequately). This feels less like a portrayal of luck than like a lazy short-cut, and one that undermines the power of the movie’s themes, for all its efforts to leverage operatic sweep. The lucky one here is Allen, whose change of venue has dazzled his long-waiting fans into thinking he has returned to form. It’s just a net ball.

Parents should know that this is a serious and tragic film with a character who cheats, lies, and murders to get what he wants. The film includes some strong language, drinking and smoking, as well as brief but shocking and explicit violence and sexual references and situations.


Families who see this movie should talk about experiences they have had that made them think about the importance of luck and what they think will happen to Chris in the future.


Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate Crimes and Misdemeanors and the classic film A Place in the Sun, based on Theodore Dreiser’s book An American Tragedy.

The Family Stone

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some sexual content including dialogue, and drug references.
Movie Release Date:2005
DVD Release Date:2006

If you believe the previews or have seen the poster of an aggressively extended and bejeweled ring finger, then you might presume that “The Family Stone” is going to be a light-hearted romp of a comedy. Boy brings home uptight girl to meet his kooky and free-spirited family, amusing and embarrassing behavior follows, family and girl all learn important lessons about one another, then the movie ends on a wacky but upbeat note.

No, nope and not even.

There are embarrassments, humorous moments and lessons here as well as some physical gags, but the movie is a much more ambitious work that jumps all over the emotional spectrum before settling on quirky tear-jerker.


Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker), as tightly wrapped as her hair and as annoying as the constant ringing of her cell phone, tries to hide her insecurities behind a brittle facade of confidence but ends up broadcasting every thought and perceived offense. That might be fine when she is in her element but going to the Stone home for Christmas as the girlfriend of beloved-son Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) makes her the square peg in this close-knit family circle. What Meredith doesn’t know is that Stone matriarch Sybil (Diane Keaton, who chomps through this role like it was cotton candy) is ill and that the interloper will make a handy punching-bag on which the family can take out their frustrations.


Stoner and truth-speaker Ben (Luke Owen), bitter Amy (Rachel McAdams), distracted mom Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser) and sunny, deaf Thad (Tyrone Giordano) round out the Stone siblings collected around the catalogue-perfect living room and mellowed by relaxed dad Kelly (Craig T. Nelson). When Meredith manages to offend nearly everyone in the liberal household, she calls in back-up in the form of lovely little sister Julie (Claire Danes who glows sufficiently to compensate for not having much in the way of a character to inhabit).


The strengths of this movie are top-notch performances, several more-than-a-bundle-of-quirks believable characters and plenty of space for the audience to have their own thoughts. Relative newcomer director Thomas Bezucha does a good job framing Diane Keaton’s scene-devouring energy and using an understated Luke Owen as the emotional anchor onscreen. However, these two cannot compensate for the movie’s lack of self-knowledge and forced sentimentality. Like the character of Meredith, the film’s bravado cannot mask a messy soul but should be given respect for showing up and sticking it out.


Parents should know that this movie has mature themes, including the illness of a family member, the projection of anger from something that causes pain to someone on the outside and the hypocrisy implicit in embracing acceptance but rejecting someone who does not think like you. A tender and committed interracial gay couple adopts, leading to discussions of race and sexual orientation that include some remarks interpreted as bigotry. Brothers tussle and try to hurt each other. An emotional character gets into a fender-bender off-screen. A character’s illness is the elephant in the room, about which nobody will speak. A character gets drunk and loses inhibitions, social drinking and references to pot smoking. There is brief profanity.


Families might wish to discuss the different ways the characters have of showing support and understanding, from Sybil’s discussions with Everett related to her mother’s ring to the scenes where Kelly and Sybil are alone. How is your family like — or not like — to the Stones and how would you react to a newcomer to the family who seemed different?


Families looking for more movies that highlight messy familial tensions around holidays might wish to watch the thoughtful Pieces of April, What’s Cooking or Home for the Holidays. Those who wish to see Diane Keaton demonstrating her comedic chops should watch Something’s Gotta Give or Annie Hall.


Thanks to guest critic AME.

The Ringer

posted by jmiller
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and some drug references.
Movie Release Date:2005
DVD Release Date:2006

The single most interesting aspect of this movie about a man who pretends to be disabled so that he can compete in the Special Olympics is that the movie was made in cooperation with and with the endorsement of the Special Olympics organzation, and 150 Special Olympics athletes appear in the film.


Unfortunately, the story of how the movie got made is much more interesting than the formulaic story of the movie itself. Steve (Johnny Knoxville), a nice non-disabled guy who needs money to help someone get an operation pretends to be “high-functioning developmentally disabled” to compete in the Special Olympics. He assumes that as a former high school track athlete, he will have no trouble winning, so that his gambler uncle (Brian Cox) can win a huge bet, paying off his own gambling debts and getting the money for the operation. Of course Steve (1) learns that he is the one with the more serious disabilty, and (2) meets a very pretty volunteer at the Special Olympics (Katherine Heigl as Lynn). You know the rest.


The one thing that is not formula in this movie is its portrayal of the developmentally disabled athletes as loyal, dedicated, smarter than most people think, and very funny. While the non-disabled people in the movie are often clueless, inept, or corrupt, the Special Olympians are on to Steve almost immediately, and they don’t just out-smart him; they out-nice him, too. They become the first real friends he has ever had.


This aspect of the movie provides some fresh and funny moments, but too much of the film is taken up with sub-par “jokes” like Steve’s uncle registering him for the competition under the name of a notorious serial killer and a man having three of his fingers cut off in a lawnmower. The developmentally disabled cast members show considerable charm, especially Edward Barbanell as Steve’s roommate, Billy. Barbanell contributed the movie’s funniest line and delivers it with exquisite comic timing. But a lackluster script and charm-free performances by Knoxville and Cox don’t do justice to the Special Olympians in the story or in the cast. Furthermore, despite its best intentions, the use of non-disabled actors to play disabled characters in many of the key roles gives the film an air of condescension that is never fully overcome. I’m glad the Special Olympians have been recognized in a mainstream Hollywood movie; I just wish it was the movie they deserved.

Parents should know that the movie has some crude language and crude humor, including getting hit in the crotch. Characters drink (scenes in a bar) and smoke (Steve’s uncle is constantly chewing on a cigar).
Families who see this movie should talk about friends and family members with disabilties and how to prevent prejudice against them.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy an old movie called Miss Tatlock’s Millions, in which a man pretends to be a long-lost heir who is developmentally disabled so that he can get the money. They will also enjoy Stuck on You (some mature material), directed by the Farrelly brothers, who produced this film. They cast disabled performers in all of their movies and the credit sequence in Stuck on You has a lovely speech by one of them about how much the experience meant to him. A scholarly article from Disability Studies Quarterly explores the portrayal of disabled people in the Farrellys’ movies.

Families who see this movie should talk about what Steve learned from his experience and why.

Families who want to learn more about how this movie was made can read this report from the magazine of the Special Olympics organization and this statement from the heads of the organization about what they hoped the film would accomplish:

“Laughing at a person and laughing with a person are very different forms of humor, and it is our belief that this comedy will give audiences the chance to laugh with Special Olympics athletes while appreciating their joy and wisdom. Equally importantly, we believe that the stigmas presented in the early scenes of the movie will be seen as folly by the end of The Ringer. Many of us know all too well how hurtful insensitive words can be. Special Olympics hopes people seeing the movie will be inspired to reach out to people with intellectual disabilities and say, to quote Special Olympics athlete Troy Daniels, ‘Come sit by me’ – a simple gesture that reflects a world of acceptance and mutual respect.” The Special Olympics, founded by Eunice Shriver, the sister of President John F. Kennedy, now serves more than 1.7 million developmentally disabled athletes in more than 200 programs in more than 150 countries.

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