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

 

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

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

Good Night, And Good Luck.

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2005

I love this movie so much I wanted to go up and hug the screen when it was over. And then I wanted to sit down with everyone I know and watch it over again.

It’s a triple threat, and then some. It is the story of vitally engaging characters, of people of courage and integrity taking on a powerful bully — and the story of how seductive certainty is in an uncertain world. It’s a reminder of a real-life moment in history that has enormously complex resonance for us today. And it is sensationally entertaining, with dialogue so dazzlingly literate it’s like sending your ears on vacation. Yes, children, there was a time when people who were on television talked as though they read books in their spare time, as though it was as natural to quote Shakespeare as it was to know who Zsa Zsa was married to this week.

Director and co-screenwriter George Clooney plays producer Fred Friendly and David Strathairn plays Edward R. Murrow. Together, they created the gold standard for television news, producing pioneering documentaries like Harvest of Shame, a searing look at the plight of migrant workers.

They weren’t the only journalists to take on Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy. They weren’t even the first. But that does not take away from the honor and courage they brought to the decision about how to raise their concerns.

This was a definitional moment in the history of television news. Unlike newspapers, television networks get their licenses from the government, and, in those early years, they were very nervous that appearing to be too critical of elected official might lead to retaliation, even being replaced. We see Murrow meet with CBS founder Bill Paley, whose support is exquisitely calibrated. The political and commercial viability questions are crucial. Murrow and Friendly end up subsidizing one show after the advertiser pulls out. But the journalism questions are definitional. Any story-telling, whether fiction or non-fiction, depends on the selection of details. When does that shift from reporting to editorializing?

Murrow’s controversial documentary was touchingly mild by today’s Limbaugh/O’Reilly standards. He just showed footage of “the junior Senator from Wisconsin.” He made it clear that it was possible McCarthy’s accusations that particular government officals were communists, and, if so, those were charges that needed to be investigated thoroughly. But he also made it clear that if we allowed those allegations to lead to abandonment of the core principles of due process, the damage to our freedom and our national character would be immeasurable.

Clooney recreates the era and the feel of the newsroom has a wonderful authenticity, with its whip-smart overlapping dialogue. It has an intimacy, too, a sense of a documentary filmed with a long lens, so the subjects lose any sense of self-consciousness. Friendly’s signals in that touchingly low-tech era are taps on Murrow’s knee with a pencil, as Friendly sits at his feet. The relationship between the two of them feels completely real, people who finish each other’s sentences and who respect, trust, and most of all enjoy each other.

Just as Arthur Miller commented on McCarthy at the time by writing a play about an earlier witch hunt (literally), The Crucible, Clooney’s story harks back two generations to tell a story with ripple effects and resonance that does better at illuminating and commenting on our time than any expose or op-ed possibly could.

The film takes some risks that succeed brilliantly. It cuts from newsroom scenes to stirring performances by jazz singer Dianne Reeves that complement and comment on the story. Perhaps the most daring is the use of real footage of Murrow’s “Person to Person” interview with Liberace, who explains that he’d like to get married if he found just the right girl. But instead of coming across as an easy “now we know” joke, it beautifully deepens the movie’s commentary about what we know, what we can know, and what we need to know about the people who influence our lives. We see the origins, for good and bad, of advocacy/adversary journalism (“60 Minutes” — produced by one of Murrow’s collegues — to Fox News) and of our celeb-ocracratic obsessions.

The film is shot in black and white, which evokes the era and makes it possible to blend in archival footage (reportedly, preview audience thought the actor portraying Joe McCarthy over-acted, not realizing it was actual footage of McCarthy himself). Clooney knows that the movie’s most heartbreakingly compelling moments come from the seamlessly integrated real-life footage. He keeps the new material low-key enough to stay out of its way. A scene from a hearing in which a former cafeteria worker named Annie Lee Ross is accused of aiding the communists by passing secret messages is one of the most unforgettable moments on screen this year. Ms. Ross’ quiet dignity is as beautifully portrayed as any performance we will see this year. And this film is as beautifully rich as any we will see in any year.

Parents should know that characters in this movie smoke constantly. They also drink (scene in bar) and one has a hangover. A character commits suicide. While the movie is rated PG because it does not contain any of the usual material that may make it inappropriate for children (the closest it comes to a sexual situation is a couple who are secretly married), the subject matter and manner of presentation will not be of much interest to children younger than middle school, and middle and high schoolers will probably need some background in order to be able to appreciate it.

Families who see this film should talk about how television has and has not changed since Murrow’s day. Who in your family watches thoughtful, sometimes upsetting documentaries and who prefers to be entertained?

Families who would like to know more about the era and people portrayed in the film can see the broadcasts depicted in this movie and more in the Edward R. Murrow Collection. Joseph Wershba (played by Robert Downey Jr. in the film) shares some of his thoughts about Murrow here. The speech Murrow gives in this movie is well worth reading in full, for the pleasure of the language as well as the power of the ideas.

“Everybody Loves Raymond’s” Peter Boyle starred as Joe McCarthy in a very strong made-for-television film called Tail Gunner Joe. An even better one about some of the same characters is Citizen Cohn, with James Woods as McCarthy’s counsel, Roy Cohn. There are many books and films dealing with the impact of McCarthy’s red scare tactics on Hollywood, including Hide in Plain Sight and The Front. Movies from Spartacus to the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers were inspired by or reflected the experience of the blacklist.

When asked at a recent discussion of the film why he did not attempt to recreate the real Friendly’s outsize personality onscreen, Clooney explained that any attempt to portray Friendly‘s manner would have taken all of the attention away from the other characters. But families who are interested can see Friendly in his PBS series and the Socratic seminars he inspired.

Just Like Heaven

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Many romantic comedies have a Sleeping Beauty theme, but few as literally as this by-the-book but enjoyable trifle.

Elizabeth (Reese Witherspoon) is a dedicated doctor who has no life outside the hospital. One night her car is hit by a truck. The next thing she knows, some man is in her apartment. She does not realize that three months have gone by, her apartment has been sublet, and that no one can see her but her new tenant, a sad and lonely man named David (Mark Ruffalo).

David tries everything to get rid of what appears to be a ghost, from urging her to “walk into the light” to bringing in a priest and consulting an expert in the occult (Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder).

As Elizabeth and David try to find out who she is and what is going on, they both realize that neither one has been fully alive. Each must find a way to rescue the other to find a way for them to be together.

Witherspoon and Ruffalo are so good that they make old formulas seem fresh. Both are actors who fully inhabit their characters, both handle comedy, romance, and drama with equal skill (a quiet scene about a sad loss is beautifully done), and both bring a little movie star magic to every scene. Heder’s character is like a slightly stoned version of Napoleon Dynamite, but it is worth it just to hear the way he says “cola.” Not quite heaven-sent — there are no surprises here and every bit of it is overly careful, including the too on-the-nose songs on the soundtrack — but it moves along sweetly and has a nice combination of froth and tenderness.

Parents should know that the movie has some crude language, someone giving “the finger,” brief non-sexual (comic) nudity, and some sexual references. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of a man who turns down a beautiful and willing woman who offers him sex because it would interfere with the relationship he hopes to have with someone else. Characters drink, including excessive drinking to numb pain and a description of drinking a lot of Margaritas as being fun. A character punches another in the nose and there are tense scenes. Some viewers may be disturbed by the question of “pulling the plug.” While it is certainly a good idea to have a balanced life, for a moment this movie seems to suggest that failing and getting drunk are better than working hard and making a contribution. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of characters of different races who treat each other with respect and affection.

Families who see this movie should talk about their own end of life wishes. They should also talk about how we can achieve a balance between working for the future and taking time to appreciate the present. What dream for the future can you start making come true today?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy All of Me, Beatlejuice, Ghost, Topper (with a very young Cary Grant), and Here Comes Mr. Jordan and the remake Heaven Can Wait.

Proof

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

People often speak of “opening up” a play when it is made into a movie. In one sense the Tony- and Pulitzer-prize winning Broadway production of “Proof” has been opened up. Instead of entirely taking place at one house near the University of Chicago, this story about a young woman who doubts her own sanity after caring for her brilliant but mentally ill father has scenes at a chic downtown clothing store, Northwestern University, O’Hare airport, and the University’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

But the play is never “opened up” the way it should be. In all likelihood because it has been so acclaimed, it has been transferred to screen as though it was antique porcelain packed in bubblewrap, each line perfectly preserved and perfectly delivered. But it’s more like watching a documentary about an acting master class than like watching the story of these four people. Plays are about talk, but movies are about showing. Director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) has transferred his London production to the screen instead of reimagining the way the story should be told on film.

That is especially damaging to this particular story because it does not have the depth to overcome the stuffy quality of its presentation. The characters and the situation engage our attention because they are smart people confronting painful choices, but the whole thing is more smart than wise, and the stagey, Serious-Play-Treatment and artificial talkiness of it just makes that more obvious.

Gwyneth Paltrow plays Catherine, the devoted daughter of a brilliant mathematician (Anthony Hopkins) who produced important work in his early 20′s but became mentally ill in the last years before his death. While her sister Claire (Hope Davis) has had an independent life, working on Wall Street and becoming engaged, Catherine dropped out of school to care for her father.

The stress of that situation is devastating. Catherine must struggle with the reversal of the parent-child relationship, of seeing a brilliant mind deteriorate, of being removed from interaction with the rest of the world, and, perhaps most unsettling of all, the fear that she may have inherited her father’s mental illness as well as his genius — the fear that the two are as inextricably linked as Catherine and her father are themselves. Catherine misses her father terribly but she is also relieved that he is gone, and horrified to feel that way.

Claire is upbeat and believes in being cheerful and using hair conditioner with jojoba. “It’s a funeral, but we don’t have to be completely grim about it!” she chirps. She wants Catherine to come to New York with her. But Catherine has lost so much and wants to stay in the house. It feels safe and familiar. And she is drawn to Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal), a student of her father’s who is going through the notebooks he scribbled in constantly during his illness, in case there was some flash of lucidity.

One notebook has what appears to be a “proof” of stunning import and insight. But the question of proving who did the proof and whether that should even be necessary is trickier and more ambiguous than the mathematics of prime numbers. And mathematics can only go so far in helping us understand human behavior.

Therefore, it seems especially unfortunate as though form and content are at odds when the movie turns disappointingly formulaic. Powerhouse acting talent and movie star charisma are always striking, involving, even illuminating, but they take us only so far. Paltrow’s impeccably elegant furrowed brow and Hopkins’ megawatt twinkle (with that white beard, he could give Santa a run for the money) and perfectly calibrated disintegration are all just a little too careful, a little too respectful of material that would have benefited from a less antiseptic approach.

Parents should know that while it is rated PG-13, this movie has material that may be disturbing for younger or sensitive audience members, including mental illness, drinking (and getting drunk), and tense emotional confrontations. Characters use some strong language and there is a non-explicit and tender sexual situation.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether it is possible to say which daughter was “right” — the one who pursued the opportunities available (and paid the bills) or the one who gave up her own aspirations to care for their sick father. Why was it so hard for Claire and Catherine to communicate? Why was it so hard for Katherine to believe in her own ability? Was it fair for her to expect Hal to believe her without “proof”? Outside of mathematics, how much proof can we expect to find?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy A Beautiful Mind and Pi. They will also enjoy the many other films featuring this brilliant cast, including Shadowlands with Hopkins, October Sky with Gyllenhaal, and Moonlight and Valentino and Great Expectations with Paltrow.

The Thing About My Folks

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

You never know.”

What does that mean? Of course you never know, but why would someone adopt that as an all-purpose rejoinder?

Writer/producer/actor Paul Reiser has a good feel for the way families talk to each other, especially the talk that goes around the subject the long way rather than addressing it directly. The subjects here are the ones families find hardest to talk about, the ones

Parents should know that this movie has some very strong material for a PG-13 (and that it will be unlikely to be of interest to teenagers anyway). It has some very strong language, bathroom humor, some frank sexual references (including a father and son talking about the parents’ sex life and some objectifying treatment of pretty young women), drinking (and drinking too much), smoking, a fight (characters hit in the crotch), and sad scenes of illness and death.

Families who see this movie should talk about what Ben learned from his father and his mother. Why was it hard for him to hear what his wife was telling him about the house in the country? What did Sam learn from Ben? One of the movie’s most important lessons is that it is never too late to resolve old issues. And another is that even though our families drive us crazy and are never all we want them to be, they are still the most precious thing we have.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy others on this theme, including Memories of me (Billy Crystal and Alan King), Nothing in Common (Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason), Dad (Ted Danson and Jack Lemmon), the current King of the Corner (Peter Riegert and Eli Wallach), and I Never Sang for my Father (Gene Hackman and Melvin Douglas). They will also appreciate Reiser’s fine television work in “Mad About You” and Falk’s in “Columbo.

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