Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 2014

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Sabotage
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

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

Into the Wild

posted by Nell Minow
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language and some nudity.
Movie Release Date:2007

Every one of us at times hears the call of the wild, to match the wild of the outdoors to the wild that is inside us, to leave behind all of the petty complications of civilization and test ourselves down to the deepest essence, to test our nature, in both senses of the word.

In 1992 Christopher McCandless left behind everything — family, friends, jobs, money, even his name, and went on a journey to find something that felt authentic to him. Actor Sean Penn has written and directed a superb film based on the best-selling book about his journey and its tragic conclusion.


Emile Hirsch plays McCandless, who whimsically renames himself Alexander Supertramp. He walks away from the expectations that felt smothering to him after graduation with honors. He walks away from possessions, donating all of his money to charity and cutting up his credit cards and ID. He walks away from a family that felt disconnected from its outward appearance.

And he walks toward…he is not sure. Something different. Something else. He says he is an “aesthetic voyager whose home is the road” and goes off in search of “ecstatic freedom” to on a “dramatic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual resolution.” His sister says, “It was inevitable he would walk away and do it with characteristic immoderation.” He says, “I don’t need money; it makes people cautious.”


His encounters along the way are in the great tradition of odysseys from Jack London to Jack Kerouac. He meets up with warm-hearted hippies (Catherine Keener and Brian Dierker) and a lonely retired military man (Hal Holbrook, in a performance sure to win him an Oscar nomination). For a while, he works for a grain dealer (Vince Vaughn). Every encounter, even a brief conversation with an intake clerk at a homeless shelter, is meticulous and thoughtful. Penn’s sensitive screenplay and Hirsch’s engaging performance show us McCandless’s combination of longing for the biggest emotions and his ability to appreciate the smallest moments, his ability to connect to the subtlest signals from the widest range of people and to the grandest scope of nature.

He is a listener of extraordinary empathy and compassion. After the character played by Keener tells him her story, he says, “We could go eat. Or, I could sit here all night and listen to you.” When a beautiful young girl (Kristen Stewart) offers herself to him, he gently declines. It would not be right for her. Also, like money, love makes people cautious, too, and he is not ready to be cautious yet.


At times, the film comes close to romanticizing McCandless and his quest. But it is anything but romantic in its harrowing final weeks, when he is alone in the Alaskan wilderness. McCandless, whether from hubris, foolishness, immaturity, self-destructiveness, or some combination of the three, makes poor choices that lead to his death from starvation and eating toxic berries. The images of Hirsch, scared and skeletal, are harrowing. Penn, whose previous films as director and screenwriter also focused on lost children and the devastated families, makes us wish up to the last minute for a happier ending.


McCandless liked to quote Thoreau: “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” But Thoreau also said that there was a time to go to Walden and a time to leave. It is a tragedy that McCandless was not able to return to tell his own story. But Penn, Hirsch, and cinematographer Eric Gautier (who also filmed another real-life story of a young man’s journey, The Motorcycle Diaries) have brought his story to the screen with honor and grace.

Parents should know that this is a sad movie with graphic depiction of death by starvation and ingestion of poisonous berries. There are bloody scenes of animals being shot, gutted, and cooked. A character is brutally beaten. There is male and female non-sexual nudity and there are sexual references and situations, including references to adultery. When a young girl offers to have sex with Christopher/Alex, he declines for honorable reasons. Characters use strong language and drink, smoke, and use drugs.


Families who see this movie should talk about what Chris/Alex was looking for and whether he found it.

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate the book and an article by the same author. They will also appreciate two outstanding documentaries about men who went out into the wild, Touching the Void and Grizzly Man. They should also read the poem Chris quotes to his sister, I Go Back to May 1937 by Sharon Olds. And they will enjoy my interview with star Emile Hirsch.

Illegal Tender

posted by Nell Minow
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality.
Movie Release Date:2007

There’s a chance, but a very slight chance that 20 years from now this could be one of those films whose pulpiness overcomes its dopiness. But I doubt it.


Oh, it is fun to see Wanda de Jesus get all Pam Grier and shoot off two big guns at once after making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for her son. But the big dumb story and the big dumb dialogue keep getting in the way.


It begins in 1985, when drug dealer-but-nice-guy Wilson De Leon (Manny Perez) is killed on the same night his son, Wilson Jr., is born.


Fast forward to the present day. Wilson Junior (now played by the always-appealing Rick Gonzalez) is a student at genteel Danbury College. He lives with his mother (de Jesus as the older Millie) and little brother Randy (Antonio Ortiz) in a luxurious home in the suburbs of Connecticut. But everything changes when Millie runs into a friend from the old days. She knows this means that the men who killed her husband will be coming after her and her sons. She takes Wilson down into the cellar and opens up the safe. Inside are enough guns to arm a militia. “It’s called weight,” she explains.


But that is about all she explains. When he refuses to go on the run with Millie and Randy, she leaves him a gun and tells him to protect himself. Soon he is practicing his shooting face and taking aim at some tin cans. And soon after that he is taking aim at some assassins who come to his house, where he is staying with his girlfriend Ana (Dania Ramirez).


Her role in the story is to keep asking what is going on in a loud voice as the drug lord’s goons are tramping through the house shooting everything and call at inconvenient moments to tell Wilson she is worried. I’d be worried, too — Wilson and his mother return to the house when the bad guys are after them. Then, when they are after the bad guys, they stop for some retail therapy to pick up some bling. Millie’s explanation of her income (“You bought Microsoft?”) and justification for her late husband’s career choice (“everyone has stains”) is as silly as the rumble on the soundtrack that always seems to alert her to impending danger. A couple of developments near the end are intended to be plot twists, but there is so little to qualify here as plot that they are more like plot nudges. There isn’t much dialogue, either. At least a third of it seems to be various people saying “Wilson” when they speak to him, as though we need to be reminded who he is. And the other two-thirds is soapy tripe like, “Oh, God, I want this to end!”

Yeah. Me, too.

Parents should know that this is an intense and violent film with graphic images of shoot-outs, beatings, and torture. Characters are in peril and many are injured and killed and a character commits suicide. Characters are drug dealers and gangsters and some drink wine, champagne, and alcohol. They use strong language, including the n-word in song lyrics. The movie includes sexual references and brief explicit situations, dancers in skimpy clothes, and brief nudity.


Families who see this movie should talk about what Wilson and his mother told each other and did not tell each other.

Audiences who enjoy this movie will enjoy Pam Grier classics like Coffy.

11th Hour

posted by Nell Minow
B
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some mild disturbing images and thematic elements.
Movie Release Date:November 16, 2007
DVD Release Date:April 9, 2008

Leonardo DiCaprio has produced a thoughtful, important film about a vitally important subject, the devastating impact of industrial development on the fragile environment. He has assembled an impressive collection of scholars and world leaders to emphasize the precariousness of the situation and the urgency of action to reverse the effects of human opportunism and greed, to change our idea of “progress” from growth and acquisition to sustainability and respect for the fragility of the environment that sustains us.


He is so concerned about not being overly alarmist or controversial that it is all a bit too stately. DiCaprio and his experts are specific and vivid when talking about the “infected organism” our environment has become, where “every system is in decline and the rate of decline is increasing….There isn’t one living system that is stable or improving.” But when they talk about the failures of our institutions to consider the long-term effects, they get vague. They briefly point to corporations and government. This is where he needed Al Gore to come in with some Powerpoint, or better yet, Michael Moore to name names and show exactly who got how much money from lobbyists for which companies.


The movie’s greatest strength is its breadth of compelling participants. They do more than describe our failures and the damage we have done. They question our assumptions, our smug certainty that nature exists to serve humans and will be eternally replenished. They explain that the uniquely human ability to think about and affect the future has created this problem; but that it can also help us to recognize and solve it. And they provide assurances that all the technology we need is already available; all it takes is the will.


Each of them has an important lesson to teach. Perhaps the one that is by iteself the reason for every middle- and high-schooler to see the film is this quotation from Eric Hoffer: “We can never have enough of that which we really do not want.”

Parents should know that some of the images and themes of this movie may be disturbing to audience members. Scenes of environmental degradation and damage, including brief footage of an animal being killed, and descriptions of potential consequences that could include extinction are intended to be provocative. Even though they are presented as a call to action and there is reassuring material about choices that can make a difference, it may be very upsetting.


Families who see this movie should visit the movie’s website to learn more about the scientific data on climate change and the technologies that can make a difference.

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate An Inconvenient Truth, Who Killed the Electric Car?, Koyaanisqatsi – Life Out of Balance, and The Future of Food.

‘Sleuth’ vs. ‘Sleuth’ and Twin vs. Twin

posted by Nell Minow



This morning I saw the remake of “Sleuth.” Like the original, it stars Michael Caine, but this time he plays the role of the older man, a mystery writer whose visit from his wife’s young, handsome lover turns into a battle of wits and power. In 1974, the older man was played by Laurence Olivier. In 2007, the younger man is played by Jude Law, took over another of Caine’s iconic roles in “Alfie.” The original was an entertaining potboiler with one of theater and movie history’s cleverest surprises (incomprehensibly omitted from the new version). In 2007, it gets a high literary sheen with a new screenply by Harold Pinter and direction, in between Shakespeare adaptations, from Kenneth Branaugh.

The play was written by Anthony Shaffer, identical twin brother of Peter Shaffer, who wrote “Equus” and “Amadeus.” The themes of competition, identity, and duality run through the work of both brothers. I think their story would make quite a movie.


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And So It Goes
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The Memory Book -- This Saturday on the Hallmark Channel
A budding, young photographer stumbles upon an old photo album chronicling the ideal romance of a happy couple. Intrigued by their love and unable to find her own “true love,” she sets out to find the couple and figure out if true love really exists.  The film stars Meghan Ory (“Once Upon a T

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Interview: Michael Rossato-Bennett of "Alive Inside"
Michael Rossato-Bennett agreed to spend one day filming Dan Cohen's remarkable music therapy work with people struggling with dementia. He ended up spending three years there and the result is "Alive Inside," an extraordinary documentary about the power of music to reach the human spirit, even when

posted 3:58:01pm Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Movies' Greatest Mirror Scenes
Anne Billson has a great piece in The Telegraph on mirror scenes in movies, from the Marx brothers clowning in "Duck Soup" and the shootout in "The Lady from Shanghai" to Elizabeth Taylor scrawling on the mirror with lipstick in "Butterfield 8." [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKTT-sy0aLg

posted 8:00:51am Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »


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