Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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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

 

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

Under the Skin
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language
Release Date:
April 11, 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

Rio 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 11, 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 40-Year-Old Virgin

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

Andy (Steve Carell) collects “action figures” from movies, comic books, and television series, maintaining them with curatorial scrupulocity in their meticulously preserved original packaging. He is pretty meticulously preserved himself. Like his collection, he is an action figure who gets no action. Andy is, as the title says, a 40-year-old virgin.

Andy is a sweet guy who had a couple of bad experiences as a teenager and then just gave up. The pent-up longing has him so tightly wound that he moves as though it requires his full concentration to make sure that he doesn’t explode into a volcano of denied desire. He believes that if he just ignores it, it will all go away. So he spends his weekend making egg salad, and then doesn’t eat it. And the highlight of his social life is watching television with his elderly neighbors. And the whole world seems to exist to torture him. He can’t even escape a sexy bus poster for a cologne called “Eruption.”

When Andy’s colleagues at an electronics store discover his secret, they vow to help him cross the threshhold into sexual relations with a woman. They have a lot of theories and a lot of advice. Andy ends up trying everything from taking a drunk girl home to speed-dating and a “sure thing,” but everything goes excruciatingly, humiliatingly — and hilariously — wrong.

Meanwhile, Andy meets Trish (Catherine Keener), a warm-hearted woman who owns a nearby “Sell it on Ebay” store. The more he comes to like and feel close to her, the more he fears disappointing her or looking foolish due to his lack of experience.

This is a performance anxiety movie, a sort of American Pie for grown-ups. It reaches into our deepest fears of appearing ignorant or foolish or clumsy and shows us that as horrifying as our worst fears are, it is possible to come up with scenarios that are even worse. And because they are happening to someone else, they are not just very funny, but very cathartic.

That makes it the best kind of funny. The clever script is more than just a series of skits and the characters are real and endearingly romantic. The script’s structure sets up the narrative direction and the change in the lives of the characters beautifully. The already-legendary chest-waxing scene (no special effects or tricks — that’s Carell’s hair getting yanked out) is not just a comedy bit. It is sort of primal scream therapy for Andy and — like all of his other encounters — a crucial step on his road to getting in touch with all of his feelings.

Too many raunchy comedies make the mistake of confusing outrageousness with humor (take a look at the horrible Say it Isn’t So as one atrocious example). The ones that get it right make sure that we are rooting for the characters. What makes this movie work is that the under-used organ it focuses on is Andy’s heart.

Parents should know that this is not intended for or appropriate for kids or most teenagers. It is a raunchy sex comedy with very strong language and very explicit and crude sexual references (including teen sex) and situations, some homophobic humor, and some non-sexual nudity. Characters drink (some get drunk) and smoke marijuana. There is comic peril (no serious injury) and comic barfing, and condom humor, along with some brief horror movie clips from Dawn of the Dead. One strength of the movie is that it comes down very clearly on the side of truly intimate, monogamous, and romantic relationships. And another is its portrayal of diverse characters who demonstrate loyalty and compassion. And while there is some sexist and mysogynistic talk, the behavior of the men in the movie and the lessons they learn come down on the side of commitment and love.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was so hard for Andy to tell the truth about himself and what he learned about honesty. They might also want to talk about some of their own experiences and fears and about the feelings everyone has in evaluating the risks of intimacy. And they can talk about the idea that if what feels right doesn’t work, how you can tell when it is time to try something else and what that should be.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy American Pie.

Broken Flowers

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

George Orwell said that by age 50 every man has the face he deserves. Now in Hollywood, by age 50 it’s more likely that movie stars pretty much have the faces they can buy (are you listening, Cher? Meg Ryan? Burt Reynolds?). We are all grateful to those, like Bill Murray, who know how to use a face that has been lived in. The pouches under his eyes tell the story and make it interesting and sad and funny all at the same time. His is just one of a set of brilliantly complex and vivid performances that make this film a moving exploration of all we do to find meaning in our lives.

In “Broken Flowers,” Murray plays Don Johnston. He keeps having to emphasize the “t” when people think he shares the name of the actor from “Miami Vice.” But his name is really a reference to the legendary ladies’ man, Don Juan. When we first see Don, he is sitting on the sofa of his big, luxurious, but somewhat sterile home, watching the 1934 movie The Private Life of Don Juan on television. The most recent of his many girlfriends (Julie Delpy) tells him she is leaving him. He is vaguely distressed, but does not try to argue with her. if he was not exactly expecting her to leave, he seems resigned to it.

Then he receives an unsigned letter typed on pink paper, from a woman who says she had his child 19 years earlier. Don’s next door neighbor Winston (the terrific Jeffrey Wright) is a loving family man and an amateur detective. He assembles a dossier for Don, complete with plane tickets and Mapquest directions on how to find the four likeliest prospects for having written the letter. He sends Don off, telling him to be alert for the color pink and for evidence of a typewriter. Don goes, not because he is as interested as Winston is in finding out whether he has a son but because he doesn’t really have anything else to do.

So, Don goes off on a journey, but, this being a Jim Jarmusch movie, it is more about mood and moment than motion. There is a sense of sequence, as each of the women is emotionally and literally less accessible than the one before.

Sharon Stone is Laura (perhaps a reference to the great love of Petrarch?), the widow of a race car driver and the mother of the aptly named Lolita. She is completely warm and inviting, with no expectations or demands, genuinely glad to welcome Don and no illusions about how long he will stay.

Dora (perhaps a reference to the great love of David Copperfield?), played by Frances Conroy of HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” is now a very proper realtor living in an antiseptic McMansion with her husband. But she manages to exchange some glances with Don that show she shares some fond memories.

Carmen (Jessica Lange) (perhaps a reference to the operatic femme fatale?) is more withholding, answering Don’s questions as though each word is costing her money. Is there a romantic relationship with her female colleague? How did she go from being a lawyer to being a…pet psychologist? And then there is Penny (maybe a reference to Penelope, who waited for Ulysses to come home), played by Tilda Swinton, almost unrecognizable under Morticia Addams-style hair. She has nothing to say to Don; she just decks him and tells the current man in her life to beat him up. The last woman on the list is dead. Don places a pink bouquet on her grave.

People keep telling Don he is a Don Juan, but if that’s true, it’s not in the traditional sense. He never tries to romance any of these women, and when a woman he meets along the way indicates that she might be interested, he does not respond to her. He seems to walk through life in a cloud. Back at home, he tells Winston the mystery has not been solved. And then he has an intriguing but ambiguous encounter that raises the question of questions themselves, and whether answers really matter.

Parents should know that the movie includes some extremely strong language, sexual references and situations, nudity, drinking and drug use, and brief violence.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Don made the choices that he did and what he and Winston think of each other. What do you think happened in his relationships with Laura, Dora, Carmen, Penny, and Sherry?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Murray in Lost in Translation and Jarmusch’s other films, including Mystery Train and Stranger than Paradise.

The Dukes of Hazzard

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

If you think that seeing a nutty fat guy in saggy white underpants blowing things up is funny, then this movie might be for you.

Otherwise, don’t bother. The single biggest challenge for a “lunchbox movie” (a movie that gets produced because some studio executive once had the lunchbox from the television show) is to figure out who its audience is. The Brady Bunch Movie was aimed at its now-grown-up former fans, and hit the right note of ironic nostalgia by keeping the Bradys in the 1970′s time warp by rerun-watching fans who made it a bigger hit in syndication than it was on the air. The first Charlie’s Angels took what worked about the show and updated it, balancing a bit of a self-awareness with genuine sweetness.

But “Dukes” cranks up the sunny, carefree, cornepone quality of the original television series. Instead of amplifying the simple pleasures of the original, it exposes the weak points. The humor is raunchier and the chases and explosions more intense and thus harder to think of as good-natured fun. It’s too gross for kids and too thin for teens and adults. It all backfires worse than the General Lee before a tune-up by Cooter.

The plot is exactly the same as most episodes of the television series. Will Mean Old Boss Hogg take the family farm away from the good old boys, cousins Bo, Luke, and Daisy Duke and Uncle Jesse? Will Bo and his beloved General Lee, a souped-up 1969 Dodge Charger, win the big race? Will there be some car chases and good old boy hijinks, and some gorgeous babes? Okay, we were not expecting suspense or surprises; so how enjoyable is the ride to the conclusion?

Not very. The few pleasures of this movie are just recognition laughs and signifiers. The most enthusiastic audience response in the screening I attended was when the director, Jay Chandrasekhar, appeared in a brief cameo echoing his appearance in the gross-out comedy, Super Troopers. They weren’t laughing at anything he did in this movie; they were just happy to be reminded of another movie. Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Jessica Simpson, and Willie Nelson as Bo, Luke, Daisy, and Jesse Duke, don’t even attempt to give anything resembling performances, though Knoxville scrunches up his face a time or two. Burt Reynolds enjoys himself a little too much as Boss Hogg. The most appealing performance is from David Koechner as Cooter. There is one funny joke, early on, relating to a recorded book, and the film gets some credit for attempting to address the issue of the Confederate flag image on the General Lee and for providing one police officer immune to Daisy’s appeal. But it is a dull, meandering, pointless film that takes for granted our interest in a souped-up version of the television show. The show created a Hazzard county we liked to visit, with people who had simple, good hearts. The movie, like Johnny Knoxville, has a nasty smirk that leaves you thinking that maybe strip-mining might be an improvement over this version of Hazzard County.

Parents should know that the movie is raunchy for a PG-13 with sexual humor (including a joke about beastiality and some homophobic humor) and sexual references and situations (all the girls in the movie are scantily clad and find the Duke brothers irresistible). There is brief nudity (mooning) and suggested nudity. Characters drink (scene in a bar) and there is as much drug humor as the MPAA will permit in a PG-13 film. There is some strong and crude language. A character pretends to be religious. While the film attempts to address the insensitivity of the original General Lee’s having a Confederate flag on its roof, it typically tries to have it both ways — they keep it there but it provokes some angry responses from both white and black characters. Similarly, the film tries to make bombshell Daisy Duke a bit more up-to-date but, as she says about the role she plays in Hazzard, “Those two are going to get in trouble and land in jail and I am going to have to shake my ass at somebody to get them out.” And the movie has constant “action-style” violence, meaning situations that would normally be lethal (cars crash and burst into flames) but in Hazzard County are just for grins.

Families who see this movie should talk about what makes Bo, Luke, and Daisy the good guys, even though they break the law, and Boss Hogg the bad guy, even though he more often abides by the law.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the DVDs of the original television series and the music of Willie Nelson, who sings the theme song originally performed on the television show by Waylon Jennings. An equally good theme song for this film might be Dierks Bentley’s “What Was I Thinking?” And families may appreciate the original “Appalachian-American” comedy, Li’l Abner and the original cornpone car movie, Smokey and the Bandit, with Reynolds, Sally Field, and Jackie Gleason. Fans of the television series will enjoy the website and museum created by Cooter (Ben Jones).

Stealth

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

The middle of the summer is always the time for a big, dumb, loud explosion movie, with a lot of thumping bass to show how manly it all is, and “Stealth” has arrived right on schedule. Its name is a likely indicator of its performance at the box office.

Normally, I try not to describe movies in terms of other movies, but this lazy cut-and-paste doesn’t deserve any better. So, basically, it’s Top Gun meets War Games.

Three hotshot “Mod Squad”-style fighter pilots (one black guy, one white guy, one white woman) are assigned to work with a new partner — a robot-controlled plane called EDI that has been programmed with every possible kind of data, strategic option, and gizmo. Of course it has very fancy artifical intelligence and the “capacity to learn.” On its first mission, it observes Ben (Josh Lucas) defy orders to destroy a target, and it adopts this strategy and begins to break the rules, starting with some real bad-boy behavior: downloading music from the internet (“How many songs?” “All of them.”) Either they’re right about what loud music does to your brain or it was that lightning strike the plane took, but its neural pathways get scrambled and reconnected and during the next mission it decides to think for itself, with its own survival as top priority.

Have we seen this before? Well, start with “The Sorceror’s Apprentice,” and Frankenstein and Icarus and every other hubris story ever written, and then think about Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Failsafe. And Short Circuit. And a little bit of the legend of John Henry, who thought that people could work better than machines.

Somewhere amidst the explosions there are some embarrassed-looking actors who are much more talented than this movie deserves. As the three pilots, Josh Lucas does most of his acting with his dimple, Jamie Foxx has a good moment dancing in his cabin but otherwise looks like he is hoping that Oscar will give him some better opportunities next time, and Jessica Biel looks brave and smart and wears a bikini well. Sam Shepard as their commanding officer looks like he’d rather be writing plays. Joe Morton adds some dignity and class as the Captain of the aircraft carrier.

The dialogue is clunky technobabble and clunkier attempts at attitude. “Records are made to be broken,” says one hotshot. “Rules, too, if I remember your philosophy,” responds a commanding officer. Oh, and “It’s not a clock radio we’re dealing with!”

The story is clunky, too. Isn’t it handy that three of the world’s most dangerous terrorists happen to be all together in an abandoned building so that if we blow it up no one else will get hurt? And isn’t it even handier that somehow all US and international laws have been suspended so that we’re allowed to send in the Navy to kill them even though they have never been tried, aren’t doing anything right now to threaten anyone, haven’t consulted with any other countries, and are far from any place where we’re at war? Who cares, when it’s a chance to blow stuff up?

“I don’t think war should be a video game,” says one character. Well, I don’t think a movie should be, either.

Parents should know that the movie features non-stop action violence, including shooting and dropping bombs. There is some discussion of the moral issues with regard to collateral damage (injury to innocent civilians). Characters are hurt and killed and there is a suicide. Characters use strong and crude language, give the finger, and drink (scene in a bar). There are sexual references including a joke about group sex and references to casual sex. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of srong and capable diverse characters working together with respect and loyalty, though (spoiler alert) the movie perpetuates one cliche about the disposability of the minority character.

Families who see this movie should talk about how we can make the best use of machines and humans. How do we know when to follow the rules?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Top Gun and War Games as well as Failsafe and Behind Enemy Lines.

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