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

Ocean’s 13

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for brief sensuality.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

The first one was fun for them to make and us to watch. For the second one, clearly the Oceanists were having more fun than the audience. George Clooney has joked that the third “Oceans” film should be called “The One We Should Have Made Last Time.” Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and the rest of the group are still having fun making them, but this time, thank goodness, it’s fun for us, too.


In Ocean’s Eleven, Danny (Clooney) and Rusty (Pitt) assembled a team of specialists to rob three Las Vegas casinos run by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) and not coincidentally get back Danny’s wife from Benedict, too. Ocean’s Twelve was the uneven sequel about Benedict’s revenge, a romance for Rusty with an Interpol agent, and a complicated European heist.


The third episode might as well have a “No Girls Allowed” sign. The characters played by Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta Jones in the last two episodes are briskly dismissed in the first couple of minutes with a quick “It’s not their fight.” And we’re off on a new adventure in which our anti-heroes will have to come up with a new fiendishly clever way to separate some nasty character from his money in a manner that allows for some choice wisecracks, some silly disguises, and enough “That’s impossible” and “It can’t be done” warnings to merit a drinking game.


Hotelier Reuben (Elliot Gould), who financed the first heist, has had a bad case of movie-disease-itis, meaning that it is one of those cases where the central casting doctor gravely stands by the bedside and tells the assembled loved ones that “it all depends on his will to live.” In other words, we have to have a reason to set up another Mission Impossible-style heist, and this time, it’s personal. Okay, it was personal the last two times, too, but this time it’s even more personal. We have to take care of Reuben.


Reuben has been snookered (In Las Vegas! Imagine!) by Willy Bank (Al Pacino), who has built an ostentatious new casino (In Las Vegas! Imagine!). So the gang gets back together to put on a show in Grandma’s barn, I mean to steal from Bank everything that really matters to him.

This means several cons and heists at once. It has to be more than money. Bank wants a five-diamond rating for the hotel. This results in a plot line somewhere between a sit-com episode and a summer camp prank. Next on the list is fixing the games at the casino, each category (slots, blackjack, roulette, craps) with its special challenges that send our guys off as far as Mexico (where the dice are made) and France (it has to do with digging the chunnel; you really don’t need to know about it).

They also have to go to Terry Benedict for some upfront money, and while they are in it for honor and loyalty, he, of course, wants the diamonds that Bank has stored in an “it’s impossible” burgle-proof room at the top of the hotel. And of course Saul (Carl Reiner) has to show us a new accent, Frank (Bernie Mac) has to show off some smooth talk, Basher (Don Cheadle) has to speak inscrutable rhyming slang and blow stuff up, Linus (Matt Damon) has to prove he can grift with the best of them, and Yen (Shaobo Qin) has to say things in Chinese that somehow everyone in our perfectly attuned group can understand.


It’s all glossily entertaining, but there are too many distractions that are not as cute as they think they are. Did we really need to see one of the Ocean-ites turn into Norma Rae? We come back to the five-diamond checker too many times for too little pay-off. Repeats of the gags and plot twists from the first two are not in-jokes; they’re just unimaginative. Once again, Yen’s only English vocabulary words are bleep-worthy. Once again, the Ocean-eers have colorful code words for their various scams and dodges: the Billy Martin, the Susan B. Anthony, the Gilroy, the reverse Big Store. It is not an homage, it’s just a lack of imagination to repeat the exact same major plot twist from one of the earlier movies. It is even at the same point in the script. Worse, the film wastes the wonderful Ellen Barkin on an underwritten role.


But the movie’s biggest mistake is making the guys into a bunch of softies. When they’re not rallying the troops because “Reuben would do it for any one of us,” they’re weeping through Oprah or giving money to needy children. The cast is so watchable that we cannot help but enjoy seeing them enjoying themselves. And Bank is such a rat that we can’t help rooting for them. But it was more fun when they were a little bit hungry and more than a little bit greedy. Let’s hope they remember that before the next one.

This time around, the characters are motivated by loyalty rather than money, but parents should know that this is a movie about a group of rogues, con artists, and thieves — and they are the good guys. Characters use a few strong words and there are brief mild sexual references and a comic (non-explicit) sexual situation.


Families who see this movie should talk about why audiences enjoy movies about robberies.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the first two and other heist classics like the original Thomas Crown Affair, Topkapi, and How to Steal a Million.

Gracie

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for brief sexual content.
Movie Release Date:2007

When it rains, baseball players go to the locker rooms and put on their street clothes, but soccer players stay on the field, according to father/coach Bryan Bowen (Dermot Mulroney). So we get not one but two high-tension moments as drenching rain comes down on a soccer team – and on one particular soccer player — with just once chance to make the goal that will win the big, big game.


This film has a lot of the conventional high and low points of sports films, including a “Win one for the Gipper” goal of fulfilling the dream of a player who died. But the strong family ties on screen and behind the camera and some gritty authenticity of place and feeling remind us how what could have been cliché can have the power of archetype.


Gracie Bowen (“Mean Creek’s” Carly Schroeder) is the only girl in a soccer-mad blue-collar family in New Jersey. Her younger brothers tease her without mercy, but her older brother Johnny, a star athlete, always encourages her. When he is killed in an accident, she decides to make his dream of beating the rival team come true – by taking his place on the team. The boys’ team.


Bryan refuses to help her. The coach will not let her try out. For a while, Gracie gives up, trying to obliterate her sense of loss with by drowning her pain in broken rules and risky behavior. Her parents understand this is a cry for help and attention. They agree to support her. Before she can take on the rivals in the big game, she has to take on the coach, the school board, the boys on the team, and her own fears.


This was a labor of love for co-writer/director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) and his wife Elisabeth Shue (Adventures in Babysitting), who plays Gracie’s mother. The story was co-written by Shue’s brother Andrew (who plays the assistant coach), inspired by Elisabeth’s experiences as a soccer player following the death of her brother, and it was filmed on location in the town and at the school where it all happened. The story may be predictable, but it unfolds as though every one on screen and behind the camera is telling it for the first time. I could not help wishing that it had cut out about 10 minutes of inappropriate language and material to merit a PG, but I could not help appreciating its heart, commitment, and moments of specificity and wanting that last goal just as much as Gracie did.
Parents should know that this movie has about five minutes of strong and homophobic language (s-word, bastard, boobs, lesbo), teen smoking and drinking, underage driving without a license, and some risky sexual situations. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of determined female characters and their fight for equal treatment.


Families who see this movie should talk about what has – and has not – changed in sports for girls and women. They should also talk about how much it mattered to the people in this movie to have – or not have — the support of their family members. Why is it so hard for siblings to behave like Johnny? They should also talk about the different ways the family members react to Johnny’s death, some in ways that may appear to be unfeeling.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Bend It Like Beckham and Remember the Titans. They might also want to find out more about Women’s Soccer.

Severance

posted by jmiller

Severance is a quirky yet compellingly gory tale of
a few great characters begrudgingly forced to spend a weekend
together. And then they are hunted down, suffer grizzly deaths, and
are, for the most part, never heard from again. Writer/director
Christopher Smith (Creep) has never, apparently, had much sympathy for
those who get sentimental and teary-eyed when lamenting the question
of why bad things happen to good people.


Filmed with a great appreciation for atmosphere and undeniable skill
in sound editing, Severance introduces us to the sales division of
weapons company Palisade Defense as they embark upon a company retreat
to Eastern Europe. On the retreat is Jill (Claudie Blakley): odd,
endearing and intelligent; Gordon (Andy Nyman): bestowed with
indefatigable good spirits; Steve (Danny Dyer): immature and harmless;
and a few others whose characters are difficult to watch be snuffed
out in the name of the ever-more-popular “quirky horror” genre.


Smith takes his characters and floods their retreat with
some of the most gag-inducing horror scenes, resulting in a
dreadfulness that makes one wonder why these great characters couldn’t
live long enough to star in a funny, original, imaginative and
enjoyable film. Severance might be funny (at times), original and
imaginative, but until watching likeable people suffer unspeakable
fates is enjoyable, it can hardly be labeled as such. The most
redeeming element, aside from the technical skills displayed in
filming, is the nagging suspicion that it’s better to have really
liked and lost than never to have liked at all.


And while watching the endearing troupe perform team-building
exercises would have been infinitely more fun, the horror is still
unquestionably effective. Whereas some comparable films tend to begin
in horrorland, that place where things are so ominous from the start
that being burned alive or suffering decapitation and loss of limb is
simply the “next step,” Severance starts in utter normality. The
anxiety stems from the loss of control felt in the smooth and speedy
progression from normal life (riding a rented bus with coworkers) to
horror-movie life (running from crazed killers, losing limbs, nursing
stab wounds, etc). It helps (if that’s the right word) that the
characters are highly believable; more importantly, however, is the
fact that the horror doesn’t grow from one or two hugely bad decisions
— instead it grows organically and almost imperceptibly from the
characters’ realistic ordinariness as they make decisions that don’t
seem so different from what the average person would do. The result is
a horror that could happen to even the best people, no matter how
clever, how rational, how likeable. And that, perhaps, is scarier than
anything else.


Parents should know that this film presents perverse and sickening
scenes, including but not limited to decapitation, explosion, torture,
and implied cannibalism. The killings are not censored, and a live
burning includes a sympathetic character splashed copiously with
gasoline while gagged and tied to a tree. There is also a scene where
a character’s leg is caught in a bear trap, and is severed in the
resulting struggle to free it. A character is shown chewing and
discussing hallucinogenic mushrooms in the very beginning, and the
language is mostly mild but gets heavy in isolated instances.


Families who see this film should discuss the ethical considerations
behind plot elements. The premise is that Palisades employees are
being hunted because their weapons were used to destroy a mental
hospital, and the escapees vowed to exact revenge. Parents might
discuss with teenaged children the ethical considerations of working
for a company that provides weapons. In the film, Jill speaks with
another character about her desire to build “human” land mines — ones
that do not cause such indiscriminate destruction. Parents might
discuss how creativity and ingenuity can be used to improve present
conditions. Because the images can be disturbing and terrible, parents
might also wish to have their children express common fears and
approach them logically, deciding which ones are reasonable and which
ones can only be reasonably expected in horror films.


Families who enjoy this film might also appreciate Eli Roth’s Cabin
Fever, in which five young friends meet blood-soaked tragedy in a
wooded cabin. For a film with more comedy and stylized gore, families
might enjoy Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead.

Thanks to guest critic AB.

Mr. Brooks

posted by jmiller

I have to give this film credit for embracing its craziness. This is one movie that proudly raises its freak flag high and lets it wave. But that does not mean it works.


Mr. Brooks (Kevin Costner) is an upstanding member of the community, a very successful businessman, and a loving husband and father. He is also a compulsive serial killer who relishes — fetishizes — the preparation and clean-up every bit as much as the act itself. His compulsion is personified by William Hurt, who shows up like one of those little devils who sit on Sylvester’s shoulder, whispering in his ear that Tweetie-Pie looks mighty yummy.


Mr. Brooks goes out on one last hit and makes one big mistake. This leads to a nasty encounter with one “Mr. Smith” (comic Dane Clark). He doesn’t want money; he wants to come along on the next kill.


Brooks has another problem, too. His daughter (Danielle Panabaker) has dropped out of school and isn’t telling him the whole truth about why. And there is a very determined detective (Demi Moore) who seems to be getting closer.


It has some style, and Costner makes good use of his weak chin, turning his aw-shucks All-American quality on its side. There’s a moment when Costner and Hurt turn to each other and laugh demonically that has some grab to it. But for a movie about a guy who plans everything so meticulously, the script is a mess, with careless distractions that seem helpless and random, impossible coincidences that make it appear that there are only about six people living in Portland, and one big fake-out that is nothing but a giant bloody speed-bump on the way to the who-cares-at-this-point conclusion.

Parents should know that this is an extremely violent film with scenes of very graphic murders and shoot-outs with a lot of blood. The main character is a serial killer who kills because he enjoys it, because he is addicted to the thrill and sense of power. There are explicit sexual references and situations, including nudity and an out of wedlock pregnancy. Characters use very strong language. They drink alcohol and there are references to substance abuse.


Audiences who see this film should talk about the way that Earl’s compulsion is portrayed. Is he right in describing his impulse to kill as an addiction? Why is Mr. Smith interested in coming along? Do you believe Atwood’s explanation?

Audiences who enjoy this film will also enjoy the underrated Panic, with William H. Macy as a reluctant hit-man following in a family tradition, One Hour Photo, and the Showtime series “Dexter.”

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