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

 

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

 

Ride Along
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language,
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
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

Everything Is Illuminated

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

If a movie has two guys who could not be more different going on a difficult journey and one of them has a funny accent, a quirky dog, and a grumpy grandfather, you might expect slapstick and confrontations and misunderstandings and maybe some redemption, and you’d be right. But the last thing you might expect is grace, and yet somehow first-time writer-director Liev Shreiber, adapting Jonathan Safran Foer’s acclaimed book, achieves, with breathtaking delicacy and tenderness.

Jonathan (the main character has the name of the novel’s author), played by Elijah Wood, is a very quiet young man who is fixated on holding on to the past. Literally. He takes and preserves and labels everything he can hold on to, covering a wall with his artifacts and treasures as though he was a police detective trying to solve a complicated murder case. Or someone trying to assemble an intricate jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box as a guide. Jonathan wears suit and tie and his eyes seem to disappear behind big round glasses. He is a vegetarian.

Jonathan has arranged for a guide for a trip to Ukraine with Heritage Tours, specializing in helping American Jews find their roots. But Heritage Tours is just Alex (Eugene Hutz), his father, his grandfather, and their dog. And Alex has no expertise or interest in the Jewish heritage or any other history of Ukraine or indeed in Ukraine at all. His family has contempt for the rich Americans who try to understand themselves better by coming to Ukraine, but they are happy to profit from what they see as something between folly and insanity.

Alex is interested only in the future, and the only culture he cares about is American. He dresses like a rapper and goes clubbing. But he’s a little out of date, explaining that “I dig Negroes, particularly Michael Jackson.” He has never heard of vegetarians and, when it is explained to him, he still can’t quite grasp it.

The driver is the grandfather, who insists that he cannot see, and brings along a “seeing-eye” dog named “Sammy Davis Junior Junior.” Alex is translator and guide.

One of Jonathan’s cherished artifacts is an insect preserved in amber, and that image resonates with much of that unfolds. Jonathan, the quiet, buttoned-down young man who looks like his tie stays pulled tightly around his neck even when he sleeps and showers, who documents and labels and researches as a way of feeling in control, wants to find the woman who, according to family lore, protected his late grandfather from the Nazis. But that history, that story, that memory, even the town where it happened all seem to have evaporated. The town is not on any map and no one they meet has heard of it. Is Jonathan, so dedicated to the kinds of facts he can pin to his wall, chasing a myth?

The four travelers (including SD Jr. Jr.) meet a woman who is even more devoted to historical artifacts than Jonathan. She is, herself, all but preserved in amber, the reponsitory of a heavy history. The stories she tells transform the way Jonathan, Alex, and the grandfather see their own history and the way they see themselves. Characters learn to embrace history and to let it go to move on into the future.

Shreiber is a distinguished actor in material ranging from Shakespeare to the Scream series and he understands how to get and convey sensitive and complex performances from his performers. Wood (best known for the Lord of the Rings trilogy) shows us that underneath the shy and proper exterior, Jonathan is a person of depth and humor. And newcomer (and Ukrainian-born) Eugene Hutz shows us that underneath the bravado and bizarre malapropisms, Alex has some hope and some principles. Theirs is a journey well worth taking.

Parents should know that this movie has references to (mostly offscreen) violence, including Holocaust-related genocide. A young man is punched by his father and grandfather. (Spoiler alert) A character commits suicide. Characters drink and smoke and use some crude language, including sexual references and ethnic insults. A strength of the movie is its exploration of the way relationships can transcend cultural differences and the importance of understanding our differences and similarities.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Jonathan and Alex were alike and how they were different. Why was Jonathan so interested in the past and Alex so uninterested? How does that relate to Jonathan’s being so reserved and Alex’s being so outgoing? How were the two grandfathers alike in the way they treated the past?

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate Schindler’s List, Life is Beautiful, Shoah, The Diary of Anne Frank, Paperclips, and The Nasty Girl. They should also visit The United States Holocaust Museum, especially the collection of personal histories.

The Cave

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

This movie unfolds as though the scenes were assembled in random order. At least I think that’s what it looks like; it is hard to say because it was so dark and murky looking.

It appears to be some sort of story about a cave. These hotshot cave divers are called in to do some exploring. Just after they set up camp out of communication range with the surface, their route back to the top is closed off and one of their group is killed. If they stay where they are, no rescue team will reach them before their supplies run out. So they have to see if they can find another way out. But between our intrepid explorers and the exit lie some very nasty and icky creatures, some microscopic, and some very large.

But it’s awful hard to work up any interest in seeing the characters escape the cave or the creatures because they’re interchangeable and boring (except for the always-charismatic Morris Chestnut who seems to have wandered in from another and much better movie). And it’s awful hard to work up any interest in the progress they make because it’s just too darn hard to follow. They go up, they go down, they go here, they go there, they go into the water, they get out of the water. I could never figure out what they were doing or trying to do. It’s not easy working up much interest in the creatures, either. They look like props from a middle school musical production of Alien. The film has a couple of good scares for the spooky stories around a campfire crowd but it takes a long, murky, time getting there. Believe me, the shadows on the wall in Plato’s cave were more fun to watch than this movie.

Parents should know that this is a very scary movie with intense peril, jump-out-at-you surprises, disgusting monsters, and graphic injuries and deaths. Characters use brief strong language. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of diverse characters and women as capable, strong, brave, and loyal.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the group assessed and responded to the problems they faced. How did they decide who should make the decisions? Why did Jack and Katherine respond differently to the same situation?

Families who enjoy this movie might like to learn more about caves and even try a little cave diving. The Movila Caves in Romania, an inspiration for this film, have a complex micro-ecosystem with many unique species not found anywhere else on earth. Families might also enjoy Fantastic Voyage, and (for mature audiences) Open Water and Alien.

Undiscovered

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

It starts promisingly. Just as he is leaving New York for Los Angeles, aspiring musician Luke (Steven Strait) sees a beautiful girl on the subway. As her train is about to pull away, she tells him he has dropped his glove. Instead of taking it, he tosses her the other one, so she will have the pair.

A couple of years later, the girl (Pell James as Briar) is a successful model. She decides to move to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. She has some good repartee with her agent/surrogate mother (Carrie Fisher). But once she goes west, the script begins to sound like it was written by little girls playing Barbies.

Briar makes a friend named Clea (Ashlee Simpson) in acting class and it turns out that Clea’s buddy is none other than glove boy Luke, now performing with his friends in a little bar. So, she and Clea cook up an idea to give Luke some buzz by having his picture taken with a Brazilian model/party girl (Shannyn Sossamon) and planting items in blogs and chat rooms. You see, if we put words like “blogs” and “chatrooms” into the movie, it will seem all hip and happening, right? Nope. That strategy is even lamer than the idea of getting Luke a recording contract by getting an actor to pretend to be from another label. Where do they get this stuff, “Brady Bunch” reruns?

Even more artificial than that is finding some obstacle to drag out Briar’s realization that she and Luke are meant for each other for the duration of the movie. The leads are sincere and appealing and around the corners of the story are glimmers of something interesting — a skateboarding dog, Luke’s brother Euen (the terrific Kip Pardue), and Fisher’s character and her relationship to Briar and to a record industry legend. They linger tantalizingly just out of sight as we suffer through dialogue like, “Luke has integrity — he wants to make it on his own terms!” and “I can forgive you. I just can’t forget how you treated me.”

The storyline keeps getting more preposterous as it goes along until an absurd deus ex machina finale with that least welcome of cliches, the mad dash to the airport along with that most unforgiveable of tricks, the instant reply montage of all the gooey moments we just saw. And are you kidding me with those names! Luke Falcon and Brier Tucket? Garrett Schweck? Wick Treadway? It’s like some demented conflation of bodice-ripper novels and Bratz dolls. Strait and James show some on-screen chemistry and Ashlee Simpson seems more comfortable on screen than expected. Fisher Stevens (as an egotistical recording label executive) is weak and Sossamon is so over the top that I thought her character was two different people. Some things stay undiscovered for a reason.

Parents should know that the film has brief stong language, some sexual references and situations (including groupies), skimpy clothes, some drinking, cigarettes in an ashtry, and a reference to drug use. There is a brief scuffle and there are some emotional confrontations. A strength of the movie is that the main characters do not drink, smoke, or use drugs and take physical involvement very seriously.

Families who see this movie should talk about the comment that “You look for fame, you lose your soul; you look for passion, you find it.” Why was it hard for Briar to admit to her feelings for Luke?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Singles (some mature material).

The Brothers Grimm

posted by rkumar
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2005

Too scary for kids and too thin for anyone else, Terry Gilliam’s latest movie, like his heroes’ tricks, has a lot of visual flair, but no substance.

Gilliam’s version of the story about the folklorist Grimm brothers, Jacob (Heath Ledger) and Wilhelm (Matt Damon) has them as fakers and con men. They create illusions to terrify ignorant villagers so that they can get paid to rid the towns of witches and other supernatural creatures. But then when some little girls disappear into a forest that is reputed to be enchanted, Jacob and Wilhelm find that they have to rethink their ideas about fantasy, reality, and story-telling.

There are flickers of familiar characters to give us a tingle of recognition. A little girl in a red cloak with a hood goes into the forest and does not come home. Neither does another little girl who went into the forest with her brother. Hair is lowered out of a castle window. A queen wants to be the fairest of them all…forever.

And there are flickers of something more in the movie, too, some arresting and important ideas about magic and story-telling and fantasy and even politics and war. But they keep getting lost in dumbed-down slapstick. One un-funny joke has Wilhelm mistaking a village girl for a boy. This is considered so hilarious it is featured in the movie’s trailer and television commercials. But it has nothing to do with the movie’s plot or themes. Damon and Ledger seem to have no grasp of their characters and wander around the story like they are trying out for Ghostbusters: the Medieval Years. The usually reliable Peter Stormare (Fargo) is not just over the top — he is over whatever is over the top. And the usually reliable Jonathan Pryce, as a French officer overseeing Napoleon’s occupation of Germany, has almost nothing to do and does that badly. This is like a community theater production where they think that if they say everything fast and loud it will be entertaining.

At one point, a Grimm brother says to the other, “That armor is not magic; it’s just shiny.” That’s the problem with this movie. There may have been more there once — if so, I hope we get to see it on a director’s cut DVD — but for now, a few sparkles are not enough to make it watch-worthy.

Parents should know that the movie has intense peril and grotesque and grisly images. Characters are injured and killed. There is brief crude humor.

Families who see this movie should talk about the real brothers Grimm, who were pioneers in the field of folklore, traveling throughout Germany to collect German and French stories that are now familiar to children all over the world, including “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Rapunzel,” and “Red Riding Hood.” Families should talk about some of the stories from their own traditions and how they are — and are not — like the Grimm stories. Mature teens and adults might enjoy Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment, about the psychological basis for these enduring stories.

Families who enjoy this film may also enjoy George Pal’s The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. And they will enjoy some of Gilliam’s other fantasies, especially Time Bandits, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and (for mature audiences only) Brazil (with Pryce) and Twelve Monkeys. And they might also enjoy the underrated The Village.

Previous Posts

Join Me at Ebertfest!
I'll be at Ebertfest through Sunday and will update when I can.  Tonight I'll be at the opening event, a screening of "Life Itself," the crowd-funded documentary about festival founder, Roger Ebert. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWLVD9g4SZU[/youtube]

posted 3:59:08pm Apr. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Trailer: The Normal Heart
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posted 8:00:57am Apr. 23, 2014 | read full post »

The Top 100 Animated Films of All Time: The Animators Pick
Time Out New York asked top animators to pick the greatest 100 animated films of all time.  All the Disney, Pixar, and Miyazaki classics are there, plus some surprises.  I have some disagreements, but am entirely in favor of the #1 pick. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAykOz1gWi4[/you

posted 3:59:23pm Apr. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Daniel Licht, Composer of "Dexter"
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posted 8:00:40am Apr. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Happy Earth Day! Movies About Our Planet
Celebrate Earth Day with some of these great films about our planet, its beauties and its challenges: 1. An Inconvenient Truth Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary makes a powerful case for the dire effects of climate change -- and an even more powerful case for our ability to prevent more damage

posted 7:00:55am Apr. 22, 2014 | read full post »


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