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

 

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

Herbie: Fully Loaded

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2005

Lindsay Lohan tries for three for three with another remake of a Disney classic, following The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday with an updated version of The Love Bug, but this one doesn’t quite make it across the finish line.

Herbie (the VW bug who thinks he is a race car) is as cute as ever, and gives by far the most endearing and convincing performance in the film. But the rest of the story is formulaic and tired, with retro effects that are dull rather than nostalgic and a soundtrack of oldies as uninspired as a K-Tel “Hits of the 70′s” compilation.

This time, Herbie’s driver is Maggie (Lohan), who has just graduated from college (arriving at the ceremony via skateboard, cap and gown over tiny miniskirt). Before she goes to New York to start a job at ESPN, she goes home to visit her dad (Michael Keaton as Ray, Sr.) and brother (Breckin Meyer as Ray, Jr.), NASCAR racers whose poor performance has lost them sponsors. Maggie picks Herbie out of a junkyard — well, she may think so, but in reality, Herbie picks Maggie. The glove compartment pops open and there is a note inside, explaining that Herbie will help solve her problems. “Great,” she says, “A fortune cookie on wheels.”

And we’re off to the races, literally, as Herbie drives Maggie and her chldhood friend Kevin (Justin Long), who happens to be a mechanic, to an event featuring reigning NASCAR champ Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon). When Herbie beats Trip’s car in an impromptu street race, Maggie and Kevin decide to get him ready for the big time.

This is a special effects slapstick movie, and on that level it works pretty well and will amuse little kids. But whoever decided to give a “story by” credit should be sued for false advertising, as there is no story here whatsoever, just a tired formula sent around a tired track. Lohan and Keaton achieve sincerity, but without any sense of character or conviction. Long and Cheryl Hines (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) are wasted in parts that are nothing but filler in between races and pratfalls. But that’s better than the clutter from pointless cameos by NASCAR drivers who deliver lines with the stiffness of shirt cardboard. We love Herbie because he has a heart and soul. We don’t love this movie because it has no idea how to find either one.

Parents should know that the movie has some mild cartoon-style peril, including car crashes and a demolition derby, but no one is seriously hurt. There is a reference to a past crash that led to some injuries. There is a very sweet kiss and a mild reference to peeking when someone changes clothes. Characters use very mild (“swear to God”) and briefly crude language.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Ray had different views on letting his son and daughter race. How did Ray feel when he found out that Maggie lied. How did Herbie feel when Maggie talked about driving Trip’s car?

Families who enjoy this movie willl also enjoy the original Herbie movies and they might also enjoy some of the other stories about anthropomorphic automobiles, from Knight Rider to “My Mother the Car” and Stephen King’s very scary Christine.

Families who appreciate the race sequences will enjoy learning more about NASCAR and about women race car drivers like Danica Patrick and Shirley Muldowney, whose life was portrayed in Heart Like a Wheel. Teens and adults may enjoy reading Turn Signals are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles, which shows us how the way cars are designed is in part a reflection of our willingness to see them as having emotions.

Rebound

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2005

It’s called “Rebound,” but it’s more like “Retread.” This is right off the conveyer belt of underdog-team-of-kids-matched-with hot-headed-and-self-centered-coaches-used-to-sliding-by movies.

That means it is yet another in the endless series of movies about scrappy little sports teams made up of losers and klutzes who overcome a complete lack of talent in one quick montage to learn the meaning of teamwork and beat the meanies who think they’re all that.

Begin with the requisite arrogant guy who has forgotten his love of the game. That would be Martin Lawrence as Roy, a college basketball coach who sends a recorded pep talk to the team so that he can do a photo shoot while they’re at the game. He’s all about the endorsements and the high life and losing his temper at the refs. When he accidentally kills another team’s mascot, the college basketball association suspends him. He has to prove that he can behave himself, but no college team will take him.

Cue the losers and klutzes. Roy ends up in the literally minor leagues, back at the middle school he attended, coaching a team that has only one good player, a kid who conveniently has a beautiful single mother. They’ve never won a game. No one can remember the last time they scored. And that team on the way to the state championship is coached by an arrogant bully. Where could this be leading?

It’s not very good, but it’s relatively painless. There are a couple of genuinely funny moments. Megan Mullally of television’s “Will and Grace” brings her acid delivery and impeccable timing to the role of the principal. When she sees a nationally-known sports figure come into her office, she is sure she knows why he is there. “Community service?” she asks. “We get a lot of athletes in here that way.” Two girls provide a sort of Statler and Waldorf-style commentary on the team’s performance. Roy comes up with a sweet compliment and some better-than-average advice to his team and has a nice chemistry with the kids.

But the movie wastes too much time with silly diversions like an extra character added just to give Lawrence a chance to dress up and a useless detour about whether Roy will go back to coaching a college team. And even by the standards of this category, it overdoes the crude humor. It doesn’t just try to make barfing a source of humor and it doesn’t just do so repeatedly; it actually has the barfing character named “Ralph.”

Parents should know that the movie has some gross-out humor (barfing, crotch injuury) and brief strong language (“damn”). Some family members will be concerned about Roy’s rudeness and lack of consideration, even though the movie is clear that he is happier when he learns better behavior.

Families who see this movie should talk about what lessons each of the players learned from Roy and what lessons he learned from them. Why did he forget what was important to him about the game when he was coaching college students? Do you agree that teamwork beats out talent? Do you agree that “courage is just well-concealed fear?” Can you think of an example? They might want to talk about some of their own experiences with team sports.

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy some of the underdog classics about kids’ teams, including The Sandlot, Air Bud, and The Bad News Bears (very strong language and some mature material), which is being remade with Billy Bob Thornton.

The Perfect Man

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2005

The word “perfect” should not be used anywhere near this disappointing and downright icky would-be romantic comedy, in which a teenage girl creates a fake online boyfriend to cheer up her lonely mother.

Jeane (Heather Locklear) is a gifted baker and a loving parent but who is foolish about men. Every time one of the losers dumps her, she leaves town, taking her daughters with her, most recently settling in Brooklyn. Holly (Hillary Duff, looking raccoon-ish in much too much dark eyeliner and wearing pants that reveal much too much lower midriff) is tired of moving and can’t bear to see her mother in another bad relationship. When Jean begins to date a Styx-loving bread baker, Holly decides her mother needs a “perfect man,” even if she has to make one up.

It begins with an orchid and a note, but soon escalates to emails, instant messages, and a phone call. Holly gets guidance from her friend’s handsome Uncle Ben (Chris Noth). Jean begins to fall in love with a man who is perfect in every respect except for not actually existing.

Even by the suspended-disbelief standards of fluff like this film, the story quickly tips over into the uncomfortable category of severe dysfunction that is made even more unnerving because this behavior exists in a movie world that has no idea of the boundaries that are being violated.

It’s bad enough that Holly is continuously untruthful and manipulative. She violates her mother’s trust, taking advantage of her greatest vulnerability. She is careless and selfish. Her plots are portrayed as charming and well-intentioned, but they cause real damage to feelings and to property and she never accepts responsibility for what she has done.

And the ick factor keeps intruding. A boy who likes Holly (the likeable Ben Feldman as Adam) becomes a part of the plot when Holly makes him get on the phone with Jean. Instead of “breaking up” with her, as Holly told him to, he says to Jean what he would like to say to Holly. Gazing at a photo of Holly, he says lovey-dovey things to her mother. Ewww. Later, things are reversed and Jean sends instant messages to Adam, who thinks he is getting them from Holly. Ewwwwww.

There is something unsavory about the idea of a daughter romancing her mother by proxy. The script’s complete cluelessness about that key point creates its own boundary issues and it goes from charming to creepy very quickly. The creepiest thing about it is that it does not realize how creepy it is.

Locklear is, as always, a warm and inviting presence (though never persuasive as a woman who is desperate for a boyfriend), and Duff, as always, can deliver at most three different expressions — shy, wistful, and uncertain but determined. “Queer Eye’s” Carson Kressley is on hand for some warmed-over wisecracks delivered without any of his trademark tszujing. In fact, the movie, far from “perfect,” is an entirely tszuj-free zone.

Parents should know that while this movie does not have the usual triggers for an MPAA rating of higher than PG, it does have some behavior that will be of concern to some families, especially the complete lack of boundaries, Holly’s constant lying and manipulation (portrayed as light-hearted and well-intentioned, but causing real damage to emotions and property). There are some mild language issues — for example, Holly is referred to as a “skin virgin” because she has no tattoos or piercings. Holly wears skimpy and revealing clothing. A strength of the movie is the positive portrayal of a gay character, but it is undercut with some stereotyped humor.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Jean had such bad judgment about the men in her life. What would have been a better way for Holly to help her mother?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Duff’s other films, including The Lizzie Maguire Movie and and A Cinderella Story. They will also enjoy a WWII-era film called Dear Ruth, about a teenage girl who writes to a soldier, pretending to be her older sister, and Dear Frankie, about a mother who writes letters to her young son, pretending they come from his father. Families might also like to listen to some Styx classics. Look closely at the lead singer in the Styx tribute band in the movie, by the way. It is none other than real-life Styx-er Dennis DeYoung.

Batman Begins

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

Every so often, it’s time to re-boot Batman.

Bob Kane created Batman in 1939. What made him different was that in an era of superheroes, he had no super-powers. All he had was a bat costume and a burning mission for revenge. Oh, and immeasurable wealth (which is a sort of superpower itself), and lots of very cool toys.

But Batman kept going through all of his iterations, including the campy 1960′s television series, brilliantly re-imagined by Frank Miller (who went on to do Sin City) as the Dark Knight, various animated series, and the Tim Burton Batman that deteriorated into the awful Joel Schumacher Batman and Robin. But what always mattered most was the villains. The Joker, whether played by Jack Nicholson or Cesar Romero; Catwoman, whether played by Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfieffer, or (most memorably) Julie Newmar; the Riddler, as interpreted by Frank Gorshin or Jim Carrey — these are some of the most unforgettable bad guys any hero ever got to tangle with.

The new version has acquired all of the trendy enhancements of Batman’s post-modern re-imagining.

  • 1. Looming, steamy, urban landscapes, with stylish mixes of eras and genres.
  • 2. A far eastern master with an exotic mystical martial arts boot camp,
  • 3. Battles in a variety of settings, including the ever-popular urban mass transit train speeding out of control through the city (see Spider-Man 2).

So here we are with what has to be at least Batman version 8.0, directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento). It takes us back to the beginning, that moment when the young scion of the wealthy Wayne family saw his parents killed by a mugger and decided to devote his life to protecting his home city of Gotham from criminals.

Part of what makes Batman a compelling character is that he is damaged. The trauma of seeing his parents murdered has been handled differently by different artists and directors through the years. For some it led to a corrosive sense of guilt and loss. For others it led to uncontained fury. For some it was as much the source of his inspiration to fight crime as a passion for justice.

“Batman Begins” is beautifully designed, with a grittier, more traditionally noir-ish design than the last four films. This Gotham is not inspired by New York, but by Chicago, with glimpses of the Marina Towers and Wacker Drive, with bits and pieces from other places, including a block from a Hong Kong slum. Instead of looking like the love child of a Ferrarri and an Exocet missile, the Batmobile now looks like a tank designed by Frank Gehry — on Bizarro World. The bat costume has, thank goodness, been rescued from its last appearance, which looked like a Chippendales costume, and returns to its dark grandeur, especially when the cape is spread. We see how Bruce Wayne creates his identity and mission as Batman. He says that “as a symbol, I can be incorruptable; I can be everlasting.” There are moments when his Batman really makes us believe it.

The film’s elegaic pace sometimes feels grand and sweeping, but it also feels slow and indirect. The momentum of the storyline is uneven and the flashbacks intended to add context and texture are just disruptive. There are too many villains running around with the result that none of them are developed enough to be interesting or vivid or even especially scary. The comic book did a much better job of exploring the potential for some of these eccentric madmen. Some of the fight scenes are well staged, but the big finish is both too serious to be fun and too diffuse and uncontained to be genuinely gripping.

Christian Bale has the single most important qualification to play Batman — great lips. More important, he has the chops to play Bruce Wayne, and he gives a thoughtful, sensitive performance that shows us that it is Bruce Wayne who is the secret identity — Batman is who he really is. Morgan Freeman as a scientist and Michael Caine as the indispensible family retainer Alfred are as warm and solid as aged wood beams — and as much of a support. But some of the best acting is done by the swarms of CGI bats swirling around the confrontations. They contribute more to the film than Tom Wilkenson, Cillian Murphy, and Gary Oldman (all with American accents) and Rutger Hauer, who don’t have enough to do to be more than distractions. It’s all too toned down. Batman needs bad guys who are real, over-the-top nut jobs. Leave the more cool and cruel bad guy types to James Bond.

Parents should know that the movie has a dark and disturbing tone and a lot of peril and violence, including a child who sees his parents shot to death and is haunted by it. There is brief strong language. Characters drink and one appears tipsy.

Families who see this movie should talk about what Bruce has to say about fear and compassion, and about the survivor guilt he felt over his parents’ death. They may also want to talk about how the portrayals of Batman have changed over the years and what that tells us about how our culture and priorities have changed.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy reading the original comic book, the Dark Knight, and watching Tim Burton’s Batman with Michael Keaton, and Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever with Jim Carrey as the Riddler. They will also enjoy the underrated Empire of the Sun, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring then 12-year-old Christian Bale. For more information about the use of Chicago as the inspiration for Gotham City, see this site.

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