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

Rock School

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

As adorable as Jack Black’s fictional portrayal was, there is something inherently disturbing about the idea of a real life School of Rock for 9-17-year-olds. Of course there is the problem of the music itself, loud, profane, and rude, promoting drug use and misogyny.

And then there is the problem of the people who love the music — in this case, Paul Green, who runs the school, who is loud, profane, and rude.

But the fundamental problem is that rock music is about anarchy and insolence and rebellion and shock and volcanic uncontainability, and, as in the name of a Red Hot Chili Peppers album, “Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik” (sic), so the idea of sitting down with a bunch of kids and using rock to teach them rules and discipline is almost impossible to imagine.

Children are supposed to be learning songs about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, not paranoia and devil worship. They have to develop their belief system fully before they can reject it as teenagers. If ten-year-olds with Mohawked hair shriek Ozzy Osborne songs, what will they do to rebel, sing Guy Lombardo?

So, can kids survive real rock? And can rock, which has survived even having its anthems turned into elevator music and advertising jingles, survive this? The problem inherent in this question is illustrated by the fact that this movie about a teacher of 9 to 17-year-olds is rated R as unsuitable for 9 to 17-year-olds due to near-constant use of the f-word by the teacher.

Paul Green wanted to be a guitar god. Sometimes he still does. But he realized when he saw the film Almost Famous that he wants to be a rock star in 1972, not in 2005. He knows he has to “reconcile Paul the guitar player with Paul the guitar teacher” and that means being willing to teach the kids to be better than he is. He loves to teach and has a gift for “big ideas I was able to express in concrete terms so that kids could understand.” So he established an after-school program teaching kids to play rock and roll.

His standards are as exacting as any symphonic tyrant. It’s “not ‘come look at kids play music’ — it’s ‘come look at kids play music well.’” He insults and bullies the kids; he compares the kids to each other; he threatens to throw them out. The “Suggestion Box” sign is posted over the garbage can. And most of the time, the kids love it.

We see Paul and his students prepare for three big performances — salutes to Black Sabbath and “guitar gods,” and a trip to Germany for a performance at Zappanale, a global gathering of Frank Zappa tribute bands. There are crises — a star performer has an emergency operation, a newspaper story causes controversy. There is pressure — they will be performing not just in front of thousands of Zappa fanatics who know every note of the music but in front of some of the musicians who played with Zappa.

There are mistakes and there are tears. And there are triumphs. There are kids whose souls open up to new feelings and experiences, kids who find a home or a sense of mastery they did not know was possible. And there is a “soccer mom without the soccer” painting a cross (but not a pentagram) on a kid with black fingernail polish and a mohawk, a Quaker rap group called the Friendly Gangstaz, and some face-melting metal music, and a moment of recognition and appreciation that is as moving and tender as any ever put on film.

Parents should know that this movie is serious about hard, loud, and angry rock music and does not tone it down for children. It includes frequent and colorful bad language used in front of and by children and teenagers. While it is unassailably clear to us and to the students that Green loves the kids and loves teaching them, he often speaks to them in very harsh terms, a sort of rock and roll equivalent of a drill sargeant. There is a mention of a drug reference in a song and Paul talks about alliegance to Satan. A student mentions suicide attempts and depression.

Families who see this film should talk about Paul’s teaching style. Is it abusive? Is it demanding? Is it too demanding? Was it a good experience for Madi? For Will?

Families who enjoy this film and want to know more about Paul Green can read this article or look at Green’s own website. Be sure to take a look at Green’s manifesto, which explains:

“Shows are picked for their educational merit and content (e.g. Queen to learn about harmony, punk to develop performance and stage presence, Zappa for a crash course in musicianship. It is never even suggested that these kids shouldn’t be able to learn and play their parts. Thus, if they fail, they fail at aiming at the best. And when they succeed, which is more often than not, they have accomplished something extraordinary.”

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

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

This is a story about one summer in the life of four friends, told with sincerity, heart, and a little bit of magic — the very same qualities that made the original book and its sequels a “you have to read this” classic for young girls.

Four 16-year-olds, friends since before birth, when their mothers met in a prenatal exercise class, are about to be separated for the summer for the first time ever. Just before they leave, they find a mysterious pair of blue jeans that somehow fit each of them perfectly, even though their sizes as shapes are as different as their personalities. They decide to share the pants as a way of sharing their experiences over the summer. As they mail the pants back and forth to each other, the jeans will help them share their stories and stay connected.

The first to wear the pants is shy artist Lena (Alexis Bledel of television’s Gilmore Girls) goes to Greece to visit her grandparents. On the island of Santorini she meets Kostas. Despite a multi-generation feud between their families — and a promise never to see him again, Lena and Kostas fall in love.

Outgoing and athletic Bridget (Blake Lively) goes to soccer camp. She thinks a romance with her handsome coach is what she needs to make up for the emptiness that she has felt since her mother died.

Aspiring writer Carmen (America Ferrera of Real Women Have Curves) goes to South Carolina to see her father (Bradley Whitford), who did not tell her that he was living with a woman (Nancy Travis) with two children and planning to get married.

And rebellious would-be film-maker Tibby (Amber Tamblyn of television’s Joan of Arcadia) stays home, working at a huge discount store called Wallman’s and trying to make a movie about how bleak and meaningless everything is. She meets a girl named Bailey (Jenna Boyd) who becomes her film crew.

Each of the girls wears the pants and sends them on to the next with a letter. As they all try on new experiences and emotions and feel a little lost and vulnerable, the pants and their friendship keeps them feeling close and supported.

What takes this above the level of the average something-for-everyone collection of stories with a group hug at the end is its willingness to keep things a little complicated and messy instead of tying everything up neatly into the TV-style resolutions most people think are required in stories for young audiences.

Characters make real mistakes, not cute flubs that are either quickly corrected or happy accidents that work out even better than the original plan. Some characters learn lessons and change their minds or their behavior, but others do not. Some wounds are healed and some of what is lost is found, but some not. This is more reassuring, rather than less, because in our hearts even kids know that is true; all endings are not happy. It is good to see how people handle that — and can even be enlarged by it.

The film benefits, too, from sensitive and committed performances by its five young stars (including the precociously centered Boyd, a real presence on screen here as she was in the otherwise awful Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star). They make us believe in the connection between very different characters. It’s almost possible to think of them as different aspects of the same adolescent — shy and bold, thoughtful and impulsive, cynical and hopeful. Together, like the movie itself and like those magical Levis, they are more than the sum of their parts.

Parents should know that there is a subtle reference to a sexual encounter [spoilers alert] that one of the characters initiates but later considers a mistake. This is handled sensitively and responsibly. The same is true of other difficult issues the characters must face, including the suicide of a parent, a difficult adjustment to a divorced parent’s re-marriage, and a very sad death.

Families who see this movie should talk about what makes such different girls such loyal and devoted friends? What are the most important lessons each one of them learns over the summer? Why don’t the pants fit Bailey? Families should talk about why this movie does not try to give everyone a happy ending or even an ending at all. Why was Bridget so wrong about what she thought would make her feel less lonely? How did her mistake help her to share her feelings with her friends in a way she could not before? What could Carmen have done to try to get to know her father’s new family better?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy The Babysitter’s Club. And, of course, they should read the book and its sequels.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

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

Can This Marriage Be Saved? (With apologies to the Ladies’ Home Journal)

John’s turn: We got married before we really knew each other. Now I wonder whether we’ll ever know each other. She always seems so controlled and controlling. I told her I didn’t like the drapes, but she doesn’t listen to me. We actually have dinner conversation about peas. Basically, I’m bored.

Jane’s turn: He never pays any attention to the things that matter to me. he doesn’t even remember how long we’ve been married. I just can’t talk to him. I don’t think we have anything in common.

The counselor’s turn: Jane and John had a strong attraction and married quickly without really understanding each other. Now they find little to say to each other. I think what they need is to find something they can do together.

Well, finding something they have in common and can enjoy doing together is what this movie is about. It seems that Jane (Angelina Jolie) and John (Brad Pitt) Smith have more in common than they know. They are both world-class assassins for hire. And when both are sent on the same hit and both fail, they are assigned to take each other out, and I don’t mean to a movie. Now that’s bringing your work home with you, big time.

Some movies illuminate the human condition. Some make us laugh and some make us cry. Some just show us beautiful people blowing stuff up, and that’s as good a reason to buy a ticket as there is, especially in summer. I suppose someone could try to make this movie a metaphor for the modern marriage and the challenges of communication and keeping love vital and new, but we will only pause there long enough to allow it to make us feel a little more comfortable about the fact that our two lovebirds have killed more than 400 people. What matters here is that Jolie and Pitt have sizzling chemistry and are clearly enjoying themselves and that director Doug Limon (The Bourne Identity) knows how to make action scenes work (and when to stop worrying about whether the plot makes any sense). After all, what’s more important — that we remember why any given character is shooting at another or that everything stops in the middle for Jane and John to do a tango? I rest my case.

Parents should know that despite its light, cartoonish tone, this movie has extensive and graphic “action” violence and peril, pushing the edge of the PG-13. The main characters are paid assassins and we see them killing and trying to kill lots of people. There is some strong language and there are some PG-13-ish sexual references and situations, including a bondage outfit.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was hard for Jane and John to communicate and trust one another and what will be likely to happen to them in the future.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Prizzi’s Honor, a more serious look at a similar situation. They might also enjoy a sweet WWII-era film about a boring couple who discover a great deal about themselves and each other when they join the war effort, Perfect Strangers.

The Longest Yard

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

After a series of interchangeable slacker movies with scripts that felt like two lines scribbled on a pizza box cover and a couple of sensitive performances in movies by A-list directors, Adam Sandler seems to be growing up at last. Instead of the boy-man with the strangled voice, he’s allowing himself to play a competent, if flawed character. And instead of winking at the camera, he’s allowing himself to play a character who confronts some significant choices in a meaningful way.

He’s got the help of a rock-solid script by Tracy Keenan Wynn, filmed once before in 1974, directed so you feel the punches by the cheerfully testosteronic Robert Aldrich, whose own The Dirty Dozen provided the template, a sort of a Dirty Dozen football team. The premise is simple: a bunch of bad and crazy guys who don’t work well with others take on a task no one else could or would. This version is slightly sweetened (from an R to a PG-13) and updated (O.J. Simpson joke, cross-dressing cheerleaders) but it’s still rough, and pleasurably so. It avoids the walrus-barf humor of Sandler’s previous scripts (though not the middle-school level sex jokes about fear of women and homosexuals). Sandler football movies have come a long way since Waterboy.

Paul “Wrecking” Crewe (Sandler) is a onetime star quarterback on probation after having been indicted — but not convicted -for shaving points in a game. When a drunken driving spree in his girlfriend’s Bentley ends in a pile-up, he is sent to prison for violating his parole. And this prison is not one of those country clubs with the Wall Street guys and Martha Stewart. He’s set for three years of hard time in Texas, where they “take two things very seriously — prisons and football.”

It turns out the football-loving warden (James Cromwell), who hopes to run for governor, has pulled some strings to get Paul sent to his prison. He wants Paul to help coach the prison guards’ football team. When Paul suggests the guards find a weak team to play as a warm-up before their first big game, the warden tells him to create a team from the inmates.

With the help of Caretaker (Chris Rock), the prison’s top scavenger and fixer, Paul puts a team together — they may not exactly be team players, but it turns out that telling them they get to tackle the guards is highly motivational. The men don’t know much about playing football, but some are big, some are mean, some are reckless, and some are fast. And they really want to hurt those guards.

The movie is about two things: Paul’s journey to find some kind of honor and seeing big men slam the heck out of each other many, many times. It wisely devotes most of its time and attention on the latter, with just enough narrative and character to make some of the slamming and crunching and crunching a bit more distinctive or to help it move the plot forward along with the football.

Sandler is better at acting like he doesn’t care than acting like he does. He doesn’t “act” so much as let himself be comfortable onscreen, which most of the time suits the character well. Rock seems to pick up on that vibe, and is relaxed and sweeter than he has been in other films. Rap star Nelly makes a fine impression, especially in a scene where he has to keep his temper while being taunted by the guards. Former Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin and an assortment of other very, very large former football players and wrestlers enjoy themselves on screen and we enjoy watching them. And it’s nice to see the star of the original film, Burt Reynolds, as a former Heisman Trophy winner who coaches the prisoners and helps this film cross the goal line. Cromwell is not a match for the original film’s flinty performance by Eddie Albert, and Cloris Leachman is sadly wasted in an embarrassing role as the warden’s secretary who has especially warm memories of Paul’s underwear ads (a brief glimpse of the obviously computer-generated ad is more preposterous than funny). The original film still beats this one when it comes to touchdowns, but the remake will do as above average silly summer fare.

Parents should know that the movie has rough material for a PG-13, with very strong language (including the n-word, used both with and without intended offense), sexual references and situations, brief non-sexual nudity, humor about genital size and arousal, and references to straight and gay sex. There is some locker-room humor including brief silly slightly homophobic insults. Characters cross-dress and move suggestively. Some drink (including drunk driving), smoke, and take steroids and there are references to illegal street drugs as well. Many of the central characters are doing hard time for various criminal acts and other characters behave abusively or unfairly. The movie includes brutal beatings and more-than-full contact sports violence.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether it has a “happy” ending in traditional terms. What made Paul change his mind? What did he decide was most important to him, and why?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy seeing the original The Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds as Crewe and some other movies with football themes, including The Replacements and M*A*S*H. They may also enjoy the classic prison drama Cool Hand Luke.

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