Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

The Other Woman
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual references and language (on appeal from the original R rating)
Release Date:
April 25, 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

Finding Vivian Maier
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 11, 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

Walking With the Enemy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 28, 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

The Honeymooners

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

The classic television show The Honeymooners has been not so much updated as aoftened and sweetened. The original, half a century later, is fresher and more contemporary than this stale marshmallow of a remake.

The appeal of the original was its grittiness. The low-budget sets and grainy black and white images suited the story of the bus driver with more heart than brains, whose get-rich-quick schemes always backfired and the wife whose acid commentary could etch glass.

Half a century later, Alice (Gabrielle Union) and Trixie (Regina Hall) have jobs (they are waitresses). The big ideas Ralph (Cedric the Entertainer) comes up with include such contemporary notions as a Y2K survival kit and a fanny pack. But the movie, produced by Cedric and his co-star Mike Epps (as Ed Norton, the sewer “specialist”), can’t quite bring itself to go to the comic edge the way the original did, in an era when a “To the moon, Alice!” threat, even an empty one, is no longer tolerable.

All that leaves is a lackluster series of skits with about enough laughs to fill a movie trailer and outtakes over the credits that are more entertaining than anything that came before. Eric Stoltz is a bland bad guy and a weak attempt at mother-in-law humor starts poorly and goes downhill. In an odd meta-moment, when Ralph says he is going to his Lodge, Alice asks whether he thinks he is Fred Flintstone. Of course the Flintstones in general and Fred’s Buffalo Lodge in particular were somewhere between a tribute and a rip-off of the original “Honeymooners” and Ralph’s Raccoon Lodge.

It is a nice thought to give us a chance to see how Ralph and Alice first meet each other. But that very beginning sets us off in the wrong direction because it establishes their relationship in a way that suffocates any chance to locate the comedy in the frustration and disappointment of the original characters.

It’s an affront to our memories of the classic series, but the more serious crime is the poor use it makes of five supremely talented performers, including John Leguizamo as a dog trainer (among other things). Cedric and Epps go off in a zillion different directions trying to get the money for a down payment on the duplex of Alice’s dreams, and some of them are very funny (they breakdance in retro outfits that make Cedric look like Rerun from “What’s Happening” and there’s a clever joke about what men and women talk about). Leguizamo’s dialogue has some bright spots (“I started with nothing and I got most of it left!”). But it feels like a series of jokes, not a story. The pacing sags and it feels endless. This one doesn’t go to the moon — like Ralph’s bus and Ed’s sewers, it goes in the wrong direction and just gets stuck.

Parents should know that there is some crude humor (reference to “ho’s,” Ed tells Ralph he saw Alice naked, etc.). There is comic peril, but no one gets hurt. Characters smoke and drink.

Families who see this movie should talk about why the house was so important to Alice and how Alice and Ralph could have communicated better to prevent some of their problems.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original series as well as better movies by Cedric (The Kings of Comedy — for mature audiences), Hall (Malibu’s Most Wanted), Union (Bring it On, and Leguizamo (Romeo + Juliet).

Howl’s Moving Castle

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

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones seems especially suitable for adaptation by Hayao Miyazaki because it has many of his favorite themes. The central character is a young girl who shows determination and loyalty when she is brought into a world of strange and magical characters, many of whom appear oddly remote. She faces challenges that teach her that she is more capable and loving and deserving of love than she knew. And it has the kinds of settings that Miyazaki loves to illustrate, with intricate mechanical devices, characters who are transformed or disguised, and shifts of angles and planes that show off his gift for vertiginous perspectives.

The story is about a girl who is transformed into an old woman by a witch whose spell prevents her from even telling anyone what happened. So, she becomes the cleaning lady for a mysterious wizard who lives in a magical castle that flies from one place to another.

It turns out she is not the only one who is not what she seems. A graceful but silent scarecrow, a wheezing dog, a little boy, the wizard, and even the wicked witch will all have unexpected transformations as they try to escape from the order of the king, who wants all magicians to help him fight a war.

There are some gorgeous visuals,a lush field of flowers, a charming town, and the endlessly inventive castle, which moves along on chicken feet. But like the title character, it seems to be missing a heart. The characters are reserved and distant, and they tolerate, even seem to expect a level of disengagement from enemies, friends, and even family that is disconcerting. The voice talents include Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, and Christian Bale, but they never mesh; it’s as though each is in a different movie. It is unsettling that the objects — a flame (voice of Billy Crystal), a scarecrow, even the machines seem to have more personality than the humans. Ultimately, it is easier to appreciate the movie than to be enchanted or engaged by it.

Parents should know that this movie includes battle violence and frequent peril and tense confrontations. Characters are transformed or disguised in forms that may be troubling to some in the audience. A character smokes a cigar. There is brief non-sexual nudity (tush) and implied off-screen nudity.

Families who see this movie should talk about the advantages and disadvantates Sophie finds in being old. Why does she change her mind about the witch?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. They should read the book and some of the other stories by Diana Wynne Jones. They will also enjoy the books of Lloyd Alexander, Brian Jaques, and Tamora Pierce.

March of the Penguins

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

In the coldest place on earth, the only place where it is safe to care for newborns is 70 miles from the only place to find food. And so, the Antarctic’s hardiest and most determined inhabitants, the emperor penguins, must march, trudge, waddle, and slide on their bellies, back and forth hundreds of miles to raise the next generation so that they can march in their turn.

This extraordinary documentary brings us inside the penguin community with footage of heart-stopping beauty and a story of poignancy, inspiration, and resilience. The purity of the setting — blue shadows on white ice, literally a world away from the soot and grime of modern life — lulls us so that for a moment we forget how unforgivingly brutal it is. The elegance and tenderness of the penguins beguiles us so that for a moment we forget how brave and resolute they are.

Every year, the penguins march 70 miles over the ice to their breeding ground, a place where the ice is so thick it will not crack under their weight as they stay long enough to hatch the eggs and raise the chicks until they are able to make the trek back to the water, where they can get food.

When they arrive at the breeding ground they have what can only be described as a mixer. Like hopeful eHarmony subscribers, they circulate nervously in search of a mate. It’s a very serious choice, as penguins are monogamous during each breeding season and the decision can literally make the difference between life and death.

As explained with warmth and sympathy by Morgan Freeman in voiceover narration, the couples share parenting duties from the very beginning. When the mother has laid her egg, she carefully hands it over — no, she foots it over — to the father, who gathers it under his feathers and huddles against the freezing winds with the other daddy penguins, taking turns at the center of the group, while the mothers, reduced to half of their pre-march bodyweight, trudge back the 70 miles to get some food for the family. Then, when Mom arrives back at the breeding ground just as the chick has been born and Dad is near starvation, it is his turn to trek back to the water again.

There are hazards along the way. Predators pick off some of the penguins, but the more serious challenges come from the near-lethal living conditions. Still, the elegant creatures persevere with touching grace and even tenderness.

This is a beautiful, touching, and inspiring film.

Parents should know that while the movie is rated G it may be upsetting to younger or more sensitive viewers. Life in Antarctica is extremely harsh and many of the penguins, including the babies, do not survive.

Families who see this movie should talk about what makes the penguins persevere and how they depend on each other to survive. What about the penguins is like human behavior? What is different?

Families who enjoy this movie can learn more about the emperor penguins and Antarctica, which is larger than Australia and the sub-continent of Europe, with 98 percent ice and 2 percent barren rock. They will also enjoy National Geographic and Discovery Channel documentaries and feature films like Two Brothers and The Story of the Weeping Camel.

The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D

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

This movie spends a lot of time and energy on the importance of dreams and imagination, delivering its message in both form and content. I wish it had spent a little more time and energy on the importance of structure, character, story, and depth.

Yes, of course dreams and imagination are necessary, but without focus and meaning they are cotton candy — a sweet delight for a moment until it melts away, leaving a sugar buzz and a sticky film on your teeth.

Dazzling effects and whimsical humor don’t make up for a flabby and uninspired story. It’s not a watered-down version of The Wizard of Oz; it’s a watered-down version of The Neverending Story, which itself teeters on the edge of being a watered-down version of The Wizard of Oz.

Max (Cayden Boyd) is a dreamy kid who keeps a notebook filled with stories about the characters he has imagined, including Sharkboy, a boy raised by sharks, and Lavagirl, who can shoot fire from her fingertips. Kids at school make fun of him and his practical-minded mother (Kristen Davis) reminds him to stick to reality: “Dreaming keeps you from seeing what’s right in front of you.”

But one day, what’s in front of Max is Sharkboy and Lavagirl in person. They come right into his schoolroom and tell him they need his help to save their home on Planet Drool, which is being attacked by Mr. Electric (George Lopez), his sidekick Minus, and an army of electric plugs. Max hops into their spaceship, and off they go.

The stars of the movie are real kids, not Hollywood kids. That means that they have a nice, unaffected quality, but it also means that they are not really actors. The real stars of the movie are the special effects, which are as much fun as a banana split (actually, one of the best really is a banana split). There are some charming ideas, like a real-life “Stream of Consciousness” but there is too much to see and not enough to think about. The people who made this movie should have taken the advice of Tobor the robot to “dream a better dream, a useful dream.”

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of mild peril and some action-style violence, including getting hit in the crotch and getting an electric shock (no guns and no one badly hurt). There is brief schoolyard language and some barfing and spitting. A strength of the movie is its positive portrayal of strong, capable female and minority characters who demonstrate loyalty and respect for each other.

Families who see this movie should talk about who was right, Max’s mother or father. Is there a way to make both happy? Why did the teacher say he was “an awakener?” How do teachers learn from their students? Families might want to talk about bullies and how to respond to them. And they should also think about keeping a journal like Max’s.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Neverending Story, Time Bandits, and Spy Kids and its sequels. They will appreciate the deliciously silly Captain Underpants series of books. Every family should read the wonderful The Phantom Tollbooth, which deals with many of the same issues as this movie. And every family should try Boomerang, the audio magazine for kids that inspires, amuses, and teaches kids about the world they live in.

Previous Posts

The Other Woman
The latest in a female-centered revenge comedy genre that extends from "9 to 5" through "She-Devil," "The Other Woman" is intended to be a merry little tale of female empowerment and grrrl power.  Instead it is soggy, haphazard, poorly paced slapstick mansplained by director Nick Cassavetes from a

posted 6:00:59pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Finding Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier was a Chicago-area nanny.  Only the children in her care knew how much she loved taking pictures.  After her death, the possessions she had in storage were auctioned off and a man named John Maloof bought some boxes of negatives, thinking he might finds some images for his research ab

posted 6:00:24pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Walking With the Enemy
Why do we keep making movies about the Holocaust? Because we are still trying to understand one of the most shocking, inhumane tragedies in history. Because it is the essence of heightened, dramatic storylines, with the most depraved real-life villains, the bravest heroes, and the direst moral di

posted 6:00:01pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Ebertfest Kicks Off With "Life Itself"
Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") presented "Life Itself," the documentary about Roger Ebert, last night at the majestic Virginia Theater in Roger's home town of Urbana, Illinois, where Roger watched films as a boy and as a college student at the University of Illinois.  He told us he had always thought

posted 9:28:24am Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz stars in the revenge comedy, "The Other Woman" this week, so it is a good time to look back at some of the highlights of her remarkably varied career. Director Charles Russell said he wanted to give Diaz the full movie star glamor treatment in her first feature film appearance in "Th

posted 8:00:04am Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.