Movie Mom

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

 

Noah
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
Release Date:
March 28, 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

 

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

 

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

The Namesake

posted by Nell Minow
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexuality/nudity, a scene of drug use, some disturbing images and brief language.
Movie Release Date:March 9, 2007
DVD Release Date:November 27, 2007

Ashima (Indian superstar Tabu) pauses before entering the living room to meet her prospective bridegroom and his family. Their shoes have been left outside the door, according to the customs of her home in India. Ashima sees that inside the shoes it says “Made in the USA.” She quietly slips her foot inside, trying them on for size. This lovely moment sets the stage for a thoughtful and engrossing study of identity, assimilation, and finding the way home.
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The Astronaut Farmer

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for thematic material, peril and language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Once upon a time there was a farmer who wanted to build a rocket ship and orbit the earth. And there were some evil ogres who wanted to stop him.


That’s the best way to describe this slight fairy tale of a film, where each shot is lovingly framed to show the golden light playing over the pastoral landscapes, set in a small town that makes Mayberry seem unfriendly and featuring a family so unconditionally loving and devoted that we seem to have come upon them mid-Hallmark commercial.


That is not to say that it is anything but warm-hearted and captivating. It is just to say that you can’t take it too seriously. In other words, don’t try this at home.


Billy Bob Thornton plays a farmer actually named Farmer. That is his last name and many people call him that, including his wife Audie (Virginia Madsen). He rides a horse in his astronaut uniform — the ultimate mash-up of American male icons. When he gets up to a small bit of vandalism he is sent for a psychological evaluation — to the local school nurse, who was once his prom date. Everyone in the town knows everyone else and knows everything about everyone else. But even his good friend at the bank can’t stop foreclosure proceedings when Farmer spends all his money on the rocket. And when he orders rocket fuel over the internet, he attracts the attention of some people outside the community. They are people from places that are very big on initials, like NASA and DOJ and WMD. They are people who are very big on laws like the Patriot Act. And they are people who have no imagination and no sense of humor when it comes to having private citizens launch rockets.


The good guys are cute and cuddly and believe in their dreams. They have family dinners where everyone talks about what should be packed for the missing. The children are devoted to their parents and have beautiful manners. The two little girls (real-life daughters of the twin brothers who made the film) are the most natural and appealing young performers since In America. And there’s a grizzled old grandpa (Bruce Dern) to tell Farmer what a great dad he is.


It works because of the conviction of its actors (including a surprise third act appearance by a major movie star) and its gentle, unassuming Capra-esque air. Its take-off and flight is more butterfly than rocketship, but it’s a lovely ride.

Parents should know that there are some tense and scary moments. A character is in peril and is injured. There is a sad death. Characters use brief strong language and drink and there is a brief sexual reference.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Farmer’s dream was so important to him and why his family supported him. Why didn’t he accept the offer to go in NASA’s space shuttle? Was the government right to try to stop him? Why?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy films about the U.S. space program, including Apollo 13, From the Earth to the Moon and The Right Stuff. And they might enjoy the made-for-television movie “Salvage 1″ with Andy Griffith, which became a series.

Breach

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Robert Hanssen was the head of the Soviet department in the FBI. And he was working for the enemy. Over a period of 22 years, he sold vital secrets to the Soviet and Russian governments for $1.5 million, resulting in what the FBI itself called “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history.” He was captured in the act of leaving information at a “dead drop” on February 18, 2001 and pled guilty later that year. He is currently serving a life sentence.


Director/screenwriter Billy Ray, who also wrote and directed Shattered Glass, about another Washington figure who was not what he appeared to be, has made a movie about Hanssen (Chris Cooper), and especially about his relationship to Eric O’Neill (Ryan Phillippe), the young FBI agent assigned to be Hanssen’s assistant as the investigators were closing in on him.


The movie was based in large part on the recollections of O’Neill, who was only recently given permission by the authorities to tell his story.


And that is both the strength and the weakness of the story. Hanssen is a character of mesmerizing contradictions, passionately patriotic at the same time he was providing information that led to the deaths of American agents and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to national security. He was a devoted member of Opus Dei, a strictly observant division of the Catholic Church that believes that all people should aspire to sainthood. And he was deeply involved with pornography. In the movie’s most powerful moment, just after he is captured, Hanssen has just one thing to say to the long-time colleague who is looking at him with mingled disbelief and contempt. He tells him that the tracking device they put into his car needs to be improved because it was interfering with the radio reception, and that might be a giveaway.


As he did in Shattered Glass, Ray ably keeps the tension taut, even though we know the end of the story. Cooper is superb, hard as granite, dense as an imploding black hole. He doesn’t make any effort to make Hanssen’s motives clear, but he clearly conveys the rigid compartmentalization that made it possible for him to encompass such stunning contradictions. It is not only national security and integrity that Cooper’s Hanssen is breaching; it is the most fundamental notion of individual identity.

Laura Linney, as Kate Burroughs, the woman supervising the investigation, conveys just the right combination of resolute control and laser-beam focus, and that indispensible combination for significant accomplishment — imperishable idealism in the abstract, no-surprises cynicism in the particular. The often-underestimated Phillippe is fine, but the story goes off-kilter when it spends too much time on his cleverness, his conflicts, and his relationship with his wife. What are we supposed to make of O’Neill’s contrast with Burroghs and Hanssen when it comes to having a life outside of work? Who, in the view of the movie, gets the happy ending? Who can we trust?


Ray is too wise to try to give us any kind of explanation for Hanssen’s betrayal. Instead, he gives us a gripping cat-and-mouse story, using the satisfying conclusion of his capture to make us feel safe enough to begin to explore the terrifying horror of the kind of person who is capable of violation and betrayal on the most fundamental level.

Parents should know that the film has some tense confrontations with characters in peril, including gunshots. Characters drink and use some strong language. There are sexual references, including pornography and “deviance.” The theme of the movie is betrayal and treason. Some audience members may be concerned by the portrayal of the characters’ real and assumed religious faith and practices.


Families who see this movie should talk about the compromises that people in these positions must take and what the government should do to prevent and respond to breaches such as these.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy one of the finest miniseries ever broadcast, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, inspired by the greatest breach in the history of the British equivalent of the CIA, involving Kim Philby, part of the famous “Cambridge spy ring” that included Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, and Anthony Blunt. Other real-life stories of double agents are portrayed in The Falcon and the Snowman and Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within. An unusual aspect of a double-agent’s story is explored in An Englishman Abroad, based on the experience of actress Coral Browne (who plays herself) when she met with Guy Burgess in Moscow, after he defected. Washington DC’s Spy Museum has an exhibit about Robert Hanssen and the people who caught him.

Black Snake Moan

posted by jmiller
C-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for strong sexual content, language, some violence and drug use.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Things are not going well for Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson). He has been living a life right out of a blues song. His wife left him. For his brother.


And now, he has found an almost-naked young woman, badly beaten, outside his house. Things have not been going well for Rae (Christina Ricci) either. She has slept with just about everyone, but the only man she has ever loved is Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) and he has joined the military. Rae is no good at being on her own, and she has an unfortunate tendency to respond to stress by drinking, taking drugs, and having sex. Lazarus lives up to his name by bringing her back to life.


His technique for doing this involves chaining her to his radiator.


It is fair to say this raises some issues — male/female, black/white, sacred/profane for example. And that, too, sounds like a blues song.


The music in the film is terrific — searing, gut-twisting wails of loss and despair. This is a film in which Samuel L. Jackson sings (well) and Justin Timberlake does not. There are some powerful moments, particularly those featuring John Cothran Jr. as a preacher named Reverend R.L. But the characters are — even by blues standards — so over the top that we never feel their connection to us or to each other. A relationship like Lazarus and Rae needs some authentic moments — a confession, exchanges of confidence, a willingness to let each other see them at their best and their worst. But we never get any of that.

The confrontation between Rae and her mother approaches a parody of the long line of Southern slattern films from Baby Doll to Temple Drake. There is nothing approaching the subtle complexity of the relationships in Hustle & Flow, the previous movie from writer/director Craig Brewer. Worst of all, it undermines Lazarus’ attempt to give Rae some dignity and sense of self-worth in its own treatment of her — and of the actress who plays her. The portrayal of Rae
‘s compulsive need for sex and of her always-perfect, always exposed little body (really little, even more troubling given Ricci’s history of anorexia) is exploitive, more trashy than steamy. Rae’s got a right to sing the blues — and this movie is just one more reason why.

Parents should know that this film has extremely mature material that may be offensive even to adults. There are very explicit sexual references and situations, including nudity and promiscuity. Characters drink, smoke, use drugs, and use very strong and crude language, including racial epithets. There is violence, including punching and guns. Strengths of the movie include the portrayal of an inter-racial friendship (with frank acknowledgement of the concerns it could raise in parts of the community) and the portrayal of a sincere and honorable religious leader.


Families who see this movie should talk about why it was important for Lazarus to try to help Rae. What is the significance of his name? Why was Rae so troubled? Why did she care about Ronnie? What is likely to happen to them?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy exploring some of the work of the Southern blues artists featured on the soundtrack, including Son House’s The Original Delta Blues and R.L. Burnside’s A Bothered Mind.

Previous Posts

Interview: Thunder Levin of "Sharknado" and "Sharknado 2"
One of the highlights of Comic-Con was the chance to catch up with Thunder Levin, screenwriter of the sensation, "Sharknado" and the sequel, "Sharknado 2," which premieres tonight on Syfy.  The original was remarkable for its over-the-top storyline and even more for the Twitter-nado it inspired.  

posted 7:37:17am Jul. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Contest Winner -- "Earth to Echo's" GoPro Camera
Thanks to all who entered!  This contest had far more entries than any other I've ever run.  Congratulations to the lucky winner! WINNER OF THE GOPRO CAMERA: Susan D. Burkburnett, TX  

posted 11:54:55pm Jul. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Intuition -- A Short Film from Danielle Lurie
I love this short film from Danielle Lurie about a young woman who needs to learn to listen to her heart, with a wonderful performance by Montse Muñoz. [vimeo]https://vimeo.com/101953117[/vimeo]

posted 10:09:01am Jul. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Joseph Nasser of "Amber Alert: Terror on the Highway"
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posted 8:00:33am Jul. 28, 2014 | read full post »

"Guardian of the Galaxy's" Awesome Mixtape
One of the many pleasures of "Guardians of the Galaxy," opening this week, is the soundtrack featuring some 70's classics from an "Awesome Mixtape" played by Peter "Star Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt).  Here are some of the highlights. "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede [youtube]http://www.youtub

posted 8:00:21am Jul. 27, 2014 | read full post »


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