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

 

Philomena
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
Release Date:
November 22, 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

White Noise

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

Remember in Poltergeist when the little blonde girl was talking to the television broadcasting only that snowy nothingness they used to show when there was nothing on the air back in the days before 24/7 programming? And then she turned to her mother and said in her sweet little-girl voice, “They’re here!” Well, there was more deliciously creepy terror in that one moment than in all of “White Noise,” a barkingly dumb would-be thriller about the dead communicating with the living through…appliances.

Michael Keaton plays Jonathan Rivers, blissfully married to such a completely beautiful and perfect and loving (and newly pregnant) woman (Chandra West) that you know she’ll be toast within fifteen minutes after we meet her. Sure enough, after a half-heard “I love you” as she drives away and an incomplete voicemail, she disappears. Her body is found sometime later and it appears that after a car crash, she was severely wounded and unable to save herself after falling into the river.

Jonathan notices that a man has been following him. The man says he has been receiving messages from Jonathan’s wife. At first, Jonathan does not believe him, but then, well it would be a pretty short movie if he was not convinced quickly so that the real story can get going — about how he starts to get messages from people who aren’t actually dead yet and how all of this meddling with powers he does not understand is deeply upsetting to, well, the powers he does not understand.

Okay, so the story is not the point. This is all about the thrill ride. The problem is that it’s just not that thrilling.

Every would-be surprise is telegraphed in advance with the most venerable and uninspired of movie cliches, everything that has been done to, um, death over and over and over and then successfully parodied and ridiculed to death in movies from Scream to Scary Movie.

The camera closes in tight on someone, so we know something is happening just outside the frame. The music builds and we know something bad is about to happen. Someone promises not to leave and then he does and…something bad happens. And of course the secret hideout is all drippy exposed beams and sputtering lights. Yawn.

This isn’t an especially bad movie. It just isn’t an especially good one. Keaton’s underwritten part doesn’t give him much to do beyond barking at the television and looking bereft, but West makes a lovely impression in her brief role as his late wife. She is supposed to be a writer whose latest book is called “The Eternal Wait.” As I checked my watch to see how much longer the movie was going to go on, I felt that could have been the title of the movie.

Parents should know that the movie is a thriller with an overall theme that may be disturbing to some family members. There are brief grisly images and references to violence and some scary (but well within PG-13-range) surprises. A character attempts suicide and others are killed, including one who is shot. There is brief strong language and brief drinking. The movie contains a reference to “an earthquake in India” that may be upsetting due to current events. And according to this movie, only white, middle class people communicate with each other after death.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other ghost stories like Ghost, The Sixth Sense, Poltergeist. Dragonfly and The Mothman Prophecies have similar themes but are not as effective. They might also want to learn more about EVP.

In Good Company

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

“Synergy!” says Carter Duryea (Topher Grace). That’s the answer to his two most pressing questions: (1) What idea can he pull out of a hat to help him meet the very ambitious financial goals set for him in his new job, despite the fact that he knows nothing about it? and (2) How can he convince anyone — including himself — that he knows what he is doing?

Carter is 26 years old and his life fits him like a suit he hasn’t grown into yet. He has a sleekly elegant wife (Selma Blair), a sleekly elegant apartment with a lot of shiny new wedding presents, and, in honor of his new job, a sleekly elegant new sportcar, which he bashes as he drives it off the lot.

He works for a bunch of financial hotshots who play corporations like chess pieces. The latest acquisition is a publisher, and Carter is put in charge of the advertising sales division of a sports magazine (think Sports Illustrated). He’s taking over from Dan (Dennis Quaid), an old school type who has always put decency, loyalty, and integrity first. Well, that policy is quickly out the door, and so are some of Dan’s salesmen.

Dan would like to leave with them, but he can’t. He needs the job badly. His daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson) is switching to NYU from the less expensive state school. He has another daughter who will be going to college in a few years. And his wife Ann (Marg Helgenberger) is pregnant. His prospects for getting another job that would pay for all of that are poor at his age and in this market.

When they meet, as Carter is moving into what had been Dan’s office, the first thing they do is ask each other’s age. Carter points out that it is weird that Dan is older than his father, showing his panic, his cluelessness, and also his artlessness, candor, and openness. Carter is a smart kid, smart enough to figure out that Dan is more of what he wants to be than the slash-and-burn corporate titan he has been running after as though he was a rock star.

Carter thinks of himself as someone who can sell anything, but he can’t sell his wife on staying with him and he knows nothing about ad sales. Other than some B-school theories and the passion to do well, he does not have much to contribute.

Dan’s essential decency, combined with his sense of what is necessary for survival, leads him to reach out to Carter. And when Carter makes a shameless ploy to be invited over for dinner, Dan brings him home. Carter sees all that Dan has and for once he stops selling. He tells Alex that for some reason, she is the only one he feels he has to tell the truth to. And they begin a romance.

The script feels patched together and some of those patched-together pieces feel very stale — the corporate raider element of the plot is about 15 years out of date. There is nothing wrong with making the movie about the journeys taken by both Dan and Carter, but it doesn’t quite manage to do that; instead it seems to equivocate, itself not clear on who the movie is about. The seams show worst with the ending, which is particularly artificial. But there is a lot of compensation in exceptionally warm and fully-realized performances by all of the principals. Quaid makes Dan feel complete and lived-in, and, with Helgenberger, he makes his marriage feel real and lived-in as well. Grace is one of today’s most promising young actors, and he makes what could easily have been a shallow character into something special, showing us Carter’s strength, intelligence, and ability as well as his longing and insecurity. The relationships they put on the screen are far greater than what was on the page — now that’s synergy. These are people who are very good company indeed.

Parents should know that the film has some explicit sexual references and situations for a PG-13, though there is no nudity. Characters use strong language, drink, and smoke. Some viewers may be disturbed by the economic upheavals and lay-offs.

Families who see this movie should talk about some of their own experiences in the workplace with difficult supervisors or pressure to meet agressive financial goals. Some family members may want to learn a little bit more about the pressures that create opportunities for those, like Teddy K, to exploit employees and investors for their own benefit.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy About a Boy, by the same director, and The Rookie, with another of the many fine performances by Quaid.

Son of the Mask

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

The Mask had a clever and inventive director, striking design, wildly imaginative special effects, and Jim Carrey, who is something of a wildly imaginative special effect all by himself. ,P>

“Son of the Mask” is both watered down and jazzed up, like a kid who’s had way too much sugary bug juice. This semi-sequel (all new characters except for a cameo from Ben Stein) is directed at a younger audience, and despite some questionable material, it is more mild than wild. There’s not much by way of imagination and few of the effects qualify as “special.”

Jamie Kennedy (Malibu’s Most Wanted) may be many notches down the star pole from Jim Carrey, but he is a likeable and funny guy. For some reason, though, this film fails to make the best use of the talents he does have, making him the straight man. To a baby and a dog.

In the first film, a shy bank employee finds a Norse mask with magical powers. When he puts it on, it unleashes his hidden desires and removes all inhibitions, turning him into an infinitely malleable cartoon character transformed by every impulse. Whether he was performing in a nightclub or standing up to a gangster, he was always fearless.

At the end of the movie, the mask is once again thrown away.

In this sequel, Kennedy plays Tim Avery, awould-be animator who lives with his wife Tonya (Traylor Howard) in a cartoony-looking little house. She wants a baby, but he does not feel ready. One night, on his way to the office Halloween party, he finds the mask. Everyone at the party is impressed with his “costume” and the outrageous behavior just seems natural at an animator’s office party -– everyone assumes he is just trying out a new cartoon character. When he gets home, his wife is in bed. Perhaps it is because his inhibitions have been removed by the mask, or perhaps he is just feeling proud of himself for being asked to develop a character for a possible cartoon series. But he is willing to have a baby.

Nine months later, the baby is born. And because his father was wearing the mask when he was conceived, he has some of the mask’s powers. This comes to the attention of Loki (Alan Cummings), the Norse god of mischief and the original owner of the mask. His father, one-eyed Odin, king of the gods, orders him to get it back, so Loki begins checking out every baby born on Tim’s baby’s birthday.

Tim is looking for the mask, too, but it has been hidden by his dog, who is experiencing something like sibling rivalry. Tim has no idea of his baby’s unusual abilities; he just wants the mask back so that he can finish creating that cartoon character his boss is asking about.

As Loki gets closer and closer, Tonya leaves town on a business trip, with Tim on full-time daddy duty, just as the baby’s transformational powers really start to take over and Loki finds what he was looking for. The movie then gets turned over to the special effects department for some cartoon-ish fun.

Kids will enjoy the silly humor, but parents may question the appropriateness of some of the material in the movie, especially for younger children, who may be disturbed by the idea that some children may not be wanted. While there is nothing explicit in the film, some families will find it inappropriate that the baby’s powers were the result of his father’s wearing the mask when he was conceived.

The movie is dumb and loud, which some children will confuse with entertaining but others will just find overwhelming. It is a shame not to make better use of Kennedy’s talents; he is mostly limited to reaction shots. It’s a bigger shame to waste this technology and the goodwill left over from the first film on a dull story with forgettable characters.

Parents should know that this movie has strong language for a PG (“Hell, no” “The crappiest piece of crap in crap-town”). There is a lot of comic violence, including hits to the crotch that are supposed to be funny. There is some mild sexual material, including discussion of wanting (or not wanting) to have a baby, and the central plot point is based on Tonya getting pregnant while Tim is wearing the mask. Tonya jokes that she is going to make a baby with the neighbor. There is some vulgar humor, including potty jokes.

Families who see this movie should talk about how parents decide when they are ready to have a baby. Why was it so important to Tim that he be someone his child would be proud of? Why did Tim say that the baby helped him grow up? What is “positive reinforcement” and why is it important? Why are there stories about a god of mischief? What other characters in stories and myths like to cause trouble?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Spy Kids, also featuring Cummings, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its sequel Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, which, like this film, also features a game of Twister. Tim’s last name is a tribute to animator great Tex Avery, and families will enjoy some of his classic cartoons as well. And all families should learn about some of the great Norse myths, featuring Loki, Odin, and Thor.

Meet the Fockers

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

I am not a huge fan of comedies of excruciation, that genre of movies that draw much of their humor from some poor idiot’s painful and humiliating loss of control. But I can appreciate the way that the best of the category, like this film’s predecessor, Meet the Parents, play into our deepest fears and let us release tension by making us laugh at the way that poor shnook has to cope when what we hope never happens to us happens to him.

Meet the Parents addressed that most terrifying of moments — meeting the loved one’s family for the first time — and ramped it way up. Gay “Greg” Focker (Ben Stiller) and his fiancee, Pam (Teri Polo) visited her parents, the elegantly patrician Dina (Blythe Danner) and Jack (Robert DeNiro), a former CIA operative with a lot of issues involving privacy and trust. The comedy came from one horribly frustrating and embarrassing situation after another as Greg struggles to make a good impression despite his dirty-sounding name, his unmanly-sounding profession (nurse), and especially as he keeps making things worse by lying, knocking things over, and looking idiotic in a series of badly fitting borrowed clothes. And, as they say, hilarity (or some proximation thereof) ensues.

This time, everyone goes to meet Greg’s parents, the kind of people for whom the term “boundary issues” was created. Just as Greg has finally made it into Jack’s “circle of trust,” Jack and Dina take their super-fitted RV and their super-programmed grandchild “Jack-Jack” and drive Greg and Pam to Florida to meet the Fockers.

So, there’s a reprise of the jokes from the first movie, including the dirty-sounding name jokes, the purportedly unmanly-sounding job — Greg’s father Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) gave up the law to be a full-time dad — and the toilet-flushing cat. There are also reprises of the jokes in this movie. There is a slight but viable joke in the very beginning of the movie, when Greg has to leave a voicemail for his parents and ends up waiting through their incompetent answering machine recording, not realizing that they had not turned it off so including some very personal material. But within the next fifteen minutes, the joke is repeated two more times. That still leaves time for plenty of attention to Greg’s mother Roz (Barbra Streisand), a sex therapist.

But most of all, this is about how Greg, instead of being embarrassed about his fears of his own inadequacy, this time is embarrassed about the external representation of those fears — his parents. He makes the mistake of trying to hide their professions, and has to pay in classic farce terms, by having the news come out in the most humiliating way possible.

The other external representation of Greg’s struggle for control of himself and the way he is seen by others relates to his family’s former housekeeper, Isabel (Alanna Ubach). It turns out that fifteen years earlier, Ben’s first sexual encounter was with Isabel, a detail he omitted in telling Pam about his past. When Jack meets Isabel’s 15-year-old son, a mechanical prodigy with supiciously familiar-looking eyebrows, he starts collecting DNA samples. Meanwhile, Pam has a secret of her own.

Everyone tries hard. They all but climb down out of the screen. Dustin Hoffman kisses everyone, sits on the toilet while Robert DeNiro is in the shower, moonwalks, and spreads whipped cream over Barbra Streisand’s breasts. Robert DeNiro wears a prosthetic breast called a “man-ary gland.” It does not have whipped cream, but it does have breast milk pumped through it so his grandchild will feel that his mother is nursing him. Blythe Danner asks Barbra Streisand for sex tips. And Ben Stiller has to stand before a trophy wall that displays his 9th place ribbons, his bar mitzvah tallit, and his high school jock strap. It sounded like the audience at the screening I attended laughed at these items more because they wanted to find it funny than because they actually did.

Parents should know that there is a lot of R-level humor in this movie. Greg’s mother is a sex therapist specializing in the elderly, and the film includes a lot of explicit conversation about sexual matters, almost entirely played as humorous, including references to masturbation, orgasm, premarital pregnancy, and sex games. There is some very brief nudity. Jack wears a prothetic breast so he can “nurse” his grandchild. There is a lot of purportedly humorous stereotyping of both Jews (loud, effusive, insensitive, and inclined to violate everyone’s privacy), Hispanics (warm and sexual), and WASPs (cold and repressed and inclined to too much privacy). Characters use strong language (a baby’s repeated use of a common insult is supposed to be funny). There is frequent social drinking and comic violence, including forced injection with sodium pentathol and use of a stun gun.

Families who see this movie should talk about what code words they use the way the Byrnes use “muskrat.” They may want to tell some of the stories about meeting their own future in-laws. And they may want to talk about how different families have different ideas about privacy.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original Meet the Parents and other comedies in this genre like the original The In-Laws and The Freshman.

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