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Believe Me
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

Tracks
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
Release Date:
June 27, 2014

The Boxtrolls
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Neighbors
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

First Sunday

posted by Nell Minow
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for language, some sexual humor, and brief drug references.
Movie Release Date:January 11, 2008

first%20sunday.jpg Ice Cube was once a member of the fiercely provocative gangsta rap group N.W.A. (for N****** With Attitude). He is now a prolific Hollywood producer with franchise films from R-rated (the Friday series) to family-friendly (Are We There Yet?). He is going for the PG-13 market with “First Sunday,” and it is more product than movie, filled with signifiers instead of story. It has the slapstick of a The Three Stooges short without the comic timing, the characters of “Hot Ghetto Mess” without the irony, and the stereotypes of Amos ‘n’ Andy without the wit.
Cube and “30 Rock’s” Tracy Morgan play Durell and LeeJohn, a hapless duo sentenced to community service after a series of petty infractions. Durell’s ex is about to move away, taking his son with her, unless he can give her the money she needs to open a beauty salon. LeeJohn needs to reimburse some bad guys for failing to make a delivery as promised. When Durell and LeeJohn find out that the local church has raised more than $200,000, they decide to steal it, and end up taking the deacon, the preacher, his bootylicious daughter, and the choir and choirmaster (comedian Katt Williams) hostage. They take the audience hostage as well because this section of the film seems to go on forever.
In between the tired jokes about guzzling sacramental wine, “pimped”-up wheelchairs, a masseur who turns out to be male, a developmentally disabled man, and a very tight skirt, there are very strong moments and performances that deepen our disappointment about what this movie could have been. The always-exquisite Olivia Cole appears as one of the hostages, bringing class and dignity to her too-brief moments on screen. The talented Regina Hall makes the most of her brief appearance as Omunique, Durell’s baby mama. Her part could easily have been a caricature, nothing but bling (check out those earrings) and shrill demands for money. But she is always real and appealing, making it clear that she may be a little desperate but that she is protective of the love Durell and his son have for each other. Williams, as ever, seems to be in his own movie, completely independent of whatever the screenplay and director had in mind, and his offbeat energy and subversive humor brighten the otherwise-interminable hostage scenes in the church sanctuary.
There are also brief glimpses of some themes well worth exploring. The characters debate the idea of rebuilding and expanding the church in its current location or moving it to somewhere less “urban” and “congested,” acknowledged code words for abandoning the poorer, more crime-ridden black community. The portrayal of the community’s commitment to fatherhood is welcome, as the hostages, gangsters, and his angry ex all unquestioningly support the bond between Durell and his son. But this is not enough to surmount the offensiveness of material so cynical and pandering it would have infuriated Ice Cube in his N.W.A. days. Attitude is just what this movie is missing.

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Hollywood Escapes tour

posted by Nell Minow

Another highlight of my visit in Los Angeles was a personal tour from Harry Medved, co-author of the wonderful Hollywood Escapes: The Moviegoer’s Guide to Exploring Southern California’s Great Outdoors. Harry drove me around Santa Monica to show me the locations in movies from “The Sting” to “Gigli.”

Here is my photo of the carousel Paul Newman repairs in “The Sting.”IMG_1082.JPG

The Critics Choice Awards

posted by Nell Minow

IMG_1097-1.JPG Last night, my husband and I attended our first-ever red carpet event, the Critics Choice Awards, which were broadcast on VH1. It was a lot of fun, especially the end, when all of the critics went up on stage to present the best picture award (to “No Country for Old Men”), so I could look down from the stage and see everyone from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to Dixie Carter (who complimented my dress) and Hall Holbook, to Nikki Blonsky (best young actress), Queen Latifah, and Elijah Kelly from “Hairspray” to Don Cheadle (who graciously accepted the first-ever Joel Siegal award for achievement in both film and humanitarian efforts, presented to him by George Clooney). The talk of the evening was the cancellation of rival awards show the Golden Globes, due to the writers’ strike. The best line of the evening was when presenter Steve Zahn said he wished the writers would come back to work and the critics would go on strike. The funniest acceptance speech was from Casey Affleck, who wasn’t even accepting his own award, but one for his co-star, Amy Ryan. He pretended he was editing out her jokes about him as he read the speech he prepared.

Here I am at the after-party with Cuba Gooding, Jr.

And here is Beth Grant, who played up-tight characters in “Donnie Darko” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” dancing up a storm.

And the winners are…

Sunshine

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for violent content and language.
Movie Release Date:July 17, 2007
DVD Release Date:January 8, 2008

The sun is dying. A rocket ship from earth, meaningfully named “Icarus,” failed in its mission to reboot the sun with a supercharged nuclear payload designed to “create a star within a star.” Now the earth’s last chance is Icarus II. If they do not deliver the payload, the sun and all of its planets will die.


But this is not the usual “and then something goes wrong” or “and then an alien leaps out of a crew member’s chest” space opera. This is a meticulously constructed story that presents its characters with a series of exponentially more complex moral and practical dilemmas as gripping as the perilous situations that threaten the mission.


Director Danny Boyle transcends genre. His films have ranged from horror (28 Days Later) to thrillers (Shallow Grave) to charming family fantasy (Millions). But all of his films focus on moral choices. In 28 Days Later, he showed us a world infested with enraged zombies where it is the uninfected humans who are the scariest predators. In both Shallow Grave and Millions, characters discover the corrosive effect of stolen money. Boyle likes to make us think about what we would do to survive, how far we would go to get something we wanted.


The crew of Icarus II has just passed the point where communication with earth has been cut off. They are alone, a community unto themselves, and they must struggle with the remnants of the priorities and procedures they have been given as they are confronted with increasingly dire circumstances and increasingly conflicted priorities.


Should they change their course to try to save anyone who might still be there? No, that would interfere with their mission. But what if it might increase the chance of completing the mission? And what if things change and it is essential for completing the mission?


And what if there is not enough oxygen for everyone? How do we decide who gets to live? By assigning blame? By rank? By who is most important for completion of the mission? And, at the end of these judgments, who are we? How do they change us?


Boyle and his able cast create an atmosphere of conviction and sincerity that makes us invest in the answers to these questions, and the debates as gripping as the action scenes.

Parents should know that this is an intense and disturbing movie, with extreme peril, some jump-out-at-you shocks, and some graphic violence. Characters are injured and killed and there is a suicide. One of the strengths of the movie is the way it presents moral issues in a provocative manner, and that may be disturbing for some audience members. Another strength of the movie is its portrayal of diverse characters.


Families who see this movie should talk about how the characters evaluated their choices. What were their priorities? When they disagreed, what were the determining factors? Authors often use science fiction and the device of putting diverse characters in an environment that is cut off from everyone else to highlight particular controversies. How would this story have been different if it took place today, in the US?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Silent Running, Apollo 13, and 2001 – A Space Odyssey. Books like Tragic Choices and The Problems of Jurisprudence consider ways to evaluate options in a legal, economic, and public policy framework and of course many books consider moral, ethical, and spiritual approaches to these issues as well.

Previous Posts

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The Inside Story of "The Princess Bride" by Cary Elwes: As You Wish
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Believe Me
Will Bakke has followed his two thought-provoking documentaries on faith with a remarkably smart, funny, brave, and heartfelt first feature film that explores religion and values without ever falling

posted 11:06:16am Sep. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Gone Girl's Rosamund Pike
Rosamund Pike delivers a stunning breakthrough performance in this week's "Gone Girl." She's been a favorite of mine for a long time, for her elegant voice and precise acting choices. It's a good

posted 8:00:23am Sep. 30, 2014 | read full post »


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