Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Guardians of the Galaxy
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Release Date:
August 1, 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

Get on Up
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use, some strong language, and violent situations
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

 

Finding Vivian Maier
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 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

Happy Feet

posted by jmiller
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some mild peril and rude humor.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

It’s official. The cutest thing on the planet is penguins singing “Boogie Wonderland.” Especially if one of them is tap-dancing. This movie is a straight shot of sunshine. I defy anyone to watch it without smiling. Just as important, I defy anyone to watch it without thinking. This is a PG computer-animated film that raises issues from fundamentalism to the environment to bigotry in a manner that is accessible without being heavy-handed, condescending, or overly simplistic.


It begins like a sequel to March of the Penguins. As just about everyone on the planet knows now, the daddy penguins balance the eggs on their feet and huddle together for warmth while the mommies go on a long march to the water to get food to bring back for the new baby chicks. In real life, penguins recognize each other through the unique song each one sings. In this movie, those songs include memorable numbers from the Beach Boys, Freddy Mercury, Prince, and, of course, Elvis.


Norma Jean (voice of Nicole Kidman) sings Prince’s “Kiss.” Memphis (voice of Hugh Jackman) sings Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel.” Their eyes meet, their songs entwine, and soon Memphis is shielding the egg from the icy wind. But it rolls away from him and bumps.


Perhaps that is why, when Mumble is born, he is different right from the beginning. He has blue eyes, for one thing. He can’t sing. And he never loses his baby fluff. But he can dance. Boy, can he dance (voice of Elijah Wood, dancing by tap superstar Savion Glover).

Mumbles’ mother is sympathetic and his friend Gloria (voice of Brittany Murphy) is supportive, but his father wants him to conform. The other penguins cast him adrift. He meets up with another breed, Adelies, penguins who are warm and friendly and a little rambunctious. They have a seer named Lovelace (voice of Robin Williams) who wears a necklace made from a plastic six-pack ring.


Mumble returns, but he is rejected by the elders, who blame his non-conformity for the disappearance of the fish they need for food. Mumble finds Lovelace being strangled by the six-pack ring. He believes if he can get Lovelace to the place the ring came from, he can find out what happened to the fish and maybe appeal to the better nature of the “aliens” he thinks must be responsible, maybe he can help to get the fish back and save his community.


The animation is brilliant, making full use of the technology for wild swirls down icecaps and through water. The textures are almost tactile and the scope and perspective are stunning, creating a fully-realized environment that feels perfectly authentic from every angle. Penguins move like loaves of bread with feet, but the animators make them thrillingly distinctive and expressive, and the musical numbers are pure pleasure. In a wise move that adds to its sense of vitality, the animators seamlessly integrate real-life footage for the brief appearances of humans in the film.


But what makes the movie memorable is its story, which has real substance beyond the simple formula of “hero is different/hero is outcast/hero goes on journey/hero saves the day.” It manages to touch on the impact of humans on the environment, the inclination of creatures of all kinds to fear and distrust anything new or different — and to blame it for anything that goes wrong, the importance of having a dream to aspire to and a challenge to struggle against, and the role that songs of all kinds play in our lives and connections. Like a great tune, this movie will resonate within those of all ages as they find their own heartsongs.

Parents should know that there are some moments that may be too intense for younger children, including a predator with a lot of teeth. There are some scary surprises and some moments of peril, including some chases and a hit in the crotch. There is brief potty humor with a little schoolyard language. The issue of environmental degredation and the impact of development on the natural world is raised in a gentle (if simplistic) and positive way.


Families who see this movie should talk about times they felt different or reached out to someone who was different. Families should talk about the people they look up to most to think about how each of them at some time or other felt like an outcast for being different. They should talk about what, if they were penguins, their song would be and why. What, for humans, is the equivalent? What does it mean to appeal to someone’s better nature? They should talk about the importance of asking questions and insisting on answers, and about the risk of blaming innocent people when things go wrong. Why were the penguins in the zoo so dazed when they had everything they needed?

Families should also learn about emperor penguins and about efforts to protect the environment of Antarctica.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy March of the Penguins and some of the classic stories about characters whose differences turned out to be good ones: Ferdinand the Bull to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and The Ugly Duckling. Every family should see Finding Nemo, which has an understated but very sensitive treatment of the “lucky fin” that makes Nemo different. Believe it or not, Cary Grant once starred in a movie about a boy who had a dancing caterpillar named Curly, Once Upon a Time. And the original spectacular combination of pop music, animation, and witty and exciting story is the glorious Yellow Submarine.

Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for pervasive language, sexual content and drug use.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

If you’re going to make an unapologetic slob/druggy/rock and roll comedy it has to be snark-free, without a hint of irony. Self-deprecation is welcome, but winking at the audience spoils the effect. And this movie winks at its winking, a sort of infinite regression of snark. That’s how the undeniably funny Kyle Gass and Jack Black have produced an over-stretched skit rather than a movie, a script as saggy as the bare tushes they show off as they explain how they got the name of their group. It’s for hard-core (and half-baked) fans only. If you’re not familiar with their previous work, you’ll come away from this either mystified or bored.


Gass and Black, of course, are Tenacious D, the mock rockers. This film purports to be the story of how they got started. We see young JB rocking his heart in a family that doesn’t understand. So he leaves home in search of Hollywood, on the advice of Ronnie James Dio. But it takes him many years to get there because there are a lot of Hollywoods. Once he arrives, he meets KG, a street performer with a lot of attitude, who agrees to teach him how to be a rocker. Eventually, they form a group (their name taken from matching birthmarks on their tushes) and they learn (from an unfunny Ben Stiller in a cameo as a music store salesman) that there is a guitar pick made from the tooth of the devil with great powers. If they can steal it from the Museum of Rock and Roll despite the best efforts of the security guards and a mysterious guy who wants it, too (an unfunny Tim Robbins), nothing can stop them!


So, they go after the Pick of Destiny (unfunny, dragged-out heist sequence), and then, once they get it, they have to battle the devil for it, because he wants his tooth back (the devil, played by rocker David Grohl, does have some funny moments).


Mike White understood how to make Black’s passion for rock music endearing in School of Rock, where the purity of his character’s love for the music and the “stick it to the man” message didn’t just make up for his selfishness; it put it into perspective. Here, though, it seems it’s the culture and the attitude he loves. And the drugs.


It has too little humor and too much of what it does have is inside, “we get it but the rest of the world doesn’t” jokes to sustain a movie. Remember that Stonehenge routine in This Is Spinal Tap? This is like that, only not funny, intentionally or otherwise.

Parents should know that this film has extremely strong and crude language, some sexual humor and non-sexual nudity, and drinking, smoking, and drug use. There is some comic peril.


Families who see this movie should talk about how rock and roll keeps re-inventing itself every time it begins to feel mainstream.


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy The Blues Brothers and School of Rock. They might also like to see Tenacious D – The Complete Master Works.

Opal Dream

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for mild thematic elements, language and some violence.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote in The Little Prince, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” That is the theme of this gentle story about a little girl whose two invisible friends are more real to her than the desolate landscape and desperate hopes of her opal-mining community in Australia.


Kellyanne Williamson (Sapphire Boyce) lives with her brother and her parents in the South Australian opal mining community of Coober Pedy. Her family’s views of her two imaginary friends ranges from sympathetic (her mother) to impatience (her brother) and increasing concern (her father), but mostly they play along. But when the friends are lost and Kellyanne is devastated, her father and brother — and ultimately the whole community — learn how real imaginary friends can be.


The story is presented in a low-key, naturalistic manner that has us feel we are evesdropping on a real family. The story is a bit contrived, but the sweetness is genuine. In a world of slam-bang, loud and clanging, overdone and over-the-top entertainment for children and families, it is a pleasure to watch a quiet story about imagination and the power of belief.


Parents should know that this movie has some tense scenes, some peril, and a sick child. The death and burial of the imaginary friends may be upsetting for younger or more sensitive children.


Families who see this film should talk about their own imaginary friends. If they never had them, what kind would they like to have? What made some people change their minds about Kellyanne’s friends?


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Hand in Hand, a lovely film about a Jewish boy and a Catholic girl who find a way to be friends in a world that emphasizes their differences. As in Opal Dreams, the depiction of an imaginary friend is delicately handled.

Harsh Times

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for strong violence, language and drug use.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

If David Ayer the director paid David Ayer the screenwriter for this script, he should ask himself for some of his money back. The screenplay is awfully close to Ayer’s own Training Day, the film that won Denzel Washington his Oscar. Both movies take place mostly in a car, with one character a sociopath and the other too easily led. In both, the two guys drive around, abusing every possible substance, having encounters with old friends and enemies (including women in both categories), get into trouble, create trouble, and create more trouble. In both, characters demonstrate their concept of manliness through violence, substance abuse, mistreatment of women, loyalty to male friends, subversion of any form of rules, nihilism, and destruction. Furthermore, if you took out every swear word and all of the “homeys” and “dawgs,” the rest of the dialogue would fit on a page or two.


Christian Bale plays Jim, a former Ranger in Afganistan waiting to get a job with the LAPD so he can marry his Mexican girlfriend and bring her to the US. Freddy Rodriguez is his best friend, Mike, who is supposed to be looking for a job but would rather drive around with Jim and get high. He is a little in awe of Jim for his experiences (he asks what it’s like to kill someone and Jim says, “Point and shoot. Pop, pop — move on! You do not stop and think!”


Neither one of them stops to think. They have only four modes: elation (when they think they got away with something), fury (when they don’t), stupor (when they’re high), and waiting to be elated, furious, or high.


Christian Bale clearly relishes the showboaty role of Jim, intended to be a tragic figure and an indictment of our culture and our geopolitical arrogance — his behavior seems to be attributable to post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Afganistan. And the movie isn’t called “Harsh People.”

Jim is torn apart by his incompatible passions for law and chaos. He wants to work in law enforcement, almost as though he believes that being surrounded by rules and structure will keep his uncontrollable nature in check. But he wants the law to give him permission to be lawless. A friend asks if he will toe the line if he gets the job and he says he will but he will also operate something for himself on the side.

It is this very conflict that gets him rejected by the LAPD and makes him a prize catch for the Department of Homeland Security. The special projects section takes a look at the photos of victims from one of his raids and cynically recognizes him as a kindred spirit, just right for their “trigger-time” program in Colombia. That job offer crystalizes his conflict. He wants to go back to the days of pure sensation and power. But it means he will not be able to marry Marta, the woman he loves, in the only place where he is happy. As that choice is presented to him more forcefully, he spins out of control.


Rodgriguez is fine as a weak man who mistakes what Jim has for strength, and Terry Crews and Chaka Forman make strong impressions as, well, homeys. Ayers has a feel for tough talk, though it gets over-”homey’d” quickly. But the movie falters because it tries for meaning it just doesn’t deliver. Ultimately, it is as mesermized by the flash and adrenalin as its hero.
Parents should know that the movie has deeply disturbing images of intense, graphic, explicit, mindless violence. Characters continually use the strongest and crudest possible language. There are crude sexual references and non-explicit situations. Characters abuse alcohol and drugs, deal drugs, and smoke. Characters are nihilistic and macho.


Families who see this movie should talk about how Jim’s experiences in Afganistan affected him. Why did Mike put up with him for as long as he did? Do you agree with Mike’s choice at the end?


Families who enjoy this film will also appreciate Training Day and Journey to the End of the Night.

Previous Posts

Guardians of the Galaxy
The summer movie you've been waiting for has arrived, a joyous space romp that all but explodes off the screen with lots of action and even more charm. Our recent superheros have been complex, often anguished, even downright tortured. It has been a while since we've had a charming rogue with a ba

posted 5:59:33pm Jul. 31, 2014 | read full post »

Get on Up
There are a lot of challenges in taking on the life story of James Brown, known variously as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, the Godfather of Soul, Mr. Dynamite and others with vari

posted 5:59:21pm Jul. 31, 2014 | read full post »

Magic in the Moonlight
Woody Allen's 44th film is an amuse bouche without a meal, a dollop of whipped cream without the dessert underneath.  In last year's film, "Blue Jasmine," the strength of the performances (especially Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett) and the resonance of its Bernie Madoff-ish crossed with "Streetcar Nam

posted 5:58:31pm Jul. 31, 2014 | read full post »

Exclusive Clip: Behind the Scenes on "Calvary"
Brendan Gleeson gives a magnificent performance as a warm-hearted priest in a sad and damaged world in "Calvary," opening next week across the country.  Here's an exclusive peek behind the scenes, featuring Gleeson and Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies Sister Rose Pacatte. [iframe

posted 3:45:01pm Jul. 31, 2014 | read full post »

Tonight: The Last of Our Pre-Code Series, Jean Harlow in "Red Headed Woman"
Tonight is the last of the Pre-Code films Margaret Talbot and I will be presenting at Washington D.C.'s Hill Center.  And it's a doozy, Jean Harlow in "Red Headed Woman."  We'd love to see you there. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATDif96J5Ms[/youtube] Margaret and I will be back a

posted 3:37:33pm Jul. 31, 2014 | read full post »


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