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

Flicka

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some mild language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

“No one’s riding that loco thing!”


Well, of course as soon as we hear that line we know someone’s going to have to ride it. And in this very fine family film, the rider will be Katy (Alison Lohman), just home from boarding school to her family’s ranch “on the top of the world in the never-summer mountains of Wyoming.” That loco thing is a beautiful wild black mustang Katy has named Flicka (Swedish for pretty girl). To her father, Flicka is a bother, a danger, and a potential source of revenue. To Katy, Flicka is a part of her, something to love and care for, something to ride until she feels they are one animal, flying.


Katy’s father Rob (Tim McGraw) raises quarterhorses. Her mother Nell (Maria Bello) is the kind of woman who can read a fax while she’s whipping up wild gooseberry pancakes with creme fraiche, and who always has some warm, wise, and encouraging thing to say, like, “It’s easy to be a rancher with good luck” and “Anger is just fear on the way out.”


Rob does not like mustangs. He thinks of them as four-legged parasites who could damage the value of his herd if they begin to cross-breed. He orders Katy to stay away and not to try to ride Flicka. Rob is worried about whether he can keep the ranch going. He is so worried that he has not noticed what we figured out the moment we saw that Katy’s brother Howard (Ryan Kwanten) wears a baseball cap, not a cowboy hat — that he does not plan to stick around.


Rob sells Flicka to a rodeo. Katy’s only chance of getting her back is to win $8000 riding her in a wild horse race. And let’s not forget the mountain lion, sneaking off with Howard’s girlfriend to the swimming hole, some close calls for both human and equine characters, enough “that’s crazy!” “that’s insane!” comments to have a successful drinking game, and a lot of shots of blue skies and mountains.


Country star McGraw brings the same tenderness to the role that he does to his songs, and he and Bello have a nice, easy chemistry. The story has a nice, old-fashioned feel, sweetly sincere, and kids will respond to the way that Rob and Katy have to learn to appreciate how much they share and how much they have.

Parents should know that the movie has some scenes of peril and illness. Characters are injured and the issue of humane killing is raised. There are tense emotional confrontations. Married characters make a mild reference to sex and there is some teenage kissing.


Families who see this movie should talk about how parents respond when their children do — and do not — want the same careers they did. Kate’s parents both loved her — why did they feel differently about what was the right thing to do? Why was Flicka so important to Kate? What do you think about the comments Rob makes about kids in the mall?

Families who see this movie will also enjoy the original, My Friend Flicka, and some of the classic family movies about horses, especially The Black Stallion and National Velvet two of the best movies ever made on any subject and for any age group. They might like to read William Saroyan’s “The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse” and Marguerite Henry’s “Misty of Chincoteague.”

The Grudge 2

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing images/terror/violence, and some sensuality.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

There are two types of people who awake with an uneasy feeling on Friday the 13th: the superstitious, and those who just can’t stomach the release of another horror sequel, remake, or (in this case), sequel to a remake. But for fans of The Grudge, the day will be a lucky one.


“The Grudge 2,” director Takashi Shimizu’s sequel to his 2004 film The Grudge (itself a remake of his original Japanese version Ju-On) picks up where the last film left off, with The Grudge star Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in the hospital and her sister (Amber Tamblyn) newly in Tokyo. Karen’s sister, Aubrey, steps into her sister’s world of horror and quickly becomes the protagonist in a topsy-turvy continuation of the first film. The horrific child with huge eyes and the pale waif with a curtain of black hair continue to torment the innocent by appearing unpleasantly under desks and in reflections. In addition to disturbing Aubrey, the ghastly pair extend their reach to other unfortunate victims, affecting multiple families.


The film is notable for its ability to tie the families’ stories together and provide an intriguing and complex narrative to complement the gratuitously scary imagery. While not groundbreaking, fans of The Grudge will likely be satisfied with new developments in the story. The film is designed to scare, but while some imagery is truly nightmarish, it is not as morally unsettling or blatantly violent as, say, Kill Bill or other films of the hack-and-dismember nature (Shimizu’s brand of scariness seems more innocent). There are definitely, however, haunting images and unexpected moments designed to keep the audience from getting too comfortable.


Some viewers might find this sequel to be a little cheesier and more Americanized than its predecessor, with more depiction of high-school drama and less tendency to take itself seriously. Perhaps under the assumption that most viewers will expect what in the last film was unexpected, Shimizu seems to enjoy the freedom of simply entertaining without pressure to create something wholly unexpected. Seemingly unconcerned with disturbing audiences and more concerned with satisfying those haunted-house junkies who like a good scare, some viewers might find themselves laughing with the absurdity of how far they can jump out of their seats.


Parents should know that this film has haunting and unexpected flashes of very scary (although not usually violent) images. There are moments of disturbing violence, such as a woman pouring sizzling hot oil from a frying pan on a man’s head and then hitting him with the pan. There is also some school bullying that results in some scary moments, and there are images one character drowning and another falling onto the pavement from the top of a skyscraper.


In the film, the sisters’ relationship is depicted as strained. Families who see this film should talk about the factors that lead to the two sisters not being “on speaking terms,” and why Aubrey got angry with her sister. They might also discuss Aubrey’s regret that she didn’t reconcile with Karen, as well as Aubrey’s relationship with her mother. One girl is bullied at school with disheartening consequences; families should also discuss bullying and ways to handle mocking and peer pressure. Two children in one family are adjusting to their father’s girlfriend moving into the home — parents might discuss with their children why the young son acts quiet and moody, and how the older sister is supportive and caring for her younger brother.


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy The Grudge and might like to see its original Japanese version, Ju-On. Some other films of the same genre include The Ring and The Ring Two, directed by Gore Verbinski (who also directed the first two Pirates of the Caribbean films and is currently filming the third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End.

Man of the Year

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for language including some crude sexual references, drug related material, and brief violence.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

So, what if Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert decided to run for President? First of all, didn’t we already see that movie, when it was called Head of State and starred Chris Rock? (Okay, he didn’t play a comedian, but he is a comedian and behaved like one.) The idea of a campaign by an outsider who can tell the truth has had appeal in movies (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) and in real life (from the joke campaign of Pat Paulson to the not-joke campaigns of Ross Perot and Alan Keyes). But this latest version dilutes the sharpness of Robin Williams and the political comedians who inspired his character and then veers off into an uninteresting thriller sidetrack that is not the least bit thrilling.


Comedians and politicians have been locked together symbiotically since the first person assumed power over others, immediately followed by someone who made a joke about it. Politicians have to speak in a kind of code, even when they are being “outspoken” and promise straight talk. Comedians can tell the truth, even the outrageous truth, even the wildly exaggerated truth, because it’s all in fun.

Kings had jesters. Today’s politicos have late-night television and stand-up comics. They also have increasingly partisan and screechy news media and increasingly popular comedy news shows, which, surveys show, are the preferred news source for a large segment of the population, especially young people. Why not? You get two for the price of one, headlines and jokes. Real newsmakers appear for interviews on fake news shows and real news shows get increasingly more clownish. The line between news and faux news is dissolving.


All of this could have made a great movie. But this isn’t it. Williams looks puffy, toned down, and distracted, except in his interactions with Christopher Walken as his manager, with whom he has a wonderful chemistry. When they are together, we get a glimpse of what this movie could have been. But the movie veers off into an uninvolving and unoriginal distraction about a corrupt corporation and vote fraud.

Any movie about politics has a huge obstacle to overcome in having to pull its punches by making the humor generic and innoffensive. Because of the lead-time between filming and release (not to mention DVD), there is no chance for anything topical. Even so, many of the would-be wisecracks are overcooked and overworked. I think I recall a few of them from the Ford administration. Which makes sense because as irreverent and subversive as it wants to be, it is just bland.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong and crude language and sexual references. Characters drink and smoke; one continues to smoke even after nearly losing his life from tobacco-related disease. A character is injected with illegal drugs. Characters are in peril and one is badly injured.


Families who see this movie should talk about what made Tom an appealing candidate. Would you have voted for him? Why? What is the most important thing you look for in a candidate? What can the media do better in covering politics?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Head of State and classic movies about politics like State of the Union, The Candidate, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Great McGinty, The Seduction of Joe Tynan, and Primary Colors (the last two with mature material).

Stormbreaker

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for sequences of action violence and some peril.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

I never thought I’d miss Cody Banks. But the dull and lifeless Alex Rider brought back surprisingly fond thoughts of the better-than mediocre Agent Cody Banks and the terrific first two Spy Kids. Even the lousy third one was better than this dreary, too-violent, talent-wasting mess, based on the successful series of James Bond-for-kids books. It’s too violent for younger kids and too dull for older kids.


Alex Pettyfer plays Alex Rider, an English orphan who lives with his never-there uncle (brief appearance by a dashing Ewan McGregor) and a daffy but devoted American housekeeper/nanny (Alicia Silverstone) with a penchant for exotic cuisine. When his uncle is killed in the line of duty, Alex discovers that he was a spy. And all his uncle taught him about languages, martial arts, and extreme sports was his way of training him to be one as well. Sophie Okonedo and Bill Nighy are the spy chiefs who recruit Alex to pretend to be the winner of a computer competition, so he can find out what bad guy Boris, I mean Darius (Mickey Rourke) and his henchwoman Natasha, I mean Nadia (Missy Pyle) are up to.

There’s a lot of chasing around and some cool stunts, but it has a flat, draggy feel to it, some creepy moments of oddly insensitive interactions, and no sense of genuine enthusiasm or adventure.


Parents should know that this movie has a great deal of action-style violence. This means that there is no blood, but it is still disturbing; characters are killed and Alex uses guns.


Families who see this movie should talk about what qualities and education are required to be a spy.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the much better Agent Cody Banks and Spy Kids.

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