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Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

Far from the Madding Crowd
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and violence
Release Date:
May 1, 2015

 

Selma
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief strong language
Release Date:
December 25, 2014

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments
Release Date:
May 1, 2015

 

Spare Parts
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some language and violence
Release Date:
January 16, 2015

Welcome to Me
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, language and brief drug use
Release Date:
May 1, 2015

 

Fifty Shades of Grey
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language
Release Date:
February 13, 2015

New in Theaters

grade:
B+

Far from the Madding Crowd

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and violence
Release Date:
May 1, 2015
grade:
B+

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments
Release Date:
May 1, 2015
grade:
C

Welcome to Me

Lowest Recommended Age:
Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, language and brief drug use
Release Date:
May 1, 2015

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New to DVD

pick of the week
grade:
A

Selma

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief strong language
Release Date:
December 25, 2014
grade:
B

Spare Parts

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some language and violence
Release Date:
January 16, 2015
grade:
B-

Fifty Shades of Grey

Lowest Recommended Age:
Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language
Release Date:
February 13, 2015

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Contest: Bolt goodies

posted by Nell Minow

Have a “Bolt” fan in your house? The first person to send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with “Bolt” in the subject line will get some “Bolt” goodies — a wall calendar and playing cards. I will also throw in another dog-movie-related treat. Good luck!

Black Reel Awards

posted by Nell Minow

One of the awards announcements I most look forward to each year is the selections of the Black Reel Awards, given out by the Foundation for the Advancement of African-Americans in Film, a nonprofit organization with a mission to target, identify and prepare candidates who will represent the next generation of filmmakers and potential film executives that will be able to provide a different sensibility to the stories currently told onscreen. I am so pleased to see this acknowledgment of some of the best film-makers and performers in movies today and honored to have been one of the judges.
2008 Black Reel Awards Winners
Best Film – Cadillac Records/TriStar Pictures
Best Actor – Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Actress – Queen Latifah (The Secret Life of Bees)
Best Supporting Actor – Jeffrey Wright (Cadillac Records)
Best Supporting Actress – Viola Davis (Doubt)
Best Director – Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Secret Life of Bees)
Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted – Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Secret Life of Bees)
Best Breakthrough Performance – Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Ensemble – Cadillac Records/TriStar Pictures
Best Soundtrack – Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight)

Mamma Mia!

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some sex-related comments.
Movie Release Date:July 18, 2008
DVD Release Date:December 16, 2008
B+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some sex-related comments.
Movie Release Date: July 18, 2008
DVD Release Date: December 16, 2008
mamma mia.jpg

Go ahead, admit it. We won’t judge you. You, in the car, with the Ramones t-shirt, singing along to “Fernando” when it comes on the radio. And you, in the shower, singing “Dancing Queen” into the shampoo bottle. You, over there, pretending you don’t have the Greatest Hits CD on your shelf. Say it loud. You’re a fan. You can’t resist ABBA. Like the Borg, resistance is futile. Those songs are not just stuck in your head; they are a part of your DNA. Yes, ABBA’s platform-shod, glitter and spandex-wearing, unforgettable (even when you want to) music may be ear candy but it is high quality ear candy and I dare you not to sing along and smile about it.

ABBA (the name comes from the first letters in the first names of its four members) was one of the top pop groups in the world from 1972-1982 with sales of almost 400 million records (as we used to call them back then). In April of 1999 the musical “Mamma Mia!” opened in London and like the songs that inspired it, it quickly became an international phenomenon. It had just enough of a story to link the songs together as something more than a revue or what today is called a “jukebox musical.” And now, more than a quarter century since their last hit song, the movie version of the musical has been released or rather unleashed, powerful enough to make the most hard-hearted indie rock absolutist clap along.

ABBA songs are like helium balloons — lighter than air but irresistible fun. This musical featuring the songs of the uber-pop Swedish group who at one point exceeded Volvo as the greatest revenue-producing enterprise in the country is as bubbly as a glass of champagne and almost as intoxicating.

Donna (Meryl Streep, enjoying herself enormously) is a one-time girl-group singer who now runs a ramshackle resort in Greece. Her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried of HBO’s “Big Love”) is about to get married. And without telling her mother she has invited three men she has never met who could be her father: businessman Sam (Pierce Brosnan), author/sailor Bill (Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd), and decidedly un-spontaneous banker Harry (Colin Firth). They arrive just as the other alumnae from Donna’s group show up, multi-married and very well-preserved Tanya (Christine Baranski) and best-selling cookbook author Rosie (Julie Walters). Various slamming-door near-misses, some combustible confrontations, and many musical numbers later, everyone is ready for the platform-shoes and spangled bell-bottoms encore.

The light-weight story line is just enough to provide momentum between the songs but it gives them some surprising heft as well. At times it seems a little stunt-ish and there were some hoots from the audience for the opening notes of songs that we thought we knew too well. But we end up hearing them differently separated from the crystalline harmonies of Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad and the lyrics fit surprisingly well into the storyline. But what adds real resonance is the way they are performed. Director Phyllida Lloyd cast actors in the roles. Their singing may not be perfect but they deliver the songs with gusto and sincerity. A couple of times there were snorts from the audience at recognizing the opening bars of a song they’d heard a hundred times, thinking it had been cheesily shoehorned into the plot. But within the first eight bars it seemed as though the song had been written for just that moment, especially Streep’s “Winner Takes it All.”

But the highlight of the movie is the dance numbers which make great use of the geographic and narrative settings. Broadway veteran Baranski does a fabulous job with “Does Your Mother Know” and Walters is charming with “Take a Chance on Me.” A literal Greek chorus joins in, at one point with swimming flippers. Take a chance on this one; in no time you’ll be a dancing queen.

Interview: John Patrick Shanley

posted by Nell Minow

I spoke to writer-director John Patrick Shanley, who has returned to film to direct his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Doubt.” Best known to film-goers as the Oscar-winning writer of “Moonstruck,” he has spent the past few years working in theater. “Doubt” is the story of a nun who accuses a priest of molesting a child and the movie, like the play, does not reveal which of them is telling the truth.

The film is set in 1964 and one of the striking differences is the very extreme and formal attire worn by the nuns in the movie, with big black bonnets. Where does that come from?
They were in an order founded by Mother Seton. She was a married woman with five kids who took her husband to Italy. When he died there she took the mourning costume of an aristocratic woman, including the black bonnet and black habit. Our costume designer, Ann Roth went back to the Sisters of Charity to get the details right, even though they no longer wear it. It is quite elaborate and constricting and has no zippers. And it is an incredibly beautiful frame for the face, almost like a Dutch master, with a deep feeling of period.
You have written for both theater and movies. How do you think differently about story-telling as you change mediums?
Theater is highly stylized and pared down to bare essentials for financial and aesthetic reasons. Look at older plays like “Of Mice and Men,” “The Miracle Worker” — older plays have like twenty people but “Doubt” has four. Adapting it was daunting, but also liberating. I thought, “Oh, now I can show the kids in the classroom, the nuns in the convent, the way they live, the neighborhood that feeds the congregation.” It was organic and natural to extend the perimeter.
What is it like to direct acting powerhouses like your cast in this film, especially when you had such strong performances by very different performers on stage?
Meryl Streep is feisty, very creative, very playful, like a very feisty cat. She is very mentally rigorous and she lives in a wide imagination. Working with her and Philip Seymour Hoffman together was great. This is the third thing they’ve done together. They have a real rapport and work in a similar way. She is always trying to get the better of Phil and he’s amused and protective. Then there is Amy Adams. Her character’s kind of a ping pong ball batted between them and Phil and Meryl tugged over her.
What was the advantage of setting the story in the past?
Two years after the story was set the nuns were no longer wearing those habits, kids were not acting that way, the Bronx was in flames. The change that was coming was extraordinary and not good. The person trying to keep the future from coming is the short-sighted one in our tradition and the other is progressive. But that is not always true. If you’re a tailor in 1931, trying to keep the future at bay is not a bad thing. In the Bronx of 1964 it would not have been a bad thing.
Why have the nun’s character reveal that she had been married?
The founder of the order was married and had five children. We all make assumptions about what nuns are like, but as the story goes on your assumptions are called into question and you have to say “There’s more to this person than my mental shorthand allows for.” That’s my intention, as the story goes on, to make you take your assumptions and look at them, to say “My assumptions are not going to carry me through this movie.”
Do you think parochial school can be good for kids?
I don’t see anything wrong with parochial school. I went to Cardinal Spellman. They threw me out. Later they were bragging that I’d gone there, so I started putting in my bio that they threw me out. I went up there to visit and I was very impressed. The student body is 90% black, there is so much spirit, it is so terrific, the educators are so committed – I started to send them a check. Talk about full circle! I couldn’t pass any of my subjects. It was just not the right place for me. I have two sons, one doesn’t respond to structure at all and the other one does.
The title of the movie refers not just to the questions of doubt and certainty and questioning assumptions of the characters but of the audience as well. Do people ever come up to you and say, “Come on, you can tell me, did he do it?”
That comes up a lot, that’s understandable. People are preconditioned. If the question is whether the guy is going to get the girl, at the end of the movie you answer the question. But that is not most people’s experience of life, unsettled questions. Giving an answer is satisfying but simplistic, just a punch line. I want more than anything else for people to start talking to each other again, a real discourse. Any small part that this movie can do to make that happen is a good thing. People are not affected by things other people say any more. People are exhausted by that. There is a hunger for a real exchange; we have to get back together as a community and that means communicating with each other.
We’re living in a time that is so balkanized. The identity of the West is so in transformation from the influx of all these kinds of people from all nationalities and religions side by side by side, the oddest ship of fools imaginable. Defining commonality is a long process. We are interconnected and in each other’s face and up each others coats, cross-pollinating in a way the world has never seen. We are establishing commonalities, banding together in cafés, reconvening at the café level, cooking like a mad soup, reaching out through the internet. Maybe it is all Gnostic, just between the individual and the divine. People have a desperate hunger for community and communal worship.

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