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

 

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

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

 

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

Open Season

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some rude humor, mild action and brief language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

I love CGI. I love the textures, the way every single hair and feather, every leaf and raindrop, every shiny, fuzzy, smooth, rough, soft, hard surface is perfectly perfect. But I realized, as I watched this movie, that one of the things I’ve missed in CGI is the elasticity and bounce, the freedom of hand-drawn cartoons. One of the great pleasures of this movie is the way it takes the physical properties of the real world as a starting point for a wildly hilarious and fantastically silly extravaganza.


The themes are nothing new, but they are executed with so much wit and brio that they feel close to classic. We have the incompatible duo on a journey who learn to trust and respect each other. We have the search for the meaning of home, and we have the great metaphor for growing up — going out into the wild world and becoming independent.


Boog (voice of Martin Lawrence) is a bear who has it made. He lives in a garage and tender-hearted park ranger Beth (voice of Deborah Messing) makes sure he has food, “Wheel of Fortune,” his snuggly stuffed toy and soft bed. She even sings him Teddy Bears’ Picnic every night as a lullabye. It is perfect.


Then a one-antlered mule deer named Elliot (voice of Ashton Kutcher) shows up and ruins everything. He is captured before hunting season by an animal-hater named Shaw (voice of Gary Sinese), who plays air guitar on his rifle and has a cabin filled with trophies. Boog frees Elliot, and then Elliot gets Boog in trouble so that Beth takes him deep into the woods just as open season for hunters is about to begin. Boog needs to get home, and much as he hates the idea, he needs Elliot to help him get there.


And so the two embark on a journey that will bring them many adventures, introduce them to some (literally) wild characters, and give them a great deal of knowledge about themselves and the world. Fortunately, it is also very funny. Especially the porcupine. Lawrence’s low, grumbly voice is perfect for Boog and well balanced by Kutcher’s goofy energy. Billy Connelly brings Scots asperity to his Braveheart-style squirrel, and Patrick Warburton (“Seinfeld’s” Puddy) is all manly, well, stag-ly posturing as the head of the herd. The visual and verbal gags keep things moving briskly, and the characters keep our interest and earn our affection.


Parents should know that this movie has some crude schoolyard language and humor (references to “nuts,” barfing, “the f-word” — fight, tush jokes). The theme of animals being hunted may be disturbing to some audiences; other audience members may not like the portrayal of hunters as mean and not very smart.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Beth was proud of Boog. What makes a home?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Over the Hedge and the classic Yogi Bear cartoons.

All the King’s Men

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:N/A
Movie Release Date:1949

Huey Long was man of gigantic proportions, an epic, almost operatic figure who rose to power as the greatest of populists, succumbed to corruption, and was murdered at age 42. His story inspired a Pulitzer Prize-winning book and an Oscar-winning film. That has now been remade with Sean Penn as Willie Stark, the man who tells the poor people of Depression-era Louisiana that they should trust him because he’s a “hick” like them.

As in the original movie, what we most want from this story is what is left out. We want to see that moment when Stark stands on the brink between idealism and expediency. But we don’t. The movie, instead, focuses more on what Stark’s corruption does to those around him, and after decades of political scandals that story is just not as gripping as it once was.

Penn is convincing as a man of complicated fury whose sense of thwarted entitlement on behalf of his community metastasizes through his administration. Sadie (Patricia Clarkson) and Jack (Jude Law) are a political aide and a reporter who begin as cynical but are moved by Willie’s sincerity and his role as David against the political machine’s Goliath but are soon swept into his tumble into personal and professional corruption. Anthony Hopkins plays a judge who stands in Willie’s way and must be persuaded — or destroyed.

But the focus of the story is Adam Stanton (Mark Ruffalo), an idealistic doctor and Jack’s closest friend, and his sister Anne (Kate Winslet), whose faded, crumbling mansion symbolizes the failing grandeur of their ideals. When Anne makes compromises in order to help her brother, it shatters Adam and Jack and leads to Willie’s downfall.

The top quality cast and screenwriter/director Steven Zaillian (Searching for Bobby Fischer) give it their all, if never quite convincingly Louisianan. Patrizia von Brandenstein’s production design and Pawel Edelman’s cinematography have all the appropriate slanted, golden light and hanging Spanish moss. But the story never connects; it seems to be somehow off-register. We need to believe that Willie is on our side and we need to see him leave us; instead we get the same old Southern decay.

Parents should know that the movie has some graphic violence, including an assassination. Characters drink and smoke and use some strong language, including racial epithets of the era. There are sexual references and non-explicit situations, including adultery. The theme of the movie is corruption and there are many examples and variations.

Families who see this movie should talk about the moments in which each character made the choice from which there was no turning back. How can you tell the difference between a compromise and a sell-out? Can you stop on the way from idealism to expediency without becoming corrupt? What figures in today’s world are most like those in the movie?

Gridiron Gang

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some startling scenes of violence, mature thematic material and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

The biggest shock in this film comes at the very end. It is not a spoiler to say that there’s the usual “here’s what happened to the characters” round-up. The shocker is the reminder that the murderers and drug dealers who left the detention facility and continued to play football did so not in the pros or in college, but in high school.


We are greeted with statistics. There are 120,000 kids in the juvenile detention system. Seventy-five percent of them end up in prison. Once in a while, someone asks if there is something we can do to give them a choice.


In a hard-core facility, correctional officer Sean Porter (the Rock) decides the answer to that question might be football. Sports teach the importance of being punctual, accepting authority, accepting criticism, being part of a team. Sports can give a kid self-respect and pride and what it feels like to earn something. “Teenage boys would kill to play football,” Porter urges. “That’s what everybody’s afraid of,” says his boss. But he agrees to let them try.


Sports can teach them other things, too. The first time Porter has them call off the letters to spell out the name of the team, it turns out that no one there knows how to spell M-U-S-T-A-N-G-S.


It’s about as subtle as a tackle by a 300-pound tight end, but is is a pleasantly heartwarming journey. Sean and Assistant Coach Malcolm More (quietly effective rapper Xzibit) quote the Bible at the head of a Christian school to get him to let their team play his students. Kids learn to believe in themselves. And the adults in their lives learn to believe in them, too. Plus, they get to hurtle themselves at each other and try to keep the other guys from getting the ball.


Parents should know that this movie has some very strong violence, including gang violence and sports violence. Characters are wounded and killed. A person in authority hits a kid in the juvenile facility. The characters in this movie have been found guilty of a variety of illegal acts involving drugs, gangs, and other crimes. There are references to domestic abuse and characters use strong and ugly language. Teenagers are parents. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of strong, loyal, and dedicated minority characters.


Families who see this movie should talk about what got these boys into trouble and what this program taught them. What does it mean to say that they needed to fill a void? How can you be loyal to a friend without getting into situations you know are wrong? How do we give people power over us when we don’t forgive them? Why does Sean stay out of the locker room in the last game’s half-time?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the 1993 documentary about the real-life Sean Porter, as well as The Longest Yard (the original is a far better movie than the Adam Sandler remake), M*A*S*H, The Dirty Dozen, and Greenfingers (all with mature material).

The Last Kiss

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for sexuality, nudity and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

A man tells his pregnant girlfriend he will marry her when she can name three couples who have been happy together for more than five years. She offers her parents and “that cute couple from the pond.” He reminds her that ducks don’t count.


Fans of Zach Braff may be disconcerted to see him as Michael, a more complex and unlikeable character than his sweet and adorably lost characters in “Scrubs” and Garden State. But that is a function of his character’s age and situation more than his personality. Michael is 29 years old and his girlfriend is pregnant. The stakes are much higher. Bad decisions will have devastating consequences. And that is what makes it interesting. Although at first it has the feel of a safe romantic comedy-drama, this is not an “almost” story. People inflict great pain on each other, and we don’t get a lot of tidy happy endings.


Michael is an architect who wants to let more air and light into his buildings. He’s feeling a little claustrophobic in his life, too. The pregnancy was unplanned. Now other scary words are coming into the conversation — house, m-m-marriage, c-c-commitment, n-n-n-n-never. That last one refers to when he will get to kiss another girl. Yes, Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) is beautiful, sexy, smart, and devoted. But she is just one woman. Will that be enough for him?


Michael’s old friends don’t present him with any appealing alternatives. One has become a near-stalker of the woman who broke up with him. One is a bartender who parties all the time. One is a new father feeling inadequate and smothered. And his girlfriend’s parents (Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkenson), the ones from the example of long-term relationships, are separated. An appealing alternative is Kim (Rachel Bilson), a music student, whose openness and admiration makes him feel ten years younger. Can you have a mid-life crisis at age 29? Is anything ever as uncomplicated as it seems?


Braff creates a likeable character who makes some unlikeable choices. But none of the ultimate resolutions feel as satsifying as they are intended to, and Kim always seems like a plot device, not a person. She is as imaginary as the Bo Derek character in the similarly-themed 10, but this story, like its main character, fails to give her the consideration she deserves.

Braff, who produced the superb soundtrack for Garden State, delivers another superb selection of heartfelt indie gems. But this time, they are more heartfelt and memorable than the movie they adorn.

Parents should know that this movie has very explicit sexual situations and references and very strong language. Characters drink, sometimes to excess. They make foolish and hurtful choices and there are tense and emotional confrontations.

Families who see this movie should talk about some of the tough choices we make when we grow up and what we do to learn to forgive and heal and move on after terrible and painful mistakes. Who in this film do you respect and why?


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Diner, The Wood, and the grand-daddy of all groping toward grown-up intimacy movies, the Oscar-winning Marty.

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