Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 2014

 

Philomena
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
Release Date:
November 22, 2013

Under the Skin
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

 

The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Rio 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

 

Grudge Match
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

Team America: World Police

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the team behind “South Park,” take such pleasure in being naughty that it makes their work more silly than smutty. It’s all just too cheerful to be shocking, even with a character made out of human excrement (the “South Park” television show), a singing sexual organ (the “South Park” movie), or naked marionettes in a variety of sexual acts and positions (“Team America: World Police”). In their best work, the outrageousness is in aid of a statement, a sharp attack, so that the four-letter words and cheerful bad taste transcend their schoolyard shock value to work as satire.

But when there is no special point of view and they just decide to bash everyone on all sides, it runs out of steam quickly. This latest venture would have made a hilarious 15-minute short film, but at feature length it gets repetitive and tiresome.

Inspired by the British children’s television show of the 1960′s, “Thunderbirds,” Parker and Stone have created a fabulously intricate puppet world, with replicas of iconic monuments from Mount Rushmore and the Sphinx to the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal. The puppets themselves are sensationally funny. The heroes are all square jaws and twinkling eyes and possibly a millimeter less wooden than the hunky heroes who inspired them. (Though I can’t imagine how Stone and Parker missed one obvious convention of the genre, the minority member of the team to lend a little coolness to the whitebread heroes.)

Team America is a sort of world-class SWAT team, five all-American, good-looking heroes who are masters of everything from kick-boxing to rocket science. They toss off brave wisecracks while gunning down evil-doers, with time for a slow-motion hair-toss when it’s over. And they have a cool clubhouse inside Mount Rushmore, equipped with every kind of transportation and weapon system and a swinging cocktail lounge.

But one of the team is killed, just as he is proposing to another team member, Lisa. To replace him, the team’s major domo/coach, Spottswoode (Daran Norris, sounding like Peter Graves), recruits…an actor!

Yes, Gary, star of the hit Broadway musical, “Lease” (skewering “Rent” with a showstopping final number, “Everyone has AIDS!”), is brought on board because the most important skill for fighting terrorism is acting ability.

Spottswoode tells Gary (like many of the characters, voiced by Parker), “as an actor with a double major in theater and world languages, you’re the perfect weapon!” At first Gary says no, but there is something about saving the world, or maybe just something about wanting to see Lisa again that makes him change his mind.

So, Gary gets a makeover and infiltrates the terrorists. But things go wrong, and the country loses faith in Team America. Meanwhile, Kim Jong Il is plotting total world domination and a bunch of Hollywood celebrities think they have the solution for world peace.

When the movie is good — its dead-on production design and the never-flagging hilarity of the marionettes doing just about anything — people who want to fight terrorists, people who don’t want to fight terrorists, people who are terrorists, and people who just have really, really inflated senses of their importance in the world — it is very funny. A song comparing how much Gary misses Lisa to how bad Pearl Harbor was, a musical salute to the montage, and Kim Jong Il’s plaintive lament about how lonely he is are all sharply funny. Stone and Parker go after everyone here — people who want to fight terrorists, people who don’t want to fight terrorists, people who are terrorists, and people who just have really, really inflated senses of their importance in the world, so the satire is therefore too scattershot to sustain the film.

Parents should know that this movie is not for children or even for many adults. It is intentionally offensive and extremely vulgar and raunchy, with exceptionally strong language and graphic sexual references and situations. Naked marionettes engage in a Kama Sutra of sexual acts and positions. The movie is oddly homophobic. The organization based on the Screen Actors Guild is called the Film Actors Guild so it can have the initials F.A.G. A male character forces another male character into a sexual encounter not because they are gay but as an expression of power. Later, the experience is made public to humiliate the one who had to submit. There is a lot of graphic puppet violence, with characters getting shot, blown up, decapitated, sliced in half, mauled, and burned. Characters drink and smoke. And there is an extended gross-out barfing sequence.

Families who see this movie should talk about why celebrities speak out on politics and how effective they are. They should also talk about what makes the marionettes so funny. Would the movie work as well if it was animated or live-action?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Airplane and Austin Powers and its sequels. They may also like to see save-the-world movies like Three Days of the Condor and Foul Play.

Taxi

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

“Superman has kryptonite,” explains Washburn (Jimmy Fallon), showing that even the greats have their weaknesses. “Indiana Jones has snakes. Whitney Houston has Bobby Brown.” (Ba-dum-pump) He might as well have added that movies have former Saturday Night Live stars, who are brought in to sell tickets and add comedy to weak scripts just by virtue of their presence.

This is a “oneza” movie — you know, one’s a dedicated cop who is the world’s worst driver (Fallon) and one’s a speed-loving would-be NASCAR driver on her first day with a souped-up taxicab (Queen Latifah as Belle). When he hails her cab to get to a bank robbery, it leads to all kinds of misunderstandings, shoot-outs, and car chases before they catch up with the culprits, a gang of (yes, really) four Brazillian supermodels.

Queen Latifah and Fallon have strong screen presences and great comic timing and the movie has a few moments of silly fun and a couple of slick stunts. The talented Jennifer Esposito gives the exasperated police lieutenant role, always required in movies like this one, some warmth and appeal. Supermodel Giselle Bundchen is primarily called upon to lean over in low-cut shirts and to have extremely long legs, both of which she does well. She is also occasionally called upon to act, which she does not do well.

The movie has some numbingly obvious musical cues and even more numblingly obvious jokes, with situation after situation rather than story. The script is so sit-com-ish you almost expect a laugh track. You almost even think the movie could use one, especially for uninspired set-ups with no possible reason for the story, like having Washburn and his boss/former girlfriend dress up in completely unbelieveable outfits for an undercover operation, and too-convenient resolutions that remove whatever comic or narrative impact the situations might have had. It all seems a little tired, from the lead-off to the tune of a hit song from a year ago to the attempt to find some humor in a character who has the same name as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia. This is one “Taxi,” you should think twice before hailing. (But if you do see it, wait until the very end because the best joke in the movie comes during the outtakes over the credits.)

Parents should know that the movie has a very light-hearted, even cavalier attitude toward substance abuse. Washburn’s mother is an alcoholic, and this is primarily played for comedy. Washburn and Belle are exposed to nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), also played for comedy (including a side effect of making their voices deeper, a sort of anti-helium). Parents should make sure that children and teens who see this movie understand that inhaling nitrous oxide for non-medicinal reasons can be dangerous. The movie has a few strong words, including some not usually found in PG-13′s, like an anatomical term and the n-word (heard in a song lyric). The movie has a lot of comedy-style violence, with many car chases and explosions and some shoot-outs. Some characters are injured, but no one is killed or badly hurt. There are some mild sexual references. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of capable and intelligent minority women and inter-racial respect and cooperation.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Washburn was a bad driver and what makes someone a good driver.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy D.C. Cab and Quicksilver. They might want to take a look at the far better French original version also called Taxi.

Friday Night Lights

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

On the very first day of pre-season practice, Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) tells his team, the Permian High Panthers of Odessa, Texas, that he expects them to be perfect. By the end of the season, in that last half-time locker room pep talk, he tells them what that means. Being perfect does not mean winning every play or making no mistakes. He wants them to go back onto the field knowing that they did everything they could have done, with “clear eyes, love in your heart, joy in your heart.”

By those terms, this film is perfect. Director/co-screenwriter Peter Berg, cousin of the author of the original book on this real-life story of one team’s 1988 season, has done everything he could have done, with clear eyes and love and joy in his heart. He has produced a movie that has both immediacy and resonance, filled with moments of authenticity and insight. It has an intentionally rough, gritty, bleached, documentary feel but Berg is in complete control, with every shot a small gem of precision and mastery.

As the movie begins, we see an almost-endless expanse of flat, brown, dusty, dried-out land and exhausted and abandoned oil rigs surrounding an impeccable rectangle of green surrounded by rows of seats. It is the high school football stadium (the real-life Permian facility). At once we see that all that is fresh and green — and important — in the town is the high school football team. We see a mother grilling her son, not on SAT vocabulary words, but on football strategy. A caller on the radio explains why the coach gets paid more than the principal — “The principal don’t get 28,000 people” to come to the school.

There are two kinds of time in the town. There are games, and there is everything else.

And there are three kinds of people in the town. First are those who are on the team now, the 17-year-olds who never have to pay for their own meals or do their own homework. Parents ask them to pose for pictures holding their babies and journalists grill them. One play can make you an instant hero — but “Odessa’s a small town, and when you screw up everyone knows.”

Then there are those who once played on the team, many of them still sporting the rings they got for winning the state championship, the rest wishing they did. And there are those who have never played but still care passionately about the team, interrupting the coach at whatever he is doing to give him their strategy for winning the state title. A fan brags about his cat named Panther and dog named Mojo (the team’s nickname). Every store in Odessa has its own specially printed “Gone to the Game” sign when it closes for football.

Within a very traditional sports movie structure, taking us through one season from the first day of practice to the championship game, Berg assembles a mosaic of gem-like moments that illuminate a much bigger picture. Like all truly great sports stories, it is about dreams, competition, families, tragedy, and triumph, about the individual and about the team. And because it is set in America, it is also about poverty, race, and class. Most of all, though, it is about characters we feel we know and care about.

Derek Luke (of Antwone Fisher and Pieces of April) is dazzling as Boobie Miles, the star player who juggles calls from college recruiters and keeps Mercedes brochures in his locker. Country singer Tim McGraw is heartbreaking as the former Panther whose life has been a disappointment since his team won State. He hopes to recapture the glory through his son but has no idea how to reach him except through insults and abuse. Lucas Black is touching as the player who is trying to care for a sick mother and “protect the town” by winning the title.

Thornton, as always easy to underappreciate because of the subtlety and natural honesty of his performances, shows us the coach’s love for the game and for the boys on the team. As he calls out, “Was that a knee?” when a player goes down or when town leaders suggest that if he does not win State he might lose his job,” we see what he is thinking and even everything that has brought him to this moment.

This is not a football movie — it is a rich and meaningful story about people who play football and the people who watch them, with respectful and poignant insights, beautiful performances, and sensitive treatment of issues that touch us all.

Parents should know that the movie has some tense family scenes with an abusive father. Underage characters drink and a character abuses alcohol. There are references to “getting laid.” The football scenes are powerfully staged and very intense. Audience members may almost feel that they are the ones getting tackled. The movie is frank in its treatment of injuries, some graphic.

Families who see this film should talk about what it feels like for these 17-year-old boys to carry so much of their family’s and the town’s sense of pride. What is the good about that? What is bad? Why would a girl say she only wanted to be “with a ball carrier?” Why was it so important to Don’s father that he succeed? Why did he define success the way he did? Did his team’s championship “carry him forever?” How do parents help their children learn what success means? If it is not football that defines success in your community, what does? What does the coach mean when he says that “all of us dig our own holes?” What is the difference between winning and losing? What would a movie about the Dallas team be like?

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate Hoosiers, the true story of a small-town basketball team that competed for the state championship, Remember the Titans about the first integrated football team in an Alexandria, Virginia high school, The Slaughter Rule, with the gifted Ryan Gosling as a high school senior who plays quarterback for a six-man league, All the Right Moves with Tom Cruise, and Go Tigers!, a documentary about a high school football team in Massillon, Ohio.

They might also like to read the poem by James Wright, “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio,” which describes boys playing football:

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful

At the beginning of October,

And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.

Raise Your Voice

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2004

Squeaky-clean Hilary Duff’s latest movie plays like a cross between a Disney-fied music video and a script developed by girls playing with Barbies. So, it will please its target audience of tween girls while leaving parents relieved, if not entertained.

Duff plays 16-year-old Terri, a good girl whose loving older brother Paul (Jason Ritter) tells her not to be such a pleaser. He wants her to fight back when their over-protective father (David Keith) won’t let her go to the summer music program of her dreams. Even though Paul is grounded, he and Terri sneak out to go to a rock concert. On the way home, their car is hit by a drunk driver, and Paul is killed. Terri’s father becomes even more strict. When she is accepted into the program her mother (Rita Wilson) and aunt (Rebecca De Mornay) conspire to find a way for her enroll. Her father thinks she is visiting her aunt.

The program is more challenging than Terri could have imagined, filled with highly focused and very talented kids. But she makes some friends, especially a handsome composer (Oliver James, essentially reprising his perfect boyfriend with an English accent role from What a Girl Wants) and her violinist roommate, Denise (Dana Davis). It is a competitive group, especially when it comes to who gets the solo in the big choral performance and who will win that $10,000 scholarship at the end of the summer.

Duff has more hairdos than facial expressions, but the movie is designed around the one she has down pat, a sort of sweet, slightly abashed, “Gosh, can I really do this? Look how adorable it is that I don’t know I’m adorable” sort of look. It does not go well when she tries to go beyond her range, as when she has to learn that her brother has died or confront someone she thinks has betrayed her, and especially in one painful moment when she tries to act “street.” Similarly, the music is designed around her slight but sweet pop voice. If the studio-enhanced dubbing is a bit too obvious in the classroom scenes, it fits with the bubble-gumminess of the tunes and the story.

Parents should know that the movie includes the death of a major character in a drunk driving accident. This is powerfully, but not graphically depicted and may make the movie too much for under-10′s or even some sensitive under-12′s. An adult character responds to a stressful situation by saying, “I need a drink” and an underage character gets drunk when he is upset over a misunderstanding. There is some PG-level language. The movie makes it clear that Terri thinks carefully about whether she is ready to kiss a boy, even though it is someone she really cares about. Another girl makes a reference to being “bad” to get the boy she likes, but it does not work. Other strengths of the movie include loyalty and friendship among diverse characters and (very unusual in a mainstream film) respectful treatment of religious faith. It has a rare depiction of a young person going to church to get help during a painful time, handled in a low-key manner but making it clear that Terri’s faith is an important source of solace for her.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Terri’s father is so strict. Why was it easier for Paul to speak up than for Terri? What should Terri have done when her mother and aunt told her to lie to her father about where she was? What did Terri like best about the music program? How did her brother and her teacher give her a chance to see things within herself that she did not see before? Why didn’t Jay like Robin anymore?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Duff’s other films, The Lizzie McGuire Movie and A Cinderella Story. They might also enjoy comparing them to the original Gidget. Mature audiences will enjoy Fame a lively film about a high school for the performing arts.

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