Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Annie
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
Release Date:
December 19, 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

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

Remembering Sydney Pollack

posted by Nell Minow

Actor/director Sydney Pollack died today, leaving behind some enormously beloved films and performances. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Tootsie Pollack directed and appears as Dustin Hoffman’s frustrated agent in this classic comedy about an actor who dresses as a woman to get a part on a soap opera and falls for co-star Jessica Lange.
2. Out of Africa Pollack won an Oscar for directing the story of writer Isak Dinesen (Meryl Streep) on a farm in Africa.
3. Will & Grace Pollack beautifully played Will’s supportive but straying father on “Will and Grace.”
4. Three Days of the Condor Pollack did some of his best work with Robert Redford, as in “Out of Africa” and in this sensational spy thriller. (Also see Redford directed by Pollack in “The Way We Were” and “The Electric Horseman.”)
michael-clayton-0.jpg5. Michael Clayton Last year’s smartest thriller for adults featured Pollack as a sleek corporate attorney — behind the screen he served as producer.
Learn more about Pollack in the fine Australian series The Directors.

Documentary Therapy: Families Use Cameras to Create Conversations (and Confrontations)

posted by Nell Minow

Last week I saw a documentary called Bigger Stronger Faster* (The Side Effects of Being an American). The film, produced by some of the people behind Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine, ties the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in sports to larger issues of American ambition to be the best and newest and American optimism about the power of innovation and technology, as indicated by the second part of the title. But for me, the film was most engaging for the scenes that put it in an emerging category of documentaries, film as family therapy. Director/co-writer Chris Bell may not think of it this way, but it seemed clear that his primary motivation behind the film was less as a cautionary tale or assessment of the American character than an opportunity — perhaps an excuse — to confront his brothers on-screen about their use of steroids.

Bell and his brothers grew up idolizing the champions of World Wrestling Entertainment and believing its superstars when they said that they achieved their bulging biceps solely through exercise and good nutrition. But revelations of steroid use by Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others made them think that they too should use steroids for both offensive and defensive reasons. Steroids would not only make them stronger; they were the only way to compete in a world where “everyone does it.” Sadly, even stronger than their dependence on steroids is Chris Bell’s brothers’ conviction that their lives can only be meaningful if they prove themselves through competition (they do not think it is cheating to use performance-enhancing substances because it is the only way to win) and through being “famous.”

The film brings in other categories of artificial performance enhancement, from Tiger Woods’ Lasik eye surgery (which gave him better than perfect vision) to a cyclist who sleeps in a high-altitude chamber to raise his blood-oxygen level. But this is really the story of the Bell family.

Chris Bell says, “Turning the camera on my own family was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I don’t think we’ll ever be the same, but I also don’t think we’ve ever been closer. This film forced us all to discuss an issue that nobody in America wants to talk honestly about. Many families struggle with issues like alcoholism, drug abuse, depression…My family’s battle just happens to be with steroids.”

Also opening soon is Surfwise, a documentary about the Paskowitz family, whose nine children lived with their parents in a 25-foot camper, home-schooled, eating only natural, low-fat food and running a surfing camp. The father, “Doc” Dorian Paskowitz who decided to drop out of society and, according to the New York Times, “dedicated himself to uncompromised, uncompromising freedom.”

According to the Washington Post,

Dorian, now 86, is portrayed in the film as a combination Lear, Mao and Baba Ram Dass, but there’s affection as well. Time, after all, heals most, if not all, wounds.

“One of the things it’s allowed us to have,” Joshua says of the film, “is some perspective. When we were raised in the camper, Dorian had these theories of how to be the perfect man, have the perfect wife, be in an environment of loving and caring and compassion for one another.” That worked swell until the sibs hit their teen years. “As soon as the individual identity started to come into play,” says Joshua, “that was against everything we were taught.”

So there were fights. Resistance. Territorial disputes. Some of which weren’t resolved until the film, which opens in Washington on Friday, was being made….

“What it gave us a chance to do was talk to each other, even if it was coarse or caustic,” Jonathan said. “It gave us a chance to pull together. Israel said, ‘I always wanted to make up and get together.’ So we’re in different fights now. But they’re not as bad as the old fights.”

How bad were they?

Jonathan: “Two huge grizzlies fighting for the same salmon fishing ground. . . .”

Salvador: “Grizzly bears trained by the gnarliest, ultimate one-eyed Yukon Jack who ever lived, who taught every one of his students to never back down.”

Other recent films that use film as a way to explore and resolve family conflicts (all about missing or largely absent fathers) include My Architect: A Son’s Journey, Tarnation, Five Wives, Three Secretaries and Me, and Tell Them Who You Are.

It is worth talking about about what kind of documentary your own family would want to make and perhaps experiment with a home video camera by doing interviews and telling family stories.

The Great Race

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:All Ages
Movie Release Date:July 1, 1965

Dedicated to “Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy,” this movie is both a spoof and a loving tribute to the silent classics, with good guys, bad guys, romance, adventure, slapstick, music, wonderful antique cars, and the biggest pie fight in history. The opening credits are on a series of slides like those in the earliest movies, complete with cheers for the hero and boos for the villain, and a flickering old-fashioned projector that at one point appears to break down. Always dressed in impeccable white, the Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) is a good guy so good that his eyes and teeth literally twinkle. His capable mechanic and assistant is Hezekiah (Keenan Wynn). The bad guy is Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon), assisted by Max (Peter Falk). Like Wile E. Coyote, Fate’s cartoonishly hilarious stunts to stop Leslie inevitably backfire.

After a brief prologue, in which Fate tries to beat Leslie in breaking various speed records, literally trying to torpedo him at one point, they both enter an automobile race from New York to Paris. So does a beautiful reporter (Natalie Wood as Maggie DuBois) trying to prove she can get the story — dressed in an endless series of exquisite ensembles designed by Hollywood legend Edith Head. Great%20Race2.jpg

The race takes them across America, through the Wild West, to a rapidly melting ice floe in the Pacific, and into a European setting that is a cross between a Victor Herbert operetta and “The Prisoner of Zenda,” where a spoiled prince happens to look exactly like Professor Fate and it takes all of the stars to foil an evil Baron (Ross Martin) who wants to use Fate to take over the throne.

This is a perfect family movie, just plain fun from beginning to end.  It may also provide an opportunity for a discussion of competition and sportsmanship.  At the end, Leslie deliberately loses as a gesture of devotion to Maggie DuBois.  Professor Fate, after all, shows some sense of honor — apparently it is all right for him to cheat to win, but not all right to win by having Leslie refuse to compete.  “You cheated — I refuse to accept!”  Modern adults may wince a bit at Dubois’ notion of how to attain equal opportunity — she ultimately succeeds by showing her leg to the editor, who becomes too dazed to argue further.  But like “Mary Poppins,” it provides a chance to remind children that when their great-grandparents were children, women did not even have the right to vote.

Questions for Kids:

  • Should Leslie have let Fate win?
  • Why wasn’t Fate happy when he beat Leslie?
  • Why was Fate so jealous of Leslie?
  • Why did DuBois want to be a reporter so badly?

 

Connections:  Curtis and Lemmon also appeared together in one of the greatest comedies of all time, “Some Like it Hot.”   Children who enjoy this movie might like to see some of the silent classics it saluted, like “Two Tars,” in which Laurel and Hardy create chaos in the middle of an enormous traffic jam.  They might also enjoy “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” or “Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies.”  Children who have enjoyed Ed Wynn as Uncle Albert (who “loves to laugh”) in “Mary Poppins” may like to know that his son, Keenan Wynn, plays Leslie’s assistant Hezekiah.

 

Can Hatred be Funny?

posted by Nell Minow

Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times has an article in today’s paper about the forthcoming Adam Sandler movie, “Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” about “an Israeli assassin who flees to the United States to become a hairdresser.”

Trailers for the film promise plenty of broad farce, physical comedy and at least one lewd dance routine. What the ad campaign for “Zohan” does not emphasize is that the film also attempts to satirize the continuing tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and provide humorous commentary on one of the least funny topics of modern times with a comedian who is not exactly known for incisive political wit.

Movies have always been more willing to take on sensitive and especially politically incendiary subjects through comedy earlier and more incisively than they have in drama. Two movies that came out the same year were both reactions to the Cold War. Hardly anyone remembers “Failsafe,” the compelling but very earnest dramatic version anymore, but the comedy, “Dr. Strangelove,” is considered a classic. Charlie Chaplin (“The Great Dictator”) and German immigrant Ernst Lubitsch (“To Be or Not to Be”) had the courage to be critical of Hitler while dramatic films like “Watch on the Rhine” were just beginning to catch up.

The Times reports that the filmmakers had a hard time getting ethnically Arab actors to even try out for the film. But the article also says that those who did accept parts engaged in some very frank but friendly exchanges between shots.

[Egyptian-born actor Sayed] Badreya, who was recently seen playing an Afghan terrorist in “Iron Man,” said that by offering Arab or Muslim characters that are in any way divergent from the usual Hollywood stereotypes, “Zohan” is a step in the right direction.

“The movie presents what happened to me,” said Mr. Badreya, who grew up in Port Said, Egypt, during the 1967 and 1973 wars and emigrated to the United States in 1979. “Since it happened to me, it will work for someone like me.”

Mr. Badreya said that the comedy in “Zohan” was not quite evenly divided between ridiculing Arabs and ridiculing Jews. “The jokes are not 50-50,” he said. “It’s 70-30. Which is great. We haven’t had 30 for a long time. We’ve been getting zero. So it’s good.”

From the trailer, it appears that the movie creates some humor from gender stereotypes and that it casts longtime Sandler friend Rob Scheider, whose ethnic background is part European-Jewish and part Filipino, as an Arab, providing even more opportunities for offense — and comedy.

Baderya said he was persuaded to try out for the part by his daughter, a fan of Sandler’s films. That may be the most hopeful sign of common ground of all.

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