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Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

Tomorrowland
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language
Release Date:
May 22, 2015

 

American Sniper
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references
Release Date:
January 16, 2015

I'll See You in My Dreams
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, drug use and brief strong language
Release Date:
May 22, 2015

 

Strange Magic
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and scary images
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images
Release Date:
May 15, 2015

 

Mortdecai
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some language and sexual material
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

New in Theaters

grade:
B+

Tomorrowland

Lowest Recommended Age:
4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language
Release Date:
May 22, 2015
grade:
B+

I'll See You in My Dreams

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, drug use and brief strong language
Release Date:
May 22, 2015
grade:
B+

Mad Max: Fury Road

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images
Release Date:
May 15, 2015

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New to DVD

pick of the week
grade:
B+

American Sniper

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references
Release Date:
January 16, 2015
grade:
C

Strange Magic

Lowest Recommended Age:
Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and scary images
Release Date:
January 23, 2015
grade:
D

Mortdecai

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some language and sexual material
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

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2009’s Family Movie Coming Attractions: Harry, Miley, and More

posted by Nell Minow

The movie slate for 2009 has some upcoming family-friendly releases that look very promising.

“Inkheart,” based on the book by Cornelia Funke and opening January 23, stars Brendan Fraser as a man who has the power to bring the characters from books to life.

In March we have “Race to Witch Mountain,” not a remake but a sort of semi-sequel to the Disney classics Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain. Duane “The Rock” Johnson plays a man who has to protect two children with mysterious powers from the bad guys who want to capture them.

I am really looking forward to the April release of the new Hannah Montana movie!

And of course we’re already counting the moments until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, coming out in July.

Swing Vote

posted by Nell Minow
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for language
Movie Release Date:August 1, 2008
DVD Release Date:January 6, 2009
C
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for language
Movie Release Date: August 1, 2008
DVD Release Date: January 6, 2009

Kevin Costner the producer severely underestimates the ability of Kevin Costner the actor to win over the audience in this tepid satire of electoral politics. Through a technical and mechanical glitch, Costner’s character, an affable loser named Bud, finds himself about to cast the single vote that will determine the outcome of a Presidential election. The incumbent Republican (Kelsey Grammer) and the challenging Democrat (Dennis Hopper) and all of their flacks descend on Bud’s small New Mexico town, followed of course, by international media outlets shoving cameras and microphones at anyone they can find, all of which creates opportunities for some tweaks at American complacency and avarice, which are not too bad and some syrupy personal growth moments, which are not too good.

This idea could make a good low-budget independent film but as an expensive studio release it can’t afford to offend anyone. The result is too generic and too safe, and too easy. There are mild enjoyments along the way but ultimately Bud — and his movie — fail to have the redeeming qualities necessary to provide a satisfactory conclusion.

It is fun to see the politicians squirm and their handlers scheme as the candidates grab onto any inkling of Bud’s views and then jettison any position they’ve ever taken in order to get his vote. The problem — for the candidates and for the movie — is that Bud does not really care about anything. Not only did he not know it was election day; he didn’t know know who was running. He says the only thing he cares about is his daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll) but the only focus of his energy and attention is his beer buzz. Movies often are able to make heroes out of lovably irresponsible characters, but this shambling slacker is worse than irresponsible. He is so downright neglectful that he seems not just immature but selfish. The movie can’t make its mind up about whether these characters are smart or foolish, honest or corrupt. In trying to have it both ways, it undercuts any force or momentum.

Carroll is a charming screen presence, but Molly is a construct, not a character. It’s cute when she says her ambition is to be the Chairman of the Fed but it’s Hollywood cute. And the lovely Paula Patton is stuck with a yawn-inducing role as an ambitious television journalist who resolves her ethical crisis in a way that is unlikely to strike viewers as an exemplar of integrity. Like the rest of this movie, that choice is a bubble or two off prime, a disconnect between the reaction the movie expects and the reaction the audience will have.

Scary G-rated Movies

posted by Nell Minow

Emily Bazelon writes in Slate about the scariness of G-rated movies. Like several of the commenters on this site, she found The Tale of Despereaux scarier than she expected and so did her 5-year-old. Even though he had heard the audio book and knew the storyline, for at least a third of the time he “watched the movie with a pained expression and his hands over his ears. ”

Why, given this likely audience, did the moviemakers feel the need to include extended sequences with fear-pumping music; a giant menacing cat that charges after Despereaux in a gladiator ring; and Botticelli, the torture-obsessed leader of Rat World? And what’s the point of a G rating if movies like Despereaux fall into that category? This movie confirms my feeling that it’s past time to replace G with better age-tailored guidance. I remember sad G-rated kids’ movies from childhood: Disney classics like Pinocchio
, Dumbo, and Bambi. But my kids didn’t find “Bambi” distressing. Instead, what’s hard for them to handle are new movies, ostensibly created for their age group, from which they emerge metaphorically dripping in sweat, wrung out by an hour and a half of suspense and overexcitement.

Bazelon is looking for some mathematical formula to help her evaluate the movies she is considering for her children. But it is not that easy. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2000 produced the utterly predictable conclusion that every one of the 74 G-rated movies they reviewed had at least some violence in it. That includes comic bops on the head and various kinds of mild peril as well as fights with weapons that conclude with fatal injuries.

The study found a total of 125 injuries (including 62 fatal injuries) in 46 (62%) of the films. Characters portrayed as “bad” were much more likely to die of an injury than other characters (odds ratio, 23.2; 95% confidence interval, 8.5-63.4). A majority of the violence (55%) was associated with good or neutral characters dueling with bad characters (ie, using violence as a means of reaching resolution of conflict), and characters used a wide range of weapons in violent acts.

Classic G-rated films from The Wizard of Oz (flying monkeys, Scarecrow set on fire, scary witch) to The Black Stallion (sinking ship, loss of a parent) as well as, yes, Pinocchio (another sinking ship, child turns into a donkey, characters swallowed by a whale), Dumbo (scary fire, mean bullies), and Bambi (death of mother, forest fire) have both scared and enchanted children for generations. And every generation thinks, as Bazelon does, that the new movies are just scarier. But that is not the problem.
The problem is that (1) every movie and every movie scare is different; it is almost impossible to say whether one movie is scarier than another in the same rating category in part because (2) every child is different. A child who handles the death of Bambi’s mother without blinking one week (seen at home, on a small screen) may be very disturbed a week later in a dark theater with a big screen seeing the mother of the princess die of shock after seeing a rat in her soup at the beginning of The Tale of Despereaux, a moment I (apparently incorrectly) expected to be more upsetting to children in the audience than the gladiator scene with the bound princess delivered to the hungry rats to be devoured (but rescued before they get even a nibble). Children’s developmental rates are uneven and unpredictable and you can never be certain how they will process the moments of peril and tension in a story.
I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t immediately tell you about some movie that they found traumatic as a child or teenager (I get the flying monkeys a lot). I take that seriously; after all, a large part of what I do here is help guide parents to give them the information they need to protect their children. And I urge parents to leave the theater or turn off the TV if they think children are unhappily frightened. But I realize, as all parents should, that one of the purposes of story-telling is to give us the opportunity to test our emotions and our responses and give us a sense of control over our inexpressible fears. Before there were scary movies there were scary fairy tales and nursery rhymes and before that there were scary stories around the campfire. The best we can do as parents is to protect our children when we can and teach them how to handle their fears when we can’t.

Righteous Kill

posted by Nell Minow
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Adult
MPAA Rating:Rated R for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use.
Movie Release Date:September 12, 2008
DVD Release Date:January 6, 2009
B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use.
Movie Release Date: September 12, 2008
DVD Release Date: January 6, 2009

Has there ever been a cinematic pairing as eagerly anticipated as this one? Perhaps, but I can’t think of one that has been anticipated as long. Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro were both in 1974’s “The Godfather II” but their storylines encompassed different generations and there was no overlap. They both starred in “Heat” 21 years later, but shared only one scene. A mere 13 years after that, we finally get to see them together at last, starring in “Righteous Kill” as New York City detective partners investigating a serial killer who might be a cop. In real life, we have been waiting for a long time to see them together but in the parallel universe of the movie, DeNiro and Pacino have been partners for three decades and are each other’s closet friends and most respected colleagues. The pleasure of the movie is not in its predictable story but in seeing two of the greatest actors of our time play with and off of each other on screen, especially in the unimportant moments that give you a sense of a lifetime of connection and understanding.

That’s just about the only pleasure, though. The ending is predictable, the progress toward it derived from any of a dozen of interchangeable cop films. DeNiro and Pacino connect and compete, DeNiro cooling down and Pacino heating up. But we’re watching them, not their characters. They get some solid support from John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg as a rival team of younger detectives with some personal and professional gripes, but Brian Dennehy looks worn in the under-written over-used character of the exasperated lieutenant and Carla Gugino’s forensic detective is a fantasy figure — too young and too kinky for this kind of set-up. Except for 50 Cent, who can’t act a smidge, the actors are game but the script is tired.

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