Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

The Other Woman
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual references and language (on appeal from the original R rating)
Release Date:
April 25, 2014

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

Finding Vivian Maier
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

 

Ride Along
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language,
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Walking With the Enemy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 28, 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

The Forgotten

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

This year’s most popular movie theme — memory — turns up once again, though this time what someone, um, forgot was the script.

Oh there are situations here, but I would not say that they rise to the level of a story, and some people, but I would not say they rise to the level of characters, and those people say some words, but I would not say they rise to the level of dialogue.

It is autumn, a time of loss, and Telly (Julianne Moore) sits in the playground watching the leaves fall. She is mourning her son Sam, who died along with five other children on a plane to summer camp fourteen months before. She tells her therapist, Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise), that she still spends time every day going through Sam’s dresser drawer, watching him in home movies on video, looking at him in photographs. Dr. Munce tells her that it’s just “memory, doing its job.”

But sometimes memory doesn’t do its job very well. Telly remembers having a cup of coffee, but it is not there and Dr. Munce says that it was the last session where she had coffee, not this one. Telly’s car is not where she thought she left it and the man who finds it for her tries to reassure her: “I forget all the time.” But Telly can’t forget. She thinks of Sam every minute. Dr. Munce tells her that “sometimes the mind needs help in letting a thing go.” But Telly does not want help. She had to let Sam go, but she cannot let her memories of him go.

Is her husband Jim (Anthony Edwards) trying to help her by removing the pictures of Sam and erasing the videos? “When the images are gone,” she tells him, “it’s like losing him all over again.”

But then he tells her something shocking. There never was a Sam. Telly has been mentally ill, suffering from “paramnesia” since her miscarriage. Jim and Dr. Munce have been trying to lead her gradually back to reality.

All external evidence of Sam has disappeared. His baseball glove is no longer in the dresser and the pages of teh scrapbook are blank. No one remembers him, not even Ash (Dominic West), a former hockey player and the father of Sam’s friend Lauren, who was also on that plane. Ash insists that he has never met Telly and never had a child. She cannot even find a newspaper story about the loss of the airplane with the six children.

Who should Telly believe? She trusts her husband and her doctor. She cannot find anyone who believes her or any evidence that Sam ever existed. But somehow she believes what she remembers — the way Sam waved at her as he boarded the plane, the way she felt when she saw the sun on his hair — even though it seems to make no sense.

So far, so good. And the movie does a pretty good job of creating the atmosphere early on, keeping us as unbalanced and unsure of what to believe as Telly is. Plus, it turns out that if you’re dealing with bad guys, a former hockey player is a handy guy to have around. Ash seems very happy to have the chance to go at it without any penalty box in sight.

But then the plot goes off in a direction that is so nutty, even by movie standards, that it is just plain silly, leaving so many holes in the plot that it knocks us out of that nice creepy atmosphere and into oh-come-off-it-land. It feels like the screenwriters had no idea where to go and so just randomly spun the wheel of movie genres to pick an ending. They should have spun again.

Parents should know that the movie has frequent tense scenes with characters in peril and some startling surprises. The plot concerns the death of six children and other characters are injured and apparently killed. There are brief frightening images and a few bad words. A character abuses alcohol.

Families who see this movie should talk about how we know whether our memories are accurate. What can we do to make sure we remember the things that are important to us?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy two other movies where characters are told that family members never existed, So Long at the Fair and Bunny Lake is Missing. They will also enjoy The Invisible Child a sweet little made-for-television film with a lovely performance by Rita Wilson as a mother who has an imaginary child and whose husband, children, and nanny all help perpetuate the fantasy. And they will enjoy the classic Gaslight with an Oscar-winning performance by Ingrid Bergman as a woman whose husband persuades her that her memory cannot be trusted.

Wimbledon

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

Sun splashed shots and a series of beautiful, thoroughly English sets get this sports-romantic-comedy over the net, but a clumsy romance with flat dialogue means “Wimbledon” is far from an ace.

Peter Colt (a glum-looking but winningly wry Paul Bettany) is the fading tennis player who draws a wild-card slot at Wimbledon and decides it will be his last hurrah on the court. While physically still game at 32, his intense personal monologues demonstrate why he is a long-shot. His pre-service thoughts include the mantra “I’m going to choke…”. Along comes his anima and muse, intensely focused Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) to awake in him his killer instinct and self-confidence so that he can win one last time.

Their contrasting styles are a study in British and American stereotypes, with his tact, dry humor and quiet desperation playing against her ambition, bluntness and childish enthusiasm. While Lizzie is a supremely self-assured competitor as long as tennis is the subject, she talks with her trainer/father (Sam Neill) in cringing little-girl tones and cannot stand up to him when he tells her not to become involved with Peter. Her father, perhaps overly involved with her as she seems to occupy all of his emotional and professional life, is all about winning and and he worries that Peter will be a distracting emotional entanglement. With her sulky mannerisms, bedroom eyes and puppy-like canines, Dunst’s Lizzie bobbles between adult and child in a manner that is less endearing than disturbing.

The quick, cleverly shot movie becomes flat-footed when Dunst and Bettany share the screen. She seems an excellent match for him on the tennis court, but in the scenes where they get to know each other, Peter seems more an older brother than a potential love-interest. Like Dunst, Bettany is a treat to watch but he seems unable to shed his tendency to be more observer than participant –- a trait that works very well as Dr. Maturin in Master and Commander or Nicholas in The Reckoning, but makes him an outsider in his own love story here.

On the sports level, the movie is at its best. With lots of diving for shots, zooming angles and super-powered serves, tennis never looked so exciting. The scenes with Peter and his practice partner, Dieter (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) deserve a buddy film of their own, and serve as the warmest and funniest in the film, which does not say much for the Colt/Bradbury love match. Playing on the sidelines are several sub-plots involving interesting but minor characters including Colt’s family: his silently bickering parents (Bernard Hill and Eleanor Bron) and unsupportive brother, an arrogant American competitor (Austin Nichols), and Colt’s agent (Jon Favreau) who flies to his side when Colt begins to win again.

The commentators on this game might quibble over the final score, but the movie stays well within the lines of solid entertainment even if the love match never breaks out of the second-tier circuit.

Parents should know that the characters treat sex extremely casually, referring to it as a way to stay loose and relax during competition. Similarly, love or sustained relationships are perceived as distracting the athletes from competition and weakening the killer instinct. This movie has profanity of the British and American varieties, and includes a brief scene of nudity as well as implicit sexual situations. Characters drink alcohol. A character alludes to the loss of her mother.

Families should discuss the relationship between Lizzie and her father, about how the combined role of being a father and a trainer might be a challenge, and about how Lizzie succeeds (or not) in communicating with him. They might also wish to discuss the challenge of living the athletes’ lifestyle and how it alters their relationships with friends and family.

Families who enjoy this movie might like the soccer-oriented, British hit Bend it like Beckham or the cheerleading flick Bring it On (also with Kirsten Dunst). Romantic comedies attached to the team who made this movie include French Kiss, Four Weddings and a Funeral (rated R), Bridget Jones’ Diary, and Notting Hill, all of which are worth watching.

Mr. 3000

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

Bernie Mac doesn’t hit this one out of the park, but he manages a solid double in his first starring role, as a retired baseball player who has to get back into shape and suit up for three more hits.

Mac plays Stan Ross, known as “Mr. 3000.” As soon as he got the 3000th hit that he thought would ensure him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, he announced his retirement from the Milwaukee Brewers. He got his and that was all he cared about. He opened up a strip mall with a pet store (3000 Paws), a cell phone store (3000 beeps), a Chinese restaurant (3000 Woks), a hair salon (3000 cuts) and a bar with a wall of 3000 baseballs.

But then the hotshot statisticians in Cooperstown found out that one of Stan’s games was counted twice. He’s not Mr. 3000. He’s Mr. 2997. So, he has a month to get back in shape and suit up, to try to get those last three hits in the final month of the season. And who should show up to report on the story for ESPN but Stan’s on-and-off love, Mo (Angela Bassett). Stan has to learn that he needs more than a swing and more than a hit to win.

There are no surprises here, but director Charles Stone III provides a little of the flair he showed us with the marvelous Drumline. There are some disappointing musical choices (really, how many times has “Let’s Get it On” been used for romantic interludes) but also some charmingly surprising ones (the portion of “The Nutcracker Suite” best remembered as the music for the mushroom dance in Fantasia as the ball players warm up). Bernie Mac is wonderfully assured. We knew he was funny, but he is unexpectedly tender here as well. Angela Bassett allows herself to be a little more vulnerable than we have seen before, making their romance something we really root for.

Parents should know that the movie has strong language for a PG-13 with a wider range of bad words than normally occur in movies of this kind. There are a series of jokes about the inability of a Japanese ballplayer to curse correctly. The movie has non-explicit sexual situations and explicit sexual references. Characters discuss what made sex with each other the best either of them had ever had and make Viagra jokes. There is a reference to an alcohol abuse problem and there are many scenes in a bar. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of intelligent and capable African-American and female characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Stan did not care about his team and what made him realize how his behavior had affected other people. How would he have reacted if someone had spoken to him the way he spoke to T. Rex? How did Mo’s not having faith in Stan make him feel? What makes people feel like a team? This is a good movie to prompt a discussion of what it means to “burn our bridges,” and how decisions we make (and feelings we hurt) can have long-term consequences we may not anticipate.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of the many classic baseball films including Pride of the Yankees, It Happens Every Spring, Damn Yankees, and (for mature audiences) Bang the Drum Slowly and Bull Durham. They will also enjoy the fantasy comedy Angels in the Outfield and the 1994 remake with Danny Glover.

I Heart Huckabees

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

We don’t think about it much, but most comedies are about existential crises.

Whether it’s the bewitched lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an heiress grappling with a leopard in Bringing Up Baby or Moe bopping Larry, and Curly, comedies let us laugh at characters who are trying to make sense of an absurd world. And that makes us feel a little better and surer about our own attempts to find purpose and meaning.

And they do it in movies, which, like all stories, have an internal logic, a narrative arc, even a sense of inevitablilty due to the economies of time, which dictate that every detail revealed in the movie will have some relevance to what develops. So no matter how chaotic the situation faced by the characters, there is at some level a sense of order that is almost as reassuring as the chance to laugh.

There aren’t many comedies about existentialism, though, at least not explicitly, and the brilliance of this movie is the way it uses the form of the screwball comedy to both represent and explore existential themes. In other words, while it will be fodder for late-night dorm debates and cultural studies theses for decades, it is also a ton of fun.

Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is having problems at work. The Open Spaces coalition he put together to oppose development of a marsh and woods is losing its focus, thanks to the charm and dazzle of Brad Stand (Jude Law), a smooth public relations guy from a WalMart-like chain called Huckabees, “the everything store.”

But what Albert wants to understand is a coincidence. He has seen the same tall young African man three times in three very different circumstances and wants to know what that means. So he goes to a husband and wife team of “existential detectives,” Vivian (Lily Tomlin) and Bernard Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman) and asks them to investigate. He just wants them to examine the coincidence and tells them to stay away from his office, but since they believe that everything is connected they accept no limitations; they may not even see any.

Meanwhile, another client of the existential detectives is having, well, an existential crisis. A fireman named Tommy (Mark Wahlberg) is reading a book by Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert) that says nothing in life is connected or meaningful, and that feels much more real to him than what the Jaffes have been telling him. Brad Stand has also hired the Jaffes, and is not prepared for what happens when they begin talking to his girlfriend, Dawn (Naomi Watts), the bikini-wearing Huckabees spokesmodel.

The movie has a sure sense of comic structure and timing, with classic comedy conventions like high-speed dialogue, wild plot permutations, family craziness, over-reaction to trivial things, under-reaction to non-trivial things, some sharp satire about our consumer culture, a little slapstick, some terrible poetry, and of course a few romantic complications. And, as Brad knows, a stop-by from a real celebrity doesn’t hurt, either.

In addition, it has meta and meta-meta messages, the form of the movie tied to its content about the debate between those who believe that everything is connected and meaningful and those who think everything is, well, nothing. In a sense, like Huckabees, the Jaffes operate an “everything store.” Caterine, their former student and now rival, operates the “nothing store,” telling Tommy and Albert that life is random, brutish, and meaningless and so the best thing to do is knock yourself out of the awareness of it all.

The movie is clearly the product of someone who has waded through teutonic philosophy and eastern mysticism and fortunately come out the other side with his sense of humor intact. The words may be the same as a philosophical treatise, but when recited while dodging a lawn sprinkler or getting hit in the face with a ball, it completely transforms, even transcends the meaning, a philosophical statement of its own. It makes the same point as in Stardust Memories, when the supersmart aliens tell Woody Allen that if he wants to help humanity he should write funnier jokes.

Director and co-screenwriter David O. Russell has a lot of fun playing with the classic philosophical dualities/debates:

  • The nihilist/isolationist approach to the meaning of life versus the “we’re all connected and inseparable and the center is everywhere” approach;

  • The shallow, successful materialist dressed in pastel colors versus the dark, mopey, sincere poetic failure dressed in black and white;

  • The beautiful model who exploits her physical appearance versus the reformed girl who seeks a higher meaning covered in dirt and overalls;

  • The disavowal of physical reality versus completely carnal wallowing in the mud; and

  • The duality of an “other” (doppelganger/ secret sharer type) who is used as a buddy in a support program. We also see “others” in the Vivian/Bernard, Vivian and Bernard/Caterine and Albert/Brad relationships.

Russell also manages to throw in debates about politics, economics, psychology and religion, and utilitarianism versus idealistic extremism.

And, just as Vivian and Bernard explain, everything is connected. In casting Schwartzman’s real-life mother, Talia Shire (best known as Connie in The Godfather saga and Adrian in Rocky) as his mother in the movie, is Russell making a meta-comment about connectedness? Or is he making a meta-meta-comment about our fascination with celebrities? Or is he just doing it for fun, which, if you think about it, is a kind of meta-meta-meta comment? Probably all of the above, just as Vivian’s getting hit by the sprinklers as she spies on Brad is both a statement about the obstacles to transcending physical reality and pure giddy slapstick pleasure.

Brad and Albert have a lot more in common than they think. Their names put them next to each other at one end of the alphabet with 24 letters yet to go. They are both competing for the support of the coalition and for control of the woods and marsh. They both compartmentalize, each willing to save just part of the undeveloped area and call it a success — though their ideas of how much should be saved differs.

The difference between philosophy and art is that philosophy tries to deal with these dichotomies in a logical and linear way, while art is free to ricochet back and forth between them like a pinball machine. Russell shows that when the characters floundering for meaning go off to sit on a big rock fenced off from the rest of the world, and with lots of sight gags, as with the polaroid of on character crying digitally turns into his nemesis.

Russell directs his crackerjack cast at top speed and they all perform with buoyant conviction and pure comic energy that is delicious to watch. Hoffman, Tomlin, and Wahlberg are all marvelous. This is Law’s best performance so far, stunning in its fearlessness and control of tone. He keeps Brad a character and not a caricature, when he is at his most charming and when he begins to unravel. His Brad is himself a master actor, always checking out the audience reaction, capturing attention and drawing people in by excluding someone else. Law lets us see how effective Brad can be, and then what happens when the facade begins to crack. In another movie, it would be the stand-out, but in this ensemble, it is just one more reason to say that I HEART “I HEART Huckabees.”

Parents should know that the movie has extremely strong language (it begins with a very colorful stream of epithets), and some sexual references and one brief explicit sexual situation. Characters drink and smoke. The movie includes mild comic peril and some tense confrontations.

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy the other movies by David O. Russell, including Three Kings (also featuring Wahlberg) and Flirting with Disaster (also featuring Tomlin) and Schwartzman’s performance in Rushmore. They will also enjoy movies about being fully conscious like Waking Life and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Families may also enjoy finding out more about existential philosophy, psychology, and analysis.

Previous Posts

The Other Woman
The latest in a female-centered revenge comedy genre that extends from "9 to 5" through "She-Devil," "The Other Woman" is intended to be a merry little tale of female empowerment and grrrl power.  Instead it is soggy, haphazard, poorly paced slapstick mansplained by director Nick Cassavetes from a

posted 6:00:59pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Finding Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier was a Chicago-area nanny.  Only the children in her care knew how much she loved taking pictures.  After her death, the possessions she had in storage were auctioned off and a man named John Maloof bought some boxes of negatives, thinking he might finds some images for his research ab

posted 6:00:24pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Walking With the Enemy
Why do we keep making movies about the Holocaust? Because we are still trying to understand one of the most shocking, inhumane tragedies in history. Because it is the essence of heightened, dramatic storylines, with the most depraved real-life villains, the bravest heroes, and the direst moral di

posted 6:00:01pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Ebertfest Kicks Off With "Life Itself"
Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") presented "Life Itself," the documentary about Roger Ebert, last night at the majestic Virginia Theater in Roger's home town of Urbana, Illinois, where Roger watched films as a boy and as a college student at the University of Illinois.  He told us he had always thought

posted 9:28:24am Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz stars in the revenge comedy, "The Other Woman" this week, so it is a good time to look back at some of the highlights of her remarkably varied career. Director Charles Russell said he wanted to give Diaz the full movie star glamor treatment in her first feature film appearance in "Th

posted 8:00:04am Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.