Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

 

Adventure Planet
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:

If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Blended
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language.
Release Date:
May 23, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some scary images and mild peril
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

Miss Potter

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG brief mild language
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

As delicate as the title character’s watercolors, this gentle story about the author and illustrator of The Tale of Peter Rabbit very winning.


Renee Zellwegger plays the quiet daughter of conventional parents who don’t quite know how to respond to a young woman who calls the animals in her paintings her friends. These friends help give her the courage to oppose her parents and conventional society. Originally taken on by a family-run publisher as a sure-fire failure to keep an inept brother tied up so that he couldn’t meddle in anything important, it turns out that the brother (Ewan McGregor as Norman Warne) is just the right partner for Miss Potter, a kindred spirit in every way.


Beatrix and Norman fall in love, sweetly and tenderly. But her parents object, and insist on delay that turns into disaster. Still, Norman’s love and the support of his sister, who became Beatrix’s lifelong friend, give Beatrix the strength to think about what she really wants. In a lovely scene, she shyly asks a banker whether she might possibly have enough money from book sales to buy a farm. It turns out she has no idea that she has become a wealthy woman due to the popularity of Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny, and her other friends.


Some may dismiss the film as too twee and “Masterpiece Theatre”-ish. But those who come with a little patience and an open heart will find themselves moved by seeing Beatrix discover her strength and embrace the world. And those who think of her as just a painter of pretty pictures and a teller of pretty stories will find themselves inspired by her pioneering work on behalf of the environment.

Parents should know that the movie has some very mild references to propriety concerns of the era and a mild reference to alcohol abuse. There is a sad death. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of early concerns about class and gender equality and the environment.


Families who see this movie should talk about how some ideas about families and class and gender distinctions have changed since Beatrix Potter’s time. They should also talk about why Potter’s mother and father had different reactions to her work and why her work was so important to her.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy reading Beatrix Potter’s books. Potter’s characters are so popular they even appear in a ballet. Families will also enjoy the book and movie versions of “Alice in Wonderland.” In You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown the Peanuts characters sing a wonderful song about a book report on Potter’s most famous book, “Peter Rabbit.”

Eragon

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for fantasy violence, intense battle sequences and some frightening images.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

The fact that the CGI dragon gives the best performance in this film is not going to impede the enjoyment of its intended audience, which is 9-12 year olds. It may, however, make it a bit of a long haul for accompanying family members.


This story has all the strengths and weaknesses of its origin as a best-selling book written by then-15-year old Christopher Paolini. The strength comes from the author’s conviction and enthusiasm for the story but the weakeness comes from its key elements being renamed rather then re-imagined.

Like all classic adventure sagas, it relies strongly on those Joseph Campbell archetypes — the reluctant “chosen one” hero (newcomer
Edward Speleers in the title role), who has no parents but does have (1) a wise mentor/teacher giving Shakespearean line readings to dialogue de(in this case, Jeremy Irons as Brom, a sort of cross between Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda) and (2) a special force-like innate talent that competes with an impetuous nature, or, as they say in this film, “one part brave and three parts fool.” We have the meanies, lead by John Malcovich as evil King Galbatorix and Robert Carlyle, unrecognizeable under scrofulous make-up, as his even more evil henchman Durza. And we have the rebel forces, led by Djimon Honsou, and the brave but beautiful girl (Sienna Guillory). And we have a whole new vocabulary of not just words but of properties, principles, powers (including a grok-like draco-vision) and limits, which always has a lot of appeal for those young enough to have the brain space to absorb and store it without worrying about whether it will displace the few things they are already struggling to remember. And, of course, we have dragons, or at least one dragon, a devoted mind-melding, blue-eyed sweetheart of a flying dragon with the lovely voice of Rachel Weisz.


Even at 100 minutes, it drags, taking a long time to get going and relying on too much jaw-breaking exposition that even Iron’s velvet tones and Honsou’s quiet dignity cannot bring to life. The perfume-ad settings are lovely but static and the same could be said about the teen-dream cast. Speleers’ idea of acting is a slightly knit brow, an attempted hard stare, neither of which work very well. It was a big mistake to cast pop star Joss Stone as the blind fortune-teller. It isn’t just that she doesn’t make a believeable blind fortune-teller or even a believable middle ages character. She doesn’t make a believeable human being. Garrett Hedlund as Murtagh seems to be able to hold the screen, but it is hard to tell under the meticulously arranged bangs that hang over his eyes, unforunately making him look like a Pokemon bad guy.

Parents should know that this movie has a great deal of fantasy violence and peril with some sad deaths. Characters fight with arrows, swords, fire, and magic.


Families who see this movie should talk about what it means to be one part brave and three parts foolish. What decisions did Eragon later regret? What decisions did Brom later regret, and why? When characters say they expect someone who was more…what were they expecting? Would you believe Murtagh? Why?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy reading the books. They will also enjoy Ladyhawke, Dragonslayer, and The Lord of the Rings – The Motion Picture Trilogy.

The Pursuit of Happyness

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:May 27, 2013

This week’s release of “After Earth,” starring Will Smith and his son Jaden, is a good time to take another look at their first co-starring film, based on a real-life father and son:

If a man goes from homeless single dad to multi-millionaire stockbroker, you know there has to be a movie. This one has the good sense to star Will Smith and his real-life son Jaden.
Their natural chemistry and Smith’s natural charisma help this story work.
The story does not have the usual feel-good arc. Even though it omits some of the real-life obstacles and setbacks faced by its main character, it is still more grounded in what happened than in the established beats of narrative and the conventions of story. So even the considerable charms of both Smith and the personable character he plays may not be enough to keep audiences from growing impatient to get to the good stuff.

YouTube Preview Image

Chris Gardner (Smith) is a Navy vet, first in his high school class and good with numbers. But his decision to invest everything he had in a portable bone density scanner “that takes a slightly better picture for twice the money” has left his family in a financial position that teeters between precarious and dire. His wife (Thandie Newton) is tired of pulling double shifts and bitter about the way their dream of the future seems to be impossible. She loves their son, but feels overwhelmed. Gardner has to sell two of the heavy machines a month to be able to pay the rent. He is determined to sell them all, but for both of them, the machines he lugs around are like anchors or leg irons.
Chris has one dream that is even more important to him than selling the scanners. He wants to be the father he never had. And he is devoted to his son, endlessly patient and involved. But when his wife leaves, everything begins to slip away. He loses his apartment. And there’s no panic as deep as the fear of not being able to care for your children.
Chris sees a man with a great car and asks what he does. When the man says he is a stockbroker, Chris decides to apply for an internship at Dean Witter.
There are a few obstacles. Chris does not have a college degree. He has no background in the stock market. The internship is six months of intense, demanding, and unpaid work, competing with dozens of others who have more time and better educations. And at the end, only one may be offered a job. Oh, and Chris shows up for the interview covered with paint, in a t-shirt and battered pants. Why? Because he spent the night in jail due to unpaid parking tickets and didn’t have time to change.
His unpretentious charm — and mastery of the then-brand new Rubik’s Cube — gets him the job. And then things get really tough as Chris and his son become homeless and have to spend nights in a shelter or riding public transportation. Chris is handed two near-impossible tasks — to master the fine points of securities analysis and to make cold calls to a list of prospects and turn them into clients. He has a supervisor who keeps sending him for coffee. And while the other interns work late, he has to be at the shelter by 5:00 to make sure he gets in.
Smith has the courage to turn the pilot light down on his powerful movie star charisma and let us see that despite Chris’ intelligence, optimism, and drive, he is vulnerable and scared.

Parents should know that the movie has some tense and unhappy moments that may be disturbing for some audience members, including the break-up of a marriage. A character gets hit by a car.
Families who see this movie should talk about why the word “happiness” is misspelled in the title, when spelling it correctly was so imporant to Chris. What do you learn about him from the way he pursued the stolen scanners? From his decision to sell the scanners in the first place? From the way he handled the job interview? Why did he tell his son not to dream of playing basketball? What was the most important factor in his success? They should talk about how Chris was constantly teaching his son. And they should talk about the insensitivity people showed Chris because they had no idea of his situation; one of the movie’s most important lessons is that we should always remember that we do not know what anyone else is dealing with when we form our expectations.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Erin Brockovich (some mature material) and Rudy (some strong language).

Unaccompanied Minors

posted by jmiller
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for mild rude humor and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

In “Unaccompanied Minors,” a group of young travelers are stranded in Chicago’s fictional Hoover Airport on Christmas Eve. Lead to a room full of other children but decidedly empty of Christmas spirit, five break away from the chaotic “rec room,” holding pen, prompting an airport-wide chase that fuels the rest of the film.

The kids all run for different reasons, some deeper and more touching than others (although that’s not saying much, as one youngster bolts in search of a bathroom). There’s even the rebel who resents the “rich kid” but turns out to be sticking around not because she has to, but because she wants to.


If this last part sounds at all familiar, it’s a safe bet the rest of the film will, too. It’s The Breakfast Club for middle schoolers with slightly lower-grade angst and a less memorable soundtrack.


It’s forgettable mutliplex fodder, but it does have occasional and even endearing moments of originality. Although “Minors” characters never really break from the teen-dramedy stereotypes, the likeable cast kicks the Home Alone-in-an-airport script up a notch. As a veteran writer for television’s cult favorite “Arrested Development” as well as “The Office,” director Paul Feig boosts a comedic pedigree the leaves the film with a few genuine laughs.


Parents should know that that while this film is a fairly harmless holiday comedy, it’s content at times is more appropriate for the middle-school crowd than for younger children. The children explore family dynamics and their own experiences with divorce. One character says of her parents: “They just don’t seem to like it when I’m around,” a conflict that is never quite resolved. Family is a major theme of the film, and although the characters remain optimistic, Feig’s overriding cynicism keeps the film from ever getting too emotionally satisfying.


An airline employee (Zach Van Bourke, played by Wilmer Valderrama), is clearly conflicted about letting the children be children while also enforcing the discipline his supervisor pressures him to enforce. Families who see this film might talk about the decisions Van Bourke makes, and how he negotiates is personal beliefs with his professional duties. Families should also discuss the roles of the parents in the film — what traits are portrayed as “good” in parents? What traits are presented as representative of “bad” parents? What prompts the children to talk about their feelings, and how do they become closer to each other by doing so? How might things change if the kids were to open up to their own families?


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy the holiday classic Home Alone, which is intended for roughly the same age group but contains more violence and more potentially scary scenes. Families might also appreciate 1993’s The Sandlot and 1985’s tale of adolescent teamwork and bonding, The Goonies.

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