Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Love is Strange
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language
Release Date:
08/22/2014

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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.

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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.

Blood Diamond

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for strong violence and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

December brings us the thinking person’s thrillers — all of the explosions and shooting and close calls of a summer movie, but with a more serious purpose and a more distinguished pedigree.


Like Syriana and Traffic, this is the story of deeply entrenched corruption on a global scale, corruption that permeates all levels of society and sustains governments, corporations, and wars. This time it is not oil or drugs. It is diamonds. The diamond industry sells them as magic, the essence of romance. “A diamond is forever.” Three months salary is the right amount to spend for an engagement ring. And the engagement ring is just the beginning — there’s the anniversary band. And there’s the right-hand ring. Every girl can feel a little bit like a movie star or a princess if she looks down at her finger and sees a little bit of what was once a lump of coal and now sparkles when it catches the light.


But on its way to the velvet-draped pedestals at the mall jewelry shops and the red carpet bling, the diamonds are used to support oppression, weapons trade, brutality, and a wide range of illegal activity.


This story is illustrated here through the stories of three fictional characters, a soldier of fortune (Leonardo DiCaprio as Danny Archer), a farmer (Djimon Hounsou as Solomon), and an American journalist (Jennifer Connelly as Maddy Bowen).


Solomon’s peaceful life is ripped apart when his village is attacked by rebel forces. He is kidnapped and forced to labor in the diamond mines. His young son is forced to become a “soldier,” given drugs and abused so thoroughly that he loses any sense that the world can be sane or fair.


Solomon comes upon a rare pink diamond of extraordinary size. He wants to use it to find his family. But everyone around him quickly begins plotting to get it for themselves, by any means necessary. He reluctantly joins forces with Danny. Both have dreams of leaving the brutal world of casual corruption that surrounds them.

But they’re not the only ones who want out. They have to run and hide as they try to track down the diamond, now in rebel-occupied territory, and locate Solomon’s family.


Performances filled with conviction and dignity from all three principal actors, powerful action, and a strong structure that ties together all of the strands of the story and all of the reaches of the diamond industry, from the child soldiers to the glossy magazine ads make this a stirring and powerful story.

Parents should know that this movie has extreme, intense, and graphic peril and violence. Many characters are injured and killed. Rebels and government forces shoot at each other and at civilians, including children. All forms of brutality and violence are described and depicted, including rape, torture, mutilation, and turning children into “soldiers.” Children and adults are kidnapped and forced into labor with rebel forces or the diamond mines. Characters use strong language, including racial epithets. There are sexual references. Characters smoke and drink and children are given drugs. The movie includes depictions of a wide level of corruption and betrayal.


Families who see this movie should talk about what people meant when they said “TIA.” Who is in the best position to change the situation depicted here? Why? Can a moment of love give meaning to a life? How? Families might want to look at the UN’s report on conflict diamonds and the Kimberley Process for ensuring that diamonds are legitimately mined and sold.


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a classic story of the impact of the prospect of great riches. They will also enjoy Syriana and Traffic.

We Are Marshall

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for emotional thematic material, a crash scene, and mild language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

At least in movies, sports are almost always about redemption, community, and triumph. Sports — like movies — provide a controlled world with boundaries within which we can work through issues that seem insurmountably complex outside the chalk lines on the field or the edges of the movie sceen. In this movie, based on a true story, a community shattered by a devastating loss finds a way, through football, to begin to heal, and to find some meaning, not in the tragedy but in the way they respond to it.


In Huntington, West Virginia, Marshall University’s school and the community join together to cheer the football team. One night in 1970, following an away game, 75 players and coaching staff were killed in an airplane crash. Everyone in Huntington knew the players and their families. The grief was so enormous, the loss so senseless that they are numb, hopeless, shell-shocked. Cancelling the football program seems like the only option.


Those who were not on the plane must struggle not just with the teammates they lost but with their own sense of survivor guilt. Red Dawson (Matthew Fox), the one coach who was not on the plane because he had a recruiting appointment, cannot face the fact that 20 of the boys on the plane were ones he brought into the program, assuring each of their parents that he would look out for them. A player who missed the game because he overslept cannot understand why a mistake like that should have saved his life. He cannot bear to suit up and enter the field without his teammates.


But Nate Ruffin (Anthony Mackie), who had been kept home with an injury, knows that the tribute to the lost team that would make the most difference is to keep the program going. And Wooster Ohio coach Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) calls to say that he thinks he can help. With some help from the NCAA, which bends the rules to let freshmen play, some players brought in from other sports, and some montages of 70′s songs and fall foliage/scrimmage scenes, we’re ready for game day.


Ready to play, that is, not necessarily ready to win. But for this team, playing is winning enough.


McConaughey seems to be channeling Columbo as he tries to prove he is not just a movie star but an actor. He hunches over and talks out of the side of his mouth, but the performance is as much about the hair — a bad comb-over — as about his delivery.


The movie falters when it goes in too many directions. Its strongest section is the story about the rebuilding of the team and what it means to the school. But its power dissipates by spreading over too many characters without grounding us enough in their stories, relying too much on signifiers of loss and moving on that are too familiar.

Parents should know that this film is about devastating losses. There is some sports violence, some drinking, and some strong language. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of loyalty, respect, and friendship between diverse characters.


Families who see this movie should talk about what each of the main characters found most difficult and what each of them found most meaningful. Why was rebuilding the team so important to the school? What does that tell us about the role sports plays in our lives?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Remember the Titans.

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