Movie Mom

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Fading Gigolo
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

Philomena
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
Release Date:
November 22, 2013

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 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

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

Grudge Match
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

The Village

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

The ending of this movie will infuriate some people, but for me it was a lot of fun and worked on many levels. And I thought about it all the way home.

However, it’s just about impossible to say anything more about the movie without spoiling the surprises, so you might want to stop reading right now. If not, you’ve been warned.

The people of the village of Covington live in an uneasy truce with creatures they describe as “those we do not speak about,” who live in the woods that ring their town. Of course, the villagers do speak about them all the time, as, for example, when they refer to them as “those we do not speak about.” They sometimes wonder whether they should try to leave the village — perhaps someone in one of the towns that lie on the other side of the woods might have medicine that could have saved a young boy. Fear of “those we do not speak about” keeps them well inside the boundaries ringed by ochre-colored flags. But young people are restless — and reckless — and dare each other to test the boundaries. And there is a developmentally disabled man named Noah (Adrien Brody) who does not always do what he is told.

The village schoolmaster is Edward Walker (William Hurt), who has two daughters, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is blind, and Kitty (Judy Greer). Both are drawn to Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), but he is interested only in Ivy, who has a warm and wise heart and a merry spirit. Lucius tries to go into the woods and it makes the creatures angry. There is an attack. But then something else goes very wrong and someone else must enter the woods, this time not to return without completing the journey.

Producer/writer/director M. Night Shyamalan knows how to use the camera to tell the story and has a sure control of tone and pace, alternating gasps and laughs to keep things moving. Working with Coen brothers’ cameraman Roger Deakins, he has created a wonderfully evocative setting. Hurt delivers one of his less mannered performances and his scenes with his daughters and with Sigourney Weaver, who plays Lucius’ mother, are movingly tender. The heart of the movie is Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of actor/director Ron Howard) as Ivy. Every moment she is on screen is fresh, touching, and real.

Even aside from the ending, there is a lot in this movie. Ever since the days of fairy tales and Shakespeare, quests that take characters into the woods have been Jungian metaphors for journeys into the soul, voyages to growth and understanding, and we get a nod to that when a young yellow ridinghood (red upsets the creatures) enters the woods on a mission of mercy. Shyamalan is not, well, afraid, to take on some big notions about fear and inhumanity and the conflicts faced by parents who want to protect their children and he creates characters we are willing to trust and care about.

Shyamalan is in some ways the victim of his own success. He is under a lot of pressure to keep pulling surprise endings out of cinematic hats. The problem is that an expected surprise is, in addition to an oxymoron, inevitably disappointing. It has become a distraction, like the cameo appearances by Alfred Hitchcock (which Shyamalan emulates). Hitchcock solved the problem by getting his appearances out of the way at the beginning of his later movies; Shyamalan might want to think about doing that with his surprises as well — he has the chops to deliver a straight, twist-free drama, and if he tries that next time, it would be a nice surprise.

Parents should know that this is a very tense and scary thriller. While much of the scary stuff is in the audience’s imagination, there are some scary jump-out-at-you surprises and some gory graphic images. Characters are attacked and killed. There is a very positive portrayal of a blind character who is exceptionally capable and courageous. Some viewers may be concerned about the portrayal of a developmentally delayed and possibly disturbed character.

Families who see this movie should talk about what drew the families in the village to settle where they did in spite of the risks. They should also think about whether there were any clues in the movie that pointed to the ultimate twist. Why did Edward send Ivy? The movie was originally called “The Woods.” Is that a better title? What is the scariest part of the movie and why?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense and Signs. They will also enjoy the classic episodes of The Twilight Zone. And they might enjoy seeing Hurt and Weaver together in a movie they made more than 20 years ago, Eyewitness.

Little Black Book

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

This would-be romantic comedy is romance-free, comedy-free, charm-free, and apparently carb-free as well, with leading ladies Brittany Murphy and Holly Hunter looking toned but stringy and underfed.

Murphy plays Stacy, a television producer whose mother thinks that the cure for all heartache is Carly Simon music and whose dream is to work for Diane Sawyer.

She gets a job with sleazy syndicated talk-show host Kippie Kann (Kathy Bates), who specializes in topics like “my grandmother is a hooker” and “midgets gone wild.”

Stacy is living happily with her boyfriend Derek (Ron Livingston) until he is away on a business trip and she discovers through his PDA that he has been in touch with three of his old girlfriends without telling her. She contacts them in the guise of interviewing them for Kippie’s television show and gets into more and more trouble until a humiliating confrontation broadcast on live television.

With this movie and Sleepover, co-screenwriter Elisa Bell shares responsibility for two of the worst scripts of the summer. Both films are failed attempts at I Love Lucy-style hi-jinks but both suffer from the same disastrous inability to appreciate the importance of making sure the audience is on the side of the main character.

No matter how wacky Lucy was, we always did, in fact, love her. While Stacy thinks she is adorable (and Murphy clearly thinks so, too), she never gets us on her side. She lies, cheats, and is completely irresponsible with regard to her job. She lies to Derek’s ex-girlfriends, telling them she is interviewing them for segments of the television program, but she never in fact seems to do any work at all. She is a nervous wreck over Derek’s past and possible present involvement with his exes, but she never stops for a moment to think about what her own commitment is. And the ultimate conclusion is not just illogical, which can sometimes be okay in a movie, but it is nails-on-blackboard-level insincere and condescending, which cannot.

Furthermore, the jokes simply are not funny. There may be a way to find humor in canine digestive problems, out-of-control little people, a gynecological exam, nose-picking, eating disorders, and painfully humiliating betrayals, but not in this movie. Taking on Jerry Springer-style talk shows stopped being timely years ago; six years ago, Hope Floats skewered them in an efficient ten minutes. And hauling in a reference to the vastly better Working Girl only reminds us how bereft of that film’s heart and wit this one is.

Murphy has shown some quirky charm in supporting roles (Sidewalks of New York and Clueless) but is too insubstantial to hold the screen as a lead, disintegrating into annoying fluttery mannerisms. Hunter shows us a glimpse of an intriguingly conflicted character, but she seems to be acting in an entirely different film. Bates is just annoying. Livingston has an impossible task but his character wisely goes on a business trip at the beginning of the movie and is barely on screen so it does not really matter. The only character in the film with any appeal is the ex-girlfriend who really cares about Derek, played by the lovely Julianne Nicholson (Tully). It would be nice to see her in a better movie.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong material for a PG-13, including strong language, sexual references and situations, humor about genital warts, and a vibrator joke. Disabilities are portrayed as topics for comedy, including eating disorders and people with dwarfism.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was so hard for Stacy to figure out what really bothered her about her relationship with Derek. They should talk about the ethics of Stacy’s treatment of Derek’s ex-girlfriends, her poor judgment in accepting a job she could not feel proud of, and her lack of professionalism in the office. Why did Barb make the choices she did? What will happen to her? Why do people watch television programs like Kippie’s?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the far better The Runaway Bride.

A Home at the End of the World

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

The Hours author Michael Cunningham has adapted his earlier novel for the screen and the result is admirable, respectable, but not completely successful. The book is the internal musings of the four main characters. What made it work was the beauty of Cunningham’s language. It is touching and illuminating, and even poetic, but that does not make a movie.

What’s left to put on film is the outlines of the story. Despite performances of great delicacy and insight it dissolves into soapiness without the lyrical and meditative prose to provide context and texture.

Bobby is a boy who loses his whole family. The older brother he adored is killed in an accident. His mother and father are so shattered that they become emotionally remote and both die before he graduates from high school.

Bobby meets Jonathan, the only child of Ned (Matt Frewer) and Alice (Sissy Spacek). They become close friends, sharing music, drugs, and some fumbling sexual encounters. Bobby is taken in by Jonathan’s family after his father dies, and years later, after Jonathan has gone to college and stayed on in New York, Bobby (now played by Colin Farrell) is still living with Ned and Alice. When they move to Arizona, Bobby goes to New York to stay with Jonathan (Dallas Roberts) and his roommate, Claire (Robin Wright Penn).

Jonathan is gay. He and Claire have one of those hip, funky Manhattan, Will and Grace, can’t-live-without-him-but-can’t-have-sex-with-him-even-though I’m-dying-to-have-a-baby, perfect friendships. Bobby is sweet, innocent, and open-hearted. Jonathan and Claire, who have none of those qualities, are surprised when he finds a way to fit in with them, possibly even to complete them. Claire seduces Bobby. Jonathan, who still loves Bobby, feels left out. When Claire becomes pregnant they decide to invent a new kind of family for themselves in a big old house in the country, a home at the end of the world.

Instead of holding it together, the grounding provided by top-notch performances makes the story seem episodic and superficial by contrast and some of the cinematic touches are heavy-handed. Farrell struggles with the double handicaps of having to play a character who is a bit of a blank and doing so in a truly atrocious wig, but he manages to capture Bobby’s simplicity without making him seem simple-minded. But Roberts especially is revelatory. Just the way he enters a room or holds his head shows tremendous sensitivity and insight and his every glance is filled with delicate eloquence. First-time director Michael Mayer may put too much faith in the ability of some overused and slightly cheesy music to make his points, but Roberts gets us as close as possible to the depth of understanding in Cunningham’s novel.

Parents should know that the movie has extremely mature material. Characters drink, smoke cigarettes and marijuana, and take LSD, including a teenager who gives his young brother LSD and a mother who smokes marijuana with her son. A character is killed in an accident and other characters die offscreen. Characters use extremely strong language and there are explicit and graphic sexual references and situations, both heterosexual and homosexual. There are tense and sad scenes.

Families who see this movie should compare the families we are born into to the families we create for ourselves. Why does Bobby say that “we are all beautiful and lonely here?” People in this movie have a hard time knowing who they are. Claire says, “What if I’m not this unusual?” Jonathan offers to switch places in his family with Bobby. Claire tells Bobby that he doesn’t look like himself and might be living someone else’s life. What do they need to know to feel “like themselves?” How do we respond to a “big, beautiful, messy world?”

Families who appreciate this movie should read the book. They will also appreciate The Object of My Affection.

Thunderbirds

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2004

There are two kinds of people in the world, the people who know the 1960′s British television show “Thunderbirds” well enough to hum the theme song and those who say “who?”

The show was enormously popular with children and something of a guilty camp pleasure for older fans, who could not resist the combination of low-tech marionettes with wobbly heads and static expressions playing the very high-tech heroes of International Rescue, ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy (played by Bill Paxton in the film) and his five sons, whose names were inspired by the first five Americans in space: Alan, Virgil, Scott, John, and Gordon.

The Tracys live on a secret island in the South Pacific in a spectacular house filled with gadgets to help monitor the globe and operate their rescue equipment — submarine, plane, rocket ship, space station, and pod vehicles. Super-geek Brains (Anthony Edwards) keeps all the technology running smoothly, so that whenever anyone in the world is in need of rescue, Jeff Tracy calls out “Thunderbirds are GO!” and those folks in peril are on their way to sleeping safe and sound in their own beds.

This live-action update directed by Star Trek’s Jonathan Frakes owes more to Spy Kids and Agent Cody Banks than to the original television series. They’ve made the youngest son a teenager (Brady Corbett as Alan), added the children of Brains (Soren Fulton as Fermat) and loyal aide de camp Kyrano (Vanessa Anne Hudgens as Tintin) and put them at the center of the story.

Just after Alan and best friend Fermat return from boarding school to the secret hideaway in the South Pacific, his father and brothers are lured away by the evil Hood (Ben Kingsley). He plans to use the rescue equipment to rob the world’s biggest banks, bringing down the global economy and framing Jeff Tracy as the thief. The Tracy everyone thought was too young to go on missions has to work with his friends to rescue the rescuers.

Corbett, last seen as the younger brother in thirteen is an attractive and appealing hero and the kids have a nice natural chemistry together. Kingsley is clearly enjoying himself as The Hood (though that eyeshadow is a serious mistake), but the highlight of the movie is the delicious Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope, the most adorable combination of coutoure and kickboxing since The Avenger‘s Emma Peel. Lady Penelope is always game to trounce the bad guys while tossing off quips and maintaining her exquisite coiffure, as Parker, her chauffeur/lock-picking expert/sidekick, maintains her fleet of remarkable pink vehicles and helps out whenever needed.

The action sequences are exciting without being too scary. Kids will enjoy seeing the bad guys sprayed with Nickelodeon-style green slime and the way that Fermat uses Alan’s retainer to save the day at a crucial moment. The equipment is also very cool, especially Lady Penelope’s very chic pink car/plane and Alan’s hovercraft. The film drags a bit when the kids are chasing the bad guys all over the island while we are impatient for them to just get on the darn plane, but overall, these Thunderbirds are GO!

Parents should know that the movie has a couple of mild swear words (and implied bad words), brief crude humor, and the use of wire from a bra to aid in an escape. There are some boy-girl references and a comment that a young girl is “blossoming.” The characters are in frequent peril and there are a number of fight scenes, but it is not overly intense, there is no gunplay, and no one gets badly hurt, though someone gets kicked in the crotch. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of diverse characters as both bad and good guys, including characters with a speech impediment.

Families who see this movie should talk about how kids can sometimes feel that their parents do not realize that they are ready to grow up and the importance of listening carefully. Why does Alan insult his best friend, and what does he learn from that? They may want to talk about the feeling of learning that your parents are not perfect and understanding the strengths and weakenesses of those around us — and ourselves. What does it mean to “use your opponent’s strength against him?”

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy learning more about the television series. This site has online clips and information about ordering the series on DVD. They might like to look up the inspiration for Fermat’s name, mathematician Pierre de Fermat, whose theorum has kept people guessing for hundreds of years. “General Hospital” fans may recognize the television news correspondent as Genie Francis, who played Laura for many years. Serious Trekkers will recognize her as the real-life wife of director Frakes.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Spy Kids and the sequel, but don’t waste time on the third in the series. They may also enjoy Clockstoppers.

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