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

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

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

 

Draft Day
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language and sexual references
Release Date:
April 11, 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

 

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

Idlewild

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Percival, a mortician by day/speakeasy piano player by night, sleeps under an assortment of singing cuckoo clocks and serenades a lovely corpse dressed as a bride. The engraved rooster on a silver liquor flask talks to its owner, also named Rooster. This stylized and stylish love and bullets prohibition-era story from Outkast is more of an extended music video than a movie, but it is eye- and ear-filling entertainment.


Andre (Andre 3000) Benjamin is Percival and Antwan A. (Big Boi) Patton is Rooster. The boisterously rowdy speakeasy is run by Sunshine Ace (Faison Love), a man of great appetites who is only too happy to feed them all at the illegal club called Church hidden behind his car repair shop. He gets his illegal liquor from Spats (Ving Rhames). Rooster performs at the club and helps manage it as well, causing his wife and the mother of his five daughters some distress. Like Ace, Rooster enjoys partaking of the pleasures of this Church, sometimes the very same one, in the person of the lovely Rose (Paula Jai Parker).


Spats wants to retire, and offers Ace the opportunity to buy him out for $25,000. Ace has a plan to get the money – he has arranged for the renowned singer Angela Davenport to perform. But Spats’ henchman, Trumpy (Terrence Howard) has plans of his own, and they involve his gun.


At times, it feels like the story is less an idea than a list made by Benjamin, Patton, and first time director/screenwriter Bryan Barber (director of Outkast’s most memorable videos) of what and who would be fun to shoot – either by film or by (pretend) gun.


As one might expect, the musical numbers are brilliantly handled, with music video-style sweeps and cuts that make the camera as much a part of the choreography as the dancers. Barber’s approach is to evoke rather than reproduce the 1920’s, with many modern touches in the look, script, and especially the sound, which has only the slightest connection to the music of the era. The evident affection for this romanticized vision of the era saturates the film like the warm sepia tones of its palette. There is something liberating about seeing a beautiful, elegant black woman buy a first class train ticket from a white man behind the ticket counter (the only white person in the film) in 1935 Georgia, without any concern that he might display any bigotry.

Barber achieves a dreamy synthesis that works very well, but has less of a sure hand at creating characters and directing actors. Even the experienced and superbly talented Howard, Cecily Tyson, Ben Vereen, and Rhames are not able to make their one-dimensional characters compete with the film’s visual flair. But that flair, with the dizzying mash-up of old and new, the embracing of some cliches and the turning inside out of others, makes this film entertaingnly audacious and highly watchable.

Parents should know that this movie has very strong language, explicit sexual references and situations, nudity, and a great deal of mobster-style violence. Much of the action takes place in a nightclub specializing in illegal alcohol and prostitution. Characters are shot and killed. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of confident, independent black characters in an era in which that would have been very difficult.


Families who see this movie should talk about why it was hard for Percival to do what he wanted and why it was too easy for Rooster to do what he wanted. They might like to find out more about the history of that era.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Chicago, Moulin Rouge, and O Brother Where Art Thou.

How To Eat Fried Worms

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for mild bullying and some crude humor.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

This is a delightfully snips and snails and puppy-dog tails-style movie, with kids who look and act refreshingly like real kids. It’s based on the book by Thomas Rockwell that has delighted and happily grossed out kids since 1973.


A cute credit-sequence cartoon introduces us to Billy (Luke Benward), who has a sensitive stomach, and his little brother Woody, who happily eats everything. They’ve just moved to a new town. Woody has quickly become the toast of the pre-school with his rendition of “Baby Beluga” but finding his way in 5th grade is trickier for Billy.


The kids are not friendly, except for one very tall girl who always seems to be one step ahead and one semi-outcast who warns him that Joe (Adam Hicks), the school bully, has a special ring — if he punches you, you die, but not until 8th grade so he can’t get blamed.


When Joe taunts him, Billy rashly boasts that he can eat 10 fried worms in one day, with the bully selecting the worms to be eaten and the, um, recipes to be used. Joe and his minions do everything they can to win the bet, cooking the worms with the most disgusting ingredients they can think of, from marshmallow to hot peppers. To make things worse, Billy has to take care of his little brother and keep his parents from finding out what is going on.


Kids will enjoy the extravagently and hilariously repulsive items presented to Billy and the spirit and determination he demonstrates in taking them on (and in). The kids in the movie look, talk, and act like real kids, not glamourized sit-com fast-food-commercial Hollywood types. They have a natural but endearing approach to negotiating rules, evaluating their options, and interactiing with each other and the adults. “Ed’s” Thomas Cavanagh and Father of the Bride’s Kimberly Williams-Paisley are sympathetic as Billy’s parents but they don’t try to solve his problems for him. Billy learns the expected lessons, and the ultimate resolution is sweet and very funny.


Parents should know that the concoctions Billy eats are extremely disgusting and may be disturbing to sensitive audience members. Note, though, as the credits make clear, no worms were harmed in the making of the movie. And no children were, either. The kids use some kid-like crude language, in particular a reference to a particular body part.


Families who see this movie should talk about why bullys think it will make them feel strong and important to insult other people and tell them what to do. Why do some of the kids change sides during the course of the bet? What’s the most disgusting thing you ever ate? Why does Billy’s father say he had to eat worms? How are their experiences alike?


Families who enjoy this movie will want to read the book. Author Thomas Rockwell is the son of illustrator Norman Rockwell, whose pictures showed the same appreciation of real kids. Every family should take a look at Rockwell illustrations like “A Day in the Life of a Boy” and “A Day in the Life of a Girl.” Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Because of Winn-Dixie (also featuring Benward), The Sandlot, My Dog Skip, The Best Christmas Pagent Ever, A Christmas Story, and Pollyanna. Families will also enjoy Bill Harley’s hilarious Dinosaurs Never Say Please and his other CDs for families and My Bodyguard, about a middle school boy’s response to a bully.

Material Girls

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

The problem with a movie about rich people learning about real life that is written by rich people who have no idea about real life is that you end up with something like this — a movie about two rich girls, heirs to a cosmetics fortune, who lose everything, discover what really matters, and end up demonstrating that by making the cosmetics affordable so that prostitutes can buy them.


I’m not kidding. I wish I was.


Real-life sisters Hillary (Lizzie Maguire) and Haylie (Napoleon Dynamite) Duff play Tanzy and Ava Marchetta, whose late father founded a successful cosmetics company. They are due to inherit when they come of age, but his best friend, the current CEO (Brent Spiner) recommends that they sell the company to its rival, run by Fabiella (Anjelica Huston). Before they can agree, a news report that one of the products caused severe skin damage throws the company into chaos. And the girls accidentally burn down their house and turn over their car to someone they assume is a valet but who turns out to be a thief.

They have nowhere to go but the apartment of Inez (Maria Conchita Alonso), their maid.


Ava’s TV star boyfriend dumps her — through his agent. Their fancy party friends don’t want to know them any more. Fabiella makes another offer, much lower. If they sell, the company their father built will no longer exist.


Yes, of course it all turns out fine and there’s a happily ever after ending complete with cute new boyfriends. But on the way there, the movie has a surprising number of bad choices ranging from the odd to the unfortunate, inappropriate, and downright ugly, considering the target audience and the PG rating.


For example, inspired by watching Erin Brocovich, Tanzy uses a skimpy outfit to entice a young man to let her look at some hidden records. She is arrested and put into a cell with three prostitutes who stroke her arm in a menacing fashion — then she turns it all around, using sand caught between the toes of one as she ran from the cops, to by teach them how to exfoliate their skin.


The girls also use some strong language for a PG movie. What is the purpose in a movie like this of a line like “screwier than Courtney Love?” Or “I’m so sorry I slept with your dad?” There is disturbing footage of skin disorders. Most important, the very values the movie purports to communicate are undermined by the approval it expects for its characters’ choices. The great revelations the girls have about the importance of helping the poor are supposed to be shown by their commitment to cheaper cosmetics and arranging for a friend’s children to be allowed into the country.


Superb actors like Anjelica Houston, Obba Babatunde, and Lukas Haas (Witness) are criminally wasted and only make the Duff sisters’ very limited acting skills look even weaker by comparison.


Parents should know that this movie has, as noted, very strong language and references for a PG, including the s-word, a reference to “white trash” (supposed to be funny), jokes about using Preparation H to get rid of eye bags (especially idiotic given that the girls are supposed to know all about cosmetics), “you practically jump each other,” “I heard that on the bus people pee on the seats,” “he was going to go straight for us,” and more. Character (briefly) drink and smoke (though one expresses horror at cigarettes). Characters are prostitutes. Tanzy wears skimpy clothes to get a young man to let her get what she wants. There is a reference to an overdose of birth control pills. A character has a nose job so she can look like Tanzy. Overall, even the supposedly reformed behavior of the girls is not what parents would like their children to imitate.


Families who see this movie should talk about why the girls were so spoiled and inconsiderate. Why does Tanzy say she wished her father had been harder on her? Why does Ava say she didn’t like how hard their father was on her?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Lizzie Maguire and the much better film Cow Belles.

Snakes on a Plane

posted by jmiller

If there’s ever an Oscar for truth in titling, it will go to “Snakes on a Plane.” As zillions of internet fans have noted for months, that says it all. This is the snakiest plane movie and the planeiest snake movie ever made.


The credits list four screenwriters, and I imagine they divided it up like this: “I’ll make a list of places on the plane the snakes will be found, you make a list of body parts they can bite — be sure to include them all, you make a list of items on a plane that can be used as weapons, and you make a list of things that can go wrong on a plane that will make it even more dangerous. Go ahead, throw in a thunderstorm! And don’t forget a big, juicy product placement. Okay, everyone ready — GO!”


There wasn’t much need to make a list of, for example, characters. They just took a couple from every airplane disaster movie: the children traveling alone, the supercilious British guy, the pretty girl with the yappy little dog in her purse, the fat lady with a flask of booze, the kick-boxing champion, the newlyweds with a husband nervous about air travel, the flight attendant on her last trip before starting law school, a germophobic rap star with his entourage, oh, and of course, the tough FBI agents escorting a witness who is going to testify against a very, very bad man.


And there wasn’t much need to write dialogue, with all the suggestions from the internet fans. Yes, the line the fans insisted on is in the film (though clearly a reshoot inserted after principle photography), and a very excited audience joyfully recited along. There was a lot of applause for the snake-o-vision, too, green-tinged shots from the snake’s point of view.


It’s basically a movie about two questions:


1. What is the meaning of life? Oh, sorry, wrong movie. I meant to say, how many places can snakes be on a plane and how many places on a body can they bite? Answer: all of them


2. What items on a plane can be used to combat, destroy, and barricade oneself from snakes? Answer: More than you’d think


These days, when shampoo and cologne are too dangerous to take onboard, it almost feels like a relief to have an over-the-top airplane scarefest like this. There’s a particular reference to current restrictions, as an FBI agent (Samuel L. Jackson) is looking for something sharp and all the flight attendant can offer him is a plastic “spork.”

Jackson strikes exactly the right note, never winking at the camera, simply delivering full-on star power and clearly enjoying himself immensely. Director David Ellis expertly maintains the tension, stopping for some resolution — or even a laugh — now and then. It does not take itself too seriously, but it takes its obligation to entertain seriously and, as far as movies about snakes on a plane go, it’s hard to imagine a better ride.

Parents should know that this is a very graphic, intense, and violent movie with many gross injuries and horrible deaths. A child and a baby are in peril and a dog and many, many snakes are killed. Characters use some very strong language. There is brief nudity and a sexual situation. Characters drink alcohol. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of strong, loyal, and capable diverse characters and women and a sly reversal of gender expectations.


Families who see this movie should talk about how it became an internet phenomenon, with the audience playing a role in determining the movie’s content and even its title.


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Die Hard: With a Vengeance (also starring Jackson), 16 Blocks, and Arachnophobia as well as airborne classics like Airport, The High and the Mighty, and Airplane!. For more on this movie, see my blog posts here and here. And if you’ve seen it already or don’t mind spoilers, see this post with a link to the Slate podcast discussion, too.

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