Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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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

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
May 2, 2014

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

 

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

When the Game Stands Tall
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material, a scene of violence, and brief smoking
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Need for Speed
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language
Release Date:
March 14, 2014

The Omen

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for disturbing violent content, graphic images and some language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Director John Moore knows one thing — how to compose some compelling images with swirling white (flakes of snow, scraps of paper) and something creepy and scarlet to catch your eye. But those swirling flakes and glimpses of red have more movement than the film itself; most of it is just a bunch of static set-pieces that will be overly familiar to anyone who has ever heard a ghost story.


As in the 1976 original starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, a mysterious priest tells Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber), an American diplomat, that his newborn baby has died. Another woman has just died in childbirth, and the priest persuades Robert to take that child as his own, telling no one about the substitution, not even his wife Katherine (Julia Stiles).


As Robert achieves extraordinary success, becoming Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Katherine is left to care for the child, Damien. But Katherine cannot feel close to him and many disturbing incidents and dead bodies later, Robert begins to learn the truth about Damien’s real parents.


Scheiber acts as though he’d rather be back in Ukraine directing Everything is Illuminated. He and Stiles (who played siblings in Hamlet) are supposed to have a loving relationship, but there is no chemistry whatsoever. Indeed, hardly anyone in this movie seems to have any connection with anyone else; it’s as though each actor performed in front of a blue screen and chroma-keyed in later. The only exceptions are Mia Farrow as Damien’s mysterious nanny (and what a trippy experience it is to see the star of Rosemary’s Baby playing the Ruth Gordon-ish role) and David Thewlis as a photographer who discovers a strange stripe of smoke as a portent in his pictures of people who are later killed.


There’s a long tradition of stories based on scary evil children. It taps into some nicely primal and disturbing feelings we have about these adorable creatures who take over our lives. But when it isn’t done well, it just seems silly, and this child’s supposedly feral stares just seem petulant.

Yes, the gory gross-outs are there, with various characters getting impaled, beheaded, hanged, and knocked off a balcony. But the in between scenes, what is supposed to be a creepy increasing dread is just time to check your watch and munch some popcorn before the bad stuff starts up again. If it gets too dull, you might try counting the parallels to “Harry Potter,” with two of the same actors and a similar theme of a young boy with strange powers revealed at a zoo….


Parents should know that this is an intense and creepy thriller about the spawn of the devil. There are graphic scenes of peril, injury, and death. Characters drink and use some bad language. Some audience members may be disturbed or offended by the portrayal of some clergy and a devil child.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Robert agreed to the priest’s proposal and why he did not tell Katherine or anyone else what he was learning about Damien. Families may also want to discuss their own beliefs about God and the devil.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Da Vinci Code, The Name of the Rose, Rosemary’s Baby (starring Farrow),and the original.

A Prairie Home Companion

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for risque humor.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Garrison Keillor’s voice is a national treasure. It is so warm, so magnetic, even hypnotic that it lulls you into a whole different dimension, an idealized past located somewhere between innocent nostalgia and ironic self-awareness, as though Norman Rockwell painted an episode of “Seinfeld.” His long-running radio program appeals to those who appreciate the authenticity of the roots music, performed with utter sincerity, and the slyly skewed humor that keeps it from getting sugary. He tells stories of Lake Woebegon (“Where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average”) and has faux ads for products like Powdermilk Biscuits, which “give shy people the strength to get up and do what needs to be done.” Keillor may be the only one in history to keep happy both the sentimentalists who love Kinkade and the cynics who love po-mo happy, each thinking they’re the only ones who really get him.

The film describes the radio program as one that “died 50 years ago but someone forgot to tell them — until tonight.” Keillor is nostalgic, faux-nostalgic, and a commentator on nostalgia all at the same time.


Director Robert Altman is a perfect match for Keillor’s sensibility, and this intimate, backstage look at the radio program’s last broadcast mingles real (with some of Keillor’s regulars as themselves) with fiction (Kevin Kline as Keillor character Guy Noir, Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as singing sisters and Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly as singing cowboys who love bad jokes — and of course the radio program is not on a commercial network and is not ending) and fantasy (Virginia Madsen as a mysterious and mysteriously powerful stranger). The narrative is more layered than the radio program and Altman’s understated documentary style never intrudes, but no fleshing out can possibly compare to the complexity and intimacy of a listener’s imagination.


Parents should know that the movie has some strong and crude language, some sexual references, sexual humor and sexual situations, reference to suicide, and deaths of characters (at least one sad).


Families who see this movie should talk about the enduring appeal of Keillor’s radio program. What can you tell about the relationship between Yolanda and Rhonda? Yolanda and GK? How does the relationship of Yolanda and Lola change and why?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the beloved radio show. They will also enjoy some of Altman’s other ensemble movies like Nashville and Gosford Park. You can also sign up to get daily emails with Keillor’s Writer’s Alamanac, a daily poem and literary trivia segment broadcast on NPR.

The Break-Up

posted by jmiller
F+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexual content, some nudity and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Someone should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission about false advertising for this film. The trailer and the ads indicate that it is a romantic comedy. But it is, in fact, neither romantic nor a comedy; it’s more like an episode of Dr. Phil. Of course the trailer and the ads also indicate that it is enjoyable, and that, too, turns out not to be true, but if the FTC filed complaints every time that happened it would need more employees than the Defense Department.


The title says it all. Before the credits, we meet Brooke (Jennifer Anniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn, who wrote the original story and produced the film) as they meet each other at a Cubs game. The next thing we see are those essential if overly familiar incidica of movie love: pictures showing our lovebirds making funny faces in a picture-taking booth, feeding each other, and decorating their new condo.

But then Gary and Brooke have their families over for dinner and get into a dispute about cleaning up. Brooke takes a stand and breaks up with Gary, hoping to make him realize how much he cares about her. But Gary, either because he takes her at her word or because his feelings are hurt, does not respond. So she raises the ante, trying to make him jealous, and he raises the ante, trying to prove he doesn’t care.


So, the whole movie is a game of one-upsmanship, as each one tries to make the other more miserable. It gets increasingly ugly and painful. Then it ends.


What is so disconcerting about all of this is that the performers seem to think they’re in a comedy and their performances have a comedy, even a sit-comedy rhythm. Anniston can be a fine dramatic actress (see the underrated The Object of My Affection) and has some of the best comic timing aound. Vaughn’s oddball ticcy rhythms, like Michael Keaton’s, work surprisingly well to convey either vulnerability or menace, sometimes both (see his underrated Clay Pigeons). But both of them are off here, as though they are lost in a script that does not match the tempo of its characters or story. The situations that are supposed to be funny are so mean-spirited and juvenile that they come across as creepy and nasty. We never believe they were a couple or that they should be a couple. they have nothing in common, no affection, no tenderness, no connection, no enjoyment of each other. They just get annoying; if we cared more, we would ask why they couldn’t just talk to each other instead of resorting to power games and indirection. But we don’t, so all we want is for them to shut up. And it seems to suggest that the problem was all Gary’s fault. Brooke talks about all she did and how under-appreciated she felt. Gary never suggests that she should have tried to find out if what she did was what he wanted and needed; he didn’t appreciate it because — he didn’t appreciate it.

The only way this story could possibly work is if it was set in a high school. We can forgive teenagers — and identify with them — for being so immature and clumsy. But having people in their 30′s say things like “Now I have him where I want him” and “Why didn’t you ever tell me?” induces not sympathy, not identification, just impatience and misery.

We keep hoping for more from the exceptional supporting cast, including Judy Davis as Brooke’s domineering boss, Ann-Margret as her mother, John Michael Higgins as her a capella-loving brother, and Jason Bateman and Jon Favreau as friends. Whenever the camera turns back to Gary and Brooke again, we sigh in resignation.


As for the ending, all I can say that at the screening I attended it literally provoked gasps of disappointment. Forget Dr. Phil; what Brooke and Gary need is a script doctor.

Parents should know that this film has some very raunchy material for a PG-13 (including a “Telly Savalas” bikini wax and two hooker jokes in the first ten minutes); as usual, the MPAA takes this material far less seriously when it is in a comedy than if it occured in a drama. There is some strong language (one f-word) and some crude language. Characters drink and smoke and there are sexual references and some nudity (bare male and female tushes, strip poker) and some implied nudity. Overall, the movie concerns some mean, dysfunctional, and petty behavior and it includes some tense and unhappy interactions.


Families who see this movie should talk about why it was so hard for Brooke and Gary to speak directly to each other about their feelings and concerns. What did they learn?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The War of the Roses, Ruthless People, and another movie set in Chicago, About Last Night. They might enjoy some of the classic comedies about battling couples who find each other again like The Awful Truth and Move Over Darling.

An Inconvenient Truth

posted by jmiller
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for mild thematic elements.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

No zombies. No chain saws. No mutants. No aliens. No meteors hurtling toward Earth. And yet, this is the scariest movie of the year, not, as some jokes suggest, because it is a two-hour Power Point Presentation by famously un-exciting former Vice President Al Gore, but because this is real, this is happening, and we can’t count on Bruce Willis or Will Smith to save the day.


Al Gore first became interested in the problem of climate change as a result of a visionary teacher he had in college who was the first person to begin to map the increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. He has now given this presentation more than 1000 times, going from flip charts to fancy animated graphics. His somewhat stiff but clearly deeply felt delivery turns out to be just right for this material. Anything else would sound shrill and shriek-y. And as he presents the science of the causes, the impacts so far, and the prospects for the future, his relentless but calm tone makes it possible for us to stay with the story without feeling shrill or shriek-y ourselves.


There are a few welcome digressions into Gore’s personal life that help us understand why he feels that this is not a polticial or a scientific issue as much as a moral one. There is an unwelcome and distracting digression into the 2000 election that wafts a whiff of sour grapes over the description of the Bush administration’s policies. But other than that brief derailment, the movie is mesmerizing. Ultimately, crucially, it is hopeful, ending with a sense of purpose and confidence that we can do what is necessary.

Families who see this movie will want to find out more about the problems it describes and what they can do to help. The film’s website is a good place to start. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s global warming site has information for adults and children. Another point of view is here, produced by a conservative think tank called the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Slate Magazine’s Gregg Easterbrook challenges some of the moral and scientific points made in the movie here. A search for “climate change” or “Kyoto accords” on the website maintained by the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives will provide an update on current proposals and debates. Other resources include the Pew Center and the Exploratorium.

Families should talk about how we sort through different opinions, sometimes even different facts presented by a range of sources. They should also talk about the range of responses for individuals and communities.

Families who appreciate this film will also like Darwin’s Nightmare, Koyaanisqatsi, March of the Penguins, The Future of Food, and The Yes Men.

Previous Posts

Yes, Another "Happy" Video, But You Will Love This One, I Promise
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3KSKS3TTbc#t=239[/youtube] Produced by a team of Deaf campers & staff from Deaf Film Camp 2014 at Camp Mark Seven.

posted 11:35:09am Aug. 22, 2014 | read full post »

An R Rating for Being Gay?
"Love is Strange," a tender, beautifully written and performed love story about a three decade relationship, stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.  The MPAA has given the movie an R rating even though there is nothing in the film that normally triggers an R in the categories of language, violence,

posted 10:00:58am Aug. 22, 2014 | read full post »

If I Stay
Hamlet asked it best. "To be, or not to be: That is the question." We struggle through, worrying about whether someone likes us or whether we will be accepted at the school of our choice

posted 6:00:09pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
If you want to not just see but hear an eyeball being pulverized, then see "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For."  If you want to see and hear it in the company of an audience who thinks that's

posted 5:59:27pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

When the Game Stands Tall
This dreary assemblage of every possible sports cliché has one thing in common with the game it portrays. Every time it seems to be going somewhere, it stops. More frustratingly, it wastes the opportunity to tell a good story by trying to squeeze in too many great ones. There are too many crises

posted 5:59:00pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »


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