Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Fury
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout
Release Date:
October 17, 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

St. Vincent
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 For mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

Dear White People
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

Jeffrey Blitz of ‘Rocket Science’

posted by Nell Minow

Jeffrey Blitz, director of the award-winning spelling bee documentary Spellbound, was in Washington to talk about his first feature film, the semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story, “Rocket Science.” He and I had a wonderful talk at the Georgetown Ritz hotel. We got off to a good start when we discovered we were both on our way to Comic-Con.

Most people would say that the lifetime period of greatest anxiety and misery is ages 13-15. What is it about that time of life that interests you so much?

You live an inwardly raw life at that age, you haven’t got an ability to protect yourself from your own emotions and the world. You are ripe –when you fall in love you really fall inlove, when your heart is broken, your heart is really broken, you don’t yet have the inner resoures to protect yourself or be anything less than completely that feeling.

It must be a challenge to ask kids to access and express emotions that are still unfamiliar to them. How do you work with these young actors?

The biggest part of it is casting. When you cast well you are casting someone who can access what needs to be accessed for that part. It was a low budget movie but we put whatever resources it had into casting. The great story about finding Reece [Thompson, who plays the lead] is that we had looked for six months and finally HBO, who was financing, gave us a two week grace period, or we’d have to shut down. And then one day someone was walking through the production office with a bunch of tapes that had been sent in unsolicted. Normally, we would not have watched them but we were ready to try anything. Reece’s came from Vancouver and his agent sent it in. It was like when yiou meet someone you want to be friends with or fall in love, you don’t ask why It’s him, he thoroughly inhabits the role.

The big challenge was that in this case, we had a main character who stutters. It’s like learning a very difficult accent. Sometimes a performance suffers because the actor’s brain is working on the mechanical stuff their mouth has to do instead of what they need for the scene. We looked for six months, everywhere, we tried actual stutterers, but this character had a very particular kind of stuttering that is more amenable to the way of comedy, to set-ups and punchlines, it has a rhythm.

Our female lead, Anna Kendrick, came in very early into the process. After her audition, I wrote down Anna Kendrick is Ginny Ryerson, but because it was so early we thought we should keep looking. But she was one of the few girls we auditioned who could grasp everything she was saying, not just rattle off all those serious SAT words.

Boys and girls at that age seem to be from completely different species. How would you describe their differences and how does that affect their ability to communicate with each other?

We tried to get out of the idea that boys and girls are of completely different realms. Everyone in the movie is lost when it comes to love and romantic relationships and that defines them more than any differences. Ginny is very ambitious, not a typical girl role. They’re all kind of gender neutral in a way, all striving.

The adults in the film all seem to be dealing with their own difficulties. Despite the fact that the characters are surrounded by parents and teachers who theoretically have a commitment to concern for the kids, most of them do not seem to be capable of it. What is their role in the story?

We were not trying to make a comment about adults in general or say that adults are useless. If my main character is lost and all he needs to do is turn to his parents, there’s no story. It is so much more interesting if he has to solve things on his own. It’s not about debate, not about who wins; it’s about kids who are trying to grapple with questions that are bigger than they are. You can love but still not feel you understand it. The adults are childlike, all at the mercy of the mystery of love. The Violent Femmes (whose song is played in the movie) are so expressive of the anger of love gone bad. I love the idea that the adults’ idea of therapy is to do a cleaned up, dainty version of the songs that are roiling with such anger.

In a movie about the power of speaking to express oneself, why have a narrator? He seems to be omniscient, not just older and wiser. Who is he and what does he contribute to the movie?

Hal is a character who essentially has no voice and is struggling to find his voice. He has a fantasy of a voice like James Earl Jones. With a narrator, we had one character with no voice and one who is noting but a disembodied voice, a purely articulate voice. It shows the gulf between who Hal is and who he wishes to be. You are given Hal’s dream voice and confronted with his real voice. I love the idea of a torrent of words. When you grow up as a suttterer you are very aware of the power of words.

What do you want to do next?

I’m working on a documentary about lottery winners. It is another low budget scrappy project, just me operating the camera and producer/sound man. It is a great thing to go back and forth between big productions with a crew of 100 people and this little two-person movie. In a bigger production, you speak in a different language to the cinematographer and the production designer and the cast, many different languages all day long, saying the same thing over and over again. On this new film, I just put the camera exactly where I want to put it. I don’t have to say anything to anyone, I just start to shoot. There are two American myths about the lottery. One is the Protestant work ethic, it’s tainted, bad, and you’re cursed if you did not earn the money. The other is that it solves all your problems. The reality is that your sense of scale shifts, your sense of the money that you need or want shifts. If you have more money, you have more financial concerns. And family members and friends expect you to help them out.

Can you give examples of the kinds of movies and directors who have inspired you?

Hal Ashby — I watched his films again and again, the cinematography and production design. He has a masterful blending of absurd comedy and naturalism. His characters do outrageous things that are not of the real world and yet I feel like he’s someone I know. I did not want a Wes Andersen snowglobe artificial world. I wanted characters with real human emotion but exaggerated. I watch a lot of Billy Wilder films, the way he brings intelligence and humanity into whatever genre he was working in. I love the idea of being able to genre-hop the way he did. He brought his stamp to every one of his films, and I would love to be able to do that.

Interview with the Bratz

posted by Nell Minow

Talking to the girls who play the Bratz on screen is like being at the coolest slumber party in town. Like their characters, Skyler Shae (Cloe), Janel Parrish (Jade), Logan Browning (Sasha), and Nathalia Ramos (Yasmin) are big time BFFs, very different but utterly supportive, all talking at once but somehow always somehow hearing, loving, supporting, and responding to what the others are saying. In Washington, they went on a night-time sight-seeing tour of the monuments in Washington, signed autographs for fans who were all but levitating in excitement, and stopped by to visit the patients at Children’s Hospital before sitting down with director Sean McNamara for an interview.


McNamara sat back and let the girls do most of the talking – it was easy to see that he was used to that. It was also easy to see how much he genuinely enjoyed and respected the young performers. “When we announced that we were making the movie online we had 1400 submissions in one hour,” he said. “We saw over 5000 girls. We didn’t have fixed characters in mind, so we asked what they could bring that no one’s ever seen before. We looked for the ability to act, to make us believe their performance, and that special something that comes between the words. These girls got it; they created believable, interesting characters that came through.”
What’s on your iPod?
All four at once: Everything!
LB: I love everything! Let me just tell you my playlists: Country, Bumpin’, Poppin’, Rock, Indie, and Musical.
SS: I’ve got David Gray, Lonestar, Justin Timberlake
JP: I’m a theater freak. I was in “Les Miserables” on Broadway, so that is my favorite. I listen to tons and tons of Broadway. It’s my dream to be in “Miss Saigon.” I’ve also got classic rock, oldies — that’s the foundation of music. I love artists that play their own stuff, especially Holly Brook, Robin Thicke, and Alicia Keys.
NR: A little of everything, but my passion is classic rock. My dad has over 2000 records at home, lots of vinyl, (Peter) Frampton, (Eric) Clapton, Supertramp, and The Beatles. I love “Go Your own Way” by Fleetwood Mac.


You never met before the movie. How did you find ways to connect to each other to make your onscreen friendships seem real?
SS: We hung out all the time, went shopping, had our nails done.
JP: We did a lot of dancing and singing together, and we had the most fun set, with constant humor, constant jokes.
NR: We learned acting skills from each other and dance moves. Logan really inspired me.
LB: We feed off each other’s energy and make each other laugh by imitating each other. Janel has cute little baby voices. And Nat is always practical, a great advice-giver.


In the movies, the Bratz get their name from a “mean girl” who tries to boss around everyone in the school. What makes people behave that way and what makes the Bratz the only ones who don’t do what she says?
SS: People want to fit in, so they are afraid to say no to her. Because she is beautiful and controlling and powerful, and people want to go to the coolest party.
NR: She wants attention. She is insecure, so she overcompensates.
JP: I think some people who truly believe they’re better than everyone else. The Bratz show that the good relationship with their family is the foundation for having the confidence to say no to her.
LB: All the Bratz are anti-stereotypical; they do not feel they have to do what everyone else is doing.


What makes Bratz dolls so popular?
NR: They’re cute, trendy, different, young, and diverse. Each girl can relate to one of them. And we’ve seen that girls do not necessarily pick the one of the same race as their favorite.
LB: The idea behind it was girls expressing themselves different ways, finding their own way.
Bratz all have “a passion for fashion.” How do clothes help you express yourself?
SS: Chloe loves sports and film-making, so that affects her look, jeans and hoodies.
LB: We all have unique and different styles in the movie, and it helps us show who our characters are, what makes each of us unique. We all have different color palates. Sasha is very Beyoncé, very classy, and animal prints are her signature.
ND: Yasmin wears fun, flirty dresses.
JP: Jade loves very funky, old stuff, loves to take something and “Jade-ify” it, with lots of chunky skull jewelry and lots of black.



What makes girls’ friendships so special?

JP: To have someone that’s always there for you not matter what, even though you have little fights and get torn apart.
LB: I have five best friends back in Georgia. We are there for each other with family situations, with school, they’re the ones that will help you when everyone is against you, exactly like in the film.

Underdog

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for rude humor, mild language and action.
Movie Release Date:2007

There may be no need to fear now that Underdog is here, but there is no reason to feel very happy, either. This live-action adaptation of the 1960’s animated television show substitutes special effects for satire.


The animated series was a gentle parody of the superhero genre, with perennial milquetoast Wally Cox providing the very unheroic voice talent for the shoeshine dog who popped power pills and spoke in rhyme.


This version is a boy-and-his-dog story, alternating between crude humor and synthetic sentiment. Perennial slacker Jason Lee (“My Name is Earl”) provides the speaking voice for a sad-eyed beagle who is drummed out of the K-9 corps for making too many mistakes. Consigned to be the subject of experiments in the lab of mad scientist Simon Barsinister (Peter Dinklage of The Station Agent), the beagle creates chaos trying to escape. The lab is destroyed, but not before the dog is exposed to the doctor’s experimental fluid, which gives him superpowers, including the ability to speak and to fly.


Cop-turned-security guard Dan (Jim Belushi), takes him in, names him “Shoeshine,” and gives him to his estranged son Jack (Alex Neuberger). Jack is thrilled with what Shoeshine can do and helps him become the superhero known as Underdog.


The special effects are technically adept. The screenplay, however, is not. It relies heavily on doggy-doo humor and smart-alecky comments comparing humans and animals, adding in a clumsy reference to Lady and the Tramp and, even a sort of “Norma Rae” moment when Underdog pauses in the middle of a confrontations to invite the worker dogs of the world to unite. Dinklage has fun with Barsinister’s grandiosity and the ever-reliable Patrick Warburton gives what he can as the sidekick. But the he father-son reconciliation is listless and the rest of the movie is bland, tepid, and dull. If only Underdog’s superpowers included the ability to fetch a better script.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of comic/cartoon violence. The bad guys are bashed, characters are in peril, one character has an ugly scar, and at one point it appears that a major character has been killed, but no one is seriously hurt. There is a reference to loss of a parent. A student forges a note to get out of school. Characters use some schoolyard language and there is a significant amount of potty humor. Shoeshine makes a joke about mistaking a boy dog for a girl dog and there is some boy-girl humor. There is a nod to the movie’s origins as a way to promote General Mills with some product placement of the company’s cereals.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was hard for Jack and his father to talk to each other. What did Jack like most about Shoeshine? Why did Con want to be Dr. Barsinister’s partner? Who can you think of who could be called an underdog?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the cartoon series, Firehouse Dog, Good Boy!, and Cats & Dogs.

Hot Rod

posted by jmiller

Even when this movie is at its dumbest, and that is very, very dumb indeed, even when it launches, or, I should say, lurches, into its umpeenth attempt to find humor in having its main character get beat up/crushed/knocked over or act like a 12-year-old around the girl he has a crush on, somehow, we still keep rooting for it because Andy Samberg is funny. Even his hair is funny.


Reportedly this was originally written for Will Ferrell and then someone realized that even the energetic Ferrell could not possibly make a silly movie about every loser who every tried any sport, so it was turned over to the latest “Saturday Night Live” breakthrough, Lazy Sunday‘s Samberg, who adapted it, with the friends he’s been working with since childhood, for his rather more surreal sensibilities.

This is the story of Rod Kimble, a would-be stuntman who does not seem to notice that he never successfully completes a stunt (the Ferrell part). He goes to the woods to “punch-dance out my rage,” has an extended exchange with his half-brother that consists entirely of their saying “cool beans” to each other and celebrate by popping bubble wrap. And Rod’s question for the girl of his dreams (Isla Fisher as Denise) is who would win a fight between a grilled cheese sandwich and a taco. This is the Samberg part.

Her well-reasoned response? “The grilled cheese, but only in a fair fight. If it’s prison rules, I’d pick the taco.” Clearly, they are destined to be together. And then there’s a cameo appearance by a character in a Dickens novel.

These dementedly random moments make up for some of the more sluggish, thuggish elements. When Rod falls down a mountain, he really falls down the mountain in a scene that is hilariously prolonged. But too much of the movie is just seeing Rod get beaten like a pinata (literally). If you think it is funny to see someone get beat up many, many times, to hear that crunch of bone on bone, to see a man beg for the respect of his stepfather (Ian McShane) only to be told it will not happen until he defeats him in a fight, to see Sissy Spacek wander around in a daze, probably because she cannot figure out what she is doing in this movie, to see adult males act like 12-year-olds around women and refer to the “boner police” — if you can understand the references in a Nickelback joke, AND if you think there is such a thing as a Nickelback joke, and only then, you might enjoy this film.

Parents should know that this movie has brief strong language (one f-word), many crude words and some sexual references, homophobic insults, vulgar humor, a brief scene of dogs having sex, constant comic cartoon-style violence (no one hurt) including domestic violence, drinking, including buying liquor to respond to disillusionment, smoking, hallucinogenic drug use, and potty humor.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Rod felt he had to prove himself? Why did Denise like Rod? What does it mean to sell out? This movie was made by three people who have been making funny movies together since they were kids -– would you and your friends like to try to make a movie?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Blades of Glory and Wayne’s World.

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