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

Accepted

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for language, sexual material and drug content.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Bartleby (Justin Long) has been turned down at every single college he applied to. His friends’ college plans have also turned out badly.

No problem. Bartleby is a can-do Ferris Bueller type — without “Twist and Shout,” a red Ferrari, a wealthy family, or a clever script.

He makes up a college, the South Harmon Institute of Technology. Its initials provide not only some sense of the movie’s level of humor but also the script’s most frequent word. All goes well until he realizes that he’s going to need more than a website and an acceptance letter. Eventually, the summer will end and he will need an actual place to go.

No problem.

Bartleby and his friends fix up a building and hire an alcoholic former professor-turned-shoe-salesman (Lewis Black) to act as its dean.


All goes well until it turns out a lot of other kids have gone to the fake school’s fake website and printed out what they think are real letters of acceptance, and they show up expecting to move in and to go to school.


Problem.


Fortunately, all of those kids have brought checks for their tuition, so Bartleby sets up a system of student-led learning, using that term very loosely. And all goes very, very well indeed until the snobby kids at the real college nearby decide to arrange for a simultaneous South Harmon parents’ weekend and a visit from the accredidation authorities.


Big problem.


This movie doesn’t have the intellectual heft to write its name correctly to get 200 points on its SATs, but the unpretentious good humor of its cast, brisk running time, a couple of funny lines, and the wish fulfillment fantasy of a college where you can do anything you want give it some genial appeal. It helps, too, that aside from the bad language, underage drinking, slight air of nihilism, and, what is that other thing, oh, yes, the fact that all the characters lie and cheat, there is some real sweetness in the way the characters treat each other. If this movie was a college application essay, it would be the kind that makes the office of admissions decide to overlook lackluster grades and take a chance.

Parents should know that this movie has very strong language and very crude humor for a PG-13. Characters drink and make fake IDs for those underage. There are some crude sexual remarks but the movie’s heroes and heroines do not engage in casual sex. However, the main characters engage in a great deal of risky and unethical behavior. For example, they lie, cheat, and steal.

Families who see this movie should talk about the pressure on high school students to get into the “right” college. They may also want to look at highly respected schools with alternative programs that give students the chance to design their own curriculum. Summerhill is an educational classic, now out of date but still worth reading. Do you think Bartleby’s name is a possible tribute to the Herman Melville’s character who said “I prefer not to” when asked to do his job?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Camp Nowhere, which has an almost identical plot, as well as other campus comedies from Monkey Business to National Lampoon’s Animal House (for mature audiences only), Good News, and P.C.U.

Step Up

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief violence and innuendo.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

A ballet dancer needs a partner for the biggest show of the year. She sees a boy working off his community service time at her school showing some of his dance moves off to a friend. Could he do? Will he do it? Will they learn a great deal from each other and about themselves as they work together and will there be an issue right up until showtime about whether the big dance number will happen?

Yes to all of the above, and yes, too, to the really big question, which is: will it be fun to watch? Imagine a hip-hop version of High School Musical, some juvenile delinquency and a drive-by shooting added in to provide some street cred, but still a Disney-fied world where kisses are important and happy endings are guaranteed.

Ever since the days when Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney decided to put on a show, movies about kids working hard on song and dance numbers for the big night that will decide their futures have been a staple for showing off young talent to an appreciative young audience. Like the recent Save the Last Dance, this is the story of a mash-up, as the ballet dancer learns to loosen up and the boy from the streets learns discipline and technique.

Jenna Dewan is Nora, a senior at a Maryland high school for the arts. Tyler (Channing Tatum) is assigned 200 hours of community service at the school for vandalism. Nora is preparing for the big showcase that will determine whether she gets offered a job as a dancer. When her partner Andrew is injured, she asks Tyler if he will practice with her until Andrew is better.

The screenplay is so formulaic that it seems not just predictable but inevitable. The dialogue struggles mightily under its exposition-heavy burden until it collapses completely. Tatum and Dewan are about 10 years too old to be playing high school kids. These kids are about as “street” as a commercial for Target. But the dance numbers are energetically filmed and the underlying sweetness is impossible to resist. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard applause in a movie theater just because of a kiss. And it’s been an even longer time since I wanted to join in.

Parents should know that this movie has brief but disturbing violence. A young character is shot and killed. There are some other moments of peril and threatened violence. Characters use some strong language and engage in vandalism and car theft. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of committed and loyal friendships between diverse characters. And another is its portrayals of teenagers who are not sexually promiscuous and take kissing seriously. SPOILER ALERT: A young boy is killed because he wants to imitate and impress his older brother, who engages in risky and illegal behavior. The brother is told not to feel responsible, but in reality he is in part responsible for what happened and parents will want to discuss this issue with young teens who see the movie.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Tyler and Mac did not dare to dream of more for themselves and why that changed. What is likely to happen to them next? The characters in this movie talk about loyalty — who shows it? How do Nora’s, Tyler’s, and Mac’s home situations affect their perspectives?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy High School Musical (suitable for all ages). There are many popular films about dancers who develop romantic relationships, from Dirty Dancing and Save the Last Dance (mature material) to the more family-friendly Shall We Dance and Strictly Ballroom.

World Trade Center

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

September 11, 2001 was one of those days that cleave history in two, forever separating the Before and the After as irrecovably as it separated those who were lost from those who survived. As we watched it over and over on television, trying to make some sense of the senseless, people said the same thing, over and over, “It’s like a movie.”


And now, it is a movie, or, so far, three movies with certainly more to come.

That is a part of a tradition that goes back to sagas around the campfire and paintings on the walls of caves. We create stories to help us make sense of our past and to think about our hopes for the future. We are still telling stories about courage and loss through the lens of every major conflict in history. In the last few years we’ve seen major, big-budget movies about great tragic conflicts from the Trojan War through Operation Desert Storm. Their stories about about sacrifice and heroism are a part of the way we make sense of the world.


That very tradition, combined with events that still seem surreal to us, make it difficult for this particular take on the events of 9/11 to feel satisfying as a matter of narrative or drama. Unlike the recent United 93, which adopted an intimate, documentary style for the story of the passengers who fought back and overpowered the terrorists, this movie takes the Hollywood approach to its story of the rescue of trapped Port Authority police.

Where United 93 used unfamiliar faces to allow us to feel we were seeing the real story, World Trade Center gives us Oscar-Winner and Hollywood royalty Nicolas Cage. Where United 93 told us nothing more about the characters than was revealed in the real-time unfolding of events onscreen, making everything that happened disorienting and surprising, World Trade Center gives us the traditional Hero introduction to the characters, with flashbacks to show us their family relationships.

The film begins by telling us it is based on “actual” recollections of the people involved. The use of that word exemplifies the kind of underlining that makes it feel clumsy.


The traditional approach to telling this story only comes across as off-register because it makes it seem — like a movie. Instead of making us feel connected to the real-life events of 9/11, its rhythms and cadences recall other movies, disaster movies like The Towering Inferno, or action movies like Die Hard.


There is a disconnect, too. We are set up for heroes, and then the focus of the story is more on the endurance and anxiety of the main characters than on their heroism. And the title leads us to expect something broader and more all-encompassing. There were thousands of stories in the World Trade Center. This movie focuses on one rescue mission, a deeply affecting story but not as transcendent as its title and set-up prepare us for.


Cage and Crash’s Michael Pena play John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno, Port Authority cops called in to the World Trade Center without knowing exactly what the emergency was. “We prepared for everything,” McLoughlin says. “But not for this.”


They are first responders. They take a deep breath, leave nighsticks and hats behind and grab some helmets and oxygen tanks to go into the World Trade Center complex to rescue people trapped inside. But very quickly the buildings come down and their group is trapped. And soon, they are the only survivors.


At home, McLoughlin’s wife (Maria Bello) and children and Jimeno’s pregant wife (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and four-year-old daughter wait for news. And in Connecticut, a former Marine named Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon) gets a haircut, puts on his fatigues, and goes to the World Trade Center to see if he can find any survivors.


As McLoughlin and Jimeno lie crushed under slabs of rock, with bursts of flame, exploding bullets, and falling debris, they talk to each other. They provide companionship and support and urge each other to stay awake. They talk about their families. They talk about G.I. Jane and how it said pain was your friend because at least you know you’re allive. They talk about Jesus. They don’t know that the rescue team has gone home for the night. And they don’t know that Karnes has come to the site because he believes that is what God wants him to do.


Director Oliver Stone treats the story and the characters with respect, avoiding the consipiracy themes of some of his earlier movies and focusing on the story of the two injured cops and their families. There are powerful moments, the dazed wounded, lurching through the streets like zombies, paper, ash, and debris raining down around them, the collapse of the buildings, a quiet “There’s a lot of guys not with them” from a cop as he sees only a small fraction of those who went out coming back to the station.

And there is one scene of true brilliance and shattering impact as a mother waiting for news of her son (Viola Davis) recalls that the last time she saw him she scolded him for missing dinner.


But as a whole, it is uneven, its very respect for the “actual” stories that it feels out of balance, the personal information about a rescue worker with a history of substance abuse a distraction rather than a contribution to the whole.


There will be dozens of movies about the events of that day, maybe more. This one will fit better as one tile in a larger mosaic. But now, as one of the first, it does not have enough distance to give us a clearer perspective. And it does not have the right balance to make this part of the story resonate in a way that will help to heal or illuminate the events of 9/11/2001. There are times that a small part of the story can help us to understand the whole, through a true story like Schindler’s List or a fictional version like Saving Private Ryan. Davis’ speech reminds us of that, and shows us what this movie could have, should have been.

Parents should know that this movie is about the terrorist attacks and tragic events of September 11, 2001 and it includes material that is not graphic but very disturbing, including the death of thousands of people, suicide, and severe injury and the terror and devastating grief of family members. There are brief sexual references, including a prostitute, and characters use some strong language. Strengths of the movie include the portrayal of diverse people working together, the ideals of honor, courage, and sacrifice displayed, and the role of faith in some of the character’s lives.


Families who see this movie should talk about their own experiences on 9/11. They should also talk about the choices made by the characters and about the regrets they expressed. Someone says they could not have lived with themselves if they had not gone in — that’s who they were. What does that mean? What is it you want to make sure to say to those you care about most? When will you say it?


Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate Ladder 49, United 93, We Were Soldiers, and Saving Private Ryan.

Barnyard

posted by jmiller
C-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some mild peril and rude humor.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

In this movie, the cows are boys. They have big pink udders and manly male voices. In fact, head cow Ben has the manliest, malest, deepest voice imaginable, that of quintessential cowpoke Sam Elliott. Our hero, Otis has the voice of Kevin James. But there are some girl cows, too, Daisy (Courtney Cox), who is pregnant, and her friend and Bessy (Wanda Sykes). And, just to make things more confusing, there’s a bull off somplace, too.


It isn’t like they’re trying to make some sort of point about gender here or there’s some punchline about it. It’s just that the people who made this movie don’t care or think we won’t notice.


I blame computers for this. It used to take as long as seven years to make an animated feature film, with all those individual cells to be lovingly hand painted. So there was a sort of market reality helping to make sure that the scripts really merited that attention. All of a sudden there is software making just about any computer into a mini-Pixar and agents who tell their star clients they can be in the next Shrek. So we get a lot of mediocre films with meticulously detailed fur and feathers and leaves and sunsets and vague and generic stories and characters.


And we get junky animated movies like this one: uncomfortably interspersed with a lot of slapstick and cornpone humor is a cynically added plot line that’s a little bit The Lion King a little bit Henry IV.

Ben, a strong, wise leader has a son, Otis, who loves pleasure and partying. When Ben is killed, Otis feels responsible and unworthy but rises to the challenge of protecting his friends from the predatory coyotes.

If it was just jokes like a cow shouting “MAN-a-bunga!,” riding a mechanical man-shaped bronco, and a bling-wearing rapping rat, it might be silly fun for kids. But the scary coyotes, the sad death of a parent, and the weird wooing of a pregnant (girl) cow make it uncomfortably awkward. The cynical superficiality of the way the more serious material is presented makes it inappropriate for younger kids and unworthy of older ones.


Parents should know that this movie has some peril and violence. Coyotes attack the barnyard animals. A character is mauled. There is a sad death of a parent and a description of other sad losses. Characters use some crude language and there is some potty humor. The cows get drunk on milk and a man reaches for a six-pack of beer. There are diverse characters, but some stereotyping of the females. And there are some references to killing animals for food, which may disturb some viewers.


Families who see this movie should talk about the way parents feel when a baby is born and what it means to stand up for others. They should also talk about the way we sometimes blame ourselves when bad things happen and how we learn to take responsibility for our actions. They may enjoy talking about the ways the animals in this movie imitate human behavior.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Home on the Range and The Ant Bully.

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