Movie Mom

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

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence
Release Date:
December 25, 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

Home on the Range

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

I love it when Disney doesn’t take itself too seriously.

No one tried to reach for the stars or make this into a classic. It’s just a cute little story about some not-so-contented cows who save the day. It modestly aspires to be nothing more than a lot of fun, and it does that job very well.

Maggie (voice of Roseanne) is a brassy but warm-hearted cow who arrives at the Patch of Heaven Dairy Farm just as the bank is about to foreclose its mortgage and put it up for sale. Her previous farm was sold after cattle rustler Alameda Slim (voice of Randy Quaid) stole the rest of the herd. Mrs. Calloway (voice of Dame Judi Dench), the highly civilized alpha cow of Patch of Heaven, is offended by Maggie’s brash wisecracks, but the other animals are more welcoming, and Maggie is determined not to lose another home. When she comes up with a plan to save the farm by capturing Alameda Slim for the reward money, Mrs. Calloway and gentle but tone-deaf Grace (voice of Jennifer Tilly) go along.

They meet up with Buck (voice of Cuba Gooding, Jr.), a horse who wants to be a hero, and with Lucky Jack, a peg-legged jackrabbit (voice of Charles Haid). In the movie’s just-over-an-hour running time the five animals will get in each other’s way more often than they help each other, but they will provide moments of wit and heart and even a thrill or two, along with sparkling musical numbers from Disney’s best contemporary composer, Alan Mencken (The Little Mermaid and Aladdin), sung by country stars k.d. lang, Tim McGraw, Bonnie Raitt, and The Bleu Sisters.

The style and music of the film harks back to Disney’s 1950′s featurettes like “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom,” “Donald in Mathmagic Land,” and “Pecos Bill.” Pearl, the owner of the Patch of Heaven farm (voice of Carole Cook), could be Sluefoot Sue, thirty years later. The characters are vivid, the animation is superb, and the balance between sweet, silly, and exciting is expertly handled.

Parents should know that the movie has some peril (no one hurt) and mostly comic action sequences. A roller-coaster-ish ride may be too intense for the youngest children. The movie has brief crude humor, including a quick cross-dressing joke, and some mild language. Some children may be upset by the idea of having a bank foreclose a mortgage and might need to be reassured that their home is safe.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Mrs. C and Maggie don’t get along. How are they different and how are they alike? Why did Alameda Slim want all the land for himself? What made the animals at the Patch of Heaven farm feel like a family? How are they like your family?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the farm animal stories Babe, Milo and Otis, and Charlotte’s Web (be sure to read the book, too). They might also like to try to yodel!

The Punisher

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

It’s not as easy to turn a comic book into a movie as you might think, even though comics and illustrated novels are closer to cinema in conception than any other art form. But as this second attempt to turn the story of comic hero The Punisher into a movie shows, translating tone and pacing from page to screen requires an understanding of both forms can be tricky. X-Men got it right. But this Punisher needs a time out.

Thomas Jane is square-jawed, recruiting- poster-handsome and most of all heroic undercover agent Frank Castle. The target in his last big case unexpectedly brings a friend along to the takedown, and when things go wrong, the friend is killed. It turns out he was the son of big-time bad guy Howard Saint (John Travolta), whose lady Macbeth-like wife orders the slaughter of Castle’s whole family, conveniently all vacationing together on an island. After much too much time on how wonderful it is that Castle is now going to live happily ever after with his too-perfect-to-make-it-into-the-second-reel wife (Samantha Mathis) and just-there-to-crank-up-the-guilt son, we then spend much too much time mowing down everyone Castle loves. Castle himself is attacked and badly wounded, but the explosion that is supposed to finish him off blows him to safety. Then a quick montage later he is a lean, mean revenge machine with a newly low and growly voice. He moves into a crummy apartment building and devotes all his time to drinking and orchestrating the destruction of everything Saint cares about.

But the problem is that it is orchestrated too much and too little. The revenge is too elaborate to be viscerally satisfying, slowing the story down. And it is not intricate enough to be intellectually satisfying, too dependent on a highly improbable chain of events all coming together at just the right moment for everything to work.

Jane gives Castle-turned-Punisher notes of desolation and hunger for justice, and he has what it takes to hold the screen. But Travolta’s villain is never more than a posturing despot. John Pinette, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, and Ben Foster are appealing but superfluous as neighbors who befriend Castle. Their stories seem more interesting than his. The fight scenes are, well, punishing, well-staged but so brutal that they throw the thin plot out of balance. The pacing is poor. It takes much too long to get to the massacre of Castle’s family, then the slaughter itself is dragged out unnecessarily and then it is reprised even more unnecessarily.

Parents should know that the movie has intense and graphic violence with many characters killed, including the Punisher’s parents, wife, and child. Characters are tortured and beaten. A character attempts suicide. Characters drink (and Castle abuses alcohol). They also smoke and use bad language.

Families who see this movie should talk about the risks that undercover law enforcers take and what they can do to protect their families. How can good memories save your life? Families should also talk about the line between justice and vengance. What is the answer to the question about what makes Castle different from Saint? What does it mean to say “if you want peace, prepare for war?”

Families who enjoy this movie might want to compare it to the earlier version of The Punisher, starring Dolph Lundgren. They might also like to see the X-Men movies and Tim Burton’s Batman.

The Ladykillers

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

Tom Hanks and the Coen brothers take the title, the concept (sweet little old lady outwits criminals), the teeth, and the slightly sepulchral laugh from the 1955 English black comedy classic. They may miss the primary point (and joke) of the original, and they tone down their usual corkscrew dialogue and mordant humor, but they still manage to provide some wicked pleasures.

The Coens love characters who are sweet but not very bright, especially when they manage to foil characters who are crooked but not very bright. And Hanks likes to play against his type as the all-American guy we’d like living next door.

Hanks plays Professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, PhD., a man who dresses like Colonel Sanders and talks like Senator Claghorn. The curlicues of the professor’s baroque rhetorical flourishes are as tangled as a kudzu vine.

Dorr rents a bedroom in the home of Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall) and tells her that he and his friends want to use her root cellar to practice their music. His real plan is to drill a tunnel from her house to the counting room of a nearby riverboat casino so that they can rob it. Through an ad, he puts together a less than crackerjack team, including experts in ordnance Garth Pancake (J.K. Simmons) and The General (Tzi Ma), Lump (Ryan Hurst), a big guy for the heavy lifting, and McSam (Marlon Wayans) their “inside man,” a janitor at the casino.

Mrs. Munson is a fine, upstanding, church-going woman who wears a hat and gloves and talks to the portrait of her late husband that hangs over the fireplace and proudly sends $5 a month to Bob Jones University. She may not understand the details of what is going on around her, but she knows right from wrong (no smoking, bad language, or stealing, even a penny). She is as quick to insist on good behavior as she is to offer her cinnamon cookies. The fun is in seeing a sweet little “Land o’ Goshen”-ing lady innocently foiling the plans of the would-be criminal masterminds.

The movie is set in an idyllic Mississippi Bible belt town somewhere between Mayberry and a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover and some time gently nestled between the Depression and hip-hop. The humor comes from a colorful assortment of injuries, ailments, and casualties, along with some choice dialogue. If the Coens and Hanks are a little too far outside the boundaries of their best work, their second-and third-best is also watchable, at least for those who find a professor with bad teeth and a big vocabulary, a dog with a gas mask, a cat with a severed finger, and a garbage scow with a dead body funny.

Parents should know that the main characters are despicable criminals who lie, steal, and kill, all played for comedy. The humor is very macabre and may offend some viewers. Characters drink, smoke, and use extremely strong language, including sexual references and the n-word.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether it is true that no one gets hurt when insurance pays for the stolen goods.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the original The Ladykillers and The Lavender Hill Mob. They might also enjoy other comic heist films like Big Deal on Madonna Street and The Hot Rock.

Never Die Alone

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

This movie’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness — it wants to be more than the usual drug dealer shoot-em-up. It deserves some credit for its ambitions. But those ambitions tip it over into pretentious melodrama that only emphasizes how far short of its aspirations it falls.

Rap star DMX plays “King” David, a drug dealer who has come home to New York to make his peace with his former boss, Moon (Clifton Powell). David took Moon’s drugs to California and used it to start his own very successful drug distribution business. He offers to pay Moon whatever he asks to make up for it. Moon’s men come to collect the money but emotions get out of hand and David is mortally wounded.

Paul (David Arquette), sees David lying in the street and drives him to the hospital. David asks Paul to find his son and tell him that “his old man was a warrior.” leaves Paul his car. In the car, Paul finds tapes hidden in a hollowed-out Bible. David, knowing that he was on a collision course with a violent end, found that telling the story of his life on tape “helps ease the pain. It’s all I have left.”

Paul, a writer who has been searching for a way to tell the story of the streets, has found it. He is fascinated with David’s “nobility.” As Paul listens to the tapes, we see King David’s arrival in Los Angeles with the drugs he stole from Moon, and we watch him use that stash to make connections with customers and suppliers to build a business. His first connection is a small-time starlet (her role is “just cable, and it’s only recurring), who becomes his girlfriend and introduces him to other buyers with access to a lot of money. When it is time for him to buy more cocaine and heroin, he insists on the very best quality. David meets a woman he really cares for because she is “beautiful, intelligent, and uncorrupted.” Then he corrupts and destroys her, because caring for her made him feel weak. Abusing her made him feel “loved and appreciated.”

DMX gives David power and dignity. But the character is already so corrupt and empty that it is impossible to find the “nobility” Paul sees in him. David does not learn or grow or change for the better or worse, and so there is no sense of journey to move the story forward. Overly melodramatic flourishes and overly symbolic images also separate us from the characters. A coffin is pushed into the flames of a crematorium as a car drives into a tunnel. A writer banging on a typewriter instead of a laptop and a slinky nightclub chanteuse recall the gangster movies of the 1930′s. And a relationship revealed at a critical moment is intended to bring everything full circle, but just feels manipulative.

Parents should know that this movie is about people who are engaged in crime and corruption. It has constant and extreme violence, including many graphic murders. The main characters are drug dealers, and the movie includes drug use (heroin and cocaine) and overdoses, including a mother whose overdose is discovered by her children. Characters use extremely strong and hostile language, including the n-word, and they treat each other with emotional as well as physical brutality. There are explicit sexual references and situations, including a graphic sex scenes and a threesome involving twins.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the characters decided what was important to them. Who are their role models? Why? What does it mean to say that “we reap what we sow?” Why does David want his son to know that “his father was a warrior?” Was he? Why was Paul so interested in telling that story? Was Paul’s girlfriend right about why he was seeing her? What is the reason for the title? Who in the movie does die alone?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the movies that helped to inspire its characters, including Scarface and The Godfather. They will also appreciate New Jack City and Tupac: Resurrection.

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