Movie Mom

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

Phat Girlz

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

It occured to me as I watched this movie that this was the third time in the last few months that I was watching a large black woman bringing shock and awe to to a bunch of slender, clueless white chicks at a chi-chi spa. We had Queen Latifah in Last Holiday and Martin Lawrence (pretending to be a woman) in Big Momma’s House 2.

And now we have Mo’Nique as Jazmin Biltmore, a store clerk with big dreams of becoming a fashion designer to bring style and pride to women who are not what she refers to as skinny b—-es. And even though this movie is a bit of a mess, it turns out to be unexpectedly sweet and funny. Its very amateurishness gives it freshness and authenticity, a sharp contrast to the overfed formulas of the other two films and most of the rest of the multiplex fodder the studios crank out.


This movie is really a throwback to those 1940′s films about the deserving heroines with big dreams. I think most of the time, they were played by Susan Hayward. Jazmin talks about how proud she is of the way she looks and when she feels insulted by someone who calls her fat she proves herself by throwing tougher and sassier insults calling her victim ugly. But when it comes time to stand up to her petty despot of a boss and show her fashion designs to the store’s buyer (Eric Roberts) or believe she might be worthy of love from Tunde (Jimmy Jean-Louis), a handsome Nigerian doctor, her insecurity shows. She makes some mistakes and learns some painful lessons. But when she is really ready to love herself, the world is ready to love her, too.


Parents should know that this movie really pushes the edges of the PG-13 rating with extremely strong language and sexual references and situations that take it right up to the edge of an R. It would have received an R rating but for the MPAA’s looser standards for comedies. There is frequent use of the b-word, but there is also a very good scene in which Tunde shows Jazmin that her casual use of the word is a symptom of her conflicted feelings about herself. While one couple has enthusiastic casual sex and Jazmin is willing to have sex with Tunde almost immediately, he also shows her that it is a sign of respect and hope for a long-term relationship to wait. A gay character is portrayed with some stereotyping but is also treated with affection and respect.


Families who see this movie should talk about what Jazmin was secure about and what made her feel insecure. How did her experience with Tunde change her? What will happen next? Families should talk about what we should and should not let others’ images of us determine about the way we feel about ourselves.


Families who enjoy these movies will also enjoy Tyler Perry’s Medea movies, How Stella Got Her Groove Back and other “ugly duckling” stories from Funny Girl to Roxanne, which has an insult-trading scene inspired by Cyrano de Bergerac, its source material, that is much like the one in this movie.

The Benchwarmers

posted by jmiller
F+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive humor, and for language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Booger jokes. Potty jokes. Hit on the head jokes. Hit on the crotch jokes. And underdog characters so annoying that they have you rooting for the bullies. These guys should have stayed on the bench.


On behalf of everyone who has ever been assaulted or insulted by a bully, three men take on bunch of kids in a round robin creatively titled “Little Baseballers vs. 3 Older Guys.” The prize — a fancy new baseball field, offered by another former picked-on nerd-turned zillionaire.


The three guys are Richie (David Spade), a video store clerk with a Prince Valiant hairdo who has never had a date and lives with his agoraphobic brother, Clark (Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder), who delivers newspapers on his bike, lives with his mother, and has never talked to a girl, and Gus (Rob Schneider), who has a real job (landscaping) and lives with his wife, who keeps reminding him of her ovulation schedule because she wants to get pregnant. They see a kid named Nelson and his friends getting thrown off the field by bullies, they decide to stay and hit a few balls. The other two are hopelessly incompetent, but Gus can hit and pitch.

Nelson’s dad (Jon Lovitz) a fabulously wealthy man who hates to see his son picked on the way he was, thinks that if the men take on the bullies on the Little League teams (coached by their bully fathers), it will provide encouragement for all the nerds and oddballs.


It’s a lovely thought. But it is undermined by slack, lazy, peurile humor, and by the fundamental hypocrisy at its core. While Gus is kind and the “nerdy” kids are far more competent and mature than the adults, the movie relies a great deal on the same kind of crude insults it purports to be against, making fun of gay men (though videos with lesbian sex scenes are highly esteemed) and disabled people and suggesting that the ability to insult other people is an indicator of intelligence and worthiness.


It’s a relief to see Rob Schneider staying away from his usual gross-out roles, but he doesn’t find a way to make Gus very interesting or sincere. The script gives Heder no opportunity to create a distinctive and disarming character, as he did in Napoleon Dynamite, and gives Spade no opportunity to show his only talent, snarkiness. The best performances in the movie come from inanimate objects: a robot and a Darth Vader security system (voice of James Earl Jones) and KITT, and the car from the television show, “Knight Rider.” If there’s a Most Valuable Player in this league, it’s the talking machines.

Parents should know that this is an exceptionally vulgar movie with very strong material for a PG-13. Characters use very strong language, including the b- and s-words as well as many ugly insults like “ho,” “retard,” and “spaz” and some crude words for body parts. There are several homophobic comments and jokes and a reference to lesbian sex scenes in movies. Characters are made insulted for not having had sex and there are other sexual references including a joke about a fun doll. Characters smoke and drink, one to excess, and there is a joke about Alcoholics Anonymous. There is comic violence. While the movie purports to be about treating everyone fairly and there are some diverse characters, it engages in a lot of stereotyping and ugly humor. There are also annoyingly intrusive product placements for a fast food restaurant, a video game set-up, and an internet provider.


Families who see this movie should talk about bullies and the best way to deal with them — and to prevent becoming one. They can also talk about the power of apologies.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original Bad News Bears and Revenge of the Nerds (some mature material). They might also enjoy seeing KITT in Knight Rider.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

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

It’s not just that an interview with a rock star while he is in the dentist’s chair having his teeth drilled is far from the weirdest thing in this movie. It’s more that the whole story is so weird that by the time you get to the interview, it seems like the most natural thing in the world.


Daniel Johnston lives in that fragile no man’s land between genius and sanity. His mental illness keeps him viscerally in touch with primal adolescent anguish. And of course primal adolescent anguish is the best possible fuel for rock songs — and the people who listen to them. The songs are undiluted emotion, as focused as a laser beam, emotion so all-encompassing that its simplicity is heartbreaking.

Look at his self-produced album titles: “Songs of Pain,” “More Songs of Pain,” “Rejected Unknown,” “Why Me.” The album covers are his simple line drawings of comic book characters and weird creatures. They look like doodles made in study hall. The Whitney Biennial, the most prestigious forum in the United States for new artists, features an entire wall of Johnston’s drawings.


Johnston was prodigious and prolific from beginning, obsesively documenting himself even as a young teenager. The hundreds of hours of archival tapes and footage are the heart of this film, surrounded by interviews with friends, fans, and family.


Johnston alternated between mental hospitals and performances. He had a small but vibrant cult following. It included influential rock stars like Kurt Cobain, who wore a t-shirt featuring one of Johnston’s album cover drawings often during the last year of his life. His songs were covered by Cobain, Sonic Youth, and Yo La Tengo. And he still lives with his parents, who are getting old and very tired.


Director Jeff Feuerzeig is sympathetic but clear-eyed. He understands that Johnston has a tortured soul, but he understands that he has also inflicted great pain on those around him. He abruptly fired Jeff Tartakov, the manager who was utterly devoted to him. His father was piloting a small plane when, in the midst of some massive delusion, he reached over and yanked the keys out of the ignition and threw them out of the window. The plane crashed into the treetops. It was shattered but Johnston and his parents survived.


Feuerzeig has a fractionated, mosaic approach that suits the high-strung nature of his story. Johnston’s music and artwork are a matter of taste, but his story is compelling and sensitively explored. It is hearbreaking to see the once-so-hopeful and promising teenager become a lumbering, uncertain, unhappy man who does not seem to feel connected to anyone else. But it is inspiring to see those who feel so connected to him and to become connected ourselves.

Parents should know that the themes of this film may be very disturbing for some viewers. There are tense and sad moments and references to drug use, and characters use some strong language.


Families who see this film should talk about the choices made by Johnston’s parents and what their views are about the best way to care for family members who cannot take care of themselves. Would Johnston be as interesting and as successful if he was less disturbed?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Tarnation. And they will enjoy this interview with the director. They might like to listen to Discovered/Covered, with both Daniel Johnston’s original recordings and covers by Beck, Tom Waits, Vic Chesnutt, Bright Eyes, Calvin Johnson, and others. They might also like to learn more about visionary art made by those, like Johnston, with no formal training.

Lucky Number Slevin

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

Slevin (Josh Harnett) is not having a good week. He lost his job and his girlfriend. He was mugged and his wallet and suitcase were stolen. He decided to visit a friend, who seems to have disappeared. But the door was unlocked, so he lets himelf in and takes a shower.

A pretty girl named Lindsay (Lucy Liu) from across the hall comes over while he is still wearing nothing but a towel. Some very nasty types arrive, convinced that he is the missing friend, who owes them a lot of money. They have a boss who wants to talk to him about it right away, still wearing the towel.


Slevin has landed in the middle of a war between two crime kingpins, The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) and The Boss (Morgan Freeman). They each live in huge glass towers, facing each other. And they both believe Slevin is the man who owes them money and he gets caught in the middle of their efforts to destroy each other.


Slevin seems to take all of this in stride, never getting ruffled and tossing off wisecracks as people keep threatening him with the most violent and painful consequences for failing to take them seriously. He explains to Lindsay that he has a condition that keeps him from getting scared. But there are a few things he does not tell her that make for complications — and quite a body count.


There’s more style than substance here, but the style takes us pretty far, with some wicked wisecracks, some nicely twisty plot turns, and some very twisted characters. Harnett and Bruce Willis coolly underplay in contrast to Freeman and Kingsley, enjoying themselves with a bit of grand guignol. They achieve an immediate rhythm that has us on their side. The violence is gruesome, literal overkill, and as a result the effort to tie it all together at the end just doesn’t work. But the scenes with Liu and Hartnett have real sparkle — though she is tiny and he is very large, the two seem just right together that we want it to, and that’s close enough.

Parents should know that this movie is filled with adult material that is not appropriate for children or teenagers and for many adults. It has constant extreme and graphic violence with many characters injured and killed, including a child’s parents. Characters use constant extremely strong and profane language. There are sexual references and situations. Characters are criminals, involved in drug dealing and murder for hire. A gay character is the subject of some homophobic comments. Diverse characters are all equally vile, but a strength of the movie is the inter-racial romance.


Families who see this movie should talk about the different characters’ ideas about justice and where they came from.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Usual Suspects.

Previous Posts

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 »

Christian Indie Films of 2014
This year has already seen a remarkable and perhaps unprecedented number of Christian and Biblically-based films, from big-budget epics like "Noah" and "Son of God" to small faith-oriented films like "God's Not Dead."  There is an excellent summary of four Christian independent films of 2014 on In

posted 3:59:03pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Frank: The Real Story of the Singer With the Paper-Mache Mask
One of the handsomest men alive spends almost the entire movie wearing a huge round paper maché head in "Frank," a moving film inspired by the real-life story of the late Frank Sidebottom.  Michael Fassbender plays Frank, a sweet-natured but very quirky musician who wears his big head mask even in

posted 9:10:16am Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »


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