Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images
Release Date:
December 12, 2014

 

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

Top Five
Lowest Recommended Age:
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, crude humor, language throughout and some drug use
Release Date:

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

DVDs for kids and their families — enter now!

posted by Nell Minow

I have family-friendly DVDs to give away to the first ten people who send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com and identify themselves as Beliefnet readers. If you let me know the ages and genders of your children, I’ll try to keep that in mind as I decide who gets what, but I can’t promise, especially for the last few who qualify. No need to send your address yet; I will notify all who win and get the info then. But as long as you are writing me anyway, let me know a little bit about the movies your families enjoy and what I can do to make this site more useful and entertaining for you. Thanks for visiting and I hope you win!

Meeting with the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission

posted by Nell Minow

Yesterday I attended a meeting with Kevin Martin, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to talk about media and family issues. It was arranged by the Parents Television Council, which has been very active on issues of non-family-friendly content and especially on “cable choice,” unbundling of cable channels so that consumers can buy only the channels they want.

Chairman Martin spoke frankly to us about his views and his frustrations. He, too, believes that consumers should not be forced to pay for channels they do not want to watch. But there is so much money at stake that industry is pouring a lot of money into opposition and it is not likely that legislative proposals will get much support. He has some hope that at the local level, as communities select their cable providers, they may be able to insist on unbundling. The Chairman also looks to local communities to oppose the licenses of broadcast stations that do not meet their commitment to the public interest. He pointed out that local complaints led to the largest fine in the Commission’s history, $24 million paid by Univision for claiming that it had three hours of children’s programming when what they were airing was a Spanish language soap opera. He said that what he found even more outrageous was something over which the FCC had no authority. “Sesame Street,” originally created with government funding and broadcast at no charge over PBS stations, will be moving to cable on an exclusive basis when television goes all-digital next year. This also slows down the creation of an all-children’s public television channel because they will not have access to the content. The Chairman feels strongly that programming created with public money should not be able to sell exclusive rights to channels that are not available to everyone.

PTC’s Tim Winter commented on the meeting and the issues he finds important.


PTC has pioneered activism that holds advertisers accountable for the programs they sponsor, and their website has a lot of very useful informtation about television programs and policy initiatives.

Across the Universe

posted by Nell Minow
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some drug content, nudity, sexuality, violence and language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:February 5, 2008

On the list of movies featuring Beatles songs, this one comes far below A Hard Day’s Night, Yellow Submarine, Let It Be, and Help but slightly above Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, maybe somewhere around Magical Mystery Tour. across%20the%20universe.jpg


Director Julie Taymor is best known for Broadway version of “The Lion King,” which is itself best known for its visual splendor. And least known for its plot. There is visual splendor in this story of characters coping with the 60’s, to the tune of Beatles songs, but not much by way of plot. And the song covers by most of its stars are strictly with Beatles Night on “American Idol.” In one of those early episodes before much elimination.


For people who remember the 60’s, the movie’s look and sound will be poor competition for the kaleidoscopic visual and aural brilliance of the original Beatles creations and the story and characters will be superficial and simplistic compared to the kaleidoscopic upheavals of the era.

Those who know the Beatles’ work will find the movie’s references uninspired recreations rather than re-imaginings or responses. The character names say it all: Jude, Lucy, Max, Sadie, Rita, Prudence, JoJo, Dr. Robert, Mr. Kite, get it? Too on the nose. Max has a hammer. The singer and her band play on the roof until the police come to shut them down. People not familiar with the 60’s will wonder what the fuss was about.


There are some very clever touches in the staging of the musical numbers, as when at an induction physical, the Uncle Sam posters sing “I Want You” or in a couple of scenes where one song is played in sharply contrasting contexts. There are also some brilliant images, especially when the characters experiment with hallucinogens. But the story and characters are thin and so are the singing voices of most of the performers, with Eddie Izzard’s Mr. Kite, Bono’s Dr. Robert, and newcomer Dana Fuchs as a Janis Joplin-eque Sadie as welcome exceptions.


But they are supporting roles with too-brief appearances as the center stage goes to the featherweight story about a romance between blue collar Liverpudlian Jude (Jim Sturgess) and an American suburban princess named Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) whose boyfriend was killed in Viet Nam. Lucy’s brother Max (Joe Anderson) and Jude move into one of those adorably Bohemian, summer of love, starving artist garrets in Greenwich Village, run by Sadie (Fuchs). They are soon joined by Jimi Hendrix-ish JoJo (Martin Luther) and unhappy-in-love Prudence (T.V. Carpio), who came in through the bathroom window, get it? Jude wants to be an artist; Lucy wants to protest the war. And everybody goes on a magical mystery tour and meets Dr. Robert and Mr. Kite.


It is overlong and under-written, visually vibrant but thematically transparent. The characters are more alive in the original Beatles songs than they are on the screen. And that leaves us nowhere, man.

Parents should know that the characters in this movie drink, smoke, and use drugs, including marijuana and hallucinogenics. They briefly use strong language and there are some emotional confrontations. The movie includes battle violence in Viet Nam, police brutality, and an offscreen explosion of a bomb built by protesters against the war. Characters are injured and there are sad offscreen deaths. Images include nudity, some stylized, and non-explicit sexual situations. A strength of the movie is the loyal and supportive relationships between characters of racial, gender, and sexual orientation diversity.


Families who see this movie should discuss some of their parents’ and grandparents’ experiences during the 1960’s. And they should listen to the original versions of the Beatles songs. Why are these songs so enduring and what groups today are producing songs that people will still want to hear in 40 years?


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy A Hard Day’s Night, Yellow Submarine, Let It Be, and Help, as well as other films about the 60’s like Alice’s Restaurant and Hair.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

posted by Nell Minow
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for some strong violence and brief sexual references.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:February 5, 2008

This movie may be about one of the most famous outlaws in the days of the Wild West, but it is not a bang-bang shoot-em-up Western. It is a broody psychological Western, a lot of peering out into endless prairie landscapes, as much Ingmar Bergman as John Ford, with a little bit of Heathcliff thrown in.


Tabloid headlines and general movie star-ness makes it easy to forget how good Brad Pitt really is. His performance here as Jesse James is meticulous and powerful. He shows us James’ charisma, volatility, and disintegration. As the other title character, Casey Affleck has a different kind of volatility. When we first see him, presenting himself to Jesse and his older brother Frank (Sam Shepherd) as something between a groupie and a stalker, it is clear that he is one of those dangerous fans who can switch from over-love to over-hate in an instant. He confuses fame with respect, law-breaking with courage, guns with manhood, and, most fatally, tolerance with acceptance.


The title sets out the movie’s themes. In some Westerns, the man who captures the notorious outlaw is the hero. But two words tell us what this movie’s point of view will be. Jesse James is “assassinated,” not killed or stopped. And the man who kills him is a coward. The usual definition of coward does not include going undercover to spend time with an outlaw who is known to shoot anyone he suspects of disloyalty. So, how does Jesse James come out the sympathetic figure of the title and why is Ford so reviled?


That is very much the focus of this film and we hear at great length from the overly intrusive narrator about how Jesse James continued to be a figure of fascination and even admiration while Ford, even though he spent much of his life literally re-enacting the night he shot James in front of paying audiences, found the fame he sought to be bitter. Somehow, no one thought he was a hero. And too many people thought he was a target. Like some perverse and deadly game of tag, being the man who made his name killing Jesse James made him a man whose death might make some else’s name next.


Strong performances include particularly fine work by Sam Rockwell as Ford’s brother Charley and Paul Schneider as the ladies’ man of the James gang. The narration is ponderous and distracting. But the cinematography by Roger Deakins is breathtaking, the endless, wintry spaces evoking both bleakness and promise. Ultimately, however, the movie undermines its own point by making us, like those who have been enthralled by Jesse James for more than 100 years, wishing we could see the entertaining part of the story instead.

Parents should know that this film has typical Western violence, including shooting. Characters use some strong and crude language, including racial epithets and sexual references.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Jesse James remains an enduringly appealing figure. What is the meaning of the title? In so many Westerns, the bad guy is the one who robs and kills and the good guy is the one who catches or kills him. Why isn’t that true in this story?

Families who would like to see a more conventional (if completely un-factual) movie western about Jesse James should try American Outlaws. Other versions of this legend are in The True Story of Jesse James, or The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid. There have been movies about Jesse James since the silent era. One of the most bizarre is Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. Families who enjoy this movie will also like to see some de-mythologizing Westerns like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, or The Gunfighter.

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