Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Strange Magic
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and scary images
Release Date:
January 23, 2015


The Book of Life
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements and brief scary images
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some language and sexual material
Release Date:
January 23, 2015


The Judge
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including some sexual references
Release Date:
October 10, 2014

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, substance abuse and brief sexuality
Release Date:
January 24, 2015


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

List: Five Movies for Earth Day

posted by Nell Minow

Celebrate Earth Day with some of these great films about our planet, its beauties and its challenges:

1. An Inconvenient Truth Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary makes a powerful case for the dire effects of climate change — and an even more powerful case for our ability to prevent more damage before it is too late.Earthday.jpg

2. Planet Earth — This magnificent BBC series includes extraordinary footage of our planet’s splendor — jungles, deserts, oceans, mountains, and caves, elephants, caribou, dolphins, snow leopards, penguins, and much more. If you can, see it in Blu-Ray — it jumps off the screen.

3. The Eleventh Hour Leonardo DiCaprio produced a thoughtful, important film about the devastating impact of industrial development on the fragile environment. He has assembled an impressive collection of scholars and world leaders to emphasize the precariousness of the situation and the urgency of action to reverse the effects of human opportunism and greed, to change our idea of “progress” from growth and acquisition to sustainability and respect for the fragility of the environment that sustains us.

4. Silent Running
Douglas Trumbull, who created the special effects for “Star Wars,” “Blade Runner,” and many other movies, directed this outer-space story about a botanist caring for the last remnants of plant life from Earth. It features three of the most adorable robots in movie history, named after Donald Duck’s nephews: Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

5. Dora the Explorer – Save the Mermaids Even the youngest children can learn the importance of caring for our planet and there is no better way to begin than this Dora story about saving mermaid friends from a garbage-dumping octopus.


posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.
Movie Release Date:January 18, 2008
DVD Release Date:April 22, 2008

cloverfield-1-18-08-poster.jpg Stories, especially movies, are usually linear and organized in part because stories are how we make sense of the world but mostly because of the limits of time. If we are only going to give two hours of our lives to a movie, we don’t have time for irrelevant details. But real life is messy. Patterns only emerge in retrospect. Part of the appeal of scary movies is that we know that it’s just a movie. Those dinosaurs in Jurassic Park or the great ape in King Kong are contained, not just within the limits of the screen but also within the formal limits of traditional story-telling. The perfect lighting and welling music provoke a response in us that is a kind of comfortable scariness.
This movie goes in another direction. A clever premise keeps the audience literally off-balance in “Cloverfield” from J.J. Abrams, the creator of Lost and Alias. We may be in stadium seating at the mall multiplex, eating popcorn, but what we are watching is not a feature film. It is an artifact, a home video found at a site “formerly known as Central Park” that happened to be running when something terrible happened. It’s as though the only documentation of a massive and devastating attack was a 21st century equivalent of the Zapruder film.

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Expelled: Intelligence Welcome (part 1)

posted by Nell Minow

I have very much enjoyed reading all of the comments (more than 70!) on my review of the Ben Stein documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
I am going to comment on the comments and the controversy over the movie shortly, but for now I will begin by reprinting one of my Chicago Tribune columns, which deals with the key issue of how we know what we know, how we determine the difference between fact, spin, bias, faith, and especially competing theories.
Help children learn critical thinking skills
By Nell Minow
Special to the Chicago Tribune
Published March 9, 2005
Columnists get paid to promote Bush administration initiatives; bloggers expose the mistakes in a network news broadcast; and young people are more likely to get their headlines from the self-described fake news of Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” than from newspapers.
These days, it seems like we all could use some extra guidance in telling the difference between data, reporting, opinion, advocacy and advertising. Developing this life skill is part of growing up, and parents can help kids practice how to evaluate the validity of what they read, hear and watch.
Even the youngest child can learn to think critically about the data they digest. As a starting point, watch for characters in books and movies who test the information they are given to make sure that it is accurate.
In current movies, for example, characters in “Pooh’s Heffalump Adventure” jump to conclusions about someone who is “not like us” until Roo figures out that the Heffalump just wants to make friends. Opal, the little girl in “Because of Winn-Dixie,” finds out the local “witch” is just a nice lady who doesn’t go out much because she can’t see very well.
Families who see these movies together can talk about how Roo and Opal learn the importance of making judgments based on facts and how they decide which facts are more important than others.
Slightly older children need special discussions about truth and the Internet, because that’s where they turn for so much information.
When we did our homework, my generation used reference books and encyclopedias that had been carefully fact-checked before they were published. But today’s schoolchildren run to Web-based search engines such as Google to point them to the answer for any question from the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly to the highest score in the history of the World Series.
The Internet is wonderful for finding things out, but kids need to realize a site that turns up on a search engine isn’t guaranteed to be trustworthy or authoritative, and information they find on the Internet isn’t necessarily correct.
Reliable ones near the top
One reason Google is so popular is it uses a formula for ranking search results that is likely — though not guaranteed — to put the most reliable ones at the top. Google also gets points for putting its “sponsored links” — sites that pay to be listed — off to the side and labeling them clearly so that users can tell they are ads.
But not all search engines play by those rules, and children need to know that. They also need to understand that no search engine guarantees the information it points to is factual or even unbiased.
The same applies to some popular online reference sites like the Internet movie database at The Internet Movie Database, and Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia. The entries in both are written and assembled by amateurs and volunteers — which doesn’t mean the entries are wrong, but it doesn’t mean they are right, either.
Skepticism is an important research skill, and parents should make sure even the youngest children learn to ask “Who says so? How do they know? Are they fair?”
Middle school children are old enough to join in debates about opinions and the way information is presented. Current topics might include banned books, “intelligent design” (a theory designed to get Bible-based theories classified as science) and the Focus on the Family objections to the “We Are Family” video message about tolerance featuring SpongeBob SquarePants and other characters.
Parents may also want to discuss recent news stories about Buster the bunny, a cartoon character who makes video postcards about different communities and cultures he visits for his friends back home. On his PBS show, Buster has met such diverse families as Muslims, Mormons, Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians. However his visit with a group of children whose parents included lesbian couples was controversial enough for some PBS stations to keep it off the air.
Teenagers are natural challengers of authority, so adults can help them sharpen their skills at sizing up information before they use it.
A good point of discussion with teens as well as younger children who use the Internet for research is how a Web site establishes credibility. One place to start: Look on a site’s main page for a link labeled something like, “about us.”
On Wikipedia, the link “About Wikipedia” is at the bottom of the home page. It takes readers to a detailed, annotated page that explains the Wikipedia project, among other things.
A more sophisticated discussion is how an organization or individual uses the Internet to answer critics. The Nizkor Web site links to the claims of those who deny the Nazi Holocaust occurred and refutes them, point by point. Similarly, Michael Moore’s Web site offers detailed responses to the people who challenged his presentation of the facts in the film “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Parents and older children can debate whether these techniques make the Web sites more believable, and why.
Teens also are sophisticated enough to understand the value in recognizing a Web site’s point of view — and using it. The Democratic National Committee’s page and the Republican National Committee’s page are unlikely to agree on much, but reading both for information about a proposed law will give a teen more insight than one without the other.
Backing it up
Similarly, the Heritage Foundation, a self-styled politically conservative think tank, does a good job documenting its perspective on current events — as does the Brookings Institution, which describes itself as independent and nonpartisan.
Consulting an array of views helps a teen better understand an issue and form his or her opinions.
There’s no substitute for a child learning to develop and apply his own judgment. Parents can show their children that Web sites, television shows, even newspaper articles are just the starting point for finding an answer, that information is not just the accumulation of data but requires sifting, analysis and a sense of proportion.
Giving children the skills they need to evaluate what they see and hear will help them from feeling so overwhelmed that they don’t trust anyone.
The best way to keep them from being cynical is to train them to be skeptical.

DVD Giveaway: Enchanted

posted by Nell Minow

I have just two copies of the enchanting “Enchanted” to give away to the lucky first two people who send me an email at — Good luck! (Be sure to put the title of the DVD you want in the subject line of the email. And only people who have not already won a DVD please.)

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