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

End of the Spear

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Can you forgive the unforgiveable?


Fifty years ago, five American missionaries were killed by members of the most violent culture ever studied by anthropologists, the Waodani tribe in Ecuador. The homicide rate was 60 percent. The widows and children and one sister of the murdered men reached out to the Waodanis, helped care for their children, and through the power of their forgiveness and generosity forged a friendship that transformed them all.


The film-makers, who began by making a documentary version of the same story called Beyond the Gates of Splendor, have now made a feature film, with Chad Allen (of television’s “Dr. Quinn”) as both the missionary Nate Saint and his son, Steve, who came back as an adult to live with the Waodanis again. (The real Steve Saint did the stunt flying for his father’s character in the film.)


Even with subtitles, it is a little hard to follow and it sometimes veers into Sunday school-style sugar. But the story has great power and the film-makers resist condescending to the natives. Still, the footage of the real characters over the closing credits is so vivid and engaging that we wish the entire movie had been letting them tell their own story.


Parents should know that the movie is very violent for a PG-13, with many characters murdered or injured. There are some mild sexual references.


Families who see this movie should talk about forgiveness, and what makes it possible or necessary for people to forgive the most devastating injuries. Why didn’t the missionaries try to defend themselves? What could they have done to better protect themselves? Families may also want to talk about the ethical issues that arise in imposing one culture’s ideas about “civilization” on a native population.


Families who appreciate this movie may also enjoy The Gods Must be Crazy. And they will like my interview with Steve Saint about his experiences.

Hoodwinked!

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Adorable Little Red Riding Hood opens the door to Granny’s charming cottage in the woods and walks into the bedroom with her basket of goodies. But Granny looks a little different. It is the wolf, in disguise. He lunges toward Red, who, instead of screaming and running away, says, “You again? What do I have to do, get a restraining order?” and goes into her judo stance.


So it’s pretty clear right from the beginning that this computer-animated retelling is not your grandmother’s fairy tale. The characters are the same: Red, the wolf, the sweet grandmother (tied up in the closet), and an enormous woodsman who crashes into the cabin, ax in hand. But then things get a little twisted and a little po-mo — all of a sudden there is yellow crime scene tape surrounding the place and the police — a stork, a bear, and a frog — are there to interrogate the witnesses.


It seems that this may be tied to a crime wave — the theft of the best recipes from everyone in the community.


Still, we think we know what’s coming. RRH was on her way to bring her sweet, gentle, grandmother a basket of treats, the wolf is there to eat Red and Granny, and the woodsman was coming to the rescue, right?


Well, not so much.


As each of the witnesses takes a turn, we find out that nothing was what we thought. Each one has secrets and surprises.


The script is fast, fresh, and witty, with great characters, some clever satire, a couple of surprising plot twists, and a lot of good old-fashioned silly fun.

It has outstanding voice talent as well. As Red, Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries) has a nicely dry delivery that really gets a chance to shine when it is not connected to her princessy prettiness. Glenn Close gives Granny a lot of spirit, and Patrick Warburton (“Seinfeld’s” Puddy) is a master of understated wit. They get able support from Anthony Anderson as the stork, rapper Xzibit as the bear, and David Ogden Stiers (television’s “M*A*S*H” and Beauty and the Beast) as the detective frog.


What’s best, though, about the film is the way it keeps tweaking your expectations. As each story unfolds, we have to confront our assumptions and prejudices in a way that not only keeps us guessing about the real culprit but gives us some real insight into the importance of keeping an open mind.


The animation is just serviceable — the film was made with a limited budget that would barely cover one of Chicken Little’s feathers. That means the textures are superb, but the movements and facial expressions are static and sometimes distracting. The action sequences work pretty well, but when characters are just standing and talking to each other or making smaller movements, the film slows down. But thanks to the clever script and witty performances, this is as filled with goodies as Little Red’s basket.


Parents should know that the movie has some cartoon-ish action sequences and peril that may be too intense for younger children, even though no one gets hurt. Characters use some fresh and sassy language.


Families who see this movie should talk about why we are surprised when the characters do not conform to our expectations. This is a terrific opportunity to talk about point of view and about how different people can draw different conclusions from the same set of facts. They can have some fun taking some other well-known stories and seeing if they can re-engineer them. What would “Goldilocks” be like if the story was told by the bears?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the brilliantly hilarious books A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears by Jules Feiffer, 10 in a Bed by Allan Ahlberg, and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

Glory Road

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for racial issues including violence and epithets, and momentary language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

A man who coaches high school girls’ basketball gets a job at a small Texas school and not only takes them to the nationals, where they defeat the long-time champions in a stunning upset, he changes the course of college sports history by being the first coach to have five black players in his starting line-up.


Now, that sounds like a Disney movie.


And it is, but before that, it was the true story of coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas), and his career at Texas Western college (now University of Texas at El Paso).


Haskins arrived at Texas Western in 1965. The school was so poor that the coach’s family had to live in the men’s dorms. There was no money to recruit players. But it had an NCAA spot, and Haskins came to play.


Haskins did not intend to be a civil rights pioneer. He just wanted the best players he could find. And in that era, there were plenty of black basketball players who were not getting offers from anyone else. So Haskins put together a team with a lot of talent and a lot of passion for the game, and then he showed them how to be better players and an even better team than they had ever imagined.


So, yes, there are stirring half-time speeches and montages of winning games, players who are intially wary and resentful and then learn the true meaning of teamwork, heart-stopping overtime tie-breakers, brief “what became of” summaries, and everything else we expect. And you know what? It works just fine because it makes us care about the details and the characters — and the game. The performers serve the story, acting with humility and respect, never going for the glamour or the drama. Derek Luke (Friday Night Lights and Lucas have all the movie star magnetism in the world, but here they show us (again) that they are actors first. The only one who is over the top is Jon Voight, who seems to be working his way through an increasingly grotesque series of putty noses in his recent roles, appears as Coach Adolph Rupp of Kentucky.

The relationships feel real. The games are exciting. The story is touching and exciting. And over the credits, we get to see and hear from Haskins and the real members of that legendary team — and from Pat Riley, who explains why Haskins’ team beat him and his teammates for the national championship. “They were just better.”

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Remember the Titans and Hoosiers. They may also like to read Haskins’
book.

Tristan + Isolde

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences and some sexuality.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Tristan and Isolde have suffered enough. This movie feels like overkill.


Oh, their legend will survive. But this classic comics-style perfume commercial of a re-telling will not.


The ampersand is a giveaway. “And” isn’t good enough? An ampersand is, what, edgier?


Who needs edgier when you’ve got James Franco? His cheekbones alone could cut glass, but, though he played James Dean in a made for television biopic, he is more sullen than brooding.

Edge isn’t exactly what this story needs. It is, after all, a classic of thwarted love. King Mark (Rufus Sewell), who is trying to hold together a fragile coalition of British lords, sends Tristan to win his bride Isolde (Sophia Myles), the sister of the king of Ireland. This is a strategic move. The Irish have been looting and oppressing the English, and Mark thinks that if he can unite the English and marry the Irish king’s sister, he may be able to achieve peace.


Tristan wins the bride, not knowing she is the woman he loves. After an earlier battle, she found him and nursed him back to health without telling him who she was. They fell in love. And now he has to delive her to another man. Mark saved Tristan’s life and raised him like a son after his parents were killed by the Irish. And Isolde’s marriage to Mark is the only chance for peace. It’s time for that noble speech — you know, the one about how “I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more.”


Okay, that poem was about 400 years from being written. But that’s the idea.


It’s not awful — except for the instant camp of a scene where Isolde decides to warm up the injured Tristan by — taking off all her clothes and wrapping him in them and then hugging him nude, ordering her lady’s maid to do the same. It’s just syrupy. In this version, T&I get swept away not by grand passion but by pulsating hormones. Though they talk about honor and posterity and doing what’s best for others, they behave like a couple from “Desperate Housewives.”

Families who enjoy this movie might want to find out more about the real story or explore some of the other versions, like the opera by Wagner or the traditional poetic versions. They may also enjoy the story of King Arthur, which was inspired in part by this legend. They will also enjoy A Knight’s Tale, a silly but enteertaining story of knights and jousting with Sewell (who can out-brood Franco with one eye shut) as the bad guy.

Previous Posts

Yes, Another "Happy" Video, But You Will Love This One, I Promise
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3KSKS3TTbc#t=239[/youtube] Produced by a team of Deaf campers & staff from Deaf Film Camp 2014 at Camp Mark Seven.

posted 11:35:09am Aug. 22, 2014 | read full post »

An R Rating for Being Gay?
"Love is Strange," a tender, beautifully written and performed love story about a three decade relationship, stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.  The MPAA has given the movie an R rating even though there is nothing in the film that normally triggers an R in the categories of language, violence,

posted 10:00:58am Aug. 22, 2014 | read full post »

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 »


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