Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Laggies
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, some sexual material and teen partying
Release Date:
October 31, 2014

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Begin Again
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
July 2, 2014

John Wick
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

In the Land of Women

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexual content, thematic elements and language.
Movie Release Date:2007

If you’ve see the ads with vulnerable cutie Adam Brody from “The O.C.” kissing willowy cutie Kristen Stewart (the kid in Panic Room and growing up very nicely), you probably think it must be a romantic comedy. That’s what they want you to think because it will sell tickets.

Get that idea out of your mind and you might find a way to the real but uncertain pleasures of this intriguing first effort from writer-director Jonathan Kasden (son of writer-director Lawrence and brother of writer-director Jake, whose own first movie is also coming out this month).

Like its main character, the film is a little lost but filled with promise, with some lovely moments, some telling thoughts about the power of listening.


So much promise, in fact, that it manages to overcome the considerable challenge of keeping our affection despite two well-established movie-killers — the precocious child and the dying grandmother who’s gone a little gaga.


Carter (Brody) is a writer who gets dumped by his successful and beautiful girlfriend in the very first scene. Feeling at a loss, he tells his mother he will go to visit his grandmother in Michigan to take care of her and work on his writing.
His grandmother (Oscar-winner Olympia Dukakis) seems to be losing it completely, and he feels a million miles away from anything.

And then Sarah (Meg Ryan) from across the street impulsively asks him if he’d like to come along when she walks her dog. In spite of not knowing each other — in fact, because they don’t know each other — they begin to talk about what really matters to them, about fears and embarrassing secrets.

Sarah pushes her teenage daughter Lucy (Stewart) to take Carter to a movie, and she brings along her little sister Paige (Makenzie Vega), who is even precocious about how precocious she is, sort of precocity cubed.


At first, Carter is preoccupied with his own unhappiness. But he begins to listen to Sarah and Lucy and the very experience of being sympathetically listened to, more than what anyone says, has a transforming effect on all three of them.


At one point in the movie, a minor character makes a very graphic point about the worries all of us have that someone will find out our secrets and think we are disgusting. And as Carter totes his grandmother’s used Depends out to the curb with the garbage, he shows the fear of not just being disgusting but being disgusted. This theme echoes in less clunky and obvious ways throughout Carter’s talks with Sarah and Lucy and it is in those moments that we see not just Carter’s promise, but writer-director Kasden’s as well.

Parents should know that this movie has some strong language, brief violence, some inappropriate kisses, references to adultery, teen smoking and drinking, and a reference to being “wasted.” A character has cancer and there is a sad death. A strength of the movie is that it is a rare contemporary film that takes kissing seriously.


Families who see this film should talk about the way that Sarah’s family handled secrets. Which did they handle well and which could they have handled better? What was the most important thing Carter learned from Sarah? From Lucy?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy The Safety of Objects and Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her.

Fracture

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language and some violent content.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

This is not a who-dun-it. It’s a will-they-be-able-to-prove-it. As in the old Columbo television series, we know from the beginning who pulled the trigger. We see Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) shoot his wife in the head because she was having an affair. We see the police come for him. And we see hotshot prosecutor Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) get what looks like a slam-dunk case: the police have the gun and a confession.


Then Ted and Willy face off against each other. Ted likes to create intricate, meticulously designed machines with all kinds of rolling balls and shifting gears. His fondness for complicated puzzles is an indication that it isn’t going to be a slam-dunk case after all. At least not for the prosecution.


This is one of those films that really boils down to what goes on between the two men. There’s a distracting and predictable backstory about whether Willy will sell out and go to work for the big corporate law firm with the pretty senior associate yadda yadda. But all that matters is the cat and mouse game between Ted and Willy, especially because it is not clear who is the cat and who is the mouse. And because Ted and Willy are played by actors who know how to work it. Gosling’s Oakie accent gets a bit wearing, and even Hopkins’ accent seems to waver at times, but the script gives them some juicy twists and relish-worthy lines and when the two of them get going, you can feel the air between them crackle.

Parents should know that this film has brief but intense violence with a man shooting his wife at point-blank range and an off-camera suicide. The issue of “pulling the plug” on someone with no brain activity is raised. Characters use some strong and ugly language. There are sexual references, including adultery and a non-explicit sexual situation.


Families who see this movie should talk about what was important to Willie and how his priorities — or his understanding of his priorities — changed. What will he do next?


Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the classic Witness For the Prosecution and more contemporary courtroom thrillers like Primal Fear and Presumed Innocent. They might also appreciate the television series Columbo.

Disturbia

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 on appeal for sequences of terror and violence, and some sensuality.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

This nicely nifty little thriller takes Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window and updates it to the era of cell phones and webcams.


Kale (Shia LeBeouf) is under house arrest for hitting a teacher. For three months, he has to wear an ankle bracelet that will bring the police to his house in seconds if he strays past the radius of the transmitter. His mother has turned off the Xbox, iTunes, and the television. The “natural side effect” of sheer boredom is for him to turn his eyes outward. He makes the world his cable channels, switching from one to the other by looking out different windows. One channel shows his lissome new neighbor, swimming, sunning, stretching. Outside another window, a married neighbor is having an affair. And outside another, Robert Turner, could be a serial killer.


At first, it’s fun to spy on him. It feels like some sort of 3D Xbox game. Kale’s friend Ronnie (the very likeable Aaron Yoo) and that pretty neighbor (Sarah Roemer of the Gwenyth-like cheekbones as Ashley) set up a stakeout. But then it gets deadly serious. The watchers are themselves being watched.


LeBeouf continues to develop into one of the most talented and appealing young actors in Hollywood and Morse has a doughy predatory quality with flickers of oily charm. Crisp performances, a creepy bad guy, absorbing plot twists, capable direction by D.J. Caruso (of television’s “The Shield”), who knows how to build tension and when to break it, and a script that has some telling points to make about the way we saturate ourselves with media make this thriller, like Kale’s neighbors, very watchable.

Parents should know that this movie has intense peril and violence and some very grisly and disturbing images, including a dead animal, a fatal car crash, and decomposing bodies. Characters use some strong language and drink alcohol. There is some nudity (including brief shots of pornography being viewed by children), references to adultery, and some kissing.


Families who see this movie should talk about how our access to media helps and hurts our connection to our communities and our sense of privacy.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Cellular and the classic Rear Window.

Perfect Stranger

posted by jmiller
F+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for sexual content, nudity, some disturbing violent images and language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Was Ashley Judd at the hairdresser the day this script came in? She’s usually the star of movies like this — the low-level potboiler with the plucky girl in jeopardy, and Morgan Freeman around somewhere to give some sage advice. But in the Ashley Judd role this time we have Oscar-winner Halle Berry, whose post-Oscar choices have included the notorious duds Catwoman and Gothika. Please, fire your agent, Ms. Berry. Whoever told you to make this movie should be…sentenced to have to watch it.


Berry plays Rowena, an investigative journalist who gotcha’s a Mark Foley-style conservative Senator with some incriminating photos. But the story gets spiked when he pulls some strings, and she quits her job.


When a childhood friend is murdered, Rowena decides to go undercover to investigate. The friend had been having an affair with Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), a big-time CEO she met online. He’s the kind of guy who when he kicks someone out for sharing secrets with the competition he really KICKS the guy out. She gets a job as a temp working in Mr. Big’s office and starts snooping around. And she starts chatting with him online, too. Pretty soon they’re typing back and forth about her underwear.


Her skeezy sidekick in all of this is Miles (Giovani Ribisi), a guy who is very big with getting around firewalls and seems a little too into Ro. There’s also an ex-boyfriend who is back in the picture but who was once involved with the murdered girl. Hill has a jealous wife. If Rowena isn’t careful, she could end up like her friend.


And if Halle Berry isn’t careful, she can end up having to give back her Oscar. This movie is all sensation, no sense or sensibility. The jump-out-at-you scares are all in the trailer, the backstory is cliched and obvious, and the big bad reveal at the end is laughably over the top. Strange, yes. Perfect — about as far as you can go in the other direction, which is where audiences should head when this movie hits the theaters.

Parents should know that this movie is filled with truly nasty stuff, including explicit and sometimes twisted sexual references and situations. There are references to adultery, promiscuity, sexual harassment at the workplace, online sex, gay sex involving someone in the closet, obsessive fixation, and child molestation. Characters use strong language (mostly the f-word) and drink (including references to celebrating by getting drunk). There is a scuffle and characters are injured and killed.


Families who see this movie should talk about why people are drawn to anonymous online relationships.


Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy better thrillers like Charade and The Silence of the Lambs and a better film by this director, Confidence.

Previous Posts

Laggies
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posted 5:58:04pm Oct. 30, 2014 | read full post »

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Disney's Headless Horseman, Sung by Bing Crosby
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List: My Favorite Movie Ghosts
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posted 8:00:42am Oct. 30, 2014 | read full post »

List: Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell is one of the most versatile leading me in Hollywood. This week, he stars with Keira Knightley in "Laggies," playing a single dad. Here are some of my favorite Sam Rockwell performances: Moon Rockwell takes on the biggest possible acting challenge -- he in alone on screen for the ent

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