Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Fury
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

 

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

St. Vincent
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 For mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

Dear White People
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

Music & Lyrics

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some sexual content.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Comedy that is actually funny plus romance that is actually sweet equals a sunny little valentine to brighten the winter doldrums. And — I can’t help saying it — Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore go together like music and lyrics. Do I hear groaning? Okay, you see this film and see if you can resist getting a little gooey.


The movie opens with a brilliantly inspired parody of an 80’s music video, so flawlessly hook-ish and instantly familiar we’re sure we’ve seen it one some middle-of-the-night “I Love the 80’s”/”Where Are They Now” shows. It’s a little bit Wham!, a little bit Duran Duran. Alex (Hugh Grant) was once a part of this pop group, until it broke up and his bandmate went on to a successful career in recording and movies. Alex has been making a living by appearing in nostalgia venues like 20th high school reunions, state fairs, and amusement parks, booked by his manager, Chris (Brad Garrett, of “Everybody Loves Raymond”). He is currently considering a cable TV show called “Battle of the 80’s Has-Beens,” though he points out helpfully that his group broke up in 1992, which makes him a 90’s has-been.


Then Alex gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance at a comeback, if he can write a song for reigning pop princess Cora (newcomer Haley Bennett) in a couple of days. But he has two problems. First, he hasn’t written a new song in about 20 years. And second, he writes music only — he needs someone to write the lyrics. And who better to join forces with than the adorably ditsy young woman who is the substitute plant-water-er, Sophie (Drew Barrymore). Soon they are making beautiful music together.


The setbacks and sour notes that intrude are just barely troubling enough to keep the story going and to reinforce our relief when everyone settles down for a big, fluffy, happily ever after.


Grant and Barrymore are at their very best and the material is perfectly suited to their strengths. Grant’s self-deprecating delivery polishes the dry wit of his dialogue to a glossy sheen. Barrymore’s ditzily adorable way with a line is just right for a talented young woman whose confidence has just been shaken by a bad romance. The fabulous Kristen Johnson makes the most of her role as Sophie’s sister, the kind of fan of Alex’s pop group who had his lunchbox and wrote his name surrounded by hearts on her 8th grade notebook. If the portions of the story dealing with Cora and Sophie’s ex are weak, it’s just because the movie is too nice and its romantic leads too darling to skewer even the deserving. It’s as endearing as a pop song that still makes you smile, even 20 years later.

Parents should know that this is a milder-than-average PG-13. There is very brief strong language, some sexual references, a non-explicit sexual situation, and some dancing in skimpy clothes. There is a brief reference to drug and alcohol abuse, and some comic violence, including a punch.


Families who see this movie should talk about the music they like now and liked when they were younger and what has happened to some of the performers. Why do some performers seem to re-invent themselves to change with the times or to make the times change for them while others do not?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of the other romantic comedies featuring Grant and Barrymore, including Never Been Kissed and Four Weddings and a Funeral (some mature material). They might like to explore some 80’s pop music from groups like A Flock of Seagulls, Duran Duran, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Wham! For a good real-life example of the way a big star adapts a song for her own style, listen to Madonna’s song “Don’t Tell Me” and the original version, performed by the songwriter Joe Henry as “Stop” on his album, Scar. Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, who wrote the song for this film, had an experience a little like that of Sophie and Alex when he entered and won the competition to write the title song for That Thing You Do.

The Namesake

posted by Nell Minow
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexuality/nudity, a scene of drug use, some disturbing images and brief language.
Movie Release Date:March 9, 2007
DVD Release Date:November 27, 2007

Ashima (Indian superstar Tabu) pauses before entering the living room to meet her prospective bridegroom and his family. Their shoes have been left outside the door, according to the customs of her home in India. Ashima sees that inside the shoes it says “Made in the USA.” She quietly slips her foot inside, trying them on for size. This lovely moment sets the stage for a thoughtful and engrossing study of identity, assimilation, and finding the way home.
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The Astronaut Farmer

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for thematic material, peril and language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Once upon a time there was a farmer who wanted to build a rocket ship and orbit the earth. And there were some evil ogres who wanted to stop him.


That’s the best way to describe this slight fairy tale of a film, where each shot is lovingly framed to show the golden light playing over the pastoral landscapes, set in a small town that makes Mayberry seem unfriendly and featuring a family so unconditionally loving and devoted that we seem to have come upon them mid-Hallmark commercial.


That is not to say that it is anything but warm-hearted and captivating. It is just to say that you can’t take it too seriously. In other words, don’t try this at home.


Billy Bob Thornton plays a farmer actually named Farmer. That is his last name and many people call him that, including his wife Audie (Virginia Madsen). He rides a horse in his astronaut uniform — the ultimate mash-up of American male icons. When he gets up to a small bit of vandalism he is sent for a psychological evaluation — to the local school nurse, who was once his prom date. Everyone in the town knows everyone else and knows everything about everyone else. But even his good friend at the bank can’t stop foreclosure proceedings when Farmer spends all his money on the rocket. And when he orders rocket fuel over the internet, he attracts the attention of some people outside the community. They are people from places that are very big on initials, like NASA and DOJ and WMD. They are people who are very big on laws like the Patriot Act. And they are people who have no imagination and no sense of humor when it comes to having private citizens launch rockets.


The good guys are cute and cuddly and believe in their dreams. They have family dinners where everyone talks about what should be packed for the missing. The children are devoted to their parents and have beautiful manners. The two little girls (real-life daughters of the twin brothers who made the film) are the most natural and appealing young performers since In America. And there’s a grizzled old grandpa (Bruce Dern) to tell Farmer what a great dad he is.


It works because of the conviction of its actors (including a surprise third act appearance by a major movie star) and its gentle, unassuming Capra-esque air. Its take-off and flight is more butterfly than rocketship, but it’s a lovely ride.

Parents should know that there are some tense and scary moments. A character is in peril and is injured. There is a sad death. Characters use brief strong language and drink and there is a brief sexual reference.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Farmer’s dream was so important to him and why his family supported him. Why didn’t he accept the offer to go in NASA’s space shuttle? Was the government right to try to stop him? Why?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy films about the U.S. space program, including Apollo 13, From the Earth to the Moon and The Right Stuff. And they might enjoy the made-for-television movie “Salvage 1″ with Andy Griffith, which became a series.

Breach

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Robert Hanssen was the head of the Soviet department in the FBI. And he was working for the enemy. Over a period of 22 years, he sold vital secrets to the Soviet and Russian governments for $1.5 million, resulting in what the FBI itself called “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history.” He was captured in the act of leaving information at a “dead drop” on February 18, 2001 and pled guilty later that year. He is currently serving a life sentence.


Director/screenwriter Billy Ray, who also wrote and directed Shattered Glass, about another Washington figure who was not what he appeared to be, has made a movie about Hanssen (Chris Cooper), and especially about his relationship to Eric O’Neill (Ryan Phillippe), the young FBI agent assigned to be Hanssen’s assistant as the investigators were closing in on him.


The movie was based in large part on the recollections of O’Neill, who was only recently given permission by the authorities to tell his story.


And that is both the strength and the weakness of the story. Hanssen is a character of mesmerizing contradictions, passionately patriotic at the same time he was providing information that led to the deaths of American agents and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to national security. He was a devoted member of Opus Dei, a strictly observant division of the Catholic Church that believes that all people should aspire to sainthood. And he was deeply involved with pornography. In the movie’s most powerful moment, just after he is captured, Hanssen has just one thing to say to the long-time colleague who is looking at him with mingled disbelief and contempt. He tells him that the tracking device they put into his car needs to be improved because it was interfering with the radio reception, and that might be a giveaway.


As he did in Shattered Glass, Ray ably keeps the tension taut, even though we know the end of the story. Cooper is superb, hard as granite, dense as an imploding black hole. He doesn’t make any effort to make Hanssen’s motives clear, but he clearly conveys the rigid compartmentalization that made it possible for him to encompass such stunning contradictions. It is not only national security and integrity that Cooper’s Hanssen is breaching; it is the most fundamental notion of individual identity.

Laura Linney, as Kate Burroughs, the woman supervising the investigation, conveys just the right combination of resolute control and laser-beam focus, and that indispensible combination for significant accomplishment — imperishable idealism in the abstract, no-surprises cynicism in the particular. The often-underestimated Phillippe is fine, but the story goes off-kilter when it spends too much time on his cleverness, his conflicts, and his relationship with his wife. What are we supposed to make of O’Neill’s contrast with Burroghs and Hanssen when it comes to having a life outside of work? Who, in the view of the movie, gets the happy ending? Who can we trust?


Ray is too wise to try to give us any kind of explanation for Hanssen’s betrayal. Instead, he gives us a gripping cat-and-mouse story, using the satisfying conclusion of his capture to make us feel safe enough to begin to explore the terrifying horror of the kind of person who is capable of violation and betrayal on the most fundamental level.

Parents should know that the film has some tense confrontations with characters in peril, including gunshots. Characters drink and use some strong language. There are sexual references, including pornography and “deviance.” The theme of the movie is betrayal and treason. Some audience members may be concerned by the portrayal of the characters’ real and assumed religious faith and practices.


Families who see this movie should talk about the compromises that people in these positions must take and what the government should do to prevent and respond to breaches such as these.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy one of the finest miniseries ever broadcast, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, inspired by the greatest breach in the history of the British equivalent of the CIA, involving Kim Philby, part of the famous “Cambridge spy ring” that included Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, and Anthony Blunt. Other real-life stories of double agents are portrayed in The Falcon and the Snowman and Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within. An unusual aspect of a double-agent’s story is explored in An Englishman Abroad, based on the experience of actress Coral Browne (who plays herself) when she met with Guy Burgess in Moscow, after he defected. Washington DC’s Spy Museum has an exhibit about Robert Hanssen and the people who caught him.

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