Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Tusk
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

This is Where I Leave You
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Think Like a Man Too
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material
Release Date:
June 20, 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

 

Godzilla
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Release Date:
May 16, 2014

Barnyard

posted by jmiller
C-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some mild peril and rude humor.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

In this movie, the cows are boys. They have big pink udders and manly male voices. In fact, head cow Ben has the manliest, malest, deepest voice imaginable, that of quintessential cowpoke Sam Elliott. Our hero, Otis has the voice of Kevin James. But there are some girl cows, too, Daisy (Courtney Cox), who is pregnant, and her friend and Bessy (Wanda Sykes). And, just to make things more confusing, there’s a bull off somplace, too.


It isn’t like they’re trying to make some sort of point about gender here or there’s some punchline about it. It’s just that the people who made this movie don’t care or think we won’t notice.


I blame computers for this. It used to take as long as seven years to make an animated feature film, with all those individual cells to be lovingly hand painted. So there was a sort of market reality helping to make sure that the scripts really merited that attention. All of a sudden there is software making just about any computer into a mini-Pixar and agents who tell their star clients they can be in the next Shrek. So we get a lot of mediocre films with meticulously detailed fur and feathers and leaves and sunsets and vague and generic stories and characters.


And we get junky animated movies like this one: uncomfortably interspersed with a lot of slapstick and cornpone humor is a cynically added plot line that’s a little bit The Lion King a little bit Henry IV.

Ben, a strong, wise leader has a son, Otis, who loves pleasure and partying. When Ben is killed, Otis feels responsible and unworthy but rises to the challenge of protecting his friends from the predatory coyotes.

If it was just jokes like a cow shouting “MAN-a-bunga!,” riding a mechanical man-shaped bronco, and a bling-wearing rapping rat, it might be silly fun for kids. But the scary coyotes, the sad death of a parent, and the weird wooing of a pregnant (girl) cow make it uncomfortably awkward. The cynical superficiality of the way the more serious material is presented makes it inappropriate for younger kids and unworthy of older ones.


Parents should know that this movie has some peril and violence. Coyotes attack the barnyard animals. A character is mauled. There is a sad death of a parent and a description of other sad losses. Characters use some crude language and there is some potty humor. The cows get drunk on milk and a man reaches for a six-pack of beer. There are diverse characters, but some stereotyping of the females. And there are some references to killing animals for food, which may disturb some viewers.


Families who see this movie should talk about the way parents feel when a baby is born and what it means to stand up for others. They should also talk about the way we sometimes blame ourselves when bad things happen and how we learn to take responsibility for our actions. They may enjoy talking about the ways the animals in this movie imitate human behavior.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Home on the Range and The Ant Bully.

The Night Listener

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language and some disquieting sexual content.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Armistad Maupin (Tales of the City) didn’t trust his own story in his adaptation of his novel inspired by something that happened to him. But what could have been a thoughtful psychological drama raising issues of identity and trust and the meaning of the stories we tell deteriorates into distracting melodrama. We spend too much time worrying about whether the main character will be arrested for breaking and entering and not enough understanding what is motivating him to want to.


Gabriel Noone (Robin Williams) mines his life for stories that he tells on the radio. He is feeling very vulnerable because the man he loves, Jess (Bobby Cannavale), has moved out. When his friend Ashe (Joe Morton) asks him to read a manuscript by Pete (Rory Culkin), a 14 year old boy who had been horribly abused by his parents, Noone is touched. He calls the boy, who is sick with AIDS and being cared for by Donna (Toni Collette), the social worker who adopted him. Gabriel becomes very devoted to Pete. But something does not seem right and Gabriel begins to wonder if Pete and Donna are telling the truth, if Pete even exists at all.


He flies out to see if he can find out the truth. This section of the film feels choppy and incomplete. The real life Maupin was mining may not have provided him with any clear answers. Movies don’t need clear answers; indeed, trying to tie things up too neatly with an “aha” moment is a common mistake. But movies do need answers that meet some standard of psychological validity and this movie is not murky; it’s flimsy.

Parents should know that this movie has explict references and some graphic images depicting the most severe child molestation, abuse, and pornography. There is some strong language, alcohol drinking, and drug references. There are tense and unhappy confrontations and characters are in some peril. A theme of the movie is betrayal, which may disturb some viewers. A strength of the movie is its positive portrayal of gay characters.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Noone wanted to believe Pete? How did what was going on between Noone and Jsss make Noone more vulnerable? What does Armistad Maupin (who wrote the book and movie baased on his own experiences) think about Donna? How can you tell? Families might want to learn more about the real story that inspired the book and movie and about similar literary hoaxes like James Frey’s highly embellished “autobiography” and the books by “J.T. Leroy”, who never really existed.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Williams’ performances in Insomnia and One Hour Photo as well as his Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting (all with mature material).

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, drug references and brief comic violence.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

When we’ve seen Will Ferrell run around naked, how much fun is it to see him run around in his underpants?

The disappointment of this movie is not that we don’t see enough of Will Ferrell. It’s disappointing because what we do see, we’ve seen before, and better.


Ferrell’s appeal comes from his whole-hearted cluelessness, but that needs to be placed in the context of some kind of legitimate, grown-up world. It doesn’t have to be complicated or explained in much detail, but there has to be some kind of clash. The rumor is that this movie was greenlighted based on four words: “Will Ferrell does NASCAR.” But the movie gives us no sense of NASCAR’s conventions or why it is meaningful. It isn’t that NASCAR is portrayed as foolish; it isn’t really portrayed at all. The setting might just as well be the soap box derby.

Ferrell looks tired and uninvolved and too old for this kind of role. His best friend is played by the reliable John C. Reilly but he has nothing to do but be a second Will Ferrell. When a movie relies on kids using bad language for humor, it’s running out of steam.


Ferrell plays Ricky Bobby, born in a racing car and shortly after abandoned by his substance-abusing ne’er-do-well father. These become the two forces in his life — the love of driving very fast and the need to win his father’s love and respect. He becomes a champion and then loses everything and has to find a way to win again and learn what winning really means.


All of this is just an excuse for a bunch of skits. There are some funny moments, but much of it feels tired. If this movie was in a NASCAR race, it would still be on the track long after all the other cars were back home for the night.


Parents should know that this movie has very explicit sexual references and very vulgar language for a PG-13. There are same-sex kisses. Children use extremely crude language and get away with it for most of the film. A character gives the finger. There’s a joke about feminine products and many references to genitals. Characters commit adultery. Some viewers will be offended by the way the characters talk about Jesus. Some may also be disturbed by the portrayal of the break-up of a marriage and the former spouses becoming involved with other people. A character abuses alcohol and drugs and children and adults joke about drugs. There is some comic violence, including a graphic depiction of a knife deeply embedded in a leg, and slapping children, but no one is hurt. The portrayal of the female characters is crass and somewhat misogynistic, even for a crude comedy. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of a married gay couple, but their behavior is as silly as everyone else’s.


Families who see this movie should talk about Ricky Bobby’s belief that no one would love him unless he was a winner.


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Elf and Old School (mature material).

The Ant Bully

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

A boy beset by bullies turns bully himself, going after the ants in his family’s back yard. But the ants shrink him down to their size and he learns something about ants, about empathy, about himself, and about how to beat a bully without becoming one himself.


This Aesop-like fable is brought to life with cheery good humor — and some potty jokes — both of which will be a hit with school-age kids. And there are some nice lessons about teamwork and empathy to keep the adults happy.


As his parents go away for the weekend, leaving him with his alien-fearing grandmother, ten-year-old Lucas Nickle (Zach Tyler Eisen) is feeling humiliated and unhappy. The neighborhood bully gave him an atomic wedgie and everyone laughed at him. He thinks it will make him feel strong and powerful if he destroys the ants. But ant wizard Zoc (Nicolas Cage in a full-blooded and vivid performance) creates a potion which, poured in Lucas’ ear, shrinks him down to ant-size. He is brought before the ant Queen (a warm and wise but suitably regal Meryl Streep), who orders him to learn to live as an ant. Zoc’s sympathetic girlfriend Hova (Julia Roberts, maternal, if a little colorless) befriends Lucas, and he also gets some help from Fugax (a very funny Bruce Campbell) and Kreela (the wonderfully husky-voiced Regina King) in retrieving some treats for the ants. But before he was shrunk, Lucas signed a contract for an exterminator (this summer’s all-purpose animated film bad guy here and in Over the Hedge). Can he save his new friends? Can he save himself?


Parents should know that this movie has some schoolyard language and crude humor (bare tush, potty jokes, inexplicit reference to potion via suppository). There is some peril and tension and mild action-style violence.


Families who see this movie should talk about why it seems that taking your unhappiness out on others will help you feel better, and about why it doesn’t. How do we learn to be empathetic? What do you think about the queen’s reasoning? What made Lucas agree to sign the exterminator’s contract? Families may want to learn more about ants, too.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other animated bug movies like Antz, A Bug’s Life, and one of the very first animated features, Hoppity Goes To Town. And they will enjoy the live-action Honey I Shrunk the Kids. They might like to take a look at the book. Families who want to know more about the movie can read my interview with the writer/director here.

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