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

 

Begin Again
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
July 2, 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

 

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

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

 

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

Knocked Up

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for sexual content, drug use and language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Here’s the secret for making a raunchy comedy work — it has to be sweet and even a little bit romantic. What the makers of films like American Pie and The 40-Year-Old Virgin understood is that the “oh, no, they didn’t!” element and the gross-out factor work best when they are in the context of characters we root for and yes, even some tenderness. Without that contrast and texture, the raunch is just juvenile, and a little boring for anyone past middle school.


And that’s the problem with this new movie from The 40-Year-Old Virgin writer-director Judd Apatow.

Alison, a lovely, educated, elegant young woman (Katherine Heigel of television’s “Gray’s Anatomy) gets drunk one night at a club and has unprotected sex with Ben, a sweet but immature young man. When she discovers she is pregnant, they decide to try to establish a relationship.

But there are a lot of forces against them, including the crumbling marriage of Alison’s sister Debbie (director Apatow’s real-life wife Leslie Mann) and her husband Pete (Paul Rudd). And there’s the slacker quicksand of Ben’s friends who live together, get high together, and hang out together all the time, alternating between dumb bets and challenges, clueless and delusional boasting about make-believe sexual prowess, and jokes that thinly disguise their sheer terror of women. In desultory fashion they even “work” together on a comprehensive online database of the exact inventory of every element of nudity or sex in every feature film ever made. It may just be an excuse to sit around all day getting high and watching dirty footage, but hey, you can’t say they don’t have a dream!


All of this is an excuse for some outrageous humor, much of it extremely funny, especially when Rogan and Rudd get to go off by themselves (in Las Vegas) and go wild (on hallucinogens). The relationship between the two of them is the strongest, funniest, and most authentic in the film. But too much of the rest seems like a bunch of 12-year-olds who have seen too many episodes of “Jackass” and spent too much time playing with their Xboxes. Men are afraid of growing up, parenthood, and women, I get it! And then a childbirth scene — let me just say that there are obstetricians who will learn a few things from some footage that gives new meaning to the term up close and very, very personal.


Yes, the responsibilities of adulthood and being a parent can be terrifying, and there is a lot of humor to be had in seeing people struggle with it on screen. And there is a moment with some truth and wisdom here when one of the men confesses that it is not the courage to love he lacks but the courage to be loved.

But ultimately Pete and Ben and even Debbie are too cluelessly narcissistic and the film loses its sense of recognition of what is and is not fair to expect from ourselves and others. There is a bitter hopelessness and misogynistic bite to the humor without any sense of the transcendence of love, generosity, or unselfishness. Too much of the long running time feels more like an episode of Jerry Springer than comedy based on an exaggerated version of us but still recognizable as human — and as a family we can be happy this baby is joining.

Parents should know that this movie has a great deal of crude humor, including vulgar and explicit sexual references and situations, including nude lapdances and pornography and a graphic (but not bloody) scene of childbirth. Characters use very strong and explicit language. There are references to adultery and characters who do not know each other get drunk and have unprotected sex. Characters drink, get drunk, smoke a lot of marijuana, and take hallucinogenic mushrooms. There is comic peril (no one hurt). And characters behave very irresponsibly, even by slacker comedy standards.

Families who see this movie should talk about some of their own fears about parenting and the conflicts that can arise from different expectations about marriage and family.


Audiences who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Tao of Steve, Nine Months, She’s Having a Baby, and another movie from the same writer/director featuring Rogan and Rudd, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Oh, and for those who were wondering, the movie the characters in the film are watching with great interest is Wild Things.

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.

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