Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Fading Gigolo
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

Ride Along
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language,
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

The School of Rock

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2003

If there was ever someone born to portray the true spirit of rock and roll, it is Jack Black. In this movie, that is what they needed, and that is just what he does.

Black plays Dewey Finn, a musician who doesn’t just live for rock. He barely acknowledges that there is anything else. Like the music he loves, Dewey is loud, immature, messy, self-absorbed, passionate, incapable of complying with any authority, rule, or attempt at civilization, and just about irresistable. Dewey’s love for the music is so pure and so complete that it is impossible for him to imagine that everyone might not support him.

That is why he is astonished when he is fired by his band and when his best friend Ned (screenwriter Mike White) tells him that if he does not start paying rent, he will have to move out. Ned was once a rocker with a group called Maggots of Death, but now he is a substitute teacher with a girlfriend and tells Dewey it is time to grow up.

So, when Dewey intercepts a call from Principal Mullins (Joan Cusack) offering Ned a substitute teacher position for fifth graders at a posh prep school, he accepts and shows up pretending to be Ned.

Of course he thinks he will just snooze through the classes and of course his students will be appalled (but also a little bit thrilled) by his sense of anarchy. When he tears down the neatly lettered class list of stars and demerits, they are stunned. They look around as though waiting for lightning to strike, a sort of ultimate demerit. But fifth graders are just young enough to trust their teacher and just old enough to be enthralled when he tells them that their secret new project will be to spend the entire school day creating a rock band. Once he assures them that this will impress the admissions office at Harvard, they are all on board.

Soon, everyone in the class is a part of the band, with guitar wizard Zach, back-up singers, roadies, groupies, and a stylist. The kids learn something about the history of rock, something about music, and quite a bit about expressing themselves. And Dewey learns something about what it really means to be part of a band.

This is by far the most accessible and conventional film from director Richard Linklater (Waking Life, Dazed and Confused) and White (Chuck and Buck and The Good Girl), neither of whom are known for heartwarming, feel-good movies. But that is what this is, a sort of To Sir With Love crossed with This is Spinal Tap. Black is enormously entertaining and the kids are terrific.

Parents should know that the movie includes some strong language, alcohol abuse, and drug references. A character loosens up when she gets tipsy. An unconscionable lie is portrayed as a creative solution to a problem. The overall theme of jettisoning schoolwork for rock and roll may also be a concern.

Families who see this movie should talk about how much Dewey loves rock and roll. Why is it so important to him? What does it allow him to express? What is the most important thing he learned from the kids, and what is the most important thing they learned from him?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Commitments and This is Spinal Tap and they will enjoy Black’s performance as a devoted music fan in High Fidelity (all for mature audiences). For information about Black’s own rock band, Tenacious D, check here. Families might also like to see some very different movies about music teachers who touch the lives of students, like Music of the Heart and Mr. Holland’s Opus. And they might enjoy a very different story about a music teacher who begins by being a con man, The Music Man.

Lost in Translation

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides) has written and directed a fascinating film that is less about a story than about the sights, the feelings, the moments, and the especially the connection between two Americans adrift in Tokyo.

Bill Murray plays Bob, an American movie star who is in Tokyo to make $2 million by appearing in whiskey ads. Scarlett Johansson (The Horse Whisperer, Ghost World), in her first adult role, plays Charlotte, an unemployed young wife who is in Tokyo with her husband, John (Giovanni Ribisi), a photographer who is there on assignment, taking pictures of a rock group.

Everything in Japan makes Bob and Charlotte feel out of place. Bob towers over everyone he meets. He would be befuddled by the elaborate courtesy of the whiskey company executives and odd requests of the people making the ads if only he cared about any of it. Meanwhile, his wife sends faxes and Federal Express packages with questions about decorating.

Charlotte tries staying in the hotel and she tries sightseeing. But she doesn’t know what she should be doing and she seems to have forgotten how to feel anything.

Neither Bob nor Charlotte can get to sleep, and their bleary disorientation contrasts with the sharpness and sensory overload of the sights and sounds of Tokyo. But for both of them, the sense of being out of focus goes beyond sleep deprivation. It is not just their brains that are out of focus; it is their hearts and souls as well.

Bob and Charlotte have a lot of trouble connecting to other people, literally and spiritually. They have truncated phone calls with people they clearly care about but they cannot say so. Both are in transition. Bob is a once-successful movie star whose career is tapering off. He once felt close to his wife, but her preoccupation with their home and children has created a distance between them and he does not seem to know how to talk to her or to their children. Charlotte does not seem to fit into her husband’s life of taking pictures of rock groups and movie stars. But she does not seem to fit into her own life either. She was a philosophy major at Yale, then she tried to write, but that did not work and she does not know what to do now.

Somehow, Bob and Charlotte connect to each other in a way they do not understand. But they do understand that it is precious to them to feel that way — or just to feel.

And they — and Coppola — treat that feeling with touching delicacy. She takes him to a nightclub and they sing karaoke. He takes her to the emergency room so she can get her toe x-rayed. They do not exchange life stories or discover that they loved the same poem in high school or have any of the usual movie indicators that they are soul-mates. They just understand each other a little and like each other a little more. And that is a very nice thing to observe.

The performances by Murray and Johansson are tender delights. Anna Faris (Scary Movie) is deliciously perfect as a starlet who has had too many people tell her how interesting she is. Coppola is a master of moments and details, and here they add up to a story that is beautifully bittersweet.

Parents should know that the movie includes very strong language, nudity, drinking, smoking and drug use, and sexual references and situations, including adultery.

Families who watch this movie should talk about why Bob and Charlotte were drawn to each other. What did they have in common? What was most different about them? Would you have wanted them to say something more to each other than they did?

Families who enjoy this movie will also appreciate The Virgin Suicides (mature themes), also directed by Coppola and featuring Ribisi. It is flawed but shows Coppola’s exceptional ability to evoke a sense of time and place and superb music selections. They might also like to watch Brief Encounter and The April Fools.

My Boss’s Daughter

posted by rkumar
F
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

In “My Boss’s Daughter,” Tom (Ashton Kutcher) and Lisa (Tara Reid) bond over hating the same movie. I predict that everyone unfortunate enough to see this atrocity will similarly bond over the experience as only fellow disaster survivors can.

It isn’t just that it is stupid. It isn’t just that it is offensive. It isn’t just that it is not funny. It is all of the above plus an appalling use of talented people like Terence Stamp (who has his pants pulled down to show his naked rear end and gets his face covered with gutter sludge and pelted with beer bottles), Michael Madsen (who responds when Tom threatens him with a gun by peeing on him and then on just about everything else), Molly Shannon (who has to wear hot pants and call a black man “colored”), and David Zucker (of Airplane) who directed the whole mess and then put his real name on it. If ever there was a legitimate reason to hide behind “Alan Smithee,” the legendary pseudonym of directors humiliated by the end result, this is it. In fact, everyone associated with this movie should appear under a pseudonym, and that includes Carmen Electra.

Tom is a shy clerk at a publishing firm who has trouble asserting himself and expressing anger. He wants to get a job in the creative department but is so intimidated by the tyrannical CEO, Jack Taylor (Stamp), that he has never had the nerve to apply for it. To complicate things further, Tom has a crush on Jack’s daughter, Lisa (Tara Reid), but is too shy to let her know.

Tom thinks that Lisa has asked him on a date, but in reality, she has asked him to pet-sit her father’s owl, OJ, so she can go to a party with her boyfriend. Jack warns Tom that if anything goes wrong, he will not just be fired but painfully killed. This of course means that everything will go wrong.

The set-up is just fine (think of The Cat in the Hat and many wonderful screwball comedies). The problem is that not one thing that happens in the next hour onscreen is interesting, funny, or original. It is just one long cringe-inducing disgust-fest.

Just to show you that I am not being overly picky or politically sensitive, let me provide some examples of what is intended to pass for humor in this miserable waste of time:

1. The owl is named after OJ Simpson (“The murderer?” “No, the football player!”) So, when the owl flies out of the house and Tom yells, “OJ’s loose!” bystanders scream and scatter.

2. A girl’s bleeding head wound is played for laughs as Tom frantically tries to keep her sticky, gooey blood from getting on Jack’s furniture. Ultimately, she leans back against a bag of Cheetos, many of which stick to the wound when she gets up.

3. A character calls another character “Jew!” for no particular reason except random insult (neither character is Jewish) and this is supposed to be funny. It is also supposed to be funny when one character asks another “Are you retarded?” Other jokes about gays, blacks, a blind quadriplegic, attempted suicide, an apparent seizure, and rape are similarly humor-free. So are jokes about the piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear that Mike Tyson bit off. Funny? Uh, no!

In fact, if you made a list of every single thing in the world that is not funny, you’d have this movie.

Parents should know that the movie is disgusting and offensive, with racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic jokes, sexual situations and references, strong language, drinking, and drug dealing. There is comic peril and violence, including an apparent seizure after ingesting a sedative and alcohol. Characters are threatened with guns and a gun is fired.

Families who see this movie should talk about what Jack learned about being a parent and whether anyone in this movie learned anything about how to pick better material in the future.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the much better Airplane.

Out of Time

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

The opening credits of this film shimmer at you to a jazz score, letting you know that you are in for an old-fashioned noir film, and that a very tangled web of betrayal, greed, and murder lies ahead.

At first, everything about Chief of Police Matthias Whitlock (Denzel Washington), from the crisply pressed white shirt and dark shorts of his uniform to the purposeful way he walks down the street checking to see whether all the doors are locked, tells us that he is extremely careful, meticulously honest, and highly professional. His best friend, the part-time medical examiner (John Billingsly as Shay), may joke wistfully about borrowing some of the cash in the evidence safe, but Matt is very clear about who he is and how far he will go.

But then he answers a call from Ann Harrison (Sanaa Lathan) about a prowler, and we see that he is willing to go very far indeed when it comes to her. They are having an affair that no one else knows about, especially Ann’s abusive husband (Dean Cain as Chris) and Matt’s estranged wife (Eva Mendes as Alex). He tells Ann a small lie about Alex. And then, when Ann is diagnosed with cancer and needs an experimental treatment, borrowing that money from the evidence safe begins to seem like a possibility. The sharp uniform and close shave are gone. Matt wears a loose Hawaiian shirt and looks increasingly unraveled.

Like Body Heat, this is a throwback to the noir classics, in which an ordinary man is drawn into disaster. Matt (and the audience) may think at first that he has done the wrong thing for the right reasons, but then small lies lead to big ones, and trusting the wrong people leads to disaster.

The holes in the plot (including the traditional “going to a remote location to meet the bad guy all by yourself without telling anyone where you are going”) are outweighed by the specifics of the story and the people who tell it. The movie makes nice sly use of the cliche that white people think that all black people look alike. Having Alex as the homicide detective assigned to the case is a fine twist, as their strained personal relationship makes her overcompensate in deferring to him professionally, delaying or discounting what would otherwise be her inclination to question his actions and statements.

Most important, there is Washington himself, one of the all-time most mesmerizing and appealing screen stars. This role takes full advantage of all of Washington’s greatest strengths, especially his ability to get and keep us on his side and his brilliance in conveying a character who keeps a great deal secret from those around him, but not from the audience. Lathan and Mendes are both exceptionally fine, and Cain is nicely creepy and menacing. The real find here, though, is Billingsly, whose gives his line readings a deliciously offbeat spin, making him far more than the standard wisecracking sidekick.

Parents should know that the movie includes some steamy sexual situations that are right up at the limit of the PG-13 rating. Characters use some strong language. Characters drink and smoke, one to excess. Violence includes gunplay, death from a fall, and a brief shot of charred dead bodies. Inter-racial relationships and marriages are refreshingly portrayed as commonplace, one of the movie’s strengths.

Families who see this movie should talk about where Matt’s turning point was and whether he would have been more likely to tell the truth if not for his complicated relationship with Alex. How believeable do you think the ultimate conclusion is?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Body Heat and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

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posted 8:00:57am Apr. 23, 2014 | read full post »

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posted 3:59:23pm Apr. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Daniel Licht, Composer of "Dexter"
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posted 7:00:55am Apr. 22, 2014 | read full post »

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posted 4:53:58pm Apr. 21, 2014 | read full post »


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