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

The Grudge 2

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing images/terror/violence, and some sensuality.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

There are two types of people who awake with an uneasy feeling on Friday the 13th: the superstitious, and those who just can’t stomach the release of another horror sequel, remake, or (in this case), sequel to a remake. But for fans of The Grudge, the day will be a lucky one.


“The Grudge 2,” director Takashi Shimizu’s sequel to his 2004 film The Grudge (itself a remake of his original Japanese version Ju-On) picks up where the last film left off, with The Grudge star Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in the hospital and her sister (Amber Tamblyn) newly in Tokyo. Karen’s sister, Aubrey, steps into her sister’s world of horror and quickly becomes the protagonist in a topsy-turvy continuation of the first film. The horrific child with huge eyes and the pale waif with a curtain of black hair continue to torment the innocent by appearing unpleasantly under desks and in reflections. In addition to disturbing Aubrey, the ghastly pair extend their reach to other unfortunate victims, affecting multiple families.


The film is notable for its ability to tie the families’ stories together and provide an intriguing and complex narrative to complement the gratuitously scary imagery. While not groundbreaking, fans of The Grudge will likely be satisfied with new developments in the story. The film is designed to scare, but while some imagery is truly nightmarish, it is not as morally unsettling or blatantly violent as, say, Kill Bill or other films of the hack-and-dismember nature (Shimizu’s brand of scariness seems more innocent). There are definitely, however, haunting images and unexpected moments designed to keep the audience from getting too comfortable.


Some viewers might find this sequel to be a little cheesier and more Americanized than its predecessor, with more depiction of high-school drama and less tendency to take itself seriously. Perhaps under the assumption that most viewers will expect what in the last film was unexpected, Shimizu seems to enjoy the freedom of simply entertaining without pressure to create something wholly unexpected. Seemingly unconcerned with disturbing audiences and more concerned with satisfying those haunted-house junkies who like a good scare, some viewers might find themselves laughing with the absurdity of how far they can jump out of their seats.


Parents should know that this film has haunting and unexpected flashes of very scary (although not usually violent) images. There are moments of disturbing violence, such as a woman pouring sizzling hot oil from a frying pan on a man’s head and then hitting him with the pan. There is also some school bullying that results in some scary moments, and there are images one character drowning and another falling onto the pavement from the top of a skyscraper.


In the film, the sisters’ relationship is depicted as strained. Families who see this film should talk about the factors that lead to the two sisters not being “on speaking terms,” and why Aubrey got angry with her sister. They might also discuss Aubrey’s regret that she didn’t reconcile with Karen, as well as Aubrey’s relationship with her mother. One girl is bullied at school with disheartening consequences; families should also discuss bullying and ways to handle mocking and peer pressure. Two children in one family are adjusting to their father’s girlfriend moving into the home — parents might discuss with their children why the young son acts quiet and moody, and how the older sister is supportive and caring for her younger brother.


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy The Grudge and might like to see its original Japanese version, Ju-On. Some other films of the same genre include The Ring and The Ring Two, directed by Gore Verbinski (who also directed the first two Pirates of the Caribbean films and is currently filming the third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End.

Man of the Year

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for language including some crude sexual references, drug related material, and brief violence.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

So, what if Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert decided to run for President? First of all, didn’t we already see that movie, when it was called Head of State and starred Chris Rock? (Okay, he didn’t play a comedian, but he is a comedian and behaved like one.) The idea of a campaign by an outsider who can tell the truth has had appeal in movies (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) and in real life (from the joke campaign of Pat Paulson to the not-joke campaigns of Ross Perot and Alan Keyes). But this latest version dilutes the sharpness of Robin Williams and the political comedians who inspired his character and then veers off into an uninteresting thriller sidetrack that is not the least bit thrilling.


Comedians and politicians have been locked together symbiotically since the first person assumed power over others, immediately followed by someone who made a joke about it. Politicians have to speak in a kind of code, even when they are being “outspoken” and promise straight talk. Comedians can tell the truth, even the outrageous truth, even the wildly exaggerated truth, because it’s all in fun.

Kings had jesters. Today’s politicos have late-night television and stand-up comics. They also have increasingly partisan and screechy news media and increasingly popular comedy news shows, which, surveys show, are the preferred news source for a large segment of the population, especially young people. Why not? You get two for the price of one, headlines and jokes. Real newsmakers appear for interviews on fake news shows and real news shows get increasingly more clownish. The line between news and faux news is dissolving.


All of this could have made a great movie. But this isn’t it. Williams looks puffy, toned down, and distracted, except in his interactions with Christopher Walken as his manager, with whom he has a wonderful chemistry. When they are together, we get a glimpse of what this movie could have been. But the movie veers off into an uninvolving and unoriginal distraction about a corrupt corporation and vote fraud.

Any movie about politics has a huge obstacle to overcome in having to pull its punches by making the humor generic and innoffensive. Because of the lead-time between filming and release (not to mention DVD), there is no chance for anything topical. Even so, many of the would-be wisecracks are overcooked and overworked. I think I recall a few of them from the Ford administration. Which makes sense because as irreverent and subversive as it wants to be, it is just bland.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong and crude language and sexual references. Characters drink and smoke; one continues to smoke even after nearly losing his life from tobacco-related disease. A character is injected with illegal drugs. Characters are in peril and one is badly injured.


Families who see this movie should talk about what made Tom an appealing candidate. Would you have voted for him? Why? What is the most important thing you look for in a candidate? What can the media do better in covering politics?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Head of State and classic movies about politics like State of the Union, The Candidate, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Great McGinty, The Seduction of Joe Tynan, and Primary Colors (the last two with mature material).

Stormbreaker

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for sequences of action violence and some peril.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

I never thought I’d miss Cody Banks. But the dull and lifeless Alex Rider brought back surprisingly fond thoughts of the better-than mediocre Agent Cody Banks and the terrific first two Spy Kids. Even the lousy third one was better than this dreary, too-violent, talent-wasting mess, based on the successful series of James Bond-for-kids books. It’s too violent for younger kids and too dull for older kids.


Alex Pettyfer plays Alex Rider, an English orphan who lives with his never-there uncle (brief appearance by a dashing Ewan McGregor) and a daffy but devoted American housekeeper/nanny (Alicia Silverstone) with a penchant for exotic cuisine. When his uncle is killed in the line of duty, Alex discovers that he was a spy. And all his uncle taught him about languages, martial arts, and extreme sports was his way of training him to be one as well. Sophie Okonedo and Bill Nighy are the spy chiefs who recruit Alex to pretend to be the winner of a computer competition, so he can find out what bad guy Boris, I mean Darius (Mickey Rourke) and his henchwoman Natasha, I mean Nadia (Missy Pyle) are up to.

There’s a lot of chasing around and some cool stunts, but it has a flat, draggy feel to it, some creepy moments of oddly insensitive interactions, and no sense of genuine enthusiasm or adventure.


Parents should know that this movie has a great deal of action-style violence. This means that there is no blood, but it is still disturbing; characters are killed and Alex uses guns.


Families who see this movie should talk about what qualities and education are required to be a spy.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the much better Agent Cody Banks and Spy Kids.

The Queen

posted by jmiller
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) is feeling more triumphant than nervous as he goes to Buckingham Palace for the queen’s formal invitation to serve. He and his wife all but snicker as they consider the anachronism of royalty in the modern age.

And then he goes in to meet her (Helen Mirren) and finds that she is, surprisingly…regal. She may dress in the world’s most expensive dowdy cardigans and head scarves and have the hairdo of a grade school principal. But there is something about her that reminds him that the British are not citizens but subjects. It’s not just that she gently reminds him of her place in history by mentioning her connection to both Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill as she coaches him through the protocol. She has her place in history. But there is something about her that is far from an historic leftover, something vitally present today.


Both Blair and the queen will shortly have to think more carefully about where the royal family is on that continuum between tradition and relevance. Almost immediately after this meeting, the queen’s former daughter-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a shocking automobile crash. She was no longer a member of the royal family, but she was the mother of the heir to the throne. She was also the most widely recognized woman in the world. The very traits and faults that made her such an embarrassment to the royal family were the touches of humanity that millions of people found endearing. She was sometimes foolish but always genuine and she indisputably loved her sons with great warmth.


To her former in-laws, this was one final embarrassing and excessive incident. There seemed no question about the way to respond. Diana was no longer an official member of the Royal family, and it would be handled as a private matter with no public statement or display of grief and certainly no state funeral. The queen and her family went to their estate in Scotland.


But Blair, as a politician, knew that the people wanted more, needed more. He made his own deeply sympathetic statement. This only sharpened the contrast with the royal family. As literally tons of floral tributes were piled up by sobbing Brits outside the deserted Buckingham Palace, Blair knew his first great challenge as Prime Minister was to ask the queen to break with tradition and make a public statement about her loss as queen and grandmother to two now-motherless boys.


The performances are impeccable. Mirren, always splendid (most recently in the far showier role of the earlier Queen Elizabeth for HBO), here gives a performance of breathtaking tenderness and delicacy in evoking the subtle and complex conflict of emotions felt by the queen, the woman, the daughter, the mother, the grandmother, the prisoner of history and the maker of history. At one point, she and a huge stag being hunted by Prince Philip stop and gaze at each other. They understand each other, and that moment helps us to understand her.


Queen Elizabeth must find a way to bridge the assumptions and rules of the times of Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill to those of the time of cell phones that beam photos around the world. Her ancestor Henry VIII split the church to get a divorce and her great-uncle abdicated the throne to marry a divorced woman, making her father the king and putting her next in line for the throne. Her sister was not allowed to marry the man he loved because he was “unsuitable” because he was divorced. So, she married a suitable man she did not love and herself became a divorced woman. Three of Queen Elizabeth’s children are divorced. Where are the other royal families? The children of the Grimaldis of Monaco have out-of-wedlock children. How can a monarch retain credibility in a world that now believes in meritocracy? All she had was history and mystery. Both are not worth what they once were. Like Blair, we are moved from skepticism to sympathy and ultimately to respect by the exquisite performances and a perceptive screenplay that manages to be thoughtful not just about politics and celebrity but family, loss, and destiny. Like the queen, we know that a stag’s mystery and majesty may be both the reason for its appeal and the reason it is seen as prey.

Parents should know that the movie has brief strong language and references to adultery and to the car crash that caused the deaths of the former Princess of Wales, Dodi Al-Fayed, and security man Henri Paul. There are references to hunting and dead animal carcasses are displayed. There are some tense and sad family moments.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Tony Blair changed his mind about the queen. What was the influence of her uncle’s abdication? Who in this story has your sympathy and why?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the BBC series House of Cards. And they will enjoy a very different story about a very different princess, Roman Holiday, from an era when both princesses and journalists had a different idea about honor and responsibility. They can read Tony Blair’s statement on Diana’s death Time Magazine’s coverage of Diana’s life is here. The official website of the Royal Family has a great deal of historical and biographical information.

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