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

Glory Road

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for racial issues including violence and epithets, and momentary language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

A man who coaches high school girls’ basketball gets a job at a small Texas school and not only takes them to the nationals, where they defeat the long-time champions in a stunning upset, he changes the course of college sports history by being the first coach to have five black players in his starting line-up.


Now, that sounds like a Disney movie.


And it is, but before that, it was the true story of coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas), and his career at Texas Western college (now University of Texas at El Paso).


Haskins arrived at Texas Western in 1965. The school was so poor that the coach’s family had to live in the men’s dorms. There was no money to recruit players. But it had an NCAA spot, and Haskins came to play.


Haskins did not intend to be a civil rights pioneer. He just wanted the best players he could find. And in that era, there were plenty of black basketball players who were not getting offers from anyone else. So Haskins put together a team with a lot of talent and a lot of passion for the game, and then he showed them how to be better players and an even better team than they had ever imagined.


So, yes, there are stirring half-time speeches and montages of winning games, players who are intially wary and resentful and then learn the true meaning of teamwork, heart-stopping overtime tie-breakers, brief “what became of” summaries, and everything else we expect. And you know what? It works just fine because it makes us care about the details and the characters — and the game. The performers serve the story, acting with humility and respect, never going for the glamour or the drama. Derek Luke (Friday Night Lights and Lucas have all the movie star magnetism in the world, but here they show us (again) that they are actors first. The only one who is over the top is Jon Voight, who seems to be working his way through an increasingly grotesque series of putty noses in his recent roles, appears as Coach Adolph Rupp of Kentucky.

The relationships feel real. The games are exciting. The story is touching and exciting. And over the credits, we get to see and hear from Haskins and the real members of that legendary team — and from Pat Riley, who explains why Haskins’ team beat him and his teammates for the national championship. “They were just better.”

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Remember the Titans and Hoosiers. They may also like to read Haskins’
book.

Tristan + Isolde

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences and some sexuality.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Tristan and Isolde have suffered enough. This movie feels like overkill.


Oh, their legend will survive. But this classic comics-style perfume commercial of a re-telling will not.


The ampersand is a giveaway. “And” isn’t good enough? An ampersand is, what, edgier?


Who needs edgier when you’ve got James Franco? His cheekbones alone could cut glass, but, though he played James Dean in a made for television biopic, he is more sullen than brooding.

Edge isn’t exactly what this story needs. It is, after all, a classic of thwarted love. King Mark (Rufus Sewell), who is trying to hold together a fragile coalition of British lords, sends Tristan to win his bride Isolde (Sophia Myles), the sister of the king of Ireland. This is a strategic move. The Irish have been looting and oppressing the English, and Mark thinks that if he can unite the English and marry the Irish king’s sister, he may be able to achieve peace.


Tristan wins the bride, not knowing she is the woman he loves. After an earlier battle, she found him and nursed him back to health without telling him who she was. They fell in love. And now he has to delive her to another man. Mark saved Tristan’s life and raised him like a son after his parents were killed by the Irish. And Isolde’s marriage to Mark is the only chance for peace. It’s time for that noble speech — you know, the one about how “I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more.”


Okay, that poem was about 400 years from being written. But that’s the idea.


It’s not awful — except for the instant camp of a scene where Isolde decides to warm up the injured Tristan by — taking off all her clothes and wrapping him in them and then hugging him nude, ordering her lady’s maid to do the same. It’s just syrupy. In this version, T&I get swept away not by grand passion but by pulsating hormones. Though they talk about honor and posterity and doing what’s best for others, they behave like a couple from “Desperate Housewives.”

Families who enjoy this movie might want to find out more about the real story or explore some of the other versions, like the opera by Wagner or the traditional poetic versions. They may also enjoy the story of King Arthur, which was inspired in part by this legend. They will also enjoy A Knight’s Tale, a silly but enteertaining story of knights and jousting with Sewell (who can out-brood Franco with one eye shut) as the bad guy.

The Corn is Green

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:N/A
Movie Release Date:1945
DVD Release Date:2006

Miss Moffat (Bette Davis), an educated and very independent woman,
arrives in a small Welsh mining village in 1895 to live in a house she inherited
and start a school for the miners’ children. She is told, “Down here, they’re only
children until they’re twelve. Then they are sent away to the mine and are old
men in a week.”


None of the children can read or write, and few know any English at all. She
persuades Miss Ronberry (Mildred Dunnock) and Mr. Jones (Rhys Williams) to
help her, but the local landowner, called “the Squire” (Nigel Bruce), and the
owners of the mine are opposed and do everything they can to stop her. She is
about to give up when she sees an essay by Morgan Evans (John Dall), a young
mine worker, that shows a real gift. She tells him he is “clever,” which makes him
“want to get more clever.”


They work together for two years, but she does not realize he is becoming
resentful and impatient. His friends make fun of him for learning and call him
the schoolmistress’s dog. He quits. Later, when Mr. Jones persuades him to come
back, Miss Moffat prepares him for Oxford and even uses “soft soap and curtsying”
to persuade the Squire to recommend him. He wins a scholarship.

Bessie,
the dishonest and slatternly daughter of Miss Moffat’s housekeeper, is pregnant
with Morgan’s child. Miss Moffat adopts the child so that Morgan will be able to
go to Oxford. She tells him his duty is to the world. Then she tells herself, “You
mustn’t be clumsy this time,” and resolves to be more sensitive in raising Morgan’s
child than she was with him.


This movie is an adaptation of a play by Emlyn Williams, who
was actually saved from the coal mines by an understanding teacher. It has a lot
of parallels to My Fair Lady and Born Yesterday, which also deal with intense
teacher-student relationships that transform the lives of both.

Like Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday
and Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Morgan is excited and disturbed by the way learning changes
him; he panics at the thought of losing everything familiar to him (including
ignorance), and he gets angry and impatient. Eliza would understand Morgan’s
telling Miss Moffat, “I don’t want to be thankful to no strange woman.” Like
Henry Higgins, Miss Moffat does not want thanks.


Miss Moffat is different because of her reason for teaching Morgan. She
responds to his spirit and his potential in that first essay. Perhaps because she
responds so strongly, she stays very distant from him, admitting she knows every
part of his brain, but does not know him at all. She cares for him deeply. The
contrast between her spirited response to the Squire when he prevents her from
using the barn for a school and her “soft soap and curtsying” to get him to help
Morgan shows how far she is willing to go.
Ultimately, she takes on Morgan’s child, knowing it means she will never see
him again, because both of them believe the child will be better off if the break is
permanent.


Also worth discussing: the consequences of careless sexual involvement, the idea
that there may be something more important to some women than getting married (especially in that era, when married women had so little say over what happened
to them), and Bessie’s statement that she only had sex with Morgan to
spite Miss Moffat. Families should also discuss:


• Why didn’t the Squire want the Welsh children to learn?


• Why did the miners make Morgan feel bad about learning?


• Why did telling Morgan he was clever make him want to learn more? Why did
Bessie’s telling him he was clever have a different effect?


• What did Miss Moffat mean by “soft soap and curtsying” and how did she use
them? How did she feel about using them?


• Why was Morgan so angry about having to be grateful?


The real-life Morgan Evans, Emlyn Williams, became a
playwright and actor and can be seen in Major Barbara as Snobby Price. The
Squire is played by Nigel Bruce, best known as Dr. Watson in the Americanmade
series of Sherlock Holmes’ movies. Bessie’s mother belongs to a group like
the one Sister Sarah belongs to in Guys and Dolls, or Major Barbara does in the
film of the same name.


A good book about this part of the world is On the Black Hills, by
Bruce Chatwin, and there are some outstanding books about the history of coal
miners in many different parts of the world.

Match Point

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for some sexuality.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

In Stardust Memories, Woody Allen’s character refers to his mother’s cooking as putting food through the “deflavorizing machine.” His latest movie feels as though he has taken his complex and powerful Crimes and Misdemeanors abd put it through a deflavorizing machine. It raises many of the same themes, but it is flatter, more superficial, less heartfelt, and less involving. Fans who have been disappointed with Allen’s lightweight, almost listless recent films have called this his best film in years, but it is just a weaker version of his favorite themes. Changing the location (and the accents) from Manhattan to England (a decision made for tax reasons, not artistic ones) and substituting opera for jazz creates only the semblence of substance, a cinematic emperor’s new clothes.


It begins with a nod to luck, the force that determines outcomes from a tennis ball’s being in or out to a chance meeting that leads to love or heartbreak.


Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers of Bend it Like Beckham) is a professional tennis player who was never quite good enough. So he take a job as a teenis pro at a luxurious country club.


He meets and hits it off with Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), the son of a wealthy family. Their common interests in tennis and opera land Chris an invitation to the Hewett’s estate, where he meets Tom’s sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer) and Tom’s American fiancee, Nola (Scarlett Johansson), an actress. Chloe likes Chris. Chris likes Nola.


But Nola is not available. And marriage to Chloe means a very comfortable life with a beautiful and generous woman who is devoted to him. So Chris marries Chloe, and her father finds him a job that pays much better than tennis.


And then Nola is available. She and Tom break up, and she and Chris begin to have an affair. He is enthralled by her. But things change, and she becomes an inconvenience. Is Nola worth giving up everything Chloe and her family have given him?


I can accept that what appears to be arbitrary in the script is intended to illustrate the role of luck and chance. But there is no such justification for the thinly written roles of the characters. The females in particular are just narrative conveniences. They exist for no other reason than to put Chris into various contrivances of the plot. And there’s no reason other than financial to set the story in England, except maybe switching from New York ersatz country squire a la Ralph Lauren to the real thing.


The whole question of the movie’s theme is suspect as well. Is it really a matter of luck whether a tennis ball is inside or outside of the line? Isn’t the whole idea of athletic competition based on the premise that it is a matter of skill? Is it a matter of luck or judgment that a man decides to have an affair or commit a crime? Chris goes from being a tennis pro to the cushy job his father-in-law finds for him without any effort whatsoever.

We are supposed to believe that Chris has no problem whatsoever in performing satisfactorily (not better than anyone else but certainly more than adequately). This feels less like a portrayal of luck than like a lazy short-cut, and one that undermines the power of the movie’s themes, for all its efforts to leverage operatic sweep. The lucky one here is Allen, whose change of venue has dazzled his long-waiting fans into thinking he has returned to form. It’s just a net ball.

Parents should know that this is a serious and tragic film with a character who cheats, lies, and murders to get what he wants. The film includes some strong language, drinking and smoking, as well as brief but shocking and explicit violence and sexual references and situations.


Families who see this movie should talk about experiences they have had that made them think about the importance of luck and what they think will happen to Chris in the future.


Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate Crimes and Misdemeanors and the classic film A Place in the Sun, based on Theodore Dreiser’s book An American Tragedy.

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