Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

 

The Giver
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
November 26, 2014

 

The Expendables 3
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Little Hope Was Arson
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not Rated
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

Apocalypto

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for sequences of graphic violence and disturbing images
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

There are at least three movies here and two of them are great. There is the classic adventure saga of the hero who is trying to get home and save his family. Mel Gibson, as director, has created brilliant action sequences that make the best possible use of the settings and the loyalty he inspires for his characters. Second is a morality tale played out in a culture that is at the same time fascinatingly different and essentially the same as our own. A peaceful tribe is all but wiped out by marauding invaders from a more “developed” and complex culture, as the prospect of an even more “developed” and complex culture is about to arrive and create even more destruction.
And then there is that third film, a further exploration of Gibson’s fetishistic expiation through mortification of the flesh. The violence in this movie is so intense, so graphic, so overwhelming, so pornographic that it is like a whole separate movie, one that initially distracts from and then undermines the legitimacy of the other two.
Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) is the son of the chief of a small group of peaceful hunter-gatherers. When their community is destroyed by ruthlessly predatory attackers, he is able to hide his pregnant wife and son before he is taken away as a prisoner. The rest of the story is his escape, pursued by vicious warriors who will not stop until they have secured their revenge and their honor.
Gibson’s audacity pays off brilliantly in using mostly native performers and filming entirely in Mayan dialect (with subtitles), making us feel we are truly and vitally present in a world that has had no exposure to anything outside of a hunter-gathering society unchanged for millenia. Every one of the performances is stunningly open, intimate, brave, and natural.
Heart-stopping action sequences all but explode off the screen. Jaguar Paw’s desperate escape involves a vertiginous plunge down a thundering waterfall, darts poisoned with tree-frog venom, and an improvised grenade made from a beehive. The visuals are mesmerizing, from the smallest leaf of the rain forest to the grand sweep of great natural landscapes and a dizzyingly vast and complex pre-Columbian city with a palace, an arena, a towering altar for human sacrifice, and a marketplace for the sale of slaves.
No one expects a story like this to be bloodless. But the level, frequency, level of graphic detail, and intensity of the violence here is not about telling the story, and it inflicts damage on the narrative that even the movie’s compelling strengths cannot overcome.

Parents should know that this is one of the most explicitly violent movies ever made. It has extreme, intense, and graphic violence with many characters injured and killed. A community is pillaged with all kinds of butchery and assault, including rape and casual murder of children. Other scenes include suicide, human sacrifice, and a gladiator-like exercise in which humans are used for target practice. Characters, including children and a pregnant woman, are in constant peril. There is some strong and crude language. Characters wear revealing native attire and there is a non-explicit childbirth scene.
Families who see this movie should talk about the similarities to our culture (macho posturing, shared jokes, tenderness toward family, struggles with mothers-in-law, tribalism and hostility toward those who are different) and the significance of the final group of invaders. Characters in this movie have to decide what compromises and sacrifices they will undertake to stay alive or protect those they love. How do they make those choices? What is the significance of the name “Almost?”
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Aguirre, the Wrath of God.

The Good German

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language, violence and some sexual content.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

Director Steven Soderbergh has created a loving tribute to the films of the 1940’s that is more accomplished than effective. It is such a meticulous re-creation of the techniques and technology of the era that it seems jarring to see contemporary faces and hear four-letter words. From the very first moment, where the film seems to jump a bit before settling into the projector gate, every detail from the font for the opening credits to the score by Thomas Newman (son of 1940’s movie soundtrack maestro Alfred Newman) and the cinematography and editing (done by Soderburgh himself under pseudonyms).


All of this is intended to create the mood and setting of Berlin just as WWII was ending. The war was already over in Europe and Berlin was occupied by the conquering forces, including the United States and the Soviet Union. New Republic journalist Jake Geismer (George Clooney), arrives to cover the Potsdam Conference, with heads of state Harry Truman, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill Clement Atlee meeting to discuss post-war arrangements in Europe and strategies for the continuing war against Japan. His driver is Tully (Tobey Maguire), something of a wheeler-dealer who is not above lifting a wallet or buying forged papers to get someone out of the country.


That someone turns out to be Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett), widow of a mathematician who died in the war. With no other options, she has become a prostitute, with Tully her most frequent customer. It turns out that Jake and Lena knew each other before the war, when she worked for him as a stringer and they were romantically involved. And it turns out that they are connected again through a murder that brings them together again in a web of conflicting loyalties and values that play out in their relationship and in the political trade-offs around them. How do you decide who is culpable after a war? An entire population cannot be tried and punished. Should the focus be on what they have done in the past or on what they can do to help shape the future?


George Clooney and Cate Blanchett fit their 40’s wardrobe and dialogue well. But despite some sharply drawn parallels to current events, it feels more like a stunt than a story. In part, that may be due to our familiarity with the actors. Those whose faces beam down on us from magazine covers can act in period films without disturbing out ability to suspend disbelief in part because those films, while set in the past, are made in the current style of scene-setting and acting. There is something jarring about seeing the familiar contemporary faces clamped into old-fashioned static set-ups in front of rear projections. It feels like a film school exercise and that interferes with its substantial and very provocative agenda.


Parents should know that this movie includes intense peril and violence. There are references to the Holocaust (which, at the time this movie takes place, was only beginning to be uncovered.) Characters are injured and killed. They also smoke, drink, and use strong language. There are explicit sexual references and situations, including prostitution.


Families who see this movie should talk about the confliction priorities and values the characters had to reconcile. A “Good German” is an expression referring to someone who goes along and abides by the rules, no matter how offensive they are. Who in this movie does this term apply to? Families may want to find out about historical characters like Werner Van Braun, whose stories inspired this screenplay. Families may want to learn more about different ways of achieving a sense of justice following war or other massive change, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and the current war trials of world figures like Saddam Hussein.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Third Man and Judgment at Nuremberg, which deal with some of the same issues raised by this film. Every family should see the brilliant and hugely influential Casablanca, which helped inspire this film as well. Blind Spot – Hitler’s Secretary is a documentary interview with the woman who worked for Hitler through his last days in the bunker.

The Holiday

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some strong language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

Amanda (Cameron Diaz) has a successful business cutting up new Hollywood releases into three-minute trailers that make the films look as enticing as possible. Writer-director Nancy Meyers essentially cuts up classic romantic comedies and reassembles them for modern consumption. The result is glossy fluff entertainment like What Women Want and Something’s Got to Give. They’re pretty to look at but they dissolve like cotton candy.


Amanda and Iris (Kate Winslet) find themselves with broken hearts just before Christmas. On impulse, they both go online and end up swapping homes for the holidays. Iris goes to Amanda’s glamorous house on movie star row in Los Angeles and Amanda ends up sliding around on high heels along the snowy road to Iris’s picturesque little cottage in the English countryside. And who should come to their doors but Jude Law as Graham, Iris’ brother, tipsy and looking for a place to sleep it off, and Jack Black as Miles, a soundtrack composer.


It’s hard to say whether the movie is being meta in its movie references (an old-time Hollywood screenwriter from next door gives Iris a must-watch list of classic romantic comedies and Amanda’s trailer for a Lindsay Lohan action film is one of the highlights), or just unimaginative and derivative. Probably a little bit of both. Too often, it is so formulaic you can see the little index cards — MUST HAVE: adorable guy with an English accent who is misunderstood and turns out to be even dreamier than we first thought; completely unnecessary romantic dash through the snow; character who announces that she can’t cry and so must then cry; cad who broke girl’s heart beg her to come back so she can turn him down, check, check, check. Oh, and just to make sure, let’s pick the safest, most predictable, guaranteed heart-tugger songs on the soundtrack. Even the delectable Diaz can’t make some of the behavior in this film feel anything but tawdry. There are some logistical impossibilities that will jar even the most beguiled of audiences out of the movie. It’s worst failings are its smugness about its own charms, unwarranted banner of female empowerment, and phony sincerity. But the stars and settings are undeniably appealing. If it is as synthetic and insubstantial as a Kinkade Christmas tree ornament, it is as pretty, too.

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy some of the classics recommended for Iris, including The Lady Eve and His Girl Friday, plus Holiday, a movie in the same genre also set around New Year’s Eve and with a title that might have inspired this one, starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. They will also enjoy Love Actually (very mature material) and Nancy Meyers’ other films, What Women Want and Something’s Gotta Give.

Charlotte’s Web

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated G
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

E.B. White’s book, Charlotte’s Web, is a genuine classic for readers of any age, a beautifully written literary novel about loyalty and loss, friendship and the importance of a perfectly chosen word.

The book began with a little girl named Fern rescuing a runt of a pig her father intended to kill. She names him Wilbur and bottle feeds him until he is too big to live at home and then brings him to her uncle’s farm. At this point, at the end of Chapter One, she pretty much exits the story, and the primary characters for the rest of the book are Wilbur and his best friend, a spider named Charlotte.


The movie follows this story with a couple of changes geared to marketing, not story-telling. First, if a studio is lucky enough to grab the number one box office actress in the country, she cannot disappear from the movie after the first fifteen minutes, so Fern, played by Dakota Fanning, gets an expanded role. Second, the focus-group types at the studio decided that E.B. White somehow overlooked the importance of and boy-girl romance (gently inserted) and potty humor (not-so-gently inserted).


The voice talent seems selected for marquee value rather than the ability to create a character on voice alone. Julia Roberts is fine as Charlotte, Steve Buscemi is just right as Templeton the Rat, but the standout is Thomas Hayden Church as a crow. Most of the others are flat or distracting. But the power of the story retains its genuine magic and, like Fern, audiences will find this barnyard a place they want to stay.


Parents should know that the theme of the movie concerns pigs getting slaughtered. This issue is presented gently, but it may be disturbing for some children. There is also a very sad death of a major character. There is some potty humor and some slapstick peril.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Wilbur was important to Fern and why Charlotte wanted to be his friend. Why was Wilbur friendlier than the other animals? Families should also talk about why Charlotte’s work made people think it was the pig who was special, while no one paid any attention to the spider.


Families who enjoy this movie might also enjoy the earlier animated version, with the voice of Debbie Reynolds as Charlotte. And every family should read the wonderful book. Families will also enjoy Babe.

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