Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Noah
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Sabotage
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Release Date:
March 28, 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

 

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

First Daughter

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2004

This one is right off the conveyer belt. It’s numbingly predictable due to a screenplay straight from the “how to write a script” formula book, which may be forgiveable, but it is also thuddingly dull due to performances and direction that lack energy and commitment, which is not.

Samantha (Katie Holmes) is the daughter of the President (Michael Keaton) and just starting college as her father is running for re-election. She is looking forward getting away from home and to the freedom of being “just like everyone else” for the first time.

But Sam’s not like everyone else, first because she has big men with curly wires coming out of their ears and photographers following her everywhere and second because of those qualities of her own that make her special, though she is not quite sure what those are yet.

The Secret Service detail and publicity are embarrassing and annoying. But it is finding out exactly who she is and what she wants that presents a greater challenge. Sam has to endure jealousy and teasing from her new classmates. She also has to deal with seeing her embarrassing moments spread all over the media.

Sam gets some support from her free-spirited roommate, Mia (Amerie of television’s “The Center”) and her understanding dorm Resident Advisor, James (“Buffy’s” Marc Blucas) and to thank them she whisks them off on Air Force One for a road trip right out of “Cinderella,” a visit to the White House for an elegant state dinner.

But Sam, Mia, and James all have lessons to learn and apologies to make before an ending that even Cinderella would consider happy. As for me, I was just glad it was over.

Holmes has shown herself to be a fine actress in The Ice Storm and Wonder Boys, but she seems a bit lost here, probably because Sam is not a character but a concept, and a wispy one at that. The flickers of detail are not even half-hearted, more like quarter, with some nonsense about whether Sam’s father is devoting enough of his attention to domestic affairs (double meaning, get it?) and one of the least surprising surprises in the history of “you should have told me” boy-temporarily-loses-girl developments and an “I’ll show him; I’ll make him jealous” response that plays like a lost “Brady Bunch” episode, one that was lost intentionally because it did not meet the high intellectual standards of the rest of the show.

It has tiresome fake crises — Sam appears in the tabloids and her father’s ratings drop by three points! So the solution is to pull her out of school and put her on the campaign trail supporting her father. Yeah, that’s just what happened when Jenna and Barbara Bush got caught drinking. Oh, the Secret Service agents mistake a water pistol for a gun! Yeah, who would expect a water pistol at a pool party? Any possible humor or suspense was wrung from that one decades ago. Some car crashes into a barrier as a way of attacking Sam? That one might have been interesting if it was ever referred to again.

It all feels more like product than story, primarily directed at middle school girls, who will enjoy the princess-y romance and won’t mind that they deserve much better. But I do.

Parents should know that the characters treat drinking as a badge of liberation and adulthood. Although they are underage, Samantha talks about hiding beer in a cooler and Mia asks if the Secret Service agents will buy beer for them. Later, they go out drinking and Sam gets tipsy and begins dancing on a table. There are some mild sexual references and situations. Mia brings a boy she has just met into her room and tells Sam she can’t come in for two hours — but apparently they were just kissing. Later she says that she kisses boys indiscriminately, except for the one she really likes. Mia and Sam dress up to look like call girls, with lace-up boots, hot pants, and fake tattoo. Characters use mild language (“kiss my ass,” etc.). A strength of the movie is capable and successful African-American characters and loyal inter-racial friendships.

Families who see this movie should talk about what Sam does and does not have in common with other college freshman. Why does Mia kiss guys she is not serious about but not the guy she really likes? What does it mean to say that someone is “always at home, no matter what anyone else thinks?” They should talk about how liking the way you are when you are with someone is a sign of a good relationship and about how both Sam and her father know that a good way to get people to do what you want is to let them know that you have high expectations, because they will want to live up to them. What does it mean to say that “every father has to learn to let go of his little girl and every little girl has to learn to let go of her father?”

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy 2004′s other Presidential daughter movie, Chasing Liberty with Mandy Moore. They will also enjoy classics about privileged but sheltered young women trying for some freedom Roman Holiday and It Happened One Night. And they might like to read about the exploits of the most famous Presidential daughter, Alice Roosevelt and find out more about Lyndon Johnson’s daughter, Lynda Robb, now a literacy advocate on behalf of Reading is Fundamental. She married one of her father’s Marine Guards, Charles Robb, later Senator and Governor of Virginia.

The Forgotten

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

This year’s most popular movie theme — memory — turns up once again, though this time what someone, um, forgot was the script.

Oh there are situations here, but I would not say that they rise to the level of a story, and some people, but I would not say they rise to the level of characters, and those people say some words, but I would not say they rise to the level of dialogue.

It is autumn, a time of loss, and Telly (Julianne Moore) sits in the playground watching the leaves fall. She is mourning her son Sam, who died along with five other children on a plane to summer camp fourteen months before. She tells her therapist, Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise), that she still spends time every day going through Sam’s dresser drawer, watching him in home movies on video, looking at him in photographs. Dr. Munce tells her that it’s just “memory, doing its job.”

But sometimes memory doesn’t do its job very well. Telly remembers having a cup of coffee, but it is not there and Dr. Munce says that it was the last session where she had coffee, not this one. Telly’s car is not where she thought she left it and the man who finds it for her tries to reassure her: “I forget all the time.” But Telly can’t forget. She thinks of Sam every minute. Dr. Munce tells her that “sometimes the mind needs help in letting a thing go.” But Telly does not want help. She had to let Sam go, but she cannot let her memories of him go.

Is her husband Jim (Anthony Edwards) trying to help her by removing the pictures of Sam and erasing the videos? “When the images are gone,” she tells him, “it’s like losing him all over again.”

But then he tells her something shocking. There never was a Sam. Telly has been mentally ill, suffering from “paramnesia” since her miscarriage. Jim and Dr. Munce have been trying to lead her gradually back to reality.

All external evidence of Sam has disappeared. His baseball glove is no longer in the dresser and the pages of teh scrapbook are blank. No one remembers him, not even Ash (Dominic West), a former hockey player and the father of Sam’s friend Lauren, who was also on that plane. Ash insists that he has never met Telly and never had a child. She cannot even find a newspaper story about the loss of the airplane with the six children.

Who should Telly believe? She trusts her husband and her doctor. She cannot find anyone who believes her or any evidence that Sam ever existed. But somehow she believes what she remembers — the way Sam waved at her as he boarded the plane, the way she felt when she saw the sun on his hair — even though it seems to make no sense.

So far, so good. And the movie does a pretty good job of creating the atmosphere early on, keeping us as unbalanced and unsure of what to believe as Telly is. Plus, it turns out that if you’re dealing with bad guys, a former hockey player is a handy guy to have around. Ash seems very happy to have the chance to go at it without any penalty box in sight.

But then the plot goes off in a direction that is so nutty, even by movie standards, that it is just plain silly, leaving so many holes in the plot that it knocks us out of that nice creepy atmosphere and into oh-come-off-it-land. It feels like the screenwriters had no idea where to go and so just randomly spun the wheel of movie genres to pick an ending. They should have spun again.

Parents should know that the movie has frequent tense scenes with characters in peril and some startling surprises. The plot concerns the death of six children and other characters are injured and apparently killed. There are brief frightening images and a few bad words. A character abuses alcohol.

Families who see this movie should talk about how we know whether our memories are accurate. What can we do to make sure we remember the things that are important to us?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy two other movies where characters are told that family members never existed, So Long at the Fair and Bunny Lake is Missing. They will also enjoy The Invisible Child a sweet little made-for-television film with a lovely performance by Rita Wilson as a mother who has an imaginary child and whose husband, children, and nanny all help perpetuate the fantasy. And they will enjoy the classic Gaslight with an Oscar-winning performance by Ingrid Bergman as a woman whose husband persuades her that her memory cannot be trusted.

Wimbledon

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

Sun splashed shots and a series of beautiful, thoroughly English sets get this sports-romantic-comedy over the net, but a clumsy romance with flat dialogue means “Wimbledon” is far from an ace.

Peter Colt (a glum-looking but winningly wry Paul Bettany) is the fading tennis player who draws a wild-card slot at Wimbledon and decides it will be his last hurrah on the court. While physically still game at 32, his intense personal monologues demonstrate why he is a long-shot. His pre-service thoughts include the mantra “I’m going to choke…”. Along comes his anima and muse, intensely focused Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) to awake in him his killer instinct and self-confidence so that he can win one last time.

Their contrasting styles are a study in British and American stereotypes, with his tact, dry humor and quiet desperation playing against her ambition, bluntness and childish enthusiasm. While Lizzie is a supremely self-assured competitor as long as tennis is the subject, she talks with her trainer/father (Sam Neill) in cringing little-girl tones and cannot stand up to him when he tells her not to become involved with Peter. Her father, perhaps overly involved with her as she seems to occupy all of his emotional and professional life, is all about winning and and he worries that Peter will be a distracting emotional entanglement. With her sulky mannerisms, bedroom eyes and puppy-like canines, Dunst’s Lizzie bobbles between adult and child in a manner that is less endearing than disturbing.

The quick, cleverly shot movie becomes flat-footed when Dunst and Bettany share the screen. She seems an excellent match for him on the tennis court, but in the scenes where they get to know each other, Peter seems more an older brother than a potential love-interest. Like Dunst, Bettany is a treat to watch but he seems unable to shed his tendency to be more observer than participant –- a trait that works very well as Dr. Maturin in Master and Commander or Nicholas in The Reckoning, but makes him an outsider in his own love story here.

On the sports level, the movie is at its best. With lots of diving for shots, zooming angles and super-powered serves, tennis never looked so exciting. The scenes with Peter and his practice partner, Dieter (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) deserve a buddy film of their own, and serve as the warmest and funniest in the film, which does not say much for the Colt/Bradbury love match. Playing on the sidelines are several sub-plots involving interesting but minor characters including Colt’s family: his silently bickering parents (Bernard Hill and Eleanor Bron) and unsupportive brother, an arrogant American competitor (Austin Nichols), and Colt’s agent (Jon Favreau) who flies to his side when Colt begins to win again.

The commentators on this game might quibble over the final score, but the movie stays well within the lines of solid entertainment even if the love match never breaks out of the second-tier circuit.

Parents should know that the characters treat sex extremely casually, referring to it as a way to stay loose and relax during competition. Similarly, love or sustained relationships are perceived as distracting the athletes from competition and weakening the killer instinct. This movie has profanity of the British and American varieties, and includes a brief scene of nudity as well as implicit sexual situations. Characters drink alcohol. A character alludes to the loss of her mother.

Families should discuss the relationship between Lizzie and her father, about how the combined role of being a father and a trainer might be a challenge, and about how Lizzie succeeds (or not) in communicating with him. They might also wish to discuss the challenge of living the athletes’ lifestyle and how it alters their relationships with friends and family.

Families who enjoy this movie might like the soccer-oriented, British hit Bend it like Beckham or the cheerleading flick Bring it On (also with Kirsten Dunst). Romantic comedies attached to the team who made this movie include French Kiss, Four Weddings and a Funeral (rated R), Bridget Jones’ Diary, and Notting Hill, all of which are worth watching.

Mr. 3000

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

Bernie Mac doesn’t hit this one out of the park, but he manages a solid double in his first starring role, as a retired baseball player who has to get back into shape and suit up for three more hits.

Mac plays Stan Ross, known as “Mr. 3000.” As soon as he got the 3000th hit that he thought would ensure him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, he announced his retirement from the Milwaukee Brewers. He got his and that was all he cared about. He opened up a strip mall with a pet store (3000 Paws), a cell phone store (3000 beeps), a Chinese restaurant (3000 Woks), a hair salon (3000 cuts) and a bar with a wall of 3000 baseballs.

But then the hotshot statisticians in Cooperstown found out that one of Stan’s games was counted twice. He’s not Mr. 3000. He’s Mr. 2997. So, he has a month to get back in shape and suit up, to try to get those last three hits in the final month of the season. And who should show up to report on the story for ESPN but Stan’s on-and-off love, Mo (Angela Bassett). Stan has to learn that he needs more than a swing and more than a hit to win.

There are no surprises here, but director Charles Stone III provides a little of the flair he showed us with the marvelous Drumline. There are some disappointing musical choices (really, how many times has “Let’s Get it On” been used for romantic interludes) but also some charmingly surprising ones (the portion of “The Nutcracker Suite” best remembered as the music for the mushroom dance in Fantasia as the ball players warm up). Bernie Mac is wonderfully assured. We knew he was funny, but he is unexpectedly tender here as well. Angela Bassett allows herself to be a little more vulnerable than we have seen before, making their romance something we really root for.

Parents should know that the movie has strong language for a PG-13 with a wider range of bad words than normally occur in movies of this kind. There are a series of jokes about the inability of a Japanese ballplayer to curse correctly. The movie has non-explicit sexual situations and explicit sexual references. Characters discuss what made sex with each other the best either of them had ever had and make Viagra jokes. There is a reference to an alcohol abuse problem and there are many scenes in a bar. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of intelligent and capable African-American and female characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Stan did not care about his team and what made him realize how his behavior had affected other people. How would he have reacted if someone had spoken to him the way he spoke to T. Rex? How did Mo’s not having faith in Stan make him feel? What makes people feel like a team? This is a good movie to prompt a discussion of what it means to “burn our bridges,” and how decisions we make (and feelings we hurt) can have long-term consequences we may not anticipate.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of the many classic baseball films including Pride of the Yankees, It Happens Every Spring, Damn Yankees, and (for mature audiences) Bang the Drum Slowly and Bull Durham. They will also enjoy the fantasy comedy Angels in the Outfield and the 1994 remake with Danny Glover.

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