Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Annie
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
Release Date:
December 19, 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

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

Perfect Stranger

posted by jmiller
F+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for sexual content, nudity, some disturbing violent images and language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Was Ashley Judd at the hairdresser the day this script came in? She’s usually the star of movies like this — the low-level potboiler with the plucky girl in jeopardy, and Morgan Freeman around somewhere to give some sage advice. But in the Ashley Judd role this time we have Oscar-winner Halle Berry, whose post-Oscar choices have included the notorious duds Catwoman and Gothika. Please, fire your agent, Ms. Berry. Whoever told you to make this movie should be…sentenced to have to watch it.


Berry plays Rowena, an investigative journalist who gotcha’s a Mark Foley-style conservative Senator with some incriminating photos. But the story gets spiked when he pulls some strings, and she quits her job.


When a childhood friend is murdered, Rowena decides to go undercover to investigate. The friend had been having an affair with Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), a big-time CEO she met online. He’s the kind of guy who when he kicks someone out for sharing secrets with the competition he really KICKS the guy out. She gets a job as a temp working in Mr. Big’s office and starts snooping around. And she starts chatting with him online, too. Pretty soon they’re typing back and forth about her underwear.


Her skeezy sidekick in all of this is Miles (Giovani Ribisi), a guy who is very big with getting around firewalls and seems a little too into Ro. There’s also an ex-boyfriend who is back in the picture but who was once involved with the murdered girl. Hill has a jealous wife. If Rowena isn’t careful, she could end up like her friend.


And if Halle Berry isn’t careful, she can end up having to give back her Oscar. This movie is all sensation, no sense or sensibility. The jump-out-at-you scares are all in the trailer, the backstory is cliched and obvious, and the big bad reveal at the end is laughably over the top. Strange, yes. Perfect — about as far as you can go in the other direction, which is where audiences should head when this movie hits the theaters.

Parents should know that this movie is filled with truly nasty stuff, including explicit and sometimes twisted sexual references and situations. There are references to adultery, promiscuity, sexual harassment at the workplace, online sex, gay sex involving someone in the closet, obsessive fixation, and child molestation. Characters use strong language (mostly the f-word) and drink (including references to celebrating by getting drunk). There is a scuffle and characters are injured and killed.


Families who see this movie should talk about why people are drawn to anonymous online relationships.


Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy better thrillers like Charade and The Silence of the Lambs and a better film by this director, Confidence.

The Reaping

posted by jmiller
F+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for violence, disturbing images and some sexuality.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Ancient scrolls foretell the birth of an evil child begat of an unholy union between an episode of “The X-Files” and Nicolas Cage’s The Wicker Man, from the branch of the family that produced Children of the Corn. Okay, so scrolls didn’t really warn us about “The Reaping.” But someone should have.


The action begins as we find ourselves on a mission with ordained priest Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank). Having left her life as a religious missionary, she now travels the world to sleuth out scientific explanations for so-called “religious” phenomena. After her husband and young daughter were brutally killed during a disastrous trip to the Sudan, she renounced her faith and began life as an academic and “The Reaping” centers on Winter’s experience in a small town that seems to be going through the biblical plagues at the hand of a young child.


Surprisingly, the film begins strong, as it definitely gets its first hour from the “X Files” side of the family. A lovingly platonic and likable relationship between Winter and a former-student-turned-colleague, Ben (Idris Elba), and a sincere handling of the human fascination with supernatural phenomenon echo some of the best episodes of the late television show. There are still, of course, uninspired moments such as one where Winters and Ben roll down a dirt path in an oversize SUV, waving their respective cell phones, looking for service and practically screaming, “No service! You know what this means!” (It means we’re in a horror movie).


But as the intriguing and even somewhat innocent “river of blood” and “storm of frogs” give way to incredibly gruesome scenes, including but not limited to a mangled, decomposing body, hanging child skeletons, a man burned alive in a locked room and adults attempting to strap a screaming and terrified child down so they can kill her in the name of sacrifice, it quickly becomes clear that no horror film could be good enough to justify such horrific things.


What once held some promise of being a clever film explodes into a mess of trite plot devices and sad attempts to explain the rapidly degenerating vision of the filmmakers, who seem hell-bent (pardon the pun) on imparting some sort of religious lesson (As the end draws near, a newly re-religious Winter proclaims with fervor, “It’s God’s will!”). Any sincere motives in reaching spiritual conclusions are nullified by the sickening and horrendous use of child sacrifice as the premise of a film meant for entertainment. As a cynic, Winter states, “The only miracle is that people keep believing”. When the credits roll, you realize the only scary thing about this film is that filmmakers thought it would be the least bit entertaining.


Parents should know that there are many disturbing scenes and concepts in this film, including several deaths and scary moments such as a suicide where a woman is shown placing a handgun into her mouth (with gunshot heard directly after). There is also a fairly extensive sex scene (later revealed as a drugged rape) with limited nudity and menstruation is discussed as a character is shown with blood down her leg at the age of 12.


Families who see this film might want to discuss which aspects of the film they found scary and frightening in a fun way and which aspects may have been deeply disturbing and upsetting. What makes an enjoyable horror film? How might the plot have gone differently to make the thrills more innocent and less offensive?


Families who enjoy this film might also enjoy the similarly themed Rosemary’s Baby and The Devil’s Advocate.

Thanks to guest critic AB.

Grindhouse

posted by jmiller

NOTE: This movie has extremely graphic, grisly, violent, and disgusting images, situations, and characters. It is not appropriate for anyone under 18 or for many adults. The positive rating is only for its intended audience, fans of this genre.


Famously violent but critically acclaimed film-makers Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are fans of “grindhouse” movies. A grindhouse was a theater specializing in exploitation films — movies made with no artistic pretense or aspiration, with more attention to the advertising than the storyline. These films were usually not just low-budget but almost no-budget, poorly shot, poorly acted, poorly written. But they had a visceral appeal — usually visceral in literal terms because what they lacked in refinement or insights about the human condition they made up in shock and outrageousness. Despite their undisguised origins as purely commercial — exploitation king Roger Corman is proudly the only producer in history who has made money on every single film — these movies have an unpretentious appeal and even a gritty sincerity that can hold up well against Hollywood confections, especially those that try to hide their resolute commercialism under a veil of pomposity.


Tarantino and Rodriguez have re-created an evening at a grindhouse or a drive-in, circa 1970. It’s a double feature complete with fake trailers (from up and coming directors Eli Roth of Hostel, Edgar Wright (Shawn of the Dead, and Rob Zombie House of 1000 Corpses) and a commercial for the restaurant next door (note that characters from the movie are drinking sodas with its logo), faux scratches on the film and “missing frames” and reels and perfect replica opening credits. Somehow, the stories retain their 70’s vibes, even though they include a few updates like text messaging and references to the war in Iraq.


The first movie is “Planet Terror,” a zombiefest directed by Rodriguez. A pole dancer named Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan of “Charmed”), her former boyfriend Wray (Freddie Rodriguez of Showtime’s “Six Feet Under”), a sheriff (Terminator’s Michael Biehn) and his barbecueing brother (Jeff Fahey), an adulterous doctor with three big needles of anesthetic, and her squabbling twin babysitters face off against some oozing flesh-eaters in a battle so completely over-the-top that it almost makes sense when the lovely leg that got chomped off is replaced by a machine gun as a prosthetic. Talk about your pistol-packin’ mama. And when the zombies come, it’s like the “Thriller” video, without the dancing — or the happy ending.


The second film, directed by Tarantino, is “Death Proof,” starring Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, a guy who drives a souped-up “death proof” stunt car and likes to use it as a weapon of mass destruction. Some of the pretty ladies he goes after include Sydney Poitier (daughter of the Oscar-winner), Tracie Toms and Rosario Dawson (both from Rent), and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (who appeared with Russell in the very different Sky High). This film has some characteristically choice Tarantino dialogue, cheerfully profane, hilariously frank, and divinely corkscrew, like a mash-up between Preston Sturges and Richard Pryor. The first half is mostly talk, talk that manages to mingle street insults, girly confidences, and Robert Frost, plus of course a lot of movie name checks. But when the don’t-take-rides-from-strangers action starts, it is stunning.

The break-out star here is real-life stuntwoman Zoe Bell (playing a stuntwoman named Zoe). She more than holds her own as an actress — while she is in the midst of one of the most astonishing stunts in movie history, the “captain’s mast” — with a devilish sizzle and fearless spirit that seem completely natural and utterly engaging.


Rodriguez and Tarantino also bring high spirits that give an organic brio to their mastery of story, tone, and visual story-telling. Their unabashed affection for the grindhouse genre keeps them from becoming arch, po-mo, or self-consciously ironic. This is a tribute, not a parody. At times, they seem to fetishize everything, even the literal film stock itself. There are loving close-ups of female curves, gleaming weapons, and gory wounds. There is sheer delight in the over-the-topiness: when someone says “no-brainer,” he means it literally. They have honored the sources that inspired and entertained them with a low-down, dirty, crazy, joyride that is packing heat, along with some nastily entertaining thrills.

Parents should know that this film includes just about everything that could be of concern in evaluating its appropriateness. It has non-stop intense, gross, graphic, grisly, and disgusting images of violence, including zombies chomping on bodies, attempted rape, torture, and every possible kind of homicidal butchery. Characters use very strong language, smoke, drink, and smoke marijuana. There is nudity, and there are sexual references and situations including a same-sex kiss and adultery. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of loyal friendships between diverse characters.


Audiences who see this movie should talk about how some of today’s most acclaimed directors were inspired by low-budget movies with no artistic aspirations.


Audiences who appreciate this movie will appreciate the other films by its directors, including Pulp Fiction and the Robert Rodriguez Mexico Trilogy, (El Mariachi, Desperado, and Once Upon A Time In Mexico). They may also enjoy some of the movies that inspired this one, including Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat Kill!..kill!, Vanishing Point, and Gone in 60 Seconds (the original, of course). And they will enjoy the comic books that inspired some of these movies, like those collected in The EC Archives: Tales From The Crypt Volume 1.

Firehouse Dog

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for sequences of action peril, some mild crude humor and language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Ths story about a mega-movie star dog who gets lost and finds a home with the son of a fire chief is an uncomfortable blending of three different stories that neglects the one thing we want to see — the relationship between the boy and the dog.


Instead, we get pieces of three other movies, none of them very compelling. First, there is the father-son healing and reconnecting movie. Second, there is the satire about Hollywood and celebrities. And third, there is a “mystery” about an arsonist. The connecting link is a superstar superdog and the lonely boy who finds him, but that essential relationship is neglected and finally lost in the mishmash of overstuffed and under-written distractions.


Rexxx is the dog star of such box office powerhouses as “Jurassic Bark” and “The Fast and the Furriest.” He is known for his trademark pouf of windswept bangs and beloved by fans all over the world. But when a movie stunt goes wrong, he is dropped into a tomato truck, and the bangs, which turn out to be a toupee, fly off in another direction. He is found by Shane (Josh Hutcherson of Bridge to Terabithia, who happens to be playing hookey that day to get out of a science test.


Shane and his dad Connor (Bruce Greenwood) are both unhappy. Connor’s brother Marc, who was the fire chief, was killed six months earlier in a fire. Connor has been given Marc’s old job, but can’t take Marc’s name plate down or move into his office. It does not seem to matter as the firehouse is scheduled to close, its members to be redistributed to other stations. Connor and Shane are too wound up in their own unhappiness to reach out to each other.


Shane at first can’t wait to get rid of the dog he thinks is named Dewey (the prop tag Rexxx was wearing). But then he sees Dewey do some wheelies on his skateboard and asks, “What else ya got?” Zip along to Rexxx/Dewey helping the firefighters find a buried colleague, and suddenly Dewey is bringing everyone together. He even has time to clean up Shane’s bedroom, quicker than you can say “Mary Poppins.”


It all feels patched together and as sincere as Rexxx’s toupee and as generic as the “mystery” behind the arson. It is as uncertain about its audience as it is about its story, with material that pushes the edge of a PG rating, including some crude language, a sad (offscreen) death, and intense firefighting scenes of peril and violence. “Boy and his dog” movies almost always work well, but this one fails because it forgets to make that relationship important and real.

Parents should know that this movie has very intense and explicit peril and violence for a PG movie, including fires and explosions. A child is in peril and (apparently) hurt. There are references to a sad death. Characters use strong and crude language for a PG and there is some potty humor. Kids talk about cheating in school and Shane is truant without any real consequences. Some audience members may be troubled by references to Shane’s mother abandoning the family. A strength of the movie is strong female and minority characters.


Families who see this movie should talk about how Shane, Dewey, and Connor all have to learn to move on and how that does not mean forgetting those who are gone, but honoring what they gave us. Why did Shane think he was not strong? Why did Dewey like being with Shane? Why did Shane like Dewey? What qualities would you say are in your DNA?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Air Bud and My Dog Skip and just about any one of the various versions of “Lassie.” Older viewers will enjoy seeing Greenwood and Culp playing brothers John and Robert Kennedy in the excellent Cuban Missile Crisis movie Thirteen Days.

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