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

Madea’s Family Reunion

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, domestic violence, sex and drug references.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

As the Borg say on “Star Trek,” “Resistance is futile.” Don’t even try to get in the way of Madea, that pistol-packing, Bible-thumping, larger than life powerhouse and force for good creation of Tyler Perry, who also plays the part. Perry is something of a larger-than-life powerhouse himself, this time not just writing the film, playing Madea, her brother Joe, and her nephew Brian, and composing some of the music but directing as well.


You can’t judge this movie with the same standards you would apply to the usual multiplex fodder with its neat categories and linear construction. This happy mash-up of romance, drama, low comedy and high drama works because it is all tied together by Perry’s open-hearted conviction. The sincerity of his commitment is the throughline that keeps the audience connected to the story and the characters.

In addition, the crazy-quilt shifts in tone and genre are well suited to a story of a large extended family where at any given moment characters are facing a broad variety of financial, spiritual, moral, psychological, and work-related challenges, even the dreaded math problems that Madea refers to as “Al Jarreau.” She might not know the word “algebra,” but if there is an extended family member who has a problem with it and — this is the important part — is ready to be helped, Madea will find some way and some one who can give what is needed.


The person in need of some help with homework is a young girl who comes to live with Madea when a judge gives her the choice of becoming the girl’s foster mother or going to jail for violation of her parole. Many movies would make this the center focus of the story with a series of heartwarming incidents showing us the growing respect and affection between them, but this movie doesn’t have time. Medea tells the girl (the marvelous Keke Palmer) to shape up, smacking her on the butt, stands up for her with a bully on the school bus (by hitting him upside the head), promises that homework help, and that’s it.


Madea’s niece (Lisa Arrindell Anderson as Vanessa) has moved back in with her, bringing her two children. She has given her life to God and does not want to get involved with a man. But gorgeous bus driver/painter Frank (Boris Kodjoe) is also a committed Christian and loving parent. She is drawn to him, but can she trust herself? Can she let herself trust him?


Vanessa’s half-sister Lisa (Rochelle Aytes) is engaged to a wealthy banker (Blair Underwood) who beats her. Her mother Victoria (Lynn Whitfield, channeling “Dynesty-era” Joan Collins) tells her to do whatever it takes to keep him happy.


Through all of this Madea is there to knock down those who are above themselves and lift up those who don’t ask or expect the best for themselves. Her brother Joe (also played by Perry) is there to provide vulgar humor. But the heart of the story is the relationship between Lisa and Vanessa and their mother. Perry shows us that Victoria is a victim as well as a predator but does not let that excuse her behavior. Cecily Tyson and Maya Angelou appear as family matriarchs at the reunion, standing in front of a shack that family members once lived in as slaves and then as property owners and telling the group that now is the time to begin to act with responsibility, dignity, and integrity. Madea is Perry’s creation, but it is Tyson and Angelou who deliver his real message.

Parents should know that the movie has some mature themes, including child sexual abuse, adultery, out of wedlock children, and domestic violence. There are references to prostitution and drug addiction. Madea advocates corporal punishment. She does not hesitate to whack a child or an adult. The movie also has some crude humor including potty jokes and vulgar references to sex. Strengths of the movie include the portrayal of strong, devoted, responsible, and loving minority characters, positive portrayal of religious conviction as a sustaining force in the lives of some characters, and an explicit commitment by a dating couple to remain chaste until marriage.


Families who see this movie should talk about how Madea always finds a way to help those who are willing to accept it.


Families who enjoy this film will enjoy Diary of a Mad Black Woman and the Tyler Perry collection. They might also like to try to see Perry perform in person in one of his plays.

Failure to Launch

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Trip (Matthew McConaughey) is a 35-year-old boat broker who happily resides in an assisted living facility where he is served fresh pancakes and bacon with warmed syrup and all of his clothes are cleaned, neatly folded, and placed on his bed. All aspects of his domestic arrangements are handled cheerfully by a devoted staff of two who are dedicated to his happiness and on call 24/7. They are his parents.


Mom (Kathy Bates) and Dad (Terry Bradshaw) love their son. They do everything for him, just as they always have. He even uses them to break up relationships with girls who get that look, the one that shows they’re thinking about making plans for the future. He brings them home, and when they see that he still lives with his folks, they can’t find the door fast enough.


Trip has all the pleasures of being a grown-up and none of the responsibilities. He has two friends who also live with their parents who go rock-climbing and paint-balling with him and lots of dates. But his parents, much as they love him, would like some time for themselves. They hire Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), an “interventionist” recommended by friends.


She crisply informs them that she will proceed according to a well-established formula designed to show Trip that he is ready to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. She will pretend to like what he likes, give him the opportunity to comfort her and to teach her something, earn the support of his friends, and voila — he will be ready for a delayed but successful launch.


But Trip turns out to be very different from the usual Trekkers and gear-heads she is used to coaxing into the world. Confidence and social skills are not the problem. What she finds out will leave her in need of an intervention herself.


This is a bright and bouncy date movie with some sharp lines and even sharper performances, especially from Bates and Bradshaw. The movie works a little too hard to convince us that just because Trip lives at home does not mean he isn’t completely manly — he is constantly shown climbing rocks, racing, shooting, sailing, or with his shirt off. And a recurring theme of animal bites (no kidding) really doesn’t work. The movie underuses the marvelous Zooey Deschanel in an underwritten “best friend” role. The big climactic scene is over-the-top, even within the romantic comedy genre. Both leads are a little too old for their parts (Deschanel would have been a more appealing Paula), but the energy and wisecracks keep us interested and the appeal of the characters and performers keep us involved. The movie’s take-off is as precarious as that of its main character, but the launch is successful.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong language (swearing, one f-word), non-sexual nudity (bare tush), and sexual references and non-explicit situations. Characters drink and one drinks frequently, possibly to excess. There is comic peril and violence, including spills and animal bites.


Families who see this movie should talk about how parents can teach their children to be independent. Why was it hard for Kit to let herself be happy?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Agatha Christie stories about Parker Pyne, who is often called in to solve the kinds of problems Paula tackles in this film.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language and sexual content.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

When in the depths of winter the dregs of the cinematic year limp into theaters, some audiences long for the more cerebral fare of spring or fall. “Haven’t we seen this plot before?” becomes a common refrain and a movie like “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story” feels like a sunny spring day come early, even if its unflattering brightness is not appealing to all.


This is a movie about making a movie based on an un-filmable book; however, the audience needs to know nothing about “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman” the novel by Laurence Sterne (published in volumes from 1759 to 1767) to appreciate the film. Just as Clueless was a faithful to the tone and themes of Jane Austen’s Emma although the language and setting were utterly altered, “Tristram Shandy” the movie captures the ambition, isolation and vulnerability of the book’s eponymous center through the actor portraying him.


The book is a knotty, meandering yarn with copious digressions and post-modern flourishes like blank or black pages before there was a “modern” to be “post”. Framing his novel as a faithful autobiography, Sterne told the story of a man who could not figure out how to tell his own life story, hence a tale that jumps about from Tristram to his father to his uncle and ends up months before Tristram’s birth. The movie likewise jumps from Tristram (Steve Coogan) to Tristram’s father (Coogan, again) to Steve Coogan (Coogan), an actor trying to capture a character from a book he has never bothered to read. Coogan the actor plays Coogan the actor as he argues with the child playing Shandy as a child about how to perform his role.


Although it starts out as a brawny, mid-eighteenth century farce, the movie finds its pace in the modern day as “co-lead actors” Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (playing Tristram’s Uncle Toby) position themselves on the set with a natural humor and intimacy while they jostle for position in the story and in the movie.

Coogan throws a passive-aggressive snit about the height of his shoes while Brydon frets about the yellowness of his teeth. The attractive assistant, Jennie (Naomie Harris), who refers with passion to German Realism cinema and rails against the banality of battle scenes, evokes admiration and pompousness from Coogan, who is basking in any attention that she shines upon him. His flirtations are mildly curtailed when his girlfriend, Jenny (Kelly McDonald) and their baby show up for a brief visit.


The movie follows hurdles (will they get the funds they need to finish the film?) and distractions (is that inquisitive journalist going to reveal Coogan’s naughty shenanigans?) with a constantly moving camera, adding to the driven pace of the film and contrasting with its many moments of waiting and stillness. Because Coogan’s character is shown warts and all in his many shades of neediness, some audiences will not be bothered whether he lands on his feet, but his intelligent performance –well-framed by those of Brydon and McDonald— will win over those looking for the nuance and humor of this underappreciated British actor.


The overlapping story circles of the book, the actors and the production process for the movie could have made for a confusing mess, but in director Michael Winterbottom’s able hands the tempo, wit and robustness of the performances make the film feel alive if occasionally a bit overly precocious. Although it does not follow the book closely enough for time-constrained college kids to use it as a short cut to reading all nine volumes, this “Cock and Bull Story” will be the real Tristram Shandy for many.


Parents should know that there are mature themes throughout this movie and that the relationships between characters are complicated and dynamic. There is male and child nudity, a traumatic accident to a boy resulting in circumcision, a depiction of childbirth, an enormous model womb, and implicit sex between committed couples. Characters drink socially and refer to infidelity, unusual sex and impotence. Characters drink and refer to drug use. Strong language including British slang is used.


Families that see this movie might want to talk about the different characters depicted in the 18th century and how they mirror –- or not -— the actors who portray them. Does Coogan’s character develop over the length of the movie? If you think he changes, where do these changes come from?


Families that enjoy this movie might want to watch some other multi-layered movies about filming stories that correspond to the lives of the actors, such as The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Adaptation and other movies about making movies like State and Main, The Stunt Man, Sweet Liberty, and Day for Night. They will also enjoy Coogan’s performances in 24 Hour Party People (also directed by Winterbottom) and Coffee and Cigarettes.


Thanks to guest critic AME.

Date Movie

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for continuous crude and sexual humor, including language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

I counted references to 23 movies in this 80-minute film, not including Girls Gone Wild and “The Bachelor,” or about one every three and a half minutes. Throw in a couple of songs and a dozen or so celebrity shout-outs and you’d hardly notice that there is not actually a script here if the whole thing wasn’t just so slack and uninspired.

Instead of a screenplay, it has a year’s worth of “In Touch Magazine” (the one “Will and Grace” calls “Cheaple”) thrown into a blender with some crotch humor and a joke about beating up a homeless man as a way to spend a romantic evening.


Julia (Alyson Hannigan) is the overweight and insecure daughter of a Greek/Indian/Japanese family. Her father (Eddie Griffin) wants her to marry someone from the same heritage, but she loves cute dimpled doctor Grant (Adam Campbell) with a cute English accent even though his parents are American. She gets help from date doctor Hitch (Tony Cox) but there is a crisis when Grant’s gorgeous ex-fiancee re-enters the picture. What will happen? Well, we’ll stumble through a lot of shout-outs to movies and celebrities on the way to finding out.


I feel a little bad about repeating myself here, but since it doesn’t seem to bother the people behind these things — or, as they say in the ads, “two of the six writers of Scary Movie — I don’t have any other options. As long as they keep making these movies I’m going to have to keep pointing out that SIMPLY REFERRING TO ANOTHER MOVIE IS NOT THE SAME THING AS ACTUALLY MAKING A JOKE ABOUT IT. Sorry to shout, but now I feel so much better.


To be more specific: mere exaggeration does not count as a joke, no matter how big you make your Jennifer Lopez-equivalent’s fanny or how long the cat spends on the toilet or changing the name Focker to Fonckyerdoder. Referring to the fact that perhaps Britney Spears is not entirely satisfied with the marriage or that Michael Jackson is very interested in making friends with children is not the same thing as being funny. Making a parody of a parody does not make it exponentially funnier. Making fun of the fact that you are making fun of it doesn’t either. A joke requires perspective and insight. Most important, it requires something fresh and surprising. Not much of that here. And if it is not a crime to fail to take advantage of the comic talents of Alyson Hannigan, Fred Willard, and Jennifer Coolidge, it should be, and they should call out the comedy police here to arrest the “2 of the 6 writers of Scary Movie” for felony unfunniness.


Parents should know that this movie has a lot of very crude and disgusting humor and some strong language for a PG-13, including the n-word. There is comic violence, including shooting and punching, and sexual references and non-explicit situations.


Families who see this movie should talk about the movies it parodies and what assumptions it challenges. Why is it funny to make fun of movies we originally enjoyed?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Scary Movie (much raunchier material).

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