Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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  New to DVD

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

 

Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 2014

Boyhood
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use
Release Date:
July 18, 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

Planes: Fire & Rescue
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action and some peril
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

Benji: Off the Leash!

posted by rkumar
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2004

The dogs are cute, the intentions are good, and there’s a refreshing absence of potty humor, but that’s about the best that can be said about the fifth movie about loveable mutt Benji from writer/director Joe Camp.

In past films, Benji rescued children (Benji), triumphed over international dog-nappers (For the Love of Benji), survived in the wilderness (Benji the Hunted) and was even the reincarnation of Chevy Chase (Oh Heavenly Dog). None qualifies as a classic, but a remake of any of those films would have more merit than the script Camp wrote and directed, an uneasy combination of wholesome slapstick with Dickensian bleakness.

Colby (Nick Whitaker) is the stepson of Hatchett (Chris Kendrick), an abusive man who runs a puppy mill in the back yard, forcing his dogs to have puppies he can sell, even when it ruins their health. He mistreats the dogs and he mistreats his wife and son. When his best breeder gives birth to puppies that are not purebred, Hatchett tosses the one that looks different across the room and leaves him to die. Colby rescues him, bringing the puppy’s mother to see him, so that he can nurse.

But when the puppy gets older, Hatchett finds out, and soon the puppy has to fend for himself. He finds a friend, known as “Lizard Tongue,” an expert at escaping from a couple of clumsy dogcatchers. Lizard Tongue also finds a friend, the acerbic but kind-hearted Mr. Finch, who leaves dog food and water out on his porch and who knows how to offer gentle friendship to a dog unused to kindness from humans.

Kids will love the clever and loyal little dogs, especially when they outsmart Hatchett and the dogcatchers. But the movie seems caught in a 1970′s time warp, including a slow motion sequence that harks back to Lee Majors as “The Six Million Dollar Man.” The behind-the-scenes credit sequence footage is more fun than the movie story, which even children may find slow going and amateurish. Some viewers may be upset by Hatchett’s very harsh behavior toward Colby and the dogs, and by Colby’s mother’s failure to protect him, her only explanation: “Two parents are better than one, and we have to eat.” And there is something unsettling about the fact that the movie seems more concerned about the abuse of the animals than about the abuse of Colby and his mother.

Furthermore, the “happy” ending may not feel too happy to some children. Camp’s website has a message about the importance of making movies with genuine family values, but the final message of this film seems to be that fame is better than love and home. The only person likely to find that the happiest of endings is Camp himself, glad to be back at the helm of another Benji movie. Families in search of a happy ending will have to hope that the next Benji movie is “Benji Finds a Better Script.”

Parents should know that the movie has some mild epithets and insults (“jeez,” “why the devil,” “idiot,” “pansy”) and mild peril. There are tense emotional confrontations, and some viewers may be upset by Hatchett’s harshness and insults. Hatchett throws a puppy across the room and leaves him to die. The dogcatchers use a tranquilizer gun. There is discreet reference to putting dogs to sleep (referred to as “you know”) and some discussion of puppy mills and over-breeding. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of African-American characters of integrity and dedication.

Families who see this movie should talk about how both Hatchett and Colby’s mother use the same excuse — that they need to eat. What alternatives do they have? Why did Colby tell the puppy they were both different? They should talk about Mr. Finch’s gentle approach to making friends with Lizard Tongue. What does it mean to say that “it takes a special kind of person to admit he was wrong?” Families might also want to talk about how their community deals with stray dogs and how people, even children, can help prevent abuse of people and animals.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the other Benji movies, Cats and Dogs, and My Dog Skip.

We Don’t Live Here Anymore

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

Situated somewhere between John Updike and “Knott’s Landing,” this is a story of suburban angst and adultery, with meaningful glances, inexpressible longing, fumbled groping, and a lot of hangovers.

Two couples’ lives overlap so completely that the boundaries between them are beginning to dissolve. Jack (Mark Ruffalo) gets angry at Terry (Laura Dern) for being a poor housekeeper and drinking too much. He is having an affair with Edith (Naomi Watts), who is married to his colleague and best friend Hank (Peter Krause). We first see them at a casual, slightly boozy evening together. Jack and Edith go out to get more beer, but the real reason is some passionate kisses and a chance to make plans to meet the next day.

It is easy to feel the pull of Edith’s appeal. She has neat platinum hair and glowing porcelain skin. Her home is orderly and comfortable and brimming with light. She likes Jack a lot and never nags him about money or not paying enough attention to her. And what they have feels new and fresh to both of them. Maybe, too, there is some appeal is taking something from his close friend Hank, who has more money, a nicer house, more ambition, and, with his poem accepted by the New Yorker, more success.

Hank wants everyone to feel loved, even Edith. And if Jack loves her, it takes pressure off of him. Jack wants to feel love, and thinks he may love Edith. Terry loves Jack and wants him to love her in spite of her failings, maybe because of them. And Jack feels so guilty about not loving her the way she wants (and deserves) that he hopes she will stray so that he can feel justified.

Some will find this all hideously self-involved, but many will find it heart-breakingly poignant and insightful in that Tolstoy-esque “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” category. The direction is exceptionally thoughtful and rich with detail. The acting is superb. But for me it all became too in love with itself. Color schemes that made Edith look moonbeamy by keeping her in white and close calls with an onrushing train and children standing too close to the edge of a cliff felt heavy and suffocating instead of rich and transcendent. Yet it draws a lot of power not just from the intense intelligence behind it at every level but from the mirror quality any ambitious story about marriage offers its audience by the simple virtue of locating itself in the core of human hope and doubt. Forget about sharks and aliens. The characters in this movie may not live here anymore, but this is exactly where the rest of us live and where we fight every day to keep living.

Parents should know that this movie has extremely mature material, with very explicit sexual references and situations, including adultery, nudity, very strong language, drinking (to excess), and smoking. There are tense emotional condfrontations that may be upsetting to some viewers.

Families who see this movie should talk about why the characters find it so difficult to feel love and feel loved.

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate The Ice Storm, The Safety of Objects, and sex, lies, and videotape.

Head in the Clouds

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

This is a soapy saga of love, war, and many, many hairstyles.

The hair signifies the passage of time in the story of a love triangle that lasts through the turbulent decades of Europe in from the roaring 20′s through World War II.

Charlize Theron plays Gilda, a glamorous heiress who lives for pleasure. Guy (Stuart Townsend), a shy and serious Cambridge student, is dazzled by her beauty, honesty, and complete freedom from any conventional notions about how to behave. She is drawn to him, but perhaps because of his seriousness, she does not let herself get too close to him. They have brief, passionate encounters, and then she disappears to wherever the parties are. Sometimes they spar over determinism vs. free will (“You think I was being spontaneous but I was always going to do that, just like I was always going to win this argument!”) and about the meaning of life. She thinks that the misery and injustice all around them is all the more reason to enjoy everything they can, before it catches up with them. He believes that it is his obligation to fight for freedom.

Guy leaves his teaching job in England to live in Paris with Gilda, living a bohemian life as a photographer. She has taken in a Spanish dancer named Mia (Penelope Cruz), who is in Paris to get training as a nurse, so she can return to help fight the fascists. The sweep of passion and the sweep of history bring the three together and separate them, as Guy and Mia go off to fight in the Spanish Civil War and Guy returns to find Gilda living with one of the Nazi officers overseeing the occupation of Paris.

Even with all of that passion and sweep and the star power of its actors, the movie feels as pre-determined as its main character’s fatalistic outlook. The scenes are filled with themes and historical events of great power, and yet they never pulse with life. Gilda is a fantasy madonna/whore figure, and the characters’ petty problems and debates, intended to illuminate what is going on around them, are a distraction instead.

Parents should know that the movie has extremely explicit sexual references and situations, including orgies, promiscuity, sadism, and same-sex relationships. Characters drink, smoke, and use very strong language. The movie has battle and other wartime violence, torture, and sexual violence. Characters are injured and killed.

Families who see this movie should talk about their own views on determinism vs. free will and how we decide when to become involved in others’ fights for freedom.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Charlotte Gray. They should also see some wartime classics like Casablanca and To Have and Have Not.

Silver City

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

A movie about a dim, rich, conservative political candidate named “Pilager” (pronounced “pillager”) who finds a corpse on the end of his fishing line when he is makng a commercial is not going for subtlety. Did I mention that the family fortune started with manure? Do I need to tell you about the dead fish in the lake?

After “Hail to the Chief”-backed opening credits, we see a legend across the screen, “Richard Plager cares about Colorado.” He is fillming a political ad, and trying to get through a script that has him saying, “I’ve always turned to nature to sort things out in my mind, make sense of the world.” Someone points out that his lure is not going to attract any fish, and Pilager’s campaign manager (Richard Dreyfuss) responds, “We’re trying to attract voters.”

But there is something on the end of his line. It’s a dead body. Pilager and the camera crew are whisked away to another scenic location to finish the ad. And Hank is left to figure out what is going on and clean up the mess.

He hires investigator Danny O’Brian (Danny Houston) to see if one of Pilager’s three most likely enemies had something to do with the body. Danny was once a reporter who lost his job when a big expose turned out to be a set-up. Danny’s investigation takes him to a mine safety expert whose career was destroyed by Pilager (Ralph Waite of television’s “The Waltons”), illegal immigrant workers, left-wing reporters who keep databases of the web of connections between politicians and wealthy executives, and Pilager’s bitter and angry sister, a woman who is overly fond of marijuana and archery, and Danny’s own ex-girlfriend (Maria Bello), a reporter now engaged to a lobbyist.

This is certainly lesser Sayles, shrill, cluttered, even a little silly in its heavy-handedness. But it is still watchable, with beautifully understated performances. If he fails in its insights on the political side, he still knows how to create a dozen characters we want to spend time with with dialogue it is a pleasure to hear.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of mature material, including explicit sexual references and situations, very strong language, and violence. Characters are in peril and some are badly injured or killed. Characters drink and smoke cigarettes and marijuana. While some characters exhibit racism, a strength of the movie is the loyal and respectful relationships between people of different races and its own frank portrayal of issues of race and class.

Families who see this movie should talk about how accurately it portrays political issues relating to immigration, development, and the role of lobbyists. They should also talk about the ways that characters in the movie try to shape the way that information reaches politicians, the media, and the public.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other Sayles movies, including Return of the Seacaucus Seven and Eight Men Out.

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