Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Tusk
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

This is Where I Leave You
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Think Like a Man Too
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material
Release Date:
June 20, 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

 

Godzilla
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Release Date:
May 16, 2014

Lord of War

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

It’s a classic American success story. An immigrant with a dream and a vision works hard and becomes wealthy and successful. He marries the girl he fell in love with at age 10 and they and their son live in a beautiful apartment in New York, on top of the world. Unfortunately, all of this is built on selling hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal weapons to the very last people in the world we would trust with a water pistol. “There are 550 million firearms — one for every 12 people on the plant,” he tells us. “The only question is: how do we arm the other eleven?”

Nicolas Cage is Yuri Orlav, who moved from the Soviet Union to New York’s “Little Odessa” with his parents when he was a boy. They pretended to be Jewish to be allowed to emigrate and his father got so into it that he attends services at the local synagogue. Yuri’s brother Vitaly (Jared Leto) puts a “Beware of the Dog” poster in the kitchen of the family’s restaurant. They have no pet — it means “beware of the dog in me.” Yuri asks Vitaly to help him in his purchase and sale of illegal arms, because he is the only one Yuri trusts. They agree to be “brothers in arms.”

Yuri has good luck and good timing. He arrives on the scene just as the market for illegal guns and other weapons is heating up. He picks up weapons abandoned by the US because it is cheaper to leave them behind than to ship them.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, almost all of its stockpile of arms goes to Yuri and his competition, due to corruption and neglect. “Those who know [about the illegal sales] don’t care and those who care don’t know.” Yuri is selling Kalashnikov assault rifles, grenades, and bombs into eight of the world’s top ten war zones. He arranges to meet the successful model he has loved from afar since he was a child, and they get married and have a baby. They live in a beautiful apartment and have plenty of money. If Yuri thinks about what people do with what he is selling, it is just to “hope they miss.” So he can sell them some more.

After all, he says, “guns and tobacco kill more people. At least mine has a safety.”

Then things begin to go wrong. In the illegal arms business, neither the competitors nor the customers play by the rules.

This is a classic hubris rise-and-fall story, chillingly real, contemporary, and very scary. Cage is perfectly cast — the arms dealer as rock star — and Leto delivers a sensitive performance as the volatile and vulnerable younger brother.

The movie’s biggest weakness is that it gets so overheated by its message that it gets heavy-handed, especially when Ethan Hawke as an incorruptable federal agent stands in for the screenwriter to remind us of the meaning of what we have just seen. The conclusion is powerful enough to deliver that message without the speeches.

Parents should know that this is a very violent film about arms dealers that makes its points by portraying frequent, brutal, and explicit gun and other weapons-related peril and violence. Characters are wounded and killed. Characters also use very strong language, drink, smoke, use and sell drugs, and one develops a substance abuse problem. The movie includes explicit sexual references and situations, including nudity, adultery, prostitutes, and group sex.

Families who see this movie should talk about how they can learn more about illegal arms dealers and the challenges of dealing with them under international law. They should also look into the movie’s statement about the role that governments, incuding the US, play in providing weapons to other countries.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Traffic, Goodfellas, and Blow.

Underclassman

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2005

Apparently, when Nick Cannon was growing up, he dreamed of being Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop. It seems he also wanted to be Jon Cryer in Hiding Out. So, when he got a chance to produce a feature film for himself, he combined the two and came up with “The Underclassman.”

From Beverly Hills Cop we have the opening sequence. Bust goes wrong, cover gets blown, damage gets done, and back at the station the choleric police chief yells about how our hero has to learn to follow the rules and start respecting authority. And they even throw in a father who had a distinguished record as a cop before he died, so our hero has a daunting standard to live up to and an empty place to fill. (Do you think young Nick Cannon might have been influenced by, say, a couple of Tom Cruise movies like Top Gun or A Few Good Men?)

Then a kid at a posh private school is found dead and the police need an officer who can go undercover as a student, so Tracey (Cannon) gets one more chance. Now we move into Hiding Out mode, as Tracy enrolls as a senior to see if he can find out what happened, and, oh yes, possibly to see if he can finish out his senior year and qualify for a high school diploma to replace that G.E.D.

Tracey’s culture-clash encounters with the rich kids at the school are more race-related than age- or class-related. While he is trying to become best friends with the school’s alpha male and getting acquainted with a pretty Spanish teacher (Roselyn Sanchez) who agrees to some private lessons, he finds time for assorted wisecracks and shoot-outs. It’s straight off the assembly line with no surprises, but pleasantly entertaining thanks to Cannon’s being almost as charming as he thinks he is.

Parents should know that the movie has a good deal of violence, including shoot-outs. Characters are injured and killed. There is some strong and crude language, including jokes about herpes and potty humor. The movie includes teen drinking and illegal drugs. A drug is given to a teenager without his knowledge or consent.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was hard for Tracey to take himself and other people seriously. What was the most important thing he learned from his experience at the school?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Hiding Out and Never Been Kissed.

The Constant Gardener

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) turns his Brazilian –cinematic—jujitsu on an emotionally gnarled book by England’s spy king, John LeCarré, with an equatorial glare that dares the audience to keep up with characters bathed in every shade of black, white and gray. A movie this ambitious will win over some audiences, attracted by fine acting and stylized directing, but will lose others in its necessary but lengthy flashbacks and its melancholy. While the end is a bitter pill to swallow, the message of redemption through love sweetens the taste.

Within the first minutes, Tessa (Rachel Wiesz), impassioned young wife of Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), is dead. Under the harsh Kenyan sun, mid-level British diplomat Justin must unravel the motive for her murder as well as her reasons for not confiding in him, his guilt for having not protected her, and his horror at having faltered in his faith in her. His search takes him to England, to Berlin, to Sudan, to Kenya’s wilds, via flashbacks and breakdowns, but ultimately it takes him back to Tessa once he can at last understand the events that tore her from him.

Some audiences might groan at the first signs of a pharmaceutical conspiracy being the cause of Tessa’s death –what movie hasn’t had a heartless, profit-minded beast of a company as the two-dimensional baddie of late?—but that catalyst merely serves as a means to an end. It is in the characters, individual conundrums, where the story takes place and Kenya is a scene-stealing diva, as enigmatic as the best of the human actors. Meirelles shoots the story in that grainy, jerky style that favors harshly-lit honesty over romantic niceties. Those looking for another windswept Fiennes-in-Africa love affair of the “English Patient” variety should go elsewhere. The camera lingers instead on crowded shantytowns punctuated by drifts of garbage, on bodies at the morgue, on a crowded market where serpentine lines wait for an AIDS test.

Fiennes as Justin does an excellent job displaying a vast range of emotions through the filter of self-contained understatement, the constant –i.e. loyal—gardener of title. With fine performances by Danny Huston, Hubert Koundé, Richard McCabe, and Bill Nighy, there is no dearth of noteworthy acting on the screen and it is in the small personal skirmishes that the broader conflicts of the film are taking place.

Meirelles is hungry behind the camera, eager to tell the story and happy to turn the lens toward the unusual beauty of Kenya. His enthusiasm, paired with a superb cast, elevates this movie above a typical adventure/romance, but his style –showing the country and the characters warts and all—will leave some audiences longing for a two-dimensional hero to cheer rather than committing to this two-plus hour elegy.

Parents should be aware that this movie is for mature audiences for its themes as well as for its brutality. On-screen characters are killed, chased, beaten, shot and poisoned. There are references to rape, torture, murder, kidnap and theft. There is non-sexual nudity and reference to adultery, sexual favors, AIDS, homosexuality, teenage motherhood. Many scenes depict poverty and related subjects such as thievery, graft, hardship and the perceived low cost of human life. Characters are in peril, whether from rampaging bandits, European thugs, sophisticated business types or their own jealousies. Characters drink and smoke socially. Decisions people make about their personal loyalties, love and passion for justice cause a domino effect, rippling through the lives of those all around.

Families who see this movie should talk about the moral triumphs and failings each character evinces. Which characteristics do you admire? Tessa is the snowball that sets in motion what follows but why must Justin follow the course that he does, especially by the Lake?

Families looking for more of LeCarré’s textured and flawed characters will enjoy Cold War classics “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “Smiley’s People”. While easier to find in book form, a search for the BBC miniseries adaptations is well worth the effort as they star one of Britain’s great actors, Alec Guinness, as Smiley, the unassuming mastermind for British counter-espionage.

Many, including “Third Man” author Graham Greene, have called LeCarré’s “The Spy who came in from the Cold” the greatest spy book ever written and some families may wish to watch Richard Burton turn in a superb performance as the title character, a disillusioned double agent, in Martin Ritt’s 1965 adaptation.

For those who enjoy Meirelles fresh if frenetic pace behind the camera, “City of God” is intensely brutal but lyric in scope. It garnered four Academy Award nominations for his vibrant look at characters growing up in a Brazilian favela, or slum.

Thanks to guest critic AME.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

This muddled mess wants to be three things at once and fails at all of them. It wants to be a horror movie, a courtroom drama, and and inspiring spiritual statement, but each element detracts from the others and the end result is both overheated and cheesy, narratively weak and theologically suspect.

The framework of the story is the criminal trial of a priest. The prosecutor (Campbell Scott) says that Emily Rose died because she had an illness that should have been treated medically, but her family and their priest treated it not as illness but as possession. The defense says that medical treatment had failed and that exorcism was a legitimate approach to Emily Rose’s condition. What is clear is that both attempts to help her were unsuccessful and that the jury will have to decide who — if anyone — is responsible.

Defense attorney Erin Bruner (Laura Linney)is an agnostic who does not know or care whether Emily Rose was possessed. She takes the case because it means becoming a name partner — as long as she does what the archdiocese, which is paying the bills, directs. They do not want the defendant, Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) to take the stand. The church leaders are hoping to downplay the question of the legitimacy of exorcism.

But Father Moore is the client, and telling Emily Rose’s story is what matters to him, much more than the verdict. Erin agrees to give him that opportunity.

We see the story unfold as Erin listens to Moore. Emily (Jennifer Carpenter) was a devout, affectionate girl whose problems began just after she entered college. She saw terrifying visions and was seized by convulsive and paralyzing spasms. The doctor at the school diagnosed her as epileptic. But she discontinued the prescribed medication and turned to her family’s priest for help instead.

Erin worries that it will be impossible to rebut the medical testimony. Father Moore warns her that dark forces are aligned against them. But there seem to be forces on their side as well. Are these coincidences or portents? Erin’s beliefs — and lack of belief — seem to be on trial as well.

There are some sincere and committed performances here, and Shohreh Aghdashloo (of The House of Sand and Fog stands out as an expert witness who suggests that the medical treatment itself may have interefered with the exorcism.

The flashbacks are standard horror movie stuff, disturbing images (a classmate’s eyes turn to pools of splling ink) and boo-surprises. The courtroom scenes are melodramatic, with too many objections by counsel and too many last-minute “but your honor, this evidence/this witness just became available!” moments, plus one development that is, even within the terms of this movie, completely over the top. But what is unforgiveably manipulative is a third-act attempt to justify this mess with an transcendent spiritual connection that fails as a matter of narrative and theology. Viewers may decide that the exorcism they need is to expunge this from their memories.

Parents should know that this is a disturbing film with graphic and grotesque images and jump-out-at-you scary surprises. There is some graphic violence include a shocking car accident. Characters drink, including drinking in response to stress. The theme may be unsettling for some viewers.

Families who see this movie should talk about how we evaluate different perspectives on the same facts — whether Emily’s symptoms are considered medical, psychological, or spiritual. They may want to talk about the way their own faith tradition would approach these issues. Should the priest or the family or Emily have done something differently? They might also want to learn more about exorcism or find out more about the German girl whose story inspired the film.

Families who appreciate this movie will also like The Exorcist (very scary and disturbing).

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