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

Freedomland

posted by jmiller
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language and some violent content.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

This movie’s inability to live up to its potential is nearly as epic as its misleading title. In other hands, “Freedomland” might have played a jazz-like riff of personal loss and moving vignettes against the 4/4 beat of racial injustice and a community searching for peace. As it is the metronome pace clicks between black and white simplifications; further marred by jarring monologues and an out of place score.


The performances are fine and there are individual moments of insight and power, especially a monologue by “The Sopranos'” Edie Falco as the mother of a missing child. And it deserves credit for its willingness to take on issues of race and poverty and personal responsibility that most studio movies use only for shock value if they address them at all. But the uncertain transfer from novel to screenplay is ultimately so off-key that moments intended to be touching elicited laughter from the audience in the theater.


When single-mom Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore), pale as a moonbeam, wanders in a daze to a community emergency room. Her bloodied hands and story of being carjacked by a young black man in a hooded sweatshirt bring her to the attention of the police and in particular to good cop, Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson). Brenda is not easy in her role as accuser.

She drifts in and out of focus as she struggles with evident shock and uncertainty about being the center of attention. Lorenzo gently tries lead her into a place where she can help the investigation, though he is not sure he trusts her. But he wants to find her son and as tensions build he wants to end the mounting frustration of the nearby projects, locked-down until someone confesses to the crime.


Brenda is unusual because she lives in the white community but works in the projects, where her son is the only white child in the classroom. She does not feel at home in either community. Her family made her feel incompetent. Some of the people in the projects think of her kindly, but as racial tensions mount, she is quickly assigned to the enemy camp.


Both the neighboring black and communities are policed by heavy-handed cops. One of them is Brenda’s brother Danny (Ron Eldard), furious and frustrated and with no compunctions about abandoning the rules to find out what is going on. He and some of he other white cops seem happy to provoke and then beat the young black men suspected of a range of tenuous offences.

Brenda, a pre-school assistant who works with the kids of the projects, is both in and out of the community just as Lorenzo is neither one place nor another in his role as cop and self-styled father-figure. Both Moore and Jackson turn in fine performances although they cannot surmount the awkwardness of their dialogue or the artificiality of their scripted actions. Ultimately it feels like one of those “ripped from the headline” “Law and Order” episodes that provide faux insights into superficial renditions of stories that are ripped-off from the headlines instead of being based on the reality.


The firm, steady presence of Karen Collucci (Falco), a leader of a volunteer group that looks for lost children gives a glimpse of what an interesting movie this could have been if it had not faltered under director Joe Roth’s self-conscious ambitions, as admirable as those ambitions are. The title refers to an abandoned juvenile facility Karen brings Brenda to so they can look for her son, its name an ironic reminder of the absence of freedom all of the characters face.


The jarring notes that these actors are asked to play distract the ear from the bittersweet melody this movie could have been and its conclusion is awkward and disappointingly unsupported.


Parents should know that this movie deals with mature themes and issues including racial injustice, parental neglect, spousal abuse, child endangerment, accusations based on race, police brutality, and race riots ignited by mutual distrust. There are references to the sexuality of a lonely woman, an oblique reference to rape, discussion of infidelity and to an inter-racial affair. Characters use strong language and frequent expletives, including the n-word. A character refers to a drug addiction, to using drugs and another is arrested for possession. There is near-constant peril as a community builds toward rioting and as cops try to beat out confessions. A character discusses losing her child and another is visibly wrecked by the death of her child.


Families who see this movie might wish to discuss the relationship between Lorenzo and his son and how it highlights his relationships with others. Also, several characters describe the source of their actions as something that comes from beyond them, such as Lorenzo’s religious faith, what is the driver of their actions and how do they make sense of their choices? Lorenzo and Karen resspond to tragedies and devastating failures by finding a way to help others. Is there a time that approach worked for you or someone you know?


Families that enjoy this movie might want to see other movies that wrestle with racial issues and police involvement in community crimes such as Crash. They also might wish to see Clockers or The Wanderers, also based on books by Richard Price.


Thanks to guest critic AME.

Final Destination 3

posted by jmiller
F
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for strong horror violence/gore, language and some nudity.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

It’s like deja vu, says the main character, only of something I haven’t done yet.


Wow, get out of my head, Wendy! We are barely minutes into “Final Destination 3” and already we, the audience, are sharing her feeling. We have been here before, too. Instead, it was called “Final Destination” and then “Final Destination 2”.


If you have not had the pleasure of the prior “FDs”, there really is no reason to start now.


However, if you have seen either of the first two in the series and are looking for more, then you know exactly what is in store for you. Attractive young things narrowly avert a fatal accident due to someone’s premonition -– thanks, Wendy! — and then they spend the duration of the movie being killed off in graphic, squelchy deaths. This time around, lives are ended with props including nail guns, tanning beds, falling objects, weight-training equipment, and, yes, that initial roller-coaster debacle.


Finally, for the real FD connoisseur, 3 is more in the spirit of the original than 2, as director James Wong has opted to place back the fig-leaf of plot and character development that 2 ignored for the sake of more elaborately drawn-out gore. Is it a worthy trade-off? Most of the audience seemed not to care a whit about the characters despite many scenes of Wendy’s tear-stained cheeks.


Since nobody appears to be putting the “final” in “Final Destination”, maybe the director of FD 4 will skip dialogue all together and use the money saved to stage even lengthier scenes of decapitations and dismemberment. “FD4: Attractive Co-Ed Mimes in Danger”, Wendy, doesn’t that just give you deja vu all over again?


Parents should know that these movies are thin excuses to demonstrate random, cartoon-like violence and extremely gory special effects. There is near constant peril and almost every character with a spoken line ends up brutally killed in a range of creative accidents. The stereotypically shallow girls are burnt to death on malfunctioning tanning beds, a lecherous guy has his head partially pureed by a fan, someone is peppered by nails to the head, and the list goes on. A character shoots pigeons with a nail gun, several people die in an explicit premonition about a roller coaster accident, and there are very few carnage-free scenes. One character is more concerned with being embarrassed in death and refers to particularly graphic form of impalement. Add in the nudity, the near constant expletives, some “friendly” name-calling with graphic profanity, and this movie is rendered inappropriate for sensitive viewers of any age.


Families might want to talk about desensitization and what is shocking about these movies, if anything. They also might want to talk about how different characters react to their impending demise and how laughing at death might help some people feel power over the inevitable. Finally, the repeated references to feeling a loss of control might provoke an interesting discussion about how people often fear what they cannot control.


Families that like this movie might want to see the others in the series, or they might wish to use the time to discuss safety protocols for almost any activity imaginable.


Thanks to guest critic AME.

Curious George

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
MPAA Rating:Rated G
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

This gentle little film about the monkey whose curiosity gets him into trouble and the man who befriends him will make 4-8-year olds very happy and give their parents a chance for a nice nap.


Generations of children have loved the little monkey created by husband and wife team team H.A. and Margret Rey for more than half a century. Curious George gets into trouble because he always wants to explore and try out and investigate everything he sees. Children, who have the same impulses and struggle with the restrictions imposed on them by parents and teachers, get a vicarious thrill from th freedom and daring of CG’s adventures — and sometimes from seeing him face the consequences. That nice Man in the Yellow Hat is always there to take care of him, which is a great source of comfort to children as well.


This first feature film keeps the same simple lines of the originals — that’s story lines and drawing lines — but changes the relationship a little. Instead of capturing Curious George, George more or less captures the Man in the Yellow Hat.

As with the books, the best part of the movie is seeing Curious George get into mischief: dipping his hands into cans of paint and applying his own idea of decorating to the walls and taking off into the sky with a handfull of helium balloons. It is less successful when the Man in the Yellow Hat, now named Ted and with the voice of Will Ferrell, gets into some trouble himself.


Ted works for a museum that is about to be turned into a parking lot — that is, unless Ted can save the day by bringing back a huge African idol. In Africa, Ted finds the idol, but it is only a couple of inches tall. He also makes friends with the little monkey, who sneaks on board the cargo ship that is taking Ted home.


Ted has a hard time telling the truth about the idol, and briefly tries to create a fake to please the museum visitors. He also tries to get rid of Curious George — his building does not allow pets of any kind and George keeps getting into trouble. But he ultimately tells the truth (though does not suffer any consequences). And he learns that George has brought him — and taught him — a great deal.

Parents should know that the movie has some mild peril and some naughty behavior from both Ted and George. They should also know that this film is the first animated film to include product placement. It is subtly done, and does not include toys or candy, but it is still an intrusion. Parents will want to warn children not to stare into the sun as Ted does.


Families who see this film should talk about why Junior was jealous of Ted and why Ted had a hard time telling the truth about the idol. Why did Ted change his mind about Curious George? Can you tell about a time you were curious?


Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the books.

Aquamarine

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for mild language and sensuality.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

The best thing about this fairy tale is that its happily-ever-after ending is satisfyingly real world. It’s the most enchanting treat for girls since The Princess Diaries.


It’s less of a fairy tale than a fish tale, at least half a fish tale. Best friends Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (Joanna ‘JoJo’ Levesque) can’t bear to see the summer end. They have had a wonderful time watching dreamboat lifeguard Raymond (Jake McDorman) every day at the beach. But the real problem is that they are about to be separated. Hailey’s mom has a new job on the other side of the world, in Australia.


After a huge storm, they find a mermaid named Aquamarine in a swimming pool. She tells them that she has just three days to prove to her father that there is such a thing as love, and if they help her, she will give them a wish.

Aquamarine decides Raymond is the one she wants to love her. Claire and Hailey are willing to help her with their crush because it means not just getting their wish to stay together but keeping him away from mean girl Cecilia (Arielle Kebbel).

Claire and Hailey are at exactly the age where those friendships mean everything and Roberts and Levesque have a believable chemistry whether they’re laughing, plotting, or arguing. Sara Paxton sparkles as Aquamarine. Her character’s confidence inspires the girls, but they learn even because they have to take care of her. That gives them a sense of their own strength and power and a greater appreciation for those who take care of them.


The story, based on Alice Hoffman’s YA novel, nicely blends the fantasy
elements with astutely observed portrayals of early-teen fears and friendships. That’s where the real magic is.

Parents should know that the movie has some brief strong language for a PG, including one use of the b-word. There is some slight peril and some discussion of crushes and who is “hot” and who has a good figure and a mild joke about all the girls and some of the boys having crushes on Raymond. There are plot themes relating to the loss of parents through death and divorce.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Claire and Hailey said mean things to each other. Who were they really mad at? What were the most important lessons Claire, Hailey, Aquamarine, Raymond, and Celia learned. Why?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of the other classic mermaid movies, including Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, the Fairie Tale Theatre version, and Splash (some mature material). And they will enjoy the book by Alice Hoffman. And they might like to read my interview with Sara Paxton about playing a mermaid.

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