Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 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

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 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

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

 

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

I, Robot

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

Now this is what I call a summer popcorn movie!

It’s hard to say which has the sleeker profile, Will Smith (everything you could ask for in an action hero) or the Chicago skyline of 2035, as envisioned by director Alex Proyas and production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. Shot in a monochromatic pallette of gun-metal grays by cinematographer Simon Duggan, the movie appears both cool and ominous from the very first moment.

Spooner (Smith) is a homicide detective and apparently the only person in the world who is skeptical about the endlessly patient and obedient robots who now make up most of the labor force for menial and domestic tasks. Spooner is a bit retro — his “old-fashioned” stero runs from a remote control, not voice direction, and he listens to the 1976 Stevie Wonder song “Superstition” as he pulls on some vintage (2004) Converse All-Star high-tops.

Spooner’s friend Dr. Lanning (James Cromwell) is dead, an apparent suicide. But there may be more to the story. Lanning left an enigmatic hologram with a message for Spooner. And he left behind a robot whose behavior is so contrary to the principles of robot behavior that it transcends any sort of context, as though a toaster suddenly could feel fear or a lawnmower could feel jealousy.

Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) is a psychologist specializing in robot-human interaction, making sure that robots are designed to make humans feel comfortable with them. She works for Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood), the richest man in the world, the founder of the USR company. They are preparing for the biggest robot distribution in history, with one robot for every five people about to be delivered as an “upgrade.” It is important to Robertson that nothing interfere with the public’s acceptance of his robots.

Robertson dismisses the idea of a rogue robot as impossible because it would undermine his business. Colvin dismisses the idea because it would undermine her need to believe that USR has successfully avoided any adverse effects of its perfectly logical system. The chief of police dismisses the idea because it would be horrendous to think of the days when people were only killed by other people as “the good old days.” But Spooner knows from experience that logical systems sometimes produce illogical results. He knows that Lanning was trying to tell him something important. And he knows more about robotics than he lets on.

The look of the film helps to tell the story and the special effects don’t let us down. The smallest effects are as seamless and important to the story as the big ones, from Spooner’s examination of 1001 robots standing in formation to massive fight and chase scenes to the wink of an eye.

Smith gets better and better. He has enough movie star charm and charisma to fill any screen and then some, even when competing with some very gee-whiz special effects and some very cool-looking robots. But Smith also shows great sensitivity and understanding in giving Spooner some depth and complexity without throwing off the balance of what is first and foremost an action movie. In brief appearances, Greenwood adds a smooth steeliness, Cromwell shows some longing and regret, and Shia LaBeouf, brings some humor ro the role of Spooner’s friend, whose slang is almost incomprehensible. But Moynahan is chillier and more expressionless than the robots her character tries to make more human.

Speaking of which, the human behind the performance of “Sonny” the robot is the talented Alan Tudyk (A Knight’s Tale and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story).

The movie’s one drawback is the ending, a disappointing retread of too many Star Trek episodes. It has enough to keep both head and adrenaline engaged while watching, but the lack of imagination in its resolution mean that by the time your heart slows down again, your mind will already be long gone in a different direction, probably both by the time you toss that popcorn bucket in the trash.

Parents should know that the movie has strong language for a PG-13 and intense action violence with gunshots, crashes, and explosions. Characters are injured and killed. There is a brief silhouetted shower scene, but no graphic nudity.

Families who see this movie should talk about how our lives have changed over the past 20 years due to the development of computers and how they are likely to change over the next 20 years. What will we gain and what will we lose? Why was Spooner the only one who did not trust the robots? If you could create a robot, what would you make sure it could do and what would you make sure it could not do? When we can create machines that do so many things better than we can, what is it that makes us human? Will machines ever have feelings?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the books of wildly prolific author Isaac Asimov, starting with the one that inspired this movie, a series of stories about the development of robots narrated by Dr. Colvin. The word “robot” was invented by playwright Karel Capek for his 1921 play RUR. Memorable robots have been featured in many movies, from the adorable (Silent Running), the funny (Sleeper), and the beautiful (Metropolis) to the almost-human (Bicentennial Man and Artificial Intelligence: A.I.) and the maniacal (Terminator). Forbidden Planet even has a robot based on a character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Families who appreciate this film will also appreciate Blade Runner and the Star Wars series. Arthur Koestler’s book was the first to explore the idea of The Ghost in the Machine, now a popular notion — and an CD by the Police.

She Hate Me

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

The hero of a popular radio program and movie serial of the 1930′s and 40′s was “Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy,” whose very name evokes wholesome strength and fortitude. The hero of this provocative, ambitious, and uneven movie is an all-American man also named Jack Armstrong (newcomer Anthony Mackie). He is a Wharton MBA with a top job in a pharmaceutical company, dedicated, honest, capable, and looking forward to FDA approval of the company’s new product, an AIDS vaccine. But then everything goes wrong.

Jack’s friend and colleague commits suicide. The FDA turns down the vaccine. Employees are shredding documents and management decrees that no one can sell company stock. Jack knows something is terribly wrong. He makes a call to the Securities and Exchange Commission investigators from a phone booth, but the boss finds out, and he is fired.

The CEO (Woody Harrelson) says that it was Jack who was corrupt. Jack’s bank account is frozen. He is desperate.

So, against his better judgment, he accepts $10,000 to impregnate his ex-fiancee, Fatima (Kerry Washington), and her girlfriend.

Fatima is entrepreneurial and still has complicated feelings about Jack. She likes being involved with him and it seems to give her some pleasure to put him in a position that gives her some power over him and perhaps some vicarious sexual involvement as well. She begins to act as broker for his sperm, setting him up with lesbians who want to get pregnant. No turkey basters or test tubes; he delivers the old-fashioned way, energized by Viagra washed down with Red Bull.

Meanwhile (there are a lot of meanwhiles in this movie, because it goes off in a lot of different directions), Jack also has to cope with his father’s failing health and his parents’ failing marriage, and the mistreatment of Frank Wills, the security guard who discovered the Watergate burglers but died broke. And one of the lesbians turns out to be the daughter of a mafia don.

You just want to say, “Please, Spike, I promise you’ll make another movie! You don’t have to put every single idea you have into this one.” So many movies get released without any ideas or point of view whatsoever that it seems churlish to say this one is overstuffed, but that is how it feels. Its many directions are intended to enrich each other — yes, I get it, the mafia guy is better than the corporate crooks, and the sex-for-hire relationships are in some ways more successful than the attempted romantic relationships — but they ultimately diminish each other instead, making the film feel at the same time distracted and over the top. There are also elements that just feel pointless. Monica Belluci is not only too old to be the daughter of John Turturro, but she speaks with an Italian accent while he does not. Did they ever live in the same house? And the Frank Wills section just seems completely extraneous. Yes, it was terribly sad that his 15 minutes of fame left him worse off than he was before. But it is quite a stretch to say that he was brought down by The Man for blowing the whistle on what he just thought was a simple robbery and an even greater stretch to tie his fate to what happens to Jack. Furthermore, the portrayal of the lesbians in the movie shifts from empowerment to male heterosexual fantasy, especially in a series of scenes where Jack brings many of them to heights of sexual ecstasy and when they force him to stand naked in front of them and comment appreciatively on his body. Is this supposed to hark back to the slave auctions? Or is it just a high-class porn scenario?

It may be troubling and imperfect, but it is still a Spike Lee movie, which means that it is well worth watching and arguing over. Perhaps the issues he is trying to raise can only be addressed in a fractured style. But the individual shards of this film have more audacity and intelligence than most of what is out there and its failures are more interesting to ponder than most films’ successes.

Parents should know that this movie has extremely mature material with nudity, graphic scenes of childbirth, and many explicit sexual encounters, straight and gay. Characters drink, smoke, and use very strong language. A character commits suicide by jumping out of a window. He falls on another man and they are both killed. A theme of the movie relates to being paid for sex and the parallels to selling one’s soul.

Families who see this movie should talk about Angelo Bonasera’s comments on the way that a movie like The Godfather portrays and inspires real-life criminals and how real-life criminals inspire wanna-be “gangsta” rap stars. What decisions does Jack regret? How does he try to make good what he has done wrong? What does co-screenwriter/director Lee want to tell us with Jack’s family, especially with the relationship to his parents?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy other Lee movies, especially Malcolm X, Jungle Fever, Do the Right Thing, and School Daze.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

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

This unpretentiously genial little stoner comedy has a couple of things going for it. The characters and jokes are a bit above average for a genre with admittedly low standards. And its very unambitiousness gives the film moments that almost approach charm.

That said, it’s still mostly just extremely dumb and vulgar.

The title sums up the plot. Harold (John Cho) has a job that requires him to analyze numbers and a crush on a pretty girl in his building. He also has a big assignment that has just been dumped on him by his boss. Kumar (Kal Penn) is a slacker whose only ambition is not to become a doctor like his father and brother. Oh, and to get completely baked, with which Harold concurs.

Once happily stoned, the duo realize that there is only one more thing they need to achieve perfect happiness, those scumptious square hamburgers from White Castle. But the nearest White Castle is a long drive away and it will get a lot longer as Harold and Kumar run into all kinds of characters and adventures along the way.

Many of those adventures are gross and disgusting. Then there are those that are even more gross and disgusting. Most of them are downright stupid as well. Somewhere in there, though, there are a couple of moments that are funny, sweet, and even smart, and some commentary on race and ethnicity that almost qualifies as subtle. Cho and Penn are engaging, especially when they sheepishly but then with increasing joy sing along with Wilson Phillips, and there are appearances by Fred Willard, Neil Patrick Harris (playing himself as a child star gone very, very bad), Anthony Anderson and, perhaps in a nod to Bringing Up Baby, an escaped cheetah. I also give it extra credit for avoiding the obvious forms of triumph over the bad guys.

Parents should know that this movie wallows in bad taste and is cheerfully vulgar and offensive in every possible category. It includes constant drug use, bad language, extremely explicit toilet humor, and frequent and explicit sexual references and situations. There is comic violence, some graphic, including a scene in surgery with a lot of blood and a disfigured man. While some characters are bigoted and there is a lot of homophobic and racist humor, a strength of the movie is the portrayal of diverse characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Harold and Kumar deal with pressure from family and co-workers. What does it mean to say that “the universe tends to unfold as it should?” They might also want to talk about their own views on alcohol and drugs. And they might want to try to find a White Castle!

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Up in Smoke.

A Cinderella Story

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

Girls will love this fresh, funny, and sweet, update of the Cinderella story, and it might win some fans among their older siblings and parents as well.

High school senior Sam (Hilary Duff) lives in the San Fernando Valley with her mean stepmother, Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge) and stepsisters. After Sam’s adored father was killed in an earthquake, Fiona made her sleep in the attic and work every minute she is not at school in the family business, a diner.

Sam dreams of going to Princeton, but she needs Fiona to pay for it. So she does whatever Fiona tells her to. Fiona and the stepsisters do their best to make Sam feel oppressed and unworthy, but she gets a lot of support from the diner employees, especially restaurant manager Rhonda (Regina King), and from her best friend Carter (Dan Byrd). And she has an online relationship with a boy she met in a chatroom for Princeton hopefuls. But she does not know he is king-of-the-school Austin Ames, student body president and star quaterback. He does not know she is “Diner Girl” Sam, so unworthy of notice that she is all but invisible except when the cool kids make fun of her.

And then there is this school Halloween dance. Sam’s secret email-pal has invited her to meet him on the dance floor at 11. Fiona says Sam has to work and promises to be back by 12:00 to check, but Rhonda provides a dress and a mask and Carter has his father’s car and promises to get her home by midnight. So Sam goes to the ball, I mean party, and meets the prince, I mean quarterback. She rushes off without letting him know who she is, but she leaves behind…her cell phone.

Duff is not an actress but she has a winning personality and she makes a lovely Cinderella, sensitive, smart, honorable, and devoted. She knows what she wants and is willing to sacrifice her present happiness to get it. The always-welcome Regina King is a pleasure as the godmother-equivalent who provides more than a dress, and Jennifer Coolidge (Best in Show) makes the most of a one-note character as the evil step-mother, especially when explaining that her serene expression is the result of botox. Austin’s efforts to find his Cinderella and Sam’s struggles with Fiona go on longer than they should, but there is an old-fashioned happily ever after ending for everyone who deserves one, especially the girls in the audience.

Parents should know that there are some tense and sad moments, including the (off-camera) death of Sam’s father and emotional abuse by Fiona. The movie has some mild schoolyard language, brief potty humor, a comic scuffle, a joke about eating disorders and a somewhat casual attitude about cheating in school. Parents will want to talk to children who see this movie about the dangers of anonymous online relationships. Sam and Austin quickly confirm that they go to the same school, but even so, all children should know that they should not exchange personal information with someone they meet online. There is a sweet kiss. A strength of the movie is the portayal of loving and loyal relationships between diverse people.

Families who see this movie should talk about what made it possible for Sam to hold on to her dreams and her self-respect despite Fiona’s efforts to destroy them both. What was it about Sam that made her step-mother and step-sisters feel so threatened? Families should talk about the importance of really looking at people and really listening to them, too and about the importance of being willing to let others see you as you really are (which requires knowing yourself very well, too).

Families might like to explore the many versions of this story, starting with the original by Charles Perrault and some of the modern variations like Ella Enchanted and Ever After. They might also like to explore Tennyson, whose poetry is shared by Sam and Austin.

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