Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Annie
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
Release Date:
December 19, 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

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

Amazing Grace

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for thematic material involving slavery, and some mild language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Parents should know that this film includes frank descriptions of some of the most profound atrocities of the slave trade, including torture and rape. The painful symptoms of Wilberforce’s long-term illness are also included. The movie’s portrayal of extraordinary leadership, courage, and persistance is in the context of positions taken by other characters that by today’s standards are obviously inhumane and racist.


Families who see this film should talk about why Wilberforce was among the first to see that slavery must be abolished. What was different about the situation in Britain that permitted this to be accomplished years before slavery was abolished in America, and without a war? How are the arguments and tactics adopted by the opposition similar to those used in other great debates, from civil rights to women’s suffrage?

Families who appreciate this movie will want to learn more about William Wilberforce and William Pitt, the youngest prime minister in British history. Families will also appreciate Amistad and the groundbreaking television miniseries Roots. The essay “When Mr. Beecher Sold Slaves in Plymouth Pulpit” describes the actions of abolitionist minister Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe) took the dramatic step of staging a slave auction to demonstrate its barbarity. Families will enjoy Bill Moyers’ superb PBS special about the history of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Blood and Chocolate

posted by jmiller
C-
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, some sexuality and substance abuse.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

There was enthusiastic applause in the theater when the name of author Annette Curtis Klause appeared in the opening credits. The book, about a teenage girl in Maryland whose werewolf issues serve as a metaphor for the sometimes-disturbing forces in adolescence, has a devoted following. But by the time the movie ended, there were only a few half-hearted claps from that same part of the theater. And the book’s fans were not the only ones who were disappointed.


The movie version’s lead is a little older (she seems to be out of school, with a job in a chocolate shop) and the location has been moved to Romania, for no particular reason.

Vivian (“ER”‘s Agnes Bruckner is a lone wolf, so to speak, regarded with some suspicion by the rest of the pack, and some jealousy, too. There’s some yadda yadda about a prophecy and her being chosen and “these are the ways of our people,” but it boils down to the fact that the leader of the pack, so to speak (Olivier Martinez, oily as always) has picked her to be his new she-wolf. Apparently, they have solved the whole seven-year-itch thing by giving the Big Bad Wolf the chance to select a new mate every seven years. But Vivian is different. The wolf pack loves to find a human to chase and kill, but she just loves to run because it makes her feel free.

Vivian meets Aiden, a human (Hugh Dancy), a graphic novelist with his own backstory, and soon he has her feeling hungry like a wolf, but only metaphorically. A couple of montages later (trying on clothes for the big date, running through fountains, looking up at the sky, all to some faux-indie music),


But wolves have strong feelings about their territory. They don’t like Vivian’s relationship with Aiden. When a confrontation with Vivian’s cousin ends in his being killed (by Aiden’s silver pendant), the young couple has to find a way to trust each other and create their own destiny.


There are a few nice touches — a falling red ribbon, an abandoned historic church, Vivian’s exuberant race through the streets. But the dialogue is weighted with dull claptrap about prophecies and “these are the ways of our people” and howlers like, “If you cared a Goddamn thing about me, you’d have left me before we even met,” the transformation scenes have no special vibrance, and Vivian’s existential angst just seems petulant. This wolf story is toothless.

Parents should know that this movie has intense and explicit peril and violence for a PG-13, including close-up shots of cuts and wounds, and fights with guns, knives, and very sharp teeth. Many characters are injured and killed. Characters use some strong language and drink and one deals drugs. There are some sexual references and there is brief non-sexual nudity.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Vivian felt responsible for her parents’ death. How did Aidan’s family background help him to understand her situation? What will happen to them? Are the wolf people cursed or blessed? Why?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy An American Werewolf in London, The Lost Boys, Sleepwalkers, and Wolf.

Smokin’ Aces

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

This is a flashy, nasty, hyper-violent story about a lot of people who are very, very interested in a snitch, magician and five time entertainer-of-the-year Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven).

He’s about to turn state’s evidence against his long-time cronies in the mob. The FBI is particularly interested in mob boss Primo Sparazza (Joseph Ruskin), and Buddy is the only evidence they have.

So, that means a lot of people are very, very interested in Buddy, now holed up in a penthouse suite in Lake Tahoe after jumping bail, waiting to hear from his lawyer about an immunity deal. Interested parties include the FBI, the bail bondsman, who hires three former cops to get Buddy back, Buddy’s own entourage, who suspect he may be giving them up to protect himself, those mobsters mentioned earlier, and several different paid assassins, some in teams and some alone, who are competing for the very generous price the bad guys are offering.


The assorted hitmen (and women) include the trigger-happy punkish Tremor brothers, a master of disguise, a mysterious guy known only as “the Swede,” an emotionless assassin who once chewed off his own fingertips so he could not be identified by fingerprints, and a ambitious black lesbian couple very happy about the chance to show what they can do with their first big-time opportunity.


The interactions between each and all of these characters create the opportunity for some stylish set-pieces, dynamically shot (in both senses of the word) and energetically acted by big stars having fun in small roles. Ben Affleck (cop turned bounty hunter), Chris Pine (most coherent of the growling Tremors, especially when he’s speaking lines of forgiveness from someone he just killed), Jason Bateman (as a lawyer so scuzzy you’ll want to take a bath in antibiotics after watching him), rap star Common (Buddy’s straight-talking sidekick), Mathew Fox (unrecognizable as head of hotel security), and especially multi-Grammy-award winner Alicia Keyes and Hustle and Flow star Taraji P. Henson (the all-woman team) all have fun with their brief showy moments, shooting off colorful dialogue and very big guns.


But the twists of plot and piles of bodies go way over the top. People have just got to stop trying to be Tarantino. I know he makes it look easy, but being audacious and understated at the same time in the middle of balletic bloodbaths is not enough.


Parents should know that this is an exceptionally violent film, with extreme, intense, and especially graphic violence and injuries and many, many injuries and deaths. Characters use extremely strong language, drink, smoke, and use drugs. Most of the characters are criminals, including mobsters and hired killers. There are extremely explicit sexual references and non-explicit situations with some nudity and references to prostitutes, orgies, and homosexuality. The characters are a veritable Benneton ad of diversity, so to the extent that it is a positive sign that the killers include women, minorities, and gay characters, it is worth mentioning.


Families who see this film should talk about Messner’s final decision. Was he right? What were some of his alternatives? Who is this movie designed for? How can you tell?


Audiences who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Layer Cake, Pulp Fiction, and Lucky Number Slevin (all very violent and explicit).

Catch and Release

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language and some drug use.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

For the first time, screenwriter Susannah Grant not only writes but directs with this messy romantic weepie about a woman whose fiance is killed just before the wedding.


Grant is known for writing movies with strong female characters, from Disney’s Pocahontas to Julia Roberts’ starring title roles in Charlotte’s Web and Erin Brocovich. But she is less certain as a director, and the result is an uneven tone and a rickety structure. It might still be watchable except for the more serious problem, a fundamental failure to understand that the characters are far less adorable than the movie needs them to be. Even after reported substantial cuts and reworking, our patience and affection runs out long before the movie is over.


Jennifer Garner is Gray, who ends up at a funeral on what was supposed to have been her wedding day. The presents are in piles, the cake is in the freezer. The flowers and people are there, but they are funeral flowers and the people are sad and shell-shocked. Gray hides out in the bathtub, pulling the shower curtain around her for some privacy. So she is stuck there when her fiance’s friend Fritz (Timothy Olyphant of HBO’s “Deadwood”) stumbles in with the caterer and a joint for a quickie against the sink.


See what I mean about less charming than the movie thinks they are? Later on, in what is clearly intended to be a moment of adorable vulnerability, Gray confides her flaws and quirks to a group of friends and they include stealing library books, having had sex once with another woman, and enjoying natural disasters with lots of casualties.


All of this comes about as Gray finds out that her fiance (oddly named Grady) had not told her everything about himself. There’s a matter of a substantial bank account she never knew about. And another woman. With a child.

But I’m not done with the not-as-cute-as-they-think-they-are cast of characters. Gray cannot afford the home she was going to share with Grady, so she moves into his old room with his old friends Dennis (Sam Jaeger) and Sam (Kevin Smith, no longer Silent and trying to be the new Jack Black). So apparently Grady had that secret bank account and could manage that dream house they were going to live in but was still in a group house? Well, let’s not dwell on that because it’s the only way to get Gray into all those cute situations with the intended-to-be-adorable arrested development crew. And, just to make it all even more cozy, Fritz, the highly successful but not really happy LA commercial director moves in, too. And then, just to make it even more of a sit-com set-up, Grady’s other girlfriend (I know! Let’s make her all into psychic energy and massages and stuff!) and her wild child of a son. Won’t that be cute and touching? Nope.


Reportedly cut down from an unwieldy running time, it feels like a jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing — that forms a picture that wasn’t worth waiting for. Perhaps it’s all that fishing, but even the usually endearing Garner looks a little piscatory — those lips, you know.

Parents should know that this movie has some mature material including a very sad loss, a possible suicide attempt, issues of betrayal, and paternity testing. Characters drink, smoke marijuana, and take prescription tranquilizers (mixing with alcohol). There are sexual references and situations, including casual sex and references to being unfaithful. Characters use some strong and crude language.


Families who see this movie should talk about why the people in Grady’s life saw him so differently. Who knew him best? Would you have liked him? Why wasn’t he more honest with Gray?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the book Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object by Laurie Colwin and the movies Moonlight and Valentino and Moonlight Mile.

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What Happened to All the Great Quotable Movie Lines?
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George Clooney and the Cast of Downton Abbey
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