Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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The Drop
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some strong violence and pervasive language
Release Date:
September 12, 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

Dolphin Tale 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild thematic elements
Release Date:
September 12, 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 One I Love
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, some sexuality and drug use
Release Date:
September 5, 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

Unleashed

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

A series of ugly, brutal fight sequences surround a sweet story of healing in an uneasy combination — or perhaps in view of the content of this movie, collision. But it is what the movie does not show that, for better or worse, takes it out of the category of the typical action movie. It is not the movie(s) you see that are hard to enjoy; it is the movie you don’t see, the one that lurks under the surface.

Jet Li plays Danny, a man who has been programmed by being treated like a dog. He has been conditioned by “Uncle Bart” (Bob Hoskins in an incendiary performance) to follow orders, especially this one: “Get him.”

He lives in a cage. His only possessions are an old stuffed bear and an alphabet book. He turns the pages, looking at K for Kiss, L for Love, and P for Piano. Then he gets pulled out to beat up whoever has made the mistake of failing to pay Bart the money he owes. Or he is entered in a gladiator-style fight to the death for the amusement of the people who find that entertaining.

One day, while Bart and his thugs are in the next room, putting pressure on the owner of an antique store, Danny sees Sam (Morgan Freeman), a blind piano tuner. More important, he hears the piano. Even the untuned notes mean something to him. Sam’s kindness means more. Both give him his first glimpse of compassion and beauty.

When circumstances give him a chance to escape, he finds Sam, who takes him in and does not ask questions. Sam’s stepdaughter, Victoria (Kerry Condon), a music student, introduces him to silverware, pajamas, laughter, kisses, ice cream, and movies. And feeling safe.

But then Bart gets Danny back again. And Danny will have to fight to return the people he loves.

The dramatic scenes are exceptionally rich, warm, and touching. Li gives his best performance since he started making movies in English. And he still has it in the fight scenes, which are imaginatively staged, especially one battle in a tiny bathroom with a huge, pale, hairless, combatant. Li’s grace and speed are always beautiful to watch, even when he is twisting bones until they snap, crackle, and pop.

But the unspeakable abuse that is the premise of the movie is so deeply disturbing that it throws the entire film out of balance. It is difficult to let go of the story enough to find the action entertaining when we are asked to buy into a story of such unspeakable cruelty. Instead of making us connect more to the characters, it feels manipulative and disturbing.

Parents should know that this movie is, even by the standards of its genre, exceptionally violent. The fight scenes are graphic and brutal, with a lot of bone-crunching sound effects and just-short-of-sadistic injuries. Furthermore, the plot of the movie is based on the premise of the most unthinkably atrocious abuse of a child and adult. Characters use strong language. There are sexual references and situations and a brief glimpse of non-sexual nudity.

Families who see this movie should talk about the idea that a young child can be “programmed” as Danny was in this story. Why did Sam and Victoria trust Danny? Why did he trust them? Why did Bart tell Danny that he could keep life simple?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy other performances by Jet Li, including Hero and Kiss of the Dragon.

Kicking & Screaming

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2005

Will Ferrell is to this movie (and pretty much any movie he is in) what the Italian ringers are to the soccer team his character coaches in the film. As long as he keeps getting the ball, he scores.

Ferrell’s shtick is his imperishable innocence. Everything is always completely new to him and every response from him is completely fresh and blissfully un-self-conscious. We know what will happen and we know we can’t help loving him for it. Like a perpetual baby enchanted with the world or a benign alien experiencing Earth for the first time, Ferrell always reacts with absolute freshness, openness, directness, and purity. He can’t seem to hold onto more than one emotion at at time. So, each feeling is complete and each one takes him over completely. He has no ability to hold anything back or try to seem cool and on top of things. When he cries, he gives it everything he has. Many comedians draw humor from trying to look cool, but Ferrell barely seems to grasp that there is such a thing as coolness. Because his responses are always as sweet as they are silly, we laugh and we love him every single time.

When Phil (Ferrell’s character) is first presented with a cup of coffee, he looks at it like Eve looked at the apple, a mix of dread, longing, and utter fascination. When he discovers how delicious it is, he goes all out. Assuming everyone is as new to the world as he is, he happily explains to another customer that the coffee is very, very HOT. Then he starts mainlining it, lugging an espresso machine to the soccer games.

Phil’s father, the intensely competitive Buck (Robert Duvall), always made Phil feel inadequate and unappreciated. Buck is the coach of The Gladiators, the soccer team that includes Phil’s son, Sam, and Buck’s other son, Bucky, who is Sam’s age and an outstanding athlete. Phil’s insecurity and disappointment turn to “a tornado of anger” when Buck trades his own grandson, Phil’s son, Sam. Phil decides he will coach Sam’s new team, the last-place Tigers. He invites Buck’s next-door neighbor and arch-nemesis to be assistant coach. The neighbor happens to be the legendary coach of the Superbowl champion Chicago Bears, Mike Ditka.

Okay, we all know what happens in movies about scrappy little underdog sports teams. Everyone learns some important lessons about teamwork and what winning really means. And there are a lot of meant-to-be-funny moments along the way. If most don’t make it all the way to “funny,” many qualify as mildly amusing. Ditka turns out to have a great screen presence and top-notch comic timing and Ferrell is always a treat, especially when he’s jonesing for a coffee hit or doing his best to channel Ditka. That’s enough to keep a soccer team of 10-year-olds happy.

Parents should know that there is some crude material in this movie, including bathroom humor, and comedy based on lesbian mothers, a sex-change wisecrack, a child eating worms, characters covered with cow’s blood after helping out in a butcher shop, and a sports store’s slogan: “I’ve got BALLS!” Characters use some harsh schoolyard insults and brief strong language (“screwed up,” “go to hell”). Some audience members may be disturbed by the pressure the coaches put on the kids (though the point of the movie is clearly against that behavior) or some rude comments by the kids to the adults. There is comic violence, including characters getting hit in the crotch. Some family members may be disturbed by a father re-marrying and having another child or by a coach telling his team to “play dirty and don’t get caught.”

Families who see this movie should talk about how adults and children should respond when they have made mistakes. Why do we play games like soccer? Why do parents sometimes feel competitive with or on behalf of their children? Why is it important to learn how to accept a compliment?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the many films about scrappy underdog sports teams, including Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, The Mighty Ducks, Air Bud, and The Bad News Bears (very strong language). They will also enjoy The Rookie.

Mindhunters

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

Someday, I’d like to see a thriller in which there are no “fooled you!” fakeouts, no one that the audience thinks is dead turns out to be still alive, the characters are allowed to have actual personalities instead of just plot-driving backstories, and the bad guy doesn’t stop in the middle of all the murder and mayhem to explain what he’s been up to and why.

Until then, this movie will do.

It’s got a fairly strong premise, some fairly good shocks, moments of fairly decent suspense, and more-than-fairly gross-enough gore. What else do you need?

The story takes place on a deserted island, the final exam for a bunch of FBI trainees hoping to be selected for the elite “profiler” squad that tries to understand the minds of serial killers. When the trainees themselves start getting killed, they have to turn their profiling skills on each other before the next killing, helpfully scheduled in advance and announced by the killer with a clock set to the time the next person will die.

As Harris (Val Kilmer), the tough-as-granite instructor, points out, the good thing about serial killers is “they always give you another chance.” Each new murder provides more clues and a fuller picture of the pattern.

The final exam is on an island 50 miles off the coast. It is used by the Navy for Training exercises. A ghost-town-ish setting with dummies and hidden cameras has been set up with clues to a serial killer called “The Puppeteer.” Harris tells them that the island itself is like being inside the mind of a psychopath, feeling “isolated, alone, and forgotten.” It is also like being inside Harris’ head. As the one who set up the exercise and will decide the future of the candidates, he is the real puppeteer.

Then one of the trainees is killed, and then another. Clues seem to point to a pattern, but the suspects are the trainees themselves. Can they use what they have learned about profiling to figure out who the killer is while whoever the killer is uses that same training to hide from them?

The intriguing set-up, some sharp performances, and director Renny Harlin’s capable staging of action and suspense make this a passable thriller, if not a particularly memorable one.

Parents should know that this movie has extreme, intense, and graphic peril, suspense, and violence. [Spoiler alert] Characters are frozen, beheaded, strung up, tortured, shot, and injured and killed in a variety of other creative ways. There are graphic scenes of dead bodies of humans and animals. Characters use some strong language, drink (in a bar), and smoke. There is brief nudity (bare tush) in a shower scene, and there are some brief sexual references.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the FBI profilers really do investigate serial killings and about how we don’t confront our demons just once, but every single day. This report describes the resources they use. They may also want to learn more about Roanoke Island and the mystery of Croatoan.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Ten Little Indians and And Then There Were None, both based on Agatha Christie’s novel about a group of people on an island who are being killed off one at a time by someone who seems to know their secrets. They will also enjoy The Last of Sheila, another tricky mystery co-written by Stephen Sondheim.

Cinderella Man

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

The people behind A Beautiful Mind have re-teamed on another real-life story, but with less successfui results. It has the ingredients — evocative portrayal of an earlier time, an inspiring story of a deeply loving and supportive married couple stuggling and triumphing over overwhelming adversity, and a beautifully sincere and subtle performance by Russell Crowe. But it is less satisfying because it tells you more than it shows you about how important it all is.

The story of John Nash in A Beautiful Mind was better suited for portayal in the movies because it was newly public. One of the biggest obstacles in a movie, whether fictional or fact-based, is trying to convey that a character captures the attention and affection of the public at large. This story, about heavyweight champion James J. Braddock (Crowe) depends heavily on the ability of scriptwriters Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman and director Ron Howard to convey its importance in part by showing that he was overwhelmingly popular and its significance in part by showing how he was a symbol of his era. Both take so much time and effort and narrative away from the story of the individuals involved that they leave little room for them to be anything but saintly.

So, we know they are honest, hardworking, loving people and we know that they are going to make it. The name of the movie is, after all, “Cinderella Man,” not “Unhappy Ending Man.” That leaves us to make a movie out of getting from the triumph to the hardship and back again, and with the narrative focus dissipated by trying to show us how much it all mattered back then, it makes it impossible to show us how much it matters now.

The movie follows Braddock and his family as they face hardship and adversity, both in the ring and out. The core of the movie is Crowe’s superb performance as the boxer Braddock with a jaunty smile and a powerful and utterly transformed physical presence that goes as far as possible to hold the story together. Paul Giamatti is excellent, as always, as Braddock’s manager, Joe Gould.

“Cinderella Man” has little of the complexity and humanity that we have come to enjoy in Ron Howard’s recent work. Don’t look for nuance of the kind found in A Beautiful Mind. You’ll find no insights here about human nature, and no cause for reflection. Instead, this is a simplistic morality play where the bad guys are really bad, the good guys are unqualifiedly good, and the conflict between good and evil is reduced to the simplicity of punching in the ring.

Braddock is portrayed as a virtuous family man who adores his wife and children, is upright and honest (he instructs his children that it is wrong to steal food even when the family is near starving), and who goes to extraordinary lengths to keep promises to children and look out for his friends. Of course, he is pitted against cold-blooded mercenary fight promoters and a demonic, vicious boxing foe with a reputation for killing his opponents.

Howard places a great deal of emphasis on the sights and sounds of the depression. The boxing scenes are thrilling and dynamic. Howard has paid attention to and learned from the many boxing films that have gone before, and has advanced the choreography of the fight, in part by using new technologies to create up close, fast-paced personal combat. But “Cinderella Man” is not just a battle between good and evil on a personal level. Braddock’s personal sainthood might be too subtle for the audience, so Braddock is also larded up as the personification of all the poor and the downtrodden workers struggling for hope and dignity during the depression, the symbolic champion of the oppressed everywhere. And just in case you might try to forget it for even a moment, a desperate Braddock finds extra inspiration for his punches in the ring from visions of the oppressed proletariat. Those montages are more heavy-handed than the thud of boxing gloves on Russell Crowe’s face.

By throwing his customary ballast overboard, and reducing everything to a simplistic conflict, Howard creates a lesser work of art but nevertheless a rousing crowd pleaser. “Cinderella Man” dedicates a film maker’s considerable skill to catching the audience and investing them in the outcome of a series of battles. The movie is beautifully filmed, with the grim, spartan conditions of the urban, depression-era winter filmed in a muted palette. The dark and grimy rooms and buildings contrasted with the blinding white snow reinforces the black-and-white morality of the film’s message.

Parents should know that the movie has many brutal boxing matches, powerfully portrayed, with serious injuries, which may be upsetting to some audience members. The themes of poverty and family stress may also be disturbing. Characters use brief strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about what it was about Braddock that made him such an appealing hero to the working people during the Depression.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of the classic boxing films, from Rocky to Body and Soul. They may want to learn more about Braddock. The book Cinderella Man: James Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History is a good place to start. Braddock appears in The Fight, a documentary about one of the most famous boxing matches of all time, the 1938 bout where Joe Louis beat Max Schmeling.

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