Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Little Hope Was Arson
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not Rated
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

The Giver
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

Foxcatcher
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some drug use and a scene of violence
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

Into the Storm
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

Miami Vice

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

The original “Miami Vice” was Michael Mann’s decade-defining television show. It ran from 1984-89 and everything about it was fresh, edgy, and influential. The t-shirt under the Armani jacket with photogenic beard stubble look, the best-selling techno-synth musical theme that won a Grammy, the pastel colors and quick cuts all became cultural touchstones and signifiers. The idea was inspired by a two-word memo from a network executive — “MTV cops” — and by a ruling that permitted the use of goods confiscated from criminals in other police-related work — thus, the cops who drove a Ferrari. It was cool. But that was then. Now, it’s just cold.


So when Mann adapted the television show with this new movie, he excised all of its signature elements, so permanently wedded to the 80’s. But he didn’t add anything to make it worth watching.


Mann’s movies are usually smart and stylish. They usually have a visceral, vital quality. Not this one. He gives us no reason to care about the characters or the story. There’s not even any special sense of place; it could just as easily be called “Generic Canadian City Vice.”


Jamie Foxx replaces Philip Michael Thomas as Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs and Colin Farrell fills in for Don Johnson as James “Sonny” Crockett. They are brought in after the feds have failed in an undercover investigation of a drug dealer. After a brief interlude permitting Tubbs and his girlfriend (the wonderful Naomie Harris from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) to get soapy in the shower, they get hired as deliverymen. Then they get caught up — personally and professionally — in the organization, which is (yawn) much larger and more far-reaching than they anticipated.

They have to prove themselves. Crockett gets involved with the drug operation’s CFO, Isabella (Gong Li), who dresses like an investment banker. But, like Melanie Grffith in “Working Girl,” she has a head for business and a bod for sin, and pretty soon she and Crockett are getting soapy in the shower.


The drug kingpin’s latest recruits have to prove themselves and work their way up the organization. The plot, however, mostly consists of bang bang bang, even the shoot-outs and explosions are not well-staged and the pacing is a slog. It seemed to take forever to load the darn drugs onto the darn boat. Foxx and Harris manage a little sizzle, but there is no chemistry of any kind between Foxx and Farrell or Farrell and Li. One reason is that Foxx and Farrell sport hairdos that all but emit chemistry repellent. The colors are dull. The pacing is dull. How long do we have to watch drugs being loaded onto a boat? Even the music is dull, as generic as a third-rate cover band. Even the preposterous ending is dull.

The dialogue is dull, too, all faux-tough, keeping-it-real we-can’t-trust-anyone-but-each-other-because-we’ve-shared-unspeakable-reality-and-know-things-the-rest-of-those-corrupt-and-incompetents-don’t malarky. It all sounds like something written by a computer tuned into the Spike channel. The only point in its favor is that there could be quite an active drinking game if viewers took a shot every time someone in the movie says something like, “Here’s how it’s going to be” or “Here’s how it’s going to happen.” It would have the advantage of both providing a more interesting distraction than the movie and rendering participants less concerned about the two hours and ten minute running time, the only theft in this movie anyone will care about.

Parents should know that this is a “hard-R” movie with extremely intense and graphic violence, including heavy artillary, a lot of blood splatter, and suicide. Characters are injured and killed. Characters are drug dealers and undercover cops who try to stop them. Characters drink and smoke (scenes in clubs) and use strong language. There are explicit sexual references and situations. A strength of the movie is the positive portrayal of inter-racial relationships, but some may find the South American drug dealers to be stereotyped.


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy the original television show and Mann’s other movies, including Hannibal Lecter’s first appearance in Manhunter and Will Smith’s brilliant performance in Ali. Mann’s last film, also featuring Foxx, is the much better Collateral.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor, language and brief nudity.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Even with a face contorted with rage and vengeance and a voice echoing through the streets of New York as well as the theater, it’s difficult not to like Uma Thurman as the needy, controlling and manipulative Jenny Johnson/G-girl. The odd sensation of not disliking someone that, well, dislikable seems to stem from the movie’s greatest asset: its understanding that evil can be a misguided outlet of the chronically insecure.


As she tells her story to Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson) – our good-natured protagonist with the requisite New York apartment, reluctance to believe beautiful women might dig him and sex-obsessed, super-vocal best friend – we are introduced to a Jenny Johnson who only wants to be liked and accepted. An outcast in high school, Jenny and her best friend, a schoolmate named Barry, are fooling around in a car when Jenny hears something. Rushing to the site, Jenny and Barry discover a meteor that explodes violently when Jenny touches it, thereafter imparting her with the super powers that turn her into G-girl, an indestructible protector of Gotham and savior to the seriously put-out.


In her story, Jenny becomes more confident at school, and blossoms with her new-found poise. She claims that she and her friend Barry simply grew apart. What we see, however, is a best friend left behind to fend for himself, which explains why in adulthood, Barry has become Professor Bedlam, G-girl’s arch-nemesis played by Eddie Izzard. The catch is that G-girl’s saving grace in high school has become her burden in the real world – her super power secret seems to have kept her from getting truly close to anyone and when she finds Saunders, she’s so hungry for human affection and acceptance that she fumbles and foils her way through a whirlwind relationship that quickly sours as Saunders realizes he can’t handle her neediness and that he is, in fact, in love with a coworker. The main plot of the movie takes us through Saunders’ relationship and breakup with G-girl.


So now you see the problem. We have a needy, whining, guilt-tripping girlfriend with a rage problem, and a weasel-ly, conniving evildoer for a nemesis, and we can’t help but try to collect our melting hearts while wishing both of them the best. (The best, in the form of a “happily-ever-after-ending,” does come, by the way.) Add to this pair our “everyman” Saunders, a role custom-made for likeability and played very well by Luke Wilson, and the raunchy best friend who dishes out bad advice aplenty with comic irreverence, played by Rainn Wilson of television’s The Office fame, and we have a movie with characters you like being allowed to like (despite their imperfections).


Parents should know that although the film is sweet and somewhat cheesy, it contains very adult-targeted sexual references and humor, including brief scenes with implied sex but little nudity, as well as direct references to masturbation and oral sex. The characters have sex without knowing each other well or establishing a caring relationship. Crude language is used abundantly and mostly for comic effect, but includes Thurman’s character referring to another woman as a “slut.” There is some action-style and comic violence, most in the form of Jenny/G-girl attempting to exact revenge on Saunders, including throwing a thrashing, gnawing shark through the window at him and targeting her laser eyes on his pet goldfish.


Families who see this movie should talk about the effects of alienation at school and changes in close relationships. They should also talk about Jenny’s actions as they discuss revenge and jealously, and appropriate ways for addressing insecurities. Effective communication and honesty in relationships are also relevant, and families might explore how Saunders and G-girl could have better handled their breakup.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The 40 Year Old Virgin, which has similar adult-oriented humor and the same “everyman with the raunchy friends” feel, and Office Space.

Thanks to guest critic AB.

Lady in the Water

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some frightening sequences.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

There is no conventional rating scale that could do justice to this film. It is a terrible movie, but it is terrible in an interesting and often highly watchable way. There have been better films that I have enjoyed less. The C grade is not an indication of mediocrity; it is an average of the movie’s successes and failures.


Let’s start with the successes. First and most important is that M. Night Shyamalan is unquestionably a superb director with a brilliant understanding of how to use the camera to tell a story. Second is Paul Giamatti, who plays handyman/caretaker Cleveland Heep with sensitivity and conviction. Sarita Choudhury also brings a vibrant and lively spirit to the film.


But it is in a way the extraordinary ability and subtlety of those elements that undermine the film as a whole by providing a contrast to the stunningly self-indulgent claptrap they are attempting to serve.


Director Shyamalan makes the mistake of working from a fundamentally unworkable script by, who was that screenwriter again? Oh, yes, M. Night Shyamalan, who seems to be, as we say, working through some issues.

We see some of his favorite themes — the damaged doctor, the wise child, the characters stunned by devastating trauma, the spooky creatures lurking somewhere out there. But we also see what looks like petty payback. This is a story in which story-tellers are magically powerful while those who criticize them are half buffoon and half pompous but ineffectual know-it-all, and doomed to a uniquely awful fate. This is the movie equivalent of Barry Manilow wailing about how he writes the songs that make the whole world sing with an extra verse more than an hour long about how no one understands and appreciates him enough.


Though set in a dingy apartment complex outside of Philadelphia, this is a fairy tale. As the movie begins, we are told with simple line drawings of a time in which another race of beings called the Narf were in contact with humans. But then humans became greedy and wanted to own the land and the Narf could not communicate with them any more.

Heep (the names in this film make Pilgrim’s Progress looke subtle) discovers something, someone swimming in the pool at night. It is a narf (Bryce Dallas Howard from Shyamalan’s The Village). She has been called from her world to deliver a message to someone in the complex who is trying to write something. Her name is….Story.


Heed asks around to figure out which resident is in need of the message. It turns out there are several writers on the premises, including a book and film critic named Farber, perhaps named for legendary critic Manny Farber (Bob Balaban). But the Writer sought by Story because his writing will change the world is….none other than our very own story-teller, writer-director Shyamalan as Vick Ran, who has been stuck in the middle of writing a book about his ideas.


Does Story have a message for Vick? A story to tell him? No, it turns out one look from her is like a mega-dose of Ritalin; all of a sudden he is completely clear and focused and bangs that sucker out in a few hours.


The rest of the film is about getting Story back home. All Heed has to do is persuade one of the residents, a Korean woman, to tell him the bedtime story she heard from her mother, which has all of the details about every obstacle the Narf will face and every kind of help that is available to her.

The disparate residents of the complex may have been drawn there because they have exactly the talents she needs, but how to know who has what? Fortunately, no one wastes any time doubting Heed’s story. Unfortunately, instead they waste their time trying to sell this flimsy, self-serving mush.


Shyamalan promised that there would be no surprise twist ending this time. He is right. Although there are some good spooky moments and some surprisingly comic ones, you can tell where this one is going right from the start. But he is also wrong. The surprise twist is how far this is from what we know he can do. Shyamalan is a truly great story-teller. This is just a truly empty story.

Parents should know that this is a very intense film with a good deal of peril and suspense and some jump-out-at-you surprises and ominous portents. While most of the violence occurs off-screen, we do see graphic wounds. Characters smoke cigarettes and there is some social drinking. A strength of the movie is the way diverse characters live in a community of tolerance and lack of prejudice.


Families who see this movie should talk about the kinds of myths and other stories that transcend all cultures and the reason that stories — like movies — are important. Are you more like a healer, a symbol interpreter, a guardian, or part of a guild?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Sixth Sense, Signs, and The Village.

Little Man

posted by jmiller
C-
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor throughout, language and brief drug references.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

The Wayans family is better at making money than making movies. They know that if they keep the budget low and the humor even lower, they can keep making money. In fact, according to Entertainment Weekly, they are the most successful family in Hollywood. “Over the past 20 years, Wayans sibs like Kim (Juwanna Mann) and Damon (ABC’s My Wife and Kids) have written, directed, produced, and/or starred in more than 45 movies and television shows…And the family boasts a combined domestic box office of over a billion bucks — a hefty $331 million of which comes from the powerhouse trio at the forefront of the Wayans dynasty, Keenen, 48, and brothers Shawn, 35, and Marlon, 33.” Like Adam Sandler, they figure that if they can make that kind of money without paying much attention to the script, why bother?


Most of the budget for their latest movie went to special effects. Actually, one effect. Marlon Wayans plays Calvin, a tough, mean career criminal who is the size of a one-year-old. His head is imposed on the body of a little person or a child throughout the film.


Calvin and his partner (SNL’s Tracy Morgan) have stolen a great big diamond. But they had to stash it in the purse of the upwardly mobile Vanessa (Kerry Washington), who is resisting the urging of her husband Darryl (Shawn Wayans), who wants to have a baby. So Calvin puts on a diaper and a bonnet and masquerades as a baby to get taken into their home and steal back the diamond.


Vanessa and Darryl don’t know much about babies, so they can’t tell the difference between an adult male (even one with a full set of adult teeth with bridgework and a tattoo) and a toddler. Somehow, even their friends who have children and a pediatrician they consult don’t figure it out, either. This creates an opportunity for Calvin as baby to get access to female bodies that Calvin as man enjoys very much. And it creates an opportunity for Calvin as baby to inflict pain on male bodies that Calvin as man seems to enjoy even more.


Then there are the unintentional indignities imposed upon Calvin, most vividly the rectal thermometer.


This is among the intentional indignities inflicted on the audience, along with a plot that even by the low standards of dumb comedies makes no sense. Calvin is treated like a one-year-old in some scenes, like a five or six-year-old in others. The adult characters are inconsistent, behaving fairly normally in some scenes and then going over the top when the movie is lagging, which is just about all the time. Marlon makes a lot of faces (that’s all he has to act with). Shawn shows some actual appeal that could make him a very effective performer in a movie that gave him more to do than act as straight man to a demon child. The exquisitely talented Kerry Washington (Ray) is wasted in a part that has a supposedly successful professional woman squealing over her aging father and not noticing that she is having sex with someone considerably shorter than her husband. And, again, they steal and debase jokes from better movies, this time a final twist from one of the Hope and Crosby “Road” movies. Little man, little effort, little result.

Parents should know that this movie features a great deal of very crude humor including jokes about genital size, pregancy, pretending to be a woman’s husband to have sex with her, breast-feeding, child molesting, and prison rape. There is also a great deal of crude bathroom and body part humor. Characters use crude language and some four-letter words and one of them gives the finger. There is a great deal of comic (and less comic) violence including many crotch hits, head bonks, and gun threats. A character engages in some macho discussion of the importance of men being tough and beating each other up in a football game and the point of view of the movie is that the way to respond is to beat up the people who say that.


Families who see this movie should talk about how people decide when they are ready to have children and why Calvin’s feelings and priorities changed when he was treated kindly.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other Wayans brothers movies (very crude humor).

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