Movie Mom

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Believe Me
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
September 26, 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

Tracks
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
Release Date:
June 27, 2014

The Boxtrolls
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Neighbors
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

Red Eye

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

Master of horror Wes Craven moves into the thriller genre, showing us that scary is scary, with or without grotesque killers (A Nightmare on Elm Street) or grotesque killings (the Scream trilogy). Craven’s sure sense of pace and ability to make the characters real enough to pull us in without becoming distracting makes this tense little film into a real heart-pounder.

It begins by almost lulling the audience into thinking we’re about to watch a romance. Lisa (Rachel McAdams) is an efficient young woman who is used to staying calm around people who are upset. She handles customer relations at a luxury hotel. When she is stuck at a Texas airport on her way back to Miami after her grandmother’s funeral, she strikes up a conversation with Jackson (Cillian Murphy of 28 Days Later), a sympathetic and charming stranger.

The plane finally boards and it turns out they are seated together. And then it turns out that is not coincidence. Lisa is in for a turbulent ride. And so are we.

Jackson is also an expert at staying calm and very efficient at what he does. He is an assassin. One of his colleagues is waiting outside Lisa’s father’s house. Jackson tells Lisa that her father will be tortured and killed if she does not call her notel to move a visiting dignitary to a different room.

Lisa is trapped, physically and psychologically. Jackson makes it clear that she won’t be getting any help from anyone on the plane. The pressure keeps increasing as the time gets shorter and she understands more about what she is risking.

Craven uses the claustrophobic confines of the airplane extremely well, keeping things moving enough to create visual interest but always making us aware of how vulnerable and limited Lisa feels. Then the plane lands. The landscape expands, but the tension tightens. (A quibble, though, about the treatment of the Deputy Director of Homeland Security, who travels like a rock star, not a bureaucrat, violating several federal laws and providing a “hey, wait a minute” reaction that momentarily takes us out of the movie.)

McAdams makes Lisa appealing and believeable and Murphy shows us the charm and the chill of the sociopath. But the star of the show here is Craven, who knows how to make a thriller thrill.

Parents should know that this is a very intense thriller with near-constant tension and peril. There are some scary surprises and brief graphic images. Characters are injured and killed. There is a scene in a bar. Characters drink and one becomes a little tipsy. There are brief sexual references and a few uses of profanity.

Families who see this movie should talk about Lisa’s job and past experiences affected the way she responded to Jackson.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Nick of Time with Johnny Depp and Collateral with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. They may also enjoy some of the other airport-based films, including dramas (The Terminal, Airport), romances (Jet Lag), and one of the most outrageously funny comedies of all time, Airplane! (mature material).

Supercross

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2005

I’ve got to give this movie some credit for its lack of pretense and the modesty of its goals. The title says it all. This movie is called “Supercross” and that’s exactly what it is. It’s pretty much just supercross racing — motorcycle cross-country racing on off-road tracks with added extreme man-made obstacles. That’s all there is to it.

Oh, there’s a little sprinkling of something sort of wispily plot-ish. There are some moderately attractive performers who appear to be portraying some sort of characters who have a few things to say to each other, fall in love, and learn some lessons in between races. But all of that has the good sense to stay out of the way of the movie’s theme and reason for being, which is, let me say it again, supercross. The movie’s brief running time (about an hour and 15 minutes) is mostly taken up with shots of motorcyle races, with lots of slo-mo jumps.

Two brothers make their living cleaning pools but live for racing motorcycles. KC (Steve Howey) is the “old school,” more conservative one, and Trip (Mike Vogel) is more impulsive risk-taker. KC gets a “factory ride” (corporate sponsor), but is disappointed to find out that they don’t want him to win — they just want him to clear away the competition so the boss’ son can be the first to cross the finish line. Trip competes as a “privateer” (without a sponsor), his bike provided by a man who has a pretty daughter who knows everything about motorcycle engines (Cameron Richardson).

Some romantic encounters, some sibling rivalry, some “what do I want out of life” moments, a brief appearance by a Teen Beat cover boy (singer Aaron Carter) and a lot of motorcyle jumps, races, and crashes later, it’s over before anyone has time to think too much. It’s got all the depth and insight of a video game, but it manages to stay out of the way of its minor pleasures by not trying to be more complicated than it needs to be.

Parents should know that there is brief bad language and characters drink (scenes in bar). There is a brief reference to drug use when someone advises a racer that there is no drinking or drug use permitted during training. There are some intense racing scenes, including crashes, and some injuries.

Families who see this movie should talk about the differences — and the similarities — between the brothers. Why did KC change his mind about the factory deal? What was the difference between what KC did for Rowdy and what Trip did for KC? What did it mean when Piper said, “It’s a good thing you don’t race this scared?”

Families who are interested can find out more about supercross and motocross racing. Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Fast and the Furious and Days of Thunder.

Valiant

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

Like its title character, this little animated film has heart and charm. What it will have trouble finding is an audience to appreciate it. This is a computer-animated film with a G rating that assumes its viewers will understand references to Edith Piaf and the Invasion of Normandy. If there are any children out there who were born in th 1940′s, this could be just the movie for them.

It is set in World War II London, where carrier pigeons played a crucial role by bringing essential information to the fighting forces. A small pigeon named Valiant (voice of Ewan McGregor) dreams of being one of them. He is not exactly up to the literally high standards of the Royal Air Force Homing Pigeon Service, but their forces have been terribly depleted by capture and casualties and they have to take what they can get.

Squadrons A, B, C, D, and E are no longer available. So, Valiant is reluctantly accepted for training in Squadron F, along with Bugsy (voice of “The Office’s” very funny Ricky Gervais), his messy, cowardly, dishonest, but somehow endearing friend. There is an important message to be delivered, some carnivorous German falcons to be evaded, some captured colleagues to be rescued, a problem only someone much smaller than the usual carrier pigeon can solve, and, of course, freedom to be fought for and a pretty nurse pigeon to come home to.

This is the traditional G-rated underdog theme, but it is first and foremost a very traditional WWII movie, down to the saucy French resistance fighter and the salty veteran of the previous war who always has a drink on the house for a brave lad, I mean pigeon.

It doesn’t have the immediate accessibility of most animated films or most G-rated films of any kind. Its greatest charm lies in its understated humor and its affectionate salutes to the familiar characters of the era. But this is likely to be confusing or completely above the heads of children, even most teenagers. Unlike its title character, this is a film that is not quite sure how to deliver its message.

Parents should know that there is some mild wartime violence, including a plane crash, some injuries, and some off-camera fatalities. There are some mildly grisly images, including bombed-out buildings, the bones of birds that have been eaten, a gargoyle, and the squishing of a fly. Characters are in peril in secenes that may be too intense for younger children. There is some mild crude humor.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Valiant wanted to be a part of the messenger corps. Why did Valiant want to be a part of the fight? Why did Bugsy not want to, and why did he come back? They may want to find out more about the use of animals in wartime. The real life Dickin medal awardees are discussed on these BBC programmes. And families may also want to find out about the real-life Normandy invasion.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Chicken Run.

The Skeleton Key

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

Buoyed by Gena Rowlands’ magisterial presence, this mediocre little bit of hoodoo-voodoo mystery casts enough of a spell to propel it through the trancelike lethargy of the first 80 minutes until it double, double, toils and troubles to reach its frenzy of a finale. “Skeleton Key” is neither magic nor mundane but for some it will unlock a satisfying enough set of twists and turns for a summer escape into a bayou thriller.

Loaded up on the guilt of losing her beloved but estranged father, Caroline (Kate Hudson) is candy-striping herself toward atonement. She ditches her job at a New Orleans hospice to take care of Ben (John Hurt), a stroke victim, living out his last days with wife Violet (Gena Rowlands) in a spooky manor house, an hour outside of the city and a hundred years outside civilization. After poking further into the house than privacy dictates, Caroline realizes that the mansion’s macabre history might have some bearing on her future and that Violet has no intention of giving her the true skeleton key to unlock the mystery of the past.

Hudson does a decent job of playing a part that at times begs for disbelief to be suspended a bit beyond the stretching point. Peter Sarsgaard plays family lawyer, Luke, with a spot-on blend of practicality and Southern bonhomie. It is Rowlands, however, who steals scenes with her tough-as-nails, genteel belle presence and makes the story credible.

Director Iain Softley pares down the ingredients in this potentially complex mix of themes and superstitions, until the movie is nothing but lean, hard plot. Seemingly distrustful of his audience’s ability to stay focused on the story, the sparseness of the characters mean that everybody has a role to play and every utterance is a clue to the mystery of the house. He does not spare much thought for originality of setting – the attic is the archetypal black magic lair with old jars of floating things, spell books and albums – and lulls the audience with familiar signs (a blind woman full of bayou wisdom, a cautious roommate) down the road to get to the final twist of an ending.

Parents should be aware that this movie is borderline horror, with many scenes of peril, and it touches on mature themes. In flashbacks to the early 1900’s, the story of a lynching is shown and the crowd responsible is a drunken mob, too well-heeled to be punished. Hospice care, the death of family members who were loved or shunned, as well as the difficulty of caring for ailing kin are all issues covered in the movie. The belief –or not—in superstition and “hoodoo” (voodoo’s non-religious, folk-magic counterpart) is a central theme of the movie. Partial, non-explicit nudity scenes include a scantily-clad woman, a character in the shower and another in the bath. The overall Spanish-moss laden spookiness of the isolated mansion, with hidden secrets, will scare more sensitive viewers, as will some of the Gothic residents of the nearby bayou. There are the obligatory jars of yucky things in bottles to signify dark magic. There is an implicit reference to spousal abuse. Characters smoke and drink socially. A night of excessive drinking leads to bloodshed.

Families who see this movie might discuss the impact on Caroline of losing her father and the ways this loss guides her guilt, her choice of profession, not to mention her actions. The theme of “hoodoo” provokes questions about what superstitions you might believe in, whether there are paranormal things that you believe can protect or hurt you. The “evil eye”, for example, is a theme in cultures throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Even though few people say they believe in it, the blue-glass eyes, red-string bracelets and the eye-within-the-hand-motif, all symbols to ward off this curse, have never been more popular in jewelry and decoration. Why do some people in this movie choose not to leave even though they say they do not believe?

Families who enjoy this movie might like “K-PAX”, also directed by Softley and featuring a similar pace and prettiness, if radically different themes.

For those looking for a genuinely scary, horror/suspense flick with voodoo themes might watch “Angel Heart” (mature content). Other recent supernatural thrillers include “Constantine” and “Dream Catchers”.

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