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

Dreamgirls

posted by jmiller
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for language, some sexuality and drug content.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

If my movie reviews had headlines, this one’s would be: “A Star is Born.” More like a Supernova. Jennifer Hudson explodes onto screen in this incendiary production of the Broadway musical inspired by Motown and the Supremes. She is mesmerizing. She is dazzling. She is fierce. She shimmers. She melts. She breaks your heart and then she puts it back together so she can melt it. Her voice is sensational, but the real surprise is her acting, which is at the same time commanding and vulnerable. She is a star.


The other star of the movie is screenwriter/director Bill Condon, who blasts through the weaknesses in the underlying material (uneven quality of music that is second-rate Broadway and thus tenth-rate R&B, under-written characters, creaky plot) with unhesitating nerve and electric energy. His direction is a kind of choreography all its own, dynamic and organic. In other words, it has a good beat and you can dance to it.


“Dreamgirls” is the story of three young women who have sung together since they were children. Effie (Hudson) sings lead. She has a strong voice, strong opinions and a very strong personality. Effie, Deena (Beyonce Knowles), and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose) dream of making it as professionals.

They are asked to sing back-up for James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy, in a career-restoring performance). At first reluctant, because they want to be a group on their own, they agree — chaperone included — and we launch into a road montage as they learn about show business, from cramped tour buses to predatory men. Lorrell succumbs to the married Early. Ambitious manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) becomes romantically involved with Effie, but then, when there’s a chance for mainstream success, he replaces her as lead singer and love interest with slender, conventionally pretty, pliant Deena and renames them the Dreams. Soon, Effie is out of the group all together, though on her way out she gets to sing one of the greatest show-stopping songs in the history of Broadway: “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” a gospel-infused powerhouse wail of the heartbreak and rage of rejection.


Taylor builds a recording empire and we get another montage of success and superstardom with a dazzling run of costumes and hairstyles and some soapy sturm und drang until we get to the “had I but known” and “I have to do what is right for me” moments and the big finish.


Along the way, the movie takes on some ambitious themes, from the mainstreaming of R&B into pop to the compromises people make in the name of ambition and the consequences for friends and families. And it is impossible to forget the resonance with the real-life back-stories of its cast — Hudson’s comeback from her loss on “American Idol,” the rumors about Knowles’ own Diana Ross-style diva behavior in the replacement of singers in Destiny’s Child and its subsequent break-up, Murphy’s tabloid appearances and professional slide from Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours to Daddy Day Care and Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.


This substance anchors the glossy material, helping it transcend the “Is that supposed to be Barry Gordy? Is that supposed to be James Brown?” questions and making it archetypal instead of derivative, a movie instead of a music video, powerful as well as entertaining.

Parents should know that this film has some mature themes, including racism, behavior that would be deemed sexual harassment, and drug abuse, including an offscreen drug overdose. Characters use some strong language, drink, and smoke. A character has an out-of-wedlock child. A strength of the movie is its frank portrayal of the racism of the era and the way white performers (or less provocative black performers) appropriated the music of minorities who could not get a chance in mainstream outlets.


Families who see this movie should talk about which of the characters made compromises and what the results were. They should also talk about the early days of pop music, when white artists like Pat Boone had hits covering songs from “race records.” Is there still a racial divide in the music business today? How can you tell? Who changed for the better in this story and who changed for the worse? Why?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Lady Sings the Blues (very mature material), with the Supremes’ Diana Ross as Billie Holliday, Ray, with Jamie Foxx in his Oscar-winning performance as Ray Charles, and other movies about the early days of the rock and R&B music industry Sparkle, American Hot Wax, and Grace of My Heart. They will also enjoy the spectacular documentaries Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Only the Strong Survive, and Lightning in a Bottle.

The Good Shepherd

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for some violence, sexuality and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

You can see what drew director Robert DeNiro and co-producer Francis Ford Coppola to this film about the beginnings of the CIA. It resonates with many of the same themes as their great triumph Godfather II. In both stories, men make brutal choices, chosing expedience over process, secrecy over fairness, while anxious and bitter wives stay in the background and in the dark and children grow up both spoiled and needy and ultimately pay the price.


But this time, it happens to the good guys.


Well, maybe not so good after all, and that’s the point.


This is not James Bond. There are no impeccably tailored dinner jackets to wear while sipping stirred martinis, no brainy bombshells to seduce, no cool gadgets, no sportscars. This is dirty — in all senses of the word — tradecraft. This is betrayal upon betrayal, with the similarities between opponents greater than their differences. You never know who is on your side, you never know who is on the other side, and you never know who just switched. You only know that treachery will come from the last place you expect.


Matt Damon plays Edward Wilson, who learns about secrets when he is still a little boy, and learns more about secrets when he is inducted into Yale’s famous Skull and Bones club, a club so private its members are not permitted to acknowledge their affiliation. Asked to spy on a favorite teacher, Edward does not hesitate to turn him in. And soon he is involved in helping to set up the new Central Intelligence Agency in post WWII Europe.


Edward loves a sweet deaf girl but marries the daughter of a senator (Angelina Jolie), then leaves her for years at a time to run covert operations. The weakest part of the film is the family stress; the professional struggles are far more absorbing.

Parents should know that this movie has some peril and spy-type violence. Characters are injured and killed. There are sexual references and situations, some explicit, with references to adultery and homosexuality. Characters smoke and drink. They also engage in illegal and treacherous behavior.


Families who see this movie should talk about what was accomplished here, at what cost. They will enjoy visiting The International Spy Museum in Washington DC, which includes a seal of the United States presented to a US ambassador to the USSR that hung in his office…until someone realized it had a bug in it. The Museum also features tours of real-life local spots associated with clandestine activity.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy miniseries and its sequel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Three Days of the Condor, and The Parallax View.

Rocky Balboa

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for boxing violence and some language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

“You throw a big shadow,” someone tells Sylvester Stallone in his sixth appearance as heavyweight Rocky Balboa, the character he created for the Oscar-winning Rocky). And those five previous films throw a big shadow, indeed, making this slight coda seem quite small.


That’s not always a bad thing, given the elephantiasis and overkill of the last couple of Rocky movies. This one can almost be called understated by comparison. But Rocky, it’s time to stay down for the count.


It doesn’t matter if you missed the first movie because writer-director Stallone helpfully gives us a recap, reminding us of a time when the story and characters were fresh and when most of the parts of Rocky’s face still moved. These days, whether its scar tissue or Botox, even the jowls barely budge. One thing hasn’t changed, though — the hair is still black.


Just as Rocky goes on an annual “tour” of the important places he shared with Adrian (Talia Shire, appearing in flashback footage) on the anniversary of her death, Stallone takes the audience on a tour of the previous movies and the previous themes. The appeal comes from our affection for the original rather than from engagement with this version.


Once Rocky has achieved his dream in the first movie, each succeeding film had to knock him down in some way to give him some new dream to achieve and some new reason to get back in the ring to beat some new opponent undeserving of the championship. Rocky III was about the “eye of the tiger,” the fire inside that made Rocky’s need to regain the title so ferocious. This time, it’s (I’m not kidding) “the stuff in the basement.” I don’t think anyone’s going to make a hit song out of that one. This is Rocky’s reason for wanting to get back in the ring, after he sees a computer simulation showing that in his prime he would have beaten current champ, whose name is, I’m not kidding, Mason Dixon (real-life light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver as this movie’s Apollo Creed), a bout billed as “Skill vs. Will.” And once again we have the tortoise and the hare as Dixon takes it for granted that it will be a “glorified sparring session” so skips his training while Rocky is back wailing on sides of beef and puffing up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Cue “Gonna Fly Now.”


Most of the movie consists of pep talks because a lot of people try to talk Rocky out of getting into the ring with an undefeated champion a third his age and he has a lot of comebacks: “You think you gotta stop trying things forever because you had a few too many birthdays?” But there’s still time for Rocky to help out a single mother and her son and resolve some conflicts with his own son (“Heroes'”
Milo Ventimiglia).


In the quiet moments, there are flickers of the original’s charms, and it is nice to see an old warhorse gird for battle. But despite the talk of wanting to “go toe to toe and say ‘I am,'” this effort to ring changes on the film that came in fourth on the American Film Institute’s list of the all-time most inspiring films is unlikely to end up on anyone’s list of the top 100 anything. The tag line for this film is, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Rocky, it’s over.

Parents should know that this movie has some brutal boxing violence, especially for a PG movie. Characters drink and use some mild language. There are tense emotional confrontations and references to a sad death. There are some mildly bigoted comments, but a strength of the movie is the portrayal of inter-racial tolerance and affection.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Rocky and his son had a hard time communicating and what made a difference. How did Rocky help Marie? Why was getting back into the ring important to him? Families may want to learn about real-life heavyweight champ George Foreman, who regained the title at age 45, and about real-life light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver, who plays Rocky’s opponent in this film. They may also enjoy the new book Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, with stories of “Rocky runners” who come from all over the world to run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art — as Sylvester Stallone did in Rocky.


Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the original Rocky and other classic boxing movies like Body and Soul and Golden Boy.

Miss Potter

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG brief mild language
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

As delicate as the title character’s watercolors, this gentle story about the author and illustrator of The Tale of Peter Rabbit very winning.


Renee Zellwegger plays the quiet daughter of conventional parents who don’t quite know how to respond to a young woman who calls the animals in her paintings her friends. These friends help give her the courage to oppose her parents and conventional society. Originally taken on by a family-run publisher as a sure-fire failure to keep an inept brother tied up so that he couldn’t meddle in anything important, it turns out that the brother (Ewan McGregor as Norman Warne) is just the right partner for Miss Potter, a kindred spirit in every way.


Beatrix and Norman fall in love, sweetly and tenderly. But her parents object, and insist on delay that turns into disaster. Still, Norman’s love and the support of his sister, who became Beatrix’s lifelong friend, give Beatrix the strength to think about what she really wants. In a lovely scene, she shyly asks a banker whether she might possibly have enough money from book sales to buy a farm. It turns out she has no idea that she has become a wealthy woman due to the popularity of Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny, and her other friends.


Some may dismiss the film as too twee and “Masterpiece Theatre”-ish. But those who come with a little patience and an open heart will find themselves moved by seeing Beatrix discover her strength and embrace the world. And those who think of her as just a painter of pretty pictures and a teller of pretty stories will find themselves inspired by her pioneering work on behalf of the environment.

Parents should know that the movie has some very mild references to propriety concerns of the era and a mild reference to alcohol abuse. There is a sad death. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of early concerns about class and gender equality and the environment.


Families who see this movie should talk about how some ideas about families and class and gender distinctions have changed since Beatrix Potter’s time. They should also talk about why Potter’s mother and father had different reactions to her work and why her work was so important to her.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy reading Beatrix Potter’s books. Potter’s characters are so popular they even appear in a ballet. Families will also enjoy the book and movie versions of “Alice in Wonderland.” In You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown the Peanuts characters sing a wonderful song about a book report on Potter’s most famous book, “Peter Rabbit.”

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