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

The Good German

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language, violence and some sexual content.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

Director Steven Soderbergh has created a loving tribute to the films of the 1940’s that is more accomplished than effective. It is such a meticulous re-creation of the techniques and technology of the era that it seems jarring to see contemporary faces and hear four-letter words. From the very first moment, where the film seems to jump a bit before settling into the projector gate, every detail from the font for the opening credits to the score by Thomas Newman (son of 1940’s movie soundtrack maestro Alfred Newman) and the cinematography and editing (done by Soderburgh himself under pseudonyms).


All of this is intended to create the mood and setting of Berlin just as WWII was ending. The war was already over in Europe and Berlin was occupied by the conquering forces, including the United States and the Soviet Union. New Republic journalist Jake Geismer (George Clooney), arrives to cover the Potsdam Conference, with heads of state Harry Truman, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill Clement Atlee meeting to discuss post-war arrangements in Europe and strategies for the continuing war against Japan. His driver is Tully (Tobey Maguire), something of a wheeler-dealer who is not above lifting a wallet or buying forged papers to get someone out of the country.


That someone turns out to be Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett), widow of a mathematician who died in the war. With no other options, she has become a prostitute, with Tully her most frequent customer. It turns out that Jake and Lena knew each other before the war, when she worked for him as a stringer and they were romantically involved. And it turns out that they are connected again through a murder that brings them together again in a web of conflicting loyalties and values that play out in their relationship and in the political trade-offs around them. How do you decide who is culpable after a war? An entire population cannot be tried and punished. Should the focus be on what they have done in the past or on what they can do to help shape the future?


George Clooney and Cate Blanchett fit their 40’s wardrobe and dialogue well. But despite some sharply drawn parallels to current events, it feels more like a stunt than a story. In part, that may be due to our familiarity with the actors. Those whose faces beam down on us from magazine covers can act in period films without disturbing out ability to suspend disbelief in part because those films, while set in the past, are made in the current style of scene-setting and acting. There is something jarring about seeing the familiar contemporary faces clamped into old-fashioned static set-ups in front of rear projections. It feels like a film school exercise and that interferes with its substantial and very provocative agenda.


Parents should know that this movie includes intense peril and violence. There are references to the Holocaust (which, at the time this movie takes place, was only beginning to be uncovered.) Characters are injured and killed. They also smoke, drink, and use strong language. There are explicit sexual references and situations, including prostitution.


Families who see this movie should talk about the confliction priorities and values the characters had to reconcile. A “Good German” is an expression referring to someone who goes along and abides by the rules, no matter how offensive they are. Who in this movie does this term apply to? Families may want to find out about historical characters like Werner Van Braun, whose stories inspired this screenplay. Families may want to learn more about different ways of achieving a sense of justice following war or other massive change, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and the current war trials of world figures like Saddam Hussein.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Third Man and Judgment at Nuremberg, which deal with some of the same issues raised by this film. Every family should see the brilliant and hugely influential Casablanca, which helped inspire this film as well. Blind Spot – Hitler’s Secretary is a documentary interview with the woman who worked for Hitler through his last days in the bunker.

The Holiday

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some strong language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

Amanda (Cameron Diaz) has a successful business cutting up new Hollywood releases into three-minute trailers that make the films look as enticing as possible. Writer-director Nancy Meyers essentially cuts up classic romantic comedies and reassembles them for modern consumption. The result is glossy fluff entertainment like What Women Want and Something’s Got to Give. They’re pretty to look at but they dissolve like cotton candy.


Amanda and Iris (Kate Winslet) find themselves with broken hearts just before Christmas. On impulse, they both go online and end up swapping homes for the holidays. Iris goes to Amanda’s glamorous house on movie star row in Los Angeles and Amanda ends up sliding around on high heels along the snowy road to Iris’s picturesque little cottage in the English countryside. And who should come to their doors but Jude Law as Graham, Iris’ brother, tipsy and looking for a place to sleep it off, and Jack Black as Miles, a soundtrack composer.


It’s hard to say whether the movie is being meta in its movie references (an old-time Hollywood screenwriter from next door gives Iris a must-watch list of classic romantic comedies and Amanda’s trailer for a Lindsay Lohan action film is one of the highlights), or just unimaginative and derivative. Probably a little bit of both. Too often, it is so formulaic you can see the little index cards — MUST HAVE: adorable guy with an English accent who is misunderstood and turns out to be even dreamier than we first thought; completely unnecessary romantic dash through the snow; character who announces that she can’t cry and so must then cry; cad who broke girl’s heart beg her to come back so she can turn him down, check, check, check. Oh, and just to make sure, let’s pick the safest, most predictable, guaranteed heart-tugger songs on the soundtrack. Even the delectable Diaz can’t make some of the behavior in this film feel anything but tawdry. There are some logistical impossibilities that will jar even the most beguiled of audiences out of the movie. It’s worst failings are its smugness about its own charms, unwarranted banner of female empowerment, and phony sincerity. But the stars and settings are undeniably appealing. If it is as synthetic and insubstantial as a Kinkade Christmas tree ornament, it is as pretty, too.

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy some of the classics recommended for Iris, including The Lady Eve and His Girl Friday, plus Holiday, a movie in the same genre also set around New Year’s Eve and with a title that might have inspired this one, starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. They will also enjoy Love Actually (very mature material) and Nancy Meyers’ other films, What Women Want and Something’s Gotta Give.

Charlotte’s Web

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated G
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2007

E.B. White’s book, Charlotte’s Web, is a genuine classic for readers of any age, a beautifully written literary novel about loyalty and loss, friendship and the importance of a perfectly chosen word.

The book began with a little girl named Fern rescuing a runt of a pig her father intended to kill. She names him Wilbur and bottle feeds him until he is too big to live at home and then brings him to her uncle’s farm. At this point, at the end of Chapter One, she pretty much exits the story, and the primary characters for the rest of the book are Wilbur and his best friend, a spider named Charlotte.


The movie follows this story with a couple of changes geared to marketing, not story-telling. First, if a studio is lucky enough to grab the number one box office actress in the country, she cannot disappear from the movie after the first fifteen minutes, so Fern, played by Dakota Fanning, gets an expanded role. Second, the focus-group types at the studio decided that E.B. White somehow overlooked the importance of and boy-girl romance (gently inserted) and potty humor (not-so-gently inserted).


The voice talent seems selected for marquee value rather than the ability to create a character on voice alone. Julia Roberts is fine as Charlotte, Steve Buscemi is just right as Templeton the Rat, but the standout is Thomas Hayden Church as a crow. Most of the others are flat or distracting. But the power of the story retains its genuine magic and, like Fern, audiences will find this barnyard a place they want to stay.


Parents should know that the theme of the movie concerns pigs getting slaughtered. This issue is presented gently, but it may be disturbing for some children. There is also a very sad death of a major character. There is some potty humor and some slapstick peril.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Wilbur was important to Fern and why Charlotte wanted to be his friend. Why was Wilbur friendlier than the other animals? Families should also talk about why Charlotte’s work made people think it was the pig who was special, while no one paid any attention to the spider.


Families who enjoy this movie might also enjoy the earlier animated version, with the voice of Debbie Reynolds as Charlotte. And every family should read the wonderful book. Families will also enjoy Babe.

Turistas

posted by jmiller

The growing trend in horror is to be as disgusting as possible — the story need not be involved, as long as it includes some form of stainless-steel torture and preferably five to six young backpackers/tourists/campers/other people away from home. While the formula might have proved innovative with some of the earlier films of the genre, the scares are now unbearably canned.


“Turistas” follows a multinational group of twenty-something backpackers who become stranded on an isolated Brazilian beach, populated by only a handful of locals. Of course, as must always be the case in horror, the locals have plans for the young, attractive, scantily-clad travelers; plans that involve the tourists serving as unwilling organ donors to satisfy the demand for black-market transplants.


There’s a lot of buildup to the torture we all know is coming (for us or them?), infusing the first half of the film with a projected sense of dread that’s more dreadful than it is fun. The result is an overriding sense that the film is more sick than scary, more revolting than revealing, more twisted than tantalizing. Horror flicks are meant to be startling and suspenseful, maybe even at times cringe-inducing, but there’s a fine line between horror that’s enjoyable with entertainment value, and horror that’s simply horrible.


Parents should know that besides being nearly unbearably graphic, this film shamelessly copycats many other recent horror films that offer copious scenes of bare skin along with the scares. More than one of the women in the film appears topless, and there is casual kissing and implied prostitution. With a build up that begins with one of the young women begging for her life in the very first scene and continues when the characters find handfuls of prescription drugs and stainless steel surgery equipment later on, the film reaches its climax with a sequence that rivals the Discovery Health Channel in surgery close-ups and soggy internal organs shots. If the thought of navigating multicolored organs in a soup of bright red blood with stainless steel utensils leaves you squeamish when it’s done to help people, it will have you ill when done to harm.


Families who see this film might talk about the differing personalities in the film. Do the young tourists represent stereotypes? Could any of the personalities, such as the levelheaded brother who discourages recklessness and the Australian woman who travels alone and values her independence, be helpful and representative of often-neglected personality types? What are the motivations of the villains, and in what ways do they attempt to justify their actions? Kiko (played by Agles Steib), a young Brazilian entrusted with luring the backpackers to their final destination, finds himself affected by the tourists in a way he did not anticipate. How is this change of heart reflected in the film? What seemed to motivate his evolution from Pied Piper to cohort?


Families who enjoy this film might also enjoy the graphic films by writer/directory Eli Roth, such as Hostel and Hostel: Part II, as well as his semi-comedic 2002 release Cabin Fever.

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