Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Tusk
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content
Release Date:
September 19, 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

This is Where I Leave You
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Release Date:
September 19, 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 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

 

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

Crash

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005
DVD Release Date:2006

Everyone is angry. Everyone is scared. They all feel that something that belongs to them has been taken away and they don’t know how to get it back.

And in this movie, they say so.

“Crash,” the winner of the 2006 Best Picture Oscar, is an ensemble film with several intersecting stories, all of them about people who can’t quite seem to understand how things turned out the way they did or how they themselves turned out the way they did. Most of them find out, in the course of the movie, that they are capable of more — or less — than they thought they were.

Paul Haggis, the screenwriter for Million Dollar Baby has co-written and directed a devastating movie about people who are very much like us, with one important difference. It’s as though the drinking water in Los Angeles has been spiked with some mild de-inhibitor that makes people say what they are thinking. In this film, everyone says the most horrifyingly virulent things to everyone else: family members, people in business, employees, and strangers, reflecting a range of prejudice on the basis of class, gender, and, above all, race.

These comments are sometimes made angrily, sometimes carelessly or thoughtlessly, but often, and more unsettlingly, matter-of-factly. As vicious as the insults are, the part that hurts the most is that people don’t care enough, don’t pay attention closely enough, to know the people they are insulting. “When did Persians become Arab?” asks an Iranian, who cannot understand how people can hate him without taking the time to know who he is. A Hispanic woman explains to a man she is sleeping with that she is not Mexican. Her parents are from El Salvador and Puerto Rico. He tells her that it doesn’t matter because they all leave cars on their lawns anyway.

The movie is intricately constructed, going back and forth between the characters and back and forth in time.  There are small moments that create a mosaic in which we see the pattern before the characters do. The movie has big shocks but it also has small glimpses and moments of great subtlety. A black woman looks at her white boss while he talks to his wife on a cell phone and we can tell there is more to their relationship than we have seen. The daughter of immigrants we have only seen in one context shows up in another and we see that her professional life is very different from what we might have imagined, reminding us that racism may be inextricably intertwined with America, but so is opportunity.

Every character is three-dimensional, utterly real and heartbreakingly sympathetic. The characters keep surprising themselves and each other, for better and for worse.

A white upper class couple gets carjacked. He’s a politician (Brendan Fraser) concerned about how it will look. She (Sandra Bullock) is terrified and angry. She doesn’t trust the man who has come to change their locks because he looks like a gang member. A black detective (co-producer Don Cheadle) tells his Latina partner and sometimes girlfriend (Jennifer Esposito) that “in LA, nobody touches you. We miss that so much, we crash into each other just so we can feel something.”

A black actress (Thandie Newton) tells her black television director husband (Terrence Howard) that “The closest you ever came to being black was watching ‘The Cosby Show.’” The white producer of a television sit-com (Tony Danza) tells that same director to re-shoot a scene because “Jamal is talking a little less black.” A character in an overturned car is caught in a safety belt, hanging upside down. A pair of black carjackers believe that what they do is acceptable because they are not robbing black people. One of the tenderest father-daughter scenes in years is the set-up for an explosive emotional pay-off later on.

The brilliance of the movie is the way it makes each character both symbol and individual. As a whole, the cast is neatly aligned along a continuum of prejudice, and yet each character is complete and complex and real. Just when we think we know who they are, they surprise us. We find ourselves sympathetic to those we thought we hated and disturbed by those we thought we understood. Just when we think we know what bigotry is, it, too, surprises us by being more about fear and loss and feeling powerless than about hatred and ignorance. The characters confront their assumptions about each other and they make us confront our own about them and about ourselves.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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

Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman of “The Office”) is in his bathrobe one Thursday morning, bumping his head, burning his toast, and engaging in a completely ineffectual protest of the new highway by-pass that has a flank of bulldozers ready to mow down his house. It is ineffectual first because the bulldozer operators seem perfectly willing to mow Arthur down to get to his house. But it is ineffectual second because there is an inter-galactic by-pass about to be built and Earth is about to be destroyed to get it out of the way.

Fortunately, it turns out that Arthur’s best friend, Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is an alien (the fact that he tried to shake hands with a car should have been a tip-off), so just before Earth explodes, Ford grabs Arthur and a couple of towels and sticks out his thumb to hitch a ride on a spaceship. And it turns out to contain Zaphod Beeblebrox, the president of the galaxy, (Sam Rockwell), Trillian, the woman of Arthur’s dreams (Zooey Deschanel), and a mopey robot named Marvin (voice of Alan Rickman).

Ahead of this group is a quest and a journey, and of course encounters with dolphins doing a musical number as they leave earth, thanking us for all the fish, aliens called Vogons, who terrify their captives by reciting the third-worst poetry in the universe, Humma Kavula (John Malcovich, or at least the top third of him, skittering along on hundreds of tiny metal prongs), who is still seething at losing the presidential election to Zaphod, and a supercomputer that has the ultimate answer to the ultimate question, if you could only figure out what that is. Ford and Arthur sort their way through it with the help of the title volume (voice of Stephen Fry), which is filled with helpful advice for every eventuality, starting with “Don’t panic!”

Adams’ book, written over 25 years ago, is a marvel of invention and understated humor that holds up very well but inevitably loses some subtlety in translation to the screen. There is a lot to look at, including aliens designed by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and spaceships and special effects that hit just the right balance between impressive and funny. But the balance between story and funny is not calibrated quite as precisely and the central characters, once established (Arthur is befuddled and over-cautious, Zaphod is implusive and relies on superficial charm, Marvin is despodent), replay the same notes. The brief appearances by supporting players, especially Malcovich and Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast, are much more memorable and effective in capturing Adams’s wit and spirit. Purests will quibble about some liberties with the beloved (“and increasingly inaccurately named”) five-part “trilogy,” but overall the movie does a fine job of capturing both the wit and the heart of the books, and makes us, for a moment, miss Adams just a little less.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of cartoon-style “action” violence, including space-age guns and other weapons. A character’s second head is removed (off-screen) and we see some blood. Minor characters are squashed and some creatures are injured. Characters drink in a pub.

Families who see this movie should talk about what information they would put into a guide for intergalactic visitors to Earth.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the hilarious outer space comedy Galaxy Quest, which also features Rickman and Rockwell, and the slightly more mature material in Tim Burton’s ghostly comedy Beetlejuice and Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black. Families will also enjoy the novels by Douglas Adams, which are great fun to read aloud (note: some have strong language), and the BBC miniseries version, as well as Adams’ non-fiction book, Last Chance to See. Passionate fans of the series have created some informative and amusing websites like this one and this one. And they will enjoy the very funny books of Tom Holt, particularly Expecting Someone Taller.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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

Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman of “The Office”) is in his bathrobe one Thursday morning, bumping his head, burning his toast, and engaging in a completely ineffectual protest of the new highway by-pass that has a flank of bulldozers ready to mow down his house. It is ineffectual first because the bulldozer operators seem perfectly willing to mow Arthur down to get to his house. But it is ineffectual second because there is an inter-galactic by-pass about to be built and Earth is about to be destroyed to get it out of the way.

Fortunately, it turns out that Arthur’s best friend, Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is an alien (the fact that he tried to shake hands with a car should have been a tip-off), so just before Earth explodes, Ford grabs Arthur and a couple of towels and sticks out his thumb to hitch a ride on a spaceship. And it turns out to contain Zaphod Beeblebrox, the president of the galaxy, (Sam Rockwell), Trillian, the woman of Arthur’s dreams (Zooey Deschanel), and a mopey robot named Marvin (voice of Alan Rickman).

Ahead of this group is a quest and a journey, and of course encounters with strange creatures like Vogans, who terrify their captives by reciting the third-worst poetry in the universe, Humma Kavula (John Malcovich), still seething at losing the presidential election to Zaphod, and a supercomputer that has the ultimate answer to the ultimate question. Ford and Arthur sort their way through it with the help of the title volume (voice of Stephen Fry), which is filled with helpful advice for every eventuality, starting with “Don’t panic!”

Adams’ book, written over 25 years ago, is a marvel of invention and understated humor that holds up very well but inevitably loses some subtlety in translation to the screen. There is a lot to look at, including aliens designed by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and spaceships and special effects that hit just the right balance between impressive and funny. But the balance between story and funny is not calibrated quite as precisely and the central characters, once established (Arthur is befuddled and over-cautious, Zaphod is implusive and relies on superficial charm, Marvin is despodent), replay the same notes. The brief appearances by supporting players, especially Malcovich and Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast, are much more memorable and effective in capturing Adams’s wit and spirit. Purests will quibble about some liberties with the beloved (“and increasingly inaccurately named”) five-part “trilogy,” but overall the movie does a fine job of capturing both the wit and the heart of the books, and makes us, for a moment, miss Adams just a little less.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of cartoon-style “action” violence, including space-age guns and other weapons. A character’s second head is removed (off-screen) and we see some blood. Minor characters are squashed and some creatures are injured. Characters drink in a pub.

Families who see this movie should talk about what information they would put into a guide for intergalactic visitors to Earth.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the hilarious outer space comedy Galaxy Quest, which also features Rickman and Rockwell, and the slightly more mature material in Tim Burton’s ghostly comedy Beetlejuice and Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black. Families will also enjoy the novels by Douglas Adams, which are great fun to read aloud, and the BBC miniseries version, as well as Adams’ Dirk Gently stories and his non-fiction book, Last Chance to See. Passionate fans of the series have created some informative and amusing websites like this one and this one. And they will enjoy the very funny books of Tom Holt, particularly Expecting Someone Taller.

Mad Hot Ballroom

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

“Can I have the gentlemen tuck in their shirts, please?”

This is a question politely but firmly addressed to a group of underprivleged 5th graders in New York. And not in the 1950′s. Now. The 10 year old “gentlemen” do tuck in their shirts. And then they take their partners and they do the merengue and the foxtrot and the tango. They bow to their partners. And they love it.

A program to teach ballroom dancing to New York City 5th graders in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens sounds like the last thing in the world that would be interesting or relevant to today’s 5th graders. But the beauty of this movie is the way that it shows that grace, dignity, elegance, and pride in mastering a skill are important and as thrilling and transformational.

Fifth grade turns out to be the perfect age for these classes. The kids are old enough to pay attention and follow complex directions, but young enough that they’re not yet “too cool for school.” They’re willing to give the adults the benefit of the doubt and aren’t yet worried about looking dorky.

The movie follows teams through the year, from the early lessons through the citywide competition. There are brief scenes with the kids talking about dancing and about their lives. Whether repeating what they’ve been told or drawing their own conclusions about protecting themselves or about boy-girl relations, or how people become drug dealers because their parents don’t care, they are ineffably bright and endearing and filled with promise.

There are interviews with the teachers, two of whom begin to cry when they talk about how much they care about their students and what it feels like to see them try so hard and want so much. There are other glimpses of the life beyond the dance floor — a child whose religion prohibits dancing is assigned to act as DJ, a group of girls go shopping for skirts to wear to the competition and are told there is no way they are going to be showing their belly buttons. But the heart of the movie is seeing the kids learn to move to the music, to feel the rhythm, to learn the steps, to feel comfortable on the dance floor.

Just at an age when the difference between girls and boys is beginning to feel even more different, these children are told to hold onto each other, work closely together, and look into each other’s eyes “like it’s the last time in your life” (even when a boy only comes up to a girl’s shoulder) and smile at each other.

The teachers worry about whether it will harm the children’s self-esteem to participate in a very tough competition. Though the kids gamely promise not to “boast and brag about it because it will make other people feel worthless” in pre-competition discussion,” when the time comes some of those who don’t win are heartbroken. So are we. But the children learn what it means to be a part of something big, to give their hearts to it, and that losing is not the end of the world, and that’s almost as important as learning the merengue and the tango.

Parents should know that the children in this movie speak frankly (but briefly) about protecting themselves from child molesters and drug dealers. There are also references to pregnancy, puberty, and gay marriage. One of the strengths of the movie is its portrayal of diverse students and teachers and its recognition of the importance of male role models who show the boys it is all right to dance.

Families who see this movie should talk about the different views the teachers have about the benefits of competition. What is the most important thing the children learned from the dance lessons?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the documentaries To Be and to Have (about a one room schoolhouse in France), Paper Clips (about a small-town school’s study of the Holocaust), Spellbound (spelling bee), Small Wonders (violin), and the Oscar-winning He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’ (ballet dancing). They will also enjoy the UP series of documentaries that track a group of English children every seven years from ages 7 to 42. The next film in the series, “49 Up,” is currently in production. And they may enjoy seeing Strictly Ballroom, Top Hat and other movies with great dancing.

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De-fictionalizing Products in Movies and Television: Life Imitating Art
Fast Company has an article about Omni Consumer Products, a "de-fictionalizing" company that looks for products in movies and television that do not really exist and makes them available. As the sole proprietor of Omni Consumer Products, [Pete] Hottelet is constantly scanning the pop culture z

posted 8:00:17am Sep. 19, 2014 | read full post »

Tusk
You can make a good movie about slackers, for example "Slackers," from Richard Linklater and "Clerks" from Kevin Smith. But you can't make a good movie by a slacker, and Smith does not seem wi

posted 5:59:40pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

This is Where I Leave You
A toddler carries his little potty out in front of the house so he can try out his new-found skill in public. Twice. Plus another time when the contents of the potty are first displayed for the

posted 5:59:39pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

The Maze Runner
Yes, it's another dystopic YA trilogy (actually, there's a fourth volume, a prequel), and yes, only a teenager with fabulous cheekbones can save the day. But "The Maze Runner" is not a lesser repeat. It is a worthy addition to the genre, an absorbing drama with surprising turns and even more surpris

posted 5:59:23pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »


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