Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Love is Strange
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language
Release Date:
08/22/2014

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

 

Blended
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language.
Release Date:
May 23, 2014

If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some scary images and mild peril
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

Million Dollar Baby

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

“Million Dollar Baby” is a strong contender, but it suffers a TKO in the last round.

At first, it is a fresh, assured, and evocative take on the classic boxing formula. A tired old trainer (Clint Eastwood as Frankie), abandoned by the prospect he hoped to take to the title bout, meets a scrappy but untrained would-be boxer. He initially refuses to train the kid, but is won over, at first by the persistence, then by the heart of the young fighter. There’s another connection between them, too. Frankie has no family but a long-estranged daughter. The boxer’s father is dead and the remaining family is all greedy, selfish, and lazy. The bond between them helps to ease both of their losses.

One reason the relationship becomes so important to Frankie is that the boxer is a young woman. Maggie (Hillary Swank) gives Frankie the chance to bring all that is best in him to a nurturing relationship with a young woman about the age of his daughter. And Frankie gives Maggie the chance to be a champion.

The details of the boxing world and Frankie’s relationships with Maggie and with his long-time friend Eddie (Morgan Freeman, who also narrates) are warm and richly observed. Frankie and Eddie have the bickering banter of a long-time married couple and pros Eastwood and Freeman riff off each other like jazz players who have been jamming for a lifetime. Eastwood is also marvelous with Swank, a performance that is fuller, fonder, and funnier than we have seen from him since the Any Which Way But Loose days. For the first half of the film, the narration, based on F.X. Toole’s superb book and beautifully read by Freeman, is so vivid we can smell sweat and adrenalin. A kid with more heart than arm “punches the air like he expected it to punch back.” Another fighter has “a punch that could stop a tank but a heart the size of a split pea.”

But then we hear the same stuff again. We get it, we get it — when Eddie says that “Everything in boxing is backward. Sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step back,” you don’t need to repeat it for us to figure out the metaphor. Same with “Instead of running away from the pain like a sane person would do, you run right into it.” The sign on the wall tells us that “Winners are simply willing to do what losers won’t.” Come on, Clint, that wouldn’t even qualify for a fortune cookie.

Frankie has made mistakes. He let Eddie fight too long, and Eddie lost an eye. He did not let a contender fight for the championship, and the contender left him. How will he know when it is time for Maggie to go for a title? He tells her that the first rule is to protect herself at all times. What does that mean when she is going into the ring to hit and be hit in return?

All of this is interesting, but then the film takes a bad punch and never gets back up off the canvas. When tragedy hits, Frankie and Maggie have to make some tough choices. So does director Eastwood, and he makes the wrong ones, going for the manipulative and the maudlin, everyone lining up as either saintly or unredeemably awful. And that narration keeps coming back to hammer in every insight.

Parents should know that the movie features brutally realistic fight scenes with graphic injuries. STOP reading now if you want to avoid spoilers. A character becomes paralyzed and asks to be allowed to die. Characters drink and smoke and use some strong language, including the n-word. There are some mild sexual references and some ugly insults. Some viewers may be unhappy with the portrayal of a priest who uses bad language.

Families who see this movie should talk about what makes someone want to be a fighter. What does it mean to say that “everything in boxing is backward” and “sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step back?” How does that relate to the way the characters behave? Why does Frankie argue with the priest about theology? Do you agree with the sign in the gym that says “Winners are simply willing to do what losers won’t?” What is it that winners are willing to do? How is the number one rule – “protect yourself” – applied by Frankie? By Maggie? By Eddie? Why did Maggie turn out so differently from her brother and sister? Families may also want to talk about Maggie’s request and Frankie’s decision.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the many classic movies about boxing, including Golden Boy, Body and Soul, and Rocky. Michele Rodriguez made a stunning debut as a female boxer in Girlfight. Families will also enjoy the light-hearted romantic comedy Pat and Mike with Katharine Hepburn as a golfer and Spencer Tracy as her manager. Boxing fans (and fans of great writing) will enjoy the book that inspired the movie, Rope Burns by F. X. Toole. They can find out more about women’s boxing here. And they can try to make lemon meringue pie without any stuff from a can.

Spanglish

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

Every few years, writer/director James Brooks makes another smart, sensitive movie about smart, sensitive people who love each other and drive each other crazy. In “Spanglish,” as in Broadcast News, Terms of Endearment, and As Good as it Gets, his characters are self-centered, immature, neurotic, needy, a little too smart for their own good, scared to change and more scared not to. They are not the usual one-endearing-quirk-apiece usually permitted in Hollywood films and his plots are not the usual “act one introduction, act two complication, act three resolution” usually required in Hollywood films. In other words, he makes movies for grown-ups.

In “Spanglish,” Brooks has taken one of the most overused movie set-ups, one that is even borderline offensive and turned it into something of delicacy and insight. Think you’ve seen the clueless white family humanized by an outspoken but cuddly minority too many times? That’s because you have. But this time is worth a look. This isn’t your children’s Bringing Down the House.

The almost unforgiveably beautiful Paz Vega plays Flor, a woman who brought her six-year-old daughter from Mexico to America in search of a better life, but managed to find Mexico in America by staying within the confines of an all-immigrant neighborhood for the next six years. Now she is looking for a better-paying job so that she does not have to be away from her daughter as much. So she ventures out of her safe little world with her cousin as interpreter, to apply for a job as a housekeeper with a wealthy, loving, but highly dysfunctional family.

The interview is with Deborah Clasky (Tea Leoni). Deborah’s company closed down and she is spinning out of control as a full-time mother. When Flor’s cousin walks into a glass door, Deborah somehow believes that is is appropriate to (1) say “I’m not mad” and (2) thrust a $20 bill into her hand. Flor may not speak English, but she knows that (1) they have agreed to pay her an enormous amount of money, more than she had been making in two jobs, and (2) there is a lot she does not know about how they do things, but she has something to teach them, too, starting with how to pronounce her name.

The Claskys rent a beach house for the summer, and the only way for Flor to keep her job is to bring her daughter to live with them. This presents enormously difficult issues of class and money and boundaries and values. A lot of complications and hurt feelings — and some very intensive video English lessons and some even more intensive life lessons later, everyone has to face some tough decisions.

Parents should know that the movie includes a very explicit sexual situation and other sexual references, including adultery and promiscuity. Characters drink, including drinking to cope with being angry and sad, and one character has an alcohol abuse problem. Characters use very strong language and there are many tense and unhappy family confrontations. A strength of the movie is the positive portrayal of intelligent and courageous Latina women.

Families who see this movie should talk about what Flor, John, and Deb were looking for from each other. Why did Deb buy Bernie clothes that were too small for her? Why did Brooks choose to tell the story through a college application essay?

Families who enjoy this film will also appreciate Brooks’ other films as well as the television shows he helped to write, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Taxi.

Blade: Trinity

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

Let’s not pretend that “Trinity”, the third chapter in the ongoing tale of a human-vampire hybrid out to kill all vampires, is a good movie and instead say it is a solid “Blade” movie – meaning, if you are not already a fan, don’t bother.

Wesley Snipes still plays the title character, a tattooed human whose mother was bitten by a vampire as she was giving birth, imbuing him with both his abilities, such as his super-strength, pointy teeth and knack for walking away from fights without a scratch, and his invincibility to the typical bloodsucker’s no-no’s like sunbathing, silver and garlic. True to his original 1973 comic book origination story, Blade is a powerful vampire-hunter and one of the first black heroes in the genre.

This time around, writer-director David S. Goyer (who wrote all three in the “Blade” saga and directed the forgettable “ZigZag” before trying his hand at directing here) drags out the UR-vampire, Dracula, for Blade to fight and perks up the movie with a couple of eye-candy, joke-cracking sidekicks. The plot is there solely to accessorize the big fight: Blade is framed by the vampires; Blade’s sidekick, Whistler, is killed; the vampires dig up (literally) Dracula; things look bleak; new allies appear; a long-shot plan is hatched; and –et voila— we get our big fight.

Snipes no longer plays Blade for humor, as he did in the first “Blade”. Indeed, the role has lost character, humor and emotions over the length of the trilogy. Whether busy trying to grimace through his prosthetic orthodonture or exploding doors with his kicks, Blade exhibits the whole range of moods from grumpy to grumpier. With his perpetual mock-turtleneck and leather overcoat, Blade now relies upon his sidekicks to provide the sexy physiques as well as the one-liners.

With the loss of Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), the dry, rough banter of old is replaced by the snarky, self-effacing irony of Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds, of “Van Wilder” and TV’s “Two Guys and a Girl” fame), providing most of the movie’s laughs. For the vampires, it is indie-movie queen, Parker Posey, who adds humor by unleashing her inner bad-girl with unapologetic, over-the-top glee as Danica Talos, the brains behind Dracula’s return.

Good old Dracula aka Drake (Dominic Purcell) is no longer an effete aristocrat, but is re-imagined as a bare-chested heart-throb out of Ancient Sumeria, who, like Blade, is invincible to the usual vampire weaknesses. Purcell is, however, entirely vulnerable to the difficulties of acting in a script that calls for non-stop action, one which renders “talking” scenes sluggish and necessary only as a bridge to the next fight scene. Like the attractive but forgettable Jessica Biel (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, TV’s “7th Heaven”) as Abigail Whistler, Purcell’s acting has the sensitivity of a lead-pipe and makes one grateful for Snipes’ two-dimensional Blade.

The fight scenes are plentiful, the characters familiar and the end predictable. For “Blade” fans, “Trinity” will be fine popcorn fare and provide fodder for comic-book store discussions about which movie had the best fight scenes and whether WWE’s Triple H will have a future career playing numb-skull heavies (since he does a yeoman’s job in this one). For those not already bitten by the “Blade” bug, there is nothing here that can withstand the light of day.

Parents should know that these are extremely violent action movies, that often veer into carnage usually reserved for the horror genre. Characters are shot, sliced, dismembered, burnt, tortured, and bled. There is a scene where a blind woman is hunted down and killed within ear-shot of her daughter. There are scenes of kidnapped humans in drug-induced comas being bled to feed the vampires. Frequent profanity is played for humor in this movie and sexual references are extremely explicit, including incest and sex toys.

Families who see this movie could talk about the concept of honor that Drake discusses with Blade, about which character –if any—acts in an honorable way, and whether the concept here is used as justification for acting monstrously. Nietzche’s much-used warning to “battle not with monsters, lest you become one” is the leitmotif of Blade’s existence. What separates Blade from the vampires? Why does the audience revel in someone who seeks to solve all his problems with violence?

Families who enjoyed this movie might enjoy the original “Blade” and “Blade 2”, as well as John Carpenter’s “Vampires”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (the movie, not the TV series), and the Japanese anime “Blood: the Last Vampire”.

Ocean’s Twelve

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

The movie’s irresistible tagline is “Twelve is the new eleven.” But this twelve is more like the old eleven, the first “Ocean’s 11″ movie, starring Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, where the chief pleasure is in seeing how much fun the cool guys are having spoofing themselves. Unfortunately, the audience doesn’t have quite as good a time as the guys up on the screen. But that still leaves a lot of fun to spread around. And a lot of cool.

In contrast to the high-gloss style of the first one, the sequel is shot in an informal, slightly gritty, almost documentary style. It starts off well, briskly bringing us up to date on what has been going on with each of the eleven who robbed three Las Vegas casinos in one night. The man they robbed, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), has tracked them all down, from Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his wife, Tess (Julia Roberts) on down to the bickering Molloy brothers (Scott Caan and Casey Affleck). And he gives them two weeks to pay it all back, with interest.

That means it’s time to go back to work. They pull off a quick heist in Amsterdam, but it turns out to be the first step in a much larger job, the usual irreplaceable treasure in the usual impenetrable setting.

There is a complication, too — they are competing with the most successful thief in the world, a fabulously wealthy and remarkably agile Frenchman with a title who has a personal reason for making sure they are not successful. There is another complication as well. Rusty (Brad Pitt) has a romantic entanglement with Isabel (Catherine Zeta Jones), an Interpol agent whose job is catching thieves.

The problem is that the movie counts too much on having us on the side of the thieves because of the first film and just because we love the performers. But it works against our loyalty by violating the first rule of heist movies — without giving away too much, I’ll just say that the resolution is not entirely satisfying. The motivation of one of the key characters is just silly. The twists are telegraphed in advance.

According to press reports, the gang wanted to work together again (especially if it meant hanging out in Rome, Amsterdam, and France) and so they grafted their characters onto another script. The seams show; they even pop at times, as when a bunch of the characters have to be waylaid before the big day just because the original script didn’t have enough things for everyone to do. Oceans Eleven had great characters and a very clever plot with a heist that had you saying “Oh, THAT’S how they did it” on the way back to your car. This one has great characters and a thin plot that gets stretched even thinner. On the way back to your car you’ll be talking about whether the popcorn was stale because if you try to untangle the plot, you’ll regret it.

Better to skim across the top of it, as the performers do, and enjoy the sly by-play from the returning players, including a witty cameo by Topher Grace and a quick appearance with Scott L. Schwartz as Bruiser. The heists themselves are not much, but it is hilarious to see the gang take time to discuss whether it’s fair to call the group “Ocean’s Eleven” when they are independent contractors or when Matt Damon as Linus explains, like a shy candidate for “The Apprentice” that he wants to assume more of a leadership role this time.

Eddie Izzard and Robbie (Hagrid) Coltrane are a pleasure, as always, in small roles. Catherine Zeta Jones and some surprise new additions are fine but it’s our old friends who, true to form, well, steal the show, with dialogue as cool and contrapuntal as a jazz riff.

Parents should know that the film has a few bad words and some mild, non-explicit sexual references. Characters drink and smoke and of course most of the movie’s heroes are thieves and liars who joke about not having any morals.

Families who see this film should talk about why it is hard for Danny to give up being a thief. Why are Tess and Isabel drawn to men who do not tell the truth? Why are movie audiences drawn to them? What matters to each of the eleven? What would you do if you had $16 million?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy both of the earlier films and other heist classics like The Italian Job, Topkapi, and To Catch a Thief.

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