Movie Mom

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McFarland USA
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material, some violence and language
Release Date:
February 20, 2015

 

Big Hero 6
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements
Release Date:
November 7, 2014

The DUFF
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying
Release Date:
February 20, 2015

 

Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content
Release Date:
February 13, 2015

 

Beyond the Lights
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual content including suggestive gestures, partial nudity, language and thematic elements
Release Date:
November 14, 2014

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

posted by Nell Minow
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for some strong violence and brief sexual references.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:February 5, 2008

This movie may be about one of the most famous outlaws in the days of the Wild West, but it is not a bang-bang shoot-em-up Western. It is a broody psychological Western, a lot of peering out into endless prairie landscapes, as much Ingmar Bergman as John Ford, with a little bit of Heathcliff thrown in.


Tabloid headlines and general movie star-ness makes it easy to forget how good Brad Pitt really is. His performance here as Jesse James is meticulous and powerful. He shows us James’ charisma, volatility, and disintegration. As the other title character, Casey Affleck has a different kind of volatility. When we first see him, presenting himself to Jesse and his older brother Frank (Sam Shepherd) as something between a groupie and a stalker, it is clear that he is one of those dangerous fans who can switch from over-love to over-hate in an instant. He confuses fame with respect, law-breaking with courage, guns with manhood, and, most fatally, tolerance with acceptance.


The title sets out the movie’s themes. In some Westerns, the man who captures the notorious outlaw is the hero. But two words tell us what this movie’s point of view will be. Jesse James is “assassinated,” not killed or stopped. And the man who kills him is a coward. The usual definition of coward does not include going undercover to spend time with an outlaw who is known to shoot anyone he suspects of disloyalty. So, how does Jesse James come out the sympathetic figure of the title and why is Ford so reviled?


That is very much the focus of this film and we hear at great length from the overly intrusive narrator about how Jesse James continued to be a figure of fascination and even admiration while Ford, even though he spent much of his life literally re-enacting the night he shot James in front of paying audiences, found the fame he sought to be bitter. Somehow, no one thought he was a hero. And too many people thought he was a target. Like some perverse and deadly game of tag, being the man who made his name killing Jesse James made him a man whose death might make some else’s name next.


Strong performances include particularly fine work by Sam Rockwell as Ford’s brother Charley and Paul Schneider as the ladies’ man of the James gang. The narration is ponderous and distracting. But the cinematography by Roger Deakins is breathtaking, the endless, wintry spaces evoking both bleakness and promise. Ultimately, however, the movie undermines its own point by making us, like those who have been enthralled by Jesse James for more than 100 years, wishing we could see the entertaining part of the story instead.

Parents should know that this film has typical Western violence, including shooting. Characters use some strong and crude language, including racial epithets and sexual references.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Jesse James remains an enduringly appealing figure. What is the meaning of the title? In so many Westerns, the bad guy is the one who robs and kills and the good guy is the one who catches or kills him. Why isn’t that true in this story?

Families who would like to see a more conventional (if completely un-factual) movie western about Jesse James should try American Outlaws. Other versions of this legend are in The True Story of Jesse James, or The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid. There have been movies about Jesse James since the silent era. One of the most bizarre is Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. Families who enjoy this movie will also like to see some de-mythologizing Westerns like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, or The Gunfighter.

Q&A with The Movie Mom

posted by Nell Minow

More recent questions and answers. Thanks to all who wrote!
I am looking for the title to a movie from late 70s or 80s about a group of US teenagers on field trip to Europe (I think a French class to Paris) that get embroiled in a spy plot where the male protagonist/classmate gets mistaken for an agent and plays the hero’s role– a comedy action film.
Angelinonsf was right on this one — it is “If Looks Could Kill” with Richard Grieco.
The 1985 movie <a href="Gotcha! with Anthony Edwards had him involved with a spy but not mistaken for one. Thanks, Angelinonsf!
I can’t find the name of the TV show or name of the judge that had court cases on tv in the 80’s or early 90’s. He was an older male, bald, and was once a referee in an Evander Holyfield championship boxing match. He himself was once a boxer.
That is Judge Mills Lane. (Thanks to my son the boxing expert for the assist on that one.)
What is the name of the movie with the little boy who writes letters to “his father” who is on a “ship.” His mom answers his letters and mails them back to him. When the ship “his dad is on” is scheduled to dock in their town, the boy gets really excited about meeting his dad. So she puts an ad in the paper to hire someone to pretend to be the boy’s dad for the duration of the ship’s stay. I saw the trailer once and forgot the name. I think it is a couple of years old. Anyhow, she ends up really liking the guy. I don’t know what happens next because I have not seen the movie. Can you help me find out the name of the movie so I can finally rent it?
dear%20frankie.jpgThat lovely movie is <a href="Dear Frankie” with Emily Mortimer and Gerard Butler. Enjoy!
What is the name of the family movie from the 80’s (I think) where a little boy kept seeing bubbles in an old flooded quarry and the “monster” turned out to be an old piece of machinery?
That is a 1986 movie called <a href="The Quest” with Henry Thomas, who was the star of “E.T.”
There was a movie in which some kids attempt to teach a bully a lessen. He drowns by accident and they panic and cover it up he drowns in a river on a boat trip after playing truth or dare, I think.
That movie is Mean Creek (2004). Very sensitively done, with beautiful performances.
What is the name of the movie where a little boy is chasing someone saying “where’s my $2?”
That movie is 1985’s Better Off Dead with John Cusack.

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What does “Not Screened for Critics” mean?

posted by Nell Minow

I hear there is some sort of sporting event going on this weekend. So it makes sense that studios decided it would not be a good time to release big-budget movies with hopes of big box office. If Sunday will be devoted to Superbowl XLII, much of the potential theater-going audience will be at home. I got that.

But I still don’t understand why that means that the studios did not let critics see three of the four new releases in time to write reviews. Movies not screened for critics are called “cold opens” because they open without any reviews, which means no exclamation-point-studded blurbs for ads. Jessica Alba has been everywhere promoting the thriller “The Eye,” but they did not show it to critics. There are ads all over television for the comedy “Strange Wilderness,” starring Steve Zahn, from Adam Sandler’s production company. But no blurbs from critics because no one has seen it. And what possible reason could there be to keep critics (except those from LA and NY) away from the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus concert film? Are they afraid we’ll give away the surprise ending? (She’s both! It’s a wig! And it’s in 3D!) Here is a clip of the concert film, which is more than critics got to see.

Over Her Dead Body

posted by Nell Minow

This movie starts out badly, gets much worse, and then after it is just dull for a while, it veers off into a whole new category of awful. Stay away.
The premise is promising. How do we know? Because it has been done with various levels of success before, first and best in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, where just as a widower is celebrating his new marriage, the ghost of his ex-wife appears to stir things up. Everything that one did right, this one did wrong, however. That one had wit and charm and a storyline that was supple and surprising. This one: none of the above. over%20her%20dead%20body.jpg

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