Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 2014

Boyhood
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

Sabotage
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

Planes: Fire & Rescue
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action and some peril
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

Laws of Attraction

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

“The Laws of Attraction” demonstrates no understanding of either attraction or laws. I don’t just mean the completely innacurate portrayal of law practice and court proceedings in the film. I mean the fundamental laws that make a movie appealing to watch.

Disastrous casting, a clunker-laden script, and snooze-inducing direction repel rather than attract. Having the set-up and the look of a romantic comedy is not enough to make it one.

Julianne Moore plays Audrey, a very successful divorce lawyer who has no interest in any romantic entanglements of her own. She is very tough but she plays by the rules. Her opposing counsel in a high profile case is Daniel (Pierce Brosnan), who infuriates her by being disheveled and disrespectful and — even worse — by being extremely capable and very handsome. He is very tough and he makes his own rules. Clearly, they are destined for each other, but it will take them much too long to figure that out. Situations are not the same thing as plot, especially when the situations are just plain dull.

At one point, Daniel and Audrey start to talk about an incident but they decide not to pursue it, probably because if we ever did find out what happened it would only demonstrate how flat and unappealing the movie’s plot is by comparison. The story simply has no place to go. I wish I could say the same for the characters, who spend far too much time flying around, with two completely irrelevant trips to Ireland (possibly it was relevant to Irish native Brosnan’s decision to appear in this film).

There are a couple of good lines. I liked it when Audrey accused Daniel of thinking, “my socks don’t match; therefore I have insight into all things.” And Frances Fisher as Audrey’s eternally-young mother is the best thing in the movie. The production design is glossy, often more fun to watch than the actors. But the very talented and beautiful Julianne Moore is badly miscast and never makes Audrey a character instead of a collection of reactions. Brosnan clearly enjoys the vacation from his usual elegant roles, but no one could reconcile Daniel’s shambling Columbo act with his underhanded tricks and unabashed affection for Audrey. Parker Posey as a designer married to a rock star gives her first bad performance and Michael Sheen gives the most annoying performance of the year as her estranged husband, with all the appeal of a car alarm. Director Peter Howitt made a promising debut with Sliding Doors, but after AntiTrust and this mess, it is clear that he is better off when he’s far away from Hollywood studios, and so are we.

Parents should know that this movie portrays drinking, including drinking to excess, as evidence of machismo and as a way to bond. Characters smoke, use strong language, and have sex without knowing each other very well. There is some crude humor, including the repeated term (I am not making this up) “goat’s nut.” There are also many references to adultery, including references to strippers, prostitutes, the “three-way bossa nova,” and sexual addiction.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Audrey was so resistant to romantic involvement. How did her mother influence her?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the vastly better movies that inspired it, from Adam’s Rib with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy to Move Over, Darling with Doris Day and Rock Hudson and Shall We Dance with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Saved

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

The first thing teenagers figure out is that it is enticingly easy to make fun of believers in any category. What’s nice about this movie is that it does so while still entirely respectful of belief. It begins as a satire of new age-y holier than thou people who spend more time worrying about the appearance of Christianity than the values. But it concludes with a renewed commitment to a faith that engages the mind and heart. You could even call it grace.

Mary (Jena Malone) is about to start her senior year at the Eagle Mountain Christian School when her boyfriend Dean confesses that he thinks he is gay. She decides to “save” him (from homosexuality and sin) by having sex with him, believing that it will not count as losing her virginity if it is for such a holy purpose. But Dean’s parents find gay porn in his room and send him off to a special facility called Mercy House where he can be “cured” (or as they put it “for de-gayification.”)

Mary finds out that she is pregnant, and that makes her begin to question whether the faith she has accepted as it was presented to her is a fair portrayal of the teachings of Jesus.

The people behind the movie, who went to Christian schools, know where the vulnerable targets are. There’s the relentlessly cheery head of the school Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan), reminiscient of the “Doonesbury” character who used to call himself “the fighting young priest who can talk to the young.” He tries to connect to the kids by using words like “phat,” not realizing that even if he did happen to come upon a word whose coolness had not been exhausted, the very act of its being used by him would de-cool-ify it forevermore. Mary’s widowed mother Lillian (Mary Louise Parker), is proud of winning And there’s the school’s “mean girl,” Hillary Faye (Mandy Moore), who uses her literal “holier-than-thou” status to rule the school, especially her in-crowd group, called the Christian Jewels. On the other side because they are willing to ask questions are the school’s only Jewish student, Cassandra (Eva Amurri), who is only there because she has been thrown out of every other school, Hillary Faye’s brother Roland (Macauley Culkin), confined to a wheelchair due to a childhood accident, and Pastor Skip’s son Patrick (Patrick Fugit of Almost Famous), who is interested in Mary.

The script teeters into predictability at times but the outstanding young cast is wonderfully vibrant, especially Amurri (the daughter of Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon), whose freshness — in both senses of the word — works very well for her character. Donovan makes it clear that his character is genuinely a man of faith who is not quite sure if he has what it takes to inspire others to share what he feels so strongly in his heart. He refers to Jesus as “the ultimate rebel” to capture the attention of the students, but he himself is all about conformity and rigidity. He uses a facile notion of Christianity to cover his unwillingness to be honest with himself or others about his failing marriage and his feelings for Lillian. And Hillary Faye uses hers the way girls in secular schools use chic clothes or their status as cheerleaders, to establish her power and prestige. She, too, has a secret that fuels her need to control the way she is perceived.

The movie is not afraid to skewer its targets, but importantly it is careful to make those targets hypocrisy and arrogance and not faith. Indeed, the movie makes it clear that superficial professions of faith are a distraction from genuine commitment to the values that are the basic principles of Christianity or any religion.

Parents should know that the movie has very mature material for a PG-13, including extremely strong language and explicit sexual references and situations, including adultery, teen sex, and homosexuality. Characters smoke (smoking is portrayed as an indicator of being cool and rebellious) and drink. Characters shoot guns at a target range and there is some mild violence (no one hurt). Strengths of the movie include the positive portrayal of disabled and gay characters and the ultimate conclusion about the importance of seeking the real meaning of the Bible’s teachings.

Families who see this movie should talk about how they think about their own religion and the religions practiced by others. Mary asks “Why would God make us all different if He wanted us to be the same?”

Families who enjoy this movie might also like to see Steve Martin’s uneven but worthwhile Leap of Faith, and will especially enjoy its outstanding soundtrack.

Man on Fire

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

Two of today’s most talented and charismatic screen performers are lost in an over-big, over-loud, over-heated, over-long, over-everything mess of a story about this year’s most popular movie theme, revenge.

Denzel Washington plays Creasy, a burnt-out hired gun who asks his best friend Rayburn (Christopher Walken), “Do you think we’ll ever be forgiven for what we’ve done?” Rayburn says no, and Creasy says, “I don’t either.”

So in between drinks, Creasy takes on a new job as bodyguard for a darling little blonde rich girl (Dakota Fanning as Pita). Although he insists he is not there to be her friend and does not want to talk to her, he is soon coaching her for the big swim meet and she is naming her bear after him. Those scenes are charming and touching. But then things go terribly wrong in the story and with the movie. The second half of the movie is Creasy tracking down each and every bad guy for some serious payback just like, well The Punisher, Kill Bill, Vol. 2, or Walking Tall.

The dialogue, as indicated above, is clunky and pretentious. A nun asks Creasy if he sees the hand of God in what he does and he replies that he is the sheep that got lost. Rayburn intones, “Creasy’s art is death; he’s about to paint his masterpiece.” The movie is not willing to assume that the audience can figure anything out for ourselves and pounds every point several times. A character says that Pita showed Creasy “it was all right to live again,” and another responds, “And the kidnappers took that away.”

The violence is excessive, with too many bad guys and too many drawn-out scenes of torture, especially one elaborate set-up involving a bomb inserted into a man’s body. For a guy who is supposed to be a superstar of killing, Creasy seems rather careless about things like evidence and innocent bystanders. And Scott seems rather careless about his characters. Radha Mitchell as Pita’s mother switches from scene to scene between devoted mother and irresponsible club kid. Her accent switches from scene to scene (Texas? Southern debutante? Midwest?) and sometimes within the same scene, too.

Even with all of the explosions and shootouts, the movie feels bloated and much too long at nearly two and a half hours. Director Tony Scott throws in a lot of tiresomely faddish tricked-up shots, using the subtitles as a part of the frame and putting a countdown to a time bomb in the corner of the screen. Reportedly, he shot three different endings for this movie. The other two have to be better than the one they decided to use, which takes a faltering script into the land of “I sat through all of this for that?”

Parents should know that the movie has extreme and graphic violence, including torture and attempted and actual suicide (portrayed as honorable). Children are in peril. A character has a drinking problem. Characters use strong language. The movie’s strengths include strong inter-racial friendships and respect for spiritual values.

Families who see this movie should talk about the issues of honor and redemption it raises, especially the portrayal of suicide as an honorable response to disgrace or as a heroic sacrifice. Why is it important that people in the movie keep talking about how they are professionals? And that the most important thing in life is family? Rayburn says that Creasy will “deliver more justice in a weekend than ten years of your courts and tribunals.” Is that true? What is the difference between justice and revenge? Can murder ever be a “masterpiece?”

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy better movies with these performers, including Washington’s Glory, Fanning’s I Am Sam, and Walken’s Catch Me if You Can. Director Scott has made many much better movies, including Top Gun and True Romance. Families might also enjoy movies with similar themes, including The Bodyguard and Proof of Life.

Mean Girls

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

Author Judith Viorst once wrote about a little girl who looked over at another child and reported on her assessment. “Her dress is very pretty,” she said, “but mine is very prettier.”

She was clearly on her way to becoming what we now call an “alpha girl,” one of those impossibly perfect beings who mask ruthless domination with artificial sweetness. Just as everyone else seems to be a hopeless mess of hormones in the midst of an ever-changing and incomprehensible world, there are these creatures who seem to have understood and mastered whatever they do not actually control. Queen Bees and Wannabes, a non-fiction book by Rosalind Wiseman about alpha girls and the impact they have on everyone else, has been adapted by Saturday Night Live head writer (and Weekend Update anchor) Tina Fey into a movie about a girl who takes on a ruling clique called “the Plastics.”

Cady (Lindsay Lohan) arrives in Evanston, Illinois after growing up in Africa with her zoologist parents who taught her at home. So everything about the high school experience is completely new to her, and she ends up as something of a zoologist herself. She brings an outsider’s perspective to the social interactions of the suburban teenager, drawing a social network map based on the seating selections in the school cafeteria. And she compares the teenagers to African animals, seeing mall as though it was a watering hole in the savannah. She learns about the difference between “animal world” and “girl world.” In girl world, she decides, you have to be sneaky.

Cady finds herself having a hard time understanding the social norms in the school. “I had never lived in a world where adults didn’t trust me,” she says. And the approach that had always worked for her in the past — assuming that everyone was sincere and meant what they said — turns out to be inadequate. Even dressing up for Halloween is more complicated than she thought. No wonder Cady is happiest in math class, where everything makes sense.

There’s another reason to like math class, a very cute boy whose desk is next to hers. Here, too, she feels like there is some rule book she’s never seen that everyone else has read. She does not even seem to know herself any more. “Apparently there are a lot of things that can be wrong with your body.”

Cady is befriended by two kids who are very comfortable being different. But she is also drawn to the queen of “the Plastics,” the aptly named Regina (Rachel McAdams). When her friends assign her to inflitrate the Plastics, she is filled with loathing but also with longing. Their plots to humiliate her backfire — Regina is such an undisputed style-setter that when they vandalize her shirt everyone else just adopts it as the latest fad. Cady’s real friends feel betrayed by what Cady has to do to make Regina think she is on her side. And even Cady starts to wonder whose side she is on, admitting that “I could hate [Regina] but I still wanted her to like me.”

Screenwriter Fey, who also appears as a sympathetic teacher, has a good sense of how girls like Regina operate to establish their domination, appearing to be sweet and supportive but in reality being competitive, duplicitous and manipulative, and always surrounding themselves with people who will add to their power and not challenge them. And Fey’s superb sense of comedy gives the script some biting humor. Her Saturday Night Live colleagues lend support to the cast, with Tim Meadows as the school principal, Ana Gasteyer as Cady’s mother, and Amy Poehler superb as Regina’s mother, who insists, “I’m not like a regular mom; I’m a cool mom!”

There is much that is fresh and sharp in this movie. But it has an uncertain hold on its plot and ends up pulling some of its punches and throwing in teen comedy cliches we have seen endlessly in dozens of movies that all blur together.

Parents should know that this movie has some mature material for a PG-13, including crude humor, sexual references, underage drinking, and comic violence. There is a prank involving a pregnancy test. Cady allows her home to be taken over by partying teens, gets drunk and throws up. A child watches “Girls Gone Wild” and imitates it. A girl refers to herself as “half a virgin” and there is a joke about girl-girl kissing. A strength of the movie is its positive portrayal of diverse characters, including disabled, gay, and minority students.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the elements that determine status for teenagers are different from those that determine status in the adult world, at work and with friends and family. They should use this movie to begin a discussion about the way that the girls they know treat each other, and what they can do to encourage them to be kinder and more supportive. They should talk about Wiseman’s book, which says:

Your daughter’s friendships with other girls are a double-edged sword — they’re key to surviving adolescence, yet they can be the biggest threat to her survival as well. The friendships with the girls in her clique are a template for many relationships she’ll have as an adult. Many girls will make it through their teen years precisely because they have the support and care of a few good friends. These are the friendships where a girl truly feels unconditionally accepted and understood — and they can last into adulthood and support her search for adult relationships.

On the other hand, girls can be each other’s worst enemies. Girls’ friendships in adolescence are often intense, confusing, frustrating, and humiliating, the joy and security of “best friends” shattered by devastating breakups and betrayals. Girls’ reactions to the ups and downs of these friendships are as intense as they’ll later feel in intimate relationships.

Find out more about Wiseman’s Empower program and workshops to help teenagers and adults learn better systems and techniques for more constructive and satisfying interactions. And take a look at the Words Can Heal website for some ideas about stopping gossip and put-downs. Why does Cady say that she could hate Regina but still wanted her to like her? What do you think about Regina’s mother, who wants to be “the cool mom?” Does she get what she hopes for? Families should also discuss the idea that “there are people who do evil stuff and people who see evil stuff and don’t stop it.” And they should talk about why Cady thought she had to pretend to be less smart than she was to get a boy to like her.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Drew Barrymore’s Never Been Kissed and the John Hughes high school classics Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. The ultimate alpha girl movies are Heathers with Winona Ryder (some mature material) and Election (extremely mature material).

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