Movie Mom

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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

 

Philomena
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
Release Date:
November 22, 2013

Under the Skin
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

 

The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Rio 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

 

Grudge Match
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

Moonlight Mile

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

Minority Report

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

It is fifty years from now, in Washington, D.C., where familiar landmarks like the Washington Monument are surrounded by vertical highways and where computers in The Gap not only recognize you when you walk in the door but remember what you bought the last time you were there.

John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is a top detective in an experimental “pre-crime” unit. An experimental program wires the brains of genetically altered “precogs” (short for “precognition”) to computers that display their glimpses of the future. Anderton stands before the display like he is conducting a symphony and directs the images so that he can find the perpetrators before they kill. There is no way to know if everyone who is arrested under this program would in fact have become a murderer, but the fact is that since the program has been in place, there has not been a single murder in Washington. It has been so successful that it may be expanded to the whole country.

Anderton only feels alive when he is stopping a crime. When he is not at work, he numbs himself with drugs and watches his old home movies. He was so devastated by the abduction and probable murder of his son that his marriage fell apart. The only feeling he allows himself to feel is the satisfaction that he is sparing others from the agonizing pain that he has suffered. And then the precogs’ next vision identifies Anderton himself as the next killer. He has to run, and as he is running he has to figure out how you prove that you are not going to commit murder.

As with Blade Runner, also based on a story by Philip K. Dick, this is a very traditional noir-ish detective plot set in an ominous future where the apparent ease created by technology has overtaken human individuality. How much privacy and justice would you be willing to give up to bring the murder rate down to zero? Anderton finds that it is less than he thought.

The three precogs are named for mystery novel greats: Agatha, Arthur, and Dashiell (for Christie, Conan Doyle, and Hammett). They turn out to be the result of an experiment that went wrong. The most striking scene in the movie is Alderton’s meeting with the scientist who created them (a brilliant performance by Lois Smith). This is yet another tradition of movies – and before movies, fairy tales and sagas, as the hero makes a journey through thickets of plants to the isolated home of the wise person who will give him the answers he needs to help him solve the mystery. These creatures who can predict the future were ironically the product of a scientist who never anticipated the direction her experiment would take. Like Odin, Anderton must give up his eyes to find wisdom; it is only when he literally sees through someone else’s eyes that he can understand what he is seeing.

The movie is visually stunning, with brilliantly staged action sequences and vividly realized characters. Colin Farrell is mesmerizing as Anderton’s rival and Ingmar Bergman star Max von Sydow brings great depth to his role as Anderton’s boss.

Parents should know that the movie has some graphic violence, including sci-fi shooting, fist-fights, brutal and graphic murders, and suicides. Anderton abuses illegal drugs. We see a flashback of his son’s abduction. The movie also has some gross and grisly visuals, particularly when Anderton has his eyes replaced as a way of avoiding the retinal scans that the police use to track everyone’s whereabouts.

Families who see this movie should talk about how it relates to the challenges our FBI and CIA are facing right now in interrogating and imprisoning possible terrorists. Is it worth violating the rights of some innocent people in order to prevent another terrorist attack? How would Anderton answer that question at the beginning of the movie, and how would he answer it at the end? What about the rights of the precogs? Is it fair to ask them to give up any kind of normal life if it will prevent people from being killed? Families should also talk about Anderton’s inability to come to terms with the loss of his son. How do people go on after devastating losses? And they should talk about their own notions of what life will be like half a century from now.

Families who enjoy this movie might like to take a look at Spielberg’s other movie about the future, A.I. Critics and audiences were not enthusiastic about this collaboration with Stanley Kubrick (“2001″), but it makes an interesting companion piece to “Minority Report.” Families will enjoy Spielberg’s more successful movies about contact with extraterrestrials Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. They may also want to try Blade Runner.

Men in Black II

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2002

The original Men in Black (1997) is one of my all-time favorite movies, just for originality and sheer attitude. Director Barry Sonnenfeld, production designer Bo Welch, and stars Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, and Vincent D’Onofrio achieved near perfection with a tone that was just off-center and the essence of cool. The story and special effects were perfectly satisfying, but the movie was all about throwaway lines like “Now I’m going to have to buy the white album again” and “We’re not hosting an intergalactic kegger down here.” I highly recommend the DVD, which has one of the best packages of extras I have ever seen, especially the commentary from Jones and Sonnenfeld.

The sequel has flickers of the original spirit, but it is like a fifth generation photocopy, a blurry reproduction rather than a re-imagined original.

Sonnenfeld, Welch, Jones, and Smith return, along with MiB1’s Rip Torn and Tony Shaloub, but the movie squanders our pleasure at seeing favorite characters return and then makes things worse when the additions and new characters are not up to their level. Worst of all, the underlying story line is lackluster, with plot holes and a brief running time that suggest that we may get a lot of deleted scenes on the DVD.

At the end of MiB1, agent J (Smith) erases the memories of his partner, K (Jones), so that he can return to a normal life. But as MiB2 begins, a scary-looking alien (disguised, of course, as a Victoria’s Secret model and played by Lara Flynn Boyle) returns to earth and only K knows how to deal with her. J has to track K down (he works for a post office in Massachusetts), un-erase his memory, and work with him to save the planet from the scum of the universe.

Along the way, they meet up with a variety of characters, both alien (a subway-swallowing serpentish thing named Jeff and the cutest little furry guys since Dr. Seuss) and human (the very lovely Rosario Dawson). The talking dog and smart-alecky worm guys from MiB1 are back with more screen time as well.

Parents should know that the PG-13 rating is for intense peril, graphic violence (comic-book-style), some gross-out special effects, and some vulgar humor, including a sight gag about kneeing an alien’s most vulnerable spot. Some viewers will find the resolution of the story unsettling.

Families who see this movie should talk about what they think creatures from other planets might be like, and why the way we think about them tells us more about us than it does about them. Why doesn’t J want to erase Rita’s memory? Why is it important to find someone you can tell your real feelings to?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the original and director Sonnenfeld’s Addams Family Values.

Mary Poppins

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:G
Movie Release Date:1964
DVD Release Date:December 09, 2013

marypoppins5In honor of the upcoming “Saving Mr. Banks” and the 50th anniversary of the original film, Disney is releasing a superclifragilisticexplialidocious new edition of Mary Poppins.

Based on books by P.L. Travers (whose reluctance to allow a film to be made is the subject of “Saving Mr. Banks,” the film switches the 1930′s-era setting to the more picturesque London of 1910, where the Banks family has a loving, if rather chaotic, household. A nanny has just stormed out, fed up with the “incorrigible” children, Jane and Michael. Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) writes an ad for a new nanny and the children compose their own, which he tears up and throws into the fireplace. The pieces fly up the chimney, where they reassemble for Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews), who is sitting on a cloud. The next day, a great wind blows away all of the nannies waiting to be interviewed, as Mary floats down.

Somehow, she has a mended copy of the qualifications written by the children that Mr. Banks tore up and threw into the fireplace.  To the children’s astonishment, she slides up the banister.Out of her magically capacious carpetbag she takes out a tape measure to determine the measure of the children (“stubborn and suspicious” and “prone to giggling and not tidying up”) and her own (“practically perfect in every way”).  She directs them to clean up the nursery, and shows them how to make it into a game (“A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down”). Once it is clean, they go out for a walk, and they meet Mary Poppins’ friend Bert (Dick Van Dyke) drawing chalk pictures on the sidewalk. They hop into the picture and have a lovely time, or, rather, a “Jolly Holiday” in a mixture of live-action and animation that has Bert dancing with carousel horses and penguins.

Mary-Poppins-RooftopMary takes the children ato see her Uncle Arthur (Ed Wynn), who floats up to the ceiling when he laughs, and they find this delightfully buoyant condition is catching. Later, Mr. Banks takes the children to the bank where he works, and Michael embarasses him by refusing to deposit his tuppence because he wants to use it to buy crumbs to feed the birds. There is a misunderstanding, and this starts a run on the bank, with everyone taking out their money. Mr. Banks is fired.

Mr. Banks realizes that he has been too rigid and demanding. He invites the children to fly a kite with him. Mrs. Banks realizes that in working for the vote for women, she had neglected the children. Her work done, Mary Poppins says goodbye, and floats away.

YouTube Preview Image

This sumptuous production deserved its many awards (including Oscars for Andrews and for “Chim Chimeree” as best song) and its enormous box office. It is fresh and imaginative, and the performances are outstanding. (Watch the credits carefully to see that Van Dyke also plays the rubber-limbed Mr. Dawes.) The “jolly holiday” sequence, featuring the live-action characters interacting with animated ones, is superb, especially Van Dyke’s dance with the penguin waiters.

The resolution may grate a bit for today’s families with two working parents, but the real lesson is that parents should take time to enjoy their children, not that they should forego all other interests and responsibilities to spend all of their time with them.

Family discussion:  If you were writing a job notice for a nanny, what would it include?  Which of the children’s adventures did you most enjoy and why?

If you like this, try: books by P.L. Travers and the documentary about this film’s Oscar-winning song-writers, The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story. And go fly a kite!

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