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

The Alamo

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:PG-13
Movie Release Date:2004

There is only one reason to see “The Alamo,” and it is Billy Bob Thornton. His portrayal of Davy Crockett is magnificently vibrant, fully imagined, and so breathtakingly evocative of the essence of the American hero that it may be worth seeing the film just to spend some time with him. As he quietly asks to be called “David” while he signs autographs and answers questions about his famous exploits, as he asks a dying young soldier his name, and as he accepts defeat with spirit and grace, Thornton shows mastery of a range of conflicting emotions that is unforgetably touching.

In addition, the battle sequences are well staged, putting the audience in the center of the action.

And the movie has the grace to address the issue of racism, with slaves owned by the officers at the Alamo talking about whether they would be better off as Mexicans, because they would be free, and with Hispanic Texans explaining why they chose to fight the Mexicans.

Despite all of that, however, the movie just does not work. Reportedly cut down from an original running time of three hours, it feels jumpy and disjointed. It makes the fatal mistake of assuming that it is enough to put American icons on one side and a choleric popinjay of a general who wears a uniform out of a Friml operetta, barks at his subordinates, and preys on young women on the other. It isn’t. We do not seem to be at a moment in history — perhaps we never will be again — when it is easy for us to choose our heroes and villains in a war over land. This is not a fight about religious freedom or taxation without representation or stopping a despotic marauder. It is a fight over who will own the land that probably both sides took from the Native Americans. And it is hard to cheer for the independence of the “Texians” when we know they’re just going to end up part of America anyway.

Just in case there might be someone out there who forgot to remember the Alamo, the movie begins with shots of the carnage and a soldier crying, “They’re all dead! Oh, God!” Then we go back a year earlier to see how the Alamo, designed as a mission, has become a fort, “the only thing that stands between Santa Anna’s army and our settlements.” A new young commander is assured that “a good rifleman and a 12 pounder should hold it” because Santa Anna’s men would need to march 300 miles through the snow to get there. We cut to thousands of Mexican soldiers trudging through the snow, and we know what has to happen. We meet our cast of characters, including Jason Patric as Jim Bowie of knife fame with a strong heart and weak lungs in the Doc Holliday role of a consumptive who has seen it all and done most of it, too, Dennis Quaid as Sam Houston, who knows the price that must be paid for independence, and Patrick Wilson as a man who is looking for a second chance.

So do the men at the Alamo. The way they face their inevitable fate is stirring. But the narrative is so muddled and the pace so choppy that we never connect with the characters or their cause.

Parents should know that the movie has intense battle violence with many deaths. Everyone in the Alamo is killed (made clear at the very beginning of the movie). Characters drink and smoke and use some strong language, including insults like “catamite” that might be unfamiliar to today’s audiences. There is a sexual situation with a hint of coercion. A character refuses to free his slave, saying, “You’re my property until I die.”

Families who see this movie should talk about why it made such a difference when Travis picked up the cannonball. What did Travis mean when he said, “Texas has been a second chance for me. We will sell our lives dearly?” Why didn’t Travis and Bowie get along? Do you agree that “one crowded hour of glory is worth an age without a name?” How did Crockett’s understanding of what he represented to his fans affect his decision about how to respond? How did the white and non-white characters see their priorities differently? How does this story relate to current conflicts in Israel, Iraq, and Afganistan?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy an early and less historically accurate 1960 version also called The Alamo, with John Wayne as Davy Crockett. They should read up on the legendary characters like Jim Bowie, David Crockett, and Sam Houston and discuss how each generation filters history with its own perspective. Families will also appreciate some other movies about famous defeats, including Errol Flynn’s highly fictionalized They Died With Their Boots On, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and Denzel Washington’s Glory.

The Whole Ten Yards

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

Could it BE any more atrocious?

This stupifyingly appalling mess of a movie takes the definition of “not funny” to a new low. The gravitational pull of its massive lack of humor is so strong that if you listen carefully you may be able to hear it sucking comedy out of actual funny movies right this minute.

Scardy-cat dentist Oz (Matthew Perry), retired hit-man Jimmy (Bruce Willis), former dental receptionist and wanna-be hitperson Jill (Amanda Peet), now married to Jimmy, and former wife of Jimmy Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge), now married to Oz, are all back for this sequel to The Whole Nine Yards. But someone forgot to invite a screenwriter. There is no story. There are no jokes. All we get is Oz slamming into walls, failed attempts at hitman humor and a lot of anticipation with no pay-off whatsoever.

Kevin Pollack provides a couple of bright moments as bad-guy Lazlo, father of the bad guy killed off in the last movie (also played by Pollack). But the rest of the movie is nothing but the teeth-rattling thud of one failed joke after another. The dialogue is terrible. The physical humor is almost painfully bad. The plot (Lazlo wants to kill Jimmy; Jimmy wants Lazlo’s money) is muddled and incoherent. Perhaps the most painful is the movie’s timing, which in overly optimistic fashion leaves moments for audience laughter that never comes, so there are excruciating sags in momentum after every would-be quip and pratfall.

With Almost Heroes and Serving Sara, Matthew Perry has now appeared in what could someday be a triple feature at the legendary Hell’s Multiplex theater in Esquire’s Dubious Achievement awards.

Parents should know that the movie is violent for a PG-13, with characters who are hired assassins. There is fighting and gunplay and characters are shot and killed. Some of this is intended to be humorous. Characters use strong language and drink, including getting drunk. This is also intended to be humorous. Characters use strong language. There are sexual references and situations, including off-screen sex vividly portrayed through sound and two naked men waking up in bed together wondering what happened. This is also intended to be humorous. It isn’t. Boy, it isn’t.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it is such an awful failure.

Families who might be interested in this movie will enjoy the better (R-rated) original as well as better films with Bruce Willis, including Die Hard and The Sixth Sense. And until Perry makes a good movie, they should stick to watching him on Friends.

Ella Enchanted

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2004

In keeping with the fairy tale theme, I will begin this review with a warning: If you want to experience the real pleasures this movie has to offer, do not expect a faithful re-creation of the book. The plot, the characters, even the tone are very different, and the fans of the marvelous book, who can all but recite it by heart, may feel affronted. But the book’s theme and lessons are all there, and in its own way, the story it tells is endearing, enduring, and lots of fun.

Both book and movie start with the question a 21st century girl would ask about the classic Cinderella fairy tale. Why did Cinderella do whatever her evil step-mother and step-sisters told her to? According to author Gail Carson Levine, it’s because a well-meaning but careless fairy named Lucinda (Viveca A. Fox), tried to give a gift to Ella (Anne Hathaway) when she was born, and cast a spell so she would always be obedient. But that meant that whenever Ella was given a direct order, she had to do whatever she was told. Literally. This is an inconvenience in a loving household but becomes downright dangerous when Ella’s mother dies and her father marries nasty Dame Olga (Joanna Lumley). And it becomes downright deadly when an evil usurper orders Ella to commit murder.

Ella’s journey to find a way to break the spell has its own dangers as she meets up with elves, ogres, giants, fairies, and of course a very charming prince (Hugh Dancy).

Like Shrek, this is a fairy tale with some broad (and occasionally crude) humor and winking references to modern times. Ella attends the local community college and shops at the Galleria include the “Crockery Barn.” The soundtrack includes covers of pop classics from “Respect” to “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart.” And Ella’s support for the rights of ogres, giants, and elves (including an elf who wants to be a lawyer despite rules that require all elves to be entertainers) shows us her heart and spirit and gives her something to discuss with the prince beyond who should rescue whom and his latest appearance in Medieval Teen magazine.

The movie works so hard to be entertaining that it can feel a little hypercharged at times, cluttered with too many talented performers with too little to do. But the production design helps maintain the sense of magic, with storybook castles and forests. And Hathaway (now something of an expert in this genre after The Princess Diaries) is so radiantly lovable that she could make an ATM withdrawal feel like a fairy tale. When Ella is ordered to entertain the guests at a giant’s wedding celebration, she breaks into Queen’s “Somebody to Love” and dances across the tabletop with such joyous gusto that even Freddie Mercury would approve. Dancy makes the prince more than the usual arm candy/swordsman and the way they learn to trust and respect each other enough to stop fighting the attraction they feel is unexpectedly tender.

Parents should know that the movie has some crude language (“bite me” “cute butt”) and social drinking. It is supposed to be humorous when a character gets tipsy and has a drinking problem. There is violence, including fighting, knives, and swordplay and characters are in peril. A character is hit in the crotch in a slapstick fight. In a more serious fight, it appears that a character is killed, but it turns out not to be the case. Ella’s mother becomes ill and dies. Ella is ordered to shoplift and due to the curse, must obey. An ogre’s pants reveal the top of his butt crack. One strength of the movie is that it deals with themes of discrimination and prejudice as Ella fights the kingdom’s restrictive laws segregating giants, ogres, and elves. And Ella herself is a strong, brave, independent, and loyal role model.

Families who see this movie should talk about what it was that made it possible for Ella to break the curse? What did she have to learn or feel to make that happen? They may want to talk about the theme of discrimination and segregation in the story. What creates prejudice? Part of the fun of the movie, and explored in more detail in the book, is the way that the literal meaning of the words in direct orders to Ella have unexpected results. Families should talk about the way that the way listeners hear words can mean something different from what the speaker intends.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy another modern re-imagining of the Cinderella fairy tale, Ever After with Drew Barrymore. How does that movie handle the problem of explaining why the main character allows herself to be treated so badly? They will also enjoy more traditional versions, including Rodger and Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella made for television with Lesley Ann Warren 1965 and remade as Cinderella in 1997 with Brandy and Whitney Houston. Along with Disney’s animated Cinderella all are a treat for families. And every family should see The Princess Bride, with Cary Elwes, who plays Prince Char’s uncle in “Ella Enchanted,” as the dashing hero. Robin Wright is the woman he loves who is betrothed to a prince who is anything but charming. Families should read Gail Carson Levine’s superb book and might also want to try some other modern takes on fairy tales, including a thoughtful literary retelling of Beauty and the Beast called Rose Daughter and the story collections The Outspoken Princess and the Gentle Knight and Tatterhood and Other Tales.

Hellboy

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

In the “it was a dark and stormy night” genre of graphic novels (that’s comic books with literary aspirations), we are guaranteed to find a Sam Spade-inspired anti-hero with a wicked sense of humor and a weakness for a dangerous dame. Frank Miller’s “Sin City” series is among the most impressive of the type. Comic book creator Mike Mignola, inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and his sci-fi pioneering colleagues, made his main character a real bruiser with the body of a Hell-spawned demon and the heart of a human.

Of course it begins on a dark and stormy night. And cut right to the chase with everyone’s favorite bad guys, the Nazis, aided by Rasputin, the infamously hard to kill “mad monk” of Russian lore. They have commandeered a Scottish island for the purpose of opening an intergalactic portal to the Gods of Chaos, who float in the ether like inky space squid waiting for a chance to come to Earth. Luckily the plucky American military, aided by young scientist Dr. Broom, closes the portal before the inter-galactic cephalopod overlords can enter. All that comes through the door is a cute little demon toddler with a weakness for Baby Ruth candy bars.

Flash forward to the present and the now grown Hellboy, complete with tail, huge stone hand and red-on-red natural body art is the supersized ward of Dr. Broom and the Bureau for Paranomal Research and Defense (BPRD). As Broom tells a new recruit, there are creatures who go bump in the night and he and his little group are the ones who bump back.

Abe Sapien (voiced by David Hyde Pierce), is elegant, sensitive, erudite, and a fish-man. Cigar-munching, cat-loving Hellboy (Ron Perlman) has a huge stone hand and forearm that help him to pummel baddies who look like they are fresh off the set of Men In Black. He is their most famous inmate, despite the fact that the U.S. government does its best to deny that Hellboy exists. The official assigned to supervise the BPRD (Jeffrey Tambor) would prefer that they didn’t. But when Rasputin, et al, are back with some rather nasty Hounds of Hell to try to bring the octopus overlords to this dimension yet again, it’s time to call in Hellboy & Co.

Hellboy is endearingly human, with a penchant for wiseguy understatement and his love for his adopted family of misfits at the Bureau, especially doe-eyed and dangerous Liz Sherman (Selma Blair looking angsty). They seem literally made for each other as the woman who has trouble controlling her pyrotechnics wouldn’t want a boyfriend who wasn’t fireproof.

Director Guillermo Del Toro’s “Blade 2” blazed with whirling swords, back-flipping vampires and frenetic action, at times rendering the fights an incomprehensible blur. Del Toro does not make that error again, introducing a comparatively sleepy pace for Hellboy that seems to stretch its 132 minute length into a much longer movie, padded in parts by unnecessary and clichéd scenes and overkill in the squiggly monsters in dripping cavernous cellars category. To his credit, he captures some of the visual color, tone, and, yes, beauty of the comic book, but he sometimes makes you feel like you are reading it over someone else’s shoulder and that person takes too long to finish a page.

Parents should know that this movie contains frightening images, a dark and at times macabre tone and the sad death of a central character. There is a great deal of violence in the fight scenes, which are at times bloody, and characters must wrestle with the deadly consequences of their actions. A scary character is addicted to self-surgery, while one of the creatures summoned by the Nazis is a Hell-hound that will frighten younger audiences. Several characters (including one major character) die violent deaths. The inability of one of the characters to control her powers causes the off-screen death of innocents, which might frighten even the most mature of audiences.

Families who watch this movie might wish to discuss the father-son bond between Dr. Broom and Hellboy, why they fight and how this relationship impacts both of their characters. Neither Abe Sapien nor Hellboy can “pass” as humans yet they both embrace very human traits. Which traits are these and why might exposure to people outside the BPRD not be a good thing for these characters? The movie touches on an issues that runs throughout the comic book series, that of Hellboy’s commitment to defense of humans despite his demon form. What does being human mean for Hellboy? Where does he have the power of choice?

Families who enjoy this movie for its mix of humor and paranormal/extra-dimensional action will also appreciate Ghostbusters, X-Men, or Men in Black. Those who wish to see the prolific Ron Perlman without the red skin and horns, should rent the surreal but lovely City of Lost Children and the very funny Happy Texas. His voice can also be heard in numerous cartoons, including as the character “Clayface” on the 90’s excellent “Batman: the Animated Series.”

Mignola’s comic book, “The Corpse”, is a light, short vignette worth reading, from which Del Toro borrowed some of the funniest scenes in “Hellboy”. Families should be aware that the “Hellboy” graphic novels contain mature themes and an overall macabre tone that might frighten some readers.

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