Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Fading Gigolo
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

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

 

Ride Along
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language,
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 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

Solaris

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

More meditation than story, “Solaris” is a series of images and moments that address themes of identity, memory, and loss, ambitious in both form and content.

George Clooney plays Chris Kelvin, a psychiatrist who receives an urgent SOS from a friend on a space station. He gets there to find everyone dead except for an oddly detached crew member (Jeremy Davies) named Snow and the captain (Viola Davis), who won’t leave her room.

Snow says cryptically, “I could tell you what’s happening but I don’t know if that would tell you what’s happening.” And it turns out to be just that mysterious. Kelvin is awakened the next morning by his wife Rhea (Natascha McElhone), who is not only not on the space station with him but who died long before. He shoots her off into space, looking back at him out of the spacepod window. But the next morning, she is there again, and this time his longing for her overcomes his fear, and he reaches out to her.

It turns out that there is something about the planet Solaris below them that is sentient. It reaches into each of them to send them what appears to be the person they most want to see. Kelvin’s friend who called him to the spaceship saw – or conjured up – his young son, who even after the friend’s death is still racing around the space station, oddly ignored by the remaining humans. Snow says that his entity was his brother. Whatever the captain’s was, it is keeping her in her room, but it is unclear whether that is to say close to it or away from it.

The story is told impressionistically, as we go back and forth between the scenes on the space station and scenes from the past. Flickering through his struggle to understand what is going on, we see Kelvin and Rhea meeting, falling in love, and then we see his angry departure and her suicide. And then, back on the space station, it seems he does not want to understand it. He would rather lose himself in the fantasy (if that is what it is) than lose her again.

But just as that happens, Rhea (or whoever she is) does want to understand. She, or the part of her that is not Rhea, wants to be more than just a reflection of his memories, even if that means losing him and losing whatever it is she does have.

I suspect this will not be a popular movie. Most audiences, like Kelvin in the early part of the movie, want to understand things. But if you open yourself up to the ambiguities, this can be a very rewarding film.

Parents should know that the movie has a deeply unsettling feeling and some disturbing violence. We see Clooney’s bare behind as he tenderly embraces his wife. There is some strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about how we can stay close to those we have lost.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy 2001: A Space Odyssey. They might also like to see the original Solaris, made in the Soviet Union in 1972.

Simone

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

Movie director Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino) has had it with actors. The star of his new movie (Winona Ryder, relishing her cameo as a temperamental “model with a SAG card”) insists that he pick all the red Mike and Ike candies out of the bowl and ensure that her trailer is not only the biggest but also the tallest. She walks off the movie and Viktor is about to lose his deal with the studio, even though the executive in charge is his ex-wife Elaine (Catherine Keener).

But thanks to a bequest from a computer genius, Viktor finds the perfect substitute to star in his movie. She’s perfect because she will do anything he says. And she will do anything he says because she is not a human being – she is a computer simulation living in a hard drive. He can take a little bit of Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Greta Garbo, and a dozen other stars and then program her to do, say, wear, or digitally appear anywhere he wants to. It’s Pygmalion for the digital age. He collapses the name of the program (“Simulation One”) is to name her Simone.

Viktor digitally substitutes Simone for his departed star, and she causes a sensation. He is aided in his deception by Hollywood’s phoniness – many people are only too willing to claim that they have met her in order to make themselves seem more important. And Simone’s apparent unwillingness (in reality, “her” inability) to meet with members of the press only adds to the public fascination with her. As happened to Dr. Frankenstein (who was also named Viktor) or the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Viktor Taransky’s creation takes over.

Viktor rationalizes his deception as just one small step beyond current practice (“Most actors have digital work done to them!”) and decries Hollywood’s “irrational allegiance to flesh and blood.” According to him, “the only real truth is the work.”

It is great fun to see Pacino do farce and the movie has some deliciously sharp satire. Told that a star is willing to do all her own stunts, including a fall from a plane, a studio executive says, “Shoot it the last day.” A radio news broadcast announces that no one is paying attention to world affairs because the Oscar nominations are out. It goes on a little long, but it is one of the better comedies of the summer.

Parents should know that the theme of the movie is lying, and while Viktor suffers for his lies, he pretty much gets away with them. Characters drink and smoke. And the movie has the “Parent Trap” problem of reuniting divorced parents, which may be a difficult subject for some families.

Families who see this movie should talk about how it compares to traditional stories about liars like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and “Pinocchio.” And they should talk about how performances by “live” actors compare to those of digitally created characters in movies like “Toy Story” and “Shrek.” Do you think there will be a day when movie stars are created by computer? (By the way, Simone is indeed played by a real-life actress, model Rachel Roberts.)

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy other Hollywood satires like Steve Martin’s Bowfinger and Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending. They may also want to try Tootsie. And everyone should see the all-time classic Singin’ in the Rain.

Signs

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

M. Night Shyamalan knows what scares us. It scares him, too.

As in “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable,” writer/producer/director Shyamalan’s latest is a story of a crisis of faith, a wise child, and something out there that is very, very disturbing but ultimately part of a pattern that supports and embraces all of us.

Mel Gibson plays Graham Hess, a recent widower who lives with his two children and his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) on a farm in Pennsylvania. He had been a minister, but lost his faith when his wife was killed. Now he winces when people call him “Father.”

He wakes up one night with a sense of dread. His children are not in bed. He runs out into the cornfield and his children show him that the stalks have been bent into a mysterious pattern. It can’t have been made by a machine, because the stalks are not broken. And it can’t have been done by hand, because the shapes are too perfectly even.

It turns out that the strange signs have appeared all over the world. Graham wants to believe that the shapes are a prank or a hoax. He cannot bear the thought that his family could be vulnerable to more injury or loss.

Gibson is outstanding in a role that calls for subtlety, maturity, and a mixture of vulnerability and strength. The children, played by Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin, are just right. They act like smart kids who know what loss is and are scared but also tantalized by what is going on around them. Shyamalan’s skills as a director are getting stronger and stronger. His use of the camera to tell the story is masterful. There is a moment when the screen goes completely black that had the audience gasping. He has clearly been paying attention to Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg, and has a few tricks of his own to contribute. His only mistake is in leaving too little to the imagination. Like his characters, he likes to have everything explained.

Parents should know that this movie has extreme tension and peril, though it is not graphic or gory. Some audience members will find it very scary. Some will be comforted by its ultimate conclusion, but others will find it disappointing, even sugary or superficial. They might even be offended at its deterministic take on things.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether they see patterns and purpose in what occurs around them and what it means to them. Where do people find their faith? What kind of person says that it doesn’t feel right not to swing? They might also want to look at websites like this one to find out more about efforts to contact life on other planets.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy more benign stories about contact with aliens: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Contact. They may also want to try the very creepy The Others and one of the scariest movies ever, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Secret Ballot

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

Those who are interested in the Iranian election and protests should see this superb Iranian film that is one of the finest explorations of freedom, elections, democracy, and the rule of law I have ever watched on screen.

It begins with a surreal image as a solitary soldier patrolling an Iranian island coast sees a box dropped by parachute from a plane. Soon after, a boat arrives and a woman disembarks. She informs the soldier that she is there to collect as many votes as possible before 5 pm and he is to accompany her. They travel the island debating the legitimacy of the voting process and the ability of the law to ensure fair treatment. The woman is a stickler for the letter of the law, even when the result is difficult to justify. That is, until they get stopped by a broken red light and she must decide whether to stop at the deserted intersection, missing her boat and invalidating the votes she has collected, or break the law by running the light. The film, made by Canadian-Iranian Babak Payami works brilliantly as allegory and as quasi-documentary. We never learn the names of the characters; they are just “the soldier” and “the girl.” But they and their predicament are immediately involving and distinctive. Highly recommended for high school and college civics classes and for anyone who appreciates superb film-making.

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