Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

A Will for the Woods
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
May 2, 2014

The Expendables 3
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

 

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

Let's Be Cops
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity, violence and drug use
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

 

Need for Speed
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language
Release Date:
March 14, 2014

American Graffiti

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:PG
Movie Release Date:1973

The movie takes place on a single night in 1962, immediately before two good friends, Curt (Richard Dreyfus) and Steve (Ron Howard), are about to leave for college. Curt and Steve are facing enormous changes and they are both scared and excited. Although the film is nostalgic in tone (based on the memories of director George Lucas), it is clear the country is on the brink of enormous (and tumultuous) changes, too.

Most of the episodic plot centers on kids driving around and interacting with each other. Curt and Steve stop by the high school dance. Curt’s sister, Laurie, is Steve’s girlfriend, and is very concerned about losing him when he goes away. Steve tells his friend Terry “the Toad” (Charles Martin Smith) that he can use Steve’s car when he goes to college, and Terry spends the night driving around, feeling powerful and exciting. He meets Debbie (Candy Clark), a pretty, if slightly dimwitted, girl, and is thrilled when she agrees to ride with him. But the car gets stolen, and he has a frantic time getting it back.

The boys have another friend, John Milner (Paul Le Mat), who is a hotrod champion. When he tries to get some pretty girls to ride with him, they send a bratty thirteen-year-old (Mackenzie Phillips) to get in his car instead. John gets challenged by a tough guy named Bob (Harrison Ford). Laurie, angry with Steve, agrees to ride with Bob in the race.

Curt spends the night in search of a mysterious blonde (Suzanne Somers), who whispered “I love you” to him from her car. He finally goes to see Wolfman Jack, the DJ all the kids listen to, to ask for help. John wins the race, but Bob’s car crashes. Steve realizes he cannot leave Laurie, and promises to stay and attend the community college. Curt finally leaves, his radio on his lap as the plane takes off. He listens until the sound disappears in static.

This brilliant and highly influential film (almost everyone connected with it became a star) provides a good opportunity for talking about some of the feelings teenagers have as they move into adulthood.

Curt is deeply conflicted between his big dreams and his fear of leaving home. But it is Steve who discovers he is not ready to leave. Although he tries to break his ties to home by telling Laurie he plans to date other people and giving his car to Terry, when Laurie is almost killed in the drag race he sees how much he cares for her. Thoughtful older teens may like to speculate about the symbolism of the mysterious blonde in the white Thunderbird, and the guidance from Wolfman Jack.

Families should talk about why Curt is so ambivalent about leaving. What does Curt’s ex-girlfriend’s teasing tell you about him? Why is Laurie afraid to let Steve go? Why does Laurie ride with Bob? Who is she hurting? Why does the movie end by telling you what happens to those characters in the future?

Don’t waste time on the sequel, More American Graffiti, with a different director, which is not nearly as good. This movie is a good place to find many future stars in small roles, including Harrison Ford, who went on to star in the director’s next movie, Star Wars. The sound track includes some of the greatest hits of the era. Listen to some other music by some of the artists, and see if teens can trace the influence of those artists on some of their favorite performers.

Benji: Off the Leash!

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

The dogs are cute, the intentions are good, and there’s a refreshing absence of potty humor, but that’s about the best that can be said about the fifth movie about loveable mutt Benji from writer/director Joe Camp.

In past films, Benji rescued children (Benji), triumphed over international dog-nappers (For the Love of Benji), survived in the wilderness (Benji the Hunted) and was even the reincarnation of Chevy Chase (Oh Heavenly Dog). None qualifies as a classic, but a remake of any of those films would have more merit than the script Camp wrote and directed, an uneasy combination of wholesome slapstick with Dickensian bleakness.

Colby (Nick Whitaker) is the stepson of Hatchett (Chris Kendrick), an abusive man who runs a puppy mill in the back yard, forcing his dogs to have puppies he can sell, even when it ruins their health. He mistreats the dogs and he mistreats his wife and son. When his best breeder gives birth to puppies that are not purebred, Hatchett tosses the one that looks different across the room and leaves him to die. Colby rescues him, bringing the puppy’s mother to see him, so that he can nurse.

But when the puppy gets older, Hatchett finds out, and soon the puppy has to fend for himself. He finds a friend, known as “Lizard Tongue,” an expert at escaping from a couple of clumsy dogcatchers. Lizard Tongue also finds a friend, the acerbic but kind-hearted Mr. Finch, who leaves dog food and water out on his porch and who knows how to offer gentle friendship to a dog unused to kindness from humans.

Kids will love the clever and loyal little dogs, especially when they outsmart Hatchett and the dogcatchers. But the movie seems caught in a 1970′s time warp, including a slow motion sequence that harks back to Lee Majors as “The Six Million Dollar Man.” The behind-the-scenes credit sequence footage is more fun than the movie story, which even children may find slow going and amateurish. Some viewers may be upset by Hatchett’s very harsh behavior toward Colby and the dogs, and by Colby’s mother’s failure to protect him, her only explanation: “Two parents are better than one, and we have to eat.” And there is something unsettling about the fact that the movie seems more concerned about the abuse of the animals than about the abuse of Colby and his mother.

Furthermore, the “happy” ending may not feel too happy to some children. Camp’s website has a message about the importance of making movies with genuine family values, but the final message of this film seems to be that fame is better than love and home. The only person likely to find that the happiest of endings is Camp himself, glad to be back at the helm of another Benji movie. Families in search of a happy ending will have to hope that the next Benji movie is “Benji Finds a Better Script.”

Parents should know that the movie has some mild epithets and insults (“jeez,” “why the devil,” “idiot,” “pansy”) and mild peril. There are tense emotional confrontations, and some viewers may be upset by Hatchett’s harshness and insults. Hatchett throws a puppy across the room and leaves him to die. The dogcatchers use a tranquilizer gun. There is discreet reference to putting dogs to sleep (referred to as “you know”) and some discussion of puppy mills and over-breeding. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of African-American characters of integrity and dedication.

Families who see this movie should talk about how both Hatchett and Colby’s mother use the same excuse — that they need to eat. What alternatives do they have? Why did Colby tell the puppy they were both different? They should talk about Mr. Finch’s gentle approach to making friends with Lizard Tongue. What does it mean to say that “it takes a special kind of person to admit he was wrong?” Families might also want to talk about how their community deals with stray dogs and how people, even children, can help prevent abuse of people and animals.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the other Benji movies, Cats and Dogs, and My Dog Skip.

We Don’t Live Here Anymore

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

Situated somewhere between John Updike and “Knott’s Landing,” this is a story of suburban angst and adultery, with meaningful glances, inexpressible longing, fumbled groping, and a lot of hangovers.

Two couples’ lives overlap so completely that the boundaries between them are beginning to dissolve. Jack (Mark Ruffalo) gets angry at Terry (Laura Dern) for being a poor housekeeper and drinking too much. He is having an affair with Edith (Naomi Watts), who is married to his colleague and best friend Hank (Peter Krause). We first see them at a casual, slightly boozy evening together. Jack and Edith go out to get more beer, but the real reason is some passionate kisses and a chance to make plans to meet the next day.

It is easy to feel the pull of Edith’s appeal. She has neat platinum hair and glowing porcelain skin. Her home is orderly and comfortable and brimming with light. She likes Jack a lot and never nags him about money or not paying enough attention to her. And what they have feels new and fresh to both of them. Maybe, too, there is some appeal is taking something from his close friend Hank, who has more money, a nicer house, more ambition, and, with his poem accepted by the New Yorker, more success.

Hank wants everyone to feel loved, even Edith. And if Jack loves her, it takes pressure off of him. Jack wants to feel love, and thinks he may love Edith. Terry loves Jack and wants him to love her in spite of her failings, maybe because of them. And Jack feels so guilty about not loving her the way she wants (and deserves) that he hopes she will stray so that he can feel justified.

Some will find this all hideously self-involved, but many will find it heart-breakingly poignant and insightful in that Tolstoy-esque “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” category. The direction is exceptionally thoughtful and rich with detail. The acting is superb. But for me it all became too in love with itself. Color schemes that made Edith look moonbeamy by keeping her in white and close calls with an onrushing train and children standing too close to the edge of a cliff felt heavy and suffocating instead of rich and transcendent. Yet it draws a lot of power not just from the intense intelligence behind it at every level but from the mirror quality any ambitious story about marriage offers its audience by the simple virtue of locating itself in the core of human hope and doubt. Forget about sharks and aliens. The characters in this movie may not live here anymore, but this is exactly where the rest of us live and where we fight every day to keep living.

Parents should know that this movie has extremely mature material, with very explicit sexual references and situations, including adultery, nudity, very strong language, drinking (to excess), and smoking. There are tense emotional condfrontations that may be upsetting to some viewers.

Families who see this movie should talk about why the characters find it so difficult to feel love and feel loved.

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate The Ice Storm, The Safety of Objects, and sex, lies, and videotape.

Head in the Clouds

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

This is a soapy saga of love, war, and many, many hairstyles.

The hair signifies the passage of time in the story of a love triangle that lasts through the turbulent decades of Europe in from the roaring 20′s through World War II.

Charlize Theron plays Gilda, a glamorous heiress who lives for pleasure. Guy (Stuart Townsend), a shy and serious Cambridge student, is dazzled by her beauty, honesty, and complete freedom from any conventional notions about how to behave. She is drawn to him, but perhaps because of his seriousness, she does not let herself get too close to him. They have brief, passionate encounters, and then she disappears to wherever the parties are. Sometimes they spar over determinism vs. free will (“You think I was being spontaneous but I was always going to do that, just like I was always going to win this argument!”) and about the meaning of life. She thinks that the misery and injustice all around them is all the more reason to enjoy everything they can, before it catches up with them. He believes that it is his obligation to fight for freedom.

Guy leaves his teaching job in England to live in Paris with Gilda, living a bohemian life as a photographer. She has taken in a Spanish dancer named Mia (Penelope Cruz), who is in Paris to get training as a nurse, so she can return to help fight the fascists. The sweep of passion and the sweep of history bring the three together and separate them, as Guy and Mia go off to fight in the Spanish Civil War and Guy returns to find Gilda living with one of the Nazi officers overseeing the occupation of Paris.

Even with all of that passion and sweep and the star power of its actors, the movie feels as pre-determined as its main character’s fatalistic outlook. The scenes are filled with themes and historical events of great power, and yet they never pulse with life. Gilda is a fantasy madonna/whore figure, and the characters’ petty problems and debates, intended to illuminate what is going on around them, are a distraction instead.

Parents should know that the movie has extremely explicit sexual references and situations, including orgies, promiscuity, sadism, and same-sex relationships. Characters drink, smoke, and use very strong language. The movie has battle and other wartime violence, torture, and sexual violence. Characters are injured and killed.

Families who see this movie should talk about their own views on determinism vs. free will and how we decide when to become involved in others’ fights for freedom.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Charlotte Gray. They should also see some wartime classics like Casablanca and To Have and Have Not.

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