Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Tusk
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

This is Where I Leave You
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Think Like a Man Too
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material
Release Date:
June 20, 2014

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Godzilla
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Release Date:
May 16, 2014

Robots

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2005

Just like its endearing hero, Rodney Copperbottom (voice of Ewan McGregor), this movie is assembled from hand-me-down parts but it has so much heart that it is transformed into something irresistibly fresh and downright adorable.

One of the hand-me-down parts is the country boy with a dream in the big city. There’s the classic underdog story, too, with the (literally) scrappy outsiders fighting for their rights against the rich and powerful and snobbish. Of course there’s a love story or two. And that real-life special effect Robin Williams. Just as in Aladdin, animation is the only way to give him a physical persona that can keep up with his avalanche of wisecracks and personas. Mel Brooks makes his animation character debut and it is worth seeing the movie just to hear him say the words “titanium tuchas.”

There is humor ranging from groan-worthy visual and verbal puns to low-down slapstick and subtle satire. And some roller-coastery excitement, snappy wisecracks, and music that will make you want to get up and dance. There’s a nice moral that goes beyond the usual “be true to yourself and achieve your dreams” theme of most movies for kids. There’s even a cameo appearance by that greatest of all metal men, the Tin Woodsman. It all comes together in a story that works on every level, with something for every age, with a story that is not just heartwarming but meaningful.

Brilliantly imagined by illustrator William Joyce, this movie takes place in an all-mechanical world where even the pets are robots and even the fire hydrants and mailboxes are “alive.” This movie is going to keep people glued to their DVDs, because every single shot is filled with fabulously imaginative detail, every bit of it adorably witty, wonderfully fantastic, and perfectly logical. If physics doesn’t work this way, it should.

Rodney arrives after 12 hours of labor — that’s how long it takes his robot parents to assemble him from a kit. They are loving and devoted but not wealthy. As Rodney grows up, he is assembled from hand-me-down parts, including one embarrassing year with a torso that once belonged to a teenaged girl cousin. Rodney dreams of being an inventor and making life better and easier. His hero is Bigweld (voice of Mel Brooks), who urges everyone to come up with ideas to solve problems. He welcomes new ideas at his big corporation. His slogan is, “You can shine no matter what you’re made of.”

But by the time Rodney arrives to show his invention, Bigweld is gone, replaced by Ratchet (voice of Greg Kinnear), the new president of Bigweld industries. Ratchet doesn’t want to help anyone. Pressured by his mother (voice of Jim Broadbent), he decides the company will no longer provide parts to fix old robots (“outmodes”). They will make money by making perfectly good robots feel bad about themselves so that they will order unnecessary upgrades. Their slogan will be, “Why be you when you can be new?”

So Rodney and his friends have to find a way to bring back Bigweld and make the world safe for the mutts and oddballs, especially the ones with a dream of making things better.

As often in animation, the actors provide pleasant but not very distinctive voices and the comedians steal the show. Williams, Brooks, and Jennifer Coolidge (as the appropriately-named “Aunt Fanny”) are the highlights. But the star here is the design, as much a part of the story as the plot and the characters.

Parents should know that the movie has cartoon-style peril and violence with some thrill-ride-ish special effects. Characters use some crude school-yard language and there are some potty jokes, including an extended fart joke sequence, and some mild sexual humor, including jokes about cross-dressing and “fixing” a dog.

Families who see this movie should talk about the difference between the two mottos. The “outmodes” are made out of pieces from other machines. Which ones do you recognize? How do Rodney’s and Ratchet’s ideas about helping people differ? Why doesn’t Crank want to try and what changes his mind? What’s the difference between Bigweld’s and Ratchet’s views on what a corporation should do? Why did Rodney say that the most important thing his parents gave him was believing in him? Who can you help by believing in them? If you could be an inventor like Rodney, what would you like to invent? Families might like to learn about the history of inventions and becoming an inventor.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Monsters, Inc., Ice Age, and A Bug’s Life. They will also enjoy the marvelous books by William Joyce, especially Santa Calls, Dinosaur Bob, A Day with Wilbur Robinson and Rollie Pollie Olie. Older family members might like to read the play “R.U.R” by Karel Capek, who invented the term “robot.”

Gunner Palace

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

A bunch of American kids in or just out of their teens are now living and working in Baghdad’s Azimiya Palace, built by Saddam Hussein for his son Uday. They are the Army’s 2/3 Field Artillery, known as the Gunners, and they have christened their new home “Gunner Palace.” They divide their time between enjoying Uday’s putting green and pool, going on raids to round up insurgents, trying to figure out who the insurgents are and whether their trusted interpreter is one of them, handing out pro-democracy posters and bumper stickers, and dodging bombs and RPGs (rocket-powered grenades). In this powerful documentary, they tell their own stories. This movie is not for or against the war or the Americans. It is on the side of the soldiers, and it is a movie everyone in America over the age of 15 should see.

Parents should know that this movie was originally rated R for its authentic portrayal of the soldiers’ constant profanity and obscenity. The movie also includes some explicit references to sexual activity and to drinking and drug use. Characters smoke and complain about not being allowed to drink. While the movie does not have any graphic violence, it is set in a war zone and there are many references to combat-style violence. Some of the soldiers who appear in the movie are reported dead by the time the movie is over.

Melinda and Melinda

posted by rkumar
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Woody Allen’s latest movie has a great premise. But while it is surer and more intriguing than the arid Anything Else and Hollywood Ending, it still fails to give us characters who connect in authentic or interesting ways to each other and therefore they never connect to us.

Four friends in a deli debate whether life is comedy or tragedy. One of them describes a moment: at a dinner party, the hosts are trying to impress a guest and a distressed young woman arrives unexpectedly.

One of the writers at the table (Wallace Shawn) says that is the perfect opening for a romantic comedy. Another (Larry Pine) says it is the beginning of a tragedy. As each tells the story his way, we see it unfolding. There are many parallels between the two versions, with the unexpected guest a woman named Melinda and played by Radha Mitchell in both stories.

In the tragic version of this story, a young couple living beyond their means is trying to impress a director at their dinner party so that he will cast the husband in his play. Melinda is an old friend of the party’s hostess (Chloe Sevigny) who has just shown up, two months late, for an extended stay. Her marriage to a doctor fell apart when she had an affair and in the divorce he got all of their money and full custody of the children. The affair ended and Melinda is in a bad way, smoking and drinking too much and taking too many pills. She has been hospitalized following a suicide attempt. She is strung out and desperate.

In the comic version of the story, the host couple is trying to impress a wealthy man so that he will help finance a movie the wife wants to direct, with her husband as a member of the cast. As in the tragic version, someone says, “I’m running out of obsequious banter.” Melinda shows up as a new neighbor in the building who needs help. As in the tragic version, she has lost her husband by having an affair, but this time there are no children and she is not a complete mess.

As we go back and forth between the two versions, it is often hard to tell them apart even though they have different characters, tones, soundtracks, and directions. That may be important for making Allen’s point about how comedy and tragedy intertwine. That’s a good point, but it is a problem when it comes to the success of the movie. Comic or tragic, a story should be involving. With dreary, self-involved, characters who move around the plots like sleepwalkers, neither one of these stories is.

Allen has addressed the same themes with more insight and wit many times. He has made themes like the fear of death, infidelity, and the longing for love comic and tragic in different movies and sometimes in the same movie. He made the same point he never quite gets to here in fifteen brilliant seconds in Stardust Memories when the supersmart alien tells the, um, alienated comedian who wants to address the tragedies of life, “You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.” That’s still good advice, especially if you’re making a movie.

Everyone wants to work with Woody Allen, so once again he has assembled a glittering cast of exceptionally talented actors. But the exquisitely designed sets overwhelm them. They do their best with his dialogue, but are unable to make it sound anything but awkward and overly scripted. Will Ferell is out of his comfort zone as he follows Kenneth Branaugh (Celebrity), Jason Biggs (Anything Else), and John Cusack (Bullets Over Broadway) as Woody Allen substitutes. The only performer who seems comfortable with his character is Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things and Love, Actually) as a sensitive and romantic musician. But the problem is not the performances, it is the characters, who are never involving or three-dimensional. That is is the movie’s real tragedy.

Parents should know that this movie has some strong language, explicit sexual references, drinking, smoking, drug abuse, and references to murder and suicide. A strength of the movie is its comfortable portrayal of inter-racial relationships.

Families who see this movie should talk about the differences and similarities between comedy and tragedy. In another Woody Allen movie, a character says that comedy is “tragedy plus time.” What does that mean?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other Allen movies like Stardust Memories and comparing some of his comedies and dramas to think about how the same situations can work in either context. They may also enjoy Sliding Doors, about what would happen to a women played by Gwenyth Paltrow under two different scenarios, one if she catches the train, another if she misses it.

Be Cool

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

“I won’t say any more than I have to, if that.” That’s John Travolta as Chili Palmer in Get Shorty, and it’s a great character, a great line, and a great movie.

Chili says it again in this watered-down sequel. And then he says it another time. That pretty much sums up the problem with this movie. People keep saying more than they have to. Or less. Just not the right amount. The original was cleverly plotted and brilliantly acted. This one is just mildly amusing, with some slow patches in between. The original had Gene Hackman and James Gandolfini. This one has Cedric the Entertainer and the late Robert Pastorelli.

In Get Shorty, “Shylock” and movie-lover Chili Palmer works for a loan shark. He is sent to LA in search of a missing dry cleaner who owes money. Chili ends up getting into the movie business, becoming a successful producer.

As this movie opens, Chili is ready to move into the music business, which creates opportunities for many guest appearances by real-life performers from Christina Milian as an aspiring pop star and Outkast’s Andre Benjamin as a trigger-happy aspiring gangsta to powerhouses Aerosmith, the Black-Eyed Peas, and Sergio Mendes as themselves.

Cedric as usual steals the show with one of his best performances as Sin, an ivy league and Wharton grad who manages a tough rap group called the Dub MDs (as in Weapons of Mass Destruction) and is as comfortable with a gun as a spreadsheet. He has a terrific speech about the influence of the black community on American culture. Vince Vaughn is very funny as a Jewish white guy acting like his vision of a hyper-stereotyped black rapper, The Rock is a hoot as a gay bodyguard and would-be actor, and Benjamin shows some comic flair, but the musical numbers are not especially well staged, even the much-anticipated dance reunion of Travolta and his Pulp Fiction co-star, Uma Thurman. And the product placement for Sidekicks and other items goes past intrusive into offensive.

There are some brief echoes of the original, with a few agreeably sly but understated digs at show business and a couple of clever shout-outs to the first film, but more often the jokes are just references, repetition, or imitatation of Get Shorty just reminding us how much better it was. It all gets awfully meta awfully quickly, with Chili making fun of sequels (“At least they’re honest about being dishonest”) and telling someone that you can only use the f-word once in a PG-13. And then using it, once. By the time Steven Tyler explains that he doesn’t appear in movies (get it? he’s in a movie when he says that!) it does not even amuse us enough to distract us from a plot lifted right out of a Mickey-and-Judy-let’s-put-on-a-show movie. The first movie stayed cool but not letting us see the script that everyone was so excited about. Chili never even read it; that’s how cool he was. But here he is supposed to be all excited about a pop performer about whom the strongest applicable accolade is “pleasant,” and there’s nothing more de-coolifying than that.

Get Shorty made fun of cynicism in show business; this movie is cynical. The first movie was about the show and the business. This one is just about everyone’s getting paid. Chili’s assessment of a character’s movie pitch is a suitable review for this one: “You’ve got a premise and a setting but you don’t have character arcs or a plot.”

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of violence for a PG-13, though it is not very graphic. Characters are shot and beaten and some are killed. There is some strong language, including racial and anti-gay terms and a joke about how the f-word can only be used once in a PG-13 movie, followed by its one use. Characters drink and constant smoking is portrayed as cool. There are some sexual references and some dancers in skimpy costumes. Many of the characters lie, cheat, steal, use force, and otherwise behave like lowlifes and crooks.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the characters in the movie decided what was important to them and who to trust. How will Sin’s daughter feel about her father when she gets older? Why does Raji want to act “gangsta?” In what way are the Dub MD’s like today’s rappers?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the better original, Get Shorty, which actually is cool.

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De-fictionalizing Products in Movies and Television: Life Imitating Art
Fast Company has an article about Omni Consumer Products, a "de-fictionalizing" company that looks for products in movies and television that do not really exist and makes them available. As the sole proprietor of Omni Consumer Products, [Pete] Hottelet is constantly scanning the pop culture z

posted 8:00:17am Sep. 19, 2014 | read full post »

Tusk
You can make a good movie about slackers, for example "Slackers," from Richard Linklater and "Clerks" from Kevin Smith. But you can't make a good movie by a slacker, and Smith does not seem wi

posted 5:59:40pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

This is Where I Leave You
A toddler carries his little potty out in front of the house so he can try out his new-found skill in public. Twice. Plus another time when the contents of the potty are first displayed for the

posted 5:59:39pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

The Maze Runner
Yes, it's another dystopic YA trilogy (actually, there's a fourth volume, a prequel), and yes, only a teenager with fabulous cheekbones can save the day. But "The Maze Runner" is not a lesser repeat. It is a worthy addition to the genre, an absorbing drama with surprising turns and even more surpris

posted 5:59:23pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »


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