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

Punch-Drunk Love

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

Comedians use humor to transcend norms and act outside the rules of civility to express the feelings we strive to keep inside – anger, insecurity, resentment, and selfishness. Many of them assume the freedoms of childhood to unleash the superego and say and do and grab and insult without any restrictions. Adam Sandler is very much in this tradition. His comedies are based on essentially the same character — a sweet but immature guy with an anger management problem. They have been been very successful with adolescent (and formerly adolescent) male audiences, topping the box office almost without exception.

Writer-director P.T. Anderson (“Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia”) has taken that same character and created around it a highly original and intelligent movie. It’s still about a sweet but immature guy with an anger management problem, so I can’t say that the performance is a stretch for Sandler, but he deserves a lot of credit for playing that character straight, without the distance and comfort (and hostility) of laugh lines.

Sandler plays Barry, a man whose affable exterior hides enormous fear and fury. We first see him in a bright blue suit sitting at a desk in a bare corner of a warehouse, talking on the phone to some low-level staff person about the intricacies of a promotion that gives frequent flyer miles for purchases of groceries. Two stunning, almost hallucinatory events occur that no one seems to see but him. First, there is a massive truck accident that just seems to evaporate. Then, a small piano-looking instrument called a harmonium somehow just seems to appear on the sidewalk. He picks it up and brings it inside, and we see that he has an office in the warehouse and is in fact the boss of a business that sells novelty toilet plungers.

All of this tells us that we are embarking on a journey inside Barry, who through the course of the movie will unstop his clogged up feelings, chart a course between the sacred and the profane, and reach toward love and harmony. And it works very, very well on this level, as we see Barry no longer able to bear his current life and therefore willing to take risks, some wiser than others, to allow him to change. Anderson shows us Barry over and over again running through hallways. He confides to his brother-in-law that he needs to talk to someone. He calls a 900 number just to have someone to talk to. Both violate his trust in the most shattering manner, and both unleash siblings (played by real-life siblings) who abuse him emotionally and physically.

His fascination with the frequent flyer mile opportunity leads him to buy hundreds of boxes of chocolate pudding. Even though he does not yet know where he wants to go, and has never really been anywhere, at some level he knows he yearns to go somewhere. When he meets Lena (Emily Watson), he feels that she is what he is longing for. He tries to use his absurd pudding miles to follow her to Hawaii, and when that does not work, he jettisons all dodges and maneuvers and just pays for a ticket. In a tradition that goes back to Shakespeare, it is only in an exotic natural location away from home that the lovers can tell each other the truth and find one another. And, as tradition requires, there is a second-act complication as Barry’s call to the sex line results in a disastrous attempt at extortion.

Watson is luminous, if enigmatic, as the warm-hearted girl who is a little surprised at how drawn she is to Barry. Anderson regular Philip Seymour Hoffman is outstanding as the would-be extortionist.

Audiences are likely to feel a bit punch drunk themselves as they try to make sense of this odd romantic journey with its offbeat dualities, combining extremes of chaos and harmony and love and anger. In one scene Barry and Lena tenderly kiss as they describe the violence of the way they would like to express their feelings. Still, Lena is so completely warm and healthy that the story seems lopsided, even if seen from Barry’s point of view. But it is undeniably an arresting and challenging film. Those expecting an Adam Sandler movie or a romantic comedy will be disappointed, but those who are open to something a little twisted and messy will find it very rewarding.

Parent should know that this movie has a good deal of mature material, including very strong language, sexual references and situations including a call to a telephone sex line, and violence. Parents of Adam Sandler fans should know that this is very different from his other movies and should exercise caution in allowing teenagers to see it.

Families who see this movie should talk about the use of symbols in the movie. Why is the word “love” spelled out in the abrasions on Barry’s knuckles? Compare that to Robert Mitchum’s famous portrayal of a con man posing as a preacher in “Night of the Hunter,” with “love” tattooed across the knuckles of one hand and “hate” tattooed across the other.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Raising Arizona.” Families looking for a more conventional Adam Sandler comedy will enjoy “The Wedding Singer” and “Happy Gilmore.”

Possession

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

No one thinks more carefuly about words than poets, scholars, and detectives. All three come together in two parallel love stories spanning two centuries, based on the astonishingly inventive, dauntingly intellectual, but rapturously romantic novel by A.S. Byatt.

Neil LaBute, best known for his harrowing and very contemporary portrayals of bitter, selfish, and manipulative people and abusive relationships in “Your Friends and Neighbors” and “In the Company of Men,” is an unexpected choice for this film. It required him to adapt someone else’s material, work with settings in another time and place, and portray relationships with genuine respect and intimacy. While he is not able to master the scope of the novel, the result is smart, satisfying, and fun.

Aaron Eckert (star of all of LaBute’s films and the biker boyfriend in “Erin Brockovich”) plays Roland Michell, a scholar of English literature who gets little respect because he is (1) a lowly research assistant and (2) American. Assigned the trivial task of leafing through a famous 19th century poet’s personal copy of a science book, in case the poet made any interesting marginal notes, he makes an astounding discovery.

The poet, Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northern), was famous for his devotion to his wife and is thought to have been completely faithful to her. But between the pages of the old book are early drafts of what appear to be Ash’s love letters to another woman. Impulsively, Roland takes the pages. They are potentially a career-making discovery. But more important, they are exactly the kind of scholarly mystery that fires his mind and spirit.

Roland decides that the Ash letters may have been written to Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle), a minor poet. Roland goes to meet with Maud Bailey, (Gwyneth Paltrow), a professor, who is not only an expert on LaMotte, but also a great-niece. From there, the story goes back and forth between the two sets of lovers.

This is a high-gloss romance with pretty people falling in love. Forget bodice-ripping — bodice untying is conclusively shown to be even more voluptuous. But the subtlety and complexity of the novel is lost. There are vestiges about some ambitious thoughts about love, honor, risk, emotional and intellectual precision, and even scholarship, but what remains is a nice date movie, but not much more.

Parents should know that the movie has sexual situations and references, including sex between unmarried couples, a lesbian relationship, and an out of wedlock pregnancy. Roland and Maud almost become sexually involved when he stops, telling her that he has hurt others in the past and does not want to become physically intimate until they have a better sense of their relationship. A character commits suicide. Characters steal documents of great value. There is some strong language, and characters smoke and drink. Some audience members may be upset by scenes of an unauthorized exhumation.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the two couples are alike and how they are different, and they should talk about the decisions made by Ash and LaMotte to become involved with each other despite prior relationships. Who was hurt by what they did? What do we know about Roland’s and Maud’s prior relationships, and how did they help and hurt the development of their relationship with each other? What led them to trust — and mistrust — each other? What was the right thing for Roland to do when he discovered Ash’s draft letters? How much is it fair for us to learn about historical figures and what do we do with that information?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the book, Possession: A Romance, with extraordinarily poems “by” Ash and LaMotte. They will also enjoy another story that counterpoises a 19th century love story with a contemporary one, The French Lieutenant’s Woman with Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep.

Pollyanna

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1960

Plot: Pollyanna (Hayley Mills) arrives in Harrington to live with her wealthy aunt, Polly Harrington (Jane Wyman), after the death of her missionary parents. Polly is generous with money, buying Pollyanna lots of beautiful clothes, but is reserved and joyless. She uses her influence to run all aspects of the town, even telling Reverend Ford (Karl Malden) what to preach on Sundays. His fire and brimstone sermons make the congregation miserable. Pollyanna’s friendliness and her expectation that everyone else will be friendly, too, endear her to everyone from Polly’s servants and Reverand Ford to a cranky invalid (Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Snow) and the town recluse (Adolphe Menjou as Mr. Pendergast). She teaches her friends “the glad game,” finding something to be glad about in any situation.

When the people in the town decide that instead of accepting Polly’s charity, they will give a bazaar to raise money for a new orphanage, Polly forbids Pollyanna to go. She sneaks out by climbing down a tree and has a wonderful time, but falls on the way back in and is badly hurt. She no longer wants to try to play the glad game, until the whole town shows up to tell her how much she means to them. She leaves for an operation, confident that she will soon be well.

Discussion: This is Disney at its finest, a lavish and gorgeous fantasy of an idyllic American past. Using first-rate actors (including two former Oscar-winners) and sumptuous period detail, this movie is a delight for the eyes as well as the spirit.

Pollyanna is best remembered for “the glad game,” in which the challenge is to find something to be glad about, no matter how bleak the situation. But what really makes her special is the way that she expects the best from everyone, and the transforming effect it has on each person she meets. Pollyanna wears on a chain a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “When you look for the bad in men, expecting to find it, you surely will.” She thanks Aunt Polly for her generosity, and the clothes become a gift instead of a duty or a way of establishing position. (Cedric has the same effect on others in “Little Lord Fauntleroy.”) Pollyanna expects Mrs. Snow and Mr. Pendergast to want to participate in the bazaar, and they do. She quotes her father to Reverend Ford. He told her that with 826 “happy texts” in the Bible, God must have wanted people to be happy. Pollyanna helps Ford find again not just his own joy in preaching, but also his integrity in preaching what is in his heart, and not what Polly Harrington tells him to say. At his next sermon, he tells everyone to enjoy the beautiful day (and to come to the bazaar), and admits, “I should have been looking for the good in you, and I failed, and I apologize.”

Many of the mistakes people make in this movie come from trying to protect themselves from hurt. Polly, hurt by her estrangement from Dr. Chilton, relies on her sense of duty. Mrs. Snow, worried about illness and dependence, tries to blame others and achieves some sense of control (and some attention) with her contrariness. Mr. Pendergast just avoids any contact at all. Pollyanna shows them how to make sure that fear of pain and loss do not prevent opportunities for joy.

Pollyanna, like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” gets a rare opportunity to have all she has done recognized and acknowledged by the community. Ask kids who in their community has had a beneficial impact, and how it could be acknowledged.

Pokemon 4Ever

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

In this fourth installment of Pokemon feature films, Ash and his friends explore an enchanted forest and meet Celebi, a dove-like Pokemon with the power to move through time. They also make friends with a boy named Sammy who was catapulted 40 years into the present day when he tried to protect Celebi from being captured. But then Celebi is captured and turned into a supercharged evil force. Sammy, Ash, Pikachu, and their friends have to find a way to save Celebi and the forest. And Sammy has to go back to his own era.

This movie has more of a story than the previous Pokemon features, some surprisingly lovely background paintings, and a very impressive computer-animated monster made out of twigs and straw. I was a bit relieved to get away from the concept of possessing the pokemons and focus more on cooperation and friendship. But it is still a long slog for anyone but the most committed Pokemon fan, and parents may feel that the movie’s title is a reference to its running time.

Parents often wonder about the appeal of Pokemon. As I have written before, there are three reasons that children are drawn to characters like Pokemon. First is the perennial appeal of characters who appear to be weak but have hidden sources of power. Kids, who live in a world of powerful giants are drawn to stories of transformations and secret strength, from Clark Kent who is secretly Superman on through the Transformers, Ninja Turtles, and Power Rangers. Next, the many facts to memorize about Pokemon give children a chance to master something that is vastly beyond the ability of adults, giving them a sense of power and competence. Finally, as children start to develop social skills, fads like Pokemon provide a shared language that can help those conversations and imaginative games get started.

Parents should know that the movie has characters in peril and one apparent death that could be upsetting for younger children. There is one mildly crude joke that kids will find funny.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Ash and Sammy will continue to be close to each other, even though they will not be together. How did Celebi stop being violent? What is the difference between Jesse and James and the other member of Team Rocket they meet? What do you think Team Rocket is?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the other Pokemon movies.

Previous Posts

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posted 3:59:08pm Apr. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Trailer: The Normal Heart
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posted 8:00:57am Apr. 23, 2014 | read full post »

The Top 100 Animated Films of All Time: The Animators Pick
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posted 3:59:23pm Apr. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Daniel Licht, Composer of "Dexter"
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posted 8:00:40am Apr. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Happy Earth Day! Movies About Our Planet
Celebrate Earth Day with some of these great films about our planet, its beauties and its challenges: 1. An Inconvenient Truth Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary makes a powerful case for the dire effects of climate change -- and an even more powerful case for our ability to prevent more damage

posted 7:00:55am Apr. 22, 2014 | read full post »


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