Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Guardians of the Galaxy
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

 

Noah
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

Get on Up
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use, some strong language, and violent situations
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

 

Finding Vivian Maier
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 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

Breakin’ All the Rules

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

Bright stars can’t save this over-plotted and under-directed romantic comedy. Jamie Foxx plays Quincy, a magazine editor who is about to propose to his girlfriend when she dumps him. So he writes a book about how to break up with a girlfriend, based on research he had to do for his boss about employee termination, and it becomes a best-seller.

The movie then lurches into a leaden daisy-chain of mistaken identity mix-ups that hold the interest of the characters on screen much longer than they do the audience’s in watching it or mine in explaining it.

Quincy’s cousin Evan (Morris Chestnut) thinks his girlfriend Nicky (Gabrielle Union) is about to break up with him, so he sends Quincy to break up with her first. Not knowing who she is, Quincy begins to fall for her. Meanwhile, Rita, the gold-digging girlfriend of the big boss at the magazine (Jennifer Esposito), mistakes Evan for Quincy, and jumps into bed with him to prevent him from helping the boss break up with her.

You know the expression, “as funny as a heart attack?” Well, this is the movie that actually tries to make a heart attack funny. It doesn’t work, but then, not much in this movie does. There are a couple of good ideas and a couple of funny moments, but they are outweighed by too many “none of this would have happened if people had been logical and honest” complications and too much unnecessarily ugly attempted humor, including ostensibly charming references to bizarre tumors with hair and teeth and whether humans can bite through their own skin.

Fox, Chestnut, Union, and Esposito are all exceptionally talented, attractive, and fun to watch. They give the material far more than it deserves. But director Daniel Taplitz is too attached to his own screenplay and gives more time to each of the increasingly tedious developments than they require, breaking some important rules himself — the ones about how to make a movie worth watching.

Parents should know that the movie has sexual references and situations that are close to the R-line for a PG-13. There is also crude bathroom and sexual humor. It is supposed to be funny that an elderly man repeatedly asks someone to hold his private parts, and there are jokes about crabs and groupies and a discussion of sexual fantasies. Characters use some strong language. Characters drink a lot, especially when upset, and there are repeated jokes about giving liquor to a dog. And the movie seems to approve of manipulation, lies, and using jealousy to get someone to make a commitment. One strength of the movie is its portrayal of attractive and capable minority characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about Quincy’s comment that “Falling in love is blissful insantity, but breaking up is a rational act,” and “love doesn’t care about honesty; it cares about itself,” and his cousin’s comment that “on a date, it’s all dishonest.” What is the best way to break up with someone?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Deliver Us From Eva. And they might enjoy some of the classic romantic comedy mix-up movies, like Move Over Darling and If a Man Answers.

Shrek 2

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

Oh, stop reading now and just go to the movie.

All you need to know from me is that “Shrek 2″ is pure enjoyment, with stunningly brilliant technology and hilarious performances. And (here is the most important part) it has a script that is filled with wit, wisdom, heart, and so-funny-you’ll-have-to-see-it-twice comedy, with nonstop humor ranging from subtle and sophisticated satire to unabashedly un-subtle slapstick and potty jokes. Telling you any of the specifics before you see it would just spoil the delicious surprises you have in store. So go see it now, and then come back and read the rest of the review.

Back already? For those who were laughing too hard to follow all of the plot, here’s a summary. Shrek (voice of Michael Myers) and Princess Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) are blissfully married and honeymooning in a gingerbread house, Hansel’s Honeymoon Hideaway. When they get back to the swamp, Donkey (voice of Eddie Murphy) is waiting to welcome them home. Heralds appear with a flourish of trumpets and an invitation from Fiona’s parents to a ball in honor of the newlyweds. Shrek does not want to go. He does not think Fiona’s parents will approve of him. But Fiona persuades him, and they set off for Fiona’s kingdom, a land called Far Far Away.

Fiona’s parents, King Harold (voice of John Cleese) and Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews) are a bit taken aback at the sight of the newlyweds. They were expecting a human princess married to Prince Charming, not two big green ogres.

The queen sees how happy Fiona is and tries to adjust, but the king, pushed by Fairy Godmother (voice of “Absolutely Fabulous” star Jennifer Saunders) does everything he can to get rid of Shrek, even hiring a hit man, or, more properly a hit cat — none other than the swashbuckling Puss in Boots (voice of Antonio Banderas). But the bigger obstacle to the couple’s living happily ever after is Shrek himself, who worries that Fiona would be better off married to a handsome prince. So he sets out in search of a magical solution.

And before we get to the happily ever after ending, there will be encounters with characters from the first film, including Pinocchio, the three pigs, Sleeping Beauty, and the Gingerbread Man, and a bunch of new characters, including a growly-voiced wicked stepsister (voice of Larry King!) and a very effete Prince Charming, who tosses his hair in slow motion (voice of Rupert Everett). The movie manages to make fun of just about everything, including its fairy tale sources, and yet be so resonant of the true themes of fairy tales that it is genuinely touching.

The technology continues to be astonishing. The surfaces and textures are eye-poppingly vivid, almost real-er than real. The movie has breathtakingly beautiful backgrounds, exquisite detail, and characters so magnificently yet subtly expressive you expect to see them interviewed by James Lipton on Bravo. The voice talent is spectacular and perfectly integrated with the expressions and gestures of the animated characters. It’s going to be hard to think of the dashing and brilliantly funny Banderas as anything but a cat from now on.

There is a lot to look at, but there is even more to feel, with characters so tender and charming that you will cheer for a happily-ever-after-ending — and cheer even louder at the annoucement of “Shrek 3.”

Parents should know that the movie has some crude and vulgar humor including jokes about bathroom functions and jokes about a male character wearing ladies’ underwear. There are scenes in a tavern. The movie has some moments of mild peril and tension. The only casualties are an enchanted character and a couple of fish.

Families who see this movie should talk about the experiences family members had in meeting the friends and families of the people they love. Were they nervous? What did they do to get to know each other? Do you agree with the decision Shrek and Fiona make at the end of the movie? Why? Shrek tells Fiona he won’t change and she says she has changed for him. What changes do they make? And families who enjoy this movie might like to try fingerbowls!

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original Shrek and Pixar animated classics like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and A Bug’s Life. They might also like to read the William Steig book about Shrek and some of his others, including Spinky Sulks.

Troy

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

The Iliad begins, “Sing, O goddess, of the anger of Achilles.” It is a story about love, honor, betrayal, fate, ambition, and of course, hubris. And it is the adventure of the best warrior there ever was or will be. This movie is the watered-down, greatest hits, Classic Comics version. It’s mostly about the fighting. And Achilles doesn’t rage so much as pout and glower.

Paris (Orlando Bloom), son of Priam (Peter O’Toole), the king of Troy, steals the wife of Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson). She is Helen (Diane Kruger), the most beautiful woman in the world. Menelaus and his brother, Agamemnon (Brian Cox) go to war against Troy, partly because of Helen, but more because it is an excuse to conquer the Trojans.

Achilles (Brad Pitt) does not admire Agamemnon or his reasons for going to war. But he has his own reasons. His mother (Julie Christie) tells him that he has a choice between having a short life but being known forever as the greatest warrior on earth, or living a long and peaceful life and being known by his son but have no “name” after death. Whether we think of Achilles as driven by the gods, fate, temperament, events in his childhood, or some sort of rational assessment of his options, he seems ineluctably hurtled into the life of a warrior.

The diplomatic Odysseus says, “Let Achilles fight for honor, let Agamemnon fight for power, and let the gods decide which man to glorify,” and so Achilles agrees to go to battle, bringing his faithful soldiers, the Myrmidons, and his beloved cousin Patroclus. Agamemnon leads a thousand ships to the walled city of Troy and Achilles and the Myrmidons sail with them, ignoring Agamemnon’s orders and landing to attack before any of the other ships gets to shore.

As the battle ends, Achilles tells his troops they can ransack the temple of Apollo. He sees Priam’s older son, Hector (Eric Bana), but lets him go: “Why kill you now, Prince of Troy, with no one here to see you fall?” If he is to have eternal glory, he knows he must be as much showman as warrior.

The huge armies battle, but in the movie, as in the book, the key confrontation is between Achilles and Hector. Paris has been unable to maintain his honor in a one-to-one battle with Meneleaus, and it is left to their representatives to battle to the death. Hector asks Achilles if he will agree that whoever loses will receive full burial rites. And we finally see Achilles’ fury as he refuses. When it is over, Priam risks his own life to plead for the return of his son’s body, and Achilles agrees. In The Iliad, Homer repeatedly calls Achilles “god-like,” until he shows compassion for Priam and Hector. Then, Homer believes, he is a man.

These two scenes are key not just to The Iliad but to of all of Western literature, and it is thrilling to see them on screen. But the rest of the long (nearly three hour) movie is uneven and unsatisfying. The dialogue is as inconsistent as the accents, with modern pronouncements like “we need to talk” and “do it!” alternating with ponderous approximations of classical meter. The script adds a distracting and superfluous love interest for Achilles. In an attempt to make one of history’s greatest epic sagas manageable on screen, the movie tells us both too much and too little about what is going on. It keeps reminding us about everyone’s passion for a place in history but does not show us enough about who the characters are and why their destinies are so entangled. And whose idea was that inside-the-helmet view of a confrontation?

Brad Pitt handles the fight scenes well and he is better looking than Helen of Troy, but he is not Achilles and you don’t for one second believe that he could live any time but the present or that he has ever felt an emotion stronger than being annoyed. Even in armor, screaming for battle, he looks like he is wearing blue jeans and cheering on the Rangers. Without the gods in the story, a lot depends on believing in the passion between Paris and Helen, but Bloom and Kruger barely register on screen. Bana, Cox, and Gleeson manage fairly well, but it is O’Toole who brings grace, dignity, and sheer star power to the story.

Parents should know that the movie is about a war and it has almost-constant battle violence with graphic and brutal injuries. The weapons include knives, swords, spears, arrow, and fire. Many characters are killed. The movie also has sexual references and situations and brief nudity. A virgin priestess is made available to the soldiers for rape as part of the spoils of war, but this is unacceptable to one of the warriors.

Families who see this movie should talk about how this story has continued to be vital and meaningful for generations throughout the centuries. Which elements of the story are relevant to contemporary conflicts? The treatment of prisoners? The role of advisors? Achilles was given the choice between a happy life and eternal fame. Why did he decide in favor of glory? What did he mean by saying that the gods envy us because we are mortal?

Families who enjoy this film should read selections from The Iliad, particularly the Robert Fagles translation. There are many online resources and study guides. Other film versions of this story include the miniseries Helen of Troy.

Van Helsing

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

Forgive me, I have to say it. This is one vampire movie with bite.

And it’s the first real popcorn pleasure of the year, a deliciously entertaining thrill ride that pleasurably tweaks new thrills from old stories.

It starts with a bang, even the movie studio’s logo a part of a glorious black-and-white intro that wonderfully evokes James Whale’s iconic scene of Viktor Frankenstein screaming “It’s ALIVE!” as the monster created from pieces of seven men is shocked into life and torch-bearing villagers are getting closer to the castle door. But then a louche Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) who can regenerate when he is wounded shows up to say, “It’s a pity your moment of triumph is being spoiled over a little thing like grave robbery,” and things take a surprising turn.

A year later, a guy in the coolest fedora since Indiana Jones is fighting a monster. It is Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman), a man who knows that he is here to fight evil, but is not sure why. He seems to remember fighting the Romans at Masada (that would be in about the year 72) but can’t remember the details of his past. When asked whether he is a holy man or a murderer, he says, “A bit of both.” All he ever needs to know is is “What are we dealing with and how do I kill it?”

Thankfully, the film wastes little time on any more exposition and explanations. Even though a priest tells Van Helsing, “In Transylvania you may find the answers you seek” about a past he cannot remember, what we get instead is pretty much non-stop action, more thrill ride or video game than story. And that’s fine with me. The production design is fabulously entertaining and imaginative. The monsters are all re-imagined with a great deal of flair, particularly Frankenstein’s creation, one of the best of his many screen portrayals.

The CGI effects are exceptionally well done, especially the transformations, though no one seems to have figured out how to give CGI characters the weight they should have in affecting the environment around them. Subtle details add a great deal of depth and atmosphere. In a scene set in Paris, we can glimpse the half-completed Eiffel Tower and in Transylvania there is a fountain shaped like a witch’s pointed hat. There are many intricate contraptions and there is a lot of slimpy, dripping gloop. Dracula silently tangos and then paces across the floor and up the wall. There are some little hooded henchmen who creep about like evil Ooompa-Loompas, and the female vampires look like demonic supermodels. A very grand masked ball features characters in more than one level of disguise. Some good dialogue is delivered with a lot of panache.

The movie takes itself seriously enough to have us care about the outcome but has enough of a sense of humor to provide Van Helsing with the equivalent of James Bond’s “Q,” a cheery sidekick with a knack for weapons technology.

Jackman has all that it takes to be both leading man and action hero. Kate Beckinsale is fine as Anna, the last in the line of her family, which for generations has been dedicated to wiping out the vampires. But in a movie like this, what matters is the bad guy, and Roxburgh is just right as Dracula, sinuous and seductive, a little effete, a little theatrical, and deliciously bloodthirsty. When someone declaims, “I would rather die than help you!” he purrs, “Don’t be boring. Everyone who says that dies.” Necks are not all he sinks his teeth into.

Parents should know that this movie has non-stop and intense action, with characters in constant extreme peril. There are gross and violent images and many characters are killed. There are a lot of jump-out-at-you surprises and grotesque creatures. Characters use brief mild bad words. There are brief mild sexual references and a non-explicit sexual situation.

Families who see this movie should talk about the original sources and enduring appeal of characters like Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Wolfman. They should talk about the villagers’ decision that since the vampires killed only one or two people a month, they should not try to stop them. They might want to talk about the ending, whether it was a surprise and how they feel about it. This site has information about the Van Helsing character created by Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, who describes him as having “an iron nerve, a temper of the ice-brook, and indomitable resolution, self-command and toleration.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Mummy, Blade Runner and Raiders of the Lost Ark. A cult favorite comic book, The Spirit by Will Eisner, stars a modern-day character who has some of Van Helsing’s attitude.

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