Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

 

The Giver
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
November 26, 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

Little Hope Was Arson
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not Rated
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, drug content, and language including a sexual reference.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

It’s not just that an interview with a rock star while he is in the dentist’s chair having his teeth drilled is far from the weirdest thing in this movie. It’s more that the whole story is so weird that by the time you get to the interview, it seems like the most natural thing in the world.


Daniel Johnston lives in that fragile no man’s land between genius and sanity. His mental illness keeps him viscerally in touch with primal adolescent anguish. And of course primal adolescent anguish is the best possible fuel for rock songs — and the people who listen to them. The songs are undiluted emotion, as focused as a laser beam, emotion so all-encompassing that its simplicity is heartbreaking.

Look at his self-produced album titles: “Songs of Pain,” “More Songs of Pain,” “Rejected Unknown,” “Why Me.” The album covers are his simple line drawings of comic book characters and weird creatures. They look like doodles made in study hall. The Whitney Biennial, the most prestigious forum in the United States for new artists, features an entire wall of Johnston’s drawings.


Johnston was prodigious and prolific from beginning, obsesively documenting himself even as a young teenager. The hundreds of hours of archival tapes and footage are the heart of this film, surrounded by interviews with friends, fans, and family.


Johnston alternated between mental hospitals and performances. He had a small but vibrant cult following. It included influential rock stars like Kurt Cobain, who wore a t-shirt featuring one of Johnston’s album cover drawings often during the last year of his life. His songs were covered by Cobain, Sonic Youth, and Yo La Tengo. And he still lives with his parents, who are getting old and very tired.


Director Jeff Feuerzeig is sympathetic but clear-eyed. He understands that Johnston has a tortured soul, but he understands that he has also inflicted great pain on those around him. He abruptly fired Jeff Tartakov, the manager who was utterly devoted to him. His father was piloting a small plane when, in the midst of some massive delusion, he reached over and yanked the keys out of the ignition and threw them out of the window. The plane crashed into the treetops. It was shattered but Johnston and his parents survived.


Feuerzeig has a fractionated, mosaic approach that suits the high-strung nature of his story. Johnston’s music and artwork are a matter of taste, but his story is compelling and sensitively explored. It is hearbreaking to see the once-so-hopeful and promising teenager become a lumbering, uncertain, unhappy man who does not seem to feel connected to anyone else. But it is inspiring to see those who feel so connected to him and to become connected ourselves.

Parents should know that the themes of this film may be very disturbing for some viewers. There are tense and sad moments and references to drug use, and characters use some strong language.


Families who see this film should talk about the choices made by Johnston’s parents and what their views are about the best way to care for family members who cannot take care of themselves. Would Johnston be as interesting and as successful if he was less disturbed?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Tarnation. And they will enjoy this interview with the director. They might like to listen to Discovered/Covered, with both Daniel Johnston’s original recordings and covers by Beck, Tom Waits, Vic Chesnutt, Bright Eyes, Calvin Johnson, and others. They might also like to learn more about visionary art made by those, like Johnston, with no formal training.

Lucky Number Slevin

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for strong violence, sexuality and language.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Slevin (Josh Harnett) is not having a good week. He lost his job and his girlfriend. He was mugged and his wallet and suitcase were stolen. He decided to visit a friend, who seems to have disappeared. But the door was unlocked, so he lets himelf in and takes a shower.

A pretty girl named Lindsay (Lucy Liu) from across the hall comes over while he is still wearing nothing but a towel. Some very nasty types arrive, convinced that he is the missing friend, who owes them a lot of money. They have a boss who wants to talk to him about it right away, still wearing the towel.


Slevin has landed in the middle of a war between two crime kingpins, The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) and The Boss (Morgan Freeman). They each live in huge glass towers, facing each other. And they both believe Slevin is the man who owes them money and he gets caught in the middle of their efforts to destroy each other.


Slevin seems to take all of this in stride, never getting ruffled and tossing off wisecracks as people keep threatening him with the most violent and painful consequences for failing to take them seriously. He explains to Lindsay that he has a condition that keeps him from getting scared. But there are a few things he does not tell her that make for complications — and quite a body count.


There’s more style than substance here, but the style takes us pretty far, with some wicked wisecracks, some nicely twisty plot turns, and some very twisted characters. Harnett and Bruce Willis coolly underplay in contrast to Freeman and Kingsley, enjoying themselves with a bit of grand guignol. They achieve an immediate rhythm that has us on their side. The violence is gruesome, literal overkill, and as a result the effort to tie it all together at the end just doesn’t work. But the scenes with Liu and Hartnett have real sparkle — though she is tiny and he is very large, the two seem just right together that we want it to, and that’s close enough.

Parents should know that this movie is filled with adult material that is not appropriate for children or teenagers and for many adults. It has constant extreme and graphic violence with many characters injured and killed, including a child’s parents. Characters use constant extremely strong and profane language. There are sexual references and situations. Characters are criminals, involved in drug dealing and murder for hire. A gay character is the subject of some homophobic comments. Diverse characters are all equally vile, but a strength of the movie is the inter-racial romance.


Families who see this movie should talk about the different characters’ ideas about justice and where they came from.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Usual Suspects.

ATL

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for drug content, language, sexual material and some violence.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

The star of this movie is first-time director Chris Robinson, who took an appealing but conventional story of five friends on the brink of adulthood and made it come alive with a vibrant, pulsing, slightly cynical but ultimately hopeful tone that perfectly matches its characters.


In voice-over, Rashad (rap star T.I.) tells us that “down south you grow up quick.” A senior in high school already supporting his family, he no longer has a child’s “luxury of dreams.” And over the credits we see the “ATL,” the bleak landscape of Atlanta’s south side, and we hear Ray Charles’ sentimental tribute “Georgia” turned into a hiccuping stuck record mixed with something harsher. This mash-up sets the stage for the conflicts the characters face between where they’ve been and where they want to go.


Esquire (Jackie Long) is ambitious. He attends a tony private school and works at an even tonier country club. He needs a letter of recommendation to get a scholarship to attend an Ivy League school. His guidance counselor advises him to try to get someone important to write the letter — “Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know.”

Some of Esquire’s friends are ambivalent about whether they should want to leave their neighborhood, but Esquire is very clear that he wants what the greater world has to offer, maybe even a Picasso in his home like successful businessman .


Rashad is less concerned about his own future than he is about his brother, Ant (Evan Ross Naess, son of Supremes star Diana Ross). Their parents were killed in a car crash and their uncle sees them as a burden. Rashad supports the family cleaning office buildings at night. He meets “ghetto fabulous” New New (Lauren London) whose faith in him inspires him, but who has a secret that will come between them.


Rashad’s other friends are Brooklyn (Albert Daniels) and Teddy (Jason Weaver), who seem to find what they are seeking without leaving home.


Robinson uses techniques from music videos (he has directed top-rated videos for a galaxy of hip-hop stars) to silent films (title cards help introduce the characters and scenes and in one witty conversation subtitles translate the otherwise impenetrable vernacular used by a character). The energetic camerawork is always superbly controlled, the edits evoking the restlessness and uncertainty of the characters but always making us feel that we are in the hands of an assured story-teller with a compellingly authentic sense of place and character. The story by Antoine Fisher reflects the real-life experiences of a number of performers from that neighborhood, including Outkast star Big Boi, who appears as a drug dealer ready to step in to become a father figure for a young man looking for a role model. (Note the small shout-out to one of Fisher’s most famous lines in the film about his own life when someone asks Esquire if he is hungry.)

Robinson also works well with his young cast. They each make strong impressions but what is most impressive is the ensemble; you don’t just think they’ve been acting forever — you think they’ve been friends forever. he shows us that it is indeed not what you know but who you know — what matters to these characters is that they know each other and what matters to us is that Robinson knows them, and that, as this movie unfolds, we feel that we do, too.


Parents should know that the film has a lot of mature material. Characters use strong language for a PG-13, including the n-word. Characters smoke, steal, and deal drugs. There are sexual references, some crude, and sexual situations, including casual sex (seen as triumphant from the male point of view). There is also some violence, including shooting and punching. There are tense family confrontations and references to the death of parents. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of some of the challenges of discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and class.


Families who see this movie should talk about why these characters were friends. What was New-New afraid would happen if she told the truth? What did she want that she could not find at home? What did Esquire want that he could not find at home? Who in the movie uses different ways of talking in different situations? Why? What was it that the characters loved about the Cascades and why did there seem to be so many possibilities there? What does it mean to be “ghetto fabulous?” How does it affect Rashad to have New New believe in him and how does it affect Ant that Rashad says, “I believe in you even when you’re too stupid to believe in yourself?”

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Roll Bounce, a sweeter, lighter, more nostalgic take on some of the same themes, along with the many other classics about friends on the brink of adulthoood, including Breaking Away, Raising Victor Vargas, and American Graffiti. They might also enjoy this interview with director Chris Robinson.

Basic Instinct 2

posted by jmiller
F-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for strong sexuality, nudity, violence, language and some drug content.
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:2006

Someone should tell Sharon Stone that you can’t step in the same river twice. Or you can’t go home again. Or that for every Godfather II there are a hundred Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloos.


Anything to stop another big, boring mess like this one.


A bit of credit to director Michael Caton-Jones, who knows how to shoot sleeky, sexy architecture, even if his idea of symbolism is to have the office of his psychiatrist leading man in London’s striking, if often jeered-at “gherkin” building. And even if he makes the sets more lively than the actors. Indeed, when one character is supposed to become catatonic, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference.


Stone returns as bad girl Catherine Davis Tramell a “risk addict” whose sensational novels are inspired by her even more sensational life. Before the credit sequence has ended, we see her having sex with a drugged-out partner while driving a car over 100 miles an hour. The car crashes into the Thames, and the man, a well-known soccer star, is killed. Dr. Michael Glass (his name is this movie’s idea of subtlety) (David Morrisey) is brought in to determine whether Tramell is culpable for his death.


Then a bunch more people get killed in scenes that are more static than scary and there are some sex scenes that are more clinical than sultry.


And there is a lot of dialogue with a chasm so yawning between its intention (provocative) and its reality (see previous reference to yawning) that it starts to sound like the adults in Charlie Brown cartoons: “Waughghgh Waughghg Waughghgh”


They may think that if they surround her with people who have English accents it will all seem less shlocky. No such luck.


Marlene Dietrich was once supposed to have complained to her cameraman that he was not making her look as good as he had a decade earlier. “But Miss Dietrich,” he is said to have assured her gallantly, “I was ten years younger then.”


Sharon Stone was fourteen years younger when she made the first Basic Instinct. And so were we. This creates two sets of problems.


First, she can’t surprise us any more. Both actress and character were new to us in 1992; now that famous dress, chair, cigarette, and leg-cross are an icon. At the time, it was all new. She pushed the boundaries. But those boundaries have been shoved another couple of football fields since then, and Stone and her director and screenwriter have not managed the delicate task of finding that precise spot between provocative and gross.


Second, instead of rethinking the character, Stone tries to go back to where she was and it just doesn’t work. If Tramell had actually survived another fourteen years of sex, drugs, and lots of people turning up dead wherever she went, she would be affected by that. Stone’s astonishing, assured performance in the original movie was a model of careful calibration of the power of her sexuality and daring. But the sexual power of a 48-year-old is different from the sexual power of a 34-year-old. Stone, whose portrayal of mature sexiness was breathtaking in last year’s Broken Flowers, is so over-the-top here that Tramell appears to be channeling Cruella De Vil. Or maybe Carol Burnett vamping as “Nora Desmond.” “Time is a weapon,” one character says in this movie. In this case, a lethal one.


Parents should know that this movie has just about every kind of material that is inappropriate for younger viewers or sensitive viewers of any age, with extremely strong, crude, and profane language, drinking, smoking, drug use, intense peril and graphic violence, murders, and general bad behavior in all categories.


Families who see this movie should ask why anyone would be “addicted” to risk. How are we supposed to feel about Catherine at the end of this movie? What is a “masked psychotic” and is there one in this story?


Families who enjoy this movie should see the original. They might also enjoy The Jagged Edge, Sea of Love, Final Analysis, Whispers in the Dark, and Dressed to Kill.

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