Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 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

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

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

Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 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

Clifford’s Really Big Movie

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2004

Clifford is not just a Big Red Dog; he’s a big, red phenomenon, hero of a series of books by Norman Bridwell, an animated PBS series, and even a live road show. Now he has moved (briefly) to the big screen with a low-key feature destined for a quick theatrical release on its way to video and DVD.

Clifford is a really, really big red dog, part of his appeal to toddlers, who live among giants and are thus drawn to huge, powerful but kind creatures who love children (like Barney). Children also like the way that Clifford explores the world around him, learning gentle lessons about getting along with others and solving problems like finding lost toys and not being afraid of a storm.

Clifford (voice of the late John Ritter in his last role) lives with Emily Elizabeth and her family on dogbone-shaped Birdwell Island. His best dog friends are T-Bone (voice of Kel Mitchell) and Cleo (voice of Cree Summer). When Clifford overhears Emily Elizabeth’s parents talk to a neighbor about how much he eats, Clifford thinks he is too much of a burden for the family and decides that he, T-Bone, and Cleo should join an animal act and compete for a prize of a lifetime supply of pet Tummy Yummies.

The animal act includes a trapeze artist ferret named Shackelford (voice of Wayne Brady) and a tightrope-walking cow named Dorothy (voice of Jenna Elfman). They are managed by Larry (voice of Judge Reinhold), who loves them very much but has not been able to make the act successful. Their only chance is to win that contest. But, Shackelford says, in order to do that, they need something big. Enter Clifford.

As soon as Clifford and his friends arrive, the act comes together and audiences love it. But Shackelford gets jealous of all the attention Clifford is getting. The daughter of George Wolfsbottom (voice of John Goodman), the wealthy man who owns the Tummy Yummies company, wants Clifford to be her pet. And Emily Elizabeth misses her beloved Clifford, and he misses her, too. Fortunately, everyone in this movie is kind and understanding and loyal, though it takes some longer to get there than others.

The limited animation style looks static on the big screen and the movie is too long for its age group even at 75 minutes. (Actually, I felt it was too long for my age group, too.) The children at the screening I attended fidgeted during the musical numbers and some seemed uncomfortable with even the mild tension in the story. The story itself is questionable, with Clifford and his friends leaving home without thinking about how upsetting that will be for their families. The song lyrics justifying it were downright unsettling at times; it cannot be wise to sing to children about how “You’ve got to be lost if you want to be found….It only gets better after it gets worst, happy ever after needs the scary part first.” It’s fine to let children know that problems can be solved, but this suggests that they cannot be happy unless they make sure something bad happens first.

Parents should know that there is some mild peril and some emotional tension. Some children may be upset when Clifford and his friends leave home or when the dogs lie about not having owners.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Clifford got the wrong idea by hearing only part of what Emily Elizabeth’s parents said about him. What should he have done instead of leaving? Make sure children know that it is never all right for anyone to leave home without talking to the family about what is wrong. Families should also talk about the lie the dogs tell about their dog tags, and about Dorothy’s saying that Shackleford is “not the most secure ferret in the world, but he means well.” Why does Mr. Wolfsbottom’s daughter want to have the biggest of everything? What does it mean to say that “okay does not dazzle?”

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the Clifford books and videos. They will also enjoy the books and video starring Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, especially the animated version, which has outstanding songs and voice talent. And they might like to try to make snickerdoodles, the cookies Dorothy and Cleo promise to make together.

Close Your Eyes

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

Those who like atmospheric thrillers that feature pentagrams and second sight and mysterious incantations from ancient texts will enjoy guaranteed goosebumps in this story of a doctor who tries to help the little girl who escaped from a serial killer but is too traumatized to give the police any information.

“ER’s” Goran Visnijk plays Michael, a hypnotherapist who has come to London to escape his past. He is trying to make a life for his pregnant wife (Miranda Otto of Lord of the Rings and their daughter by hypnotizing people who want to quit smoking. He treats a police officer (Shirley Henderson) who is impressed with his insight and ability and persuades him to come with her to see Heather (Sophie Stuckey), mute since she ran away from the “tatoo killer.”

Heather’s are not the secrets that will be uncovered as the movie takes us through the quintessential thriller tropes, storytelling shorthand for some sort of concept that the audience will recognize and understand instantly. So our heroes have to consult a creepy loner with expertise in the occult (In America’s Paddy Considine) and have to confront bellowing bureaucrats who don’t understand that this is the only way to find the killer. There are fake-out moments when we think something bad is going to happen and it doesn’t and freak-out moments when we think nothing bad is going to happen and it does, and we even get one of those “don’t go into the house” moments where someone who would be crazy to enter alone without telling anyone does. Except instead of a house, it’s a church. And there are some logical loopholes and some clunky lines (“Men choose to be weak because power frightens them!”).

But it is directed with such atmosphere and acted with such conviction that it does the job it is trying to do very nicely.

Parents should know that this is a horror movie with disturbing themes, intense peril, grisly images, torture, and murder. There are references to the serial killing of several children, though it is made clear that they were not sexually assaulted. Characters smoke, drink, and use very strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about their own views on extra-sensory perception or hypnosis. What do you think Michael will do next?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Rosemary’s Baby. Some of the same themes are explored in Dead Again and in a completely different genre in Being John Malkovich.

Kill Bill Vol. 2

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

Be careful what you ask for.

In my review of Kill Bill Vol. 1, I admired its pure style and mastery of the language of pure cinema but said that I hoped the sequel would provide more character and texture. Well, that is what screenwriter/director Quentin Tarantino has done, or at least tried to do with Vol. 2, but the result is a less successful movie than the original.

In Vol. 1, a woman known only as “The Bride” (Uma Thurman) awoke from a coma to seek revenge on the squad of assassins who gunned down everyone at her wedding and left her for dead. The film was dazzling in its combination of narrative minimalism with maximization of just about everything else, an onslaught of images, genres, action, and carnage.

While admiring the supercharged audacity and astonishing technical control of the first “volume,” for me it felt less pure than sterile. Revenge is the simplest and most convenient engine for a movie plot. It takes just a moment to set it up and then we are on the Bride’s side for as long as it takes for her to cross each name off her list. The hints of more details about the elite squad of assassins, each with aliases of deadly snakes, were so tantalizing. Where were they from? What did they do and how did they learn to do it? Why did it all change?

Now we get to find out much of that and you know what? It was better not to know. Tarantino is far better at, well, pulp fiction than at drama. The dialogue sounds like imitation Tarantino and the exposition plays like it should have stayed on the cutting room floor. This movie, for all of its showmanship and technique, diminishes the first one. We were better off imagining the left-out details or projecting them onto spareness of the movie like a Rorschach inkblot.

It was better to know the heroine only as “The Bride” and wonder about her name than to find out that her name is Beatrix Kiddo. It would be like telling us what really is inside the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. We’re better off putting into it what each one of us wants it to be.

The scene where Beatrice learns why she must leave the DiVAS (Deadly Viper Assassination Squad) has some juicy juxtaposition along the lines of the first one’s battle with Vernita, interrupted to welcome her little girl home from school. But the reason itself, as corny as Kansas in August, doesn’t work as drama or as archly meta-archetypical post-modern commentary. Discussions of the stringent standards of Pai Mei (Hong Kong martial arts movie star Chia Hui Liu, voiced by Tarantino), his “the wood should fear your hand, not the other way around,” and the dressing-down of a bouncer by a bar-owner put a drag on the movie’s momentum and the additional brutalization of The Bride, even in Tarantino-world, is just overkill.

There are some great set-pieces, including ingeniously constructed confined-space battles and an escape from being buried alive. And there are some great lines. A character refers to “what women call the silent treatment. We let them think we don’t like it.” I liked the discussion of what makes Superman different from other superheroes without entirely buying it. But it all gets a little too cute and self-aware, with The Bride telling us that we have referred to her “roaring rampage of revenge” and mentions of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Shogun Assassin. At his best, Tarantino runs the zillions of movies he loves through his brain, chops them up and recombines them to show us what they say about the way we want to see ourselves and the way we really do. But at his worst, it’s all just a little closed loop of inside references. To speak to him in the movie language he knows best, it’s all just a little too much “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Parents should exercise the strongest possible caution in deciding whether this movie is appropriate for their families, even for those over 18. This movie is an outrageous and over the top story about people who kill other people for money and for pure enjoyment. It is extremely violent with graphic and exceptionally explicit fight scenes. There are many horrifying images including a squashed eyeball, a badly scarred prostitute, and a dessicated corpse. Many characters are killed. Characters use extremely strong language and they drink and smoke.

Families who see this movie should talk about what led Beatrice to become an assassin and what made her decide to quit. What do these characters tell us about their notion of justice? What are we supposed to admire about them?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy the original Kill Bill and Tarantino’s other films, including Pulp Fiction (extreme language, violence, and drug use).

13 Going on 30

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

A girl who suffers total humiliation at her 13th birthday party wishes she could be 30. The next morning, she is all grown up, living in a swanky Manhattan apartment with a gorgeous face and figure (played by Jennifer Garner). That part is pretty exciting. But the guy in the shower who seems to know her pretty well is pretty scary. And she can’t find her parents. Jenna races out of the building and a woman who seems to know her tells her to get into a limo and is talking a mile a minute about some job she seems to have as editor of Poise magazine.

Jenna will eventually realize that this is what she wished for, but she will also figure out that it was not really what she wanted. Her parents are away on a cruise, but she tracks down her very best friend, Matt (Mark Ruffalo), now a photographer. When he tells her he has not seen her since high school, she begins to understand that in order to become what she wished for, she has lost some of the things that mattered most.

Okay, we knew all of that from not only every body-switching movie ever made but from every wishing story ever told. And yes, there are all the expected collisions between the lives of the 13 and 30-year-olds. Jenna raises her hand to be called on in a meeting and responds “Ew, gross!” to the advances of her boyfriend. And darned if she won’t be the only one to come up with those save-the-day ideas for the magazine. But the script has some bright moments and there is also some nicely understated humor. The only possible environment where a 13-year-old’s sense of appropriate hair and fashion might be considered acceptable for an adult is, of course, in the offices of a fashion magazine, where the more outrageous something is, the more everyone else will feel that they are the ones who are missing something for not having it themselves. Jena writes her name at the top of the page at a meeting and keeps her office files in middle-school folders.

Ruffalo, as always, adds class and sweetness to the boyfriend role, and has impressive delicacy in providing romantic interest for someone who is, after all, emotionally just 13 years old. But what makes this one work is Garner, who is enormously touching and hilarious as the 13-year-old living in the body and life of a 30-year-old. Playing a child in an adult body gives her license to show every emotion without any pretense of sophistication. She is wonderfully open and vulnerable but she handles it lightly and with a lot of charm. And she captures it all perfectly, from her panic at not understanding what is going on to her rapture as she selects clothes and make-up for her grown-up self as though dressing a Barbie. Garner even gets the walk of a 13-year-old just right, from the shoulders, not the hips. And the look on her face as she does the dance to “Thriller” is so winning you won’t just smile with her; you might just start to dance along a little.

Parents should know that there is some sexual humor. Jenna is horrified to find a naked man in her apartment (the boyfriend of her grown-up self) and grossed-out by his advances. There are sexual references (“raunchy strip tease,” “57 ways to have an orgasm,” “jump your bones” and the 13-year-olds play a party game that is supposed to go a lot farther than Spin the Bottle. Unlike the male take on this situation in Big, the main character does not take advantage of the adult persona to have sex. Characters use brief strong language. Characters drink and drinking is shown as part of the fun of being a grown-up.

Families who see this movie should talk about how being a grown-up may be different than it appears to a child. What was the biggest surprise for Jenna? Do you agree with what Jenna’s mother said about mistakes? Families might also want to talk about the way middle-schoolers treat each other and how to make sure that you don’t grow up with the kind of regrets that Jenna does. Is/was there a “6 Chicks”-type group in your school?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Tom Hanks in a similar role in Big. There are many other movies with this theme, including Freaky Friday, 18 Again (with George Burns), 17 Again (with Tia and Tamara Mowry), Like Father, Like Son (with Dudley Moore), and Vice Versa, with Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage. Fans of The Lord of the Rings trilogy will enjoy seeing Andy Serkis, who provided the voice and movements for Gollum, as Richard, Jenna’s boss.

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posted 11:54:55pm Jul. 29, 2014 | read full post »

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posted 8:00:33am Jul. 28, 2014 | read full post »

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