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

The Ladykillers

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

Tom Hanks and the Coen brothers take the title, the concept (sweet little old lady outwits criminals), the teeth, and the slightly sepulchral laugh from the 1955 English black comedy classic. They may miss the primary point (and joke) of the original, and they tone down their usual corkscrew dialogue and mordant humor, but they still manage to provide some wicked pleasures.

The Coens love characters who are sweet but not very bright, especially when they manage to foil characters who are crooked but not very bright. And Hanks likes to play against his type as the all-American guy we’d like living next door.

Hanks plays Professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, PhD., a man who dresses like Colonel Sanders and talks like Senator Claghorn. The curlicues of the professor’s baroque rhetorical flourishes are as tangled as a kudzu vine.

Dorr rents a bedroom in the home of Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall) and tells her that he and his friends want to use her root cellar to practice their music. His real plan is to drill a tunnel from her house to the counting room of a nearby riverboat casino so that they can rob it. Through an ad, he puts together a less than crackerjack team, including experts in ordnance Garth Pancake (J.K. Simmons) and The General (Tzi Ma), Lump (Ryan Hurst), a big guy for the heavy lifting, and McSam (Marlon Wayans) their “inside man,” a janitor at the casino.

Mrs. Munson is a fine, upstanding, church-going woman who wears a hat and gloves and talks to the portrait of her late husband that hangs over the fireplace and proudly sends $5 a month to Bob Jones University. She may not understand the details of what is going on around her, but she knows right from wrong (no smoking, bad language, or stealing, even a penny). She is as quick to insist on good behavior as she is to offer her cinnamon cookies. The fun is in seeing a sweet little “Land o’ Goshen”-ing lady innocently foiling the plans of the would-be criminal masterminds.

The movie is set in an idyllic Mississippi Bible belt town somewhere between Mayberry and a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover and some time gently nestled between the Depression and hip-hop. The humor comes from a colorful assortment of injuries, ailments, and casualties, along with some choice dialogue. If the Coens and Hanks are a little too far outside the boundaries of their best work, their second-and third-best is also watchable, at least for those who find a professor with bad teeth and a big vocabulary, a dog with a gas mask, a cat with a severed finger, and a garbage scow with a dead body funny.

Parents should know that the main characters are despicable criminals who lie, steal, and kill, all played for comedy. The humor is very macabre and may offend some viewers. Characters drink, smoke, and use extremely strong language, including sexual references and the n-word.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether it is true that no one gets hurt when insurance pays for the stolen goods.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the original The Ladykillers and The Lavender Hill Mob. They might also enjoy other comic heist films like Big Deal on Madonna Street and The Hot Rock.

Never Die Alone

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

This movie’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness — it wants to be more than the usual drug dealer shoot-em-up. It deserves some credit for its ambitions. But those ambitions tip it over into pretentious melodrama that only emphasizes how far short of its aspirations it falls.

Rap star DMX plays “King” David, a drug dealer who has come home to New York to make his peace with his former boss, Moon (Clifton Powell). David took Moon’s drugs to California and used it to start his own very successful drug distribution business. He offers to pay Moon whatever he asks to make up for it. Moon’s men come to collect the money but emotions get out of hand and David is mortally wounded.

Paul (David Arquette), sees David lying in the street and drives him to the hospital. David asks Paul to find his son and tell him that “his old man was a warrior.” leaves Paul his car. In the car, Paul finds tapes hidden in a hollowed-out Bible. David, knowing that he was on a collision course with a violent end, found that telling the story of his life on tape “helps ease the pain. It’s all I have left.”

Paul, a writer who has been searching for a way to tell the story of the streets, has found it. He is fascinated with David’s “nobility.” As Paul listens to the tapes, we see King David’s arrival in Los Angeles with the drugs he stole from Moon, and we watch him use that stash to make connections with customers and suppliers to build a business. His first connection is a small-time starlet (her role is “just cable, and it’s only recurring), who becomes his girlfriend and introduces him to other buyers with access to a lot of money. When it is time for him to buy more cocaine and heroin, he insists on the very best quality. David meets a woman he really cares for because she is “beautiful, intelligent, and uncorrupted.” Then he corrupts and destroys her, because caring for her made him feel weak. Abusing her made him feel “loved and appreciated.”

DMX gives David power and dignity. But the character is already so corrupt and empty that it is impossible to find the “nobility” Paul sees in him. David does not learn or grow or change for the better or worse, and so there is no sense of journey to move the story forward. Overly melodramatic flourishes and overly symbolic images also separate us from the characters. A coffin is pushed into the flames of a crematorium as a car drives into a tunnel. A writer banging on a typewriter instead of a laptop and a slinky nightclub chanteuse recall the gangster movies of the 1930′s. And a relationship revealed at a critical moment is intended to bring everything full circle, but just feels manipulative.

Parents should know that this movie is about people who are engaged in crime and corruption. It has constant and extreme violence, including many graphic murders. The main characters are drug dealers, and the movie includes drug use (heroin and cocaine) and overdoses, including a mother whose overdose is discovered by her children. Characters use extremely strong and hostile language, including the n-word, and they treat each other with emotional as well as physical brutality. There are explicit sexual references and situations, including a graphic sex scenes and a threesome involving twins.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the characters decided what was important to them. Who are their role models? Why? What does it mean to say that “we reap what we sow?” Why does David want his son to know that “his father was a warrior?” Was he? Why was Paul so interested in telling that story? Was Paul’s girlfriend right about why he was seeing her? What is the reason for the title? Who in the movie does die alone?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the movies that helped to inspire its characters, including Scarface and The Godfather. They will also appreciate New Jack City and Tupac: Resurrection.

The United States of Leland

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

The murder mystery at the center of this overly plotted but beautifully acted movie is not the who but the why.

Leland (Ryan Gosling) seems like a reasonably pleasant and easy-going kid. And then one day he kills a developmentally disabled boy, the brother of his girlfriend. It isn’t that no one seems to know the reason. It seems that there just was no reason. Leland had always been polite to everyone and kind and gentle with the boy, volunteering to walk him home from school.

A cop dismisses Leland as just another SFK (sick f-ing kid). But he does not seem angry or violent or unstable. He does not even seem upset. He is cooperative and truthful, so placid that his affect is almost entirely flat.

In the juvenile facility where Leland is put in “special treatment,” he hands his teacher an American history workbook. He has amended the cover to say “The United States of Leland.” The teacher, a frustrated writer named Pearl (Don Cheadle), is intrigued. Pearl is stuck in his own writing and cannot find a way to tell his own story. He thinks maybe he will be able to tell Leland’s.

Leland’s father (co-producer Kevin Spacey) is also a writer, a very successful novelist who can write about people with enormous sensitivity and compassion but is aloof, even merciless in his interactions with other people. He cannot do much to help Leland, but he can stop Pearl from appropriating and exploiting his story.

But Leland wants someone to listen, and Pearl is all he has. Will Pearl, or Leland’s father, or Leland himself understand why Leland committed such a terrible crime? Will we? Or is knowing that we cannot really know what matters?

I am not sure even the people who made the movie have the answer to that one. The script has the overheated, overblown, over-everything feel of an actor’s exercise extravaganza. Each character has some major emotional challenge and it gets overloaded and distracting. But the individual moments, especially Gosling’s performance, are sensitive and moving and the issues of the damage we inflict on ourselves and each other are worth examining, even less than successfully.

Parents should know that this movie has very mature themes. A teenager murders a developmentally disabled boy. Characters drink (reference to alcohol abuse), smoke, take drugs (a teenager is addicted to heroin), and use extremely strong language. There are sexual references and situations.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Leland showed no emotion about what he did. Why was telling the story important to him? Why eas it important to Pearl? What did Leland’s father want for Leland? Why was Mrs. Calderon so important to Leland? What does the story of Pearl’s name tell us?

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate Ordinary People, Manic (also starring Cheadle), The River’s Edge, Permanent Record, and Eqqus.

Never Die Alone

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