Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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  New to DVD

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

 

Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 2014

Boyhood
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use
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

Planes: Fire & Rescue
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action and some peril
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

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

The Haunted Mansion

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2003

When Disney makes a movie based on a theme park ride, it is not about inspiration, it is about branding. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl managed to be a delight — and a huge hit — but that’s because it had imagination and verve. Apparently, there was none left over.

This is an overstuffed and under-imagined attempt to turn a six-minute ride into a 90 minute picture. The plot is as thin as spider webs and is as predictable as a Scooby-Doo episode. The result is barely worth the price of a video rental, even from 99 cent bin.

Jim Evers (Eddie Murphy whose role as an eager-to-please realtor tests even his facile smile) and his lovely wife Sara (Marsha Thomason) spontaneously head out of town to celebrate their wedding anniversary and spend some time with the family. He has two kids, Megan (Aree Davis), the fearless and bossy big sister, and Michael (Marc John Jefferies) the timid and arachnophobic young son. Jim neglects his family for “it will only be 20 minutes” business meetings that turn into hours, and his wife and children are unhappy.

A mysterious caller requests that Sara be the agent for a mansion outside of town, and Jim insists on another one of his “just 20 minutes” stops to seal the deal. Of course, a storm rolls into the bayou and the family must stay overnight as a guest in the atmospheric household of Edward Gracey (Nathaniel Parker) and his spooky butler Ramsley (Terence Stamp). Once the doors slam shut, the family must solve the mystery of the mansion before they can leave together again.

The theme park ride moves quickly. Although the people in it race around, the the movie drags. While Jim’s spiel is a lighthearted patter complemented by his kids’ matter of fact acceptance of their surroundings, the resulting dialogue feels off-key and smarmy. Madame Leota (Jennifer Tilly) and the barbershop quartet of singing sculptures keep filler scenes from becoming too slow, but you have to wonder at a movie where disembodied heads turn in the movie’s most interesting performances. Thomason, as Mrs. Evers, shows little acting range beyond looking doe-eyed and bewildered at the ghost who has mistaken her for his long-ago love, while Terence Stamp’s place-holder of a performance as the disdainful Ramsley appears to tap the actor’s immense desire to be out of the movie.

Parents should know that there are lots of chases and peril involving ghosts and skeletons, and children are in danger. The atmospherics of the crypt scenes might scare younger viewers. A ghost is dragged into a fiery pit while other ghosts dematerialize to ascend into the heavens and there are many grisly and gross images, including a rotted corpse, that might upset sensitive viewers.

There is a brief shot of drawings on a tarot card with frontal nudity and Jim says the ghost wants to “get jiggy with” his wife. Jim steals a cigar and matches. A character is poisoned and another commits suicide by hanging. Younger children might be scared when the Evers parents, Jim and Sarah, are threatened. It is not addressed explicitly, but the tragic romance that led to the house being haunted was between a black woman and a white man, which was why it was so harshly viewed. One strength of the movie is the portrayal of a loving and committed relationship between Jim and Sarah. Jim may be distracted, but he is devoted to his wife and family.

Families should discuss priorities and how different people in the same family might view an action in a very different light. For example, Jim argues that he is trying to succeed in business so that his kids will have everything they want, whereas his kids argue that they really only want time with their parents. Families might also wish to discuss being scared and how Jim explains overcoming one’s fears to his son. Should he have told his son to “be a man?”

Families who enjoy Wallace Shawn’s performance as the super-cautious ghost man-servant, will appreciate his best role as a kidnapper in the classic The Princess Bride. “Haunted” houses with plenty of eccentric characters appear in The Addams Family and Beetlejuice and classics The Cat and the Canary and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

Cheaper by the Dozen

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2003

This is not a movie; it is a product, with a script right off the assembly line, a mix of Teen People pin-ups to attract tween demographics, apparently directed on cruise control. Its intended audience of 8-14-year-olds will probably enjoy it very much. But those who care about that audience will be disappointed that the people behind this movie do not realize that they owe those children some imagination and sincerity.

The movie takes its title and family size from the classic book about the real-life Gilbreth family but has no other connection to the original and is inferior to it in every aspect.

Steve Martin plays Tom Baker, a coach who is offered his dream job at his alma mater just as his wife Kate (Bonnie Hunt) hears that her book about the family has been accepted for publication. The eleven children still living at home do not want to move, but Tom promises that it will make them a stronger and happier family. But the new job is very demanding, and when Kate has to go on tour to promote the book, Tom is quickly overwhelmed by the challenges of taking care of his children.

There are the predictable “aww” moments (death of a pet, reminder that the kids might fight with each other, but they really love each other) and the predictable “ewww” moments (one child barfs and another slips and falls on it). The script is slack and lazy, incapable of a satisfying resolution for even the most reliable family-movie plot devices like a mean bully or snobby, over-protective neighbors.

Parents should know that the movie includes some schoolyard-style naughty words and PG-style sexual references that get close to a PG-13. When asked about his 12 children, Tom smirks about his wife: “I couldn’t keep her off me.” He explains that he had a vasectomy but did not wait for it to become effective, resulting in the second set of twins. And part of the plot concerns the oldest child (an adult) moving in with her boyfriend (which does not bother her parents) and whether they should be allowed to sleep together when they visit the family (which does). Some audience members may be offended by the portayal of the family as vaguely Catholic, with references to Jesus and a rosary but no evidence of religious observance. There is comic peril with some minor injuries. The product placement (Crate & Barrel) is particularly (and annoyingly) intrusive.

Families who see this movie should talk about how they work together to make sure that they achieve a balance between time for work and time for each other. How do you make sure that the family comes first? They should also talk about the way that the Baker family supports each other and what they think of Dylan’s parents.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy another big-family comedy inspired by a real story, Yours, Mine, and Ours, starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball. They should see the original Cheaper By the Dozen, based on the Gilbreth family, headed by pioneering efficiency engineers who used their “motion study” techniques to raise their children. The book, written by two of the children, has the best dedication in the history of literature: “To Father, who had only twelve children, and to Mother, who had twelve only children. It is well worth reading aloud to the whole family, along with its sequel, “Belles on Their Toes.” Other classic movies about the demands on parents include Martin’s Parenthood (some mature themes) directed by Ron Howard, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (starring then-child actor Ron Howard), and the Oscar-winning drama Kramer vs. Kramer along with silly comedies like Mr. Mom and Daddy Day Care.

House of Sand and Fog

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

Pride, anger, loss, desperation, law, love, strength, and weakness collide to create vast tragedy in this story of a battle for a house that overlooks the water.

It begins as a clearly distressed woman is asked, “Is this your house?” She does not answer.

The woman is Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), and to her, the house is her refuge after a marital break-up. The house was built by her father, who left it to her and her brother in his will. It is all she has, and she has retreated so completely that she has not read her mail, which included an erroneous notice of an overdue tax bill. Because she did not respond, the county evicts her and auctions the house for a fraction of its value.

The buyer is an immigrant, an Iranian colonel named Behrani (Ben Kingsley). He has spent almost all of his savings to maintain a lifestyle that enabled his daughter to marry well. For him, buying the house will make it possible for him to quit his construction job. He plans to sell the house at a profit to start his return to a position consistent with his education and ability.

Behrani likes to remember that at his home in Iran he ordered the trees cut down so that he could have a clear view of the water.

For Kathy and Behrani the fight is not about money; it is about home. The house is a refuge. It is a part of them. When Behrani tells his wife he has bought the house, she does not want to leave their apartment. For her, home is the place you stay, or you are a nomad. Kathy feels safe inside the house. Once she leaves, she begins to unravel, starting to smoke and drink again, unable to stay away from the house. She begins to fall in love with Lester, the cop who evicted her (Ron Eldard). Kathy must return to the house to be healed. But she cannot do that without destroying the lives of other people.

The lives of Kathy and Behrani circle, parallel, and intersect each other. Both must take on menial jobs and change their clothes in public bathrooms. Both are too proud to tell their families the truth about their situations. Behrani’s devotion to his children parallels Kathy’s loss of her father and the house he left to her when he died, as well as her own longing for a child. The Behrani family alternately treats Kathy as an intruder, a guest, and ultimately almost as a member of the family when they take her in at her most devastated and care for her as though she was a child. She wakes up the next morning in the house, swathed in silks like an Arabian nights princess. But the fairy tale becomes a nightmare.

Connelly, Kingsley, Eldard, and Shohreh Aghdashloo as Mrs. Bahrani are all superb, and the adaptation of the award-winning book is a thoughtful and serious, if uneven, translation of the book’s language and tone. It fails to sustain a sense of tragic inevitability and that prevents it from being truly involving.

Parents should know that the movie has extreme, graphic, and tragic violence including murder, attempted and successful suicides, domestic abuse, and an accidental shooting. There are explicit sexual references and situations, including adultery and nudity. Characters drink and smoke, including an alcoholic character who ends a period of sobriety. Characters use very strong language and there are many harsh and painful confrontations.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was so hard for Kathy and the Colonel to come to some kind of compromise. Does the movie make a distinction between what is legal and what is right? What is it? How do the different characters define home? The book has an epigraph by Octavio Paz: “Beyond myself/ somewhere/ I wait for my arrival.” How does that apply to this story?

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate the Oscar-winning performances of leads Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) and Ben Kingsley (Gandhi).

Timeline

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2003

Hollywood sometimes seems to operate under some unnamed Law of Plots, where certain themes and stories must be recycled on a schedule so predictable that it makes the daily orbit of the Earth around the Sun look as ungoverned as kindergartners playing dodge ball in the dark. Heeding our charts, we find that we are due for another time travel movie, but since the movie on hand is unspectacular we can relax, letting this one pass unobserved while knowing that another one will not be far off in the future. For the dedicated genre fans, “Timeline” is barely entertaining enough to stay well above the nadir of truly bad movies but it lacks any force or energy to release it from the pull of total mediocrity.

Based on Michael Crichton’s uneven but entertaining book of the same name, Timeline launches with a secretive company in the midst of a cover-up after one of its employees dies of sword-inflicted injuries. Apparently, International Technology Corporation (ITC) has discovered a wormhole through time and space, which allows its employees to “fax” themselves back in time to 1357 onto a battlefield between the English (bad) and the French (good) for control of an impenetrable fortress on a hill.

To better understand the era, ITC sends back Professor Johnson (Billy Connolly, bleary-eyed and numb), the top historian specializing in that particular battle, who sports a Scots brogue as thick as Dundee marmalade. Fellow Scot and assistant professor Andre Marek (Gerard Butler), Johnson’s supremely American son Chris (Paul Walker of The Fast and the Furious), his love-interest, Kate (Frances O’Connor in cute and feisty mode), and a few other don’t-get-too-attached-to-me characters soon follow Johnson back in time. Once there they are swept up in the intrigue and battle, not realizing that they may never make it back to the future.

The six hours that the team is supposed to spend in 1357 is filled with pre-battle maneuverings and hustling in and out of captivity since the English take them as spies for the French and the Scots side with anyone against the English. Despite much scurrying about the ramparts and the frequent use of the mellifluous word “trebuchet” (a super-powerful medieval catapult), the battle scenes are a pale repetition of any movie where a castle is stormed. In fact the one distinguishing feature about “Timeline” is a generally hurried feel as if all those involved wanted to wrap up the flick and head home. For those seeking familiar themes in an ever-popular genre, “Timeline” is weakly entertaining enough to fill the space, but those seeking something new under the sun should peek down another wormhole.

Parents should know that “Timeline” is exactly what they would expect of a Hollywood medieval movie, featuring swordfights and siege warfare, including burning arrows and those aforementioned trebuchets. Several unarmed characters are killed with swords, bow and arrow, and other weapons of the time. What is especially alarming is the casual ease with which the students take the lives of the 14th century soldiers, showing -– with one exception -— no remorse. Although this war is shown to take place at a time when violent death is all but the norm, there is little explanation of why these modern young historians embrace their role as soldiers or their side of the battlefield so easily.

Families might wish to discuss the theme of making one’s own history and how they would want their own lives remembered. Also, if you found a wormhole to another time, which time would you most want it to be and why? Andre calls the 14th century a time of honor. Would existing in that time make you a different person with a different code of ethics? How might your priorities and behavior change?

Families in the mood for more medieval movies might wish to watch A Knight’s Tale, Black Knight, or First Knight (which has mature themes and also takes itself much more seriously than the other “Knights”). For those inclined to peruse the Classics section of the video store, The Court Jester starring Danny Kaye is a fabulously fun take on the times or the more serious Ivanhoe with Elizabeth Taylor.

Families in search of more time travel movies might wish to see the brilliant Time Bandits or even the silly Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Those who like to read entertaining tales of inept time travel might wish to read Michael Creighton’s Timeline or the very entertaining books by Connie Wills (especially To Say Nothing of the Dog or the more serious Doomsday Book). Of course, one of the best books of the genre is the original, Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

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posted 8:00:40am Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Boring TV Makes You Fat
A new study finds that boring television leads to mindless snacking and that leads to putting on pounds. So, watch programs that excite and engage you. Or, if the show is boring, turn off the television.

posted 8:00:05am Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Switched at Birth and the End of Life
I'm a big fan of ABC Family's Switched at Birth and have appreciated its complicated characters, honest and heartfelt relationships, and compelling storylines, as well as its unprecedented, in-depth portrayal of the deaf community. Last week's episode may have been the all-time best (SPOILER ALERT)

posted 3:59:49pm Jul. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Comic-Con 2014
It's here!  San Diego Comic-Con begins Wednesday night in San Diego and I'll be there.  This is my favorite event of the year, a chance to find out what everyone will be watching, listening to, playing, and otherwise enjoying over the next few years.  As I always say, this is the Iowa caucuses of

posted 8:00:20am Jul. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Wish I Was Here
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posted 7:21:07pm Jul. 20, 2014 | read full post »


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