Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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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

 

Philomena
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
Release Date:
November 22, 2013

Under the Skin
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

 

The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Rio 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

 

Grudge Match
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

The Watcher

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2000

A couple of clever turns don’t rescue this movie from its tired plot, laughable dialogue, and disastrous casting. James Spader plays Campbell, a burned-out FBI agent from Los Angeles who was unable to catch a serial killer and now lives on disability in Chicago, taking massive doses of pharmaceuticals and talking to a therapist (Marisa Tomei). Griffin, the serial killer (Keanu Reeves) follows Campbell to Chicago and starts sending him photos of his next victims, daring him to find them before it is too late. It seems that the killer is less interested in killing than he is in having someone pay attention to him.

In other words, this is the kind of serial killer who only exists in movies, more a plot device than a character. Any characteristic he has or is described as having is jettisoned without explanation when necessary for the purposes of the plot. Reeves can be effective in many kinds of roles, and can convey a spookiness that plays as shyness in one part or nihilism in another. But he fails to convey any sense of menace or evil. The movie would have been much more effective if Reeves and Spader had switched parts, with Reeves the damaged cop and Spader the obsessive killer. Tomei is onscreen long enough to show us how much more she can do. It is obvious from the beginning that her character is there to give Campbell — and the audience — a potential victim to care about. But she manages to convey such warmth, compassion, and charm, that despite ourselves, we do care about her.

The movie tries to show us that the cop and the killer have a lot in common. Both watch their prey, keeping track of every detail. Both seek an appreciative audience. Each fascinates the other. But the last half hour becomes ludicrous as Campbell engages in Stupid Movie Behavior #1 (things people do in movies that make absolutely no sense whatsoever but if the characters did what any intelligent person would do there would be no plot): after working closely with the local police every step of the way, Campbell goes to meet with Griffin alone, without telling anyone where he is. Then, when they do get together, the dialogue becomes so idiotic (Griffin tells Campbell that he gives Campbell’s life meaning, and Campbell responds, “Do you know how many serial killers there are in Chicago? Eight!”) that the movie loses any tension that it had.

Parents should know that this is a very violent movie about a serial killer who preys on vulnerable young women. It has some gorey deaths and crime scenes. There is some strong language. Campbell abuses pharmaceutical drugs and another is skeptical about his ability to perform under their influence. It has sexual references, including references to adultery, strong language, smoking, and drinking.

Families who see this movie should talk about Griffin’s feeling that it is important to be noticed, and his view that he and Campbell need each other.

People who like this movie will also enjoy the vastly superior “No Way to Treat a Lady,” also about a serial killer who develops a relationship with the cop who is working on the case.

The Virgin Suicides

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2000

Five exquisitely beautiful sisters dazzle and beguile the boys around them in this movie, set in the mid-1970’s. Amid the idyllic suburban stillness, there are intimations that all is not right. Huge elm trees are diagnosed with Dutch Elm Disease and ordered to be cut down. And the youngest of the Lisbon girls, only 13, tries to kill herself. The doctor shakes his head, “You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets.” She looks up at him, sadly, wrists wrapped in white gauze, “Obviously, doctor, you’ve never been a 13 year old girl.”

A quarter of a century has passed, but the boys who longed for the Lisbon sisters cannot forget them. They hold on to relics and totems: a diary, scribbled notes decorated with hearts and stickers. And they tell each other over and over the events of that time, hoping that this time they will make sense.

There is no explanation for the unthinkably terrible act, and the movie does not try to provide one. Like the boys, we pore over their lives, looking for a point at which they might have made a different choice.

First-time director Sophia Coppola, who also wrote the screenplay, based on the book by Jeffrey Eugenides, has a wonderful eye for detail and composition. The production design is perfect in every detail. There are painfully accurate moments as teenagers try to make conversation (“How’d your SATs go?” “You’re a stone fox!”) and connection (when the boys finally call the girls on the phone, all they can bring themselves to do is play records to them). The narration, beautifully read by Giovanni Ribisi, is lyrical and moving. But ultimately, the movie falters. It tries for metaphor — those dying elm trees, an asphyxiation-themed debutante party at which people wear gas masks decorated with glitter, the girls as princesses in a tower waiting for princes who cannot save them. And it tries for distance from its time or milieu. But like the collection of ephemera the boys hold onto for years, the movie has “not life, but the most trivial list of mundane facts.”

Kirsten Dunst is marvelous as the most adventuresome of the girls, and Josh Hartnett is fine as the high school hunk with a broken heart for every puka shell around his neck.

Parents should know that the movie’s theme may be very upsetting to teen-agers, some of whom may think it suggests that suicide is a romantic and powerful response to overly strict parents. In addition to the overall theme of sexual longing and repression, there are some sexual references and situations. One character smokes pot constantly (he is shown as an adult in a treatment center for substance abuse). Teenagers smoke and drink.

Families who see the movie should talk about what has and has not changed since the 1970’s, about why the girls were such an endless source of fascination for the boys, about why the response of the community seemed so heartless to the boys, and, of course, what could have led the girls to take their own lives and who, if anyone could have prevented it.

Other movies about the anguish of teenagers coping with longing and frustration include “Splendor in the Grass,” “Picnic,” and “Lucas.”

The Trumpet of the Swan

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2001

Most of E.B. White’s elegant language is missing and the animation is nowhere near the Disney level, but the new animated version of “Trumpet of the Swan” (G, some tension and peril) is still a very good family movie with much to enjoy and talk about.

As the movie begins, proud and loving trumpeter swans Father (Jason Alexander) and Mother (Mary Steenburgen) are awaiting the hatching of their new children. The young cygnets are all they dreamed of, except for Louie (Dee Baker), who is mute. This creates two problems. Louie cannot express his feelings without words, and he cannot attract a mate without the ability to make the trumpeting sound that gives this breed of swans their name.

Louie tries to solve the first problem with the help of a human friend named Sam, who takes him to school so that his teacher, Mrs. Hammerbottom (Carol Burnett) can teach him to read and write. Father tries to solve the second problem by stealing a trumpet from a musical instrument store. Even though Father knows it is wrong to take something without paying for it, he feels that he must do it to help his son.

Louie’s skill at reading and writing does not do him any good with the swans, who cannot understand him, but he does find a sweet girl swan named Serena who understands him without words. But he cannot settle down with Serena until he puts his father’s heart at rest by finding a way to pay for the trumpet. After many adventures, Louie and Serena are able to live happily ever after.

Families who see this movie should talk about the importance of finding a way to communicate and the value of people who can understand us. They will also want to talk about the conflict faced by Father, who wanted so desperately to help his son that he was willing to risk his life and do something he knew was wrong.

Families who enjoy this movie should read the wonderful book, along White’s other classics, “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little.” They will enjoy the movie versions of those stories as well.

The Triumph of Love

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

Once upon a time there was a princess. She discovered that she was not the real princess after all. Her late father had imprisoned the real king and queen. All were now dead, but the real rulers had produced a son, who was now in hiding with two scholars. The princess determined to find him and give him back the throne that was rightfully his.

So, the princess went to spy on the prince and, this being a fairy tale, she fell in love with him at first sight. But no women were allowed near him. The scholars kept him in total seclusion, not just to protect his life, but also to protect his heart. They believed in pure rationality and spurned emotions, especially love. So the princess and her lady’s maid dressed up as boys and arrived at his doorstep, whereupon various complications ensue.

This story comes from a play first produced in 1732, now adapted to the screen by Clare Peploe and produced by her husband, Bernardo Bertolucci. Peploe keeps the setting of the story within its period, filming on location at magnificent houses dating back to the 18th century, but there are flickers of theatricality and modernity. A character appears to glimpse an audience in modern dress, seated on the magnificent lawn. Antique instruments on the soundtrack are briefly joined by an electric guitar (played by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour). And at the end, the performers come out in for a curtain call, wearing their own clothes.

These references to the dualities of 18th/21st centuries and male/female roles are supposed to echo the story’s themes of duality and disguise. But it does a disservice to elements of the story that can only be understood in the context of their era. The princess (Mira Sorvino) has only three strategies – she commands, she bribes, and she seduces. Most of the story has her seducing the scholars Hermocrates (Ben Kingsley), his sister Leontine (Fiona Shaw), and, of course, the prince (Jay Rodan). In each succeeding conversation with the first two, she tells more and more lies. With the prince, she begins with lies, and then tells more and more truth, revealing more to him each time they meet.

Kingsley and Shaw are magnificent, but the clash between the artificial structure of the story and the more contemporary, naturalistic tone of the film only makes it more painful for us to see them manipulated so horrendously by the princess. Rachael Stirling (daughter of “Avengers” star Diana Rigg) is delicious as the lady’s maid and brightens the film whenever she appears.

Parents should know that the movie includes gender-bending seductions, including a same-sex kiss. There are no four-letter words, but there is some spicy language and brief nudity.

Families who see this movie should talk about how people right the wrongs of their forebears and about the complications of getting to know someone and have to decide how much of the truth about yourself to share.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, also featuring Kingsley and the romantic complications of a woman dressed as a man.

Previous Posts

Trailer #2: The Box Trolls
Did I mention how excited I am about this?  Coming in September, from the people who did "Coraline" and "ParaNorman." [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDr_ZY37RFg[/youtube]

posted 12:12:22pm Apr. 16, 2014 | read full post »

Heaven is for Real
A movie like "Heaven is for Real" requires two different reviews, one for believers/fans of the 1.5 million-volume best-selling book, one for those who are unfamiliar with the book and whose views about faith and heaven and proof may differ from the evangelical beliefs of the Wesleyan pastor who wro

posted 6:00:04pm Apr. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Heaven is for Real: The Real Story
"Heaven is for Real" opens tomorrow, with Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo, a Nebraska pastor whose four-year-old son says that he visited heaven during surgery for a ruptured appendix.  It is based on a best-selling book Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back,

posted 3:59:56pm Apr. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Movie Critic Ann Hornaday Comes Out as...a Christian
Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday wrote a brave and very moving essay about being a writer sustained by Christian faith and how that affects the way she approaches all films and especially those with religious themes. As a critic, my first obligation is to assess each of these films not as

posted 3:59:22pm Apr. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Trailer: Gone Girl with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike
Take a look at the very creepy trailer from director David Fincher for the upcoming "Gone Girl" based on the best-seller by Gillian Flynn. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esGn-xKFZdU[/youtube]

posted 2:33:38pm Apr. 15, 2014 | read full post »


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