Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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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

Bad Santa

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

This is a movie about a very bad Santa, indeed. He’s worse than bad. He’s vile. He’s disgusting. Billy Bob Thornton plays Willie, a department store Santa who is constantly either drunk, horrifyingly inappropriate and obscene to the kids, or having sex, sometimes all three at the same time.

Willie and his partner Marcus (Tony Cox), an African-American little person, get jobs as Santa and elf in a different department store every December. Then they rob the store’s safe on Christmas eve and pretty much blitz out until the next year.

It’s a pretty close call as to whether Willie is more throroughly disgusted with himself or the rest of the world. But it doesn’t much matter to him. He seems incapable of holding onto a thought of any kind, much less a goal or plan. Then, in a demented twist on the usual movie plot, Willie meets a boy (Brett Kelly) who appears to really believe he is Santa and whose completely pathetic disaster of a life begins to wake Willie up to some all-but-vestigal notion of compassion.

Most of the movie is the same joke over and over — Willie’s grossly (in both senses of the word) inappropriate behavior. Willie tells a child he got into trouble for having sex with Mrs. Santa’s sister. This is supposed to be funny. Then, when the child walks in on him while he is having sex with a pretty bartender who has a Santa fetish (Lauren Graham of television’s “Gilmore Girls”), the child says matter-of-factly, “Hello, Mrs. Santa’s sister.” This is supposed to be even funnier. I am always up for something twisted and demented, especially in the midst of the overstuffed and over-marketed holiday season, but “Bad Santa” just gets sad.

The movie begins to feel more shoddy and exploitive of the child than Willie is as it tries to have it both ways, skewering and embracing the conventions of the holiday movie and the holidays themselves. Despite some funny moments, the best efforts of Thornton and Cox, and top-notch support from John Ritter as an anxious store executive and Bernie Mac as the store detective, the movie runs out of steam and becomes just unpleasant.

Parents should know that this movie has extremely mature material, including non-stop smoking, drinking, and profanity (often in front of or addressed to children), exceptionally explicit sexual references and situations, and graphic violence, including a suicide attempt, hitting below the belt, murder, and shooting.

Families who see this movie should talk about what made both Willie and Marcus decide to change.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the rude humor of Ruthless People and The Opposite of Sex. Other twisted holiday tales include Scrooged, Gremlins, and the brilliant A Christmas Story.

Dopamine

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

“Dopamine” is Mark Decena’s first journey as a director and it shows. While there are some lovely scenes and an evocative remote feeling, the dialogue and MESSAGE are as facile and meaningful as Snapple cap quotes. Decena has made a promising start here and the spunky performances by the leads (and its brief length at 84 minutes) keep the movie’s slow trot of a pace from getting dull. However, similar to those seemingly amazing ideas that result from philosophical discussions in the wee hours of the night, this movie loses brilliance in the light of day.

Rand (John Livingston) is a regular guy who is working hard on creating an interactive computer friend named Koy Koy with co-partners Johnson (Rueben Grundy, a dread-locked designated decent guy) and Winston (Bruno Campos, whose alpha-male persona from “ER” is given free rein here). Meanwhile Rand is trying to reconcile his conflicting feelings about romantic relationships as he watches his father retreat from loving husband into bitterness in response to his wife’s Alzheimer’s disease. Rand chooses to hide from intimacy by explaining away love as a chemical reaction hard-wired into our DNA, acting as drug whose effect is doomed to wane over time. The closest he gets to an intimate relationship is in his feelings for his own creation, Koy Koy.

The plot is fairly simple, which is a good thing. The psychology is equally simple which is not as good a thing. Rand might as well be reciting Bio 101 for all the passion he commits to his argument. Johnson is a disturbingly patient fount of good advice on how to be human, while Winston is an anthropomorphized id, greedy and self-absorbed. Against these emotional primary colors, the deus ex machina for life (and plot) development are the venture capitalists, who force the three partners to “test” their product’s synchronicity with the perceived target market: kids. Enter Sarah (TV’s Sabrina Lloyd), the petite teacher/artist, whose saucer-eyes are haunted by a past unresolved relationship which has “left deep holes to fill” (yeesh).

Johnson makes the first move on the passive Sarah but it is Rand who spends the majority of the movie courting her in his own conflicted way. The scenes between them alternate between sparkling and soggy as they tread over-familiar ground in their journey to understand love. It gives nothing away to say that along the way they learn a little about themselves and a lot about the nature of loving relationships, which is the MESSAGE after all and is not a bad message to have at that. But it could have been delivered with a little more, well, heart.

This film is the first that was incubated from beginning to end at the Sundance Institute, and that is why it seems oddly overly structured for an independent film. That is usually more of a problem for an overcooked studio creation as a result of input by too many executives and not enough faith in the audience’s ability to figure things out on its own. “Dopamine’s” characters seem pinned down by the motivations assigned to them, as though their behavior was programmed — like Koy Koy’s.

Parents should be aware that sexual relations are both extremely casual and alternately devoid/laden with psychological implications. Characters use drugs to deal with a stressful work situation. Smoking and drinking are the social norm. Emotional detachment, refutation of love’s existence by a husband for his sick wife, and passivity in slipping into relationships are adult themes that will not be suitable for kids and young teens.

Families should discuss different types of relationships that exist and how they change over time, under duress or during the upheaval of personal growth. How is the relationship between Johnson and Rand different at the end of the movie? How might the creation of Koy Koy’s mate represent a more complicated emotional step for Rand than for his partners?

Families also might discuss whether the vocabulary of “love” is misleading here, from Rand’s description of the initial, chemical feeling of attraction versus Sarah’s search for something more meaningful.

Families who enjoy this movie might wish to see Singles, which shares a similarly ambivalent take on love in relationships between twenty-somethings. Those who enjoy William Windom’s performance as Rand’s father might wish to see him in the classic To Kill a Mockingbird.

Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat

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

The great thing about the irrepressibly anarchic Cat in the Hat is that even Hollywood can’t contain him. They can stretch out the story with filler that ranges from the superfluous to the distracting and once in a while reaches the level of oh-no-not-that-again. They can put in some inexcusably vulgar humor. But when Cat takes over, it is still entertaining.

Mike Meyers, as irrepressibly mischevious as the Cat himself, is a great choice for the role. His Cat seems to be a master of vaudvillian schtick with a few of the voices from The Wizard of Oz and a sort of demented Mary Poppins thrown in for what turns out to be very good measure. His energy and audacity — and his astonishingly animated expressions under all that fur — do as much as possible to keep the movie on track.

But very little of what is added to the story is worth the effort. Dr. Seuss was much too smart to try to insert any kind of a moral into his stories or to give us too much detail about the lives of the children the Cat comes to visit. This left his story universal and subject to interpretation.

But it would not fill even the short 73 minute running time of this feature film. So, this version makes the Cat into an “I’m here to teach you a lesson,” sort of guy. Conrad (Spencer Breslin) has to learn to follow the rules and Sally (Dakota Fanning) has to learn to loosen up and not be so bossy. And they have to learn to appreciate one another. Awwwwww. We also get a completely gratuitous menace in Alec Baldwin, a neighbor with a corset and an upper plate who schemes to marry the kids’ mother and have Conrad sent to a military boarding school. None of this is very original or interesting, and it all takes much too much time away from the real story, which is the absolute chaos created by the Cat and the reaction of the kids — a mixture of horror and delight, with delight winning out. And why not? Who among us does not thrill to see that “don’t you touch anything” living room covered in splotches of purple goo?

This undeniable pleasure is almost enough to keep the movie working. Those jellybean-colored sets (and Mom’s just-drycleaned dress) are cheerfully destroyed along with, Mom’s rules, some of the kids’ ideas about themselves, and, apparently, the laws of physics. We get both the fun of imagining all of that and the satisfaction of a happy ending. Meyers is simply a hoot to watch, with able support from the kids (especially Fanning) and the fish (voice of Sean Hayes).

But parents should know that this movie has some surprisingly rude and crude humor for a PG, including double entendres and almost-swearing, potty humor, and other bodily function jokes. The Cat picks up a muddy garden implement and refers to it as “a dirty hoe” and spells out the s-word. The Cat is hit in the crotch. He has a fake bare behind. It is almost unfathomable that the people behind this movie put material like that in a movie based on a beloved book for children. There is also a lot of comic peril that may be too intense for younger children. An adult character drinks beer.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Sally had a hard time with her friends and why Conrad had a hard time following rules. They might also like to pretend they are Thing One and Thing Two (or Chocolate Thun-da) and do the opposite of what they are told.

Families who enjoy this movie should read the book and its sequel and some of the other Seuss classics like Horton Hears a Who and The Sneetches.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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

There is absolutely no need for you to read any further than the title of the film if you are not a fan of slasher flicks. If you are a fan, than this is a solid enough, if derivative, scare-fest with sufficient “eww” factor to satisfy those weaned on the blood-floods of Michael, Jason and Freddy. However, there is not enough originality here to make this version of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” better than average, and there is certainly nothing to justify it entering the vaunted ground of classic horror movies, where its predecessor and namesake resides.

The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre set the standard for horror movies of the blood-letting kind for the decades that followed and continues to top the lists as one of the most influential movies in a genre. This substantially more sanguineous remake –- the original had a full 40 minutes without bloodshed— again takes the Ed Gein murders as a starting point, places them in the heart of Texas in the 1970’s and replaces Ed’s hunting knife with a chainsaw. This movie pays homage to the original but delights in amplifying the bloodshed and adding its own twists to that nest of Gothic horror where Leatherface resides.

As for plot, don’t ask why, but a van of five bell-bottomed rebels, having just returned from Mexico on a penny-ante drug run, are driving across Texas and choose to stop in a small town as a result of picking up a hitchhiking waif whose strong desire not to go on to that town is made patently evident when she kills herself rather than return. It turns out that the small town is tiny -– comprising a slaughterhouse, a freaky farmhouse, an abandoned barn, a trailer home, a decrepit shack and a gas-station with a rotting meat display that would make David Lynch feel at home. The five youths wait at the barn for the sheriff to show up to cart away the suicide’s body but because they have Lynyrd Skynyrd tickets for that evening decide to expedite the process by going to the farmhouse where the Sheriff allegedly lives. As you might guess this is the last in a series of bad decisions that follow some of the familiar rules of slasher movies. These include:

  • 1. When you come across a spooky hitchhiker who warns you about continuing on the road that you are traveling, do not listen to her but go right to the creepy location in question.
  • 2. When greeted by the native, who is eyeing you from behind a display case full of flies, maggots and meat, you stay and chat. After all, how often do any of us have a chance to visit with the colorful locals in small eccentric towns?
  • 3. If you meet with a feral kid, nesting in an abandoned and bizarrely decorated barn, stay. It will make a great story later.
  • 4. Split up your party as often as possible to cover more ground and allow for more prolonged carnage. “Safety in numbers” is so passé.
  • 5. Trust everyone, even the freaky sisters alone in their trailer home who insist you drink tea with them while a maniac wearing your boyfriend’s face is just steps behind you with his chainsaw. Sure, they will protect you.

The movie does a fair job at helping the audience to suspend disbelief at these and many, many more highly dubious choices, both by setting the movie in the early ‘70’s (like the original) when people apparently did not know that exploring freaky houses alone was a bad idea, and by relying heavily on the acting of lone survivor, Erin (Jessica Biel). While she does a decent enough job, the standout performance here is R. Lee Ermey (who made Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket into an icon) as the Sheriff who might be even scarier than the mechanically-inclined behemoth, Leatherface, or the rest of his enabling brood.

For dedicated admirers of the original, this version is just another rehash of the classic, but for new-comers or those who are looking for a good, old-fashioned scare, then there is plenty of meat on this table.

Parents should be aware that there is nothing misleading about this movie’s title. The chainsaw in question is assisted in its macabre work by meat hooks, axes, sledgehammers, knives and other assorted tools of the slasher trade. In addition to quick death, there is torture, mutilation (self and inflicted) and amputation under less than sterile conditions. Leatherface’s trademark fashion statement is his fondness for wearing other people’s skin to mask his disfigured face. While there is sexuality, drug use and strong language, it is the peril and carnage that pushes this movie to the cusp of its R-rating. This movie is only for audiences strong-stomached (I am not going to say “mature”) enough to handle the gore.

Families who watch this movie might discuss what about the setting, the characters and the circumstances heightens the scariness of this movie. What decisions would you make differently and how would you react?

Some families might wish to discuss why the survivors in slasher movies like this one are typically the kids who do not use drugs or become involved in casual sexual encounters. With their roots deep in morality lessons, scary stories have been popular throughout history. What might be the appeal of this medium? Why do some people find horror movies cathartic?

Families who enjoy this movie should see the original. For those who find the gore excessive but the story interesting, Hitchcock’s Psycho, and Silence of the Lambs both feature characters based on Ed Gein.

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