Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Fury
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

St. Vincent
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 For mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

Dear White People
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild action and brief rude humor
Release Date:
March 7, 2014

Kingdom of Heaven

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

This huge, clanging epic about the 12th century Crusades is too beautiful to be bad, too clumsy to be good, too long to be comfortable, too uneven to be powerful, and has a leading character too lightweight to be compelling. “Kingdom of Heaven” has the scope but lacks the power and resonance of the same director’s Gladiator. Ridley Scott is shooting for epic but coming up at — or just short of — entertaining.

The central core value — that peace is possible and that war is not the answer — is undermined by the director’s obvious relish for battle.

It has beautifully constructed images that convey the pageant of the fierce struggle between Christians and Muslims for old Jerusalem. But this lush depiction of the sights, sounds and smells of the age is anchored to a weak plot and an often puerile script. The characters share none of the grandeur or complexity of the scenery or the history.

As often happens, the more blood that flows on an on-screen battlefield, the more anemic the script. This may account for the thin and implausible story of an unschooled small town blacksmith who, after a few weeks of training, becomes a world-class swordsman and military tactician able to plan the movement of vast armies and defend the empire against shrewder and more seasoned veterans as well as a scientist-farmer statesman and scientist-farmer who knows how to irrigate the desert and how to create an egalatarian society. He is transformed from a bereaved widower who joins the Crusades to redeem his soul and becomes something of a modern secular humanist who just wants to save as many lives as possible and cultivate his garden. He is surrounded by the obligatory movie-isms, including father-son reconciliation and a romantic relationship with a princess with kohl on her eyes, henna on her hands, and a husband who does not understand her. It’s the one-characteristic-per-actor school of epic story-telling. It is not enough that the bad priest is a wicked and narrow-minded hypocrite, he must also be a leering sadist and, for good measure, a sneak thief in case someone in the audience is so overcome with the carnage that he missed the point.

Sometimes an movie that simplifies a story can serve as a set of training wheels to help introduce younger viewers to more complex historical material. But “Kingdom of Heaven” is not that movie. First, it has too much splattering gore (throats pierced by arrows, limbs severed, heads chopped off) to be targeted at younger and more impressionable audiences. Second, the plot is too murky and hobbled by 21st century political correctness to be compelling.

Despite its emotional immaturity, the story does attempt to depict the Rubik’s cube of treacherous alliances between confusing factions during the Crusades, and it evenhandedly makes extremists on both sides the bad guys rather than pitting the Christians against the Muslims. It also contains a message about religious tolerance in the face of “I know what God wants” zealots from both the Christian and Muslim sides. This is always a timely and important message, although as portrayed here it is heavy-handed and half-hearted. The hero preaches a suspiciously modern form of tolerance and equality while the evil villains screech a simple-minded and almost suicidal position based on “faith.”

Kingdom of Heaven is a gorgeous movie. The costumes, weapons and castles are beautifully constructed, and both the intense individual confrontations and the sweeping panorama of battle are expertly conveyed. Scott has a superb sense of pacing and knows when to show fluttering flags and when to cue the choral music. For many, this will be enough, at least while watching it. But because the plot is so thin and uninvolving, even the 2 1/2 hour running time will leave the audience feeling unsatisfied.

Parents should know that the movie has extreme and very graphic violence with a lot of slashing and burning and a lot of spurting blood. Many characters are killed. There are some grisly images, including men being hanged, heads on pikes, and the face of a dead leper and there are references to suicide. There is a non-explict sexual situation and there are sexual references, including adultery.

Families who see this movie should talk about its relationship to the battles — intellectual and literal — in the world today. Who are the moderates? Who are the extremists? How can moderates engage with extremists? How do you respond to those who claim they know the will of God? Families should also talk about the then-revolutionary concept that “you were not what you were born but what you had it in yourself to be” and the words that inspire Balian, “What man is a man who does not make the world better?”

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy epics like Ben Hur and Scott’s Gladiator. There are plenty of good texts about the Crusades, including about this fictionalized time between the Second and Third Crusades. The story of King Richard the Lionheart is a fascinating tale from his travails in reaching Jerusalem to his clashes with Saladin. Those who want to find out more might like to look at The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades by Jonathan Riley-Smith and Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf.

House of Wax

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Just when it seemed that Hollywood was running out of paint-by-numbers horror movie remakes, along oozes the half-baked “House of Wax” to leave its greasy smear on movie non-history. If the project was an independent label’s small budget scream-fest, with unknown actors and a rougher feel, then there might have been something gutsy to redeem this pallid, tasteless fare. Instead, the mega-budget excesses, the big-named producers, the WB’s hottest young things, and the writers who are experienced enough to know better have turned in a condescending slog of a flick, as mechanical and soulless as a wax golem.

Those savvy Warner Bros. execs are betting on the quick and dirty opening weekend draw typical of horror movies and, with the big-screen debut of little-screen’s bored, blond heiress, Ms. Hilton, they know a good sized crowd will go just to see Paris burn. At this screening (and reportedly at many others across the country), the crowd erupted in applause and cheers when Paris Hilton’s character, Paige, dies. Hollywood, please note that Paris Hilton’s novelty value is now officially over. Any other conceivable value she might add to a movie is yet to be demonstrated.

The plot is simple but relies entirely on the stupidity of the protagonists and our desire to watch them die. Six college-age kids set out from Florida to Louisiana on an overnight road trip to see a big football game. They take a shortcut which puts them within reach of a town that does not exist on maps or, more importantly, GPS. The small, quiet town is home to the titular House of Wax, not only housing wax sculptures but made entirely of wax itself. When the travelers meet the inhabitants of the town, it is just a matter of time before the wax — and blood — start flowing.

Most of the scenes focus on supposedly bright, successful, Carly (Elisha Cuthbert of “24” fame), and her mildly delinquent, “bad twin” brother, Nick (Chad Michael Murray, “One Tree Hill” heartthrob). Carly’s best friend is Paige (Paris Hilton, trying to project a down-to-earth sympathy), who thinks she might be pregnant but has been holding off on telling boyfriend, Blake (Robert Ri’chard, Coach Carter), the gung-ho football fan who brought the group together in the first place. Nick’s friend, Dalton (Jon Abrahams) seems to exist to show that Nick is really a good guy. Carly’s boyfriend, Wade (Jared Padalecki, “Gilmore Girls”), whose absurd curiosity dooms him to the most drawn-out of deaths, is one jarring example of badly written character development, literally sacrificed to further the plot.

The denizens of the town range from Southern Gothic of the Deliverance school of stereotype, to twin psychopaths, intent on keeping time from passing by freezing folks in wax. It gives nothing away to say that the writers, twins Chad and Carey Hayes, take the twin symbolism way, way too seriously, invoking unintended laughs with their heavy-handedness along the way.

The movies’ internal consistency, one or two visually interesting scenes, and a glimpse of some decent acting from Ms. Cuthbert are all that stand between this release and a road-kill pit similar to the one occupying an inordinately long scene toward the beginning of the movie. Even for horror and Hilton fans, “House of Wax” is better left unvisited.

Parents should know that this movie’s tagline “Prey Slay Display” is a fair indication of what is to come. Most of the characters die and they do so in manners ranging from bloody hunts to quick decapitation. There is near constant peril and lots of unnecessary–even for a slasher movie detail, ranging from a close-up of a victim’s skin accidentally peeled away to a character’s partial submersion in a fetid pool of dead animals. The characters make frequent sexual references and Paris Hilton’s past video indiscretions seem to be the inside joke in two scenes, including a brief strip-tease she performs for her boyfriend. Characters state they intend to have sex and there is a supposedly funny confusion about whether a character is performing a sexual act on her boyfriend as he drives. There is mild social drinking, as well as some admiration for one character’s “hard-core” attitude and delinquency. Characters have no hesitation about exploring and messing around with other people’s houses or property.

Families who see this movie might want to talk about theme of siblings, especially the theme of one sibling’s goodness compared to one sibling’s “badness”. The choice of the movie playing at the town’s theater is not accidental as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a much stronger study of sibling rivalry.

Families who want to see the inspiration for this movie should see House of Wax, 1953’s 3-D showcase thriller starring Vincent Price in his first horror role, or, if they can find a copy, the wry and witty Mystery of the Wax Museum(1933) or the screenplay on which it is based. Fans of horror movies should go elsewhere, perhaps to tepid new releases such as Amityville Horror which now look better in comparison (but only by comparison).

Crash

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005
DVD Release Date:2006

Everyone is angry. Everyone is scared. They all feel that something that belongs to them has been taken away and they don’t know how to get it back.

And in this movie, they say so.

“Crash,” the winner of the 2006 Best Picture Oscar, is an ensemble film with several intersecting stories, all of them about people who can’t quite seem to understand how things turned out the way they did or how they themselves turned out the way they did. Most of them find out, in the course of the movie, that they are capable of more — or less — than they thought they were.

Paul Haggis, the screenwriter for Million Dollar Baby has co-written and directed a devastating movie about people who are very much like us, with one important difference. It’s as though the drinking water in Los Angeles has been spiked with some mild de-inhibitor that makes people say what they are thinking. In this film, everyone says the most horrifyingly virulent things to everyone else: family members, people in business, employees, and strangers, reflecting a range of prejudice on the basis of class, gender, and, above all, race.

These comments are sometimes made angrily, sometimes carelessly or thoughtlessly, but often, and more unsettlingly, matter-of-factly. As vicious as the insults are, the part that hurts the most is that people don’t care enough, don’t pay attention closely enough, to know the people they are insulting. “When did Persians become Arab?” asks an Iranian, who cannot understand how people can hate him without taking the time to know who he is. A Hispanic woman explains to a man she is sleeping with that she is not Mexican. Her parents are from El Salvador and Puerto Rico. He tells her that it doesn’t matter because they all leave cars on their lawns anyway.

The movie is intricately constructed, going back and forth between the characters and back and forth in time.  There are small moments that create a mosaic in which we see the pattern before the characters do. The movie has big shocks but it also has small glimpses and moments of great subtlety. A black woman looks at her white boss while he talks to his wife on a cell phone and we can tell there is more to their relationship than we have seen. The daughter of immigrants we have only seen in one context shows up in another and we see that her professional life is very different from what we might have imagined, reminding us that racism may be inextricably intertwined with America, but so is opportunity.

Every character is three-dimensional, utterly real and heartbreakingly sympathetic. The characters keep surprising themselves and each other, for better and for worse.

A white upper class couple gets carjacked. He’s a politician (Brendan Fraser) concerned about how it will look. She (Sandra Bullock) is terrified and angry. She doesn’t trust the man who has come to change their locks because he looks like a gang member. A black detective (co-producer Don Cheadle) tells his Latina partner and sometimes girlfriend (Jennifer Esposito) that “in LA, nobody touches you. We miss that so much, we crash into each other just so we can feel something.”

A black actress (Thandie Newton) tells her black television director husband (Terrence Howard) that “The closest you ever came to being black was watching ‘The Cosby Show.'” The white producer of a television sit-com (Tony Danza) tells that same director to re-shoot a scene because “Jamal is talking a little less black.” A character in an overturned car is caught in a safety belt, hanging upside down. A pair of black carjackers believe that what they do is acceptable because they are not robbing black people. One of the tenderest father-daughter scenes in years is the set-up for an explosive emotional pay-off later on.

The brilliance of the movie is the way it makes each character both symbol and individual. As a whole, the cast is neatly aligned along a continuum of prejudice, and yet each character is complete and complex and real. Just when we think we know who they are, they surprise us. We find ourselves sympathetic to those we thought we hated and disturbed by those we thought we understood. Just when we think we know what bigotry is, it, too, surprises us by being more about fear and loss and feeling powerless than about hatred and ignorance. The characters confront their assumptions about each other and they make us confront our own about them and about ourselves.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2005

Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman of “The Office”) is in his bathrobe one Thursday morning, bumping his head, burning his toast, and engaging in a completely ineffectual protest of the new highway by-pass that has a flank of bulldozers ready to mow down his house. It is ineffectual first because the bulldozer operators seem perfectly willing to mow Arthur down to get to his house. But it is ineffectual second because there is an inter-galactic by-pass about to be built and Earth is about to be destroyed to get it out of the way.

Fortunately, it turns out that Arthur’s best friend, Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is an alien (the fact that he tried to shake hands with a car should have been a tip-off), so just before Earth explodes, Ford grabs Arthur and a couple of towels and sticks out his thumb to hitch a ride on a spaceship. And it turns out to contain Zaphod Beeblebrox, the president of the galaxy, (Sam Rockwell), Trillian, the woman of Arthur’s dreams (Zooey Deschanel), and a mopey robot named Marvin (voice of Alan Rickman).

Ahead of this group is a quest and a journey, and of course encounters with dolphins doing a musical number as they leave earth, thanking us for all the fish, aliens called Vogons, who terrify their captives by reciting the third-worst poetry in the universe, Humma Kavula (John Malcovich, or at least the top third of him, skittering along on hundreds of tiny metal prongs), who is still seething at losing the presidential election to Zaphod, and a supercomputer that has the ultimate answer to the ultimate question, if you could only figure out what that is. Ford and Arthur sort their way through it with the help of the title volume (voice of Stephen Fry), which is filled with helpful advice for every eventuality, starting with “Don’t panic!”

Adams’ book, written over 25 years ago, is a marvel of invention and understated humor that holds up very well but inevitably loses some subtlety in translation to the screen. There is a lot to look at, including aliens designed by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and spaceships and special effects that hit just the right balance between impressive and funny. But the balance between story and funny is not calibrated quite as precisely and the central characters, once established (Arthur is befuddled and over-cautious, Zaphod is implusive and relies on superficial charm, Marvin is despodent), replay the same notes. The brief appearances by supporting players, especially Malcovich and Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast, are much more memorable and effective in capturing Adams’s wit and spirit. Purests will quibble about some liberties with the beloved (“and increasingly inaccurately named”) five-part “trilogy,” but overall the movie does a fine job of capturing both the wit and the heart of the books, and makes us, for a moment, miss Adams just a little less.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of cartoon-style “action” violence, including space-age guns and other weapons. A character’s second head is removed (off-screen) and we see some blood. Minor characters are squashed and some creatures are injured. Characters drink in a pub.

Families who see this movie should talk about what information they would put into a guide for intergalactic visitors to Earth.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the hilarious outer space comedy Galaxy Quest, which also features Rickman and Rockwell, and the slightly more mature material in Tim Burton’s ghostly comedy Beetlejuice and Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black. Families will also enjoy the novels by Douglas Adams, which are great fun to read aloud (note: some have strong language), and the BBC miniseries version, as well as Adams’ non-fiction book, Last Chance to See. Passionate fans of the series have created some informative and amusing websites like this one and this one. And they will enjoy the very funny books of Tom Holt, particularly Expecting Someone Taller.

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