Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Believe Me
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

Tracks
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
Release Date:
June 27, 2014

The Boxtrolls
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Neighbors
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

Are We There Yet?

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

Robert Benchley once wrote, “There are two kinds of travel, first class and with children.” But the longest, naggiest, car-sickiest travel with children cannot be any more tedious than this weak and dragged-out generic fluff that wastes the talents of four performers who should know better.

There are about three good minutes of material in this film, all of which appear in the trailer. To put it in terms appropriate for the subject matter, the film has some long, dull stretches between rest stops. The movie is not as amusing as a good game of license plate bingo.

Ice Cube plays Nick, a playa who thinks his life is mighty fine until he catches a look at the luscious Suzanne (Nia Long), who works across the street from his Portland, Oregon sports memorabilia shop. He tries to resist when he finds out that she has two children, but when he rescues her on a rainy night after her car breaks down and she knows the stats on his favorite player, Satchel Paige, he’s a goner. Even though he does not like children, he will do anything to get close to her.

Suzanne needs someone to take her children to Vancouver on New Year’s Eve, and after they get into trouble at the airport and miss the train, Nick has to drive them in his beloved and pristine new SUV. When I say you know where this is going, I don’t mean Vancouver.

Yes, everything goes wrong, from an encounter with a kick-boxing deer to projectile vomit. And those are the funny parts, or they are supposed to be, anyway.

Even worse are the touching parts, or the parts that are supposed to be. Nick and the kids have to find some way to like each other, right? Isn’t that the whole point of a road movie, that point at which the people who don’t know each other or know each other and don’t like each other develop some (usually-grudging) respect for one another and begin to bond? This aspect of the movie is not just unimaginative and tedious; it is so insincere and condescending that it is affirmatively unpleasant. And then, to add insult to injury, the movie indulges in that most unjustifiable of offenses — the mini-retrospective flashback of purported highlights to re-remind us of how hollow it all really is.

It’s a shame to see the beautiful and talented Nia Long, most recently so impressive in her brief role in Alfie given so little to do — and forced to sport such an awful hairdo. Ice Cube seems to enjoy his interaction with his young co-stars but never seems fully engaged. Even with the voice of Tracey Morgan, the talking Satchel Paige bobblehead is tiresome. The performer who comes across the best is Aleisha Allen (of School of Rock), who has a fresh and appealing presence.

Parents should know that the movie has quite a bit of crude humor and some strong language for a PG. There is a lot of comic cartoon-style violence, including hits in the crotch, played for comedy. Some viewers may be upset by brief shots of a dead deer. And some may be disturbed by the portrayal of absent fathers.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Kevin and Lindsey tried to sabotage her dates and what made Nick begin to feel some sympathy and respect for the children. They may also want to talk about some of their own car trips and what kinds of things families can do to make sure that the trips are enjoyable for everyone. Families should also take a look at Satchel Paige‘s famous rules for staying young:

Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.

Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.

Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society — the social ramble ain’t restful.

Avoid running at all times.

And don’t look back — something might be gaining on you.

Families with older children who enjoy this movie will also enjoy seeing Nia Long in Big Mama’s House, Aleisha Allen in School of Rock and Ice Cube in Barbershop (all PG-13). Mature audiences will enjoy seeing him in the R-rated Three Kings and Boyz N the Hood.

White Noise

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

Remember in Poltergeist when the little blonde girl was talking to the television broadcasting only that snowy nothingness they used to show when there was nothing on the air back in the days before 24/7 programming? And then she turned to her mother and said in her sweet little-girl voice, “They’re here!” Well, there was more deliciously creepy terror in that one moment than in all of “White Noise,” a barkingly dumb would-be thriller about the dead communicating with the living through…appliances.

Michael Keaton plays Jonathan Rivers, blissfully married to such a completely beautiful and perfect and loving (and newly pregnant) woman (Chandra West) that you know she’ll be toast within fifteen minutes after we meet her. Sure enough, after a half-heard “I love you” as she drives away and an incomplete voicemail, she disappears. Her body is found sometime later and it appears that after a car crash, she was severely wounded and unable to save herself after falling into the river.

Jonathan notices that a man has been following him. The man says he has been receiving messages from Jonathan’s wife. At first, Jonathan does not believe him, but then, well it would be a pretty short movie if he was not convinced quickly so that the real story can get going — about how he starts to get messages from people who aren’t actually dead yet and how all of this meddling with powers he does not understand is deeply upsetting to, well, the powers he does not understand.

Okay, so the story is not the point. This is all about the thrill ride. The problem is that it’s just not that thrilling.

Every would-be surprise is telegraphed in advance with the most venerable and uninspired of movie cliches, everything that has been done to, um, death over and over and over and then successfully parodied and ridiculed to death in movies from Scream to Scary Movie.

The camera closes in tight on someone, so we know something is happening just outside the frame. The music builds and we know something bad is about to happen. Someone promises not to leave and then he does and…something bad happens. And of course the secret hideout is all drippy exposed beams and sputtering lights. Yawn.

This isn’t an especially bad movie. It just isn’t an especially good one. Keaton’s underwritten part doesn’t give him much to do beyond barking at the television and looking bereft, but West makes a lovely impression in her brief role as his late wife. She is supposed to be a writer whose latest book is called “The Eternal Wait.” As I checked my watch to see how much longer the movie was going to go on, I felt that could have been the title of the movie.

Parents should know that the movie is a thriller with an overall theme that may be disturbing to some family members. There are brief grisly images and references to violence and some scary (but well within PG-13-range) surprises. A character attempts suicide and others are killed, including one who is shot. There is brief strong language and brief drinking. The movie contains a reference to “an earthquake in India” that may be upsetting due to current events. And according to this movie, only white, middle class people communicate with each other after death.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other ghost stories like Ghost, The Sixth Sense, Poltergeist. Dragonfly and The Mothman Prophecies have similar themes but are not as effective. They might also want to learn more about EVP.

In Good Company

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

“Synergy!” says Carter Duryea (Topher Grace). That’s the answer to his two most pressing questions: (1) What idea can he pull out of a hat to help him meet the very ambitious financial goals set for him in his new job, despite the fact that he knows nothing about it? and (2) How can he convince anyone — including himself — that he knows what he is doing?

Carter is 26 years old and his life fits him like a suit he hasn’t grown into yet. He has a sleekly elegant wife (Selma Blair), a sleekly elegant apartment with a lot of shiny new wedding presents, and, in honor of his new job, a sleekly elegant new sportcar, which he bashes as he drives it off the lot.

He works for a bunch of financial hotshots who play corporations like chess pieces. The latest acquisition is a publisher, and Carter is put in charge of the advertising sales division of a sports magazine (think Sports Illustrated). He’s taking over from Dan (Dennis Quaid), an old school type who has always put decency, loyalty, and integrity first. Well, that policy is quickly out the door, and so are some of Dan’s salesmen.

Dan would like to leave with them, but he can’t. He needs the job badly. His daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson) is switching to NYU from the less expensive state school. He has another daughter who will be going to college in a few years. And his wife Ann (Marg Helgenberger) is pregnant. His prospects for getting another job that would pay for all of that are poor at his age and in this market.

When they meet, as Carter is moving into what had been Dan’s office, the first thing they do is ask each other’s age. Carter points out that it is weird that Dan is older than his father, showing his panic, his cluelessness, and also his artlessness, candor, and openness. Carter is a smart kid, smart enough to figure out that Dan is more of what he wants to be than the slash-and-burn corporate titan he has been running after as though he was a rock star.

Carter thinks of himself as someone who can sell anything, but he can’t sell his wife on staying with him and he knows nothing about ad sales. Other than some B-school theories and the passion to do well, he does not have much to contribute.

Dan’s essential decency, combined with his sense of what is necessary for survival, leads him to reach out to Carter. And when Carter makes a shameless ploy to be invited over for dinner, Dan brings him home. Carter sees all that Dan has and for once he stops selling. He tells Alex that for some reason, she is the only one he feels he has to tell the truth to. And they begin a romance.

The script feels patched together and some of those patched-together pieces feel very stale — the corporate raider element of the plot is about 15 years out of date. There is nothing wrong with making the movie about the journeys taken by both Dan and Carter, but it doesn’t quite manage to do that; instead it seems to equivocate, itself not clear on who the movie is about. The seams show worst with the ending, which is particularly artificial. But there is a lot of compensation in exceptionally warm and fully-realized performances by all of the principals. Quaid makes Dan feel complete and lived-in, and, with Helgenberger, he makes his marriage feel real and lived-in as well. Grace is one of today’s most promising young actors, and he makes what could easily have been a shallow character into something special, showing us Carter’s strength, intelligence, and ability as well as his longing and insecurity. The relationships they put on the screen are far greater than what was on the page — now that’s synergy. These are people who are very good company indeed.

Parents should know that the film has some explicit sexual references and situations for a PG-13, though there is no nudity. Characters use strong language, drink, and smoke. Some viewers may be disturbed by the economic upheavals and lay-offs.

Families who see this movie should talk about some of their own experiences in the workplace with difficult supervisors or pressure to meet agressive financial goals. Some family members may want to learn a little bit more about the pressures that create opportunities for those, like Teddy K, to exploit employees and investors for their own benefit.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy About a Boy, by the same director, and The Rookie, with another of the many fine performances by Quaid.

Son of the Mask

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:PG
Movie Release Date:2005
DVD Release Date:2006

The Mask had a clever and inventive director, striking design, wildly imaginative special effects, and Jim Carrey, who is something of a wildly imaginative special effect all by himself. ,P>

“Son of the Mask” is both watered down and jazzed up, like a kid who’s had way too much sugary bug juice. This semi-sequel (all new characters except for a cameo from Ben Stein) is directed at a younger audience, and despite some questionable material, it is more mild than wild. There’s not much by way of imagination and few of the effects qualify as “special.”

Jamie Kennedy (Malibu’s Most Wanted) may be many notches down the star pole from Jim Carrey, but he is a likeable and funny guy. For some reason, though, this film fails to make the best use of the talents he does have, making him the straight man. To a baby and a dog.

In the first film, a shy bank employee finds a Norse mask with magical powers. When he puts it on, it unleashes his hidden desires and removes all inhibitions, turning him into an infinitely malleable cartoon character transformed by every impulse. Whether he was performing in a nightclub or standing up to a gangster, he was always fearless.

At the end of the movie, the mask is once again thrown away.

In this sequel, Kennedy plays Tim Avery, awould-be animator who lives with his wife Tonya (Traylor Howard) in a cartoony-looking little house. She wants a baby, but he does not feel ready. One night, on his way to the office Halloween party, he finds the mask. Everyone at the party is impressed with his “costume” and the outrageous behavior just seems natural at an animator’s office party -– everyone assumes he is just trying out a new cartoon character. When he gets home, his wife is in bed. Perhaps it is because his inhibitions have been removed by the mask, or perhaps he is just feeling proud of himself for being asked to develop a character for a possible cartoon series. But he is willing to have a baby.

Nine months later, the baby is born. And because his father was wearing the mask when he was conceived, he has some of the mask’s powers. This comes to the attention of Loki (Alan Cummings), the Norse god of mischief and the original owner of the mask. His father, one-eyed Odin, king of the gods, orders him to get it back, so Loki begins checking out every baby born on Tim’s baby’s birthday.

Tim is looking for the mask, too, but it has been hidden by his dog, who is experiencing something like sibling rivalry. Tim has no idea of his baby’s unusual abilities; he just wants the mask back so that he can finish creating that cartoon character his boss is asking about.

As Loki gets closer and closer, Tonya leaves town on a business trip, with Tim on full-time daddy duty, just as the baby’s transformational powers really start to take over and Loki finds what he was looking for. The movie then gets turned over to the special effects department for some cartoon-ish fun.

Kids will enjoy the silly humor, but parents may question the appropriateness of some of the material in the movie, especially for younger children, who may be disturbed by the idea that some children may not be wanted. While there is nothing explicit in the film, some families will find it inappropriate that the baby’s powers were the result of his father’s wearing the mask when he was conceived.

The movie is dumb and loud, which some children will confuse with entertaining but others will just find overwhelming. It is a shame not to make better use of Kennedy’s talents; he is mostly limited to reaction shots. It’s a bigger shame to waste this technology and the goodwill left over from the first film on a dull story with forgettable characters.

Parents should know that this movie has strong language for a PG (“Hell, no” “The crappiest piece of crap in crap-town”). There is a lot of comic violence, including hits to the crotch that are supposed to be funny. There is some mild sexual material, including discussion of wanting (or not wanting) to have a baby, and the central plot point is based on Tonya getting pregnant while Tim is wearing the mask. Tonya jokes that she is going to make a baby with the neighbor. There is some vulgar humor, including potty jokes.

Families who see this movie should talk about how parents decide when they are ready to have a baby. Why was it so important to Tim that he be someone his child would be proud of? Why did Tim say that the baby helped him grow up? What is “positive reinforcement” and why is it important? Why are there stories about a god of mischief? What other characters in stories and myths like to cause trouble?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Spy Kids, also featuring Cummings, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its sequel Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, which, like this film, also features a game of Twister. Tim’s last name is a tribute to animator great Tex Avery, and families will enjoy some of his classic cartoons as well. And all families should learn about some of the great Norse myths, featuring Loki, Odin, and Thor.

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