Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Black or White
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language, thematic material involving drug use and drinking, and for a fight
Release Date:
January 30, 2015

 

The Book of Life
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements and brief scary images
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

Black Sea
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language throughout, some graphic images and violence
Release Date:
January 30, 2015

 

The Judge
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including some sexual references
Release Date:
October 10, 2014

Strange Magic
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and scary images
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

 

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

The Messengers

posted by jmiller
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing violence and terror.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

The trailers for “The Messengers” don’t do it justice —
there’s a lot more potential in this movie than appears in the
Grudge- and The Omen-like snippets shown as teasers. The idea isn’t bad. It’s in living up
to this potential that the film slips from an enjoyable, somewhat
innocuous PG-13 fright fest (on par with Signs and The Twilight Zone)
to a dead-end dragger with way too much buildup for the minimal reveal.


At the center of the story is Jess Solomon (Kristen
Stewart), who moves with her mother, father and little
brother from Chicago to the farmlands of North Dakota. As the parents
(played by Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller) continually hint,
Jess has some growing up to do — after being teased for what seems
like decades, audiences finally learn that 6 months prior, Jess was tipsy when got into an accident with her brother in the
car, which lead not only to obvious strife in the family but also to
the family’s savings being spent on medical bills for the toddler. His only remaining effect from the injuries is a reluctance to speak. How Original. That fact alone should tell you all you need to know about the big
finale.

The family is moving to make a fresh start, and what better
place than a rickety abandoned structure that despite being
surrounded by sunny fields remains perpetually in shadow.


As the father, McDermott seems content to act as if the
role of dad could be accomplished by simply directing the phrases
“We’ve got to make this work,” “That’s what I’m talking
about,” and “I love you sport,” to his wife, guy friend, and
daughter, respectively. He is determined to deny all the signs of a
family about to enter a horror movie, in favor of proving that he can
do it — he can run the farm, he can hold the family together, he can
be completely oblivious to every bad omen possible cliche.


By the time all the family secrets are revealed,
however, hints about the family’s past — Jess’s “mistake”
especially — have been hinted at so much that the satisfaction of
finally being told is outweighed by both resentment for
having been teased and (in “mistake’s” case) distaste at the
seriousness of the offense. This pattern of excessively long, drawn
out teases followed by anticlimactic unveilings and ultimate
disappointment is not, to put it diplomatically, limited to this one
instance.


As Jess begins to experience haunting that only she and
her little brother perceive, the film shows glimpses of
promise. The intensity of the suspense and creepy images and the intensified trust issues between Jess and her parents lies a glimmer of a better film. The
shock at realizing that walls torn apart, lamps broken and windows
shattered reassemble miraculously before the mother and father return
home is thrilling in a surreal, psychological way, bringing not only
ghosts and ghouls to the table but dream-like mind games as well.
Given this and a few moments of strategic misdirection, and it’s
refreshing to see a horror film that tries to get its shocks from plot twists rather
than gore. But ultimately, these messengers show up empty-handed.


Parents should know that characters refer to driving
under the influence, and the opening scenes depict a mother and
daughter being beaten by an invisible force while a young son looks
on in terror. There are moments of suspense and some
frightening and disturbing images of ghosts. Most of the film’s
violence stems from the spirit world, but there are several instances
of living characters directing violence at one another. Keeping the
film well under the R-rating radar, however, the language is tame and
sexual content limited to a bad pun on the Kama Sutra.


Families who see this film should talk about the
importance of trust between parents and children. Jess tells a peer
that when her parents asked her to pick up her brother and drive him
home, she was afraid to tell them she had been drinking with friends
(and thus made the incredible mistake of going to pick up her brother
while still under the influence). Why does staying silent about
having been drinking betray her parents’ trust? Could Jess have
trusted her parents to respect her honesty if she told them the truth
about not being able to drive, even if it meant facing their
disappointment in her decision to drink?


Families who enjoy this film might also enjoy Poltergeist and the
classic television series The Twilight Zone — the complete series is now available on DVD. Families will also be
interested in the work of M. Night Shyamalan, the director behind thrillers featuring children
Signs and The Sixth Sense, and might also explore the previous work
of Danny and Oxide Pang, twin brothers who only recently Americanized
their angle after being active in the Hong Kong filmmaking world for
nearly a decade.

Because I Said So

posted by jmiller
F
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, some mature thematic material and partial nudity.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

I blame “Sex and the City.”


Now everyone thinks that what it takes — or all it takes — for a story about a bunch of women characters to work is non-stop talk about sex and shoes and a complete absence of boundaries. But this film is missing three key elements of “Sex and the City.” First: wit. Second: interesting, distinctive, believable characters and situations. Third: Conversations that are pleasantly racy and edgy between friends are just plain ewwwwwwwwwww when they’re between mothers and daughters.

This movie manages to be offensive and yet dull and predictable, as phony as a Kate Spade sidewalk knock-off bag and as unoriginal as the ready-for VH1 soundtrack. Does it give you an idea if I mention that there are not one, not two, but three intended-to-be-hilarious dropped cakes? And not one of them is actually funny?

With an apparent complete lack of direction and a fingernails-on-blackboard screenplay, all the talented cast can do is race around in a frenzied ditz-fest.


Diane Keaton plays Daphne the supposed-to-be-adorably ditzy, funkily chic, and hopelessly overinvolved mother of three daughters. The older two aren’t important enough for us to care what their names are, but they are played by the should-fire-their-agents-for-this “Gilmore Girls'” Lauren Graham and Piper Perabo. The youngest is Milly (Mandy Moore), also supposed-to-be-adorably-ditzy, who runs a catering service. Her mother says things to her like “Go talk to that guy, but don’t do that thing you do.”


So, what’s an interfering mother to do? The internet is just sitting there, filled with prospective sons-in-law. So, after a brief intended-to-be-humorous interlude in which Daphne gets stuck on a porn site (I hope Gateway didn’t pay for product placement), she posts a “looking for someone for my daughter” ad and soon enough has 17 would-be-suitors lined up for interviews.


And one musician named Johnny (Gabriel Macht) performing in the bar who rescues her from a volunteer therapist who shows up for an impromptu intervention. Daphne thinks she’s found Mr. Right in Jason (Tom Everett Scott), a successful architect. But the musician goes after Milly, too. Soon she’s dating them both. Two problems here: one, there is no reason to believe that Jason would have any interest in Milly, and two, Milly’s failure to be honest with either of them makes her much less sympathetic. Oh, and there’s also a child who enters the picture who makes a lot of only-in-the-movies, intended-to-be-cute-and-funny-but-completely-synthetic comments. But one of these suitors has a handsome dad (Stephen Collins) who makes Daphne think that maybe it’s her own love life she should be fixing. What she should have been fixing is this tedious, unfunny, embarrassing movie, but I’m afraid it’s as beyond repair as those three smashed cakes.


Parents should know that this movie has some crude language and extremely explicit sexual references and situations for a PG-13 movie, including mother-daughters discussions of the pros and cons of thong underwear and circumcised penises, about oral sex and numbers of orgasms. There are some scanty undies, scenes of internet porn (inspiring a dog to hump the furniture), and a brief “humorous” same-sex kiss. Characters do some social drinking and some drinking to deal with stress, loneliness, and nervousness. There is some insensitive racial and ethnic stereotyping and humor involving a possibly suicidal man in counseling that is intended to be humorous but comes across as offensive.


Families who see this movie should talk about how parents know when to step back from their involvement in their children’s lives. And they should talk about how people who care about each other handle the “off days.”


Families who enjoy this movie may enjoy some of the other (and much better) movies about mothers trying to run their daughters’ love lives, including Next Stop Wonderland and For Love or Money. The two wonderful Gary Cooper movies Daphne likes are Love in the Afternoon with Audrey Hepburn and A Farewell to Arms.

The Situation

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for violence, language and a scene of sexuality.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Parents should know that this film contains disturbing wartime violence involving military and insurgent groups. Characters are injured and killed. There are some non-explicit sexual situations. Characters drink, smoke, and use some strong language. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of strong, loyal friendships between people of different races and cultures, even in the midst of war.


Families who see this movie should learn more about the war in Iraq. They may want to review the report of the Iraq study group and updates from the White House.

Families who appreciate this movie will also enjoy the documentaries Gunner Palace, Control Room, and The War Tapes and feature films Three Kings and Jarhead.

Amazing Grace

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for thematic material involving slavery, and some mild language.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Parents should know that this film includes frank descriptions of some of the most profound atrocities of the slave trade, including torture and rape. The painful symptoms of Wilberforce’s long-term illness are also included. The movie’s portrayal of extraordinary leadership, courage, and persistance is in the context of positions taken by other characters that by today’s standards are obviously inhumane and racist.


Families who see this film should talk about why Wilberforce was among the first to see that slavery must be abolished. What was different about the situation in Britain that permitted this to be accomplished years before slavery was abolished in America, and without a war? How are the arguments and tactics adopted by the opposition similar to those used in other great debates, from civil rights to women’s suffrage?

Families who appreciate this movie will want to learn more about William Wilberforce and William Pitt, the youngest prime minister in British history. Families will also appreciate Amistad and the groundbreaking television miniseries Roots. The essay “When Mr. Beecher Sold Slaves in Plymouth Pulpit” describes the actions of abolitionist minister Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe) took the dramatic step of staging a slave auction to demonstrate its barbarity. Families will enjoy Bill Moyers’ superb PBS special about the history of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

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