Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Love is Strange
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language
Release Date:
08/22/2014

 

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

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

 

Blended
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language.
Release Date:
May 23, 2014

If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some scary images and mild peril
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

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

This unpretentiously genial little stoner comedy has a couple of things going for it. The characters and jokes are a bit above average for a genre with admittedly low standards. And its very unambitiousness gives the film moments that almost approach charm.

That said, it’s still mostly just extremely dumb and vulgar.

The title sums up the plot. Harold (John Cho) has a job that requires him to analyze numbers and a crush on a pretty girl in his building. He also has a big assignment that has just been dumped on him by his boss. Kumar (Kal Penn) is a slacker whose only ambition is not to become a doctor like his father and brother. Oh, and to get completely baked, with which Harold concurs.

Once happily stoned, the duo realize that there is only one more thing they need to achieve perfect happiness, those scumptious square hamburgers from White Castle. But the nearest White Castle is a long drive away and it will get a lot longer as Harold and Kumar run into all kinds of characters and adventures along the way.

Many of those adventures are gross and disgusting. Then there are those that are even more gross and disgusting. Most of them are downright stupid as well. Somewhere in there, though, there are a couple of moments that are funny, sweet, and even smart, and some commentary on race and ethnicity that almost qualifies as subtle. Cho and Penn are engaging, especially when they sheepishly but then with increasing joy sing along with Wilson Phillips, and there are appearances by Fred Willard, Neil Patrick Harris (playing himself as a child star gone very, very bad), Anthony Anderson and, perhaps in a nod to Bringing Up Baby, an escaped cheetah. I also give it extra credit for avoiding the obvious forms of triumph over the bad guys.

Parents should know that this movie wallows in bad taste and is cheerfully vulgar and offensive in every possible category. It includes constant drug use, bad language, extremely explicit toilet humor, and frequent and explicit sexual references and situations. There is comic violence, some graphic, including a scene in surgery with a lot of blood and a disfigured man. While some characters are bigoted and there is a lot of homophobic and racist humor, a strength of the movie is the portrayal of diverse characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Harold and Kumar deal with pressure from family and co-workers. What does it mean to say that “the universe tends to unfold as it should?” They might also want to talk about their own views on alcohol and drugs. And they might want to try to find a White Castle!

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Up in Smoke.

A Cinderella Story

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2004

Girls will love this fresh, funny, and sweet, update of the Cinderella story, and it might win some fans among their older siblings and parents as well.

High school senior Sam (Hilary Duff) lives in the San Fernando Valley with her mean stepmother, Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge) and stepsisters. After Sam’s adored father was killed in an earthquake, Fiona made her sleep in the attic and work every minute she is not at school in the family business, a diner.

Sam dreams of going to Princeton, but she needs Fiona to pay for it. So she does whatever Fiona tells her to. Fiona and the stepsisters do their best to make Sam feel oppressed and unworthy, but she gets a lot of support from the diner employees, especially restaurant manager Rhonda (Regina King), and from her best friend Carter (Dan Byrd). And she has an online relationship with a boy she met in a chatroom for Princeton hopefuls. But she does not know he is king-of-the-school Austin Ames, student body president and star quaterback. He does not know she is “Diner Girl” Sam, so unworthy of notice that she is all but invisible except when the cool kids make fun of her.

And then there is this school Halloween dance. Sam’s secret email-pal has invited her to meet him on the dance floor at 11. Fiona says Sam has to work and promises to be back by 12:00 to check, but Rhonda provides a dress and a mask and Carter has his father’s car and promises to get her home by midnight. So Sam goes to the ball, I mean party, and meets the prince, I mean quarterback. She rushes off without letting him know who she is, but she leaves behind…her cell phone.

Duff is not an actress but she has a winning personality and she makes a lovely Cinderella, sensitive, smart, honorable, and devoted. She knows what she wants and is willing to sacrifice her present happiness to get it. The always-welcome Regina King is a pleasure as the godmother-equivalent who provides more than a dress, and Jennifer Coolidge (Best in Show) makes the most of a one-note character as the evil step-mother, especially when explaining that her serene expression is the result of botox. Austin’s efforts to find his Cinderella and Sam’s struggles with Fiona go on longer than they should, but there is an old-fashioned happily ever after ending for everyone who deserves one, especially the girls in the audience.

Parents should know that there are some tense and sad moments, including the (off-camera) death of Sam’s father and emotional abuse by Fiona. The movie has some mild schoolyard language, brief potty humor, a comic scuffle, a joke about eating disorders and a somewhat casual attitude about cheating in school. Parents will want to talk to children who see this movie about the dangers of anonymous online relationships. Sam and Austin quickly confirm that they go to the same school, but even so, all children should know that they should not exchange personal information with someone they meet online. There is a sweet kiss. A strength of the movie is the portayal of loving and loyal relationships between diverse people.

Families who see this movie should talk about what made it possible for Sam to hold on to her dreams and her self-respect despite Fiona’s efforts to destroy them both. What was it about Sam that made her step-mother and step-sisters feel so threatened? Families should talk about the importance of really looking at people and really listening to them, too and about the importance of being willing to let others see you as you really are (which requires knowing yourself very well, too).

Families might like to explore the many versions of this story, starting with the original by Charles Perrault and some of the modern variations like Ella Enchanted and Ever After. They might also like to explore Tennyson, whose poetry is shared by Sam and Austin.

Sleepover

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

Fourteen-year-old girls at a sleepover party violate every rule they agreed to. They lie, cheat, vandalize, steal, sneak out of the house and into a bar, order a drink with a man they met on the internet, and sneak into a high school dance by telling the girl taking tickets she has to let them in so they don’t turn into a lonely loser like her. This is not a sequel to last year’s searing thirteen. No, this is supposed to be a touching and light-hearted comedy and these girls are its heroines.

Aiming somewhere between Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, this is the story of Julie (Alexa Vega of Spy Kids) and three friends who participate in a scavenger hunt with a significant prize — the favored “power” lunch spot for the whole school year. The losers have to sit by the dump.

Julie and her friends accept the challenge. They have to get a man they meet on the internet to buy them a drink, put their clothes on the mannequins in the Old Navy store window, and steal a security guard’s car decal and the boxers of the boy of Julie’s dreams. Even though Julie promised not to leave the house, she and her friends sneak out, leaving her college drop-out brother to cover for her. At the club, it turns out that the internet mystery date who thinks Julie is a grown-up and a swimsuit model is none other than the girls’ nerdy teacher. Ewww.

Once that gets sorted out and the girls have given him a makeover so that he can pick up a hot chick (ewww again), they are off to finish off the list. This has them climbing on a roof, running away from a security guard and locking him up, hiding in a shower stall while a boy takes off all his clothes and then stealing his boxers, and driving without either permission or license. They cause a lot of damage for which they take no responsibility. And while the movie pits the nice girls against the mean girls, by the end of the movie it is hard to tell them apart.

Vega and the other girls are appealing performers, especially Mikka Boorem as Julie’s best friend and Jessica Simpson-lookalike Sara Paxton as the snooty Mean Girl Stacie. The “why can’t you understand I’m growing up” and “how can I survive if my best friend moves away?” and even the white-out toenail polish elements of the plot will ring familiar with the intended audience, but they may be a little befuddled by seeing the girls dance to a Spice Girls song that was last popular when the girls in the movie were in second grade.

The movie’s irresponsible portrayal of extremely risky and destructive behavior and its distorted notion of grrrl power make it truly disturbing. The exaggerated hijinks are merely unfortunate. But the attempt to portray the girls as smart, caring, and loyal when they mindlessly buy into the mean girls’ game and standards catapults to the movie from unfortunate to reprehensible.

Parents should know that this movie is filled with the kind of parental concerns that are not factored into the MPAA’s rating system and they should think carefully about the film’s appropriateness for its intended age group. As noted above, the main characters sneak out of the house after promising not to. They make a date with a man they met on the internet with the plan of getting him to buy one of them a drink. Boys sneak into Julie’s house and steal underwear. Julie dresses up to look older and they sneak into a club that serves liquor. She orders a drink called “Sex on the Beach.” She hides in a shower and watches the boy she likes undress (from the rear, nudity offscreen) and then she steals the boxer shorts he has just removed. They vandalize store window mannequins and mistreat a security guard, damaging his car and locking him in the store window. One of the girls loses a boyfriend by refusing to “hook up” with him (apparently she bragged to her friends that she had, however). Characters make an overweight girl feel bad about herself (some intentionally, one unintentionally), but despite some half-hearted attempts to suggest otherwise, the girls too often evaluate themselves by whether they are well-regarded by boys. Girls drive without licenses and in one case without permission. Many characters lie, including Julie’s father, who lies to her mother when he causes damage to the ceiling. There is also some bathroom humor and intrusive product placement.

Families who see this movie should talk about why the lunch table location was so important, why Julie and her friends let the other girls determine what the tests would be, and whether Julie will tell her mother the truth about what happened. They should talk about why Julie and Stacie stopped being friends and what parents and young teenagers can do to get used to the idea that kids are growing up. How did the events of the evening make Ren feel differently about returning to college?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the better Snow Day and The Babysitter’s Club.

Anchorman

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:PG-13
Movie Release Date:2004

Remember the old “Spanky and Our Gang” episodes where the boys wouldn’t let Darla into the treehouse? Imagine that plot set in the all-white-guys world of 1970′s television news, when there were only four stations to watch and “everyone believed what they saw on TV.”

Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) has got it all. He is the anchor of the top-rated news program in San Diego alongside his His best pals, sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), and reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd). They cover stories like a water-skiing squirrel and a pregnant panda. He gets to go to lots of swinging parties. And he has great hair. Life is just about perfect.

And then there comes that pesky word “diversity.” Ron learns that diversity is not a famous Civil War battleship but the reason that for the first time the news team will include a woman, the beautiful, talented, and very ambitious Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate).

There are a bunch of “no girls allowed” jokes and a bigger bunch of “weren’t the 1970′s a hoot” jokes, including a soundtrack of cheesy oldies and references to the importance of musk-fragrance cologne. The story runs out of steam and disintegrates into a bunch of uneven skits, not surprising as Ferrell and his co-scriptwriter, director Adam McKay come from “Saturday Night Live.” But there are moments of inspired looniness (a dog named Baxter has the funniest lines in the movie) and Ferrell the performer keeps hitting enough comic moments out of the park to keep it very watchable.

Most comedians, especially those gifted in physical comedy, have a show-offy “look at me!” quality that bespeaks years of practice in distracting and even disrupting whole classrooms filled with their earliest audiences. But what makes Ferrell so endearing is his complete and fearless absence of any ego. He has a complete absence of vanity in allowing himself to appear to be vain. He doesn’t throw himself into the character as much as hurl himself into it, utterly and completely. The result is magnificently funny. He laughs, cries, fights, falls in love, and sings so whole-heartedly that it is mesmerizing and hilarious at the same time.

It’s too bad that the script does to the talented Christina Applegate what the newsroom guys to do Victoria. She is primarily called upon to look as though she is trying to maintain her composure despite being surrounded by idiots. Carell is a stand-out as the dimmest of the news crew’s dim bulbs, and there are several guest appearances to help hold our interest.

Parents should know that the movie has extremely mature material for a PG-13, even for this “slob comedy” genre. Characters use very strong language and there are especially graphic sexual references and situations and crude humor. The movie has comic peril and violence. Characters drink and smoke a great deal and there is a reference to drug use. One character’s arms are hacked off and others are killed.

Families who see this movie should compare the opportunities and expectations for women in the era of the movie to today’s and talk about how much has changed and what still needs to change. How has the way we get our news changed since the 1970′s? What is better and what is worse?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Ferrell’s appearances in Old School (mature material) and Elf. They will also enjoy a less silly take on television journalism in Broadcast News.

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