Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Fading Gigolo
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

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

 

Ride Along
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language,
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

The Others

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2001

Way back before computer graphics, movie makers knew how to scare us through what the movie didn’t show us. They knew that no one knows what scares us as well as we do ourselves, and that anything we could imagine would be far more scary than anything they could put on the screen. “The Others” is a return to that kind of old-fashioned-squeaky door hinge-flapping shutter-”Who is that playing Chopin downstairs when I know I locked the piano?”-”She can’t leave now! It’s too foggy!” sort of thriller, the kind that creeps into your bones and makes you shiver.

Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her two children live in a huge old home on an isolated island near England. World War II has ended, but she still has not heard from her husband and is trying not to let herself fear that he may be dead. Her two children have a genetic photo-sensitivity and break out in welts if they are exposed to any light stronger than a candle. The servants all left mysteriously, not even staying to get their wages, and they are there alone when three new servants show up, explaining that they worked at the house once years before and were happy there, so they have returned. Their arrival is unsettling, but not as unsettling as evidence of “intruders,” including sightings by Grace’s daughter Anne. Grace does her best to hold everything together, to protect the children’s souls (she is deeply religious, and is preparing Anne for her first communion) and their bodies (she has an elaborate system of keys to make sure that all doors are locked and all curtains drawn, to keep out light, as she says, the way a ship is designed to keep out water.

This movie is more mood than plot, but the mood is expertly handled by the writer/director and by Kidman, who makes her attempts to maintain control scarier than outright terror. The cast is outstanding and the ultimate resolution properly eerie.

Parents should know that the movie does not have any bad language or gory images, but that it is genuinely creepy and may be upsetting even for older children. Some will be concerned over Anne’s questioning of her mother’s religious principles or disturbed by the implications of the final explanation.

Families who see this movie should talk about their views on life after death and why that has been a powerful theme in fiction as well as theology from the beginning of time.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Haunting (the original, not the dopey remake), The Uninvited (one of Hollywood’s all-time best ghost stories, with a theme song that may also haunt you), and The Innocents.

The Music Man

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1962

Plot: “Professor” Harold Hill (Robert Preston) is a con man posing as a salesman of band instruments and uniforms. He happens upon River City, a small town in Iowa. As the citizens explain in song, Iowa is a place of stubborn people who keep to themselves unless someone needs help. But Hill happens upon an old friend, Marcellus Washburn (Buddy Hackett), and is ready to run his favorite scam. He plans to sell the town on the idea of a boys band, with himself as leader, get them to order instruments and uniforms, and skip town with the money. Marcellus tells him a bit about the town and its people, and especially about the town librarian and music teacher, Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones).

Marian lives with her mother (Pert Kelton) and her little brother Winthrop (Ronny Howard), a shy boy with a lisp, who deeply mourns his late father. In her own way, Marian, like Winthrop, is still grieving, and finds it hard to allow herself to become close to anyone. This is especially difficult because she is the subject of some gossip in the town. She has the job as librarian because an elderly man, a friend of her fathers, bequeathed the library building to the town, but left the books to her, to ensure that she would have permanent employment. This has caused some speculation about their relationship. And the ladies in the town also think the books she recommends (including the Rubiyat and Balzac) are improper. Despite her mother’s attempts to encourage her to be friendlier, Marian is very skeptical about Harold’s motives and his credentials. He is able to dazzle the town (with the famous patter song “Trouble,” offering the band as an alternative to the decadence of the town’s new pool parlor), but she vows to check his credentials.

The town gets caught up in the notion of the band. Harold’s charm and smooth promises enrapture everyone from the town council (he transforms them from four squabbling politicians into a harmonizing barbershop quartet) to the teen-age boy all the others look up to (Harold challenges him to invent an apparatus for holding the music so that the piccolo player can read it and encourages his romance with the mayor’s daughter). Harold even charms Winthrop, who is at last excited and happy about something. Harold tells all the parents that their children are wonderfully gifted and that the band will make them stars. Meanwhile, Harold’s attention to Marian is becoming more than just a way to help him get the money. And, despite evidence that he does not have the credentials he claims, and her certainty that he is not what he pretends to be, she finds herself softening toward him and protecting him.

Because of her, he stays too long, and he is arrested. As he says, “For the first time, I got my foot caught in the door.” But somehow, the boys force a few sounds out of the instruments, enough for their proud parents. And Harold stays on — it turns out that all along, deep inside, what he really wanted was to lead a band.

Discussion: Robert Preston brought his award-winning performance as Harold Hill on Broadway to the screen in this impeccable production, perfect in every detail. In addition to the glorious production, with some of the most gorgeous music and dancing ever filmed, there is a fine story with appealing characters. Marian learns about the importance of dreams from Harold, and he learns about the importance of responsibility from her.

Harold has made a life out of other people’s dreams, creating them and then spoiling them. He gives people an image of themselves as important and creative, and it is clear that this is what he loves about what he does, not stealing the money from them. Marian has faith in Harold. It is not the blind faith of the rest of the town, the people who see the seventy-six trombones he sings about. She sees what is good inside him, the real way that he affects people like Winthrop, the way he affects her. As she sings, “There were bells on the hills, but I never heard them ringing, oh, I never heard them at all, ’til there was you.” When Marian sees Harold and is willing to love him in spite of his past, he is for the first time able to move on from the notion of himself as a thief and a liar. Each finds the core of the other, allowing both of them to heal and take the risk necessary to make their dreams come true. For him, the risk is prison and disgrace. For her, the risk is the kind of hurt she felt when her father died, the risk we all take in loving someone. And because this is a musical, they live happily ever after.

Questions for Kids:

· Why is Winthrop so shy? What makes him change?

· How does Harold change people’s minds? Is that good or bad?

· How does the music help to tell the story? Listen to the songs “76 Trombones” and “Goodnight My Someone” again. They are very much alike, as you can tell when they are sung together. What did the composer want that to tell you about the people who sing them?

· Why were the parents worried about their children playing pool? What do parents worry about today?

· How is Marian’s library like yours? Do you know your librarian? Do people in your town ever argue about what books should be in the library?

Connections: This movie shows some of the most talented people of their time at the top of their form. Shirley Jones appeared in many musicals, including “Oklahoma” and “Carousel,” always exquisitely lovely in voice and appearance. She also won an Oscar for her dramatic role as a prostitute in “Elmer Gantry.” And of course she was the mother in television’s musical comedy series, “The Partridge Family.”

Robert Preston had more luck in theater than in movies finding roles that gave him a chance to show all he could do. But every one of his film appearances is worth watching, including “The Last Starfighter” and “All the Way Home.” Choreographer Oona White also did the sensational dance numbers in “Bye Bye Birdie.” Composer Meredith Wilson never came close to the glorious score for “The Music Man,” but he produced some nice songs for “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

The Mummy Returns

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2001

It may still be spring outdoors, but this is the first summer movie of the year. Grab some popcorn and settle in for some old-fashioned movie fun, the best in this genre since the gold standard of adventure movies, the Indiana Jones series.

Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz return as Rick and Evie O’Connell, now married and the parents of eight-year-old Alex (Freddie Boath). John Hannah returns as Evie’s lazy, greedy, but sharp-shooting brother, and Oded Fehr is also back, though now reduced to sidekick.

The Mummy (Arnold Vosloo) and his girlfriend Anck-Su-Namun (Patricia Velazquez) are back, too, and up to all of their old sand-sucking, kick-boxing tricks. This time, the Mummy has to defeat the Scorpion King (wrestling star The Rock) to get control of his army and take over the world. In order to find and wake him, they need a special Scorpion-King-finding bracelet, which happens to be stuck on the wrist of Alex O’Connell. But don’t worry about the plot. It really doesn’t matter how or why mummies and bad guys are chasing them; all we need to know is that they are, and that Rick and Evie have to find a way to rescue Alex, send the mummies back where they came from, and save the world from being utterly destroyed. Fortunately, there’s always just enough time for a kiss or a wisecrack — sometimes both — before entering into the fray.

The special effects are sensational, and the fight scenes are well staged and very exciting. One of the movie’s great strengths is the art direction. It brilliantly creates the mood, helped along by a period-sounding score. It is a shame that The Rock is onscreen for such a short time. He makes a real impression in the prologue, but does not reappear until the end, when he is part-Rock, part-scorpion. Fortunately, the team behind the movie is now preparing an entire sequel just about his character.

Families should know that the movie is very violent, but mostly in comic-book terms. Most of the damage is done to mummies and other non-humans. There are some scary surprises and ghoulish images. There are also very mild sexual references and some revealing costumes.

Families who see this movie should visit local museums to see some of their Egyptian treasures and talk about how views on archeological digs have changed since the era in which it is set, and about current controversies over the ownership of antiquities. They may also enjoy imagining being the reincarnation of historical figures.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the first in the series as well as “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

The Mothman Prophecies

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

I really tried to go with this attempt at a creepy thriller, but found it impossible to be either creeped or thrilled.

Richard Gere stars as John Klein, a star Washington Post political reporter who thinks his life is going just right when, following a car accident, he finds out that his wife (radiant Debra Messing) has a rare brain tumor. After her death, he sees some odd, angel-like drawings that she made in the hospital.

Two years later, he suddenly finds himself in the midst of all kinds of nutty stuff, mostly in a small town in West Virginia on the Ohio River. For one thing, he ends up in the town even though it was 400 miles from where he was driving and there is no way he could have covered that much road in 90 minutes. For another, when his car fails and he goes to a nearby house to ask for help, the man in the house (Will Patton) holds him at gunpoint, saying that John has been there three nights in a row.

A skeptical policewoman named Connie (Laura Linney) tells John of the odd happennings in town, including sightings of a winged creature with red eyes who looks sort of like the drawings John’s wife did. So John tells the Post he is working on a story and settles in at the local hotel to investigate.

After that, it is all spooky noises and creepy camera angles. Director Mark Pellington, whose “Arlington Road” had the scariest conclusion of any movie released in the 1990′s, knows how to handle suspense and when to throw in some “boo!”-ish surprises. But the happenings themselves are so un-compelling that it hardly seems worthwhile. Maybe it is because they decided to be true to whatever really happened (though they had no problem moving the time of the story up more than 30 years to take placein the present). But even the Mothman at his most ominous just didn’t seem that scary to me. The spookiest thing he does is call John on the phone and tell him that he hid his watch in his shoe and he misses his wife. And the best officer Connie can do when all this happens is wail, “I hate this!”

Another problem is the way that, after all that business with having voiceprints done on the Mothman’s recordings and having the sightings substantiated by many different people, the movie hedges its bets at the end by telling us that it all might be a post-traumatic manifestation of John’s grief over losing his wife or guilt over thinking about letting her go so that he can move on. It’s possible that both are true — that it was the grief that made John available to otherworldly messages and that he decides to walk away from it. But that still leaves us with a big “so what?”

Parents should know that, though it is not very graphic or gory, the movie is a psychological thriller that may be deeply upsetting to some people. There is a car crash and a tragic accident with many deaths. Another death could be suicide. There is a brief non-graphic sexual situation, and brief strong language.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Sixth Sense, Poltergeist, and Flatliners. And they might like to keep an eye out for a documentary about the strange happenings in Point Pleasant, Special Investigations: Mothman.

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