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TOADY_HaloWars.jpgThe Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has announced its nominees for the TOADY award (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children). Anyone can vote to select the worst from candidates that include a Halo toy for children promoting a violent M-rated video game. Visit the website to vote — you may win one of four un-TOADY toys.

The brilliant movie director Werner Herzog (“Grizzly Man,” “Encounters at the End of the World,” “Aguirre: The Wrath of God,” and of course “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe”), here is gently spoofed by an actor for his inclination toward dark interpretations as he tells us what he thinks is going on with Waldo.

Is there a First Amendment right to sell violent video games to children and teenagers?
The California legislature said no. They enacted a law imposing a fine of up to $1000 on retailers who sell violent games to anyone under age 18. Games like the best-selling Grand Theft Auto contain explicit brutal violence and sex. The player directs his character to murder other characters with Uzis and have sex with prostitutes. The Parents Television Council reports:

The beatings are intense and the number of weapons available is staggering. One can use a baseball bat, screwdriver, machete, or even a chainsaw to attack pedestrians to get small amounts of cash. As you attack and beat innocents, blood sprays the concrete. If you wound your victim and they try to run, you can chase them by following the blood trail. You can also get quick money by hitting people with your car.

These games are rated for mature audiences by the industry’s ratings board, but that is not meaningful if a child or young teen can buy it in the store.
The federal appeals court threw out the law as invalid. They said that video games are protected by the same First Amendment rights as books and any attempt to restrict their sale was unconstitutional. They said there was no proof that these games were harmful to children.
This is a collision of two principles — our commitment to freedom of expression and our commitment to protecting children.
This week, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to consider the case. The New York Times reports that

Michael D. Gallagher, the president of the Entertainment Software Association, said First Amendment protections should apply to video games just as they do to books, films and music. Industry self-regulation is working, he said, and it is harder for minors to buy M-rated games than it is to buy R-rated DVDs.

This is a tough challenge for the Court. And it is an even tougher one for parents.

High profile director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) has everything he needs to make his ninth movie and more. Much more. It is Italy in the early 1960’s and Guido is a glamorous celebrity, a name brand, a commodity. His production team is ready, including his close friend and adviser, costume designer Lilli (Judi Dench), his star and muse Claudia (Nicole Kidman), and his producers. He also has a devoted wife Luisa (Oscar winner Marianne Cotillard), a mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz), a mother (Sophia Loren), a pretty reporter from Vogue named Stephanie who wants more from him than an interview (Kate Hudson), and memories of the first woman to teach him about desire Saraghina (Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas).

What he does not have is a script, or even an idea of where to begin.

Which gives him something in common with director Rob Marshall (“Chicago”), because beyond the idea of a director who has too much on his mind and not enough ideas this movie does not have anything to say. Marshall has a great appreciation for female beauty and a lot of style. That’s a great reason to watch a music video but it is not really a reason to make or watch a movie.

Marshall trots out his bevy of international beauties, and each gets a musical number, some of them stunning. Fergie’s deep, rich-throated “Be Italian” and an almost-endless chorus line of tambourine-beating back-up singers, is sheer electricity. But the only one that comes close to reaching that level is Hudson, channeling her mother, Goldie Hawn, in a spangled silver mini-dress and go-go boots.

Cruz finds some sizzle in the notorious “Call from the Vatican” number, though no one can match the late Anita Morris, whose performance was considered too incendiary (and her costume too revealing) for the Tony Awards broadcast in 1982. But the musical numbers are not up to the level of “Chicago” and the lyrics in particular cannot stand up to the loving attention given to them by these actresses. At the end, it’s as empty as its subject.

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