Movie Mom

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The Drop
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some strong violence and pervasive language
Release Date:
September 12, 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

Dolphin Tale 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild thematic elements
Release Date:
September 12, 2014

 

Think Like a Man Too
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material
Release Date:
June 20, 2014

The One I Love
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, some sexuality and drug use
Release Date:
September 5, 2014

 

Godzilla
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Release Date:
May 16, 2014

Never Die Alone

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

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

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

Scooby fans will enjoy this affectionate live-action tribute to the unquenchably popular cartoon series.

Wisely abandoning the first version’s wobbly attempt to appeal both to children with silly scares and older teens with self-aware irony and double entendres, this one is a straight-on re-enactment of the cartoon classic, with some of the series’ most memorable bad guys, including The Pterodactyl Ghost, The Black Knight Ghost, Captain Cutler’s Ghost, and The 10,000 Volt Ghost, uniting in a sort of all-star reunion of a scarefest.

The Mystery Inc. ghostbusters — Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Geller), Velma (Linda Cardellini), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), and Scooby-Doo (computer graphics plus the rowlfy voice of Neil Fanning) — are being feted at the gala opening of an exhibit devoted to their adventures at the Coolsonian Museum. As they walk down the red carpet, they are greeted by television reporter Heather (Alicia Silverstone) and each of them has a group of devoted fans. But the gala is distrupted when what they thought was a replica of The Pterodactyl Ghost turns out to be the ghost itself.

Before long, the all of the costumes from the exhibit are stolen and Heather has made the MI-ers look incompetent and arrogant.

Each member of the gang feels responsible. Shaggy and Scooby in particular want to show the others that they can be heroes, too. It will take all of their courage and skill to vaporize the ghosts and un-mask the culprit. Is it Old Man Wickles (Peter Boyle), his one-time prison cellmate Jacobo (Tim Blake Nelson)? Or could it be Patrick, the Coolsonium Museum curator (Seth Green)? The skills and loyalty — and appetite — of the whole crew will be necessary to save the day.

The special effects are fun, especially a silly disco dance number starring Scooby in a huge Afro wig to a cover of Sly Stone’s “Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Again),” and the action sequences have energy and humor. But the characters are, well, cartoonish, and for anyone but hard-core fans who will recognize every reference to each of Scooby’s many cartoon incarnations, any charm in seeing them played by actors on the big screen wore off sometime ten minutes into the first one.

Parents should know that the characters are in frequent peril that is intended to be comic but that may be overwhelming for some children. No one is hurt, but the ghosts and monsters are ghoulish looking and some kids may find them more scary than silly. A kick in the crotch is intended as humorous. The movie has some crude potty humor and some mild language (“butt,” “screwed up”). There is a particularly annoying product placement for Burger King. Parents will want to make sure that kids do not try some of the stunts in this movie, including squirting whipped cream directly into their mouths. There are endless myths about hidden meanings in “Scooby-Doo,” especially drug references or innuendos. People looking for such references may think that after Shaggy squirts whipped cream into Scooby’s mouth, he then “huffs” the nitrous oxide. However, there is no evidence that this is the intent of the scene.

Families who see this movie should talk about what it means to use a comment “out of context.” What did Heather do to make Fred’s statements seem as though they meant something other than what he intended? Why was it hard for Velma to believe that Patrick liked her? What do you think of Daphne’s comment that “The object of a healthy relationship is to never let them know you have flaws?” Why did Shaggy think he was not helping his friends? What did he learn? Why was it so easy for Heather to change so many people’s minds about the Mystery Inc. folks? What helps you decide what you think about people in the news?

Families who enjoy this movie can find out more about Scooby and the rest of Mystery, Inc. at the official website. To find the original appearances of some of the ghosts in this movie, check out this episode guide. And families will enjoy some of the Scooby-Doo classics, like Scooby-Doo’s Original Mysteries, with the series pilot featuring the Black Knight and Old Man Wickles.

Dawn of the Dead

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

Have you ever wanted a fresh start? To live in a shopping mall without needing your credit card? How about if these fantasies and more were writ large in a movie scary enough to remind you how good life is even without forgotten pasts and satiated consumer desires? By the time the opening credits roll, “Dawn of the Dead” (2004) amply demonstrates that it will be the blood-stained, armored bus to get you there. Where “there” is, though, may not suit your –ahem— tastes unless you are a fan of a particular horror sub-genre, the zombie flick.

This remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 sequel to Night of the Living Dead soups up the zombies, takes the gross-factor to eleven, and has a lot of cheeky in-jokes about its predecessor.

The basic plot remains the same. For unknown reasons, people across the country are turning into blood-thirsty, animated corpses with rotting visages only an undertaker could love. The morning after the outbreak of a mysterious “virus”, an unlikely group of humans still capable of thought and speech converge on an empty shopping mall outside Milwaukee to escape the marauding zombies, who were until then the friends, families, neighbors of the survivors. As they fortify their defenses against the peril outside the mall walls, they must also face the threats they pose to one another. Unspecified days pass in a haze of mall enjoyment and zombie sniping until the remaining survivors opt to make a break for the nearby marina in order to escape by boat to a –hopefully—deserted island in Lake Michigan.

Besides the musical touches (ironic mall muzak includes “All by Myself”), the humor in this movie is predominately referential. Fans of Romero’s work will note the cameos by Tom Savini (special effects artist on the 1978 version) as the televised sheriff, Scott Reiniger (who played Roger DeMarco) as the General, and Ken Foree (survivor Peter Washington in the original) as the fire and brimstone preacher. Additionally, mall stores include “Wooley’s Diner” (Wooley was the SWAT team leader in the first version) and “Gaylen Ross” (the actress who played survivor Francine).

In comparison with the original, gone are the shrieking blondes and rampaging looters, while in are smart, controlled Ana (Sarah Polley as a believable nurse not afraid to wield a fire poker) and Kenneth (Ving Rhames) who is exactly the kind of cop you want walking beside you if you are facing scores of the undead. Also gone are the shambling zombies of yore. While they still wander aimlessly for the most part, when properly motivated by the presence of the living, the undead dart across parking lots, run after cars, bash through wooden obstacles, climb fences and dart through doggy doors. The pregnancy of one of the main characters is not the life-giving promise it was in the first movie. But it is in the end that the 2004 version differs most greatly from the original. (Spoiler: audience members looking for a somewhat happy ending will sprint to the exits the moment the final credits begin to roll, thus avoiding the nihilistic epilogue which is interwoven in the credits.)

If you are a fan of the horror genre, much less a “(Noun) of the Dead” fan, then this flick is a welcome, if derivative, fright-fest in the school of Romero’s classics. It is an entertaining enough trip to the kind of horror fantasy land that provides escape from ho-hum routines but ultimately it glorifies the simple pleasures exemplified in the movie’s opening scenes, of coming home from work to Date Night with your spouse, of a dear, precious normal life.

Parents should know that this movie is extremely violent, gory, and scary. Most of the characters die terrible and explicit deaths. The squeamish will be particularly disturbed by a scene of childbirth and the resulting mayhem. Characters amuse themselves by shooting zombies milling in the parking lot around the mall. There are two explicit sexual situations, including a tender one between a married couple.

Families who watch this movie might wish to discuss the different approaches taken by the survivors and the range of choices that they make. Are there times when the moral answer is at odds with the instinct to survive? How would you handle this variance?

While devoid of the aloof sexiness of the vampire or the feral force of the werewolf, the zombie continues to grip the imagination of story tellers and movies on the subject are legion. Families who enjoy this movie should see the 1978 original as well as the other two in the series, Night of the Living Dead and, the weaker, Day of the Dead. 28 Days Later is a tighter movie that deals with the many of the same themes, featuring zombie-like victims of infection. The Evil Dead series featuring zombie-like demons, especially Army of Darkness, is a classic of the genre.

For many more zombie movies, families might refer to this slightly dated but entertaining list from 1932”s White Zombie to 2002’s Resident Evil.

Those who find themselves discussing what they would do to survive in this situation might be interested in reading the humorous Zombie Survival Guide.

Families who are intrigued by similar themes of survivors isolating themselves from the infected and amusing themselves to pass the time, might enjoy The Decameron (mature content), G. Boccaccio’s classic book of 14th century nobles sitting out the plague.

Taking Lives

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

Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie) is an FBI profiler who immerses herself in her cases. She eats alone in an elegant hotel room, staring at photos of crime scenes and corpses. When construction equipment uncovers a dead body, she lies down in the muddy pit where and closes her eyes. She lies down on top of a bed that might have been the murderer’s, to see what he saw.

Scott has been brought in by the Canadian police to help them solve a murder. It turns out to be linked to other murders, probably the work of a man who kills men his age and size and then takes over their lives until it is time to move on to the next, “like a hermit crab — he outgrows one body and starts looking for a new one.”

The only witness is Costa (Ethan Hawke), an artist preparing for a big show. Illeana is not sure whether to trust him, arrest him, or fall for him. But is what draws her to him the part of her that understands killers?

Jolie’s character is inconsistently conceived, forcing her to take on almost as many personalities as the killer, cool professional, tomboy feminist, girlish romantic, and nesting loner. She has to be tough and vulnerable as the whims of the script demand, and that takes some of the steam out of the story. But director D.J. Caruso and a strong cast make the best of the potboiler material, creating a nicely creepy atmosphere and knowing when to surprise the audience with a shock — or a laugh — to release the tension. So if you don’t try to make it all make sense, you might find it to be a thriller with a couple of genuine thrills. And you can be relieved that at least this one doesn’t star Ashley Judd.

Parents should know that this is an R-rated thriller with intense and graphic violence. There are graphic injuries and grisly dead bodies, including some decomposed and one badly burned, plus a severed finger and a bloody wound. There are many tense scenes with characters in peril and one (apparently) especially horrific injury. Characters drink, smoke, and use strong language. There are sexual references and a sexual situation including nudity.

Families who see this movie should talk about what a profiler of serial killers might have in common with the killers to be profiled, a theme also explored in the Hannibal Lecter books by Thomas Harris. Families might want to take a look at the FBI’s website, which has a lot of information about their investigations, programs, and employment opportunities.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the multi-Oscar-winning Silence of the Lambs and the underrated first Hannibal Lecter movie, Manhunter. They will also enjoy Jagged Edge with Glenn Close as a defense attorney who is drawn to her charming client even though he is charged with murdering his wife, and Copycat with Sigourney Weaver as a profiler stalked by a killer. And they should see Hitchcock’s great classic of the “should I trust the man I am attracted to” genre, Suspicion, with Oscar-winner Joan Fontaine wondering whether new husband Cary Grant wants to kill her with that glass of milk.

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