Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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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

 

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

St. Vincent
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 For mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

Dear White People
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild action and brief rude humor
Release Date:
March 7, 2014

The Cookout

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

It’s too bad that a fresh, smart, and courageous look at the conflicts African-Americans feel about racist stereotypes that sometimes feel more real to them then they would like to admit gets lost in a a tired and lazy script littered with poop jokes and dope jokes and clueless whitey jokes in “The Cookout.” It’s the story of a young basketball player who gets a pro contract and has to deal with a greedy girlfriend, jealous relatives, and terrified neighbors in his wealthy new neighborhood. It’s “The Jeffersons” crossed with “The Beverly Hillbillies,” only gross and raunchy.

Todd (Storm P) is a good kid from a strong and loving middle class family who becomes the number one draft pick for New Jersey’s pro basketball team. Even though the contract has not been signed, he gets so excited about the prospect of a multi-million dollar contract that he happily buys gifts for his parents (Jennifer Lewis as Em and Frankie Faison as JoJo) and his girlfriend, Brittany (Meagan Good) and a huge house in an exclusive gated community. And the family plans a big cookout party to celebrate.

Todd’s agent (Jonathan Silverman) reminds him that he doesn’t actually have the money yet. So they set up an interview for an endorsement deal and of course it’s very important that Todd make a good impression as a reliable and mature spokesperson. But darned if the interview and the cookout don’t happen on the same day, with the white lady in the businesslike suit arriving just before all of the wild and wacky relatives.

That would include the cracker brothers who arrive with a dead deer. When told that it’s dripping brains on the floor, they explain, “That’s our home-made Slip ‘n’ Slide!” Then of course the lady in the suit comes in and slips on it. And we also have the sassy cousin who’s out to snag a basketball player to be daddy to her several out-of-wedlock babies. And the hugely overweight twins who are perpetually baked on marijuana. There’s also a cousin who’s got a conspiracy theory to explain why bigotry is the reason for just about everything and Em’s jealous sister, who wants her son to play pro ball instead of going to medical school.

Todd’s new neighbors are so skittish that the adults recoil in horror and the children shriek when they see a black family moving in. Most hysterical of all is Mrs. Crowley (Farrah Fawcett!) who screams, “I saw some NEGROES!” and races into the house to tell her husband, a black man who appears to have just about convinced himself and everyone else that he is white.

The movie’s willingness to poke fun at black-on-black bigotry provides its few sharp moments, even more welcome because it is the only humor that is understated, the point powerful enough that it does not have to be amplified. There are offhand comments about “good” hair and the black characters are just as likely to assume the worst stereotypes about each other as the white characters are. The community security guard (Queen Latifah, who also produced the film) may be black, but she is just as bigoted as the residents are. When she sees Todd and his agent together, she assumes Todd is mugging him. We even see a glimpse of sheepish embarrassment and confusion from characters who are educated and financially successful about relatives who conform to stereotypes (the lazy dopers, the man who blames white prejudice for his own failures, the woman with children by several different men). All the more reason, then, that the movie’s own willingness to exploit the most blatently bigoted stereotypes for the cheapest possible humor is so disappointing.

Meagan Good, who lit up her one small corner of You Got Served, gives her gold-digger a nice bimbo squeal, and Jenifer Lewis’ dry delivery gives some snap to even third-rate dialogue. Queen Latifah’s rent-a-cop may make the Keystone Kops look subtle, but she is a real movie star and always watchable.

Parents should know that the movie has drug humor. Marijuana use, including driving while high, is portrayed as endearing and cute, even empowering. Characters drink and smoke. Characters use strong language and double entendres. There are other sexual references, including a character who has had many children out of wedlock with different fathers and some crude talk about the anatomy of a man’s wife. There is also some mild violence, including a gun used threateningly, but it is never fired. Racial prejudice is a theme of the movie. While it deserves credit for raising some issues of prejudice within the African-American community, it unfortunately also exploits and perpetuates the stereotypes it tries to expose, including an over-the-top portrayal of gay characters. A character wears a dress that she plans to return, a form of theft.

Families who see this movie should talk about the way that the Andersons supported each other even when they did not always respect each other and even when they were not successful. Why was Em’s sister so competitive? They should also talk about how and why even hoped-for changes like money and success can create problems. If you suddenly got a lot of money, what would you spend it on? How do the “three F’s” play a role in your home? What do you like to eat at cookouts?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Friday (mature material). They might want to look at other movies about parties that get a little out of control like Blake Edwards’ The Party (inspired by the brilliant party scene in his Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and Bachelor Party with Tom Hanks. Those looking for something with more depth and meaning should see Hoop Dreams, the brilliant documentary about two teenagers hoping to break out of poverty by playing basketball.

Danny Deckchair

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

We get one of these every few months whether we need one or not, so “Danny Deckchair” is this season’s quirky-characters-with-accents comedy. Unlike its main character, it never quite achives lift-off, but it is a pleasant little diversion with some very sweet moments.

Rhys Ifans (best remembered as the goofy roommate in Notting Hill) plays Danny, a sweet, unambitious man who is looking forward to taking his girlfriend (Justine Clark) on a camping trip for his vacation. But she cancels to spend some time with a glamorous newscaster. Danny mopes around the house, feeling unimportant and unappreciated. When all of his friends are over for a party, he decides to do something to impress everyone. So he ties a bunch of huge yellow helium balloons to a lawn chair and takes off into the sky.

He floats through the night and like Dorothy landing in Oz, he comes down in a place that is completely strange to him. It’s the town of Clarence. He lands in a tree owned by Glenda (Miranda Otto of the Lord of the Rings trilogy), a meter maid. Like Danny, she is feeling neglected and pigeonholed, so she impulsively introduces him as her professor and implies he is her boyfriend as well.

Both Danny and Glenda enjoy the freedom they find in re-inventing themselves. The people in Clarence listen to Danny, at first because they are curious about him, then because they think he is a professor, and finally because they like what he has to say. He likes being listened to. He is asked to help with the campaign of a local politician. People listen to Danny — and then he starts to listen to himself, to want to be all that the people of Clarence think he is and all that Glenda thinks he can be.

The slight story steals a lot of charm from its performers. Ifans and Otto are marvelously endearing and Clark is wonderfully funny as the girlfriend who enjoys the attention she gets when her boyfriend disappears into the sky. If it is lightweight and predictable, it is also undeniably a lot of fun.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong language, implied sexual situations, mild sexual references, and drinking and smoking. There are some tense scenes and scuffles. Danny’s escapade is, of course, extremely dangerous and children who see this movie should be warned not to try anything so foolish.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Danny saw himself so differently in Clarence than he did at home. Why did Danny make Glenda see herself differently? Why was it hard for Danny and Glenda to know what they really wanted?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Full Monty (mature material), Calendar Girls, and Waking Ned Divine,

Wicker Park

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

This is one of those dopey thrillers that are frustrating to write about because I can’t tell you why it is dopey without spoiling the surprises. Even dumb surprises are sacrosanct according to the Code of the Critic. I’ll do my best, but if you want to avoid spoilers entirely, stop reading now.

Matt (Josh Hartnett) is an executive who has recently returned to Chicago after two years away. He has a good job and is about to propose to his girlfriend, who conveniently happens to be the sister of his boss. The three of them are at a swanky restaurant, having lunch with important clients to celebrate a deal Matt is about to close in China. Matt’s girlfriend slips him some pills to help him sleep on the plane and he swallows them at the restaurant. Then he hears the voice of a woman on the phone and the last two years seem to evaporate. It sounds like the voice of Lisa (Diane Kruger), the woman who broke his heart.

Flashback time. Matt is a sweet, shy, artistic guy working in a photography store. He glimpses a face on a videotape brought into his store for repair. And then he sees the same woman across the street. He follows her. He meets her at his best friend’s shoe store, pretending to be a salesman. He orders the black shoes with red soles in her size. They fall in love. And then…well, we don’t find out what happened then for a while as the movie shifts back and forth between the past and present and between different characters’ points of view.

It turns out to be one of those movies that sets up an intriguing puzzle and a nicely spooky vibe and then spoils it all by explaining much too much and having that explanation be both achingly obvious and sometimes unintentionally hilarious, retroactively dissipating any creepiness created earlier and dumb-ifying the entire story even further.

This is one of those movies that depends on its characters’ inability to make a phone call or ask a question to straighten things out. Just a few questions from me: why would Matt take the sleeping pills in the restaurant instead of waiting until he got on the plane? Why doesn’t anyone at this crucial meeting in China call back to the US to find out what is going on? Why would Luke fail to deliver the most important message of Matt’s life until it is almost too late? What happened to the stalker millionaire with the wife who died in the car accident? How does Matt go from being a low-level employee in a photo shop to being a big shot in a fancy suit in two years? Why does everyone, even the lady who works for the airline seem unable to resist Matt? Do stalkers become stalk-ees? Why did anyone think this script would work?

Matthew Lillard flounders in an attempt to play Matt’s best friend. Rose Byrne as a mystery woman who shares Matt’s girlfriend’s name and shoes is slightly more interesting than the drippy character she plays, but her efforts to play Viola/Cesario in “Twelfth Night” (a character in disguise who does not tell her love, get it?) are simply dreadful. Harnett and Kruger move through the story like sleepwalkers who hope they won’t wake up until the movie is over. I know how they feel.

Parents should know that the movie has brief strong language, some explicit sexual references, and non-explicit sexual situations. Characters drink and one becomes tipsy. There are tense and suspenseful situations and some jump-out-at-you surprises.

Families who see this movie should talk about the dividing line between love and obsession. Do you believe in love at first sight? What do you need to know about someone to be willing to make a commitment?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy thrillers like Frantic, The Vanishing, and the noir classic The Woman in the Window.

Criminal

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

The con man’s greatest asset is not the gullibility of the mark, but the greed. It is much easier to persuade someone that you are dishonest than honest, especially if he is intrigued by the chance to be just a little dishonest for once, too.

And it is our own slightly crooked impulses that makes films about con men so much fun to watch, as long as we can avoid sympathy for the mark.

“Criminal” begins with Richard (John C. Reilly), a professional con man rescuing Rodrigo (Diego Luna), a beginner and offering to take him on as a partner. But first they have to show each other what they can do.

Then they begin the big con — they plan to sell a forgery to a zillionaire who is staying at a luxury hotel where Richard’s estranged sister is a manager. The rich guy has to leave the country soon, but he collects rare currency and if Richard’s bill can be verified, he wants to buy it.

The nicely twisty script was first filmed as the Argentinian film, Nine Queens. This American remake has a strong cast and some nice surprises, but misses the sparkle of the original.

Parents should know that the movie includes strong language, sexual references (including brokering of a family member for financial gain), drinking, smoking, tension, and peril. The characters in the movie are crooks who cheat other people out of money.

Families who see this movie should talk about the decision Richard has to make when his mark adds an extra condition to the deal. Why is it worth it to him to agree? How do people who make a living being untrustworthy decide who to trust?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Confidence, Matchstick Men, Heist, A Big Hand for the Little Lady, and The Sting.

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Interview: Ted Melfi of "St. Vincent"
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