Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Believe Me
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
September 26, 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

Tracks
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
Release Date:
June 27, 2014

The Boxtrolls
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Neighbors
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2004

Harry Potter is 13 in this third movie based on the globally-popular series of books by J.K. Rowling, and the movie itself seems to be entering adolescence, darker themes, darker images, and darker emotions. It also has a bracingly welcome sense of humor.

The first two movies were competently directed by Chris Columbus, with brilliant production design and meticulous attention to detail, making sure that the books’ passionate fans were happy but playing it safe.

For the third, Columbus stayed on as a producer, but there is a new director, Alfonso Cuaron, whose previous work has demonstrated ferocious visual flair (Great Expectations) and great sensitivity in working with and portraying children (A Little Princess) and teenagers (Y tu Mama Tambien). He has kept the best of the first Potter films and enriched it with his own splendid vision, meshing perfectly with the tone of the story and the increasing complexity of the themes and characters. Literally and figuratively, the horizons of the characters are getting wider. Third-year students with parental permission are allowed to leave the Hogwarts campus for a visit to the nearby town for shopping and snacks. Harry does not have permission, but finds a way to do some exploring that corresponds to what is going on inside him as he begins to seek some answers.

For the first two years, Harry has spent most of his time being grateful to be rescued from his awful relatives, the Dursleys, amazed at all the magic around him, and resolute in his commitment to loyalty and integrity. But now he is beginning to get angry. He is growing up and feeling everything more sharply and deeply, especially injustice in general and the loss of his parents in particular.

This year, when life with his aunt and uncle gets to be too much for Harry, even for summer vacation from Hogwarts, he packs up and leaves — after extracting some revenge on a nasty relative. Soon he is back at Hogwarts school, where some scary creatures called Dementors, guards at the wizard prizon of Azkaban are there to seek the first-ever escaped prisoner, Sirius Black. He is the one who betrayed Harry’s parents to Valdemort, and he may be on his way to Hogwarts to kill Harry.

Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers are to the Harry Potter books what drummers are to Spinal Tap — they don’t last long. This year’s teacher is Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), whose kind eyes and melancholy air make him a good friend for Harry. Harry’s first friend, Hagrid, is now teaching the magical creatures class, introducing the students to a hippogriff (a sort of flying bird/horse) and Professor Trelawny (Emma Thompson) is a professor of divination (fortune-telling) who is so focused on the future that she is not very tuned in to what is going on in the present. The Hogwarts chorus sings “Something wicked this way comes” as the camera swoops in, and you don’t need to be Professor Trelawny to tell you that they’re on to something.

When the hippogriff injures Harry’s adversary, Draco Malfoy, it gives ammunition to those who oppose the headmaster, Professor Dumbeldore (now played by Michael Gambon, replacing the late Richard Harris). The hippogriff is sentenced to death. The Azkaban guards, called Dementors, have come to Hogwarts looking for Black, and every time Harry sees them, he faints. They dissolve any happy thoughts of people in their path, and Harry, who has known greater sadness than anyone else in his class, is the most vulnerable. Harry has to find a way to save the hippogriff and protect himself from Black and from the Dementors. His friend Hermione seems to be behaving strangely, especially when it comes to entrances and exits. She is also growing up nicely, ready to stand up for herself with more than her magical powers. Harry is growing up, too, but he still has to cope with his potions teacher, Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) and the rest of his schoolwork.

The next movie is underway with the same cast but yet another director, Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and should be out next year. And Rowling has promised two more books. I can’t wait.

Parents should know that the movie is close to a PG-13 for intense peril and grotesque, Halloween-ish images. A strength of the movie is its treatment of a theme of the book (increasing in subsequent books), the wizard version of racial prejudice against “mudbloods,” those of mixed witch/muggle backgrounds.

Families who see this movie should talk about Dumbledore’s statement that people can bring light to even the darkest moments. What can you learn from the way Harry and his friends learn to defeat the Boggerts? The Dementors? Older kids and teens should examine all of the Potter movies to see how different directors and cinematographers can take the same characters and settings and convey a different feeling. Notice how the colors and texture of the scenes and the movement of the camera help to creat the mood and tell the story.

Families who enjoy this movie should read all of the Harry Potter books and listen to the wonderful audio tapes read by Jim Dale. They should see the first two movies as well. And they will also enjoy Back to the Future.

Stateside

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

Good intentions and passionate feelings are sometimes the enemy of vivid and coherent storytelling, as this movie, based on the real-life experiences of its writer/director, demonstrates. Sometimes the person who lived through it is just too close to realize what makes a life a story.

The story here is about the redemptive romance between a rich kid sent to the Marines after a drunken teenage prank ends in tragedy and a young movie star struggling with mental illness. But the script is cluttered with too many details that don’t add anything and missing too many details that would. In describing the movie to someone, I mistakenly called it “Sidetracked,” which, come to think of it, might be an apter title.

Jonathan Tucker plays Mark Deloach, a prep schooler with a harsh father (Joe Mantegna) and a little sister who won’t take off her late mother’s mink stole. After a drunk driving accident that causes serious injury, he is sent off to join the Marines to straighten him out.

He meets a beautiful movie star who is struggling with schizophrenia (Rachel Leigh Cook). Caring for her gives him a reason to become responsible. Caring for him gives her a reason to become healthy.

All of this sounds like a movie. In fact, it sounds like many movies we’ve already seen and will see again. But this one, for all its good intentions, loses the trees of its own story in a forest of distracting details.

Parents should know that the movie has extremely strong language, explicit sexual references and situations, tense and upsetting confrontations, and serious injuries from a car accident and (offscreen) battle violence. A strength of the movie is the sympathetic (though unrealistic) portrayal of mental illness.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Mark and Dori meant so much to each other. They may also want to talk about family members or friends who have struggled with mental illness.

Families who enjoy this movie will also appreciate An Officer and a Gentleman and David and Lisa.

Breakin’ All the Rules

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

Bright stars can’t save this over-plotted and under-directed romantic comedy. Jamie Foxx plays Quincy, a magazine editor who is about to propose to his girlfriend when she dumps him. So he writes a book about how to break up with a girlfriend, based on research he had to do for his boss about employee termination, and it becomes a best-seller.

The movie then lurches into a leaden daisy-chain of mistaken identity mix-ups that hold the interest of the characters on screen much longer than they do the audience’s in watching it or mine in explaining it.

Quincy’s cousin Evan (Morris Chestnut) thinks his girlfriend Nicky (Gabrielle Union) is about to break up with him, so he sends Quincy to break up with her first. Not knowing who she is, Quincy begins to fall for her. Meanwhile, Rita, the gold-digging girlfriend of the big boss at the magazine (Jennifer Esposito), mistakes Evan for Quincy, and jumps into bed with him to prevent him from helping the boss break up with her.

You know the expression, “as funny as a heart attack?” Well, this is the movie that actually tries to make a heart attack funny. It doesn’t work, but then, not much in this movie does. There are a couple of good ideas and a couple of funny moments, but they are outweighed by too many “none of this would have happened if people had been logical and honest” complications and too much unnecessarily ugly attempted humor, including ostensibly charming references to bizarre tumors with hair and teeth and whether humans can bite through their own skin.

Fox, Chestnut, Union, and Esposito are all exceptionally talented, attractive, and fun to watch. They give the material far more than it deserves. But director Daniel Taplitz is too attached to his own screenplay and gives more time to each of the increasingly tedious developments than they require, breaking some important rules himself — the ones about how to make a movie worth watching.

Parents should know that the movie has sexual references and situations that are close to the R-line for a PG-13. There is also crude bathroom and sexual humor. It is supposed to be funny that an elderly man repeatedly asks someone to hold his private parts, and there are jokes about crabs and groupies and a discussion of sexual fantasies. Characters use some strong language. Characters drink a lot, especially when upset, and there are repeated jokes about giving liquor to a dog. And the movie seems to approve of manipulation, lies, and using jealousy to get someone to make a commitment. One strength of the movie is its portrayal of attractive and capable minority characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about Quincy’s comment that “Falling in love is blissful insantity, but breaking up is a rational act,” and “love doesn’t care about honesty; it cares about itself,” and his cousin’s comment that “on a date, it’s all dishonest.” What is the best way to break up with someone?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Deliver Us From Eva. And they might enjoy some of the classic romantic comedy mix-up movies, like Move Over Darling and If a Man Answers.

Shrek 2

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

Oh, stop reading now and just go to the movie.

All you need to know from me is that “Shrek 2″ is pure enjoyment, with stunningly brilliant technology and hilarious performances. And (here is the most important part) it has a script that is filled with wit, wisdom, heart, and so-funny-you’ll-have-to-see-it-twice comedy, with nonstop humor ranging from subtle and sophisticated satire to unabashedly un-subtle slapstick and potty jokes. Telling you any of the specifics before you see it would just spoil the delicious surprises you have in store. So go see it now, and then come back and read the rest of the review.

Back already? For those who were laughing too hard to follow all of the plot, here’s a summary. Shrek (voice of Michael Myers) and Princess Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) are blissfully married and honeymooning in a gingerbread house, Hansel’s Honeymoon Hideaway. When they get back to the swamp, Donkey (voice of Eddie Murphy) is waiting to welcome them home. Heralds appear with a flourish of trumpets and an invitation from Fiona’s parents to a ball in honor of the newlyweds. Shrek does not want to go. He does not think Fiona’s parents will approve of him. But Fiona persuades him, and they set off for Fiona’s kingdom, a land called Far Far Away.

Fiona’s parents, King Harold (voice of John Cleese) and Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews) are a bit taken aback at the sight of the newlyweds. They were expecting a human princess married to Prince Charming, not two big green ogres.

The queen sees how happy Fiona is and tries to adjust, but the king, pushed by Fairy Godmother (voice of “Absolutely Fabulous” star Jennifer Saunders) does everything he can to get rid of Shrek, even hiring a hit man, or, more properly a hit cat — none other than the swashbuckling Puss in Boots (voice of Antonio Banderas). But the bigger obstacle to the couple’s living happily ever after is Shrek himself, who worries that Fiona would be better off married to a handsome prince. So he sets out in search of a magical solution.

And before we get to the happily ever after ending, there will be encounters with characters from the first film, including Pinocchio, the three pigs, Sleeping Beauty, and the Gingerbread Man, and a bunch of new characters, including a growly-voiced wicked stepsister (voice of Larry King!) and a very effete Prince Charming, who tosses his hair in slow motion (voice of Rupert Everett). The movie manages to make fun of just about everything, including its fairy tale sources, and yet be so resonant of the true themes of fairy tales that it is genuinely touching.

The technology continues to be astonishing. The surfaces and textures are eye-poppingly vivid, almost real-er than real. The movie has breathtakingly beautiful backgrounds, exquisite detail, and characters so magnificently yet subtly expressive you expect to see them interviewed by James Lipton on Bravo. The voice talent is spectacular and perfectly integrated with the expressions and gestures of the animated characters. It’s going to be hard to think of the dashing and brilliantly funny Banderas as anything but a cat from now on.

There is a lot to look at, but there is even more to feel, with characters so tender and charming that you will cheer for a happily-ever-after-ending — and cheer even louder at the annoucement of “Shrek 3.”

Parents should know that the movie has some crude and vulgar humor including jokes about bathroom functions and jokes about a male character wearing ladies’ underwear. There are scenes in a tavern. The movie has some moments of mild peril and tension. The only casualties are an enchanted character and a couple of fish.

Families who see this movie should talk about the experiences family members had in meeting the friends and families of the people they love. Were they nervous? What did they do to get to know each other? Do you agree with the decision Shrek and Fiona make at the end of the movie? Why? Shrek tells Fiona he won’t change and she says she has changed for him. What changes do they make? And families who enjoy this movie might like to try fingerbowls!

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original Shrek and Pixar animated classics like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and A Bug’s Life. They might also like to read the William Steig book about Shrek and some of his others, including Spinky Sulks.

Previous Posts

Believe Me
Will Bakke has followed his two thought-provoking documentaries on faith with a remarkably smart, funny, brave, and heartfelt first feature film that explores religion and values without ever falling

posted 11:06:16am Sep. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Gone Girl's Rosamund Pike
Rosamund Pike delivers a stunning breakthrough performance in this week's "Gone Girl." She's been a favorite of mine for a long time, for her elegant voice and precise acting choices. It's a good

posted 8:00:23am Sep. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Telling Time in "All That Jazz"
One of my favorite writers provides insights into one of my favorite (if flawed) movies -- Matt Zoller Seitz created a beautiful video essay about Bob Fosse's autobiographical "All That Jazz" for the Criterion Edition, and then they were unable to use it due to rights problems with the movie clips h

posted 3:19:48pm Sep. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Tomorrow on PBS: The Makers: Comedy
Be sure to tune in to PBS tomorrow night for what is sure to be one of the highlights from one of the all-time best series on PBS: "The Makers," the story of women in America.  Tomorrow's episode is about women in comedy. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHxHMgSF7UI[/youtube]

posted 8:00:45am Sep. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Tomorrow on HBO: "The Fifty Year Argument" -- Scorsese on The New York Review of Books
Once upon a time, there was no internet. And instead of bloggers and pundits and tweets we had something called public intellectuals, people who read widely, thought deeply, and wrote long, passionate, carefully reasoned, thoroughly documented and beautifully written articles about the important is

posted 3:59:26pm Sep. 28, 2014 | read full post »


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