Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

 

The Giver
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
November 26, 2014

 

The Expendables 3
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Little Hope Was Arson
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not Rated
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2005

Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman of “The Office”) is in his bathrobe one Thursday morning, bumping his head, burning his toast, and engaging in a completely ineffectual protest of the new highway by-pass that has a flank of bulldozers ready to mow down his house. It is ineffectual first because the bulldozer operators seem perfectly willing to mow Arthur down to get to his house. But it is ineffectual second because there is an inter-galactic by-pass about to be built and Earth is about to be destroyed to get it out of the way.

Fortunately, it turns out that Arthur’s best friend, Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is an alien (the fact that he tried to shake hands with a car should have been a tip-off), so just before Earth explodes, Ford grabs Arthur and a couple of towels and sticks out his thumb to hitch a ride on a spaceship. And it turns out to contain Zaphod Beeblebrox, the president of the galaxy, (Sam Rockwell), Trillian, the woman of Arthur’s dreams (Zooey Deschanel), and a mopey robot named Marvin (voice of Alan Rickman).

Ahead of this group is a quest and a journey, and of course encounters with strange creatures like Vogans, who terrify their captives by reciting the third-worst poetry in the universe, Humma Kavula (John Malcovich), still seething at losing the presidential election to Zaphod, and a supercomputer that has the ultimate answer to the ultimate question. Ford and Arthur sort their way through it with the help of the title volume (voice of Stephen Fry), which is filled with helpful advice for every eventuality, starting with “Don’t panic!”

Adams’ book, written over 25 years ago, is a marvel of invention and understated humor that holds up very well but inevitably loses some subtlety in translation to the screen. There is a lot to look at, including aliens designed by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and spaceships and special effects that hit just the right balance between impressive and funny. But the balance between story and funny is not calibrated quite as precisely and the central characters, once established (Arthur is befuddled and over-cautious, Zaphod is implusive and relies on superficial charm, Marvin is despodent), replay the same notes. The brief appearances by supporting players, especially Malcovich and Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast, are much more memorable and effective in capturing Adams’s wit and spirit. Purests will quibble about some liberties with the beloved (“and increasingly inaccurately named”) five-part “trilogy,” but overall the movie does a fine job of capturing both the wit and the heart of the books, and makes us, for a moment, miss Adams just a little less.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of cartoon-style “action” violence, including space-age guns and other weapons. A character’s second head is removed (off-screen) and we see some blood. Minor characters are squashed and some creatures are injured. Characters drink in a pub.

Families who see this movie should talk about what information they would put into a guide for intergalactic visitors to Earth.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the hilarious outer space comedy Galaxy Quest, which also features Rickman and Rockwell, and the slightly more mature material in Tim Burton’s ghostly comedy Beetlejuice and Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black. Families will also enjoy the novels by Douglas Adams, which are great fun to read aloud, and the BBC miniseries version, as well as Adams’ Dirk Gently stories and his non-fiction book, Last Chance to See. Passionate fans of the series have created some informative and amusing websites like this one and this one. And they will enjoy the very funny books of Tom Holt, particularly Expecting Someone Taller.

Mad Hot Ballroom

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2005

“Can I have the gentlemen tuck in their shirts, please?”

This is a question politely but firmly addressed to a group of underprivleged 5th graders in New York. And not in the 1950’s. Now. The 10 year old “gentlemen” do tuck in their shirts. And then they take their partners and they do the merengue and the foxtrot and the tango. They bow to their partners. And they love it.

A program to teach ballroom dancing to New York City 5th graders in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens sounds like the last thing in the world that would be interesting or relevant to today’s 5th graders. But the beauty of this movie is the way that it shows that grace, dignity, elegance, and pride in mastering a skill are important and as thrilling and transformational.

Fifth grade turns out to be the perfect age for these classes. The kids are old enough to pay attention and follow complex directions, but young enough that they’re not yet “too cool for school.” They’re willing to give the adults the benefit of the doubt and aren’t yet worried about looking dorky.

The movie follows teams through the year, from the early lessons through the citywide competition. There are brief scenes with the kids talking about dancing and about their lives. Whether repeating what they’ve been told or drawing their own conclusions about protecting themselves or about boy-girl relations, or how people become drug dealers because their parents don’t care, they are ineffably bright and endearing and filled with promise.

There are interviews with the teachers, two of whom begin to cry when they talk about how much they care about their students and what it feels like to see them try so hard and want so much. There are other glimpses of the life beyond the dance floor — a child whose religion prohibits dancing is assigned to act as DJ, a group of girls go shopping for skirts to wear to the competition and are told there is no way they are going to be showing their belly buttons. But the heart of the movie is seeing the kids learn to move to the music, to feel the rhythm, to learn the steps, to feel comfortable on the dance floor.

Just at an age when the difference between girls and boys is beginning to feel even more different, these children are told to hold onto each other, work closely together, and look into each other’s eyes “like it’s the last time in your life” (even when a boy only comes up to a girl’s shoulder) and smile at each other.

The teachers worry about whether it will harm the children’s self-esteem to participate in a very tough competition. Though the kids gamely promise not to “boast and brag about it because it will make other people feel worthless” in pre-competition discussion,” when the time comes some of those who don’t win are heartbroken. So are we. But the children learn what it means to be a part of something big, to give their hearts to it, and that losing is not the end of the world, and that’s almost as important as learning the merengue and the tango.

Parents should know that the children in this movie speak frankly (but briefly) about protecting themselves from child molesters and drug dealers. There are also references to pregnancy, puberty, and gay marriage. One of the strengths of the movie is its portrayal of diverse students and teachers and its recognition of the importance of male role models who show the boys it is all right to dance.

Families who see this movie should talk about the different views the teachers have about the benefits of competition. What is the most important thing the children learned from the dance lessons?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the documentaries To Be and to Have (about a one room schoolhouse in France), Paper Clips (about a small-town school’s study of the Holocaust), Spellbound (spelling bee), Small Wonders (violin), and the Oscar-winning He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’ (ballet dancing). They will also enjoy the UP series of documentaries that track a group of English children every seven years from ages 7 to 42. The next film in the series, “49 Up,” is currently in production. And they may enjoy seeing Strictly Ballroom, Top Hat and other movies with great dancing.

XXX: State of the Union

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Can we ever see Ice Cube as a gangsta again after Barbershop and Are We There Yet?

Do we want to?

Ice Cube is a fine actor who can do a lot with a strong script (Boyz n The Hood and Three Kings). But he seems to be phoning this performance in between development deals. Since the writer and director appear to be on automatic pilot, too, even a movie that has no aspirations beyond generic guns and explosions multiplex fodder manages to disappoint.

The original XXX, starring Vin Diesel, was a sort of James Bond movie on crack, with an extreme sports nut brought in on a spy mission for “deep cover agents with special skills.” It had some cool stunts and got the job done.

In this sequel, as soon as Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson, returning from the first film) explains that the first Triple X is dead so they need to go off the grid again to find someone even tougher, it’s clear that this is less script than set-up. When Willem Dafoe turns up as the Secretary of Defense to give a report to the President (Peter Strauss), it’s clear that he’s not in the movie to be a second-tier good guy. I’d say it was less a movie than a cross between a rap song and a computer game, but it is not nearly as well-written as either. There’s no wit or imagination, just the thump thump thump of exposition and explosions.

Yes, there are barked orders about breaching the perimeter and guys in serious-looking black hoods with fancy guns and other toys, a handy nerdish hacker, and big shots asking each other “Who the hell is this guy?” The new Triple X is a former Navy Seal serving a 20-year prison sentence who gets sprung for a top-secret mission. The good guys have become the bad guys, so we need some bad guys to be the good guys.

There are competently filmed stunts and explosions at a variety of Washington DC locations, including a non-existent bullet train. There are a couple of good lines, including quotes from Thomas Jefferson and Tupac, and it is fun to see Ice Cube go undercover as two characters that play off of white expectations. But the movie has an unpleasantly sour tone that is too far off the grid to give the stunts any narrative or emotional heft. When Triple X is explaining to a friend why he should help save the day, the best he can do is tell him that they are fighting for the right to keep stealing cars. And the movie’s treatment of a standard-issue rich blonde ice queen in a slinky suit and a fast car is so rap-style misogynistic that it takes you out of the story. Nona Gaye (Ali) tries to channel Pam Grier as the woman Triple X can’t forget, and her scenes with Ice Cube have enough warmth and sparkle to remind you how much the rest of the film is lacking. Even with all the pounding music and ear-splitting explosions, this XXX should be rated zzzzzzz.

Parents should know that the movie has non-stop PG-13-style violence, with a lot of explosions and shoot-em-ups. Many characters are killed. Characters use brief bad language (one f-word, a few b-words) and there are some mild sexual references, including a prison rape joke.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Darius did not follow orders and how he decided what mattered to him. Characters use different arguments to try to persuade each other in this movie. Which are the strongest? Why?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original, with Vin Diesel as the first Triple X and the classic The Dirty Dozen.

The Game of Their Lives

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2005

When a movie is called “The Game of Their Lives,” you know they’re not going for subtlety.

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