Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Love is Strange
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language
Release Date:
08/22/2014

 

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

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

 

Draft Day
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language and sexual references
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Blended
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language.
Release Date:
May 23, 2014

Elf

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2003

Will Ferrell is a very funny guy. His lanky cluelessness has a slightly muddled but imperishable sweetness that gives an endearing quality to all the characters he plays, from SNL’s exemplar of ultimate school spirit, Craig the cheerleader, to the streaking newlywed who stole Old School from ostensible leads Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn.

Ferrell’s first lead role is made to order, a sort of human Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a North Pole misfit who shows his value and saves the day. Ferrell plays Buddy, a human raised as one of Santa’s elves, who discovers at age 30 that he has a real father named Walter (James Caan) who lives in New York and is on Santa’s “naughty” list.

Buddy leaves the North Pole to find Walter, knowing only what he has learned from the elves. Thus, he is a whiz at making snowflake decorations and spreading good cheer, and he always assumes the best about everyone. But these are not especially useful skills in New York City.

Walter is in trouble with his boss, a publisher of children’s books, because he has to find a successful new story by Christmas Eve. At first, he does not believe that Buddy is his son, but after he passes a DNA test, Walter reluctantly brings him home to meet his wife (Mary Steenburgen) and son. When Buddy stops by the Santa display at Gimbel’s, he meets pretty Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), who is too shy to sing in front of other people. On his way to saving the day and a happy ending for everyone from the North Pole to Manhattan island, Buddy gets many chances to do silly things as he experiences New York city and gets to know Jovie and his family.

Some jokes work better than others. The movie can’t seem to make up its mind whether people should need proof of Santa’s existence or not. And the talents of Caan, Steenburgen, Bob Newhart (as Buddy’s adoptive father) and Ed Asner (as Santa) are neglected. But director Jon Favreau (who appears briefly as a doctor) shows some verve and keeps the story moving quickly enough to keep it from feeling like a series of skits. Deschanel (Big Trouble and Almost Famous) nicely shows us the way Buddy appeals to Jovie’s longing for a place where singing and sweetness are encouraged. And it’s nice to hear the Oscar-winning “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” duet sung so sweetly. Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent)has a marvelous cameo as a haughty French-cuffed author of children’s books, making his appearance much more than a sight gag. And Ferrell is just plain fun to watch. His naive pleasure in the world around him is ultimately almost as endearing to us as it is to (almost) everyone he meets.

Parents should know that the movie has some mild potty humor and a couple of gross-out gags involving burping, barfing, and eating some pretty disgusting things. The plot touches on an out-of-wedlock child and DNA testing as proof of paternity. Some younger children might be upset that Buddy’s mother died and that his father never knew about him. There is mild comic peril. A character gets drunk.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the other characters felt about Buddy’s cheer and enthusiasm. If you arrived in your town after 30 years at the North Pole, what would surprise and delight you the way that the escalator and revolving door surprised and delighted Buddy?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Santa Clause, Home Alone, and the original Miracle on 34th Street. That classic (ignore the palid remakes) is about the rivalry between Macy’s and its then-rival Gimbals, which despite its appearance in this movie, closed for business years ago. Families might even like to try some of Buddy’s holiday decorating ideas, though probably not his recipes!

Beyond Borders

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

An important and affecting story about relief workers gets buried under a syrupy romance in “Beyond Borders,” which has Angelina Jolie and Clive Owen gazing longingly at each other across starving and injured people in three different countries over a 10-year period.

It opens at a posh black-tie fundraiser, with Sarah (Jolie) dancing with her new husband to the prophetic Clash anthem, “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” She is having a wonderful time until Nick (Owen) crashes the party to accuse the organization of cutting off his funding. Sarah realizes the superficiality of supporting relief efforts with fancy parties, and empties out her bank account so that she can deliver food to Nick’s camp in Ethiopia. He alternately patronizes and ignores her (“You’re wearing perfume in the desert?”). But he is moved by her dedication to a child he thought was beyond help.

Four years later, Sarah, working full-time for the UN, unhappy with her husband but devoted to their son, meets up with Nick again, this time in Cambodia, where he is running a camp for the victims of the Khmer Rouge. They meet once more in Chechnya.

Director Martin Campbell is much more comfortable with the action scenes than with the romance. The tension and tragedy and the very different atmosphere of the different locations are vividly portrayed. But the romance serves as a soapy distraction that ultimately does a real disservice to the issues the movie raises and the extraordinary commitment and achievements of the real-life relief workers it attempts to honor.

Parents should know that the movie has very intense peril and violence and many scenes with starving and severely wounded people, including children. Characters are killed. There are moments of great cruelty. A man gives a baby a grenade to play with to demonstrate how little he cares for anyone or anything. There are non-explicit sexual situations, including adultery. Characters drink, smoke, and use very strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Sarah, Elliot, and Nick decide what compromises they will and will not make. How can those compromises overtake the good that they are trying to accomplish?

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate The Year of Living Dangerously, City of Hope, and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

Brother Bear

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2003

The most imaginative part of this latest Disney animated feature, set in the Pacific Northwest at the end of the Ice Age, is the sunlight on the glaciers. It is magnificently rendered. Other than that lovely glimpse of majesty and artistry, the movie is right off the assembly line, an uninspired and lackluster story told with some visual flourish and a few cute moments but without much energy.

Kenai (voice of Joaquin Phoenix) is the youngest of three brothers. He is impetuous, careless, and very impatient for the coming-of-age ceremony where he will be assigned a “totem,” a symbol that will guide him through life. But he is disappointed by the symbol he receives, a bear, symbolizing love. His brother Sitka (D. B. Sweeny) has the eagle, for leadership, and his brother Denahi (Jason Raize) has the wolf, for wisdom. Kenai does not think either the bear or the love it symbolizes are very important.

Sitka is killed protecting his brothers from a bear. Kenai, enraged, kills it. The Great Spirits want to teach Kenai a lesson, so they use the Northern Lights to transform him into the creature he despises. When Denahi arrives, he thinks Kenai has been killed, and so he hunts the bear, not realizing it is his own brother.

Kenai must make a journey, physical and spiritual, before he can become his true self. Guided by a cheerfully chatty cub named Koda (Jeremy Suarez), Kenai sets off for the place where he can return to human form. But Denahi is pursuing them and other challenges lie ahead. The most important are the lessons Kenai must learn about loss, love, and brotherhood.

The grandeur of the settings is nicely evoked, especially afer Kenai becomes a bear and the screen literally opens up and brightens. There are some exciting moments when Kenai fights the bear and when Kenai and Koda race through a sulfurous geyser field. There are some funny moments with SCTV veterans Dave Thomas and Ric Moranis as a pair of silly moose brothers. But the music by Phil Collins is mediocre, even when legends Tina Turner and the Blind Boys of Alabama do their best to add some spirit.

All cultures have legends of physical transformation as a way of making more accessible the idea of spiritual and emotional change. These stories can be compelling and deeply meaningful, even for children. But here, the story is just too superficial and the script is too pseudo-mythological. The conclusion may strike some in the audience as jarring.

Parents should know that the movie has some tense scenes of peril and two characters are killed. Some children may be disturbed by the way that those characters return as spirits, but some may be reassured that love never dies. There is a little potty humor. The movie’s multi-cultural range of voices and setting in pre-historic Inuit culture add a lot to the movie’s texture.

Families who see this movie should talk about which totems they would like to pick for themselves and what animals they would most like to get a chance to be. What did Kenai learn as a bear that he could not learn as a human? There is an old Native American saying that you should not judge another person until you have walked a mile in his moccosins. How does this movie make handle that idea? What do you think about his decision at the end of the movie? Talk about the movie’s perspective on what you do to make amends when you have done something terrible, and about how siblings should support each other. Be sure that children notice how the look of the movie changes when Kenai becomes a bear. As Kenai sees through a bear’s eyes, we see through his, the entire shape of the screen changing and the colors brightening. As Kenai also learns to listen, the sound of the movie becomes fuller as well.

Families who see this movie will also enjoy Ice Age. Another Disney movie with a character who takes on animal shapes to learn important lessons is The Sword in the Stone. Families might like to find out more about the Northern Lights and about Inuit culture. They should adapt the bears’ discussion of “the most interesting thing that happened” on family dinners and car rides. And they will enjoy playing “I Spy” if they are able to make it a bit more creative than the moose did!

Scary Movie 3

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

The first two “Scary Movies” written and directed by the Wayans brothers, were R-rated, cheerfully raunchy, and cheekily politically incorrect parodies of popular movies, including Scream and its sequels. This latest in the series is rated PG-13 and the Wayanses have been replaced by David Zucker, director of both wildly funny comedy classics (Ruthless People and Airplane) and painfully un-funny flops (My Boss’s Daughter). This movie is somewhere in the middle, not as good as The Naked Gun series but better than Baseketball.

The plot has something to do with an alien invasion connected to a videotape and some crop circles, but that is just an excuse for a series of riffs on a couple of dozen recent movies, including Signs, The Ring, 8 Mile, and The Matrix. Some of the jokes come from juxtaposing two pop culture references, as when “American Idol’s” Simon Cowell shows up to critique an 8 Mile-inspired rap performance, when Charlie Sheen’s real-life wife, Denise Richards shows up as the dying wife of his Signs-inspired character, or when Pamela Anderson finds a The Ring-inspired videotape even scarier than the infamous video featuring her private moments with then-husband Tommy Lee.

More of the humor comes from gross physical harm or from wildly inappropriate comments or behavior in front of children. One child is hit by a car, repeatedly beaten and injured, molested by a priest, and told about his mother’s substance abuse during pregancy. A dead body is subjected to violent attempts to bring it back to life, resulting in the severing of its limbs.

The rest is that good old comedy staple — stupidity — as when a group of heavily armed gangstas show up to fight the aliens but then start arguing over who smudged whose sneakers and gun each other down instead.

There are some very funny moments, most already revealed in the movie’s coming attraction. Queen Latifah lights up her scenes as a psychic, with the able assitance of Eddie Griffin as her husband. George Carlin is a pleasure in a Matrix-inspired role. Regina Hall brings some snap to the best-friend-destined-to-die-early-on role. But this is a movie that will primarily appeal to those who can get excited about seeing performers like Ja Rule, Ghostface Killah, and Method Man acting silly, especially those who are young enough to get a kick out of the inherent subversiveness of any satire aimed at popular media, without caring too much whether any of the targets are actually hit.

Parents should know that as usual the MPAA gives a PG-13 rating to material in a comedy that would get an R-rating in a drama. There are jokes about drinking, smoking, drugs, sex, race, drunk driving, pedophile priests, gang shootings, barfing, menstruation, testicular cancer, beastiality, and people with disabilities. There are some graphic images, including severed heads and limbs, and a brief shot of a bare behind. The movie parodies racist stereotypes, but some audience members may believe that it perpetuates them as well. The movie has potty humor and shows dogs having sex.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the people who made it look at popular films to decide how to make fun of them.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original in this genre, Airplane by the same director. And they’ll enjoy the movie parodies in Mad Magazine.

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