Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence
Release Date:
October 24, 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

John Wick
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
Release Date:
October 24, 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

23 Blast
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some teen drinking
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

Finding Neverland

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

This much we know. James M. Barrie was inspired by his friendship with some fatherless boys, including one named Peter, to write one of the most enduring and beloved stories of all time, “Peter Pan.”

The story of the man who wrote about the boy who would not grow up has inspired this movie, loosely based on Barrie’s relationship with the Davies boys and their mother.

As it begins, Barrie is an playwright whose most recent show was not successful. His producer (Dustin Hoffman) is getting impatient. So is Barrie’s wife (Radha Mitchell), who finds him frustratingly distant.

One day, Barrie peeks through a hole in his newspaper (his wife has cut out a bad review of his show) and sees the Davies children playing in the park. Captured by their boyish imagination and touched by their loss, he begins to tell them stories. Their innocent fantasies, tinged with sadness, inspire him to write a play about a boy who stays young forever.

His relationship with the boys causes trouble with their grandmother (Julie Christie), who thinks it impairs her daughter’s chances for re-marriage. It puts more distance between Barrie and his wife. Outsiders wonder if there is something improper going on. But all Barrie wants is to play pirates and Indians. The boys help him find enchantment — they show him Neverland, and he shows it to the world.

The movie has some lovely images. Barrie and his wife open their separate bedroom doors. Behind hers is a bed. Behind his is…Neverland. And as in the timeless play itself, the pleasures of endless childhood in a world in which we lose a little more youth every day are movingly portrayed.

Depp, Winslet, and Christie give touching performances, but the question for a movie like this is whether it is as illuminating or entertaining as the work we see created. In this case, the answer is no. The fantasy sequences have more power and the glimpses of the play itself are more appealing than the framing story. You keep wanting to tell them to get out of the way so that you, too, can get back to Neverland.

Parents should know that the movie has some very sad moments and the plot focuses on children who lose both parents. There are non-explicit issues of adultery and a very low-key reference to possible improper interest in the boys. There are tense family situations and confrontations.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Barrie wanted to play with the boys and why he was sorry to see them grow up. What is the best part of being a child? What is the best part of being a grown-up?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the many versions of Barrie’s story, including Disney’s Peter Pan, the recent Peter Pan (the first live-action version with a boy in the lead role), and the Broadway musical version, especially the ones starring Mary Martin and Cathy Rigby. They should also read some of Barrie’s other plays, including “What Every Woman Knows,” “Dear Brutus,” and “The Admirable Crichton.”

Evergreen

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

Fourteen-year-old Henri (Addie Land) and her mother Kate (Cara Seymour) never quite make it. They are moving — again — this time to live with Kate’s mother. We don’t need details; it is clear from their tired eyes that Kate and Henri hardly hope for anything anymore.

Henri (short for Henrietta) starts high school and meets Chat (Noah Fleiss), a smooth and confident rich kid. When he brings her home, his family seems like everything Henri would have dreamed of if she had dared to dream that big. His parents are kind and generous and his home is comfortable and unpretentiously luxurious. She is thrilled and unsettled with the depth of her longing to fit in with Chat’s family. In order to think of herself as someone who could live that way, she feels she has to separate herself from Kate and her grandmother. For the first time, she feels ashamed of them and of herself.

Henri is so swept away she does not notice that Chat and his family are struggling, too. Chat’s father (Bruce Davison) goes out every night to drink and gamble, and Chat’s mother (Mary Kay Place) always stays home.

Chat pressures Henri to have sex with him and Henri is so young and so needy and has so little sense of herself that she does not know how to say no. Kate feels she is losing Henri, just as she is beginning to feel she can create the life she wants for both of them.

Writer/director Enid Zentelis says that she wanted to create real characters dealing with dire poverty without overly romanticizing them or portraying them as idiots or addicts. She succeeds — the movie’s greatest strength is that all of her characters on both sides of the economic spectrum are sensitively handled and beautifully portrayed.

In one scene Kate, desperate to see Henri, goes to Chet’s house as a door-to-door make-up saleswoman. When Henri insists that she not reveal their relationship, Chet’s mother asks Kate to demonstrate her products by giving Henri a make-over. She thinks it would be fun for Henri to feel a little glamorous. But it is excruciating for Henri, and for us, too.

Kate nervously but tenderly ministers to Henri in a moment that symbolizes Kate’s yearning to care for Henri, to make her happy and to make the world prettier for her. All it does is emphasize the resemblance between the two of them, which so horrifies Henri that she makes an impetuous decision she believes will separate herself from Kate decisively.

Zentelis also uses the settings effectively to tell the story, visually and metaphorically. Both Henri and Chat’s mother do not want to leave the house one as a sort of comfortable prison, one as a destination, but both as a kind of hide-out.

The script is sometimes awkward and over-reaching, but it is helped a great deal by the natural but sensitive performances, especially Gary Farmer as a man who befriends Kate and Henri. When he says, “I know who I am and I know who you are,” it is wise, moving, and romantic.

Parents should know that the movie deals very frankly with issues of teen sexual involvement. Chat pressures Henri to have sex with him by telling her that he can become sick by being “stopped.” She tries to stall for time by telling him that her mother would not want her to have sex unless they were dating and that she is “on the rag.” She does decide to enter into a sexual relationship, but it is clear that it is based on her anger at her mother and her desperate wish to be closer to Chat and his family, and that their relationship is not one of maturity or intimacy. The movie has alcohol and one character who may have a drinking problem. A parent slaps a child. Children are upset and hurt by their parents’ relationship problems. There are emotional confrontations, references to abuse, and a portrayal of the problems of poverty that may be upsetting. A strength of the movie is the positive portrayal of a Native American character and of a respectful and tender inter-racial relationship. In addition, the movie has a sympathetic portrayal of a character struggling with a psychological disorder.

Families who see this movie should talk about how teenagers often believe that other families have everything that they wish they had at home. How did the adults in your family use what they learned from other families to create a home that was better — or at least better for them — than the one they grew up in? Why did Henri feel pressured to have sex with Chat? How should she have responded to him? Both Henri and Chat seem ashamed of their parents. Why? Kate says, “There’s nothing worse than having my own child ashamed of me.” Given all she has had to deal with, is that surprising? Chat’s father says that his wife’s problem makes him feel lonely. Families should talk about the impact that illness has on other members of the household.

Families who appreciate this movie will appreciate the short story, “The Duchess and the Smugs,” by Pamela Frankau, Blue Car, thirteen, Lucas, and the underrated The Flamingo Kid, starring Matt Dillon.

Hero

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

The narrator tells us that mastery of the sword is connected to mastery of calligraphy. This movie shows that mastery of film-making is as well. The elegant precision of the ravishing images gives each scene a timeless beauty.

“The ultimate ideal is for a warrior to lay down his sword,” but of course we don’t want that to happen until after the movie is over and this movie delivers with a succession of fights as exquisitely lovely as they are thrilling.

The hero (Jet Li) is known only as “Nameless.” His family was killed before he could remember and so “with no family name to live up to,” he studied the sword. As the story begins, in the third century, a king is attempting to unite warring states into what will become China. Nameless approaches the king’s palace with important news. He has defeated the three legendary assassins who posed such a threat that no one has been allowed to come within 100 paces of the king.

Nameless’ triumphs have won him the right to come closer. The king orders Nameless to tell the story of his battles with Sky (Donnie Yen), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) and Broken Sword (Tony Leung).

We see each of the confrontations, breathtaking for the artistry of the swordsmanship and for the artistry of the film-makers, who make stunning use of color, motion, and image. Each shot is vitally present and eternal all at once. Bright yellow leaves swirl around one pair of combatants dressed in scarlet. Another fight is all in shades of pale green, with huge silk sheets shimmering and collapsing around the scene of battle. In another, an avalanche of arrows sail through the sky. Droplets of water are suspended in air as a warrior pushes through.

But director Yimou Zhang is not just a master of poetic images; he is a master of storytelling as well. Nameless is part warrior, part Sheherezade. The wily king knows that Nameless may not be telling him the truth, and so we see the battles again as his questions force Nameless to reveal more about what really happened. The stories require as much thoughtful contemplation as the twenty different calligraphic depictions for “sword.”

Parents should know that the movie has constant violence, though most of it is bloodless. There are sexual references and a sexual situation.

The movie tells us that people give their lives or kill for friendship, love, or an ideal. Families who see this movie should talk about how the characters decided when it was appropriate to risk their lives or take the lives of others. Why are martial arts like music? Why is handling the sword like calligraphy?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

A Dirty Shame

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

Somehow I don’t see this movie following Hairspray to become a Tony-award-winning Broadway musical for the whole family. Too bad, because those would be some musical numbers.

Once again, John Waters has made a Baltimore-based movie about people outside of conventional society who are far happier and more loving than the people who like to think of themselves as exemplary and public-minded. But this time his outsiders are all people whose head injuries have caused them to become sex maniacs.

Tracy Ullman plays Sylvia Stickles, a grumpy and dowdy housewife who works the cash register at the local convenience store owned by her mother, Big Ethel. When we first see her, she is turning down sex with her husband (Chris Isaak) and she is embarrassed by her daughter Caprice (Selma Blair), who has been sentenced to home arrest with an electronic ankle bracelet for nude drunken driving. Her stage name, Ursula Udders, is a tribute to her most obvious attribute: her surgically-enlarged gigantic breasts, which are bigger than her head.

On the way to work, Sylvia accidentally gets clonked and immediately becomes a voracious sexual enthusiast. Ray-Ray Perkins (Johnny Knoxville) provides her with some gratification and explains that she completes his inner circle of people who have become hyper-sexual following concussions.

Each of the others, like her, was hit on the head, and each represents a different category of sexual inclination and satisfaction. The list of fetishes and proclivities with extremely imaginative terminology is, depending on your own inclinations, either one of the funniest parts of the movie or the grossest thing you’ve ever heard. Or both. Sylvia is number twelve, and it will be her task to discover a new sex act.

She is delighted by this, even overjoyed. She feels liberated and emotionally connected. It turns out that Caprice and her boyfriend, Fat F*** Freddie are also members of Ray-Ray’s group, as are some of Sylvia’s neighbors. But Sylvia’s transformation is a shock to her husband and Big Ethel, especially since Big Ethel is leading a community group to promote “decency,” which essentially means no sex or references to sex anywhere. They proudly call themselved “neuters.”

Sylvia and Caprice reach a new understanding, and with the battle cry, “Let’s go sexin’!” they are off to have a lot of sex and encourage others to do the same. The new sexual converts are cheerfully evangelical, missionaries for a world of sexual connection and benign tolerance. That the topic is sexuality is just incidental. They could be converts to a new and liberating religious faith or even more enthusiastic — audience members in a late-night infomercial for some life-changing new product.

Waters, as always makes his outsiders the heroes, making the wildest of sexual variations unthreatening that they are practically wholesome. The reconciliation scene between Sylvia and Caprice/Ursula is funny but also quite tender and touching. Syliva’s innocent and unashamed pleasure in her new life is comic in contrast to the explicit raunchiness of the subject matter. But it is also genuinely sweet.

This movie is only for those who are comfortable with the most provocative material. But Waters is not making a “dirty” movie and the context of the material is presented is comic, often satiric, sometimes confrontational, but not especially erotic. Ullman is winning in her joyous embrace of her new life and Knoxville shows real screen presence as Ray-Ray. If they manage to make the whole concept more silly than shocking, that is probably exactly what Waters intended.

Parents should know that John Waters is always cheerfully outrageous and many people will find this movie offensive for any number of reasons. The movie has extremely mature material and gets a well-deserved NC-17 rating for extremely strong language and extremely explicit sexual references and situations, including nudity, sex with many partners, oral sex, masturbation, adultery, exhibitionism, straight and gay sex, and many variations and fetishes. Characters drink and use drugs. There is some comic violence. Furthermore, some audience members may be offended by the movie’s parallels between the sex addicts and the disciples of the New Testament.

Families who see this movie should talk about why the “neuters” were so threatened by the hyper-sexuality around them. What was the best way for them to respond?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Waters’ other movies, including Hairspray and Cry-Baby. They may also enjoy American Pie and its sequels, which have the same combination of raunchy humor and genuine sweetness.

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