Movie Mom

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Guardians of the Galaxy
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

 

Noah
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

Get on Up
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use, some strong language, and violent situations
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

 

Finding Vivian Maier
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

 

Sabotage
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

It Runs in the Family

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

You keep hoping for this movie to be better than it is. But it never is.

I wanted to like it a lot. First, I am a sucker for family dramas, where people confront each other for not saying “I love you” enough and withholding approval and everyone cries and hugs and learns lessons. But the real reason I wanted this to work was the story behind the movie. Not only do Oscar-winning father and son Kirk and Michael Douglas star (as a father who does not say “I love you” enough, etc. etc. and the son who was wounded by him, etc. etc.), but the cast also includes grandson Cameron Douglas (as the son/grandson) and even mother-of-Michael, grandmother of Cameron and ex-wife of Kirk Diana Douglas, playing the mother/grandmother. Wouldn’t it be great if this was up there with such other family productions as “Prizzi’s Honor” or even “On Golden Pond?” But instead it is impossible to leave the theater without thinking that it would have been much more satisfying to see a documentary about the making of the film than to watch the movie itself.

The Douglas family plays members of the Gromberg family, who do not communicate very well. Michael Douglas is Mitchell, now working at the law firm his father co-founded, but with no heart for the corporate work. He is happier working at a soup kitchen and organizing a rent strike. When another volunteer at the soup kitchen makes a pass at him, he is conflicted but almost willing to become involved with her. His wife Rebecca (Bernadette Peters) is a therapist, warm and loving but they are not connecting as much as they both need to. Their son Asher (Cameron Douglas) is a slacker, failing in college and selling marijuana. Their younger son, Eli (Rory Culkin) does not feel that he can talk to his parents. Instead of telling them that he needs more allowance, he prints off a spreadsheet showing them his expenses.

Kirk Douglas plays the family patriarch, who, like the actor who portrays him, is recovering from a stroke and has impaired speech. But what really impairs his communication is his irascible nature.

Michael Douglas is clearly enjoying himself, and brings a great warmth to his performance. His son Cameron cannot act and has little star quality, but Michael himself wasn’t much better in his “Streets of San Francisco” days, so he may deserve another chance. The real star of the movie is Michael’s on and off-screen mother, Diana, who brings a marvelous elegance and humor to her role. When she dances with her husband, there is real history between them, magnificently so.

The script is terribly weak. It has the requisite ingredients for a family story, including the death of not one but two family members, a family holiday celebration (Passover), and grandfatherly advice that pays off surprisingly well. It keeps going off in too many different directions including a do-it-yourself Viking funeral that is completely batty.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of mature material for a PG-13, including sexual situations and references. There is one casual sexual encounter in which a girl introduces herself to the boy just as they are about to go to bed together. An older brother nags his 11-year-old brother about kissing (or more) the girl he likes. A grandfather gives his grandson tips about seducing a girl. An adulterous encounter is halted because someone comes into the room. A character uses and deals in drugs, and characters turn to alcohol to numb their feelings.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was so hard for the people in this family to talk to each other, even though many of them wanted to. How do different families communicate in different ways?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “I Never Sang for My Father,” “The Holly and the Ivy” and some of the other movies with Kirk and Michael Douglas, especially their Oscar-winning performances in “Spartacus” and “Wall Street.”

Raising Victor Vargas

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

Identity

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

It was a dark and stormy night.

Ten strangers are stranded at a seedy motel. And then, as one of them later explains, “people started dying.”

At first, it seems that they have nothing in common: a movie star (Rebecca De Mornay) and her limo driver (John Cusack), a prostitute (Amanda Peet), a police detective and his prisoner, a man (John C. McGinley) with a critically injured wife (Liela Kenzle) and her young son, and a just-married couple (Clea Duvall and William Lee Scott). Once they have all assembled and we have established that all communications and exits have been cut off by the rain, scary-movie things begin. Close-ups with suspenseful music mean that something bad has happened or is going to happen just outside the frame. But the conventions of the genre are treated more as traditions and they are expertly handled and wonderfully creepy. As the lower-billed actors get killed off, the remaining characters try to figure out who the murderer is and what the pattern is to the deaths. At first, the murders seem as random as the assortment of people who just happened to be driving by the motel when they were stopped by the storm. But then, as each body has a motel room key counting down in sequence, it seems clear that there must be a connection. It is very tempting to say more, but the plot twist is so, well, twisted that it would be, well, a crime to divulge any more.

This is a thriller with real thrills — both the kind that make you jump and the kind that make you think. It is one of those rare “Sixth Sense”-style puzzles that may send audiences back to see it a second time just for the fun of knowing how it all fits together.

Parents should know that it is a very scary movie with a lot of intense peril and some grisly and upsetting deaths. A character is a prostitute and there are some sexual references, including a discussion of a possible out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Characters drink, smoke, and use strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about the enduring appeal of movies about serial killers.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “And Then There Were None,” referred to by one of the characters. Based on Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie, it is the story of a group of strangers who arrive at an isolated location and then start dying off one by one. The best version is the original from 1945, directed by Rene Clair, but the 1965 remake is not bad. The 1974 version is worth watching only for curiosity, however. Take a look at the Christie book, too, which has a more fiendish ending than the movie. Families who enjoy this genre will also enjoy the “Scream” trilogy and “Poltergeist.”

Malibu’s Most Wanted

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

Yes, it’s dumb and yes, it’s a 15-minute skit stretched out to 80 minutes, but I have to admit it — it is very funny.

MTV’s Jamie Kennedy plays Brad Gluckman, son of a wealthy man (Ryan O’Neal) who is running for governor. Brad and his friends are posers (sometimes known as wiggers) who adopt the clothing, slang, and outlook of black rappers from the poorest and most violent communities. He insists on being called B-Rad, and has made a demo album called “Mali-booty.”

This is an embarrassment to the campaign, so the candidate’s political advisor (Blair Underwood) hires two clasically trained actors to pretend to be real gangstas and “scare the black out of” Brad and turn him back into acting like Richie Cunningham (from television’s “Happy Days”). The actors (Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson), despite the fact that rap style is even more foreign to them than it is to residents of Malibu.

Subtle and sophisticated are not terms that belong anywhere near this movie, but I have to say that compared to the numbingly formulaic “black people teach white people about how much more there is to life” themes of recent films like “Bringing Down the House” and “Head of State,” this movie is more even-handed and generous-hearted. And unlike those other movies, it has enough confidence and respect for the audience to put some of its best jokes in throwaway lines instead of spotlighting them with everything but a drum roll. The relationship between Diggs and Anderson’s characters is deliciously loopy as they evaluate each others’ performances in the midst of complete catastrophe. Snoop Dog makes a surprise appearance that only those who can recognize his voice will catch. And if the movie’s final message is, “Be yourself, even if that self is a talentless poser whose appreciation of another culture is all-encompassing,” at least that message is kind of sweet.

Parents should know that the questionable material in this movie is relatively mild for the genre. We see a man lying down with two women, but fully clothed and doing nothing more than kissing. A couple appears to be engaged in oral sex but really is not. The only nudity is a glimpse of some tush clevage. There is comic peril, including a lot of gunplay, but no one is hurt. Characters use bad language, but nothing as raunchy as in real rap songs.

Families who see this movie should talk about why people are drawn to other cultures and when it is possible to “be yourself” by immersion in a culture that is not your own. There is a long tradition of white performers co-opting the music and humor of ethnic performers. How do the themes of this movie relate, for example, to “8 Mile,” starring and inspired by Eminem, a white rapper?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Tommy Boy.”

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