Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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The Drop
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some strong violence and pervasive language
Release Date:
September 12, 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

Dolphin Tale 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild thematic elements
Release Date:
September 12, 2014

 

Think Like a Man Too
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material
Release Date:
June 20, 2014

The One I Love
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, some sexuality and drug use
Release Date:
September 5, 2014

 

Godzilla
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Release Date:
May 16, 2014

Along Came Polly

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:PG-13
Movie Release Date:2004

The writer and star of Meet the Parents reunite in this much tamer comedy about a risk-averse guy who meets a free spirit.

Reuben (Ben Stiller) evaluates risk for a living. When he marries Lisa (Debra Messing), he thinks he has a sure thing. But on the first day of their honeymoon she falls for a scuba instructor, and he returns home alone to an apartment filled with unopened wedding gifts.

He runs into Polly (Jennifer Anniston), a childhood friend, and he asks her out. Can a guy who spends eight minutes a day just putting away and taking out the decorative throw pillows for his bed find happiness with a non-planner, a risk-taker, an exotic-food-lover, and a key-loser?

More important, how many excrutiatingly embarrassing moments will we have to share with Reuben before we find out?

Oh yes, there are many, many “ewwwwwwwwwwww” moments ahead. Reuben’s face collides with a hairy, sweaty torso. Polly drops a candy bar on the street, picks it up, plucks off a hair, and eats it. A man still standing at a urinal wipes his hand on Reuben’s ear. On a first date, while trying to make a good impression, Reuben floods Polly’s toilet by using her grandmother’s embroidered hand-towel as toilet paper. Reuben is constantly struggling to hold in various bodily functions, from controlling his irritable bowel syndrome when he eats ethnic food to maintaining his sexual stamina when he becomes overexcited the first time he and Polly make love. And Polly’s almost-blind ferret keeps slamming into walls. If all of this strikes you as funny, then you probably don’t get out much and then this may be the movie for you when you do.

But you will still have to sit through a lot of dull filler subplots that waste the talents of the stars, including Reuben’s self-centered and obnoxious childhood friend (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a has-been actor still clinging to his one sucessful appearance in a John Hughes-style teen movie, salsa lessons, and a client prospect (Bryan Brown) who likes to jump off buildings and swim with sharks. The characters are overly generic, especially Reuben’s kvetching mother (Michelle Lee) and silent but deep father (Bob Dishy). Hank Azaria, newly Joe Piscopoed into a buff and muscular body that looks like a CGI effect, is wasted as a naked scuba instructor with a Pepe LePew accent. None of the characters are anything other than narrative conveniences and so it is impossible to care what happens to them. I challenge anyone to remember a week after the movie the big reveal about why Polly is such a commitment-phobe. And the attempt to make a bigger point about taking risks and letting go feels formulaic, even cynical.

Parents should know that this movie has very explicit sexual references and situations for a PG-13 including male nudity (full rear view), adultery, spanking as foreplay, and concerns about premature ejaculation. There is also a lot of explicit gross-out potty humor. Characters use strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about how they assess risks and rewards and how different people are comfortable with different kinds of risks.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Meet the Parents (for mature audiences. They might also like to see Bob Dishy in a movie that includes some similar themes, Lovers and Other Strangers, and another story about a newlywed falling in love with someone else while on the honeymoon, The Heartbreak Kid. Every family should see the classic repressed male meets uninhibited female movie, Bringing Up Baby.

Teacher’s Pet

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

The animated television series “Teacher’s Pet” makes a fast, fresh, tuneful, and funny feature debut that will entertain its fans and amuse their families.

Spot (voice of Nathan Lane) is a highly intelligent and articulate dog who dreams of becoming a boy. But then he wakes up. All he can do is pretend to be a boy, disguising himself as “Scott” and going to school with Leonard, the boy he lives with.

Leonard and his mother take off for Florida so she can participate in a teacher of the year competition, and Spot follows them after he sees a television interview with Dr. Krank (voice of Kelsey Grammar), who says he can change animals into humans. So far, his experiments on swamp creatures have produced some bizarre mutants, including something that looks like an alligator crossed with a kangaroo. But Spot helps Krank make some adjustments and gets turned into a human. Unfortunately, since they forgot to figure in the effect of dog years, Spot becomes not a boy but a middle-aged man “with hairy knuckles and lower back pain.” After many complications and adventures, a lot of sly humor, and several deliciously witty songs, everything is happily resolved.

Kids will enjoy the wild characters, silly plot turns, bright colors, and vivid images. The animation style is distinctive and unusual. While it is apparently simple, even childlike, with basic shapes and bold colors, it is actually quite sophisticated, designed by award-winning artist Gary Baseman, whose illustrations have appeared in many magazines and whose serious work is in the collection of major museums.

Older kids and parents will appreciate the wisecracks and the self-aware pop culture references from the Jetsons to Disney movies (including Snow White, Lady and the Tramp, and Sleeping Beauty).

And everyone will enjoy the music. While most movies directed at the youngest children have almost interchangeable soundtracks filled with watered-down rock and hip-hop or syrupy jingles, “Teacher’s Pet” has first-rate Broadway quality songs, beautifully sung by Tony-winner Lane and an able supporting cast of voice talents. Witty (and vocabulary-building) lyrics rhyme “defiance” with “science,” “appliance,” and “giants” and “foe” with “status quo.” One song hilariously lists all of the states and another reminds us that even the small among us can be mighty.

Parents should know that there is a little bit of potty humor and some comic peril and violence. One of the characters has an eye that keeps popping out. Some children may be concerned because Leonard does not have a father and his mother shows some romantic interest in Scott.

Families who see this movie should talk about how we can help each other even when we have different dreams.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the television series, still available in reruns. They might like to take a look at some modern artists whose work may have inspired the style of this cartoon, like Wayne Thiebaud. And they will enjoy the popular game Cranium, also featuring Baseman’s design work. Families who listen to the “Teacher’s Pet” song at the end of the movie might enjoy hearing it sung by Doris Day in a romantic comedy of that name co-starring Clark Gable or Parker Posey singing it at an audition in the deliciously looney Waiting for Guffman (for mature audiences).

The Fog of War

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

“The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara” is an intelligent documentary directed by Errol Morris and based upon an interview with Robert McNamara, who as Secretary of Defense for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson was for many the face of the war in Vietnam. Long seen as an energetic technocrat, blamed for increasing the body count in the brutal conflict, McNamara has reappeared in the news following his book “In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam” (1995).

The documentary features footage of iconic figures including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Curtis LeMay, John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev, as it marches its way from WWI –McNamara’s first memories—nearly to the present. Although filming started before 9/11, McNamara makes some prescient comments about our current engagements abroad.

The eleven lessons are:

1. Empathize with your enemy.

2. Rationality will not save us.

3. There’s something beyond one’s self.

4. Maximize efficiency.

5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war.

6. Get the data.

7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong.

8. Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning.

9. In order to do good you may have to engage in evil.

10. Never say never.

11. You can’t change human nature.

In “Fog of War”, Morris has made a very strong documentary that stops short of excellence. His interview style –to place the subject in another room from him and appear to the subject on a television screen—is not entirely effective with McNamara who is clearly comfortable in front of and with cameras. McNamara’s true moments of reflection seem fueled by his own thoughts from the intervening decades and not by Morris’ questions which he interprets to fit his answers. When Morris shouts questions, McNamara often shrugs them off as if they were impertinent or irrelevant, mere distractions from the internal dialogue he has with his own ghosts. What becomes apparent is that McNamara cannot clear the fog of war from his own eyes, much less from ours.

For those seeking to better understand the reclusive octogenarian, this film –while riveting—does not go beyond the line McNamara already drew in his book, which similarly contains a tone of semi-reporting, semi-excuse, semi-apology, stopping short of simple answers. Morris has done an excellent job of weaving footage and recordings together, complemented by Philip Glass’s score which is a narration in itself. We see more clearly what the decision makers said about the situation in Vietnam but the glimpses are neither incisive enough to answer our questions nor broad enough for us to question our answers. Morris cannot do the impossible task that he has created for himself, which is to help us see clearly in a time of war, but he can –and does—succeed admirably in presenting a good interview with an interesting and haunted man.

Parents should know that this movie touches on mature themes related to politics, protests and war. Allusion is made to fire bombs, nuclear weapons, Agent Orange and the effect of these weapons on the targeted populations. Self-immolation in protest of Vietnam and the near immolation of a protester’s child is discussed.

This movie provides rich content for family discussion, starting with the major issues McNamara raises in the interview. Who is responsible for US involvement in an extraterritorial conflict? Under the US political structure, what might be the checks and balances to prevent or guide US involvement in a time of war? How do perceptions of the mentioned military engagements, including WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, Iraq, differ and why?

“War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” Families might wish to discuss this sentiment, expressed here by General Sherman in the context of the Civil War, and how McNamara uses it to describe WWII bombings. Is there a developed sense of ethical behavior during a time of war? What “rules” might there be? If you can’t change human nature, what can you do to prevent war or ameliorate conflicts?

As described in the film, Congress placed the decision to wage war on Vietnam with the Executive Office, which some people argue means that they abrogated their responsibility. Should one person, in this case the President, be responsible for the decision to go to war? If you were in McNamara’s place as a close advisor to a president considering going to war, what would you have done? McNamara describes disagreeing with President Johnson on many aspects of the conflict in Vietnam and eventually leaving the administration. If you disagreed with the President, how would you address the problem? What other solutions would you consider? Would you resign?

Morris stops the interviews with discussions of Vietnam, but McNamara in his next job was responsible for re-shaping the World Bank to focus on poverty. McNamara argued that addressing inequality could prevent the causes of war. Do you think that there are other ways to prevent war?

Families who like this documentary might enjoy seeing Morris’ earlier works, including The Thin Blue Line about an innocent man imprisoned for murder, Fast, Cheap & Out of Control which is a poetic reflection on the obsessions of four men, and Gates of Heaven, the documentary about pet cemeteries that launched his career.

For families who wish to see a much different documentary with insights into ethics during a time of war, The Trial of Adolf Eichmann is a fascinating look at the man in charge of implementing the Third Reich’s horrific Endlosung (“final solution”). Other political documentaries about the U.S. that might be of interest include Point of Order, a mesmerizing snapshot of the last days of Senator Joe McCarthy’s hearings.

Chasing Liberty

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

Pop princess Mandy Moore plays the President’s runaway 18-year-old daughter in this formula romantic comedy designed for middle school girls and not of much interest or appeal for anyone else.

Anna (Moore) is a sweet kid who understands that being followed by secret service agents and having her picture taken with tourists and dignitaries is part of the job decription. Like any other 18-year-old, she thinks her parents are too protective. Her secret service code name maybe “Liberty,” but she feels anything but free. On a trip to Prague, her father (Mark Harmon) breaks his promise to limit her secret service protection to two agents, so she runs away, with the help of a handsome guy named Ben (Matthew Goode) with all three requirements to make any pop princess swoon — a dazzling smile, a moped, and a British accent.

It turns out that Ben is in the secret service, too, but the President orders him not to tell Liberty, so that she can have the illusion of an adventure. Things do not go as planned, and they end up having more of an adventure than they expected.

The movie has pretty things to look at, especially Prague and Venice and newcomer Goode who is very good indeed. And we want to root for the overprotected Liberty, never alone but always lonely, to take some risks and have some fun. But Moore is so limited as a performer, the plot and dialogue are so superficial and unimaginative, and the lack of chemistry between the leads is so intrusive that a recap montage of the would-be high points near the end just seems painful.

Parents should know that characters use some strong language in the movie (about the level of night-time network television) and characters smoke (there is a running joke about the President liking cigars) and drink (while they make it clear that Liberty is not breaking the law because it is legal to drink at age 18 in Europe, she does get tipsy and behaves foolishly as as result). Characters also lie and steal without any second thoughts or consequences. Liberty and Ben leave a restaurant without paying and lie to get a free gondola ride.

The movie has sexual references that are much spicier than the sexual situations. A girl begins to explain the appeal of a pierced tongue, but is stopped before she can finish. Liberty complains about not getting a chance to get to “third base.” Liberty twice takes her clothes off in front of Ben (nothing shown), once intending to seduce him, but he refuses. Even after they declare their feelings for each other, they do not have sex, a refreshing departure for the norm in this genre.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Liberty’s situation is just an exaggerated version of the struggles that all parents and teenagers have over independence. Why did Liberty try to get Ben to have sex with her? Why did he turn her down? What made them like each other? Families might want to read up on Alice Roosevelt, the headstrong and outspoken daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. When asked why he did not stop her from getting into trouble, he replied that he could control the affairs of state, or control Alice, but could not possibly do both.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy two classics of the lonely, overprotected rich girl runaway genre, the multiple Oscar-winning It Happened One Night and Roman Holiday, must viewing for all families with young girls. Older viewers might enjoy another peek at romance in the White House with Michael Douglas and Annette Benning in An American President. A bittersweet story about the relationship between a President’s widow and a Secret Service agent is Guarding Tess. The script is not very imaginative, but the movie is worth watching for lovely performances by Shirley Maclaine and Nicolas Cage.

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