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The Woman in Gold
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and brief strong language
Release Date:
April 1, 2015

 

The Imitation Game
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

The Wrecking Crew
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for language, thematic elements and smoking images
Release Date:
March 27. 2015

 

Wild
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language
Release Date:
December 5, 2014

Home
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
March 27, 2015

 

Interstellar
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some intense perilous action and brief strong language
Release Date:
November 7, 2014

Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer

posted by jmiller
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for sequences of action violence, some mild language and innuendo.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

If not exactly meriting the term “fantastic” yet, this second installment is a slight improvement over the “first” film. (“First” is in quotes because there was a legendary 1994 never-released quickie made only to preserve the studio’s rights to the characters.) This is the sequel to the 2005 major release, which spent too much time on the origins of the characters’ superpowers (we get it, they got gamma-rayed and now one can stretch, one can flame and fly, one is invisible, and one looks like he is made of rock and is super-strong). Superhero movies are all about the bad guys, and the 2005 film’s Dr. Doom just didn’t seem very doom-y.


This time, things take off more quickly, Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is less dour and the villain is the Silver Surfer, cooler and more intruiging. The premise is more involving and the action scenes more organic. Dr. Doom shows up, too, but no one pays much attention to him.


The FF are all aflutter as the “wedding of the century” is about to take place. Richards and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) are getting married. They’ve tried three times before and been interrupted by world-in-the-balance emergencies, but this time Reed has promised nothing can get in their way. And you know what that means. Enter, Silver Surfer, looking like a hood ornament made from mercury, creating massive pock-marky round caverns around the globe.


Sue is fretting about a skin break-out on the big day and wondering whether they can ever have a “normal” life, John (Chris Evans) (“Focus testing showed that ‘Johnny’ skewed a little young”) wants so many endorsement deals that their uniforms will look like something from NASCAR, and The Thing (Michael Chiklis) is playing kissy-poo with Alicia (Kerry Washington). Then General Hager (Andre Braugher) shows up to say that the world just might explode if Reed can’t figure out what Silvy is up to and how to stop him.

Time to reschedule for wedding-of-the-century attempt number five.


In 1961, the Fantastic Four shattered superhero traditions. No secret identities. No sidekicks. And most important, no perfection. The Fantastic Four were a deliciously dysfunctional family. They might take their job of saving the world seriously, but they did not take themselves seriously. Their success led to a new generation of angsty, edgy, well, adolescent-y superheroes who have so dominated the genre that the FF seem a little, well, old.


This is in part because it has cardboard dialogue that often sounds like a parody of a 50’s cheapie: “As you may know, there have been recent unusual occurances all over the world.” And when Reed taunts Doom that he is “about to marry the hottest girl on the planet,” he sounds like a 7th grader, not a guy who squints intently at equations with little Greek letters in them all day. The “jokes” are just as weak: “My lips would be sealed if I had them.” We expect more from the “clobberin’ time” guy. And what is the deal with dance numbers in superhero movies this summer? Please, stop.


But when the action comes, it is fun, especially after one of the FF temporarily gets to try on all the powers at once, so he coils around the villain like a python at the same time that pounds him with rocky Thing-fists and goes in and out of visibility and flame. And Silvy turns out to have some depth and complexity (and the voice of Laurence Fishburne) that strengthens the story. It is good to have a PG action film for that most-neglected of audiences, kids who are getting too old for kiddie fare but are still too young for PG-13s. And at this pace, by number 5 or 6, they just might make it all the way to “Fantastic” after all.

Parents should know that a character is incinerated in this film and we see his ashy remains. There is also a reference to torture (offscreen). Other than that, we see mostly “action violence,” with a lot of peril but very few injuries. Characters use brief language (“crap,” “screwed up”) and there is some drinking. There are brief mild sexual references, but the movie makes it clear that what matters is having a committed relationship.


Families who see this movie should talk about why the FF might sometimes want to be “normal.” Which of their superpowers would you most like to have and why? What makes the Silver Surfer change his mind?


Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy reading the comics and learning more about Silver Surfer.

Inappropriate Themes in ‘Ratatouille’ and ‘Nancy Drew?’

posted by Nell Minow

Two movies for kids coming out this month devote a significant amount of story-telling time to plot twists involving secret out-of-wedlock children whose fathers were never told that they existed. One is the PG “Nancy Drew” and the other is the G-rated “Ratatouille.” Is there anyone who thinks that this is an appropriate storyline for movies marketed for children? Is there anyone out there who looks forward to questions from a six-year-old about what a DNA test is for or how a father could be surprised to find out that he has a grown-up child or why a mother would want to keep such a secret?
It is not as though either of these is a sensitive treatment of a subject that may be of interest or concern to children living in a world of blended families and reproductive technology. In both cases, they are tossed into the plot more for convenience than for the expression of art or creativity. If the film-makers could not show some effort in designing a plot with more imagination, they could have taken the time to think about finding a plot with more resonance for children.

Ocean’s 13

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for brief sensuality.
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

The first one was fun for them to make and us to watch. For the second one, clearly the Oceanists were having more fun than the audience. George Clooney has joked that the third “Oceans” film should be called “The One We Should Have Made Last Time.” Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and the rest of the group are still having fun making them, but this time, thank goodness, it’s fun for us, too.


In Ocean’s Eleven, Danny (Clooney) and Rusty (Pitt) assembled a team of specialists to rob three Las Vegas casinos run by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) and not coincidentally get back Danny’s wife from Benedict, too. Ocean’s Twelve was the uneven sequel about Benedict’s revenge, a romance for Rusty with an Interpol agent, and a complicated European heist.


The third episode might as well have a “No Girls Allowed” sign. The characters played by Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta Jones in the last two episodes are briskly dismissed in the first couple of minutes with a quick “It’s not their fight.” And we’re off on a new adventure in which our anti-heroes will have to come up with a new fiendishly clever way to separate some nasty character from his money in a manner that allows for some choice wisecracks, some silly disguises, and enough “That’s impossible” and “It can’t be done” warnings to merit a drinking game.


Hotelier Reuben (Elliot Gould), who financed the first heist, has had a bad case of movie-disease-itis, meaning that it is one of those cases where the central casting doctor gravely stands by the bedside and tells the assembled loved ones that “it all depends on his will to live.” In other words, we have to have a reason to set up another Mission Impossible-style heist, and this time, it’s personal. Okay, it was personal the last two times, too, but this time it’s even more personal. We have to take care of Reuben.


Reuben has been snookered (In Las Vegas! Imagine!) by Willy Bank (Al Pacino), who has built an ostentatious new casino (In Las Vegas! Imagine!). So the gang gets back together to put on a show in Grandma’s barn, I mean to steal from Bank everything that really matters to him.

This means several cons and heists at once. It has to be more than money. Bank wants a five-diamond rating for the hotel. This results in a plot line somewhere between a sit-com episode and a summer camp prank. Next on the list is fixing the games at the casino, each category (slots, blackjack, roulette, craps) with its special challenges that send our guys off as far as Mexico (where the dice are made) and France (it has to do with digging the chunnel; you really don’t need to know about it).

They also have to go to Terry Benedict for some upfront money, and while they are in it for honor and loyalty, he, of course, wants the diamonds that Bank has stored in an “it’s impossible” burgle-proof room at the top of the hotel. And of course Saul (Carl Reiner) has to show us a new accent, Frank (Bernie Mac) has to show off some smooth talk, Basher (Don Cheadle) has to speak inscrutable rhyming slang and blow stuff up, Linus (Matt Damon) has to prove he can grift with the best of them, and Yen (Shaobo Qin) has to say things in Chinese that somehow everyone in our perfectly attuned group can understand.


It’s all glossily entertaining, but there are too many distractions that are not as cute as they think they are. Did we really need to see one of the Ocean-ites turn into Norma Rae? We come back to the five-diamond checker too many times for too little pay-off. Repeats of the gags and plot twists from the first two are not in-jokes; they’re just unimaginative. Once again, Yen’s only English vocabulary words are bleep-worthy. Once again, the Ocean-eers have colorful code words for their various scams and dodges: the Billy Martin, the Susan B. Anthony, the Gilroy, the reverse Big Store. It is not an homage, it’s just a lack of imagination to repeat the exact same major plot twist from one of the earlier movies. It is even at the same point in the script. Worse, the film wastes the wonderful Ellen Barkin on an underwritten role.


But the movie’s biggest mistake is making the guys into a bunch of softies. When they’re not rallying the troops because “Reuben would do it for any one of us,” they’re weeping through Oprah or giving money to needy children. The cast is so watchable that we cannot help but enjoy seeing them enjoying themselves. And Bank is such a rat that we can’t help rooting for them. But it was more fun when they were a little bit hungry and more than a little bit greedy. Let’s hope they remember that before the next one.

This time around, the characters are motivated by loyalty rather than money, but parents should know that this is a movie about a group of rogues, con artists, and thieves — and they are the good guys. Characters use a few strong words and there are brief mild sexual references and a comic (non-explicit) sexual situation.


Families who see this movie should talk about why audiences enjoy movies about robberies.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the first two and other heist classics like the original Thomas Crown Affair, Topkapi, and How to Steal a Million.

Gracie

posted by jmiller
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for brief sexual content.
Movie Release Date:2007

When it rains, baseball players go to the locker rooms and put on their street clothes, but soccer players stay on the field, according to father/coach Bryan Bowen (Dermot Mulroney). So we get not one but two high-tension moments as drenching rain comes down on a soccer team – and on one particular soccer player — with just once chance to make the goal that will win the big, big game.


This film has a lot of the conventional high and low points of sports films, including a “Win one for the Gipper” goal of fulfilling the dream of a player who died. But the strong family ties on screen and behind the camera and some gritty authenticity of place and feeling remind us how what could have been cliché can have the power of archetype.


Gracie Bowen (“Mean Creek’s” Carly Schroeder) is the only girl in a soccer-mad blue-collar family in New Jersey. Her younger brothers tease her without mercy, but her older brother Johnny, a star athlete, always encourages her. When he is killed in an accident, she decides to make his dream of beating the rival team come true – by taking his place on the team. The boys’ team.


Bryan refuses to help her. The coach will not let her try out. For a while, Gracie gives up, trying to obliterate her sense of loss with by drowning her pain in broken rules and risky behavior. Her parents understand this is a cry for help and attention. They agree to support her. Before she can take on the rivals in the big game, she has to take on the coach, the school board, the boys on the team, and her own fears.


This was a labor of love for co-writer/director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) and his wife Elisabeth Shue (Adventures in Babysitting), who plays Gracie’s mother. The story was co-written by Shue’s brother Andrew (who plays the assistant coach), inspired by Elisabeth’s experiences as a soccer player following the death of her brother, and it was filmed on location in the town and at the school where it all happened. The story may be predictable, but it unfolds as though every one on screen and behind the camera is telling it for the first time. I could not help wishing that it had cut out about 10 minutes of inappropriate language and material to merit a PG, but I could not help appreciating its heart, commitment, and moments of specificity and wanting that last goal just as much as Gracie did.
Parents should know that this movie has about five minutes of strong and homophobic language (s-word, bastard, boobs, lesbo), teen smoking and drinking, underage driving without a license, and some risky sexual situations. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of determined female characters and their fight for equal treatment.


Families who see this movie should talk about what has – and has not – changed in sports for girls and women. They should also talk about how much it mattered to the people in this movie to have – or not have — the support of their family members. Why is it so hard for siblings to behave like Johnny? They should also talk about the different ways the family members react to Johnny’s death, some in ways that may appear to be unfeeling.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Bend It Like Beckham and Remember the Titans. They might also want to find out more about Women’s Soccer.

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posted 3:37:58pm Apr. 01, 2015 | read full post »

The Woman in Gold
The very title is a form of theft. When Gustav Klimt painted the portrait that gives this film its name, he called it "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer." She was a warm, vibrant young woman who was a vital part of the extraordinary period of intellectual and cultural life in Vienna known as the Sacred

posted 5:58:01pm Mar. 31, 2015 | read full post »

Interview: The Woman in Gold's Simon Curtis and E. Randol Schoenberg
Director Simon Curtis told me, "My last film was My Week with Marilyn, and this one is my century with Maria."  He is referring to "The Woman in Gold," with Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, who brought a lawsuit to get back the portrait of her aunt Adele, painted by Gustav Klimt, which had been stole

posted 3:37:47pm Mar. 31, 2015 | read full post »

Faith-Based Movie Picks -- The Today Show
In honor of Easter and Passover, the Today Show has some good suggestions for faith-based movies, from the very serious and respectful to the light-hearted.

posted 3:13:29pm Mar. 31, 2015 | read full post »

Another "Star is Born" Movie? Possibly, with Bradley Cooper as Director and Beyonce to Star!
A movie that's already been done three times (at least) may just get yet another remake if the rumors are true that Bradley Cooper will direct and Beyoncé will appear in "A Star is Born."  The original 1937 version, said to be inspired by (among others) the marriage of aging vaudeville star Al Jol

posted 3:54:02pm Mar. 30, 2015 | read full post »


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