Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 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

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

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

Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 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

Willard

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

It is unlikely that there will ever be a better horror movie about the relationship of a repressed young man to his ravenous rats than this remake of the 1973 version starring Bruce Davison and Ernest Borgnine.

Crispin Glover plays the title character, a quietly desperate man who lives in a huge, decaying mansion with his even more decaying mother. He works at the business his father once owned, for Mr. Martin (R. Lee Ermey), a man who constantly humiliates him. Willard does what he is told. When his mother tells him to kill the rats in the basement, he goes to the store to buy traps and poison. But when a small white mouse is caught in a trap, he carefully rescues it, names it Socrates, and it becomes first a pet and then his only friend.

Willard then discovers that he has a psychic connection to the rats, especially a huge one he names Ben. They become the embodiment of his id, the unleashed resentment and anger of 20 years. He looses them, with great satisfaction on Martin’s fancy new Mercedes. But then, like the sorceror’s apprentice, he finds he is no longer in control. The rats are hungry.

The movie’s strengths are Glover’s genuine weirdness and the stunning production design. Screenwriter/director Glen Morgan has both passion and feel for the material and a macabre sense of humor. Fans of the original will enjoy seeing Davison’s appear in a portrait and photos as Willard’s father and a reprise of Michael Jackson’s “Ben,” the hit song from the sequel to the original movie, now even creepier than it was back then.

Parents should know that this is a horror movie with real horror, including some scary shocks, some very tense and suspenseful moments, and some very grisly images. Characters are in peril and some are killed.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Willard felt he had no alternatives, and how stories like this are often inspired by the consequences of keeping feelings inside and a sense of powerlessness. Why was Willard unable to accept Katherine’s offer of friendship?

Families who enjoy this movie should see the original, but not waste time on the sequel, “Ben.”

The Hunted

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

This dreary generic chase movie is so thoroughly formulaic that not even the presence of two wonderfully talented three-named Oscar winners can inspire a flicker of interest.

Benecio del Toro plays Aaron, a former special forces killing machine who has finally snapped. He lives out in the woods and is either so far gone that he believes deer hunters are really CIA agents sent to kill him or he is so far gone that he just kills anyone who crosses his path, especially if they hurt animals.

Tommy Lee Jones plays L.T., a survival expert who trained Aaron and hundreds of other soldiers. He, too, seems to like animals more than people. We see him tenderly rescue a beautiful white huskie from a snare and then slam the head of the guy who set it against a table.

L.T. tracks down Aaron quickly, but he escapes, so L.T. has to track him down again. That’s pretty much the whole story. There is an attempt at making it all about something more, from the opening with Johnny Cash reciting Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61″ and encounters with three little girls that may be intended to raise the issue of how our society can turn men into killing machines and then expect them to hold on to human values (or sanity). But it doesn’t work. Del Toro and Jones do their best, and the fight scenes are refreshingly real in this era of fight choreographers and tricks on wires. These fights are awkward, exhausting, and desperate (except when everyone stops what they’re doing to forge some new weapons in a completely over-the-top moment of idiocy). But overall, the movie is simultaneously lightweight, pretentious, and forgettable.

Parents should know that the movie has brutal violence, including battle scenes. Characters are in intense peril and many are killed. Characters use strong language. Minority and female characters are strong, capable, and loyal and diverse characters clearly respect each other and work well together.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether L.T. feels responsible for Aaron. Should he have answered the letters or alerted the authorities to a problem? How do we train people to become killers and then expect them to go on with their lives? Is it possible to give someone like Aaron justice?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy a similar story in “Rambo.”

Till Human Voices Wake Us

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

Two kinds of audiences will appreciate this movie. The first are those who will be so taken by the flashback scenes of first love between two bright, engaging 15-year-olds that they will be willing to sit through the literally murky present-day scenes that show how the events of the past continue to entangle us. The second are those who are interested in figuring out why an award-winning screenplay will not always make a good movie, especially if you let the screenwriter direct it. There are some things that work on paper and things that work on screen, and unfortunately there was no one connected with this film who knew the difference.

It’s a shame, because the flashback scenes are exceptionally well handled, with newcomers Lindley Joiner and Brooke Harmen as Sam Franks and Silvy Lewis. Sam is the son of a man who does not show him any warmth or affection, and he is not sure of how he will handle the feelings in his life. But he cannot help responding to Silvy. She is his closest friend and they communicate perfectly, whether they are challenging each other with a word association game, trading glimpses of strange and wonderful sights, or just sharing unspoken understandings.

When we first meet Sam, he is an adult speaking to a classroom of psychiatric students about how and why people block memories. His father’s death forces him to return to the place where he grew up, where it seems that his own repressed memories are waiting for him, along with a mysterious woman named Ruby (Helena Bonham Carter) who is having some memory problems of her own and is not even sure who she is. Sam meets her briefly on the train and then sees her try to drown herself. He rescues her, then takes her to the home he shared with his father to help her remember who she is. But the glimmers of memory seem to connect back to a devastating loss that Sam himself is not willing to remember.

The story is ambitious and impressionistic. Is Ruby real? Is Silvy? But it is also very clunky, especially with characters like Silvy’s father, who might as well be wearing a sign that says, “I am here to represent earthy wisdom” as try to handle the dialogue he is asked to deliver. The ending is both too revealing and not concrete enough. And the movie makes a crucial error in not exploring Sam’s role in the tragedy and how that affects his response to it.

Parents should know that the movie has a very sad death and some disturbing themes. Characters drink.

Families who see this movie should talk about the impulse to shut down our emotions to protect ourselves from being hurt. What will change for Sam and why?

Families who like this movie should see the better “Truly, Madly, Deeply.” They should also read the T.S. Eliot poem that gives the movie its name.

Agent Cody Banks

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:PG
Movie Release Date:2003

I took four young teenagers to this movie and they loved it. But I was not as impressed.

The idea is a cute one — but it was cuter when they did the same thing in two editions of “Spy Kids.” This version is mildly enjoyable, but suffers by comparison to those wildly imaginative and funny movies.

Frankie Muniz (“Malcolm in the Middle”) plays Cody Banks, a 15-year-old who has been attending a CIA-sponsored summer camp that has given him all the training he needs to be a junior secret agent. But when he gets his first assignment, to get close to Natalie (Hillary Duff, TV’s “Lizzie McGuire”), the daughter of a scientist, it turns out that $10 million of training that covered every detail of combat and espionage left out one detail — how to talk to girls.

So, Cody gets some quick and confusing lessons and then finds himself in a new school, trying to make friends with Natalie. He finally gets the hang of it just in time to save the day when she is kidnapped and taken to that most popular of spy movie destinations, the bad guy’s arctic secret lair.

Muniz and Duff are always fun to watch and there are some nice stunts, especially a skateboard rescue of a toddler in a runaway car and a snowboard entry into the aforementioned lair. Saturday Night Live’s Darryl Hammond is a lot of fun as the equivalent of James Bond’s “Q” character, the guy with all the gadgets. Angie Harmon does not have much to do except show up in a series of outfits more appropriate for Spy Barbie. And the movie wastes the time and talents of two of Hollywood’s best actors, Martin Donovan and Cynthia Stevenson, as parents of the teens in the lead roles. The story is lifted from a combination of “Dr. No” and the recent (and better) “Clockstoppers.” The movie won’t have much appeal to anyone outside the 10-16 demographic it is aimed at, but there are so few movies for that group that it does not seem fair to complain.

Parents should know that the movie has violence, including one grisly death by disintegration. Characters use some strong schoolyard language (“screwed up,” “play doctor,” “Are you in special ed?”) and there is a locker room scene in which a woman snatches the towel from a boy’s middle and snaps it at another boy’s crotch. (The flesh-colored underpants the boy was wearing under the towel are reassuringly evident.) The adult woman spy dresses like a comic book character, but she is strong and capable. The head of the CIA ia a black man. There is a joke about using the special x-ray glasses to peek at women’s underwear and an adult makes a joke about breasts. It is highly insensitive to have characters use “special ed” as an insult. Most troubling is that one of the young people in the movie is directly responsible for the death of a bad guy — usually, in movies for this age group, they are careful to have the bad guy killed as the result of his own actions, like falling off a building when he lunges for someone. Some audience members may be upset about this.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether they would like to be spies. They might want to check out the CIA’s website. I like the description of what they are looking for in spy candidates: “an adventurous spirit, a forceful personality, superior intellectual ability, toughness of mind, and a high degree of personal integrity, courage, and love of country. You will need to deal with fast-moving, ambiguous, and unstructured situations that will test your resourcefulness to the utmost.”

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Spy Kids 1 and 2, Clockstoppers, and Big Fat Liar.

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