Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

 

The Giver
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
November 26, 2014

 

The Expendables 3
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Little Hope Was Arson
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not Rated
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

Melinda and Melinda

posted by rkumar
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Woody Allen’s latest movie has a great premise. But while it is surer and more intriguing than the arid Anything Else and Hollywood Ending, it still fails to give us characters who connect in authentic or interesting ways to each other and therefore they never connect to us.

Four friends in a deli debate whether life is comedy or tragedy. One of them describes a moment: at a dinner party, the hosts are trying to impress a guest and a distressed young woman arrives unexpectedly.

One of the writers at the table (Wallace Shawn) says that is the perfect opening for a romantic comedy. Another (Larry Pine) says it is the beginning of a tragedy. As each tells the story his way, we see it unfolding. There are many parallels between the two versions, with the unexpected guest a woman named Melinda and played by Radha Mitchell in both stories.

In the tragic version of this story, a young couple living beyond their means is trying to impress a director at their dinner party so that he will cast the husband in his play. Melinda is an old friend of the party’s hostess (Chloe Sevigny) who has just shown up, two months late, for an extended stay. Her marriage to a doctor fell apart when she had an affair and in the divorce he got all of their money and full custody of the children. The affair ended and Melinda is in a bad way, smoking and drinking too much and taking too many pills. She has been hospitalized following a suicide attempt. She is strung out and desperate.

In the comic version of the story, the host couple is trying to impress a wealthy man so that he will help finance a movie the wife wants to direct, with her husband as a member of the cast. As in the tragic version, someone says, “I’m running out of obsequious banter.” Melinda shows up as a new neighbor in the building who needs help. As in the tragic version, she has lost her husband by having an affair, but this time there are no children and she is not a complete mess.

As we go back and forth between the two versions, it is often hard to tell them apart even though they have different characters, tones, soundtracks, and directions. That may be important for making Allen’s point about how comedy and tragedy intertwine. That’s a good point, but it is a problem when it comes to the success of the movie. Comic or tragic, a story should be involving. With dreary, self-involved, characters who move around the plots like sleepwalkers, neither one of these stories is.

Allen has addressed the same themes with more insight and wit many times. He has made themes like the fear of death, infidelity, and the longing for love comic and tragic in different movies and sometimes in the same movie. He made the same point he never quite gets to here in fifteen brilliant seconds in Stardust Memories when the supersmart alien tells the, um, alienated comedian who wants to address the tragedies of life, “You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.” That’s still good advice, especially if you’re making a movie.

Everyone wants to work with Woody Allen, so once again he has assembled a glittering cast of exceptionally talented actors. But the exquisitely designed sets overwhelm them. They do their best with his dialogue, but are unable to make it sound anything but awkward and overly scripted. Will Ferell is out of his comfort zone as he follows Kenneth Branaugh (Celebrity), Jason Biggs (Anything Else), and John Cusack (Bullets Over Broadway) as Woody Allen substitutes. The only performer who seems comfortable with his character is Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things and Love, Actually) as a sensitive and romantic musician. But the problem is not the performances, it is the characters, who are never involving or three-dimensional. That is is the movie’s real tragedy.

Parents should know that this movie has some strong language, explicit sexual references, drinking, smoking, drug abuse, and references to murder and suicide. A strength of the movie is its comfortable portrayal of inter-racial relationships.

Families who see this movie should talk about the differences and similarities between comedy and tragedy. In another Woody Allen movie, a character says that comedy is “tragedy plus time.” What does that mean?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other Allen movies like Stardust Memories and comparing some of his comedies and dramas to think about how the same situations can work in either context. They may also enjoy Sliding Doors, about what would happen to a women played by Gwenyth Paltrow under two different scenarios, one if she catches the train, another if she misses it.

Be Cool

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

“I won’t say any more than I have to, if that.” That’s John Travolta as Chili Palmer in Get Shorty, and it’s a great character, a great line, and a great movie.

Chili says it again in this watered-down sequel. And then he says it another time. That pretty much sums up the problem with this movie. People keep saying more than they have to. Or less. Just not the right amount. The original was cleverly plotted and brilliantly acted. This one is just mildly amusing, with some slow patches in between. The original had Gene Hackman and James Gandolfini. This one has Cedric the Entertainer and the late Robert Pastorelli.

In Get Shorty, “Shylock” and movie-lover Chili Palmer works for a loan shark. He is sent to LA in search of a missing dry cleaner who owes money. Chili ends up getting into the movie business, becoming a successful producer.

As this movie opens, Chili is ready to move into the music business, which creates opportunities for many guest appearances by real-life performers from Christina Milian as an aspiring pop star and Outkast’s Andre Benjamin as a trigger-happy aspiring gangsta to powerhouses Aerosmith, the Black-Eyed Peas, and Sergio Mendes as themselves.

Cedric as usual steals the show with one of his best performances as Sin, an ivy league and Wharton grad who manages a tough rap group called the Dub MDs (as in Weapons of Mass Destruction) and is as comfortable with a gun as a spreadsheet. He has a terrific speech about the influence of the black community on American culture. Vince Vaughn is very funny as a Jewish white guy acting like his vision of a hyper-stereotyped black rapper, The Rock is a hoot as a gay bodyguard and would-be actor, and Benjamin shows some comic flair, but the musical numbers are not especially well staged, even the much-anticipated dance reunion of Travolta and his Pulp Fiction co-star, Uma Thurman. And the product placement for Sidekicks and other items goes past intrusive into offensive.

There are some brief echoes of the original, with a few agreeably sly but understated digs at show business and a couple of clever shout-outs to the first film, but more often the jokes are just references, repetition, or imitatation of Get Shorty just reminding us how much better it was. It all gets awfully meta awfully quickly, with Chili making fun of sequels (“At least they’re honest about being dishonest”) and telling someone that you can only use the f-word once in a PG-13. And then using it, once. By the time Steven Tyler explains that he doesn’t appear in movies (get it? he’s in a movie when he says that!) it does not even amuse us enough to distract us from a plot lifted right out of a Mickey-and-Judy-let’s-put-on-a-show movie. The first movie stayed cool but not letting us see the script that everyone was so excited about. Chili never even read it; that’s how cool he was. But here he is supposed to be all excited about a pop performer about whom the strongest applicable accolade is “pleasant,” and there’s nothing more de-coolifying than that.

Get Shorty made fun of cynicism in show business; this movie is cynical. The first movie was about the show and the business. This one is just about everyone’s getting paid. Chili’s assessment of a character’s movie pitch is a suitable review for this one: “You’ve got a premise and a setting but you don’t have character arcs or a plot.”

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of violence for a PG-13, though it is not very graphic. Characters are shot and beaten and some are killed. There is some strong language, including racial and anti-gay terms and a joke about how the f-word can only be used once in a PG-13 movie, followed by its one use. Characters drink and constant smoking is portrayed as cool. There are some sexual references and some dancers in skimpy costumes. Many of the characters lie, cheat, steal, use force, and otherwise behave like lowlifes and crooks.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the characters in the movie decided what was important to them and who to trust. How will Sin’s daughter feel about her father when she gets older? Why does Raji want to act “gangsta?” In what way are the Dub MD’s like today’s rappers?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the better original, Get Shorty, which actually is cool.

The Pacifier

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2005

This crass, crude, and overly familiar formula comedy has Vin Deisel as Shane Wolf, an all-business Navy Seal who has to play babysitter for five children in the suburbs. He’s all about securing perimeters and drop-and-give-me-twenty. They are undisciplined and acting out following the loss of their father, but they know how to love. Result of this meeting of opposites: development of mutual admiration through comic and heart-warming incidents and some cartoon-y stunts. You know the (and I mean this literally) drill.

All of this might manage to qualify as mindlessly enjoyable pap if it was not so insincere, littered with gross-out jokes, and, with an a tin ear for its target audience. This movie has material that is inappropriate for younger kids and jokes that are too immature for the older ones.

Shane is sent to rescue a computer whiz who has been kidnapped by the Serbs because they want who has created his super-secret “ghost” program. The whiz is killed by the bad guys (off screen), and after Shane recovers from being shot, he is sent to protect the whiz’s family while his widow attempts to retrieve the program from a safe desposit box in a Swiss bank.

At first, Shane is so uninterested in the children or so interested in keeping his distance from everyone that he does not even learn their names, calling them “Red One,” “Red Two,” down through “Red Baby.” But when “Red Chief,” the babysitter (Carol Kane) quits, he begins to get to know the kids. And when it turns out he can help them with their problems, he begins to care about them.

So Shane shows the rebellious teenage daughter that her “friends” don’t really care about her because they don’t respect her, and teaches her to drive, with some fancy Seal-style moves they don’t show you in driver’s ed. He stands up to the older son’s huge-but-immature wrestling coach (“Everybody Loves Raymond’s” Brad Garrett). He teaches the younger daughter and her “Firefly” (think Brownie) friends how to clean the clocks of the pesky boys who break their cookies. He learns the special “Panda Dance” song to sing the toddler to sleep. And he even learns how to change a diaper!

Meanwhile, the bad guys are trying to break into the house to get the Ghost program. So, everyone has to learn to work together and rely on one another, yadda yadda. This is all shown through crude humor (many diaper and baby barf jokes), weirdly homophobic insults (the wrestling coach’s oddly rhapsodic taunts of Shane’s big arms, questioning the masculinity of someone who doesn’t fight), uncomfortably stereotyped bad guys, and a plot twist involving a swastika that few in the target age group will understand or relate to.

In other words, Vin Diesel: Don’t come back, Shane!

Parents should know that this movie is at the PG-13 edge of PG. It has a lot of cartoon-ish “action violence:” no blood and no on-screen shooting but an exploding helicopter, a glimpse of a dead body, a lot of kicking and hitting. A parent is killed (off-screen). There is a lot of potty humor including many diaper jokes and a character covered with sewage. There is some crude schoolyard language including “bite me,” “boobs,” “spaz,” “skanky.” One positive note is that a daughter wears a crucifix, though there is no further evidence of any religious faith. The portrayal of the bad guys has some unpleasantly racist overtones and some of the “humorous” insults are sexist and homophobic. And there is intrusive product placement for Costco and other brands.

Families who see this movie should talk about how different people respond differently to loss and pain. What examples did we see in this story?

Families who enjoyed this movie will also enjoy Daddy Day Care. Older audience memembers may enjoy the more violent PG-13-rated Kindergarten Cop. And every family should see the classic The Sound of Music.

Hostage

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Three combustible forces come together in one fortress of a mansion in this bloodbath of a hostage drama. First is Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis), a former big-time hostage negotiator who was shattered by a tragic failure and gave it up to become a small-town police chief. Second is three strung-out teens who decide to steal an SUV but end up in the house when things get out of control, taking the owner and his two children hostage. Third is a group of ruthless professional bad guys who have no interest in the boys or the hostages but will do whatever it takes to retrieve a DVD with some very important files that is hidden inside the house, its location only known to a man who is unconscious.

Nice set-up. The contrast between the impulsive, hot-headed amateurs and the implacable, cold-blooded professionals as they interact with the hostages and the increasingly compromised Talley take this story above the usual guns and explosions multiplex fodder.

The film also has some good performances, especially Ben Foster as the most volatile of the boys. It has a sensational opening credit sequence. But the dialogue is stock UPN-drama and a promising premise disintigrates quickly into standard guns and explosions fare.

Parents should know that this is an exceptionally violent movie with extreme, intense, and graphic images and many kinds of weapons. Characters are in severe peril, including children and a young girl who is bound and threatened with rape. Many characters are wounded or killed. Characters drink and use drugs and use some very strong language. A strength of the movie is strong minority and female characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Talley responded the way he did to the tragic outcome of the first hostage situation in the film. How can a negotiator gain the confidence of someone who may be disturbed or irrational?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the first and third of Willis’ “Die Hard” movies and The Negotiator.

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