Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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A Will for the Woods
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
May 2, 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

 

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

Let's Be Cops
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity, violence and drug use
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

 

Need for Speed
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language
Release Date:
March 14, 2014

Gigli

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

This misbegotten mess is less a movie than a string of over-the-top audition monologues, those random set-pieces designed to show off an actor’s facility with language and attitude. Those can be entertaining in their own way, but they do not have anything to do with creating a character or telling a story, just two of the many movie-making essentials that are missing in “Gigli.”

Ben Affleck plays Larry Gigli (pronounced to rhyme with “really”), a small-time enforcer for a small-time hood named Louis. Larry’s latest assignment is to kidnap a retarded young man named Brian (Justin Bartha) to help Louis and his colleagues apply some pressure to Brian’s brother. So Larry picks up Brian and brings him back to his apartment.

A beautiful woman (Jennifer Lopez) who says her name is Ricki tells Larry that she has also been hired by Louis to make sure he does not mess up the job. Larry’s macho ego is affronted, but he is attracted to Ricki, even after she tells him she is gay.

A lot of bickering and bantering later, much of it involving mind-numbing debates over who is the boss and straight vs. gay sex, plus encounters with the mother of one and the ex-lover of the other, Larry and Ricki have to decide whether they are willing to hurt or kill Brian and that leads them to think differently about themselves and each other.

The movie has the traditional odd couple structure — friction, the chance to prove themselves to one another, mutual epiphinies, and finally, respect and affection. But it never finds any tone or direction or believable connection between the characters.

Larry is a one-dimensional dim but macho guy. Ricki is a one-dimensional fantasy figure. Their bickering has no spark, and the evolution of their relationship is not grounded in any way because they are not really characters, just attributes and attitude, with no internal consistency. Larry is devoted to his mother in one scene, but seems to have no thought about abandoning her in another.

The narrative is choppy. It was probably recut following test screenings, but the effect is to make the events unconnected to each other, without any direction or momentum. Let me also point out that in addition to the overdone odd couple plot device, the movie includes several elements from the “should never be in another movie” list, including a vocabulary-building hood and a noble disabled person whose disability shifts according to the requirements of each scene and who transforms the lives of the supposedly normal people around him.

Meanwhile, somewhere in there Christopher Walken (as a cop) and Al Pacino (as a crime boss) drop by for the showy audition-monologue-style scenes that have some verve but add nothing to the plot, tone, or themes of the movie. So does Lainie Kazan, in yet another ethnic earth-mother role, (we really did not need to see her thong underwear — another thing that should be on the “never in another movie list”). Indeed, there really is nothing that could be called plot, tone, or theme in this movie. For a brief, mad, moment I had a flicker of a thought that the mundane inanity of the sordid and petty imperatives imposed on Larry and Ricki might be some Samuel Beckett-style commentary on the existential void. Then I realized that watching the movie put me closer to the existential void than they ever were, and that Godot would arrive long before this movie went anywhere.

It’s not the worst movie ever. It’s not even the worst movie of the year. And it’s not as bad as the Jen/Ben backlash want it to be. But it is not a good movie, and it is a terrible waste of talent.

Parents should know that this movie has graphic violence, non-stop profanity, and extremely explicit sexual references and situations. A character attempts suicide and then disappears from the story. In a better movie, the fact that the most capable and intelligent character is a bi-sexual Hispanic woman would be more worthwhile. Bartha’s portrayal of Brian is probably the most natural and authentic of the movie, but the character of the retarded man is the stereotypical noble disabled person and really no more than a prop for the other characters to react to.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Brian made Larry and Ricki feel differently about their choice of careers. What did it mean when Ricki finally told Larry her real name? What do you think of Sun Tzu’s view that in a a conflict, “angry is a statistically stupid move?” Have you ever used anger to mask sadness? What do you think about the advice to do the thing you’re most afraid of?

Families who like this movie will like director Martin Brest’s much better odd couple movie Midnight Run, starring Robert de Niro and Charles Grodin as a bounty hunter and his bail-jumping captive. They might also enjoy Prizzi’s Honor, about another odd-couple romance of two professional hitmen (I guess a hit-man and a hit-woman) and the quirky Welcome to Collinwood, about a ragtag group of small-time crooks with the dream of just one big-time heist. Rain Man, referred to in this movie, is an Oscar-winning story about a man who meets up with his autistic brother. And in Chasing Amy (for the most mature audiences only), Ben Affleck again plays a heterosexual man in love with a gay woman.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2003

This movie has a better plot, better characters, and better acting than the first one, but let’s be honest about it — no one is going to see this movie for the plot, characters, and acting. The audience for this movie wants to see the movie version of the popular computer game, with Angelina Jolie in very tight clothes decking, kicking, and shooting as many bad guys as possible. All of that is there, and the distractions of plot, character, and acting barely get in the way.

Jolie plays Lady Lara Croft, archeologist/adventurer. Off the coast of San Torini, she discovers an ancient sunken library. Just as she reaches for a glowing yellow orb, the bad guys arrive. When a shot fired by one of them grazes Lara, the blood attracts a shark. Lara punches the shark in the nose and hops on board to ride it back up to the surface of the ocean. That’s the kind of movie this is.

It turns out that the orb is a map to Pandora’s Box. In the myth, Pandora was a curious woman who could not resist opening the box she was told must stay closed. Inside was all the trouble in the world. This Pandora’s Box contains virulent biological agents that will unleash a plague on the world. Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds), a former Nobel Prize winner turned international dealer in biological weapons, wants what’s in the box and Lara, at the request of the Queen, wants to stop him.

In order to do that, she has to get Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), her one-time love-turned mercenary, out of prison. Together, they go after Reiss and the orb in exotic locations, with exotic equipment and modes of transportation, all over the world.

Director Jan de Bont (“Twister,” “Speed”) knows how to stage action, and there are some genuine thrills, especially when Lara and Terry don flying suits that have them soaring through the air like Rocky the Flying Squirrel. Jolie is always fun to watch. But the computer-game origins of the movie are replicated in the staged level-style series of action sequences, and that removes any narrative momentum.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of violence and peril, some very graphic. Characters are hurt and killed. There are a couple of bad words, and some passionate kisses and sexual references.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Lara decides what is important to her.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Johnny English

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2003

This mild spy parody has nothing new, but Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”) is a gifted comedian who manages to wring some new laughs with material that has already been fully explored in movies from Our Man Flint and Dean Martin’s Matt Helm movies to Spy Hard and Mike Meyers’ Austin Powers series.

Atkinson plays Johnny English, a low-level bureaucrat in England’s spy service who has Walter Mitty dreams of being a field agent. When all of the agents are wiped out through his ineptitude, he gets his chance.

England’s crown jewels have been stolen by French zillionaire Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich with a Pepe LePew accent), who plans to take over England and turn it into a prison facility. It’s up to Johnny English, his sidekick Bough (pronounced “Boff”) and woman of mystery Natalie Imbruglia to save the day. The spy parts aren’t exciting enough and the funny parts aren’t funny enough, but the overall effect is mildly amusing.

Parents should know that there are a few PG-rated naughty words and some bathroom jokes. Kids not familiar with the long-term French-English political and cultural clashes may be confused by the animosity between the French and English characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was so hard for Johnny English to admit that he had made a mistake.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Bill Murray’s The Man Who Knew Too Little .

Step Into Liquid

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2003

The classic 1966 documentary The Endless Summer by Buce Brown introduced audiences around the world to the glories of surfing and made the search for the perfect wave thrilling and epic. Now Brown’s son Dana has produced this follow-up, another movie about surfing and the people who love it that becomes a stirring tribute to waves and sun and the people who believe that they best honor nature and the farthest potential of the human spirit by riding on the waves.

You may believe that, too, as you see the heart-stoppingly magnificent swells on the most beautiful beaches of the world and the intrepid and deeply devoted people who surf them. Brown shows us children just beginning to surf and those who have been surfing for 30 or 40 years, amateurs and world champions. Some surf in sun-drenched resort areas, on ocean waves that lap up against sparkling white beaches. But we also see the dedicated surfers of Sheboygan, Wisconsin and those who chase supertankers off the coast of Texas to surf in their wakes. Three American brothers go to Ireland to surf on the craggy shores and bring Catholic and Protestant children together to learn to surf with them. A veteran who brought his surfboard with him to Viet Nam returns with his son to surf and meets up with the tiny but dedicated surfing club there. We see the original Gidget and the women she inspired and we catch up with the surfers from the original The Endless Summer. We meet a paraplegic man who broke his neck in a surfing accident but is still happiest when he is surfing. And we see surfers take on the biggest waves in the world, a “because it’s there” dream like that of conquering Mount Everest or walking on the moon.

The stories are striking, but this movie is all about the sights, and they are, simply, glorious. The cameras take us inside the pipe waves so that we can almost smell the saltwater. It is a very sweet ride.

Parents should know that the movie has no bad language, violence, nudity, or sexual references, but some risky behavior.

Families who see this movie should talk about the way that a common passion unites all of the very different people in the movie. What do you think about the idea that the best surfer in the world is the one who is having the most fun? Is there another sport (or any other activity) where attitude and a sense of humor is considered more important than talent and achievement?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Endless Summer and its sequel The Endless Summer 2, as well as surfing classics like Gidget, Blue Crush and Point Break.

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