Movie Mom

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

Sahara

posted by rkumar
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2005

“Sahara,” based on one of Clive Cussler’s series of novels about dashing adventurer Dirk Pitt feels more like a 1940’s serial than a book written in 1991 or a movie made in 2005. The characters are too thin, the violence too careless, the suspension of disbelief required too strenuous, the treatment of non-whites too stereotyped. All of that keeps getting in the way of some terrifically exciting stunts and some spirited action.

Matthew McConaughey plays Dirk, a former Navy SEAL with a wisecracking best pal (wisecracker extraordinaire Steve Zahn as Al Giordano). They work for steely-eyed former Admiral Sandecker (William H. Macy), seeking sunken treasure, rescuing beautiful doctors, expediting regime change and otherwise causing headaches and saving days. We know they must be cool because they are irreverent and play rock music very loud and know all kinds of clever Navy SEAL maneuvers. And because everyone else is just too corrupt or incompetent or blind to get things done.

There are two treasure hunts — a beautiful woman is hunting a microbe and a handsome explorer is hunting for a ship lost more than 100 years ago.

The beautiful doctor is Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz) of the World Health Organization. She is an epidemiologist seeking the source of a mysterious disease that is killing people quickly. No one takes her seriously except for her dedicated colleague (Glynn Turman) and a mysterious turbaned man who is stalking her.

The second treasure hunt is for a Confederate Civil War ship that Dirk thinks made it all the way to Africa as the Confederacy was falling and is now buried in a desert. Yes, I said desert.

In the middle of all this is corrupt French industrialist Yves (Lambert Wilson). For some reason they make a point of mentioning that his name is pronounced just like the doctor’s, but then they start calling her AY-va instead of EEV-a for no particular reason.

But come on, this is a movie about a guy whose name is trademarked by the author. This is a movie that asks us to believe that a ship is in a desert and Penelope Cruz is a neurologist. (She must be from the same medical school/casting agent that gave us fellow neurologist and fellow Tom Cruise alum Nicole Kidman in Days of Thunder). In other words, this movie is all about the action, and we get plenty, along with one very cool car, a clueless bureaucrat, a bomb about to go off that has to be defused, sprays of bullets that always just miss when aimed at our heroes but are sharpshooter-on-target when fired by them, a fight on the very small top of a tall, tall tower, a big, fat, coincidence or two, and a bad guy who “put the war back in warlord.” And Cruz in a bikini. Now that performance, I do believe.

All of this would be good, All-American, popcorn fun except that as you try to put your brain to sleep to sit back and enjoy the action, two things keep nagging at you. The first is not so bad — okay, the whole thing is preposterous and the characters are thinner than tissue paper, but we can handle that. The careless carnage is more serious. Dirk and Al have no hesitation in blowing away battalions of uniformed troops without any real justification. The African bad guy says that “No one cares about (killing) Africans,” but no one making the movie seems to have got the memo about how that was a bad thing. One saintly African-American doctor does not make up for portraying the Africans as evil, ineffective, or, worst of all, expendable.

Parents should know that the movie has non-stop “action” violence, which means that our intrepid heroes get shot at a lot but never get hit while their own shooting is almost unfailingly on target. Despite the fact that it is based on a book written in the 1990’s and includes some positive black characters and a female doctor, the movie has an unpleasantly retro approach to women and minorities, approaching racism in its casual attitude toward killing Africans.

Families who see this movie can learn more about groundwater contamination issues at this site and about the Navy SEALs here. Cussler has used some of his book royalties to set up a real-life NUMA organization.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy National Treasure and classics like King Solomon’s Mines and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Constantine

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

Take a 1930’s movie detective, a guy who shoots straight and talks tough. You know, the kind of guy who may have a soft spot for a dame in a jam but that doesn’t necessarily mean he believes what she tells him. The kind of who always seems to be walking down a rain-soaked street on a moonless night, smoking a cigarette.

Put him in today’s Los Angeles. So he has lung cancer from all that smoking and a bit of a punk-ish edge. And this detective has been to hell and back — literally.

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), originally a character in the graphic novel series, “Hellblazer,” is tracking targets from another plane. It seems that long, long ago God and the devil made a bet about humans. Angels and demons can attempt to influence the outcome but they must stay in their own plane, except, apparently, for a sort of everything-goes, supernatural version of Casablanca’s Rick’s Cafe Americain, complete with an “I stick my neck out for nobody” nightclub proprieter named Midnite (the fabulous Djimon Hounsou, who lights up every scene he is in, which is not enough).

Constantine’s job is to send the devils and demons back to hell.

There is a Raiders of the Lost Ark-ish artifact that is uncovered and starts making trouble right from the yow-inducing beginning. Then we get to see Constantine in action at an The Exorcist-style confrontation with a demon that has taken over the body of a young woman. Then a policewoman named Angela — do you think that name could mean something? — (Rachel Weisz) goes to confession and then has a shocking dream in which she jumps or falls from the top of a tall building. But it isn’t about her; it is about her identical twin sister, Isabel (which means “pledged to God,” by the way). And the dream is true.

All of this comes together in some way or other, but forget about all that; this movie is all about the visuals and the attitude, and both are are cool and striking, reflecting its comic book origins and music video sensibilities. Highlights include a battle with a rock star-like demon (played by real-life rock star Gavin Rossdale) in a sleek corporate boardroom, a sort of elevator to hell through immersion in water, and swarming CGI creatures and insects. Tilda Swinton as a furious Gabriel and Peter Stormare as Satan are nicely twisted but the usually-terrific Pruitt Taylor Vince and Shia LaBeouf have little to do but whine and nag.

The film plays with some fundamental philosophical and theological puzzles, but the concepts and the language are all sizzle, no steak. That’s more that can be said for the relationship between Reeves and Weisz. He achieves a nicely cool vibe somewhere between zen and exhaustion, but that never connects with Weisz’s earnestness and sense of loss.

Parents should know that the movie has extensive, intense, and graphic peril and violence, disturbing images, and suicides. Chracters are injured and killed. There is some strong language, though less than in many R-rated movies. Characters drink, and a character is a chain smoker and is dying of lung cancer. Some viewers may be concerned about the portrayal of theological concepts, clergy members, angels, and demons. Some viewers may be offended by the portrayal of the demonically possessed Mexican characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about their own notions of heaven and hell and free will. What matters most to John? To Angela? To Midnite?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy comic book movies like X-Men and Hell-Boy and other movies with striking visual effects like What Dreams May Come and The Cell. They may also enjoy Kevin Smith’s very controversial Dogma, a satiric take on the idea of angels and demons in the modern day with a couple of intriguing parallels to this film.

Because of Winn-Dixie

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2005

This story of a girl, a dog, and the lessons they teach a small southern town is appealing but a bit heavy-handed, starting right at the beginning. It leads off with the sugary cliche trifecta: voice-over narration telling us how much has changed since the days we are about to hear the story of, a syrupy sentimental song, and a child with big, thoughtful, eyes telling God she wants a friend and that someday she’d like to see her mother again.

It also has corne pone character names like “Sweetie Pie” and “Dunlap Dewberry” and an uncertain performance by Annasophia Robb in the lead as Opal. But strong appearances by top talent in the adult roles and graceful evocation of a gently rural community by director Wayne Wang keep it for the most part more sweet than sugary.

Opal and her father have just moved to Naomi, Florida where he is the minister for a church so tiny that the congregants assemble on folding chairs set up in a convenience store. “Nothing wrong with making church more convenient,” good-naturedly says the Preacher (Jeff Daniels).

But the Preacher is worried and distracted. When Opal goes to the grocery store she finds a large and smelly stray dog causing chaos. She impulsively claims him as hers, naming him Winn-Dixie after the store where she first saw him.

Her father says no. And the landlord says “NO!” But Winn-Dixie has his own ideas and he wants to stay with Opal. He also wants to help her make some new friends.

Before too long, Opal has a job working for the shy, guitar-playing Otis (musician Dave Matthews) at the local pet store so that she can earn the money to buy Winn-Dixie a collar. The town librarian (Eva Marie Saint) and a reclusive women reputed to be a witch (Cecily Tyson) both turn out to be great friends and wonderful story-tellers. With the help of Winn-Dixie, Opal also gets to know a girl she thought was too young and a girl her own age she thought was unfriendly, even with twin boys she thought did not like her.

As Opal becomes more confident, she finds the courage to ask the Preacher about her mother. Because of Winn-Dixie, she has developed the maturity to begin to understand the answers. And because of Winn-Dixie, the small town of Naomi becomes once again a place where people know each other’s sorrows and reach out to each other.

The best moments here are not the revelations or the coming-of-age turning points or the dog-causes-trouble slapstick but the small, quiet scenes of people connecting to each other. The film is gently touching when Opal tells the librarian and the “witch” that she wants to hear their stories and then listens attentively and when Otis plays his guitar for the animals. Those are the moments that truly convey the magic of Winn-Dixie.

Parents should know that the movie has brief mild swearing, some rude schoolyard insults, and brief poop humor. Characters refer to alcoholism, parental desertion, time spent in jail, and the (offscreen) death of a character’s sibling.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Winn-Dixie was so important to Opal. They should also discuss the importance of the way Opal listens to the stories Miss Franny and Gloria tell her. If you had to choose ten things to describe each member of the family, what would they be? What do you think of Gloria’s way of recognizing her mistakes? Why did Opal worry that it was her fault that her mother left? Why was it important that the candy was sweet and sad? Do the people in your community know each other’s sorrows? How do you learn what your one important thing is?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Fly Away Home, also with Daniels, and Where the Heart Is.

Diary of a Mad Black Woman

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

Three separate movies collide in this uneven but heartfelt drama of a woman done wrong who has to learn to rely on herself for the first time. The first movie is a soapy, syrupy, over-the-top “women suffering in fabulous clothes” drama, filled with welling eyes and swelling music, somewhere on the scale between Douglas Sirk (All That Heaven Allows) and the Lifetime Channel. The second movie is an over-the top revenge fantasy with scenes rivaling grand guignol like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. And the third is an over-the-top slapstick routine with a drag performance that makes Flip Wilson’s Geraldine look like Audrey Hepburn.

Helen (Kimberly Elise) understands that her wealthy husband Charles (Steve Harris) is all about surfaces; she is less aware of that quality in herself. He wins a prestigious attorney-of-the-year award and thanks her from the podium. When they are alone, however, he is cruel, rejecting her offer of a romantic evening and reminding her that he owns everything and she has nothing. Charles has cut her off from everyone and kept her inside the ostentatiously luxurious mansion like a princess in a tower.

Charles hires a truck to load Helen’s things and move her out of the house so that his mistress and their children can move in. Helen has nowhere to go. The handsome and sympathetic truck driver, Orlando (Shemar Moore), tries to help, but Helen is so angry and terrified she cannot accept it. Finally, she goes to her outspoken but generous-hearted grandmother, Madea, played by writer/producer Tyler Perry. Perry also plays Madea’s salty brother-in-law and Helen’s saintly cousin Brian.

Helen has to deconstruct her life and rebuild from the inside out. She gets a job as a waitress and visits her mother (Cecily Tyson) in a nursing home. She is at first angry with Orlando, then too proud to accept his help and unable to believe that any man could be good to her, but finally ready to give and accept love. Then Charles comes back into her life. This time he needs her. Helen has to decide what she wants and who she is.

But the movie never decides what it wants and what it is. It tries to have it both ways, asking us to root for Helen when she is a pious victim and a, well, “mad black woman.” It teeters unsteadily between crude humor and soulful faith.

Elise is a lovely actress who looks exquisite as she suffers and she makes the most of the soapy melodrama. Moore is an appealing knight in shining armor and Tyson, as always, adds some class. Perry’s wild caricature of a drag performance as Madea seems to be from an entirely different movie. If the movie had been written by white people, the portrayal would have been called racist, sexist, and just plain embarrassing. Perry’s old man is a one-joke dud, but his role as Brian shows some presence and conviction. One-note characters like the crack addict and the drug dealer probably worked better on stage but just seem cardboard-y on screen. Helen’s next diary entry just might be to wish for a better script.

Parents should know that the movie includes painful confrontations, violence (including shooting and assault), drinking, drug use, and sexual references. One strength of the movie is its unabashed portrayal of religious conviction as a mainstay for believers. Another is its depiction of the careful consideration and commitment that should be involved in deciding when to become sexually involved. The movie also benefits from its portrayal of strong and devoted women and African-American characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Helen was willing to give up so much of herself for Charles.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Waiting to Exhale and the novels of E. Lynn Harris. Perry’s other Madea plays are available on video. Families may also appreciate some other women-learning-to-get-over-the-loss-of-a-man-and-finding-themselves movies like Shoot the Moon, An Unmarried Woman, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and Sirk’s “suffering women in beautiful clothes” movies like Imitation of Life.

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