Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Fury
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

St. Vincent
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 For mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

Dear White People
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

The Corporation

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

This documentary from writer Joel Bakan and directors Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott argues that “today’s dominant institution” is not government or the church but the corporation. While Michael Moore participates and provides some of the film’s liveliest moments, the film mostly presents its evidence without Moore’s brand of incendiary brash insouciance, and is even more chilling for doing so. Instead of Moore’s snarky saracasm a calm, almost robotic female voice recites the narration as though it is asking you to please hang up and dial again. The feeling is of a world vacated by any human qualities.

The film-makers let the participants tell the story. A Wall Street trader explains that while the terrorist attacks on September 11 were very sad, his fellow traders’ first thought was how it would affect the price of gold. Then he reassures us that his clients did fine, because he correctly predicted that gold would go up. “In devastation there is opportunity,” he explains. The head of a firm that advertises toys and candy to children is paid to figure out ways not just to persuade children to want the products but to encourage children to nag their parents to get them. When asked whether this is ethical, she does not seem to understand the term.

Shareholder activist Robert Monks quotes Lord Thurlow: “Did you ever expect a corporation to have a conscience, when it has no soul to be damned, and no body to be kicked?”

Our laws have declared a corporation to be a legal “person” when it comes to rights, but not a person when it comes to limits, except for limiting its liability for harm that it inflicts. It is not subject to the most universal and permanent limitation that applies to humans because unlike a person, a corporation lives forever. The combination of perpetual life, imperviousness to punishment, and a legal and cultural commitment to creating shareholder wealth as its sole obligation have created an entity that, according to Monks, is like a shark. It maximizes its profits by “externalizing” all of its costs.

The film-makers have organized their critique around the criteria for diagnosing psychopathology. Their view is that if the corporation is a “person” it’s mental state can be evaluated according to the provisions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Compared against that list — inability to maintain long-term relationships, tendency to lie, lack of concern for the impact of its behavior on others — the corporation gets a diagnosis that indicates severe pathology.

Parents should know that the movie is not rated. Its content may be disturbing for some viewers, but it raises very significant questions for discussion with mature children and teenagers, especially about the influence of advertising and the challenges of accountability.

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate Michael Moore’s television series The Awful Truth.

King Arthur

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

Saying that this “King Arthur” is “The Truth behind the Legend” is an overstatement of epic proportions, making the movie’s tagline the only thing epic about it. The battle scenes, the dialogue and the attractive actors all place this film squarely in the realm of summer popcorn flicks – entertaining and briefly uplifting but not destined to linger in memory, much less in history.

The story sounds complicated, especially considering that it jettisons just about everything you expect in a story about King Arthur but the Round Table. It piles on the history, but there is just enough plot to fill the scenes between battles.

Arthur and his severely depleted Round Table of six knights have completed the fifteen year tour of duty guarding Hadrian’s Wall required of them by Rome. Arthur’s knights are conscripts from Samaria, young, pagan horsemen from the Steppes of present day Georgia/Russia, who cannot return home without safe passage papers from Rome. Meanwhile, half-Roman/ half-Celtic Arthur hopes to be reuinited with his friend, the moral reformer, Christian, and free-will proponent Pelagius, to partake of the democracy and equality that Arthur believes now rule Rome.

However, the Bishop who carries their release papers also brings the news that Arthur and his men have one final mission to complete: they must cross Hadrian’s Wall to face the blue-painted tribes to the North led by the sorcerer-warrior, Merlin, in order to retrieve a noble Roman family, a sort of Saving Private Roman. The hitch is that Rome is abandoning Britain to the conquest-hungry Saxons who are landing on the island’s shores as Arthur’s men celebrate their impending freedom at the local tavern. Needless to say, Arthur rescues a damsel, skirmishes with the Saxons, learns that the Rome of his dreams no longer exists, and, by the time the drums herald the final battle, finds a new mission in life .

If only Clive Owen were not so very easy to watch, this “King Arthur” would be soggy fare at best. As the title character –-albeit “King” for only two of the movie’s 210 minutes -— Owen’s Arthur is a hard-eyed study in leadership, asking nothing of his fighters that he would not do himself. He communicates well the difficulty in balancing on the sword’s edge of living by a code of equality and simultaneously determining the fates of others. It does not hurt the movie that Owen wears his chest plate well. Danish film star, Mads Mikkelsen, plays the knight Tristan with a feral charisma that might make Isolde and her contenders swoon, while Stellan Skarsgard as the leader of the Saxons projects a natural, grumpy style of leadership that contrasts nicely with Arthur’s more magesterial approach.

It is too bad that many of the other folks onscreen mistake facial hair for acting. As a Saxon invader, Cynric (German tough guy Til Schweiger) glowers as if he is suffering from a massive hang-over. Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd, hiding the talent he displayed in Black Hawk Down behind his beard) moons about in the background, while the rest of the knights have just enough character to hold up a sword but not to add much to the story.

The tale of Arthur is significantly refreshed by having a strong female figure as a colleague on the battlefield and not just as a trophy, even though Guinnevere’s avenger in a leather bikini is something of a distraction. Kiera Knightly plays Guinnevere, re-imagined here as a Bodicea-styled warrior princess of the Britains, as if she were back on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean with a bit of Kill Bill thrown in for good measure.

Those looking for the familiar terrain of King Arthur’s legend — the silvery arm holding Excalibur aloft, the search for the Grail, and the illicit love between Lancelot and Guinnevere — should head to the library or the video store. Those in search of the true stories behind King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table can look to Celtic, Scottish, Welsh, Roman and Assyrian legends. But those looking for some memorable battle scenes and some attractive actors without too much plot to slow things down can fill up the popcorn bucket and sit back for some summer entertainment.

Parents should know that this movie has many battle scenes and deaths, with the lots of swords flashing and arrows flying, even if they do not depict gore and explicit violence. Young Arthur sees his town burnt and knows that his parents have been killed, which will disturb some children. Several victims of torture are shown in weakened states and refer to machines of torture. Two characters have a sensual scene with non-explicit sex. Characters talk about women, sex and their physical attributes. Arthur’s men drink to celebrate and drink to mourn loss.

Families who see this movie may wish to discuss leadership and the characteristics that inspire loyalty in this movie, as displayed by Arthur, Merlin, and the Saxons. The horror on the face of the Bishop’s men at the sight of the famous Round Table is a statement on hierarchy. Families might wish to talk about the notion of equality that Arthur discusses versus the manner in which the Romans are depicted. The concepts of freedom, duty, and service are all used frequently in describing reasons for battle. Do you think these rallying speeches are moving? Do you think other factors (and if so, which) are what motivate the troops?

Families that enjoy this movie might wish to see Excalibur (mature audiences) and A Knight’s Tale. Those looking for more humorous takes on the theme of knights might enjoy Monty Python and the Holy Grail (which has mature humor), while an uneven movie it is one of the most quoted movies of all time for its absurdly funny sketches of King Arthur’s knights. Alternatively, renting the classic The Court Jester is highly recommended for all audiences. Other versions of this eternally appealing story include the Lerner and Lowe musical, Camelot, Disney’s animated The Sword in the Stone and many versions of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Families looking for a good read on the subject of King Arthur, but one that takes its perspective from the women of the story, are recommended to pick up “Mists of Avalon” (mature audiences), but to ignore the made-for-TV movie that it inspired.

Bus Stop

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:1956

Bo (Don Murray) is a rough cowboy who comes to the city for the first time with his worldlier friend, Virgil (Arthur O’Connell), to compete in a rodeo. They meet Cherie (Marilyn Monroe), a good-hearted girl who sings and hustles drinks in a saloon. Cherie’s casual affection persuades Bo that she is the one he wants to marry, and he carries her off, without her permission, on the bus.

The roads are snowed in, and they get stuck at a bus stop. Bo will not listen when Cherie insists she is not going with him. With the help of the others at the bus stop, she persuades him that he cannot make her marry him. Then it emerges that she is afraid she cannot live up to the vision he has of her. She has had “many boyfriends.” He is crushed at first but, after talking to Virgil, tells her that since he has never had any girlfriends, they balance each other out. After a gentle kiss, she tells him she would go anywhere with him. He wraps her in his warm coat and puts her back on the bus, at first objecting when Virgil says he is not going with them because it is time for him to move on, but finally accepting it. He does not need Virgil to take care of him anymore; he has to take care of Cherie.

This is probably Marilyn Monroe’s finest performance as a dramatic actor. The way she sings “That Old Black Magic” tells us a lot about Cherie’s dreams of herself as a singer, and Monroe has the courage to make Cherie a far less talented performer than Monroe was herself. In her dealings with Bo, Cherie insists on her right to make her own choices, but Monroe also lets us see how much she longs to be loved the way Bo wants to love her, how much she wants to deserve it.

The movie also shows nicely the way that people must allow themselves to be vulnerable by being honest in order to be known and loved. Bo adds to his natural bluster because he does not want to let Cherie see how panicked he is by his overwhelming feelings for her. He longs to be close to her, but is afraid she won’t want to be with him if he lets her see he is not always strong and confident. He finds out she responds to his vulnerability because it is honest, because it allows her to play an equal role, and because she wants to be needed. Cherie fears she does not deserve the level of devotion he offers. When he is willing to love her after hearing what she is ashamed of, she can allow herself to love him.

Parents should kow that the movie has mild bad language and references to Cherie’s promiscuous past (subtle by today’s standards). There is drinking in a bar and a brief fistfight. A theme of the movie is tolerance differences.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Bo is so insistent on making Cherie come with him. Why doesn’t he listen to her? How can you tell she has mixed feelings about him? What are they? What purpose do the other characters in the movie serve? What makes Cherie change her mind? What does it show us when Bo gives Cherie his coat? Why does Virgil decide to leave Bo?

The movie is based on a play by William Inge, author of Splendor in the Grass. Older students might like to read the play, which takes place entirely at the bus stop, to see how it was expanded and adapted for the screen.

Spider-Man 2

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2004

This is why they invented movies.

It is a dazzling story of love, loss, adventure, courage, heartbreak, tough choices, and tender feelings with a rescue from a burning building, a runaway train, a world-class villain, and a really great kiss. It is smart and funny and touching and exhilaratingly entertaining. S2 has sensational special effects integrated with a first-rate script and outstanding peformances to illuminate the characters and tell the story — and to show us something about ourselves. But most of all, this is why they invented movies because director Sam Raimi knows how to make things MOVE.

Few movies have so mastered motion. Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) swoops through the skyscrapers. A train hurtles across a track that just abruptly stops. A car flies through the air. Raimi is all but re-inventing cinematic story-telling before our delighted eyes.

In the first movie, we saw Peter Parker’s joy in the powers he developed after being bitten by a genetically modified spider. When his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) was killed because he failed to stop a thief, he resolved to devote his life to helping people. And that meant no close attachments because anyone he cared about would be vulnerable to attack by bad guys who wanted to pressure him.

As this movie opens, things are not going well for Peter. Even his Spidey powers can’t get those pizzas delivered by the 30-minute deadline when there are people to save along the way. Aunt May’s application for a loan to save her mortgage from being foreclosed has been turned down. He is having trouble in school because he doesn’t have time to do his homework. His best friend Harry (James Franco) is still angry because Peter will not tell him what he knows about the night Spider-Man killed his father. Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), the girl he loves, is giving up on him because he can’t tell her who he really is or how he really feels. He can’t even do a load of laundry without making things worse. That Spiderman suit chafes. Spidey can’t even sling those webs the way he used to. The last hors d’oeuvre at the party is always snatched away just as he reaches for it. Maybe it’s time to quit.

Harry introduces Peter to the brilliant scientist, Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), whose devotions to his wife and his work are inspiring. Harry is financing the doctor’s experiments with fusion energy, so complex and dangerous that they must be conducted with tentacle-like mechanical arms that are controlled by artificial intelligence. But in the grand hubris tradition of myths and comic books, the experiment goes terribly, tragically wrong and the doctor’s wife is killed. The four artifical arms are fused to Octavius’ spine. Devastated by the loss and overtaken by the arms which move like serpents in the garden of Eden, he becomes a villain known as Doc Ock, stealing what he needs to resume his experiments.

But Harry controls one of those ingredients, and he says he will give it to Doc Ock in exchange for Spider-Man. Molina is brilliant in both incarnations. His kind Doctor Octavius has a glimmer of benign madness. And his Doc Ock shows us the tortured soul that cannot help being thrilled by power. The weakest part of the first movie was the villain, with his dopey mask and over-the-top monologue. But Molina’s Doc Ock is a villain for the ages, a man who shows us his real face so we can feel the struggle for his soul.

The comic book elements are all here, with spectacular fight scenes and teen-friendly existential themes. Peter has to struggle with feelings of isolation and and not being understood or appreciated. He is aware of the irony of his working for justice for others when his own life is filled with people who judge him unfairly.

One of the screenwriters was Michael Chabon who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about comic book creators The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and his rich appreciation for the mythic appeal of the comic book tradition brings vibrance and depth to the story. Spider-Man and Doc Ock have many parallels. Both were granted extraordinary powers through physical distortions caused by accidents in scientific experiments. Both struggle with their alternate identities, represented in visual terms by frequent use of reflections. Both struggle with devastating losses. In a nice moment that gently underlines and broadens what is going on with the characters, Peter watches Mary Jane perform in a production of The Importance of Being Earnest, in a scene where Cecily talks to Algernon about his pretending to be someone he is not. And a street musician sings the Spider-Man song, at first a little tentatively and off-key but then, as Spidey re-discovers who he is, with more assurance, hitting the right notes.

This is a sumptuous summer treat that succeeds on many levels. It is that rarest of treats, a popcorn pleasure with heart, soul, and insight.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of comic-book-style action violence, though slightly less than the first movie. Characters are in frequent peril, and some are killed. There is some mild language and some social drinking, and one character abuses alcohol to drown his pain.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Peter Parker would want to stop being Spider-Man. How do we know when to give up our dreams for others? Families should also talk about the statement that “If you keep something as complicated as love bottled up inside it can make you sick” and Aunt May’s comment that there’s a hero in all of us who allows us to die with pride. Why does Peter feel that he cannot share his real self with anyone? How do we know when to trust someone with our secrets?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original Spider-Man and other comic book movies like Superman and Batman. Adult viewers may enjoy Wonder Boys, another Michael Chabon movie starring Maguire. And they might want to take a look at some love poetry!

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