Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Annie
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

The Deal

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

There is an amateur quality to this film that might be endearing if it was not so self-righteous and almost deliberately ignorant. Though written by a former investment banker, it has been dumbed down to Hollywood’s idea about Wall Street as interpreted by 1960’s “issue” television programs. It plays like a very special episode of “The Name of the Game” or “Mannix.” But dumber.

Tom (Christian Slater) is an honest investment banker with a Wall Street firm that has an impeccable reputation but no revenues (those two items may be connected). And he is catnip to the ladies — they all go for him in a big way. Christian Slater is also the movie’s executive producer, and those two items are most certainly related.

He persuades idealistic Abbey (Selma Blair) to join his firm instead of working for a public interest group. He tells her she can do more to achieve change from Wall Street and her kindly professor tells her that she may be going into a nest of vipers, but she will be a mongoose. Unless she succumbs to being a viper. Yes, that is the way people talk in this movie. The dialogue is so heavy with exposition that it is like asking the actors to chew rocks.

When Tom’s best friend is mysteriously murdered, Tom is given a chance to work on the friend’s project, a deal involving oil drilling in one of the former Soviet republics. The friend’s boss hopes that Tom will be so overwhelmed by data outside his specialty that he will not realize that the deal is not all it seems — or that he will be so dazzled by the $20 million fee that it won’t matter to him.

Tom is distracted by dalliances with a woman who says something to him about research and hangs up on him all the time (Angie Harmon) and with pure-hearted Abbey. Blair is given so little to build a character with here that all she can manage is an earnest knitting of the brow and a peppy little wave. Betrayal, corruption, bad guys with accents, blah blah blah and everyone is shocked, shocked, to find profiteering and lies in the worlds of finance and politics.

There are small but genuinely bizarre tangents, including a surreal appearance by a real-life Congressman, and a villain who suddenly starts speaking with an accent halfway through the story. But there is not one moment that is authentic or, even, what’s that word? Interesting.

Parents should know that the movie has very strong language and some peril and violence (guns, characters killed). There are several scenes in bars and characters drink to socialize and to deal with stress. There are sexual references and non-explicit sexual situations.

Families who see this movie should talk about the conflict Tom had to resolve. What was the best way for Abbey to achieve her goal of pursuing alternative sources of energy? What does it mean to be a mongoose in a nest of vipers?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Rollover.

The Honeymooners

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2005

The classic television show The Honeymooners has been not so much updated as aoftened and sweetened. The original, half a century later, is fresher and more contemporary than this stale marshmallow of a remake.

The appeal of the original was its grittiness. The low-budget sets and grainy black and white images suited the story of the bus driver with more heart than brains, whose get-rich-quick schemes always backfired and the wife whose acid commentary could etch glass.

Half a century later, Alice (Gabrielle Union) and Trixie (Regina Hall) have jobs (they are waitresses). The big ideas Ralph (Cedric the Entertainer) comes up with include such contemporary notions as a Y2K survival kit and a fanny pack. But the movie, produced by Cedric and his co-star Mike Epps (as Ed Norton, the sewer “specialist”), can’t quite bring itself to go to the comic edge the way the original did, in an era when a “To the moon, Alice!” threat, even an empty one, is no longer tolerable.

All that leaves is a lackluster series of skits with about enough laughs to fill a movie trailer and outtakes over the credits that are more entertaining than anything that came before. Eric Stoltz is a bland bad guy and a weak attempt at mother-in-law humor starts poorly and goes downhill. In an odd meta-moment, when Ralph says he is going to his Lodge, Alice asks whether he thinks he is Fred Flintstone. Of course the Flintstones in general and Fred’s Buffalo Lodge in particular were somewhere between a tribute and a rip-off of the original “Honeymooners” and Ralph’s Raccoon Lodge.

It is a nice thought to give us a chance to see how Ralph and Alice first meet each other. But that very beginning sets us off in the wrong direction because it establishes their relationship in a way that suffocates any chance to locate the comedy in the frustration and disappointment of the original characters.

It’s an affront to our memories of the classic series, but the more serious crime is the poor use it makes of five supremely talented performers, including John Leguizamo as a dog trainer (among other things). Cedric and Epps go off in a zillion different directions trying to get the money for a down payment on the duplex of Alice’s dreams, and some of them are very funny (they breakdance in retro outfits that make Cedric look like Rerun from “What’s Happening” and there’s a clever joke about what men and women talk about). Leguizamo’s dialogue has some bright spots (“I started with nothing and I got most of it left!”). But it feels like a series of jokes, not a story. The pacing sags and it feels endless. This one doesn’t go to the moon — like Ralph’s bus and Ed’s sewers, it goes in the wrong direction and just gets stuck.

Parents should know that there is some crude humor (reference to “ho’s,” Ed tells Ralph he saw Alice naked, etc.). There is comic peril, but no one gets hurt. Characters smoke and drink.

Families who see this movie should talk about why the house was so important to Alice and how Alice and Ralph could have communicated better to prevent some of their problems.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original series as well as better movies by Cedric (The Kings of Comedy — for mature audiences), Hall (Malibu’s Most Wanted), Union (Bring it On, and Leguizamo (Romeo + Juliet).

Howl’s Moving Castle

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

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones seems especially suitable for adaptation by Hayao Miyazaki because it has many of his favorite themes. The central character is a young girl who shows determination and loyalty when she is brought into a world of strange and magical characters, many of whom appear oddly remote. She faces challenges that teach her that she is more capable and loving and deserving of love than she knew. And it has the kinds of settings that Miyazaki loves to illustrate, with intricate mechanical devices, characters who are transformed or disguised, and shifts of angles and planes that show off his gift for vertiginous perspectives.

The story is about a girl who is transformed into an old woman by a witch whose spell prevents her from even telling anyone what happened. So, she becomes the cleaning lady for a mysterious wizard who lives in a magical castle that flies from one place to another.

It turns out she is not the only one who is not what she seems. A graceful but silent scarecrow, a wheezing dog, a little boy, the wizard, and even the wicked witch will all have unexpected transformations as they try to escape from the order of the king, who wants all magicians to help him fight a war.

There are some gorgeous visuals,a lush field of flowers, a charming town, and the endlessly inventive castle, which moves along on chicken feet. But like the title character, it seems to be missing a heart. The characters are reserved and distant, and they tolerate, even seem to expect a level of disengagement from enemies, friends, and even family that is disconcerting. The voice talents include Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, and Christian Bale, but they never mesh; it’s as though each is in a different movie. It is unsettling that the objects — a flame (voice of Billy Crystal), a scarecrow, even the machines seem to have more personality than the humans. Ultimately, it is easier to appreciate the movie than to be enchanted or engaged by it.

Parents should know that this movie includes battle violence and frequent peril and tense confrontations. Characters are transformed or disguised in forms that may be troubling to some in the audience. A character smokes a cigar. There is brief non-sexual nudity (tush) and implied off-screen nudity.

Families who see this movie should talk about the advantages and disadvantates Sophie finds in being old. Why does she change her mind about the witch?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. They should read the book and some of the other stories by Diana Wynne Jones. They will also enjoy the books of Lloyd Alexander, Brian Jaques, and Tamora Pierce.

March of the Penguins

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

In the coldest place on earth, the only place where it is safe to care for newborns is 70 miles from the only place to find food. And so, the Antarctic’s hardiest and most determined inhabitants, the emperor penguins, must march, trudge, waddle, and slide on their bellies, back and forth hundreds of miles to raise the next generation so that they can march in their turn.

This extraordinary documentary brings us inside the penguin community with footage of heart-stopping beauty and a story of poignancy, inspiration, and resilience. The purity of the setting — blue shadows on white ice, literally a world away from the soot and grime of modern life — lulls us so that for a moment we forget how unforgivingly brutal it is. The elegance and tenderness of the penguins beguiles us so that for a moment we forget how brave and resolute they are.

Every year, the penguins march 70 miles over the ice to their breeding ground, a place where the ice is so thick it will not crack under their weight as they stay long enough to hatch the eggs and raise the chicks until they are able to make the trek back to the water, where they can get food.

When they arrive at the breeding ground they have what can only be described as a mixer. Like hopeful eHarmony subscribers, they circulate nervously in search of a mate. It’s a very serious choice, as penguins are monogamous during each breeding season and the decision can literally make the difference between life and death.

As explained with warmth and sympathy by Morgan Freeman in voiceover narration, the couples share parenting duties from the very beginning. When the mother has laid her egg, she carefully hands it over — no, she foots it over — to the father, who gathers it under his feathers and huddles against the freezing winds with the other daddy penguins, taking turns at the center of the group, while the mothers, reduced to half of their pre-march bodyweight, trudge back the 70 miles to get some food for the family. Then, when Mom arrives back at the breeding ground just as the chick has been born and Dad is near starvation, it is his turn to trek back to the water again.

There are hazards along the way. Predators pick off some of the penguins, but the more serious challenges come from the near-lethal living conditions. Still, the elegant creatures persevere with touching grace and even tenderness.

This is a beautiful, touching, and inspiring film.

Parents should know that while the movie is rated G it may be upsetting to younger or more sensitive viewers. Life in Antarctica is extremely harsh and many of the penguins, including the babies, do not survive.

Families who see this movie should talk about what makes the penguins persevere and how they depend on each other to survive. What about the penguins is like human behavior? What is different?

Families who enjoy this movie can learn more about the emperor penguins and Antarctica, which is larger than Australia and the sub-continent of Europe, with 98 percent ice and 2 percent barren rock. They will also enjoy National Geographic and Discovery Channel documentaries and feature films like Two Brothers and The Story of the Weeping Camel.

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