Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 2014

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Sabotage
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

The Secret Garden

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1994

Plot: Mary Lennox is a sour and selfish girl, spoiled by an Indian nanny and neglected by her parents. When they are killed, she is sent back to England to live with her uncle Archibald Craven, a mysterious and lonely man. He rarely returns to his home in Yorkshire, and leaves Mary to the care of Mrs. Medlock, the housekeeper, and Martha, the maid. Both are busy, and Mary has nothing to do but wander around the moors.

One day, Mary finds the key to a secret garden, once the favorite place for her uncle and his wife, whom he adored. After she died, he locked it up and swore no one would go in there again. Mary is determined to find it.

Following the sound of crying she often hears in the night, she finds that there is another child living in the house. It is her uncle’s son, Colin. He has been confined to bed all his life and is spoiled and demanding to the point of hysteria. Mary soothes him by telling him about the garden. Later, when he has a tantrum, she is the first person ever to impose limits on his behavior. He tells her that he is afraid he will have a hunched back like his father, and she tells him his back is fine.

Mary finds the garden, and she and Colin and Martha’s brother Dickon work to bring it back to life. As they do, Mary and Colin get stronger in body and in spirit. When Archibald returns, he meets them in the garden. They run to him, and it is clear that the garden will heal him, too.

Discussion: Every child should read this book and see at least one of the filmed versions. Children respond to Mary Lennox because (at least in the beginning) she is so unlikable, a relief from all the Pollyannas and Cinderellas who are rewarded for their relentlessly sunny characters and good deeds. And then there is the pleasure of meeting Colin, who is even worse, a “young rajah” who has had his every wish granted instantly and is surrounded only by those who live in terror of his hysteria. Mary and Colin are a perfect match for each other, and the scene in which she responds to his tantrum with fury is one of the most satisfying in any children’s book — indeed, in any book, as is the scene in which they enter the garden together, a wonderful metaphor for all that is going on inside their spirits.

T

The Santa Clause 2

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2002

Even though I am a well-known softie when it comes to Christmas movies, “The Santa Clause 2″ gets a “bah humbug” from me.

Indeed, if the Ghost of Christmas Present had shown Ebenezer Scrooge “The Santa Clause 2,” they both might have just given up on the whole thing. This overstuffed turkey of a movie wraps itself in holly and hot cocoa only to come to the conclusion that the magic of Christmas is…getting presents. When it comes to the true Christmas spirit, this movie makes “Home Alone” look like “The Gift of the Magi.”

In part one, modern day Scrooge and bitter divorced dad Tim Allen finds that Santa has fallen off his roof and died. He puts on Santa’s red coat and finds that he is now the new Santa, complete with North Pole workshop and eight tiny reindeer. Allen saves Christmas and saves himself by getting in touch with his inner Santa, generous and unabashedly mushy.

This time, Allen fnds out that there is one more “Santa Clause” in his obligation to take over. He has to marry a Mrs. Clause before Christmas, only 28 days away. He goes back home to visit his son Charlie (Eric Lloyd), so that he can find out how Charlie got on the “naughty” list and find a Mrs. Claus to bring back to the North Pole.

Charlie is in trouble for vandalizing the school with graffiti protesting the principal’s refusal to celebrate Christmas. The principal is very stern and, well, Scrooge-ish, but you can tell that if she would just take off those glasses and let down her hair, she would be very warm and pretty. I think you get where this is going.

Meanwhile, back at the North Pole, Santa has left a mechanical substitute (also played by Allen), who gets wired on a couple of gallons of hot cocoa and decides that all the children have been naughty and will get lumps of coal in their stockings this year.

Yes, it has Disney’s meticulously imagnative art direction, and that workshop on the North Pole has some charm. Allen’s comic timing is always a pleasure and co-star Elizabeth Mitchell has a lovely laugh. But the overall theme that Christmas is about getting the perfect gift, even if you haven’t been entirely good, compounded by intrusive product placements for McDonald’s and Nestle, will leave the audience feeling like it has just eaten an entire plum pudding.

As with the first film, parents should use caution in bringing children who may be grappling with the issue of Santa’s existence to see this, and should be prepared to discuss their own traditions and beliefts.

Parents should know that the movie has some bathroom humor. A character tries to yank out his tooth to get the tooth fairy to come (and apparently succeeds, off camera). Parents should talk to younger kids to make sure they do not imitate this behavior. While the movie has strong, intelligent female characters, the elves (played by children) conform to 1950′s-era stereotypes, with the boys creating toys and playing football while the girls deliver the cookies and cocoa. There are very few minority characters and the movie does not acknowledge any other religious or cultural holiday traditions.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Charlie feels about keeping the secret of his father’s life as Santa. And they should talk about how a big disappointment can make someone afraid to try to be happy. Talk about the scene in which adults play with their favorite childhood toys. Which would you like to have again?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the original and Christmas classics like “A Muppet Christmas Carol” and “White Christmas.”

The Rules of Attraction

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

In 1985, Brett Easton Ellis’ first book “Less than Zero”, introduced a new voice to the “party at the end of civilization” genre – those texts dealing with a corrupted society’s last orgy before collapse (for example, works from 1930’s Berlin and the Fall of Rome). The book, heavily influenced by Joan Didion, was a cocaine powered paean to ‘80‘s excess, materialism and greed. The characters were rich and bored, drowning in the very vices they used to escape the everyday.

His second book, “Rules of Attraction” (1988), picks up the party at fictional Camden College (rumored to be based on Ellis’ alma mater, Bennington College) where the young, wealthy and white escape reality – or not—on a lifeboat of sex, alcohol and drugs. The story, adapted to the screen by director Roger Avary, who co-wrote Pulp Fiction, alternates perspectives and time lines while focusing on several, colorfully named parties (e.g. “End of the World Party”) on Camden’s campus.

The “attraction” of the title is a bit of a misnomer. If love has many forms, one of which does not require any great knowledge of a person, something beyond attraction and more like obsession, then this movie is about love. Instead of a love triangle, Rules of Attraction jumps perspectives on a love line: bi and beautiful Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder) loves self-described “emotional vampire” and part-time drug dealer Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek), who in turn loves the doe-eyed and virginal Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossamon) who loves self-absorbed Victor (Kip Pardue). To stir up the party, it is Lara (Jessica Biel), Lauren’s roommate, who Sean sleeps with as a proxy, while Paul has a nostalgic fling with long-time friend Richard “Dick” Jared (a scene- stealing, Russell Sams). Notable cameos include Eric Stoltz (as student seducer, Professor Lance Lawson); Faye Dunaway as Paul’s tipsy mother; and a cocaine-dusted Clifton Collins, Jr. as unpredictable drug dealer Rupert.

If this strange face of love can be compared to the vast quantities of narcotics casually consumed by the students, then it is the strongest drug of all. While the students can shrug off the effects of getting beaten with a baseball bat, casual sex with a sports team, cocaine/heroin and whiskey drunk as if it really was the water of life, they cannot escape the heartache when each of their budding hopes of love are crushed. Most poignant is the author of Sean’s anonymous love letters who takes her own life when she sees his indiscriminate philandering.

Ellis’ books have all dealt with similar 1980’s themes from different perspectives and have woven in references to characters from his other works. For example, “Rules of Attraction” protagonist, Sean Bateman, is younger brother to “American Psycho”, Patrick Bateman. Roger Avary has done a good job at adapting this multi-perspective narrative into a slick, visually dynamic movie. His backward-forward filming and present- past-present timing gradually reveal the story but he cannot put content into what is, in the end, an empty tale.

Although the movie is set in the present day, the strong influence of the book and Avary’s decision to weave in references to Ellis’ other books keeps a ‘80’s zeitgeist. The book “Rules of Attraction” already felt dated upon its release and the movie feels all the more so – the times having changed so dramatically over the years: the end of the Cold War; the flannel-clad nihilism descending from the Seattle scene; the disappearance of the rich, white boy as the movie bad guy; the return of heroin. But perhaps, most importantly, the world did not end.

Parents should know that this movie contains many elements that they would not want their children to see. The first scene alone of a horribly demeaning date-rape is followed by a non-stop montage designed to shock the most jaded of college party kids, let alone their parents. Sex is pervasive, casual and often described in excruciating detail. Drugs are ubiquitous and feature no downsides beyond the occasional bloody nose or fight with a dealer. Alcohol is more prevalent than soda. The bathtub suicide of one of the minor characters is so devoid of emotion that the laying out of the razor blade is as casual as removing one’s rings.

Families who see this movie should talk about why some people rely upon drugs as a crutch and be sure to discuss the film’s bleak portrayal of adult drug use as well as that of the college kids. Other issues to be discussed include the connection or lack of connection between the characters and the consequences of the choices we make.

Other films about end of the world parties include “Blue Angel” (Marlene Dietrich’s 1930’s breakthrough film) and “Cabaret” (the 1972 musical starring Liza Minelli). Those who are interested in movies playing with time and perspective shifts should rent “Go” (1999), a younger, softer styled “Pulp Fiction” (1994).

The Ring

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

A true connoisseur of the scary movie (note, not slasher flicks but psychological thrillers) will recognize certain spooky elements in many of the “classics” of the genre: the cruel parent (or stepparent); the otherworldly child, a medium for the spirit world; and, the violent reaction of animals, children and the insane to the presence of evil. Certain images are also commonly found in these movies and are preternaturally disturbing: wells, bleak cliffs, lighthouses, remote cabins in the woods, lone autumnal trees on hillsides, rainy nights, and other symbols of isolation.

Renowned mythologist, Joseph Campbell, argued that certain tales and images are part of our universal consciousness and, therefore, part of collective human storytelling. Heavily influenced by Carl Jung, Campbell described how these themes reoccur throughout the tapestry of stories told by groups divided by time and geography. Perhaps then there should be no surprise that certain images reappear with such alarming effectiveness in scary movies whether the source is Hollywood, or in this case, Japan.

Based on “Ringu”, a series of books by Kôji Suzuki (the “Stephen King of Japan”), Hideo Nakata directed the original, record-breaking box office smash for Asian audiences (1998), which DreamWorks decided would translate well for American audiences. Gore Verbinski was chosen to direct even though he is best known for more light-hearted fare such as “Mouse Hunt” and “The Mexican.”

The premise is fairly simple. Urban legend meets scary movie reality when four teens die, as predicted, exactly seven days to the minute from when they watched an unmarked video in a remote mountain cabin. The aunt of one of the teenagers is a savvy and skeptical journalist whose curiosity is sparked by tales of the tape. After finding and watching the source of the mystery, she receives a phone call announcing that she has seven days. From there, it is a race to solve the clues and answer the riddle of the video, with the stakes greatly raised when two of the people closest to her, including her young son, watch the deadly tape.

The video itself is a mosaic of images both familiar and disturbing. With its mirrors, wriggly things, ladders, and -–of course—- rings, you might think you were watching “Un Chien Andalou” (Luis Buñel and Salvador Dali’s 1929 surrealist classic) as directed by David Lynch after he had been reading Jung and not getting enough fresh air.

As one born to the genre, Director Verbinski does an excellent job of letting our imaginations find portent and peril in the most mundane of actions, such as picking up groceries at the local corner store. Naomi Watts, a relatively unknown actress for those who missed her in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” (2001), plays Rachel, the journalist whose desire to find the cause of her niece’s death becomes a life or death quest for answers. For all of us who have rolled our eyes at the screaming teen, walking backward alone through the dark house, Watts will be a relief as she plays through the gamut of Rachel’s emotions with truly credible, but not overwrought, gusto. While the adults are busy solving the riddle of the tape, the heart-stopping dyad of the Ring’s children usher in the deeper dimension of fear. Rachel’s son, Aiden (a stony-eyed David Dorfman) is the medium and interpreter for the terrifying Samara (Daveigh Chase), who lays at the heart of the mystery.

“The Ring” dips deep in the well of those aforementioned familiar scary images, which paradoxically results in a movie that is both architecturally firm but –with little new to add—empty of true revelation. Joseph Campbell could have used this movie as a reference book for universally terrifying images, but perhaps the tale itself was more effectively told in Japanese.

Parents should know that this movie is very, very scary. Four people and a horse die on-screen, with the potential for many more untimely demises throughout and -–don’t read on if you enjoy surprises-—beyond the end of the movie. The overall tone is creepy and would leave many of the staunchest of movie-goers in dire need of brightly lit rooms and laughter.

Families who see this movie should talk about the decision that Rachel makes at the end of the movie and the ramifications of her actions. They might also wish to discuss the way that different characters deal with the untimely death of a loved one.

Families who enjoy this movie might wish to shiver together over “The Shining”, “The Omen”, “The Exorcist”, “Poltergeist” or “The Sixth Sense”. Alternately, they might wish to never watch a video again (especially an unmarked one) and opt to have a Scrabble night instead, preferably after turning on all the lights in the house.

Previous Posts

Lucy
I always enjoy Luc Besson's stylish car chases and shootouts. I like his use of locations, his strong female characters, and unexpected flashes of sentiment in the midst of mayhem.  While

posted 6:00:51pm Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

And So It Goes
A second marriage is, as Samuel Johnson famously said, "The triumph of hope over experience." And as lyricist Sammy Cahn wrote in the song Bing Crosby sang in "H

posted 6:00:13pm Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

The Memory Book -- This Saturday on the Hallmark Channel
A budding, young photographer stumbles upon an old photo album chronicling the ideal romance of a happy couple. Intrigued by their love and unable to find her own “true love,” she sets out to find the couple and figure out if true love really exists.  The film stars Meghan Ory (“Once Upon a T

posted 8:00:57am Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Michael Rossato-Bennett of "Alive Inside"
Michael Rossato-Bennett agreed to spend one day filming Dan Cohen's remarkable music therapy work with people struggling with dementia. He ended up spending three years there and the result is "Alive Inside," an extraordinary documentary about the power of music to reach the human spirit, even when

posted 3:58:01pm Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Movies' Greatest Mirror Scenes
Anne Billson has a great piece in The Telegraph on mirror scenes in movies, from the Marx brothers clowning in "Duck Soup" and the shootout in "The Lady from Shanghai" to Elizabeth Taylor scrawling on the mirror with lipstick in "Butterfield 8." [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKTT-sy0aLg

posted 8:00:51am Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »


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