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

Christmas with the Kranks

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2004

This meretricious claptrap is exactly the kind of baloney it purports to be saving us from.

There’s a reliable genre of family holiday movie that is made up of three-fourths slapstick followed by 15 minutes of sentiment. In this case, however, the characters are so unpleasant, the jokes so un-funny, the sentiment so blatantly hypocritical that the result is as heavy and unappetizing as last year’s figgy pudding.

The Kranks always do Christmas in a big way. But with their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) departing for Peru, the prospect of a Christmas at home doesn’t seem too appealing. Luther (Tim Allen) proposes to Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) that they skip Christmas. For half of the $6100 they spent on Christmas the previous year, they can take a luxury cruise. After Nora persuades Luther that they must still make their annual $600 charitable contributions, she agrees.

At first, they feel liberated from the pressure and hassles of Christmas. But when their friends and neighbors start to put pressure on them to conform. Luther is defiant, but Nora is uncertain. The neighbors are furious.

Instead of getting ready for Christmas, Luther and Nora get ready for their cruise. Just as they are ready to leave, their daughter calls. She will be home for Christmas after all, with her new boyfriend, Enrique, and she wants everything to be just the way it always has been. And she’ll be home in just a few hours.

This means that we are subjected to excruciating set-ups about the outrage of the community when the Kranks refuse to put their enormous Frosty up on the roof (“Free Frosty! Free Frosty!” they chant), turn down the Boy Scouts who come by to sell them a tree, and ice the walk to keep away the carolers. Then there are further sit-not-coms as they go to a tanning parlor (Curtis lets it all hang out in a tiny bikini) and Luther gets Botox in his face and can’t close his mouth to chew his lunch. There are equally un-funny escapades as everyone slips on the icy walk and as everyone scrambles to get everything ready for Blair. There are useless digressions about a robber and about a mystery man who seems to know everyone. The fact that Blair has a boyfriend who is a FOREIGNER is supposed to be funny. A cop spells his name wrong. Hahahaha!

One of the Kranks’ neighbors develop a very serious health problem, a particularly manipulative and awkward plot development that is too-obviously inserted to get our sympathy and give Luther a growth experience.

But what takes this movie from the harmless trifle category into the genuinely toxic is its attempt to leverage all of its audiences’ feelings about the best of Christmas while having no sense at all of what makes those feelings matter. Nora’s only contact with her clergyman is contrived so that he sees her in her skimpy bathing suit. The film’s phony attempt to make fun of the craziness, commercialism, and conformity of the holiday season is in fact just one more example, so fundamentally fake and superficial it makes tinsel look like sterling.

Parents should know that the movie has some mild sexual references (Nora thinks Luther wants to have sex and starts taking off her sweater and gulps down some wine, saying, “But it isn’t Saturday!”). Characters drink wine and beer on social occasions and some reach for alcohol to deal with stress. There is a lot of comic violence and mayhem, with many falls, bashes on the head, and electrocutions that are intended to be funny. A character receives bad news about the recurrance of cancer, which may be disturbing to some audience members.

Families who see this movie should talk about what is important about Christmas or other holidays and which traditions have the most meaning to them. They should also talk about peer pressure and how to know when to listen to the community and when to stick with your own judgment about what is right.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy seeing The Santa Clause (also starring Allen) and Home Alone.

Paper Clips

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

This is the touching story of Whitwell, Tennessee,a small coal mining community (population 1600) outside of Chatanooga. The population is almost entirely white and entirely Christian. When the local school set out to teach children about tolerance and diversity, the teachers realized that most of the children had never seen a person from another country or faith. So the school decided to teach students about the Holocaust in Germany during World War II.

As the students tried to come to grips with the Nazi genocide, they had a hard time visualizing the magnitude of the loss of six million people. They wanted to collect six million of something to represent the people who were killed.

The students did some research and learned that the paperclip was invented in Norway and that Norwegians wore paperclips on their collars to demonstrate their sympathy for the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and other groups being persecuted by the Nazis. The students decided to collect six million paperclips and began writing letters to everyone they could think of to ask for help.

This documentary shows how the project grew from a classroom assignment to an event that transformed the entire community. At first, progress was slow. The teacher feared it would take the students ten years to collect 6 million paper clips. But two White House correspondents from Germany heard about the project and came to Whitwell to visit. They wrote about the school, and then the Washington Post wrote a story, and finally the network news reported on the remarkable events in Whitwell.

Millions of paperclips started to pour in from around the world. Some came with letters from Holocaust survivors, their families, American soldiers who helped to liberate the concentration camps, and celebrities from Tom Hanks to then-President Bill Clinton. Tiny Whitwell became a meeting place for people of hope from around the world. Everybody wanted to pitch in to help. A group of Holocaust survivors came to visit the school to tell their stories and the entire town turned out to welcome them.

But what makes this story — and this movie — work is not the big moments but the small ones. The documentarians don’t do anything fancy. They have the good sense to get out of the way and let the story be told by the people who lived it. The result can be a little sugary at times, but it is always honest and touching.

We see the students opening up and growing as human beings before our very eyes. A teacher admits that the project made him confront his own prejudices. A survivor says that what makes him cry is not his sadness in the camps but remembering the happiness he has had since. A hug, a look, a touch, the expressions on the young faces as they meet with people who survived the Nazi death camps and telling and touching.

An astonishing contribution to the project arrives from Germany — on September 9, 2001, and it will be en route when the terrorist attack occurs in New York and Washington.

This is an illuminating and moving film, not about the Holocaust so much as it is about compassion, learning, respect, and change. It should be essential viewing for middle and high school students and their families.

Parents should know that while the film is rated G because it does not have any bad words or nudity, the film is about the study of the Holocaust and the topic of genocide and discrimination is a theme of the film.

Families who see this movie should talk about what the teachers say they learned from the paperclip projects. One of the students refers to the project as a “life-changing experience.” What have been your life-changing experiences?” What can you do to help make the lessons of history more meaningful to your friends and family? How will the students continue to make the project meaningful now that the collection is complete?

Families who see this movie should look at the Whitwell middle school’s website, with more information about the paperclip project. They should also visit the United States Holocaust Museum and learn about the memorial to the Holocaust martyrs and heroes at Yad Vashem.

The Holocaust History Project is one of many worthwhile internet resources for further study, and Nizkor is an exceptionally useful site that frankly and candidly addresses issues raised by people who deny that the Holocaust took place, whether through ignorance or anti-Semitism. It is an outstanding example of how to deal with any sensitive issue that is the subject of debate, addressing all questions with consideration and dignity. There can be no better evidence of credibility and integrity than this: “Nizkor believes that truth has no need for secrecy. We present the material of the Holocaust-deniers unaltered and completely openly, with links back to their web sites so that the reader may examine exactly what they say. And if and when they have a response to our work, we will of course cross-link to it, so that the reader may examine that response.”

Hotel Rwanda

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

“How can they not intervene when they witness such atrocities?” Rwandan hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) asks an American journalist (Joaquin Phoenix). “They’ll see this footage,” he answers. “They’ll say ‘Oh my god, that’s horrible,” and go on eating their dinners.”

Rusesabagina was a manager at a luxury hotel, the man who always knew what it took to smooth things along. A bottle of scotch here, a charming compliment there — this was not just business for him. It was insurance. The political situation was about to explode. Two ethnic groups, the nomadic Tutsis (also known as Watutsis) and the agricultural Hutus had been pitted against each other by the white Belgian settlers, who literally measured skin tone and nose width to elevate the Tutsis to preferred positions. When the conflict exploded into violence in 1994, the Hutus began a full-scale slaughter of over 800,000 Tutsis and any Hutus who supported them. At one point in the movie, two characters are driving at night over what they think is a bumpy road. It turns out that they are driving over piles of bodies.

In the middle of the madness, Rusesabagina hid more than 1000 Tutsis in his hotel. Using the same skills that made him successful as a hotel manager, he cajoles, barters, and bluffs his way into keeping them safe. He keeps hoping for help from the UN or the US, but, as the journalist said, they went on eating their dinners.

Cheadle is infinitely moving as Rusesabagina and Sophie Okonedo is quietly magnificent as his wife. The sensitivity of their performances is matched by the script and direction, which make their points, both personal and political, with grace, not bitterness. Like Schindler’s List, this film takes us deeply into the horror of one of the 20th century’s greatest tragedies by allowing us to focus on the illumination cast by one small story of grace, courage, and humanity.

Parents should know that the movie includes realistic, though mostly non-graphic depiction of genocide and compellingly portrays the sense of horror and insanity. Characters drink, smoke, and use some mild language.

Families who see this movie should learn more about the slaughter in Rwanda and how the role of the UN and other nations is determined. The CIA Factbook and Rwanda Information Exchange, and PBS site about the Hutu/Tutsi conflict provide some basic facts and this site has information about the international criminal trials. What countries are behaving inhumanely now? What can we do about it? Families should talk about the way that an ordinary man became capable of extraordinary courage. How do we know what we would do? How do we make sure we do the right thing?

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate Schindler’s List and Z. They should also read this interview with the director and the real-life Paul Rusesabagina.

National Treasure

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2004

This is a big, dumb, stunts and explosions movie that doesn’t quite make it even by action movie standards because it has a big, dumb script. Two Oscar-winning actors, location filming, tricked-up quick cuts, a thundering and blaring score, enormous and elaborate sets, and big explosions to blow up the enormous and elaborate sets can’t make up for a hole-filled story-line and generic characters who spout painfully leaden attempts at banter.

Nicolas Cage is Benjamin Franklin Gates, the heir to a long line of patriots and historians who have been chasing a legendary treasure for generations. According to his grandfather, one of their ancestors was told by a signer of the Declaration of Independence that there was a secret treasure. The only clue to finding it refers to “Charlotte.” A couple of centuries later, Ben finds the Charlotte (a shipwreck), accompanied by wise-cracking sidekick Riley (Justin Bartha), and Ian Howe (Sean Bean), who financed the expedition. They find another clue that suggests the answer may be hidden on the Declaration of Independence.

It turns out that Ian wants to steal the treasure, and the only way for Ben to stop him is (this is the movie talking, not me) to steal the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives in Washington and then use lemon juice and a blow-dryer to get it to reveal the map that shows where the treasure is hidden.

Chasing after Ben and Riley are Archives’ honcho Dr. Chase (Troy’s Helen, Diane Kruger), Ian and his henchmen, and the FBI, and the treasure hunt will take them to historic sites in Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, from the highest of high-tech security to the ricketiest of ancient catacombs.

This all might have made a nice little adventure movie if it hadn’t been weighed down by its own grandiosity. It’s easier to suspend disbelief on a lower budget. But with errors of logic and science that a third-grader will laugh at, the extravagance of the movie’s effects just seems like one more distraction. When the effects seem more real than the characters, the quest, and, especially, the jokes, even an overstuffed movie like this one just feels empty.

Parents should know that this is an action film with a lot of chases and explosions and some gunplay. Characters are in frequent peril and some are taken hostage. There are brief glimpses of corpses and skeletons. A minor character is killed (off-screen). When Ben says he is in trouble, his father asks if the woman he has with him is pregnant. Characters use mild (sometimes crude) PG-style language and there is some social drinking at a party. There is a lot of reckless and irresponsible behavior, even within the traditions of this genre.

Families who see this film should talk about their own family legends and heirlooms. They might also want to talk about some of the decisions made by the characters, especially the one made by Benjamin Gates at the end. What would you ask for in those circumstances?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy a nice little caper film called Who’s Minding the Mint that has an oddball gang breaking into the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. They will also enjoy the Indiana Jones films and Stargate. Every family should visit the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence (which is very well guarded). This website will show you what is really on the back of the Declaration and let you “sign” it yourself. Families might also want to learn about the real-life Masons — not nearly as mysterious as the movie version but an organization with a long and distinguished record of community service.

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