Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Love is Strange
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language
Release Date:
08/22/2014

 

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

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

 

Blended
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language.
Release Date:
May 23, 2014

If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some scary images and mild peril
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

May

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

Already this film is being compared to Brian De Palma’s Carrie, which shares a strange, female, misfit protagonist’s decent into madness, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. However, May is more original than the description makes it sound, as well as being possibly the scariest movie of the year.

Angela Bettis plays the title character, an awkward, shy girl whose obstructive mother makes her wear an eye patch to cover up her eye disorder. Friendless, May receives from her mother a doll that she made when she was younger, not to play with but to admire through a glass case. “If you can’t find a friend, make one,” says her mother. Needless to say, May grows up a discomfited, socially incompetent recluse who works with a veterinarian, and we see her mess up a relationship with a handsome man (Jeremy Sisto) whose quirks she takes the wrong way and get her heart broken by a sexy coworker (Anna Faris) who’d rather sleep with several partners than have a meaningful relationship. The last straw comes at an excruciatingly awful incident after she volunteers to work at a school for blind children. May has already been making her own clothes by sewing patches together, works with stitching and amputation with the vet, and we see her cracking with frustration as she cuts up some of her dolls and taking her fury out on her unresponsive cat, which she instinctively kills and saves in her freezer. If you can’t find a friend…you know where this is headed.

What’s remarkable about this movie is how scary it is even though the viewer knows what’s going to happen. I winced every time May told someone how much she admired a certain physical feature, as I knew exactly what was going to happen to each and every one of them. May pulls no punches, and all your worst fears will come true. On that note, this isn’t like Carrie where the viewer relates to the protagonist and is glad to see her tormentors go. Here May is genuinely creepy and you fear for the safety of those around her, who aren’t typically stupid horror movie victims but people who enjoy May’s strangeness and don’t understand just how mentally ill she is. May is less like Dr. Frankenstein, whose curiosity compels him to try to play God, than Ed Gein, the real-life hopeless outcast whose infamous desires to “make his own friends” inspired Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs, among others.

As hard as it is to pity May, it makes for an incredibly scary movie. The opening shot before a flashback is so horrific that it’s agonizing to wait for the story behind it, and the story, emotional intensity, and even some very black humor are perfectly executed, as are the terrifying shots of everything from someone getting stabbed with scissors to May’s motionless doll, which makes some of the Puppet Master toys look like Toy Story. The all-newcomer cast couldn’t be better, and I’ll be very interested to see what Bettis and first-time director/screenwriter Lucky McKee do next. Not to say that May is perfect, as a closer look reveals that it raises a few questions it doesn’t answer, and it does get a little gratuitous. Still, you won’t be thinking about that when you’re getting the hell scared out of you.

This film is rated R for some graphic violence, as well as some foul language and some sexless innuendo.

People who like this movie should try the aforementioned Carrie, and Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, and Frankenstein. Todd Solondz’s more recent Welcome to the Dollhouse is a similarly dark and deeply upsetting — albeit nonviolent — look at a young, female misfit. Movie buffs may want to revisit probably the most famous (as well as one of the best) films about a lonely misfit taking vengeance on the surrounding world, Taxi Driver.

Buffalo Soldiers

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

A lot of people are going to have problems with Buffalo Soldiers because of the timing. It was written and filmed before we went to war. Now, when it is so important to support American troops and when we all want badly to believe in the integrity and ability of our troops, it is unsettling to see a darkly satiric film about the armed services. Removed from the current context, Buffalo Soldiers could be better appreciated as a sharp and clever movie.

Buffalo Soldiers stars Joaquin Phoenix, who stole scenes from lead actors in big films like Gladiator and Signs, has finally gotten a lead role, and one that is worthy of his talents. He plays Ray Elwood, an amoral but surprisingly likeable conscript in the US Military in West Germany right before the fall of the Berlin wall. He holds a position as a battalion secretary to Commander Wallace Berman, (Ed Harris) a kind, insecure, inept, and endlessly pitiable man who is taken advantage of by everyone from Elwood to his wife, (Elizabeth McGovern) who ignores her husband and doesn’t try to hide the fact she’s sleeping with Elwood.

More out of boredom than anything else, Elwood uses his powers to run black market deals, from selling army supplies to the locals to cooking heroin for the men on the base. Top sergeant Robert Lee (Scott Glenn, as perfect as a crisply ironed dress shirt) comes into the picture wanting to clean things up. Soon matters escalate between the two; Lee destroys Elwood’s room and sets him up with a geeky roommate (Gabriel Mann), Elwood starts dating (and soon falls for) Lee’s rebellious daughter Robyn (Anna Paquin), Lee orders the men to take target practice on Elwood’s new car, and it only gets worse.

Recent war movies have centered on combat, like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. This focuses on small intersecting stories (Stoned soldiers raiding a small town in a tank and leaving two trucks of arms in Elwood’s hands, Commander Berman discovering he’s related to a Civil War general, recurring themes of falling and fire, and much, much more). Considering all the sequels and remakes that are slated for summer release, Buffalo Soldiers is a great breath of fresh air. Note that it is definitely not for all tastes; some viewers will be offended by it and others will debate over whether it is a comedy or a tragedy. It’s not surprising that this film has been fighting to get a theater release, but it is a provocative and original film that will entertain, offend, and challenge audiences, and be debated for years.

Something interesting to think about is why we as an audience like Elwood. He lies, he betrays (although he explains why) he steals, and he does it all just because he can. Perhaps he is just the most likeable character in a movie filled with unpleasant people, or maybe it’s just that he’s the only one with feelings that we can relate to, as he loves, fears, mourns, and learns to take even bigger risks, while someone like Sergeant Lee feels none of this, and Commander Berman lets people walk all over him. Maybe it’s just that Phoenix can get away with so much as he charms his way through the part, though he’s pushed hard to rise to the occasion in a flawless supporting cast that includes Paquin, Glenn, Harris, McGovern, Mann, Dean Stockwell, and Leon, who needs more good roles.

Parents should know that this film has been rated R for strong graphic violence, strong language, and drug use.

People who enjoy this film should try M*A*S*H*, Catch-22, and the more recent Three Kings. They might also like some earlier movies about soldiers who work (and work around) the system like Captain Newman, M.D..

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

The silly summer explosions and kick-boxing movie of 2003 has arrived.

It’s pretty much the same movie as the first one, except more of everything, and this movie has a lot of everything to have more of. More lovely heads shaking lovely hair in slow-mo as the Angels run away from more explosions. More lovely legs kicking more bad guys. More cheesy 70′s pop songs and more references to other movies to show that they may not be smart or classy, but they’re self-aware and don’t take themselves seriously. More middle-school-style naughty jokes (the name Helen Zass sets off a series of tushie humor). More crazy get-ups (I know! Let’s make them dress up like nuns! And strippers!). More surprise guest stars — including one of the original Angels. More dancing. More modes of transportation, including a heliocopter, motorcross bikes, a thing that looks like a luge on wheels, and a very big truck. More booty shaking. More booty kicking. More booty. And more more Moore — Demi Moore strutting around in a bikini as an Angel gone bad.

The only thing there’s less of is plot, and does anyone who goes to this movie really care about that? Certainly no one who made the movie did.

The three Angels are all back: Dylan (producer Drew Barrymore), Alex (Lucy Liu), and Natalie (Cameron Diaz), and they are still happily taking orders from Charlie via speakerphone. There’s a new Bosley, though — Bernie Mac, a most welcome replacement for Bill Murray.

We begin in a Mongolian bar with a fast tribute to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (and “Urban Cowboy” and “Risky Business”) as our heroines rescue a federal marshal (“Terminator 2′s” Robert Patrick). They are then sent in to retrieve two rings containing the names of people in the witness protection program, taking time out to move Natalie in with her boyfriend (Luke Wilson), and taking time out from that to dance to Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”

Dylan, Alex, and Natalie behave as though they’re at a slumber party where the girls blow stuff up and perform on-the-spot forensic analyses without any equipment in between setting each other’s hair and short-sheeting each other’s beds. This gives a bouncy, buoyant, bubbly feel to the story that keeps the energy level high enough to sail through the silly dialogue and story. Moore is described as both having won the Nobel Prize for her scientific endeavors and mastering the Cosmopolitan Magazine bedside astrologer, and it is clear that this is the dream Angel, a sort of Marie Curie crossed with Barbie.

Parents are often distressed to observe their young daughters dressing their Barbies up like hookers and announcing that they are going to the office. After careful efforts to tell girls that they can be astronauts, doctors, chief executives, or even the President, it is disconcerting to see that, while the girls might want to have their dolls pursue these highly prestigious and worthwhile careers, they still want their dolls to wear glittery miniskirts while doing so. Movies like the “Charlie’s Angels” series recognize and tap into this dual fantasy.

Some families reject movies like these as sexist, but I believe a more thoughtful reaction appreciates that, while the main characters wear skimpy costumes, the women in those costumes are extraordinarily independent, capable, loyal, strong, honest, and highly educated.

The Angels are willing to take on any enemy of freedom or fairness without guns. Charlie is less their boss than their dispatcher, providing resources and opportunities for them. “Charlie’s Angels” is pop mind candy, and no one could call it a feminist ideal. But it is a mistake to dismiss its appeal as a portrayal of powerful women who are comfortable with themselves and love each other and who enjoy using all of their abilities as a force for good. If my middle-school or high-school-age daughter wanted to see it, rather than forbid it, I would use it to initiate a conversation about possible mixed messages our society sends young women and about the enduring attraction of those messages as well.

Problems include uninteresting villains and a dopey sidetrack as Alex’s boyfriend (Matt LeBlanc) and father (John Cleese) have a pointless misunderstanding about what Alex really does on the job. Yes, Demi Moore looks sensational as an Angel turned bad, but her performance is weak. Justin Theroux is also wasted as Dylan’s former boyfriend. Shia LeBeouf (“Holes”) is in the movie for no particular reason. But Crispin Glover returns for a few nicely creepy moments as the mute Thin Man who has a thing about hair.

Parents should know that the movie has non-stop “action violence,” meaning that it is not very graphic. A character is impaled and several characters are killed. There is a brief graphic scene of a calf birth. As in the first movie, the Angels do not use guns. Characters use some strong language and make some naughty double-entendres. Alex’s father believes she is a prostitute. Female and minority characters are brave, smart, loyal, and capable.

Families who see this movie should talk about how (and why) people create their own families.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original and the James Bond movies.

28 Days Later

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

Activists release animals from a lab, ignoring warnings that they are infected with a highly contagious “rage” virus. 28 days later, almost everyone is gone. Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital bed and wanders out into the deserted London streets.

This is a movie about a viral apocalypse. It has very scary zombies and jump-out-at-you attacks, but that is not what is most unsettling. Like the small group of survivors, we are cut off from any information and don’t know whether it is London, the UK, or the whole world that has been almost entirely wiped out. There is no way to know who or what to trust, no basis on which to evaluate alternative courses of action. When anyone becomes infected with the virus, there are only 10-20 seconds to kill him before he becomes a crazed, lethally infectious zombie. There is no time to plan to rebuild civilization. Survival is the only imperative.

And then, just as we begin to process — if not accept — all of that, the movie shifts into a whole other level of scariness. The zombies are terrifying, but they are not as bad as the “human” survivors, those people capable of higher reasoning and moral principles, and therefore of the most profound and disturbing betrayal.

Director Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting”) keeps the audience off-balance. Nightmarish quick cuts and digital video give the look of the movie a gritty, hallucinatory immediacy. Boyle also makes brilliant use of the empty artifacts, from the deserted London streets to a once-magnificent Gosford Park-style country house, now occupied by military, who eat rotting food around the table once used for glittering parties.

Each character gets just one defining quality (idealistic Jim, tough Selena, stout-hearted Frank, ingenue Hannah), but that just adds to the sense of urgency — we don’t have time to get to know them, just as they don’t have time to get to know each other.

Parents should know that this movie is very scary and deeply disturbing. It has has extreme and graphic peril and violence. Many characters are killed. Characters use very strong language. There is frontal male nudity. Characters drink and take drugs. There are sexual references, including rape.

Families who see this movie should talk about the different characters’ responses to ultimate questions about the meaning of life. Who is responsible for what happened? What will the world be like 10 years later? They should also talk about the enduring appeal of apocalyptic stories and the way they present moral choices in sharp relief.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other zombie-fests like the classic “Night of the Living Dead” and “Evil Dead,” and some of the other end-of-the-world movies like “On the Beach,” “The Road Warrior” trilogy, and the brilliant “12 Monkeys.”

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