Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Fading Gigolo
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

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

 

Ride Along
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language,
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Life as a House

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2001

When a movie is called “Life as a House” you enter on full metaphor alert. When it turns out to be about an estranged father and son who pull down an old shack and construct a dream house overlooking the ocean and it turns out to be a transforming experience for everyone who happens by while it is in progress plus including a tragic death that is still another transforming experience for everyone, you have every right to expect a generic made-for-TV-movie uplifting weepie. But this movie gives us something more, thanks to a script by Mark Andrus (of “As Good as it Gets”) and a first rate cast.

Kevin Kline plays George, an unhappy man who creates meticulously crafted models in an architectural firm. His skills are no longer valuable in an era of computerized design, his ex-wife does not like him, his teenage son hates everyone, including himself, and his house is literally falling down around him. When George is fired, he decides to tear down his house, which was built by his father, and build a new one with his son, Sam (Hayden Christiansen). At first, Sam is hostile and uncooperative. Then he is hostile and a little bit cooperative. Then he, like George, learns the power of tearing down painful parts of their history and starting over again to build something new.

George’s ex-wife Robin (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her children become intrigued with the project. And the pretty teenager next door becomes intrigued with Sam. Soon, everybody is pitching in except for the angry neighbor who vows to stop them.

There is a lot wrong with this movie. The plot is creaky and manipulative. The female characters are all fantasy figures. Some of the plot lines never get resolved — they just stop (or, in one case, just fall off the roof). The solution to the problem with the neighbor is unintentionally unnerving. But there is a lot that is right with the movie, too, including subtle, magnetic performances and moments of real power and feeling. If the movie is not as dazzling as the finished house, at least it is not as decrepit as the shack.

Parents should know that this movie has drug use, very strong language, sexual situations and references, including teen prostitution, nudity, masturbation involving attempted suffocation, and adult-teen sexual encounters. Teenagers take very foolish risks with little consequence beyond their own misery. There is a very sad death.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was so hard for Sam to feel good about about himself, and why the things he tried to make himself feel better did not work. What did he mean when he said that it felt better to feel things? Why was physical touch so important to many of the characters? Families will also want to talk about the behavior of Colleen and Alyssa and their decisions about their sexual relationships.

Take a good look at Hayden Christiansen, who plays Sam. The next time you see him will probably be as the young Anakin Skywalker (and future Darth Vadar) in the next episode of “Star Wars.” Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Shoot the Moon, about a disintegrating marriage, with brilliant performances by Diane Keaton and Albert Finney.

Legally Blonde

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for language and sexual references
Movie Release Date:2001

It’s been too long since the last courtroom comedy. This one might not reach the heights of the sublime “My Cousin Vinny`” but it comes pretty close.

Reese Witherspoon plays Elle Woods, an adorable Southern California sorority girl who is about to graduate with a major in fashion marketing. Her life seems as pink and perfect as her nails. Her biggest challenge is what to wear for what she thinks will be a marriage proposal from her beau, Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis). But he has another idea. He has decided to break up with her before he leaves for Harvard Law School, because she is not smart enough to be of help to him in his political career. If he wants to be a Senator by age 30, he needs a wife who will look right in a campaign brochure. He tells her, “I need a Jackie, not a Marilyn.”

She decides that the only way to get him back is to join him at Harvard. So, she studies hard, aces the LSATs, and, with the help of a videotaped application essay, showing her explaining her qualifications as she soaks in a Jacuzzi, she is admitted.

Her new classmates are skeptical (one calls out, “Look! Malibu Barbie lives!”). They can’t see beyond her feather-topped pens and pink, scented resume. Worst of all, Warner is engaged to a girl who looks like an ad for “Town and Country” (the upper crust magazine, not the awful movie). They won’t let her study with them and they play a cruel joke on her. But Elle surprises them all — and even herself — by becoming a first class law student and a first class lawyer while staying true to herself. She ends up defending a murder suspect with whom she has a special rapport and conducting a cross-examination that would impress Perry Mason.

Reese Witherspoon is a treasure. She makes Elle completely believable as a delectable California girl with spirit and brains even she did not realize. Witherspoon and the art direction (even the credits have i’s dotted with hearts) keep things bubbly even when the script falters into predictability or vulgarity. Luke Wilson as a young lawyer and Holland Taylor as an acerbic professor add some nice moments. And it is fun to see Raquel Welch in a cameo as a wealthy divorcée.

Parents should know that the movie is rated PG-13 for about five to ten minutes of crude humor, including jokes about stereotypes of gays. There is brief bad language. Elle may be blonde and bubbly, but she is far from ditsy. She works hard, uses her very fine brain, and conducts herself with integrity and dignity. Elle gives another woman advice about how to show off her body favorably to get a man’s attention, but when her boss makes a pass at her, she makes it very clear that his behavior is unacceptable.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Elle did not have higher aspirations for herself, and the role her parents played in shaping the way she thought about her future. They might also want to talk about Elle’s choice to keep her client’s secret, even when it put her defense at risk, and about the mistakes people make when they judge other people based on appearances. What made Elle succeed when more experienced lawyers did not? What did the way Elle responded to the practical joke show us about her?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “My Cousin Vinny” (rated R for language).

Left Behind: The Movie

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2001

Left Behind” tries hard to succeed as parable and as thriller. It is based not just on the first in a series of best-selling books, but also on the Biblical Book of Revelations, and is is made by people who care as much about teaching their views of the Word of God as they do about making an exciting movie. They do an impressive job.

Kirk Cameron (of television’s “Growing Pains”) plays Buck Williams, a television news correspondent with a big story. An Israeli scientist has discovered a way to feed the world with a special grain that is plentiful, hardy, and inexpensive. He wants to make it available to everyone. But there are powerful and wealthy people who do not want that to happen.

Williams takes an airplane flight piloted by Rayford Steele (Bradford Johnson). Flight attendant Hattie Durham (Chelsea Noble), a friend of Buck’s and Rayford’s mistress, is also on board.

All of a sudden, up in the sky, dozens of passengers simply disappear, leaving their clothes behind. It is even more terrifying down below. Millions of people, as many as a third of all the people on earth, have vanished. Everything is in chaos. No one seems to know what is going on.

Rayford rushes home and finds that the only one left is his daughter, Chloe (Janaya Stephens). His wife and son are gone, leaving only their clothes behind.

Buck and Rayford try to find out what has happened. They get some answers from a minister, who tells them that the people who are gone are the true believers. They are with God, and the rest are left behind.

A minister named Nicolae Carpathia (Gordon Currie) appears to be the pawn of powerful industrialists who want to take advantage of the hysteria to control the food supply. But Nicolae has other plans.

The movie’s script, acting, and production values are not up to the standards of mainstream Hollywood theatrical productions, but it is filmed with a lot of sincerity. Many families, especially those who have a hard time finding movies they are comfortable sharing with their children, will find this to be a worthwhile thriller for older children and a starting point for some important conversations.

Parents should know that the movie has a great deal of violence, including a murder that may be shocking to some people. The disappearance of millions of people and apocalyptic theme is genuinely disturbing, and may be very upsetting to some audiences. There is no bad language, but there are mild references to an extramarital affair.

Families who see this movie should be prepared to talk about its roots in traditional Christian doctrine, and to talk about their own views of faith, God, and heaven. They should also talk about those characters who are deceived by others, and what makes that possible. Why do Buck and Hattie see Nicolae so differently?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Prince of Egupt.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2001

Something more than a video game but something less than a movie, “Tomb Raider” has some great action sequences and the ever-watchable Angelina Jolie. What it does not have is much of a plot, interesting characters, or a reason to care about the outcome. A clumsy salute to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is just a reminder of how much better that movie is. At least when you are playing the game you have points to keep you going. Here, all you have is a dreary old “cryptic letter from long-dead father” and “mean lawyer from some mysterious coven wants to take over the world by controlling time” story, and the movie sags whenever the action stops.

Lady Lara Croft (Jolie) is something of a cross between Indiana Jones, Batman, and Barbie. She lives in a huge old mansion with an Alfred-style butler and a computer geek (Noah Taylor) who helps her with technology, except when she doesn’t let him – as he meticulously documents each screw he removes from an antique clock she interrupts by smashing it apart. The planets are about to align for the first time in 5000 years, which means that she has just days to collect the two pieces of a triangle that controls time from ruins on opposite sides of the globe. Meanwhile, the bad guys want it, too, and will do anything to try and stop her.

The action sequences are fine, especially one that shifts from Lara’s lyrical, acrobatic session on a bungee cord in her cavernous living room to a full-scale, window-smashing invasion by a small army of masked intruders. I also liked the icy ruins in Siberia. Jolie has the kickboxing skills and the acting chops to deliver what people who go to this movie want to see (she even walks in character, moving like a great panther), but the screenwriter and director let her down when it comes to the boringly generic bad guys and the missing-father motivation. I guess it is too much to expect the people behind this kind of movie to attempt to create a real character or know very much about women, but even by those standards, this movie gets it so wrong that it interferes with our connection to Lara. She is so tough that she shrugs off the near destruction of her home, but she is willing to risk her live to save a man who has done nothing but betray her. She responds to her butler’s “A lady should be modest” by dropping her towel, but her appearance in a dress and hat is considered to be some kind of progress. Lara always looks a little relieved when she gets a chance to fight, and we agree with her.

Parents should know that in addition to the extensive action sequences with characters in peril and many deaths (mostly anonymous minions), there are a couple of bad words and some implied nudity.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Lara is such a loner, and whether she has any interest in the history or art of the treasures she raids from tombs. They may want to discuss some of the conflicts between people who see antiquities as art for universities and museums and those who consider them sacred items that should never be moved. If you had the chance to stop time and see one person who has died, who would it be?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the Indiana Jones trilogy and the director’s previous “Con Air.”

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