Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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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

 

Philomena
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
Release Date:
November 22, 2013

Under the Skin
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language
Release Date:
April 11, 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

Rio 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

 

Grudge Match
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

Hercules

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:G
Movie Release Date:June 14, 1997

According to Disney, Hercules was the adored son of gods Zeus and Hera, stolen by Hades, ruler of the underworld, and made mortal. He must become a true hero to become a god again, so he can live with his parents on Mount Olympus. To do this, he seeks out a grouchy satyr (voice of Danny DeVito), who trains him in fighting techniques and strategy. When he saves some children (so he thinks) and defeats the hydra (its many heads masterfully provided by computer animation), he becomes an instant celebrity, with action figures and “Air Hercules” sandals. He goes on to his other labors, but finds that is not enough to be a real hero — that comes from the heart, not the muscles.

Kids will need some preparation for this movie. What little exposition there is is provided by Spice Girl-style “muses” as a sort of gospel Greek chorus, fun to watch, but hard to follow. The role of the three fates, who share one eye between them and cut a thread when a human’s life is ended, is particularly confusing.

The love interest in this movie is Meg, who sold her soul to Hades to save the life of her boyfriend, and must now try to find Hercules’ weakness, so that Hades can take over Olympus. She is tougher and braver than the traditional DID (as damsels in distress are referred to in the movie), but still very much on the sidelines in the big moments. Parents may want to talk to both boys and girls about her choices. They may also want to talk about the absence of people of color (other than the muses).

The movie’s other weakness is its lackluster score. As in “Aladdin,” this movie’s white-bread, “aw, shucks” teen-age protagonist is utterly outshone by a star turn of astonishing verve — this time, James Woods as bad guy Hades, who will join Cruella DeVille in the pantheon of unforgetable villains. Sidekicks Pain and Panic (Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt “Max Headroom” Frewer) are wickedly funny as well.

Families who watch this movie should talk about who the real heroes are, and how society treats its heroes. Why do we buy products endorsed by athletes (or movie tie-ins)? It is also worth talking with them about Hercules’ motivation — is wanting to be a god a good reason to want to be a hero? Do we see any evidence that he (or anyone else in the movie) has much concern for the well-being of the community?

NOTE: While the tone of the movie is light-hearted, parts of it may be too scary and intense for smaller children. Some may also be confused or even upset about the underworld and what happens when people die.

Hello, Dolly!

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1969

Plot: Dolly Levi (Barbra Streisand) is a matchmaker in turn of the century Yonkers, outside of New York. She is hired by Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau) to find him a wife. He also hires her to take his niece Ermengarde (Joyce Ames) to New York City, to encourage her to forget about marrying her artist beau, Ambrose (long-legged Tommy Tune). Instead, Dolly makes matches for his two clerks (Michael Crawford and Danny Lockin), advises them on how to get promotions from Horace, and helps Ermengarde get permission to marry Ambrose. Finally, after a series of intricate maneuvers, Dolly makes a match for herself, with Horace.

Discussion: This is one of the last of the big-time, old-fashioned musicals, with lavish production values and a dozen hummable tunes. The very slight story is bolstered by terrific singing and dancing — staged by two masters of the genre: Gene Kelly, who directed, and Michael Kidd, who choreographed. The elaborate sets, costumes, and musical numbers make this movie a treat for the eyes and ears.

Dolly is almost a magical figure, with business cards for every purpose. When she tells Ermengarde and Ambrose they can earn the money they need by winning the dance contest at Harmonia Gardens, she produces one that says “Artists Taught to Dance.” With all the confidence it takes to transform the lives of everyone around her, she still hesitates when it comes to herself. She still mourns her late husband Ephraim, but she wants more out of life “Before the Parade Passes By.” Yet when Horace finally proposes, she waits for a sign of Ephraim’s approval. What she gets is a sign that Horace has the qualities she is looking for, that, as she suspected all along, his gruff exterior conceals a warm heart and a wish to help others.

Questions for Kids:

· Why doesn’t Dolly just tell Horace the truth about what she thinks is right for him and for Ermengarde?

· How does she help the people in the movie to think differently about themselves, and how does that help them change?

· What does Dolly mean when she sings “Before the Parade Passes By”?

· When the young couples sing “We’ve Got Elegance,” do they really think they are fancy?

· What would you do if you were Barnaby and Cornelius at the Harmonia Gardens?

· What is the difference between Dolly’s view of money and Horace’s view?

Connections: Michael Crawford went on from male ingenue parts (“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”) to star in the title role of “Phantom of the Opera.” This story, originally a German play, has been produced in a number of forms, including “The Matchmaker,” a non- musical play written by Thornton Wilder (of “Our Town”), filmed with Shirley Booth, and most recently redone by avant-garde playwright Tom Stoppard from the perspective of the two clerks as “On the Razzle.”

Activities: Take the kids to a parade, preferably one where they can march along. They might also enjoy making some hats inspired by the spectacular creations in the movie.

Heist

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

David Mamet, writer/director of “Heist,” is fascinated by the con. He has written movies about an ordinary person who becomes involved with professional con men (“House of Games”) and about men who sell vacation property by selling a dream to people who cannot afford it. His most recent film was “State and Main,” about people who said and did anything to get their movie made. When one character was accused of lying, he explained it was just “a talent for fiction.” But it may be that the con that interests Mamet most is the story itself, with the storyteller as the con man who spins a yarn so enticing that the listener is utterly captivated.

And it is a pleasure to be captivated by Mamet, the master of tired, tough, talk. The characters in “Heist,” long-time thieves on their last big job, have had everything burned off of them but the coolness at their core. They do not talk to communicate. They talk to test each other and show off in front of each other and sometimes to show off in front of those who don’t get it. Their talk is like their thievery, stripped down, cynical, and clever. It’s like a secret language from Planet Cool and it makes you feel that it just might be worth breaking the law just to be able to speak it. Main character Joe Moore (Gene Hackman) is “so cool that when he sleeps, sheep count him.” His pretty, young wife (Rebecca Pidgeon) “can talk her way out of a sunburn.” And everyone wants money; “That’s why they call it money.”

More archetype than stereotype, the set-up is the veteran with one last big job, the one that will get him out of the business for good. Moore’s fence (Danny DeVito) will not pay off on a jewel robbery unless Moore goes for a gold shipment being held on a plane. If this part sounds familiar, it’s because you just saw the same set-up with Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro in “The Score.” Just as in “The Score,” the fence brings a new young partner into the deal. In this movie, it is Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell), young and arrogant. Will Moore get away with the gold? Will there be double, triple, and quadruple crosses? Is there ever any honor among thieves? It is a treat to explore these questions in such capable hands.

Parents should know that the movie has very strong language, sexual references and situations (including sex used as a bargaining chip), drinking, smoking, robbery, and a very violent shoot-out.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether it is possible to be loyal to people who are professional betrayers. Are there any good guys in this movie? How can you tell?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy seeing Hackman, DeVito, and Lindo working together in Get Shorty and some of Mamet’s other movies, including Glengarry Glen Ross and State and Main.

Hearts in Atlantis

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

If you’re allergic to the kind of movie that starts with a funeral and then goes into a flashback about a sensitive kid’s last childhood summer, then stay away. But audiences with an appreciation or even a tolerance of this genre will find this to be above average. It is based on a story by Stephen King. There is some tension and an element of the supernatural, but this is King’s coming of age mode (“Stand By Me”) and contact with an extraordinary character mode (“The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile”), not a horror movie.

It is summertime, and Billy has just turned 11. His mother’s birthday gift is not the bicycle he dreams of but an adult library card. She is quick to remind him that they have very little money, since Billy’s father died leaving them with unpaid bills and no insurance. Billy’s friend Carol points out that his mother buys new clothes for herself, but Billy defends her, saying that she has to look good for work.

A stranger comes to live above Billy and his mother. His name is Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins). He hires Billy to read him the newspaper and watch out for “the low men,” who wear hats, drive fancy cars, and leave odd messages in code on telephone poles. Billy thinks Ted is a little loony, but he agrees, at first because he wants to earn money for the bicycle, and then because he is drawn to Ted’s warmth, humor, and even to his strangeness. He begins to see signs of the low men, but he does not tell Ted. He knows that when Ted hears that the low men have come, he will have to leave.

Billy gets a chance to see through Ted’s eyes, which may be weak when it comes to reading but which see important things very clearly. When Billy touches Ted, he gets a little bit of Ted’s ability to somehow “know” things. All of a sudden, in the next room, Billy can tell that what Ted is wondering about is his cigarettes. And a surprised three-card monte shark (well-played by “A Knight’s Tale’s” Alan Tudyk) finds that Billy can tell him where the Queen of Hearts is without even looking at the cards. Even more important, though, is that way that Ted, like all special grown-ups in the lives of children, guides Billy to a new knowledge of himself and the world. Ted helps Billy realize that his friend Carol is more special to him than he thought, that he deserves better treatment from his mother, and that the town bully is not as powerful as he thinks.

Parents should know that there is some strong language, characters are in peril and some are injured, and a character is raped (inexplicit and mostly offscreen). A character is wrongfully accused of molesting a child. A bully who accuses others of being “queer” turns out to be acting on his fears about his own sexuality. Fighting back is portrayed as heroic. There are a couple of chaste kisses.

Families who see this movie should talk about the grown-ups who inspired them the most, and might also want to discuss how we decide whom we will trust.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Stand By Me – Special Edition(some mature material).

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