Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Tusk
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

This is Where I Leave You
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Think Like a Man Too
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material
Release Date:
June 20, 2014

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Godzilla
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Release Date:
May 16, 2014

Radio

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2003

“Radio” may be as predictable as a Hallmark card, but it is as heartwarming, too. This is a nice, old-fashioned family movie about the importance of kindness. The characters learn that some things are more important than being smart. The audience learns that that lesson can apply to movies as well as people.

The movie begins in 1976 South Carolina, where small town high school football is very serious business.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays Radio, described by his mother as “just like everyone else, but a little slower.” He pushes a shopping cart around and barely speaks. When members of the local high school football team mistreat him, the coach (Ed Harris) invites Radio to come watch the practice. Soon, Radio is helping out, and with the coach’s encouragement, he is speaking and interacting with people. The coach invites him to attend school as an “honorary” 11th grader.

You can guess what happens next. Second act complications appear in the form of a school board bureaucrat who thinks Radio exposes the school to liability and a star player’s father who thinks Radio is a distraction. And the coach’s daughter wonders why her father never has time for her but always has time for Radio. All is happily resolved in time for the inevitable “We learned more from him than he ever learned from us” speech and the montage showing the real Radio still leading the team onto the field, 25 years later.

It is always a little too easy to have minority or disabled characters in movies serve as saintlike or magical creatures who teach able white people how to be more authentic. The result is itself inauthentic. It pretends to elevate those who have been marginalized but in reality just uses them as plot devices. And it patronizes them by not allowing them to be fully human or to be the central figures in the story.

“Radio” handles this challenge better than most. Harris and Gooding give their characters depth and decency to provide some grounding for the story and keep it from getting too sugary. But they really have to carry the entire movie. Debra Winger appears in the thankless understanding-wife role (though she does carry a copy of Betty Friedan’s revolutionary Feminine Mystique through one scene).

Parents should know that the movie has a couple of bad words and a sad death (offscreen). In a cruel prank, Radio is sent into the girls’ locker room (nothing shown). Characters are cruel but learn their lesson. Even though it is set in the South in the decade after the Civil Rights Act was passed, the movie avoids stereotyping the white residents as racist.

Families who see this movie should talk about disabled people they know and how they are treated. They should also talk about why Radio was so important to Coach Jones, and how sometimes, if we cannot correct a mistake we make at the time, we can find a way to use what we have learned to prevent another mistake in the future. They should talk about how the coach decided what his priorities really were and about how Radio showed that he understood some things better than people who thought they were smarter than he was.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Remember the Titans and Rudy (some mature material), both also based on inspiring true stories about football, friendship, and dreams.

Veronica Guerin

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

I’m sure that there were a lot of people scurrying around Hollywood looking for the next Erin Brockovich, and this must have seemed like a good candidate — the true story of a courageous Irish journalist who would not be deterred from her coverage of drug dealers, even after being beaten and shot. When she was murdered by the people her stories were exposing, it inspired changes in law and law enforcement that sharply reduced the crime rate.

Veronica Guerin the person was a genuine heroine. But “Veronica Guerin” the movie is no Erin Brockovich. Cate Blanchett brings her always-vibrant life force to the role, but the character never feels real. Guerin is portrayed as cheerily indomitable to the point of irresponsible recklessness, especially when she puts her entire family at risk. She neglects her husband and child (she does not even know what she gave her son for his birthday), she easily beguiles them into forgiving her, evidently because she is just so darn irresistibly perky that resistance is futile. And that’s about as deep as it goes. We see that she never wants anyone to know that she is scared, but we don’t see why. And she is so flippant that we never really know what is important to her. When a bad guy calls her a “dangerous little b***,” she cheekily replies, “Do my best!” Is she a crusader for justice or just someone who likes to stir things up? We need to know in order to give this story the resonance it deserves.

The rest of the characters are one-adjective types, so one-dimensional that they might be played by paper dolls. Guerin’s boss, mother, husband, and son are all perfect, supportive, patient, and adorable. The bad guys are all brutal, ruthless, and sadistic. If it were really that simple, we would not need crusading journalists at all.

We find out right at the beginning that Veronica Guerin is feisty and charming and that she gets killed. The rest of the movie is just filling in the details, and it is curiously uninvolving for a story with so much built-in drama. And the disclaimer at the end that the movie’s most important villain is a composite character leaves us feeling manipulated and unsatisfied.

Parents should know that the movie has brutal and graphic violence and extremely strong language. Young drug addicts are vividly depicted, including one who has become a prostitute. There are scenes in a brothel and in a strip bar and non-explicit sexual situations.

Families who see this movie should talk about what makes someone willing to risk not only her own life but her family’s lives as well. Should she have been more careful? Should she have stopped? Why did it take her death to bring about changes that people knew were necessary while she was alive? How do you fight people who don’t play by your rules? The movie does a good job of showing how much hard work goes into the kind of reporting that Guerin did. Families should talk about the way that her dedication and her background as an accountant were as important in exposing the drug dealers as her courage.

Families who enjoy this movie should also see some of the other true stories about brave journalists who risk a great deal to get the story to the people, including Z and All the President’s Men. And they might also like the true stories about brave women who took on big corporations, Erin Brockovich and Silkwood.

My Life Without Me

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

A young wife and mother finds out she has two months to live. She makes a list of the things she wants to do before she dies, like recording birthday greetings for her two daughters for each year until they are 18, finding a new wife for her husband, getting fake nails and doing something about her hair, visiting her father in jail, and having someone fall in love with her.

Now, this plot could be a generic Lifetime made-for-tv-movie with a former sitcom star showing off a little range and a lot of mascara while dying beautifully and reminding everyone how sweet life is before the last commercial. Or, it could be what this movie is, a sweetly specific story, tenderly told.

Ann (Sarah Polley) does not get to do everything on her list. Or perhaps it is more that she revises the list as she learns that the life that chose her when she became pregnant at 17 is one has been very precious to her. She takes control of what she can and lets go of what she can’t. She learns that all the things we try to do and buy to keep us away from death don’t work.

And she revises the lives of people around her. Lee, a surveyor who lives in an empty house, waiting for the woman who left him to bring back the furniture, learns that he can love someone new. Ann’s sepulchral-looking doctor learns that he can look death — and life — in the eye. Her neighbor, another Ann, learns that she has more love to give than she thought.

There are lovely moments as Ann and Lee sit on the floor in his empty house, his arm around her, as the doctor brings Ann the candy she likes, and especially when she envisions people dancing through the aisles of the grocery store. And it is impossible not to be touched by Polley’s simple sincerity.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong language and non-explicit sexual situations, including adultery. There is a reference to a drinking problem and Ann puts drinking and smoking as much as she wants on her list (but does not do much of either). The theme of the movie may be very hard on some audience members, but others may find that it helps them to address some sensitive issues.

Families who see this movie should talk about what they would put on their lists, and whether those kinds of lists are good to keep in mind even without an immediate need. Ann says there is no such thing as “normal people.” Do you agree? Why was the mention of Milli Vanilli, the musical group who was famous for lip-synching to recorded voices, so appropriate for this movie? What does the doctor mean when he says that dying is not as easy as it looks?

Families who enjoy this movie should also see My Life with Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman and The Doctor with William Hurt. They will also enjoy the classic weepies No Sad Songs for Me, about a dying woman who wants to find a new wife for her husband and Sentimental Journey, about a dying woman who adopts a child as company for her husband. And they might want to listen to some of the music of Blossom Dearie.

Wonderland

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

Heartfelt performances and tricked-up flashy film-making are not enough to distract us from the fact that we never find a reason to care about what happens in this story of porn star John Holmes and his involvement in a drug-related quadruple murder after his movie career was over.

Before the movie starts, we are informed of the essentials: Holmes (Val Kilmer) was the first superstar of porn, making more than 1000 movies and sleeping with more than 14,000 women. But when we meet him, he is no longer making movies. Holmes and his young girlfriend Dawn (Kate Bosworth) have dim hopes of some kind of big score, but mostly live from moment to moment on what’s left of Holmes’ notoriety. He lives off of the declining good will of some hot-headed small-time bad guys who live on Wonderland Street and one big-time bad guy named Eddie Nash (Eric Bogosian). He comes up with the idea of double-crossing them both at the same time and making off with the loot, but it does not go the way he planned and many people are killed.

It is all very sordid and unexpectedly dull. Lisa Kudrow’s appearance as Holmes’ estranged wife is the only character with any depth or humanity.

Parents should know that this movie includes explicit sexual situations, graphic violence, drug abuse, and constant profanity. It is a veritable encyclopedia of material most parents would consider inappropriate for children and teenagers, though it is all presented as sordid and destructive.

Families who see this movie should talk about the different ideas Sharon and John had about what they wanted. Why was Sharon willing to take care of John and Dawn? What was the point of view of the film-makers about what happened to Holmes?

Families who appreciate this movie will appreciate the far better Boogie Nights, inspired by Holmes’ career. Like this movie, that one is appropriate for the most mature audiences only.

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