Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Annie
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
Release Date:
December 19, 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

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

Assault on Precinct 13

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

A juicy premise, a powerhouse cast, and energetic direction combine for a satisfying thriller about a police station under seige. It’s a big-budget remake of John Carpenter’s 1976 film of the same title. Carpenter wrote, produced, edited, and scored the film with a cast of unknowns for $100,000. This version does not have the original’s raw power, but it substitutes a tough, sharp script and glossy production values, and gets the job done just fine.

Ethan Hawke plays Jake Roenick, a cop now working a desk job after an undercover operation he was directing went wrong and two officers were killed. Jake is uncooperative with the mandatory therapy, though drawn to Alex, his pretty therapist (Maria Bello). He is still taking painkillers, though it is not clear whether it is physical or psychic pain they are supposed to numb.

It’s New Year’s Eve and the last night for the old police station at Precinct 13. All of the equipment and computers and staff have been moved to the new location. Jake, along with Iris (Drea De Matteo), a miniskirted secretary who has a weakness for “bad boys,” and Jasper (Brian Dennehy), a veteran cop just short of retirement are there to finish shutting everything down, toast the new year, and turn out the lights.

Meanwhile, Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne), the deadliest crime kingpin in town, has just been captured. As he and a varied group of bad guys are being transported by bus to a holding facility, it gets trapped in the snow right outside the old police station. So they decide to keep the prisoners there until the next morning.

And then they get attacked. The attackers want Bishop. Everyone in the station is at risk. Before the night is over, loyalties and alliances will shift a dozen times as cops and prisoners and bystanders have to constantly realign their forces to try to stay alive.

It is that fluidity of relationships that gives this story extra energy and sizzle that takes it beyond the usual shoot-out and explosion-movie standard. Star power helps a lot, too, with Fishburne, Hawke, and Gabriel Byrne giving depth and wit to their roles and strong support from Bello and John Leguizamo.

Parents should know that this film has non-stop action violence with some very graphic injuries and many characters are killed. Characters use very strong language. There are some sexual references. Criminal characters include a drug dealer and killers. Characters drink and smoke and one abuses prescription drugs.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Jake’s earlier experiences affected his judgment — for better or worse — when the precinct was attacked.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Die Hard, Under Siege, The Rock, and Air Force One. They might also enjoy the 1976 original, directed by John Carpenter and the classic western Rio Bravo, which inspired it.

Elektra

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

To paraphrase the most famous line from A League of Their Own, “there’s no crying in comic book movies.” At least there shouldn’t be, not by the superhero, anyway. But this is a comic book movie that feels like it might have been made for the Lifetime channel. With costumes by Victoria’s Secret.

Yes, there is kick-boxing. Stuff blows up. There is faux-meaningful comic book dialogue like “This ends here.” And there are some cool special effects. But there’s too much focus on Elektra’s past and feelings and not enough focus on making the rest of the good or bad guys interesting.

Jennifer Garner plays Elektra, a highly successful assassin for hire who has flashbacks that remind her of her demanding father and loving but doomed mother. When her new targets turn out to be a father and daughter who had befriended her, she decides to save them instead. She feels protective toward them because they have a strong father-daughter bond, something she longed for with her own father. And because the girl reminds her of herself. And because the father is played by the smoulderingly attractive Goran Visnjic.

This puts her at odds with a diabolical group of bad guys known as The Hand, including Typhoid (a woman whose poisonous breath causes instant death), Tattoo (a man whose intricate tattoos of fierce creatures come alive to spy or attack), and Kinko (he isn’t there to make copies).

There are some good action sequences, the best borrowing from the far-better Hong Kong films. Garner is toned and that midriff-baring costume makes her look more like Comic Book Barbie than like a killer. But she is also toned down. We get almost no chance to see those marvelous dimples or even any facial expressions other than “tortured” and “resolute.”

Parents should know that the movie features extensive and graphic (for PG-13) comic book-style violence with a lot of martial arts fights. Many characters are killed. There are brief grisly images. Characters use some strong language (s-word, etc.).

Families who see this movie should talk about Elektra’s answer to Abby’s question about why she does what she does. Why did she have to leave her training? What will she do next?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy X-Men and its sequel, Batman, and Spider-Man and its sequels.

Coach Carter

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

We all love movies about underdog teams that come from behind because they (1) learn the importance of teamwork, (2) learn the importance of discipline and of respect for themselves and each other, (3) are galvanized by an inspiring leader, or, even better, (4) all of the above.

This movie, based on a true story, takes it a step further. Coach Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson), a star athlete himself in an inner-city California high school returns to coach the team. He insists that each member of the team sign a contract that includes wearing jacket and tie on game days, attending all classes and sitting in the front row in each one, and maintaining a higher grade point average than the minimum required for participation in sports. He wanted more for the young men than a winning season. Coach Carter wanted them to have a winning life, and that means that they had to have grades that would get them into college. In his view, student athletes were students first, athletes second.

This seems simple and straightforward enough unless you are a sports fan. Or unless you are the kind of person who calls himself a “realist” and thinks these kids are not worth trying to save. Their principal falls into that category. She figures that they are not going to graduate anyway, so the best she can do is give them one great experience they can hold onto for the rest of their lives. But Coach Carter wants more. And he wants them to want more.

He brings them together as a team, turning them from playas into players.

Many of the team members are struggling with other pressures, from a pregnant girlfriend (played by pop star Ashanti) to the money and excitement of street crime. Carter shows them that the biggest obstacle is their own fear of trying for more than they have. “Starting today, you will act like winners, play like winners, and, most of all, you will be winners.”

Some of the players drop out. They have no interest in school or rules. But some stay in, and the team begins to win. In most movies, there would be one setback as they lose to their cross-town rivals (the kids from the snooty school), and then they would pull themselves together for a rousing defeat of that same team for the state championship. But this movie is different.

On January 4, 1999, the players arrived at the gym to find it padlocked. Carter discovered that they were not living up to their contracts. While a few were attending class and meeting or exceeding the required grade point average, most were not. And Carter would not let them play until all of them were caught up with their schoolwork and made good on all of their promises.

The response by the school and the parents was outrage. Carter was threatened and a brick was thrown through his store window. It became a national news story and the focus of debate.

For Carter, this was not about a winning season. It was about a winning life. He wanted his team to qualify for college scholarships. And he wanted them to learn discipline, teamwork, and self-respect.

Jackson is terrific, as always, and his talent to mesmerize an audience makes him a great choice to play a coach who can give hope to people who gave up a long time ago. Just the way he says, “Sir,” insisting and inspiring his team to call him “Sir” as well, tells you everything about his character and his relationship to the players. The young cast members are more sure of themselves shooting hoops than they are showing emotion, but Jackson holds the screen so well that he gives them extra focus and presence.

Parents should know that the film has some mature material for a PG-13, including an out of wedlock teen pregnancy and a discussion of abortion. There is some strong language, but the movie includes a very worthwhile discussion of the n-word and whether it is appropriate for African-Americans to use a word that would make them angry if used by a white person. The film is frank about the kinds of violence inner-city neighborhoods are subjected to, including shooting. A character is killed. There is some material relating to drug-dealing.

Families who see this film should talk about the movie’s focus on the use of language and dress to show respect. They might want to learn about the real Coach Carter, who was honored by being asked to carry the Olympic flame. Why did Carter’s son want to transfer? All families should talk about the passage quoted from Marianne Williamson (often incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela): “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy other movies about inspirational teachers, from To Sir with Love and Up the Down Staircase to Hoosiers, Lean on Me and Stand and Deliver, and other movies about high school sports teams like Remember the Titans and Friday Night Lights. And every family should watch the brilliant documentary, Hoop Dreams, the story of two high school students from the poorest neighborhood whose skill on the basketball court leads to new opportunities and tough choices.

Racing Stripes

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2005

A zebra who thinks he is a racehorse takes on the thoroughbreds in the best live action talking-animal movie since the beloved Babe.

Horse trainer turned farmer Nolan Walsh (Bruce Greenwood) finds a baby zebra and brings him home. For his daughter, Channing (Hayden Panittiere), it is love at first sight. She cares for the little zebra tenderly and when we pick up the story three years later, Stripes is a cherished part of the farm family.

But Stripes (voice of Frankie Muniz), who has never seen another zebra, thinks he is a racehorse, like the beautiful thoroughbreds he sees at the race course next door, owned by snooty Carla (the acid-voiced Wendie Malick).

His friends on the farm include an experienced pony named Tucker (voice of Dustin Hoffman), a goat (voice of Whoopi Goldberg), a pelican far from the sea (voice of Joe Pantalino) named Goose, and two flies, Scuzz (voice of David Spade) and Buzz (voice of Steve Harvey). The race horses jeer at him, but Stripes trains by trying to outrun the mail truck and dreams of winning a real race. A sympathetic filly named Sandy (voice of Mandy Moore) provides encouragement. The animals find a way to let Channing know that Stripes is fast enough to race and wants to ride him, but Nolan, whose wife died in a racing accident, does not want Channing to compete.

The human performers are just fine, especially the underrated Greenwood. He is too often relegated to bad-guy roles (Double Jeopardy), but he shows real warmth and screen presence here. Up-and-coming young Panittiere (A Bug’s Life, Remember the Titans) makes us believe in her devotion to her father and the dream of racing she shares with Stripes. But the movie is all about the animals and the voice talents and computer-aided “acting” make the characters very real and very appealing. The humor may overdo the doo-doo, but there are sweet and funny moments as Stripes tries to follow his dream and learns the importance of friends.

Parents should know that the movie has some mild language including insults like “idiot,” “blow sunshine up your tail,” and “kick your butt.” A bad word is amusingly cut off by an animal’s “baaa.” There is some crude humor, much of it involving animal poop (which most children will find very funny). An animal parent is very harsh to his child. There is a scary fall and some off-camera violence, but no one is hurt. Some viewers may be concerned about the storyline concerning the death of Channing’s mother in a racing accident.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Stripes was so unhappy to find out he was not a horse. Why did Clara and Nolan have different ideas about what was important? Why do some people think “different is scary?” What does it mean to say “You can put your boots in the oven but that doesn’t make them biscuits?” What made Nolan change his mind about letting Channing race? They should also talk about the importance of both skill and discipline, and both ability and heart. What can you tell about the way families can resolve differences by the way Nolan and Channing talk to each other?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Babe, Milo and Otis, Fly Away Home, Charlotte’s Web, and the two greatest horse movies of all time, National Velvet and The Black Stallion.

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