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

Phone Booth

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

Even the most paranoid fantasies have to make sense at some level, and this one just doesn’t.

The premise is all right. Colin Farrell plays Stu, whose job is Hollywood’s favorite indicator of utter corruption — he’s a publicist. We meet him walking down the street, his intern trotting beside him, handing him pre-dialed cell phones so he can keep up a continuous loop of shmoozing, badgering, lying, and manipulating his various clients, sources, and outlets — including a pretty would-be actress named Pam (Katie Holmes), a tasty prospect for both business and pleasure.

But Stu doesn’t want to call Pam from the cell phone because his wife sees the bills. So he stops in the last phone booth in Manhattan, which turns out to be a very big mistake.

The phone rings, and Stu answers. The man on the other end (Kiefer Sutherland) tells him that he has a rifle pointed at Stu, and that he will shoot him if he hangs up or tells anyone about it. He seems to know all about Stu, his wife Kelly (Rhada Mitchell), and Pam. When a pimp comes after Stu because his girls want to use the phone, the sniper shoots him, and the police, led by Captain Ramey (Forrest Whitaker), think Stu did it. Stu is surrounded by police with guns pointed at him, both Pam and Kelly are there, and the sniper will not let him get off the phone.

This film is based on a short student film and was shot in just 12 days. It’s a Hollywood film that is trying for the vibe — and the indie cred — of a smaller film. Just as “The Blair Witch Project” made its liability (no money) into an asset (making it look as though the footage was from a student film), this movie tries to have Stu’s confinement in the phone booth shape both the story and its impact. While it does create a lot of tension and Farrell and Whitaker are always great to watch, the movie feels manipulative and padded. The “Who do you think you are?” sign behind Stu and the “I’ll never lie again and will show the proper respect” climax are heavy-handed and pretentious and the attempted twist at the end is heavy-handed and predictable. Farrell, usually impeccable with American accents, completely misses in his attempt to sound like an upwardly mobile guy from the Bronx.

Parents should know that the movie has extreme and intense peril and violence. Characters are killed without provocation and there are references to other murders. Characters smoke and use very strong language and there are references to adultery (or the wish to commit adultery).

Families who see this movie should talk about what the characters are likely to do next. How will Stu change?

Families who enjoy this movie might also enjoy some other phone-centered thrillers like “Sorry Wrong Number” and “Dial M for Murder” and a brilliant movie about the relationship between a corrupt publicist and an even more corrupt columnist, “The Sweet Smell of Success.”

View from the Top

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

It’s hard to imagine what attracted such a high-powered cast to this this forgettable little movie about a small-town girl with a dream. It’s almost a “Far From Heaven”-style tribute to the movies we like to think of as being from a simpler era, but there is no ironic distance and no attempt to re-invent the genre for another era. It’s like an episode of “That Girl” you might come across on the TV Land network.

Gwenyth Paltrow plays Donna, the daughter of a much-married former showgirl who lives in a small town in Nevada. She dreams of a bigger world, and is looking forward to moving to Tucson with her boyfriend. But he breaks up with her in a birthday card (he explains that they don’t sell breaking up cards). She thinks she will be stuck there forever until she sees Sally Watson (Candice Bergen), the most famous flight attendant in the world, on television. Now Donna’s dream has direction.

She gets a job as a flight attendant on a commuter airline for gamblers. But she wants more — she wants to do first class on international flights, like Sally. So she applies to Royal Airlines.

Will there be setbacks for her to be plucky about? Will there be a dreamboat to make it hard to take that job when it does come through? Will there be comic relief in the form of a quippy gay guy and a teacher with high standards and an eye problem? Oh, so you’ve seen this movie before? Me, too.

This is a cotton candy movie, and it melts away into sticky nothing almost before you can taste the sugar. There are some mildly funny moments and the performances are fine, but they don’t make up for its lack of anything particularly engaging in its characters or story. The coming attraction has all the best moments and the credit sequence outtakes have more vitality than the rest of the movie.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong language and sexual references. A character gives the finger. There is a reference to circumcision and there are jokes about a character’s “talent” for hickeys.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Donna came to believe that she was capable of more than she had been told. How can families help their members believe in themselves and their dreams?

Families who enjoy this movie may also enjoy some of the movies that inspired it, like “Come Fly With Me” and “Three Coins in a Fountain.”

Dreamcatcher

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

It’s not Stephen King’s best book, and it is far from the best screenplay produced by either Lawrence Kasden (“Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Big Chill”) or William Goldman (“The Princess Bride,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”). It is mishmash, covering favorite King themes like the loyalty of childhood friends, the isolation of a snow-covered cabin in the woods, extra-sensory abilities, a fatalistic determinism, the devastating impact of one person who snaps, and extra-terrestrials. There’s even a sort of Wizard of Oz-ish “you had the power in you all along” theme. It may not work as a whole for anyone, but there is something in it to scare the bejeebers out of just about everyone.

Beaver (Jason Lee), Henry (Thomas Jane), Jonesy (Damian Lewis), and Pete (Timothy Olyphant) are boyhood friends who share a secret connection that we only learn about gradually through flashbacks. A good deed resulted in their being given special power to “know things.” Every year, they go away together to a cabin in the woods. On this trip, strange things happen. The animals all leave the forest. A government helicopter calls down to tell them they are quarantined. A man staggers out of the woods, disoriented and subject to intense intestinal distress. A woman, almost frozen to death, is also disoriented and subject to intense intestinal distress. Strange red patches appear on the faces of both, and then really strange things start to happen. It turns out that all of this is due to an alien invasion, and this is not the kind of friendly ET with whom you would want a close encounter.

And that’s not all that’s scary. There is a team of government specialists led by Colonel Kurtz (note the Heart of Darkness reference) who use words like “contain” and “perimeter” that mean “wipe out everyone who has had any possible contact with the aliens. Better to slaughter innocent people than to risk additional exposure.” He seems to be walking the tightrope between genius and insanity, and we’re not sure if he’s a necessary evil or a more dangerous threat than the extraterrestrials.

So, that leaves us just about every kind and category of scariness, a catalog of terror, including yuckiness (remember that intestinal distress? snake-like aliens with big teeth exit the body out the alimentary canal), gore (buckets of blood, grisly injuries and deaths), tension (what’s behind that door?), creepiness, intense peril, is-that-you-or-is-it-the-alien-using-your-body moments, and good, old-fashioned jump-out-at-you surprises.

King (and Kasdan and Goldman) have a knack for creating likable characters with conversations we like to overhear, and the four main actors are all exceptionally appealing. The art direction and cinematography are top-notch, especially the first-rate visualization of Jonesy’s “memory warehouse,” the place where, as he explains, now that he is older, he can’t add anything without taking something out.

The weaker parts of the movie are the section about the secret defense department operation led by Kurtz. Even the masterful Freeman can’t quite make that character work, and the attempt to create a parallel between the peril created by the outside force and the peril from within does not work, either. There is a very, very silly moment when Henry’s particular form of ESP requires him to use a gun as a telephone. When that same gun turns out to have a homing device implanted, both Henry and Kurtz are using the gun to communicate and track someone.

Lewis can’t quite manage the second personality that takes him over, and by the way, even though movie villains usually have English accents, isn’t that something of a stretch when the bad guy is not only not from England, but not from Earth? Still, as I watched this movie, I noticed that the audience reaction sounded like they were on a roller-coaster ride, a good sign in a scary movie. It’s not a classic like “Carrie” or “The Shining,” but it is a nicely done scarefest, and achieves its modest ambitions.

Parents should know that the movie is intensely scary, and violent, as noted above. Characters use very strong language and make explicit and graphic sexual references. One character abuses alcohol, and many drink and smoke.

Families who see this movie should talk about disabled people, and why some people go out of their way to pick on them while others appreciate their gifts. What made the four boys so loyal to each other? How do we know when a person like Kurtz has gone too far, and at that point, who can stop him? He makes a Jeremy Bentham-like argument that the ends justify the means. Under what circumstances is that the case?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy some of the best Stephen King novels and movies, including “Carrie” and “The Shining.”

Piglet’s Big Movie

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2003

This movie is not very interesting, imaginative, engaging, or exciting, but at least it avoids being too sugary. And it is is truer to the stories and spirit of the original books by A.A. Milne than some of Disney’s Pooh videos. It is suitable for children as young as 4, which is a relief in an era where even PG movies contain material that might be unsuitable for middle schoolers. The children in the audience laughed at the slapstick. There are a couple of brief moments of animation that rise above the straight-to-video level. But that’s about all the praise I can muster.

Little Piglet, the smallest of the creatures who live together in the 100 Acres Woods, wishes that he could help his friends, Pooh, Rabbit, and Tigger. But there is no place for him in their big plan to capture some honey by redirecting the bees to a new hive, so he wanders off by himself. When his friends realize that Piglet is missing, they understand for the first time how important he is to them. They search for him, using his book of memories to help them think of places he might be. The pictures in Piglet’s book remind them of happy times together and all that Piglet did to help them along the way.

Parents should know that there is some mild peril and the most sensitive younger children might believe that characters have been hurt for a few moments, until it turns out that everyone is fine.

Families who see this movie should talk about how we can let those we care about know they are appreciated, about the importance of making plans, and about making memory books to help us keep our happiest moments close at hand.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “The Tigger Movie” and the superior production values of Disney’s 25th anniversary edition of “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.”

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