Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence
Release Date:
October 24, 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

John Wick
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

23 Blast
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some teen drinking
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

Starsky & Hutch

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

This is the latest in the genre I call lunchbox movies. Here is how these movies get made. A 30-something studio executive’s eyes light up when someone suggests a movie based on a cheesy-but-popular 1970’s television show. “I had that lunchbox!” he says. “Do you think we can get the original stars to do a cameo?” All that’s left is to sign up a couple of rising stars and license some oldies for the soundtrack, and we should be good to go.

But it’s trickier than it seems to get the tone right, as the producers of The Avengers and The Mod Squad found out. It has to have both genuine affection for the original and just the right touch of snarky post-modernism. It has to be funny but it also has to keep us engaged enough in the story to keep things moving. This movie gets it right.

Ben Stiller plays Starsky, the play-by-the-rules cop who takes everything very seriously, especially his beloved red Gran Torino with the white vector stripes. He has to try to live up to the standard set by his policewoman mother, but he acts as though he’s following a script. When there’s a shoot-out, Starsky always drops and rolls just a beat before or after it might possibly be necessary and he can’t seem to walk by that cool car without rolling across the hood.

Owen Wilson plays Hutch, the take-it-easy cop whose casual attitude makes him popular with everyone from pretty cheerleaders to cute neighborhood kids to slightly shady informants (including rapper Snoop Dog, the essence of real-life cool as Huggy Bear).

Starsky and Hutch are assigned to work together as punishment by their chief (70’s icon Fred Williamson). And of course at first they do not get along, and of course they then develop grudging respect for each other, and then affection and true partnership.

Cynical observers used to wonder whether the warm friendship between Starsky and Hutch was really deeper than 1970’s television could contemplate. This movie tweaks the idea a little, with the pair stumbling cluelessly through some mildly suggestive situations that feel like a part of its retro vibe.

Vince Vaughn brings his edgy silkiness to the role of the bad guy, a high class drug dealer. Will Ferrell contributes a funny cameo as a prisoner who likes dragons — embroidering them and having men pretend to be them. But the movie is all about the chemistry between Stiller and Wilson, now in their sixth film together, bring out the best in each other. Starsky narrows his eyes intensely as he looks down at a dead body. “You’ve punched your last ticket, amigo.” Hutch peers over at him. “Are you trying to tough talk a dead guy?”

After that, it’s just ringing changes on the most appallingly cheesy aspects of that cheesiest of decades. The soundtrack features “Afternoon Delight,” “I Can’t Smile Without You,” and the hit song by original Hutch David Soul — “Don’t Give Up on Us, Baby.” The clothes are one hilarious “what were we thinking” after another.

S&H go undercover in Easy Rider drag as “Kansas” and “Toto” (you’ll get that if you remember the 1970’s) to question the owner of a biker bar. They interrogate a cheerleader (and are struck speechless when she takes her clothes off). There’s a hilarious disco dance-off. Someone actually says “Sit on it.” And the original Starsky and Hutch show up for a funny cameo.

It’s silly, but it’s a lot of fun. Hmm, speaking of lunchboxes, I wonder if they can get the rights to “Adam 12?”

Parents should know that this movie has very explicit sexual situations and references for a PG-13, including “comic” gay overtones, a threesome (with girls kissing each other), and the swapping of mildly sexual favors for information from an informant. A character accidentally ingests cocaine and his strung-out meltdown is played for humor. Other characters drink and use cocaine (off-camera) and the plot centers on a huge cocaine deal. Characters are in peril. One is killed and a child is injured. There is some strong language, including racist epithets. A strength of the movie is the way that diverse characters work together. Some audience members may be offended by the fact that the villain is Jewish.

Families who see this movie should talk about what made Starsky and Hutch change their minds about each other. Why is it good to have friends who are not just like us? What does it mean to say “To err is human, to forgive divine?” (By the way, contrary to the two mis-attributions in the film, that was said by Alexander Pope.)

Families who enjoy this movie will get a kick out of the fan website for the television series. They might also enjoy other TV-inspired movies like Charlie’s Angels, The Brady Bunch, and SWAT. They should also take a look at the other Stiller/Wilson movies — five so far, including Zoolander, Meet the Parents, and The Royal Tannenbaums (all with some mature material).

The Girl Next Door

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

This is a romantic fantasy about a straight arrow high school senior who falls for the girl next door, a porn star. That’s not the most offensive part, though. It is a shameless rip-off of the far better Risky Business, even briefly stealing a riff from that movie’s marvelous score by Tangerine Dream. That’s more offensive. But the most offensive aspect of this movie is the stunning stupidity of its script, even by the low standards of teen sex comedies.

Matthew (Emile Hirsch) is just about to get everything he’s been working for. He has successfully raised $25,000 to bring a brilliant Cambodian student to America to study. He’s been accepted to Georgetown and is a finalist for the scholarship that he needs to afford the tuition. Matthew may look longingly at the kids who play hookey and go to the beach, but he can’t even muster a fantasy about going with them; even in his daydreams he gets busted.

Then one night he looks out of his bedroom window and sees a gorgeous girl (Elisha Cuthbert) in the house next door, getting undressed. She sees him peeping and comes over to his house. It turns out she is house-sitting for her aunt. She takes him for a ride and asks him when the last time was that he did something crazy. The next thing he knows, he’s standing naked in the street as she drives away. And soon after that, he and Danielle are playing hookey and crashing a party. All is dewy young love in soft focus until he finds out that she is a porn star. He is disappointed in her. She is disappointed in him because he is disappointed in her. Danielle goes back to Kelly (Timothy Olyphant), the porn producer. Matthew goes after her. Kelly goes after him. The $25,000 disappears. Snobbish bullies must be shown up. And there is still that speech he has to give to win that scholarship.

The porn star as romantic ideal raises the same issues as the many films presenting prostitutes as the leading lady (and as Oscar bait — playing a prostitute is a reliable way to attract the attention of the Motion Picture Academy). But whether the movie is a silly comedy (Trading Places), a romantic comedy (Pretty Woman), a comedy with literary allusions (Mighty Aphrodite), or even a drama (Leaving Las Vegas and Klute), there is something uncomfortably misogynistic about these heroines. They always seem to be impossible fantasy figures, eternally available and unshockable yet somehow ineradicably pure, and, perhaps the ultimate fantasy, having experienced many men but preferring our leading man. In the most cynical manner, this movie smugly attempts to have it both ways. It wants us to be titillated by Danielle’s past and yet root for her innocent romance. It wants us to assume that she is both a woman who is paid to have sex on screen and an angel. The ultimate conclusion is all the more smarmy for trying not to be.

Cuthbert has a warm laugh and a beautiful smile. Olyphant and Hirsch (The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys and The Emperor’s Club) show signs of true screen presence, giving their characters shading and magnetism far beyond the script (and even farther beyond the other performers). It does have a few moments of comedy, a terrific soundtrack of surprisingly well-chosen pop and rock, and even a little charm. But the overall themes are truly vile and the last third of the plot is both vile and stupid.

Parents should know that this movie has explicit sexual references and situations. Many of the main characters work in the pornography industry. While the glimpses of porn video footage are brief and more suggestive than explicit, there are some graphic images and there is a lot of vulgar humor. Characters go to a strip club and get lap dances. Characters also drink and smoke and a character’s inadvertant use of the drug ecstacy is portrayed as humorous. There is some violence, including fights, and characters use very strong language. Parents should also be aware that they may find the overall themes of the movie inappropriate even for older teens, including the idea of the porn star as a fantasy romantic figure.

Families who see this movie should talk about what Matthew and Danielle see in each other and what the prospects for their future relationship are likely to be. What do you think about Matthew’s idea about how to solve his problem?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the vastly better (and more authentically ambivalent) Risky Business.

Jersey Girl

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

Kevin Smith is the writer/director of some of the most cheerfully profane and wildly politically incorrect movies of all time, including Clerks, Dogma, and Chasing Amy. His characters — and his scripts — are often immature and outrageous. But Smith’s brilliantly original dialogue and essential sweetness transcend the vulgarity and give his movies heart and soul. I am always curious to see what he does next.

“Jersey Girl” is a transitional film for Smith, interesting for its sense of where he is going but not successful in its own terms. This least conventional of movie makers has taken on the most conventional of movie plots — a widower bonding with his child, finding a new love, and finding himself — something covered in dozens of Hallmark Hall of Fame Father’s Day specials. And he gives it to us straight, with very little to make it fresh or vivid.

Ollie (Ben Affleck) has it all — a successful career as a publicist for pop stars and a beautiful wife (Jennifer Lopez). When she dies in childbirth, he is shattered. He turns the baby over to his father (George Carlin) and throws himself into his work.

But we all know what happens next. Ollie falters at first but then discovers how much he loves that baby. He loses his big fancy job and ends up driving a street sweeper like his father so he can take care of her. Seven years later, she has grown up into an adorable movie tyke named Gertie (the very talented Raquel Castro), and he is just about ready to begin to notice the very pretty girl (Liv Tyler) at the video store. Then we’re ready for the big crisis — will Ollie go after that big fancy new job or will he be there for Gertie’s school talent show? See if you can guess!

Oh, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. You once gave us dialogue that was sublime slacker poetry, with knowing riffs on everything from John Hughes movies to God’s sense of humor. The jokes in this movie are so flat, so easy, so boring. Can you really think it’s funny to have Ollie, circa 1997, try to persuade reporters that George Michael is “all about the ladies?” And a “meet cute” over bisexual porn in the video store? Having a young child sing Mrs. Lovett’s role in “Sweeney Todd” at a school production isn’t as charming as you think it is (though it is pretty funny that all of the other children perform numbers from “Cats”). The two barflies who act as Gertie’s “uncles” aren’t as cute as you think they are. Bart’s alcohol problem comes and goes for the convenience of the script; it’s there when Ollie needs to make a wisecrack but never creates a problem for him in taking care of Gertie or doing his job.

The “playing doctor” scene and subsequent twist feels like a “very special” episode of “Full House” to the tune of “The Cat’s in the Cradle.” The best Ollie can do in explaining what attracts him about going back to his old life in Manhattan is to say that he misses eating sushi and hailing cabs. Gertie talks like a movie kid, or worse, a sitcom kid. The movie’s climax features an intervention by a real-life movie star who explains what life is all about, followed by an artificial “will he make it in time even though the street is blocked” that has a complete absence of energy or suspense. Is it possible for a movie to jump the shark?

Affleck has some affecting moments and Tyler’s offbeat warmth makes their scenes together work better than they have a right to. Castro transcends her character’s faux adorability with some real star power. But the formulaic script and uneven tone make this film a real disappointment. This genre — and this message — is so new to Smith, he did not feel he had to make it new for those of us who have seen this kind of thing over and over again. But I still look forward to seeing what he does next.

Parents should know that this movie has very strong language and sexual references for a PG-13. Ollie and Maya talk about pornography and masturbation and she offers him a “pity jump.” Ollie walks in on Gertie and a friend playing doctor and Gertie walks in on Ollie and Maya in the shower (with clothes on). There is brief diaper humor. Characters drink and smoke (references to alcohol abuse) and there is a cocaine joke. A scene from a theatrical production of “Sweeny Todd” includes cutting a man’s throat. One strength of the movie (as in all Smith movies) is the very positive portrayal of inter-racial relationships, including a loving marriage.

Families who see this movie should talk about how they balance their family and work responsibilities. What are some of Ollie’s alternatives? Do you think Ollie is a good father? Do you think Bart is a good father? Sometimes families are made up of people who are related to each other, and sometimes they are made up of people who just care about each other.

Families who enjoy this movie should check out Kevin Smith’s very entertaining and interactive website. They might also like to see some other movies with similar themes, like The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Baby Boom, Kramer vs. Kramer and About a Boy.

Broken Lizard’s Club Dread

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

Does the world really need a comic slasher movie? Or, to be more precise, does it need another failed attempt at one?

The would-be wild and crazy guys from would-be comedy troupe Broken Lizard have now produced a second film, taking all of the sex and drug jokes not funny enough for Super Troopers and adding in grisly violence courtesy of a masked serial killer with a machete. What they forgot to add in was imagination, wit, acting ability, or distinctive characters. What it does have is a lot of joke-oids — dialogue that has the rhythm of a joke but is no actual comic content. When a sweet young thing tells a character that she goes to Oral Roberts University, you know what the joke-oid is going to be. And imagine the non-riotous non-humor they can find in an Asian character whose name, Yu, sounds just like the word “you!” Twice! And then there’s that little statue with the huge genitals. And the sex in a graveyard: “Isn’t this like sacred or something?” “No, they’re dead!” And the beastiality humor. They even throw in that gone-and-should-have-been-forgotten chestnut, sarcastic clapping.

The only evidence of intelligence on the part of Broken Lizard was the decision to set the story in an island resort. That way, at least they had fun filming it. If only we had fun watching it.

The resort is owned by Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton), a slightly burnt-out Jimmy Buffett-type who had four gold records with songs about kicking back in paradise (he insists his “Pina Colada Burg” pre-dated “Margaritaville”).

The resort is like a grown-up version of the place Pinocchio turned into a donkey — all sex, drugs, drinking, and more sex. And lots of girls in and out of bikinis.

The movie opens with a threesome drinking ecstacy-spiked margaritas as they get ready to have sex with each other. They are all slashed to death by a masked killer, and the rest of the movie is just dumb joke-oids as we wait around for a bunch of almost-interchangeable characters to be killed off. I was sort of glad when each one died because it meant we were that much closer to the end.

Parents should know that the movie has extremely strong language and explicit sexual references and situations, including a threesome, beastiality, sex toys, and oral sex. Characters are in peril and there are several grisly murders with graphic wounds and a severed head. A character pees in his pants. Drinking, drug use, and promiscuous sex are portrayed as carefree and empowering. Drinking games include a super-soaker filled with tequila.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the characters decided whom to trust.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the Scary Movie series.

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