Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Noah
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Finding Vivian Maier
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

Sabotage
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

Personal Velocity

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

With near perfect adherence to the original text, director Rebecca Miller has adapted three of the seven short stories from her book “Personal Velocity” for this engaging film about life’s turning points. She has transplanted her short, ambitiously descriptive sentences (“With relief Greta felt the ambition draining out of her like pus from a lanced boil“) from page to screen, taking advantage of the often unflattering effect of shooting in grainy digital camera to mirror the warts-and-all descriptiveness of the text. Miller has stayed so close to her own written word that those familiar with her book might be surprised to hear a man’s voice (John Ventimiglia) narrating the backgrounds of her heroines.

The stories summarized sound like fodder for a made-for-TV movie: Delia (Kyra Sedgwick) leaves her abusive husband in order to protect her three children; Greta (Parker Posey) leaves her milquetoast husband for her new career; and, Paula (Fairuza Balk) leaves childhood behind as she comes to terms with her pregnancy. Where they were discrete, the three stories are now tenuously linked by a narrative trick and geographical proximity to one another.

Each of these characters has her own source of power, from Delia’s sexuality to Greta’s intellect to Paula’s detachment, and each must use this power to attain her own ‘personal velocity’. This shorthand term for personal development and self-definition is used by Greta’s father, Avram (Ron Liebman), but is echoed in many aspects of the film. How personal velocity relates to unresolved issues with one’s parents and lovers is a theme Miller –herself the daughter of Arthur Miller and wife of Daniel Day Lewis—investigates with a hungry curiosity.

Kyra Sedgwick, long cast as the smiling and sympathetic best friend type, clearly relishes the role of steely-eyed, Delia, who swings her jean-clad hips from the brutal Kurt (David Warshofsky) into a hard new life fending for her kids. Parker Posey plays Greta with a deft touch and apparent ease, providing the least-self-conscious of the storylines and some much needed levity to the film. It is left to Fairuza Balk, who does an excellent job of projecting an iron will and feral impishness, to wrap up the stories with the sadly predictable “answer” to life’s big questions. Have a baby.

Each heroine is matched with one individual attribute: Delia Shunt is Courage; Greta Herskovitz is Ambition; Paula Friedrich is Hope. Perhaps Miller fears that sentimentality will prevent her characters from being “bony, rough and true” (Miller’s description of successful writing), but in taking a knife to the fat of emotions, she has left us a curiously lean dish. Although it makes some interesting insights, “Personal Velocity” never quite gets up to speed.

Parents should know that this film depicts very mature themes, including domestic violence, drug use, sexual politics, infidelity, underage sexuality, runaway teens, and child abuse.

Families who see this film should talk about how each character is influenced by her parents and by her past. If each character develops at her own “personal velocity” what does this mean for her relationships with those around her? This movie only touches on the male characters in each of the women’s lives. Why might Miller chose to make these characters two-dimensional?

Families who enjoyed this movie might wish to read the book, both for further understanding of the characters and for the other four short stories. Strongly recommended for those who like the camera feel and overall realism are the so-called “Dogme 95” films (“Italian Lessons for Beginners” and “The Celebration” in particular).

One Hour Photo

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) cares deeply about making sure that the snapshots he develops at the SaveMart are as perfect as the family life he dreams that they represent. He relishes the glimpses he gets of parties, Christmas mornings, vacations, and other happy occasions, understanding that it is only the good times that people want to preserve for their scrapbooks. “No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.” He knows that the first thing people save in a fire after all the people are out of the house is the family photographs, their best hope of imperishable memories.

Sy’s customers don’t just give him family pictures. He also develops photos of crumpled fenders for an insurance claims specialist and nude photos taken by amateur pornographers. But what captures Sy’s attention is the peek inside lives of vibrancy, intimacy, connection, warmth, and affection. And the family that seems most perfect to him is Will and Nina Yorkin and their nine-year-old son, Jake.

Inside the Yorkin house, though, Will accuses Nina of wanting her life to be like the pictures she looks at in magazines, as entranced by the appearance of perfection as Sy is. Nina accuses Will of neglecting Jake and being distant from her.

Will does not pay enough attention to his family. Sy pays too much.

Writer/director Mark Romanek shows Sy and his small corner of the cavernous SaveMart in the blandest of neutral colors with cool undertones. The Yorkins, in person and in the photos meticulously color-balanced by Sy, are shown in warm, bright, vivid colors. In the movie’s most powerful sequence, Sy leaves the SaveMart to go to his apartment, furnished as sparely and generically as a motel room. Everything about him is beige, even his hair. Then the camera pulls back and we see one huge splash of glowing color, a mosaic of bright photos covering most of a pale wall. They are all of the Yorkins, going back to before Jake was born.

Another customer’s photo order gives Sy evidence that Will Yorkin does not appreciate his family. And Sy’s boss (Gary Cole) fires him for making hundreds of prints that are unaccounted for. He dreams of walking down endless, colorless, empty aisles at SaveMart, the bare shelves rising behind him like the wings of an avenging angel and his eyes spurting dark red blood.

The movie begins with Sy having his picture taken, full-face and profile, in a police station (“Do you have your own lab?” he asks on the way to the interrogation room). A detective (“ER’s” Eriq La Salle) tells him that they have developed his pictures and they are “not pretty.” So we know from the beginning that something bad will happen.

Romanek’s roots in music video show. This is his first feature film. He handles mood and tone well. The attraction of the material is obvious – as a director, he is something of a voyeur himself, obsessing about perfect pictures. But the result is that the movie is too much about images and surfaces, more artificial itself than the artificiality it attempts to depict. It’s not about anything real. It’s about what Romanek imagines middle America to be like.

The attraction of the material for Williams is obvious, too -– the utterly repressed character is the other end of the scale from his own personality and his best-known performances. But inside every comedian is a lot of hostility, and Williams uses his well to create both pathos and menace. Overall, the movie’s logical lapses (if both members of a romantic couple are in the supposedly intimate photo, who was taking the picture?), odd conclusion, and too-easy explanation keep it from being completely successful. Like Sy, Romanek seems to have lost the boundaries between the observer and the image.

Parents should know that this is an intensely scary thriller with severe peril (though not graphic), nudity, and sexual references and situations, including adultery and child molestation.

Families who see this movie should talk about the role that photographs play in their own lives. Would someone looking at your family’s photographs get an accurate picture of your family? They should also talk about whether we do enough to pay attention to people who are less fortunate and may be lonely.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the brilliant thriller, Manhunter, the original movie featuring the Hannibal Lecter character (played by Brian Cox). Its remake, “Red Dragon,” with Anthony Hopkins and Edward Norton is scheduled to be released in 2002. They should also listen to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” a song about “all the lonely people,” including the title character, who was “buried along with her name; nobody came.”

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2002

The story behind this film is as remarkable as the film itself. Actress/writer Nia Vardalos created a one-woman show about her Greek family and their response when she married a man who wasn’t Greek. Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson (who is Greek) saw the show and decided to make it into a movie with Nia playing herself.

You’ll fall in love with Vardalos and her family, too. The family is an irresistible force and she is just plain irresistible.

In the movie, Vardalos plays Toula, the shy, plain daughter of a loving but overpowering Greek family. Her father, Gus (Michael Constantine), can prove that any word originally goes back to a Greek source, even “kimono.” Dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins, who all seem to be named Nick, are constantly involved in the most personal details of each other’s lives. And, in a tradition that goes back to ancient Greek mythology, there is a sense of fate and determinism that leaves Toula feeling that her life has been mapped out for her. Her family believes that Greek girls are here to marry Greek boys, have Greek babies, and cook a lot of Greek food. In the unlikely event that they do not get married, they are expected to work in the family business, in her case, a Greek restaurant.

But Toula dreams of more, and with the help of her mother and her aunt, manages to have Gus thinking that it is his idea to have her go back to school and get another job – in her aunt’s travel agency.

This small change means a lot, and Toula begins not just to bloom, but to glow. She attracts the attention of Ian, a handsome teacher (“Sex in the City’s” John Corbett). She is a reluctant to have him meet her family, and there are certain cultural adjustments involved, but it all works out and the title event is squarely in the happily-ever-after tradition.

Vardalos and director Joel Zwick balance the specifics of the Greek-American culture with the transcendent universalities of family dynamics. Vardalos and Corbett have a believable sweetness with each other. The movie is riotously funny but heart-catchingly touching and it will make you want to go back and hug everyone you are related to.

Parents should know that there is a non-graphic sexual situation, but it is clear that Toula and Ian wait until they are really committed before going to bed together. Characters drink (Ian’s parents are introduced to powerful Greek Ouzo).

Families who see this movie should talk about why Toula has a hard time telling her family how she feels. How does this family compare to others that you know or have seen in other movies, or to your own? Does your family have a combination of ethnic cultures, and what are some of the issues that have come up in meshing them?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy some other family cultural clashes in Moonstruck (some mature material) and Flower Drum Song.

Mr. Deeds

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

I may be too old for Adam Sandler movies, but it seems to me that he’s getting too old for them, too.

Sandler really brings out my “Mom” side – I want to tell him to stand up straight, stop dressing like a slob, and start living up to his potential. His movies are one-sentence concepts plus cheap shots and middle-school-style body part jokes to fill out the rest of the 90 minutes. This time, he didn’t even come up with his own one-sentence concept. Instead he lifted one from a genuine Depression era movie classic starring Gary Cooper, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.” Then he took out all of the wit and warmth (and the point) and substituted jokes about getting hit on the head, getting hit in the genitals, snapping off the arm of a frozen dead body, getting stabbed in the foot, physical deformity, and getting hit in the throat.

Sandler can’t be bothered to move on from the 1980’s, which still serves as his touchstone for comic references (like John McEnroe). As with the courtroom scene of Big Daddy, Sandler could also not be bothered to spend five minutes asking a few questions about annual shareholder meetings actually work, thus making the situations more ludicrous than humorous.

As in the original, the main character is a small-town guy named Longfellow Deeds who writes poems for greeting cards and is kind to his neighbors. Deeds unexpectedly inherits a fortune. (It was $20 million in the original, now $40 billion in the remake.) So, he goes to the big city, where an unscrupulous reporter named Babe (Jean Arthur in the original, Winona Ryder in the remake) pretends to be a damsel in distress to get close enough to him so that she can write stories about what an idiot he is.

Sandler’s “I’m just a sweet guy who likes dumb jokes” routine is getting tired, and apparently so is he – he looks puffy and uninterested in many of the scenes and oddly uncomfortable when called upon to kiss his leading lady. Ryder is far classier than the material, as are supporting stalwarts John Turturro, Conchatta Farrell, and Steve Buscemi. The other supporting actors range from bland to incompetent, including the obviously uncomfortable John McEnroe.

Parents should know that the movie has extremely vulgar humor and strong language for a PG-13.

Families who see this movie should talk about what they would do if they inherited $40 billion, how childhood dreams turn into adult realities, and how the media covers celebrities.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Sandler’s best films, The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy. All families should see the classic original film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and talk about whether ideas about money were different during the Depression than they are now.

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