Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Fading Gigolo
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

Philomena
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
Release Date:
November 22, 2013

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

Grudge Match
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

Dumbo

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1941

The stork delivers babies to the circus animals, including Mrs. Jumbo’s baby, an elephant with enormous ears. The other elephants laugh at him and call him Dumbo, but Mrs. Jumbo loves him very much. When Dumbo is mistreated, she is furious and raises such a fuss that she is locked up. Dumbo is made part of the clown act, which embarasses him very much. He is a big hit and, celebrating his good fortune, accidentally drinks champagne and becomes tipsy. The next morning, he wakes up in a tree, with no idea how he got there. It turns out that he flew! He becomes the star of the circus, with his proud mother beside him.

The themes in this movie include tolerance of differences and the importance of believing in yourself. It also provides a good opportunity to encourage empathy by asking kids how they would feel if everyone laughed at them the way the animals laugh at Dumbo, and how important it is to Dumbo to have a friend like Timothy.

Parents should note that while respecting individual differences is a theme of the movie, the crows who sing “When I See an Elephant Fly” would be considered racist by today’s standards. One of them is named “Jim Crow” and they speak with “Amos ‘n Andy”-style accents, but clearly they are not intended to be insulting. Families who see this movie should talk about that depiction, as well as these questions: Why does Timothy tell Dumbo he needs the feather to fly? How does he learn that he does not need it? Why do the other elephants laugh at Dumbo’s ears? How does that make him feel? Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some stories with related themes. The circus train, Casey, Jr., puffs “I think I can” as it goes up the hill, just like “The Little Engine That Could.” Compare this story to “How the Elephant Got Its Trunk,” by Rudyard Kipling (read by Jack Nicholson in the wonderful Rabbit Ears production), in which another elephant finds his larger-than expected feature first ridiculed and then envied by the other elephants. Kids may also enjoy comparing this to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “The Ugly Duckling,” and other stories about differences that make characters special.

Dr. T and The Women

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2000

This doctor knows what ails you. Sully Travis (Richard Gere) is known as “Dr. T” to the adoring upper-class women of Dallas. He is a popular gynecologist, and why not? No trying to cover your nudity with embarassing paper “gowns” that rip when you sit on the examining table for Dr. T. His patients, still attired in their jewelry and even hats, are draped in heavy linen that matches the elegant uniforms of the staff. The patients rest their feet in the mink covers that protect them from the chill of the stirrups. His busy office feels more like a pricey beauty salon than a doctor’s office, with a constant hum of murmured assurances and air kisses. One impatient patient returns over and over again because it is the only place where people tell her she is beautiful.

And Dr. T does think they are all beautiful. He loves them all, telling his shooting buddies that “by nature they are saints — they are sacred and should be treated that way.” This includes not only his patients but also the many, many women in his own life, including his wife Kate (Farrah Fawcett), his two daughters, Dee dee (Kate Hudson) and Connie (Tara Reid), and his wife’s sister Peggy (Laura Dern), who has moved in to his house with her three small daughters.

Dr. T loves to surround his women with love and care, listening to them, adoring them, and protecting them from any kind of worry. But his women are having problems he cannot solve. Kate is having a mental breakdown that appears to be caused by not having enough problems. She has retreated into childhood and must be sent to a mental hospital. Connie drives a car with a JFK license plate and conducts conspiracy theory “Grassy Knoll” tours of Dallas. Dee Dee is preparing for her wedding, but the person she is really in love with may be her maid of honor. And Peggy barely hides her sense of desperation behind slightly shrill “Love you more’s” and secret snorts of liquor.

Dr. T is attracted to a golf pro named Bree (Helen Hunt). He tries to take care of her, too, but she is very independent. She drives the golf cart — and she leads him to her bedroom. When he tells her that he wants to make sure she never has to do anything or worry about anything ever again, she says, “Why would I want that?” Dr. T must relinquish the illusion of control and remember what really matters.

It is a great pleasure to watch director Robert Altman (“M*A*S*H,” “Nashville,” and many other classic films) and his team do their stuff and the movie is richly enjoyable. The production design is spectacular, perfectly creating the world of wealthy Dallas. The acting is marvelous. Richard Gere is more relaxed and vulerable than he has ever been, and Laura Dern is sensational as the desperate divorcee in outfits that would be considered outrageous anywhere outside of Dallas. The movie raises some thoughtful questions about what we can and can’t — and should and shouldn’t — control, with some mystical overtones as Dr. T is told that a wet woman is back luck, and then has to deal with a succession of drenched females. Some will find the ending abrupt, some misogynistic, and some just mistifying. It may be all three — but it is also moving, and even fitting.

Parents should know that the movie includes a same-sex kiss, brief nudity, and a very explicit childbirth scene. A character commits adultery. A character abuses alcohol. There are several hunting scenes, but no animals are shot. There is some strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Dr. T wants so badly to take care of the women in his life, and what effect that has on them. They should talk about why Dee Dee is planning her wedding when the groom seems superfluous (we never even see him or hear about him until the wedding scene). What is it that Dee Dee and Connie and Peggy want, and how will they get it? How are they different from Bree? What do you think about Bree’s reason for changing jobs? What does that mean to Dr. T?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Nashville.”

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:1964

Plot: In this blackest of black comedies, a “Duck Soup” for the Cold War era, a rogue American general named Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) goes mad and sends planes to drop nuclear bombs on the Soviet Union. He cuts off all communication to the base, and only he knows the three-letter code to cancel the attack.

The mild-mannered President of the United States (Peter Sellers) and Captain Mandrake, a highly civilized British officer (Sellers again) are no match for the bloodthirsty General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) and the demented Dr. Strangelove (Sellers again!), a former Nazi expert on nuclear weapons whose arm gets out of control, giving a “Heil, Hitler” salute and even trying to choke him. Turgidson’s view is that America should take advantage of the accidental initiation of war to fight to the finish and establish American supremacy. Mandrake is unable to trick Ripper into revealing the code, but, after Ripper commits suicide, following his explanation that flouridation is a communist plot, Mandrake figures it out. He is almost prevented from revealing it, however, when the suspicious Col. “Bat” Guano (Keenan Wynn) arrives in search of Ripper, and then when it turns out that no one has change for the pay phone. At the last minute, the correct code is sent, but an enterprising American pilot insists on carrying out the mission. The Americans spend their last moments designing a post-nuclear world, where the few remaining people live in mine-shafts, with ten women (selected for their fertility and appeal) for every man. The Soviet ambassador thinks this is an outstanding idea, but Turgidson still worries that the Soviets might have more mine shafts than the Americans.

Discussion: Teens who view this movie may need some background to understand the sense of helpless peril of the Cold War years. More important, they may need some preparation to understand the nature of black comedy, and some may find it very disturbing, particularly the unconventional ending, in which the world is annihilated. This can be a good way to initiate discussions about the nature of war and peace (begin with Ripper’s quote from Clemeanceu about war’s being too important to be left to the generals), and about the best ways of ensuring an enduring peace.

Questions for Kids:

· What do you think of making fun of issues like madness and nuclear desctruction? Does it make you feel more or less comfortable about the possibility of nuclear war?

· If the movie were to be made today, what details would be changed? Who would the nuclear threat come from?

· Who should decide when to initiate nuclear warfare?

Connections: The same issues are addressed in a serious dramatic context in “Failsafe,” released the same year. Some of the same issues of control of the war machinery are raised by “Wargames” and even by “Independence Day” (which has an explicit reference to this movie in Randy Quaid’s attack on the alien spaceship).

Activities: Teens should see if they can find out what the current state of nuclear disarmamant is and what the current issues are.

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2000

Audiences will feel like their own hearts are two sizes too large at the end of this wonderful sugarplum of a movie.

Based, of course, on the classic Christmas story by Dr. Seuss, this is the story of a Christmas-hating Grinch who tries to steal Christmas from the Christmas-loving Whos by taking all of their presents and decorations. But they and he realize that Christmas is in their hearts, not under their trees. The movie seamlessly expands the story to let us explore Whoville and its residents and to tell us just how the Grinch came to hate Christmas in the first place. Both are sheer delight.

Whoville, as imagined by production designer Michael Corenblith, is the most breathtakingly magical setting since Dorothy landed in Munchkinland. Every detail of the town is perfectly Seuss-ian. The structures suspend the laws of gravity, with no stright lines or right angles. Instead, there are a fantastic series of archways, bridges, stairs and spirals. Whoville clothes and hairstyles echo these shapes and then are topped with candy canes, cups of hot chocolate, and frosted cookies.

Jim Carrey and the Grinch were made for each other. In a miracle of costume and make-up design and an even bigger miracle of acting, Carrey’s extraordinarily expressive face and body make the Grinch seem hilarious, touching, and a little scary all at the same time. Newcomer Taylor Momsen, as Cindy Lou-Who, is adorable without being sugary. She confesses to having her own doubts about Christmas. She can tell that the Grinch is lonely and hurt, and much less scary than he would like to appear. Just as the Grinch is less grouchy than he would like us to believe, Cindy Lou is less sweet than the Whos want to think they are. It turns out that both of them know more about the Christmas spirit than anyone else in Whoville.

The settings and costumes and the Grinch himself are so mesmerizing that it would be easy to miss the rest of the cast, but Bill Irwin as Cindy Lou’s harried mailman father, Jeffrey Tambor as the vain mayor, and Christine Baranksi as a Who with Christmas decorations that would make Martha Stewart gnash her teeth in envy all make vivid impressions. The script has some clever lines, including a parody of the film’s director (former “Andy Griffith Show” star Ron Howard) and a dig at those who say that “kids today are desensitized by movies and television.” Another of the movie’s great joys is hearing Anthony Hopkins reads Seuss’ words the way we have always heard them in our hearts.

Parents should know that the movie is rated PG for brief crude humor (the Grinch tricks another character into kissing a dog’s rear end) and comic peril. The movie may be too intense and overwhelming for children under 6 or 7. The movie’s one major drawback is the near-absence of people of color in Whoville, unfathomable and unforgivable. Families that do not celebrate Christmas may also have some concerns about the movie.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it is so easy to forget the simple pleasures of the winter holidays, and how damaging it can be to peoples’ feelings to tease them about being different. The Grinch often does things that he thinks will make him feel better. Do they work? Do they help him forget his loneliness? Why not? Why doesn’t being bad feel as good as you might think?

Families who enjoy this movie should also see the classic animated version, with the unforgettable voice performance of Boris Karloff and the song (briefly reprised in this movie) “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

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