Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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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

 

Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 2014

Boyhood
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use
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

Planes: Fire & Rescue
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action and some peril
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

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

Like Mike

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2002

“Like Mike” has a formula intended for box-office heaven – a teen idol into a family friendly fantasy. Pint-sized rap star Lil Bow Wow plays an orphan who becomes an NBA star when he puts on a pair of sneakers that just might have once belonged to Michael Jordon.

Lil Bow Wow (now grown up enough to be known just as Bow Wow) was born Shad Gregory Moss. His rap name was bestowed by rap superstar Snoop Dog when, only six, he was invited onstage and dazzled the crowd.

In “Like Mike,” LBW plays Calvin Cambridge, who lives in an orphanage run by a meanie named Bittleman (creepy Crispin Glover). Like Little Orphan Annie, Calvin’s sunny outlook and determination sustain him, though he wishes he had a family. His best pals are Murphy (“Jerry Maguire’s” Jonathan Lipnicki) and Reg (Brenda Song). The orphanage bully, Ox (Jesse Plemons), pushes him around, but Calvin does not allow Ox to affect his view of himself.

A pair of used sneakers in a box of donated clothes has the initials “MJ” and there is a rumor that they were worn by a tall, bald, pro basketball player when he was a kid. Ox throws them onto a telephone wire, but Calvin gets them down in the middle of a lightning storm. (Parents might want to warn kids that this would not be a wise thing to try in real life.) When Calvin and the shoes are hit by lightning, something very special happens. When Calvin wears the shoes, he can play “like Mike.”

Calvin ends up playing for pro team the Knights, originally as a publicity stunt, but then as a real member of the team. The other teammates are at first skeptical and hostile, but they learn to appreciate his contribution. Calvin’s roommate and assigned mentor is Tracey Reynolds (Morris Chestnut), a loner who does not speak to his father and does not want to get close to anyone.

The script is right out of the Hollywood formula box, with everything from two different “shoes not there at the crucial moment” scenes and important lessons about teamwork to the winning shot going into the basket just as the buzzer goes off. It’s a combination “Air Bud” and “Absent-Minded Professor.” The movie is oddly edited with some plot holes. We never find out what went wrong in Tracey’s relationship with his father and we get very inconsistent information about his relationships with a couple of different women. The resolution with Bittleman is offscreen and unsatisfying, and many of the kids are still left without parents at the end of the movie.

The best thing about the movie is its surprisingly able cast of supporting players, including Robert Forster as the coach and Eugene Levy as the team’s publicist. Chestnut is real leading man material. LBW himself has a lot of charm. A number of NBA greats make brief appearances.

Parents should know that there is a surprising amount of abuse and cruelty by adults in this movie. Bittleman lies, cheats, calls Ox an idiot, and forces the children to sell candy outdoors late at night. He burns Murph’s only photo of his mother. Some kids may be upset by the orphanage and by Tracey’s estrangement from his father. Make sure kids know that they must stay away from power lines and lightning. And make sure that kids know that room service is not free!

Families who see this movie should talk about where the power really came from. Why did Calvin want a nickname? Why, when he wanted a family so badly, did Calvin reject some of the people who wanted to adopt him? What is a mentor, and how do you find one or become one? How much of what made Calvin a basketball star was in the shoes, and how much was in his heart?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Air Bud and Angels in the Outfield. (Click here for the original 1951 version, which is even more delightful.) They may also want to try Rookie of the Year.

Knockaround Guys

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

Kim

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1950

Plot: Kim (Dean Stockwell) is a street kid who lives by his wits in Victorian India. The orphaned son of white English parents, he disguises himself as a native, because “missionaries take white boys to school” and he wants his freedom. He lives by petty theft and by running small errands for people like Red Beard (Errol Flynn), also a white man who dresses and lives as a native.

On his way to deliver a message for Red Beard, Kim meets a mysterious holy man (Paul Lukas), who is searching for a mythical holy river that will cleanse sins. Kim accompanies the holy man as an apprentice to make it easier for him to reach the place where he must deliver Red Beard’s message. He becomes fascinated with the holy man, and stays on with him until he is discovered by British officers, who realize that he is the son of a former colleague, and send him to a military orphanage, promising him to “make a white boy of you.” Unhappy at the orphanage, he is sent to a posh private school, St. Xavier’s, where he has trouble fitting in. He lags far behind the other boys in schoolwork, and is constantly told that what he is used to doing is “not done at St. Xavier’s.” On his way back to the military orphanage for school break, he runs away and returns to native garb. Red Beard’s friend trains him in “the great game,” espionage, and, reunited with the holy man, he gives crucial aid to the British in the battles along the Afghanistan border. The holy man dies, and Kim and Red Beard ride off together.

Discussion: This is a colorful and exciting story, based on the book by Rudyard Kipling. As in “Oliver,” “Huckleberry Finn,” and “Aladdin” (and “Home Alone”), it is the story of a boy who must take care of himself in the adult world, and Kim does a reassuringly good job. He even takes good care of the holy man. One theme of interest in the movie is the way that he is able to move back and forth between two different worlds, each apparently requiring different clothes. In one scene, he is able to make himself almost invisible by dying his skin and putting on a turban; even his schoolmate does not recognize him, when he asks for alms. Only one character can tell that he is a fraud; the “fat man,” who sees that his beads and belt are wrong.

Topics for discussion include the various petty thefts and subterfuges Kim uses, and whether they are justified, as well as the larger issues of colonialism and the author’s point of view.

K-19: The Widowmaker

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

It’s a bad sign when a movie can’t make up its mind between two titles and just goes with both of them. In the case of “K-19: The Widowmaker,” that is an accurate indicator of its ambivalent, pretentious, inflated, and heavy-handed tone.

It begins with that dreaded signal of fake profundity, the notice that what we are about to see is “inspired by real events.” That all too often means that we will see a lot of fake human drama around some real-life challenge or turning point.

And what that means in this case is a tired retelling of the submarine movie conventions that we have seen in much better form in movies like “The Hunt for Red October” and even potboilers like “Crimson Tide.”

The setting is the USSR in 1961, at the height of the cold war. “Comrade Captain” Polenin (Liam Neeson) is the honorable and beloved leader of the Navy’s flagship, a zillion-dollar nuclear-powered submarine. Moscow is eager to get it out onto the water, but Polenin says it is not ready. So, he is replaced by taciturn tough guy Captain Vostrikov (Harrison Ford), the kind of officer who fires the ship’s only reactor specialist on the spot and whips out his stopwatch to call simultaneous drills.

Thus, we get some good comrade captain/bad comrade captain moments, the kinds of scenes where someone says “You’re pushing them too hard!” and someone responds by saying that it is the only way to teach them what they are capable of. Then it’s good ship/bad ship, as a perfect test missile firing is followed by a reactor leak that puts not only the ship but the whole world at risk.

If you don’t know what is going to happen when you see one sailor hanging a little white mouse in a cage over his bunk and we see one handsome young officer (played by Peter Sarsgaard of “Boys Don’t Cry) just out of school both (1) extol the wonders of atomic energy and (2) jump off of the truck to the sub to kiss his pretty girlfriend goodbye, then there are plenty of better movies that will give you the answer in a manner that is less ham-handed than this one.

Neeson and Sarsgaard do their best, but Ford, in trying to make his character complex, just makes him muddled. Director Kathryn Bigelow has a marvelous fluidity in maneuvering the camera within the tightly confined spaces, but her gifts are best used with action (as in the under-rated Point Break), not tension, which is what is called for here. The movie effectively conveys the decay of petty bureaucracy, but it is slow and too long. And it has one of the worst uses of music in years, all plinking balalaikas, syrupy strings, and, in the moments of greatest peril, angelic choirs, like a Carol Burnett Show parody of a WWII-era propaganda film. And then there is the old-age make-up in the last scene, which is just silly.

Parents should know that the movie is at the farthest edges of the PG-13 rating, with very graphic and tragic scenes and intense peril. Major characters die. There is drinking (some tipsiness) and smoking. There are also some bare bottoms.

Families who watch this movie will want to talk about many of the choices faced by characters in this movie, including those who knowingly sacrificed their lives – or who ordered others to sacrifice theirs — for their country and for their colleagues. The men on the sub watch propoganda movies about the Klu Klux Klan and other problems in the U.S. How do we know that what we hear about other countries is a fair and accurate picture? They should talk about how people can strike the right balance between insisting on a high standard of performance and making sure they have enough information to make the right decisions. U.S. examples like the Challenger disaster and the corporate corruption of 2002 raise these issues. Families might also want to look into some of the issues raised by the use of nuclear power and the problems of disposing of all of the hardware from the Cold War that gave rise to the acronym MAD for “mutually assured destruction.”

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy The Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide. They may also want to try Das Boot, probably the most vivid depiction ever of the terror submariners live with. For movies about the complexities of command, try “Patton,” “A Few Good Men,” and “The Caine Mutiny.”

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