Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Believe Me
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

Tracks
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
Release Date:
June 27, 2014

The Boxtrolls
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Neighbors
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

Mambo Italiano

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

It’s a little ironic that a movie about the importance of being different is so derivative of other ethnic comedies, such a sitcom-ish would-be “Son of My Big Fat Greek Wedding Only This Time About Gay Italians in Canada.”

There are some funny and even touching moments in this story of the gay son of a loving but suffocating Italian family. The problem is that it is such an over-the-top ethnic caricature, everyone constantly screaming or eating or both at once, while waving their hands and slapping family members on the back of the head.

Travel agency employee and would-be-writer Angelo (Luke Kirby) lives with his parents because in his community, “we leave the house one of two ways, married or dead.” Angelo is gay, but does not feel that he can tell anyone. He says he feels that every day he loses bits and pieces of himself.

He insists on moving into an apartment. Then, when he reconnects with his best childhood friend Nino (Peter Miller), now a gorgeous cop, they become lovers and roommates. Angelo would be completely happy except that while Nino insists that no one can know about their relationship, Angelo wants to let his parents know who he really is.

The result is an uneven mix of wild farce and coming out story. Kirby’s doe eyes are appealing and we want Angelo to find love and acceptance. But it is all too derivative and formulaic to seem as authentic as the story deserves. In the movie, someone tells Angelo what all aspiring writers need to hear — that he should write about what he knows instead of about what he thinks is exciting or marketable. The people behind this movie should have listened to that advice.

Parents should know that the movie has strong language, drinking and prescription drug abuse, a brief shot of a dead body in a casket, and explicit sexual references and non-graphic situations.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether it is all right for anyone, even members of a particular ethnic group, to caricature that group as much as this movie does. Why did Angelo have to be honest about himself before he could make his dreams of finding love and becoming a writer come true? They should talk about “active listening” and when it can be helpful. Why did Angelo’s family care so much about what other people would think?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Moonstruck and Outrageous.

Secondhand Lions

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2003

Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is dumped on the unwelcoming front porch of his two great-uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine) by his flighty mother (Kyra Sedgewick) so she can go to school and learn how to be a court reporter. She tells him that they disappeared 40 years earlier and just mysteriously returned. The rumor is that they have money hidden away somewhere, and she tells Walter to see if he can find it.

Hub and Garth are not used to taking care of anyone. They tell Walter that if he needs anything he should find it himself or, better yet, do without it. Walter is not used to being taken care of. His mother has had a series of worthless or abusive boyfriends. When he calls the school to try to talk to her, he runs through a whole list of aliases before finding out that she has lied to him again and never even enrolled.

Duvall and Caine have such easy charm that they make this movie work, though it sags when anyone else is on screen, including the flashbacks of their adventures in Africa and Osment’s struggles to find his character and manage his adolescent voice.

Parents should know that the movie has “action violence,” cartoon-style and not graphic. There are some tense family issues and sad deaths.

Families who see this movie should talk about their own best advice for children about growing up and about the importance of having role models. They should also talk about Hub’s view that sometimes it is important to believe in things whether they are true or not.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Holes and Shirley Temple’s Captain January.

Cabin Fever

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

Imagine the basic Texas Chainsaw/Blair Witch formula, where five college kids go out into the woods for a vacation in an old cabin, meeting a few eccentric townies along the way and ending up with less than pleasant results. But this time there’s no talk about, “Did you hear the old story of what happened here?” or “Look out, some crazy stuff has happened here before!” That’s because the killer is impossible to see, and almost impossible to avoid.

After brilliantly intense opening credits, Cabin Fever starts with a man in the woods finding his dog is dead. When he investigates the corpse he gets blood all over himself. Cut to five college students bursting out of school, ready for a fun trip out to the woods staying in an old cabin. After running into a hand-biting kid and some weird older men in a convenience store, they settle down in the cabin and have a campfire, go swimming, and one particularly dim kid goes squirrel hunting with a BB gun. He accidentally shoots someone, who we see is the man whose dog died, and who is now a bloody mess with some sort of flesh-eating disease. Terrified, the kid runs back to the cabin, but the man follows him and disrupts the area near the cabin, battering and spewing blood all over their car before getting chased away with a fire. So the kids try to call the police, walk through the woods searching for help, and try to fix and clean up the car. But one by one they break out in a disgusting, bloody, rash disease, and there appears to be no way to stop it…

Until the very end of the movie, we don’t know how the kids get the disease. That makes Cabin Fever all the more terrifying, for every time someone touches someone who’s infected, drinks the local water, or gets blood on them we can only cringe and wait to see if their flesh will start decaying. The people start to change before our very eyes, physically and horribly, but also as they get panic stricken they begin to change their behavior, taking desperate measures just to stay alive, sometimes irrationally. It’s scary enough for suspense fans, gory enough for slasher fans, and wonderfully shot and written by Eli Roth, David Lynch’s former researcher who makes his debut, as well as an amusing cameo. Roth benefits from frequent Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti’s score, and the viewer benefits from Roth’s storytelling skills and pull-no-punches direction. This is for horror fans only, but they will find this one of the best horror movies of the year.

It should be noted that Lion’s Gate Picture, which distributed Cabin Fever, is also responsible for this year’s debuts of horror writer/directors Lucky McKee and Rob Zombie, and appears to have become a breeding ground for new horror classics. Fans of that genre shouldn’t miss Cabin Fever.

Parents should know that this film contains foul language, two graphic sex scenes, drug use, and R-rated gore and violence. There is also a racial slur that is given an interesting twist at the end.

Most similar horror films have a scene where one of the characters tells a scary story similar to what’s about to happen, to set the stage. Cabin Fever tweaks that convention by having someone tell a story about a bowling-alley murderer that has little to do with the movie. Families may want to discuss why that’s there, the role of the convenience store workers and the local deputy, and the enduring appeal of horror stories, going back to the days when telling stories around the campfire was the primary form of entertainment.

People who enjoy this movie might want to try the original gory vacation tale The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the contagious disease-related Outbreak.

Matchstick Men

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

Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Thelma and Louise, Blade Runner) has assembled the ingredients in this movie like a perfectly iced martini that is stirred, not shaken. The result is dry but refreshing — and with a kick.

Nicolas Cage plays Roy, who is so proud of his ability to entice money from unsuspecting marks that he prefers to be referred to not as a con man but a “con artist,” specializing in the “short con,” the quick and simple cheat that does not require an elaborate set-up. But his conflicts about his success have left him feeling even more uneasy than he is willing to admit.

As a result, he has displaced his sense of guilt and has become ticcy and obsessive-compulsive, repeating motions, scrubbing windows, afraid of the outdoors. His source for the illegal drugs he had been using to control the symptoms disappeared, so his partner, Frank (Sam Rockwell) recommends a psychiatrist (Bruce Altman). In order to get the doctor to prescribe medication, Roy agrees to therapy. This leads him to explore unresolved issues from his past, including his longing for the child he never met. When his wife left him, she was pregnant. Fourteen years later, he does not know if she had a boy or girl or where they are.

The doctor helps Roy find his daughter, Angela (Alison Lohman). He is overwhelmed and deeply touched by her open-heartedness. And when she is fascinated by his skill as a con artist and when she shows that she has inherited it, he is very proud but also a little horrified. He wants something better for her than what he has had. He wants to be better for her than he has been. Maybe the thing to do is one last “long con” and then he and Angela can live happily ever after. But, as Roy tells Angela, the challenge for a con artist is being ready for things that you did not plan.

We see Roy using his best line on a mark: “What could be more important than family?” It is one of the movie’s uses of duality that he will find out what that question truly means. And when he tells Angela to be as open and honest with her mark as she can be, it is clear to both of them that open and honest is not his speciality, that he has conned for so long he may not know how to do anything else. The man who could not bear to have a shoe touch his carpet ends up making the biggest mess of all.

Altman is excellent, Lohman and Rockwell are both impeccable, but Cage is mesmerizing. His performance perfectly matches Scott’s direction, both exploring the movie’s multi-layered themes of conflict, betrayal, counterpoint, inversion, imperatives, and longing. This is a movie about con games at every level; characters con each other and con themselves.

And of course the ultimate con artist here is the movie itself. Some audience members will think there is at least one twist too many, and others will find that the pieces do not hold together as well as they might like. But others will appreciate its superb performances and story-telling, as cool as cocktail music.

Parents should know that the movie includes violence with some graphic injuries. Characters use strong language, drink, smoke, and self-medicate. There are some sexual references. And of course the main characters lie, cheat, and steal.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Roy’s failure to be honest with himself and the people he stole from may have led to his symptoms. How did Angela change his life? How did he change hers?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Sting and As Good as it Gets.

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