Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Annie
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

Alexander

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

Alexander the person was great. “Alexander” the movie is not.

It is a horrendously bad movie, a genuine 40-car pile-up of literally epic proportions, a three-way head-on collision of bad writing, bad acting, and bad direction. It is not just misguided, it is truly terrible in a way that is almost fascinating to watch. But not quite.

It begins with Anthony Hopkins as the aged Ptolemy, intoning the historical background for us. It’s true that Anthony Hopkins has a voice that could make the phone book mesmerizing. But the phone book would be an improvement over the turgid prose he is asked to slog through here. And he keeps coming back to tell us more; invariably throughout the next three hours we are told what we should be shown while we watch what we should have been told. Even with all of the narration and a fairly straightforward historical plotline, the narrative is frustratingly muddled.

Alexander (Colin Farrell) is the son of Philip (Val Kilmer) and Olympias (Angelina Jolie) and at the center of a firestorm of political intrigue and bitter personal feuds. His parents despise each other, and each urges Alexander to be bold and to trust no one. Alexander grows up to be very competitive but also sensitive. He tames the wild horse Bucephalus, gaining his father’s approval. But then Philip, who wants to make Olympias less powerful, takes another wife. He is about to name her infant son his successor when he is assassinated, making Alexander the king.

Alexander takes his armies on a quest to conquer the known world over eight years and 22,000 miles, and we finally get to the one watchable part of the movie. Writer/director Oliver Stone can stage a battle. The fights with the soldiers of Persia and India are striking and the confrontation between horse- and elephant-riders is exceptional.

But the rest of the movie is dreadful, a mish-mash of a clunker script delivered in a mish-mash of accents. It’s bad enough when one of the Greek soldiers speaks with the actor’s own Scottish burr. It is even worse when Roxane (Rosario Dawson), the wife Alexander choses from Bactria, uses the kind of faux all-purpose foreign pronunciation usually reserved for native maidens in 1940’s B-movies set on tropical islands. She sees him with Hephaestion (Jared Leto) and hisses “You love chhHEEEM!!”

The accents may be all over the place, but the Classic Comic-style dialogue is consistently terrible. No accent could make these lines work: “You must never confuse your feelings with your duties!” “Your life hangs in the balance!” “You can run to the ends of the earth, you coward, but you will never run far enough!” “We are most alone when we are with the myths.” “It was here that Alexander made one of his most mysterious decisions.” “They forgive you because you make them proud of themselves!” “What have I done to make you hate me so?” “You’re a king — act like one!” “I wouldn’t miss it for all the gold in the world!” “It’s easier to find the east than to find love.” “The dreamers destroy us. They must die before they can kill us with their blasted dreams.”

The script is way, way, way over the top and the acting is wildly over-heated, with moments that give Showgirls competition for combined insanity and inanity. The wedding night scene alone is enough to land the film a choice spot in the Bad Movie Hall of Fame. Alexander and Roxane roll over and over, hissing at each other like angry cats.

The classroom discussions of higher love between men and the longing glances and meaningful exchanges between Alexander and Hephaestion play like a soap opera written by middle schoolers.

Perhaps most disappointing of all is that there is not one performance with any authenticity or appeal. Even Farrell and Jolie lose all sense of perspective and resort to snorts and eye-rolling histrionics.

All of this is further weighed down by pacing that manages to be both slow and choppy. A flashback of Philip’s death is awkwardly inserted at a point that feels entirely random. There are too-frequent and heavy-handed symbols: caged beasts and a soaring eagle. We get it, we get it.

Ultimately, “Alexander” is the story of hubris. In this case, however, it is not the hubris of the young king who wanted to conquer the world, but the hubris of a writer-director who tried to tell the story and threw everything into it he could think of — including an indefensible rip-off of the opening of Citizen Kane — but completely left out class, dignity, and quality. Perhaps the best explanation for complete failure of this movie in every category is is the revenge of the gods.

Parents should know that the movie has extreme and explicit battle violence with many impalings and other graphic injuries. Alexander is portrayed as bi-sexual. There are very explicit heterosexual sexual situations and references and male and female nudity, plus references and implications of gay sex and some same-sex kissing and a mother-son kiss on the mouth and an attempted rape. Some exotic dancers perform in skimpy attire. Characters drink, sometimes to excess.

Families who see this movie should talk about Alexander’s influences. What did he learn from his father and what did he learn from his mother? Why did he marry Roxane? What was most important to him? What is best remembered about him? Why?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the much better Gladiator and the BBC miniseries I, Claudius. They might also like to take a look at the 1956 Alexander the Great, with Richard Burton in the title role. A guide to the many websites about Alexander can be found here. There are also many books about Alexander. A good place to start is Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox. Younger readers will appreciate Alexander the Great – A Novel by Nikos Kazantzakis.

Christmas with the Kranks

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2004

This meretricious claptrap is exactly the kind of baloney it purports to be saving us from.

There’s a reliable genre of family holiday movie that is made up of three-fourths slapstick followed by 15 minutes of sentiment. In this case, however, the characters are so unpleasant, the jokes so un-funny, the sentiment so blatantly hypocritical that the result is as heavy and unappetizing as last year’s figgy pudding.

The Kranks always do Christmas in a big way. But with their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) departing for Peru, the prospect of a Christmas at home doesn’t seem too appealing. Luther (Tim Allen) proposes to Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) that they skip Christmas. For half of the $6100 they spent on Christmas the previous year, they can take a luxury cruise. After Nora persuades Luther that they must still make their annual $600 charitable contributions, she agrees.

At first, they feel liberated from the pressure and hassles of Christmas. But when their friends and neighbors start to put pressure on them to conform. Luther is defiant, but Nora is uncertain. The neighbors are furious.

Instead of getting ready for Christmas, Luther and Nora get ready for their cruise. Just as they are ready to leave, their daughter calls. She will be home for Christmas after all, with her new boyfriend, Enrique, and she wants everything to be just the way it always has been. And she’ll be home in just a few hours.

This means that we are subjected to excruciating set-ups about the outrage of the community when the Kranks refuse to put their enormous Frosty up on the roof (“Free Frosty! Free Frosty!” they chant), turn down the Boy Scouts who come by to sell them a tree, and ice the walk to keep away the carolers. Then there are further sit-not-coms as they go to a tanning parlor (Curtis lets it all hang out in a tiny bikini) and Luther gets Botox in his face and can’t close his mouth to chew his lunch. There are equally un-funny escapades as everyone slips on the icy walk and as everyone scrambles to get everything ready for Blair. There are useless digressions about a robber and about a mystery man who seems to know everyone. The fact that Blair has a boyfriend who is a FOREIGNER is supposed to be funny. A cop spells his name wrong. Hahahaha!

One of the Kranks’ neighbors develop a very serious health problem, a particularly manipulative and awkward plot development that is too-obviously inserted to get our sympathy and give Luther a growth experience.

But what takes this movie from the harmless trifle category into the genuinely toxic is its attempt to leverage all of its audiences’ feelings about the best of Christmas while having no sense at all of what makes those feelings matter. Nora’s only contact with her clergyman is contrived so that he sees her in her skimpy bathing suit. The film’s phony attempt to make fun of the craziness, commercialism, and conformity of the holiday season is in fact just one more example, so fundamentally fake and superficial it makes tinsel look like sterling.

Parents should know that the movie has some mild sexual references (Nora thinks Luther wants to have sex and starts taking off her sweater and gulps down some wine, saying, “But it isn’t Saturday!”). Characters drink wine and beer on social occasions and some reach for alcohol to deal with stress. There is a lot of comic violence and mayhem, with many falls, bashes on the head, and electrocutions that are intended to be funny. A character receives bad news about the recurrance of cancer, which may be disturbing to some audience members.

Families who see this movie should talk about what is important about Christmas or other holidays and which traditions have the most meaning to them. They should also talk about peer pressure and how to know when to listen to the community and when to stick with your own judgment about what is right.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy seeing The Santa Clause (also starring Allen) and Home Alone.

Paper Clips

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2004

This is the touching story of Whitwell, Tennessee,a small coal mining community (population 1600) outside of Chatanooga. The population is almost entirely white and entirely Christian. When the local school set out to teach children about tolerance and diversity, the teachers realized that most of the children had never seen a person from another country or faith. So the school decided to teach students about the Holocaust in Germany during World War II.

As the students tried to come to grips with the Nazi genocide, they had a hard time visualizing the magnitude of the loss of six million people. They wanted to collect six million of something to represent the people who were killed.

The students did some research and learned that the paperclip was invented in Norway and that Norwegians wore paperclips on their collars to demonstrate their sympathy for the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and other groups being persecuted by the Nazis. The students decided to collect six million paperclips and began writing letters to everyone they could think of to ask for help.

This documentary shows how the project grew from a classroom assignment to an event that transformed the entire community. At first, progress was slow. The teacher feared it would take the students ten years to collect 6 million paper clips. But two White House correspondents from Germany heard about the project and came to Whitwell to visit. They wrote about the school, and then the Washington Post wrote a story, and finally the network news reported on the remarkable events in Whitwell.

Millions of paperclips started to pour in from around the world. Some came with letters from Holocaust survivors, their families, American soldiers who helped to liberate the concentration camps, and celebrities from Tom Hanks to then-President Bill Clinton. Tiny Whitwell became a meeting place for people of hope from around the world. Everybody wanted to pitch in to help. A group of Holocaust survivors came to visit the school to tell their stories and the entire town turned out to welcome them.

But what makes this story — and this movie — work is not the big moments but the small ones. The documentarians don’t do anything fancy. They have the good sense to get out of the way and let the story be told by the people who lived it. The result can be a little sugary at times, but it is always honest and touching.

We see the students opening up and growing as human beings before our very eyes. A teacher admits that the project made him confront his own prejudices. A survivor says that what makes him cry is not his sadness in the camps but remembering the happiness he has had since. A hug, a look, a touch, the expressions on the young faces as they meet with people who survived the Nazi death camps and telling and touching.

An astonishing contribution to the project arrives from Germany — on September 9, 2001, and it will be en route when the terrorist attack occurs in New York and Washington.

This is an illuminating and moving film, not about the Holocaust so much as it is about compassion, learning, respect, and change. It should be essential viewing for middle and high school students and their families.

Parents should know that while the film is rated G because it does not have any bad words or nudity, the film is about the study of the Holocaust and the topic of genocide and discrimination is a theme of the film.

Families who see this movie should talk about what the teachers say they learned from the paperclip projects. One of the students refers to the project as a “life-changing experience.” What have been your life-changing experiences?” What can you do to help make the lessons of history more meaningful to your friends and family? How will the students continue to make the project meaningful now that the collection is complete?

Families who see this movie should look at the Whitwell middle school’s website, with more information about the paperclip project. They should also visit the United States Holocaust Museum and learn about the memorial to the Holocaust martyrs and heroes at Yad Vashem.

The Holocaust History Project is one of many worthwhile internet resources for further study, and Nizkor is an exceptionally useful site that frankly and candidly addresses issues raised by people who deny that the Holocaust took place, whether through ignorance or anti-Semitism. It is an outstanding example of how to deal with any sensitive issue that is the subject of debate, addressing all questions with consideration and dignity. There can be no better evidence of credibility and integrity than this: “Nizkor believes that truth has no need for secrecy. We present the material of the Holocaust-deniers unaltered and completely openly, with links back to their web sites so that the reader may examine exactly what they say. And if and when they have a response to our work, we will of course cross-link to it, so that the reader may examine that response.”

Hotel Rwanda

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

“How can they not intervene when they witness such atrocities?” Rwandan hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) asks an American journalist (Joaquin Phoenix). “They’ll see this footage,” he answers. “They’ll say ‘Oh my god, that’s horrible,” and go on eating their dinners.”

Rusesabagina was a manager at a luxury hotel, the man who always knew what it took to smooth things along. A bottle of scotch here, a charming compliment there — this was not just business for him. It was insurance. The political situation was about to explode. Two ethnic groups, the nomadic Tutsis (also known as Watutsis) and the agricultural Hutus had been pitted against each other by the white Belgian settlers, who literally measured skin tone and nose width to elevate the Tutsis to preferred positions. When the conflict exploded into violence in 1994, the Hutus began a full-scale slaughter of over 800,000 Tutsis and any Hutus who supported them. At one point in the movie, two characters are driving at night over what they think is a bumpy road. It turns out that they are driving over piles of bodies.

In the middle of the madness, Rusesabagina hid more than 1000 Tutsis in his hotel. Using the same skills that made him successful as a hotel manager, he cajoles, barters, and bluffs his way into keeping them safe. He keeps hoping for help from the UN or the US, but, as the journalist said, they went on eating their dinners.

Cheadle is infinitely moving as Rusesabagina and Sophie Okonedo is quietly magnificent as his wife. The sensitivity of their performances is matched by the script and direction, which make their points, both personal and political, with grace, not bitterness. Like Schindler’s List, this film takes us deeply into the horror of one of the 20th century’s greatest tragedies by allowing us to focus on the illumination cast by one small story of grace, courage, and humanity.

Parents should know that the movie includes realistic, though mostly non-graphic depiction of genocide and compellingly portrays the sense of horror and insanity. Characters drink, smoke, and use some mild language.

Families who see this movie should learn more about the slaughter in Rwanda and how the role of the UN and other nations is determined. The CIA Factbook and Rwanda Information Exchange, and PBS site about the Hutu/Tutsi conflict provide some basic facts and this site has information about the international criminal trials. What countries are behaving inhumanely now? What can we do about it? Families should talk about the way that an ordinary man became capable of extraordinary courage. How do we know what we would do? How do we make sure we do the right thing?

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate Schindler’s List and Z. They should also read this interview with the director and the real-life Paul Rusesabagina.

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