Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Black or White
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language, thematic material involving drug use and drinking, and for a fight
Release Date:
January 30, 2015

 

The Book of Life
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements and brief scary images
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

Black Sea
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language throughout, some graphic images and violence
Release Date:
January 30, 2015

 

The Judge
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including some sexual references
Release Date:
October 10, 2014

Strange Magic
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and scary images
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

 

Fury
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

Four Brothers

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

We start out on the side of the four adopted brothers who reunite to find the people who murdered their mother, but they lose us in this over-violent and under-sincere story that strays from justice past revenge and into mindless vigilantism.

Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan) is a tough but warm-hearted woman who spent her life getting children out of foster care and into permanent homes. But there were four incorrigibles she could not place, and those were the ones she adopted herself. She made a family with impulse-control-impaired Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), captivated by a hot-tempered honey Angel (Tyrese Gibson), family man/play by the rules Jeremiah (Outkast‘s Andre Benjamin), and would-be rock star Jack (Garrett Hedlund).

At first, it looks like Evelyn was in the wrong place at the wrong time in a random gang-bang convenience store robbery. But then it appears to have been something more sinister, an orchestrated hit. Who would want to kill Evelyn Mercer?

Her sons do not want to wait for the police (Terrence Howard and Josh Charles) to answer that question. They go off on their own, asking questions and insisting on answers. Their preferred method of insisting involves pouring gasoline on the subject and lighting a match.

Director John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood, 2 Fast 2 Furious) knows how to film action scenes, but this time he seems to have forgotten how to make us care about the outcome. Without dramatic legitimacy, it all just seems noisy and gratuitous.

We begin as sympathetic to the brothers because of their loss. But they keep telling us how endearing and honorable and committed they are instead of showing us. Howard, the summer’s breakthrough actor following brilliant performances in Hustle and Flow and Crash shows more class and charisma in his brief appearance as a sympathetic policeman than all four of the brothers combined. A movie that has so little sense of how it comes across that it overestimates the appeal of its main characters is a struggle to sit through; one that underestimates the appeal of its other performers is a crime.

Parents should know that this is an extremely violent movie, not just in the portrayal of many violent confrontations with heavy artillery but in the almost nihilistically excessive nature of the damage. Characters drink and use drugs. They use strong and crude language, including homophobic insults. The bad guy is ruthless and enjoys humiliating other people. The movie has sexual references and situations and non-sexual nudity. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of strong inter-racial family and romantic relationships. But it is too bad that a movie that is so careful to avoid racial stereotypes in the good and bad guys descends to a cliched “spitfire” characterization of a Latina woman.

Families who see this movie should talk about how people like Evelyn Mercer can change the lives of people around them.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Singleton’s version of Shaft. And they might like to see the movie that inspired this one, The Sons of Katie Elder, a western starring John Wayne and Dean Martin. And they may enjoy seeing outstanding performances by Howard and Taraji P. Henson (who plays Jeremiah’s wife) in very different roles in Hustle and Flow (very mature material).

Say Anything

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:1989

Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) is an engagingly aimless high school graduate who likes junk food and kickboxing. Courageously, he sets his heart on Diane Court (Ione Skye), the most beautiful and brilliant girl in school, described as a brain “trapped inside the body of a game show hostess.” Lloyd has no conventional “smooth” talk but his free-association “say anything” style, good humor, and obvious genuineness make her laugh. She agrees to let him take her to a graduation party, and they have a good time together.

Diane and her father James (John Mahoney) are very close and he assures her that they can always “say anything” to each other. When Diane wins a prestigious fellowship to study in England, he tells her that it is everything they have ever worked for. One problem is Diane’s fear of flying. The other problem is her growing attachment to Lloyd.

Though she tries not to become too involved, Diane becomes closer to Lloyd. Her father feels that she is drifting away from him. Diane and Lloyd make love — a gentle, intimate experience, and she immediately tells her father about it. Finally, John forces Diane to choose, and she chooses her father over Lloyd. She tells Lloyd she just wants to be friends.

But her father’s love, which has always bordered on the obsessive, has also developed into the criminal. His nursing home is investigated for tax fraud. John has been taking money from the residents to spend on Diane. Diane is shattered. She returns to Lloyd for support. She cannot bring herself to visit her father in jail, so she sends Lloyd to see him with a letter. In an exceptionally sweet final scene, Lloyd and a terrified Diane are on the plane to England.

In this movie, the guy who appears to be aimless and incapable of achieving anything turns out to have a stronger moral code than John and to be more in control of his life than Diane. Diane may have an outstanding record, but she has missed out on making friends. Lloyd has excellent relationships with his sister and her son and with a number of friends. He is the one reliable enough to be the “keymaster” to make sure that no one leaves the party too drunk to drive. When he wavers about taking a stand with Diane, his friend reminds him not to be “a guy,” but to be “a man.” He is even willing to mediate the relationship between Diane and her father.

Lloyd waits for his future to come to him. As he says, “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.” But he knows that he wants to be with Diane, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to make that possible. Lloyd is ready to make his own choices and make his own mistakes. Diane, by contrast, has always had all her choices made for her.

The strength of Lloyd’s relationship with Diane is also contrasted with the disastrous teenage relationships of his friends, especially Cory’s broken heart over Joe. In a memorable scene, Lloyd’s buddies offer him (terrible) advice on how to treat women, and he responds, “I got a question. If you guys know so much about women, how come you’re here at like the Gas ‘n’ Sip on a Saturday night completely alone drinking beers with no women anywhere?” “Conscious choice, man” is their funny but unconvincing reply.

Diane’s father, desperate for her to succeed, is too overprotective and too involved with her. He has made her dependent. She is only able to flourish in Lloyd’s company. She appreciates Lloyd’s thoughtfulness in guiding her around some broken glass and his willingness to help her become more independent by teaching her to drive. Yet, she is still not ready to be on her own. She needs Lloyd to deliver her message to her father, and to comfort her as the plane takes off for England.

Parents should know that this movie includes brief strong language. Diane and Lloyd make love in the back of a car, an overwhelming and intimate experience for both of them. She goes home afterward and tells her father about it, pleased that she can “say anything” to him. There is liberal drinking at high-school party with a couple of students actively drunk. Lloyd is responsible for making sure everyone gets home safely. Families who see this movie should talk about why a girl as successful and ambitious as Diane would like Lloyd. If all James does is try to do what is best for his daughter, how does this go wrong? Lloyd has a lot of friends — what makes him so likeable? What will happen to Lloyd and Diane? Why do you think so?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy seeing Ione Skye (the daughter of 1960s pop star Donovan) in another story about a young man who flounders through his attraction to her, The Rachel Papers (deservedly rated R), based on the novel by Martin Amis. Cusack stars in The Sure Thing and The Journey of Natty Gan, and provides the voice of Dimitri in Anastasia. Mahoney appears on television’s “Frazier” and in the romantic Moonstruck.

Roll Bounce

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2005

In Undercover Brother, director Malcolm Lee’s shrewd but affectionate appreciation of the 1970’s was played for satire. In “Roll Bounce,” he brings that same evocative skill to a coming of age story that is sweet, funny, touching, and completely genuine. Lee creates not just the era some of us remember but also the moment all of us experience — that summer when the world opens up and you begin to see all the tantalizing and terrifying possibilities. And it has a superbly selected soundtrack of 70’s gems.

It is the summer of 1978 in the south side of Chicago. Xavier (Bow Wow), known to just about everyone as “X,” loves to skate, but the local roller rink is closing down. So, X and his friends decide to venture north to the upscale Sweetwater rink in the posh neighborhood. It is overwhelming at first. X and his friends wonder if the people at Sweetwater are better than they are, especially the local skating champion, Sweetness (Wesley Jonathan), who rules the rink with a rock-star-like entourage and his own theme music. The annual skate-off is coming up, with a $500 award for first place. X and his friends decide to compete.

X does not get a lot of support from his father (the terrific Chi McBride), who is struggling to keep the family together after the loss of his wife. He does not want his children to know that he has also lost his job. But he has not really allowed himself — or X and his sister — to mourn.

For X, friends are his family, anyway. Despite the constant tossing back and forth of insults (many relating to each other’s mothers or race), his friends are his support system, including a new friend who happens to be a girl (the sweet Jurnee Smollett as Tori).

This movie manages to pack in a lot of characters and a lot of plot and still keep a gentle, easy-going and nostalgic atmosphere. There are no surprises here. X and his father will have a confrontation and learn to understand each other better (they’ll both begin to develop relationships with lovely ladies as well) and X and his friends will wonder whether they are good enough to compete with Sweetness and then decide to give it their best shot. But the characters are endearing and genuine and it all goes down as easy as Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.”

Parents should know that this film has brief strong language, including racial epithets. Part of the culture of this community is “the dozens,” where people try to top each other with insults, mostly directed at each other’s mothers. There are also racial wisecracks, including the n-word, often relating to the characters of mixed racial backgrounds or in inter-racial relationships, but it is done with good humor and affection. Overall, a strength of the movie is its portrayal of strong and loyal characters of diverse backgrounds. There is some adult social drinking, but X’s father explains that he does not drink. There are some tense and sad moments.

Families who see this movie should talk about why X and his father had a hard time communicating and what made it possible for them to find a way to share their feelings of loss and sadness. Why was skating so important to X and his friends? Why do X and his friends insult each other so much? How do they demonstrate their loyalty and commitment?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Drumline, starring Cannon, Cooley High, Saturday Night Fever (mature material), and Breaking Away.

Red Eye

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Master of horror Wes Craven moves into the thriller genre, showing us that scary is scary, with or without grotesque killers (A Nightmare on Elm Street) or grotesque killings (the Scream trilogy). Craven’s sure sense of pace and ability to make the characters real enough to pull us in without becoming distracting makes this tense little film into a real heart-pounder.

It begins by almost lulling the audience into thinking we’re about to watch a romance. Lisa (Rachel McAdams) is an efficient young woman who is used to staying calm around people who are upset. She handles customer relations at a luxury hotel. When she is stuck at a Texas airport on her way back to Miami after her grandmother’s funeral, she strikes up a conversation with Jackson (Cillian Murphy of 28 Days Later), a sympathetic and charming stranger.

The plane finally boards and it turns out they are seated together. And then it turns out that is not coincidence. Lisa is in for a turbulent ride. And so are we.

Jackson is also an expert at staying calm and very efficient at what he does. He is an assassin. One of his colleagues is waiting outside Lisa’s father’s house. Jackson tells Lisa that her father will be tortured and killed if she does not call her notel to move a visiting dignitary to a different room.

Lisa is trapped, physically and psychologically. Jackson makes it clear that she won’t be getting any help from anyone on the plane. The pressure keeps increasing as the time gets shorter and she understands more about what she is risking.

Craven uses the claustrophobic confines of the airplane extremely well, keeping things moving enough to create visual interest but always making us aware of how vulnerable and limited Lisa feels. Then the plane lands. The landscape expands, but the tension tightens. (A quibble, though, about the treatment of the Deputy Director of Homeland Security, who travels like a rock star, not a bureaucrat, violating several federal laws and providing a “hey, wait a minute” reaction that momentarily takes us out of the movie.)

McAdams makes Lisa appealing and believeable and Murphy shows us the charm and the chill of the sociopath. But the star of the show here is Craven, who knows how to make a thriller thrill.

Parents should know that this is a very intense thriller with near-constant tension and peril. There are some scary surprises and brief graphic images. Characters are injured and killed. There is a scene in a bar. Characters drink and one becomes a little tipsy. There are brief sexual references and a few uses of profanity.

Families who see this movie should talk about Lisa’s job and past experiences affected the way she responded to Jackson.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Nick of Time with Johnny Depp and Collateral with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. They may also enjoy some of the other airport-based films, including dramas (The Terminal, Airport), romances (Jet Lag), and one of the most outrageously funny comedies of all time, Airplane! (mature material).

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