Movie Mom

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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 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

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 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

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

 

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

Forbidden Planet

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1956

Plot: It is the year 2200, and Commander Adams (Leslie Nielson) directs his spaceship to an earth-like planet called Altair-4 in search of a former earth colony, out of contact for many years. They receive a transmission from Dr. Morbius, telling them to go away, but they insist on landing. When they arrive, a huge robot named Robby greets them and brings Adams and two crew members to the home of Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon). Morbius shows off Robby’s many accomplishments, and tells them that, with the exception of Morbius and his wife, everyone else in the colony perished violently, killed by an unseen force, which has not bothered him since. His wife now dead, he lives there with his daughter, Alta (Anne Francis) and Robby. Curious about the men, Alta introduces herself. She has never seen any human other than her father, and her only friends are the animals, descendants of those brought from earth years before.

Morbius explains that a great race once lived on the planet, and he has studied their artifacts. In an attempt to use their minds and spirits to create something, he inadvertently created a creature made up of their fears and anger. It is called the Id. It reappeared when the colonists arrived, out of their subconscious urges. And, with the arrival of the crew from earth, it has come back again. The invisible being damages the spacecraft and kills three of the men before Morbius, realizing that the Id came from within him, renounces that part of himself, destroying both of them. Adams and Alta escape with the crew before the planet explodes.

Discussion: This was the first big-budget science fiction movie, and the only one for over a decade. It is loosely based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” the story of Prospero the Sorcerer and his daughter Miranda, who are alone on an island until a storm brings their former countrymen to them. Robby the Robot is the obedient Ariel. And the Id is the powerful and angry Caliban. The gadgets and special effects seem almost quaint to us now, but the movie is still fun to watch for younger children and it still raises some important questions for older ones.

The Id, of course, is named for Freud’s famous concept of the id, the instincts and impulses of the unconscious mind. Morbius says that he and his wife survived because they were the only ones who loved the planet and wanted to stay, that the monster was created from the fears and jealousies of the other colonists. The implication (more explicit in portions cut from the film), is that it is the jealousy Morbius feels when Alta falls in love with Adams that brings the Id’s destructiveness out again. In a way, this movie is more a way of exploring unconscious feelings we all harbor than it is speculation about life in the future or on other planets.

Questions for Kids:

This story shows the way people more than forty years ago thought about the future. What things might make people’s ideas about the future different now?

It is interesting that the threat in this movie comes not from some kind of space alien or “bug-eyed monster” but from within the humans themselves. If your feelings could create a creature like the Id, what would it look like when you are mad? When you are sad? When you are lonely? When you are happy?

Do you think we will ever have robots like Robby? What would be the best thing about having one? Would there be any disadvantages?

Is the rule making it impossible for Robby to harm any rational beings a good one, even though it makes it impossible for him to protect them from the Id? Can you think of a better rule?

Connections: Robby inspired, among others, the robot in “Lost in Space” and possibly the “Droids” in “Star Wars” as well. Anne Francis also appeared in “Bad Day at Black Rock” (again as the only woman in the story). Leslie Nielson is now best known for his work in wild comedies like “The Naked Gun” series.

Activities: Read or see a production of “The Tempest” and compare it to this story. (Mature high schoolers might enjoy a modern interpretation in a movie called “Tempest,” directed by John Cassavetes.) The idea of robots is a fairly recent one, dating back to a play called “R.U.R” by Karl Capek. Teenagers should read “R.U.R” and I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov, and become familiar with Asimov’s “rules” for fictional robots, including the one forbidding robots to harm living things.

High schoolers might appreciate some exposure to Freud’s ideas about the id, ego, and superego, which were very current in public consciousness at the time of this movie. His book An Introduction to Psychoanalysis is a good place to start.

Extreme Ops

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

They can fake a lot of things in the movies – they can make us believe that Superman can fly, that there are real dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, and that Harry Potter can wear an invisibility cloak and fight a giant three-headed dog. But they can’t fake coolness. One reason is that part of the definition of being cool is that you don’t notice or care whether you’re cool or not and would never exert any effort to try to pretend to be if you weren’t.

“Extreme Ops” is a movie that is fairly successful at faking some pretty cool stunts but a complete failure at trying to create some pretty cool characters. The premise is an obvious pander to the Hollywood notion of what teenage boys think is cool – a group of hotshot extreme sports superstars go to the Alps to film a television commercial and end up having to escape from a Serbian war criminal. So, basically, what we have is an opportunity for three kinds of stunts: get acquainted with the characters stunts, showing off for each other stunts, and getting away from the bad guy stunts.

In between there is some wisp of a plot about tension between the two partners making the commercial (played by slumming British actors Rupert Graves and Rufus Sewell) and a world champion skier (Bridgitte Wilson-Sampras) who thinks she needs to loosen up a little.

Parents should know that the movie pushes the limits of the PG-13 rating. The characters use the in-movies-only euphemism “freakin’” but their behavior exemplifies the show-me-the-rules-so-I-can-break-them extreme culture it tries to evoke. There is vulgar and crude language, brief nudity, and a same-sex kiss (on a dare). Characters drink (one gets drunk) and smoke. Characters are in extreme peril and there is a lot of shooting, but none of the good guys get badly hurt.

Families who see this movie should talk about how different people have different ideas about risk. What kinds of risks are hard for you, and what kinds are easier? Do you think it is odd that none of the characters in the movie seem to have any idea what is going on in the news?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the superb documentary about the origins of the extreme sports culture, “Dogtown and Z-Boys.”

Eight Legged Freaks

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

“Eight Legged Freaks” is essentially a cheesy 1950’s sci-fi drive-in movie with un-cheesy special effects. There’s no sense of irony and not much of a sense of humor. Instead, it has a rather sweet sense of pleasure in its own conventions, a sure sense of pacing, and some very impressive huge spiders. And I guess we found out where that surprising hyphen came from in “Spider-Man.” It’s missing from the title of this movie, which makes it appear to be about eight creatures with legs.

These are not Peter Parker’s spiders. They don’t give you super powers – they eat you. Remember in “Annie Hall” when Woody Allen told Diane Keaton that the spider in her bathtub was the size of a Buick? These are even bigger, more like the size of an SUV.

It’s all the fault of that old movie standby, “chemicals.” A small Arizona town is on the verge of going under, about to vote to sell the entire place for what the mayor says is a highway. But he has bad teeth and icky hair and is mean to his stepson, so don’t believe him. Chris (David Arquette), the son of the man who owned the now-abandoned mine, has come back after 10 years, hoping to realize his father’s dream of tapping into a gold vein and his own dream of finally telling the girl he loves (Kari Wuhrer as Sam), now the town sheriff, how he feels.

The plot is very simple, more computer game than story, but really a classic re-creation of movies like “The Blob” and “World Without End.” A chemical spill and some undisclosed toxic waste transform an entire zoo of 200 exotic spiders into huge, hungry monsters. Then the spiders chase the people, catching many of them. At first, no one believes it, then they run away, try to hide, and then fight back.

Parents should know that, despite the smart-alecky title, this movie is not a comedy like “Evolution” (okay, that was more of an attempted comedy) and does not temper the scariness with attitude, like “Men in Black.” It is a straight-out scarefest, and right up to the farthest edges of the PG-13 rating, with very explicit and gross violence and a lot of jump-out-at-you surprises. Characters are killed and eaten. In addition, a character chain-smokes, there is some alcohol, and some strong language. There is a reference to a teen pregnancy and to adultery. A teen-age girl is extremely clear about not being ready to have sex, despite pressure from a boy she likes very much, but parents may be concerned about her use of a stun gun to make her point. The female characters are tough and brave. One of the main characters is black, and although he is portrayed as a little paranoid and crazy, he is also brave and loyal.

Families who watch this movie should talk about the different kinds of spiders, which are actually fascinating creatures who benefit humans by eating mosquitoes. They might want to do some research here.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Arachnophobia and Tremors.

Drumline

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2002

John Philip Sousa and all of the Music Man’s 76 Trombones never dreamed that marching bands could be this cool. Farewell to the nerdy reputation for “band camp.” “Drumline” makes marching bands as soul-stirring as raise-the-roof gospel and more irresistibly, foot-stompingly, hip-hoppily thrilling than any video currently playing on MTV.

It’s a simple story, but very winningly told. Devon (Nickelodeon’s Nick Cannon) is a spirited kid who wins a full scholarship to college for his drum playing. The school, the fictitious Atlanta A&T, has a world-class marching band that hasn’t won the big competition sponsored by BET television, and the school’s president has put a lot of pressure on the bandmaster Dr. Lee, (Orlando Jones) to do whatever it takes to beat cross-town rival (and real-life marching band champs), Morris Brown College. But Lee believes that his job is to teach his students about music and about character, even at the cost of losing. At the center of this argument is Devon, whose flashy style and buoyant self-confidence put him at odds with the band’s most sacred commitment: “one band, one sound.”

We first see Devon at his high school graduation, adding a few unscripted licks to a drum performance, thanking his mother, and then before going to his party, stopping by to confront his father with grace and dignity, letting him know that he has managed to achieve success even without his help or support. We see that Devon is talented, confident, and headstrong, but that he is also acutely aware of his struggle to achieve all he has so far and of the challenges ahead as he leaves home for the first time.

He arrives at A&T to find something like boot camp. The student director of the “drumline,” Sean (Leonard Roberts) is the drill sergeant, and he and Devon are like two rams getting ready to head-butt each other in a battle for dominance. Devon also has to learn that his bravado won’t get him very far with Laila (Zoe Saldana), the pretty upper-classman who leads the band’s dancers. Devon has to pay the price for some mistakes, from not reading to the end of the rule-book to having lied on his application. He learns that “one band, one sound” is about more than the music.

The movie is about more than music, too. The band numbers themselves would be more than worth the price of admission, but the story and the characters hold their own. The story may be an old one, but the details of this unexplored world make it seem fresh and the very appealing performers make it seem real. Orlando Jones is one of the most talented comic actors in movies today, but in this decidedly un-comic role he manages to make Dr. Lee seem dedicated and principled without being priggish or inflexible. Cannon is outstanding, making us believe in Devon’s talent and charm. Cannon makes Devon confident and vulnerable at the same time, and lets us see Devon’s growth subtly and naturally.

Parents should know that the movie has some very strong language and there are some mild references to drinking and moderate references to sex, particularly comparing playing an instrument to making love. A character is accused of being a virgin. Nevertheless, the behavior of the characters is admirable. Laila makes it clear that she is interested in a boyfriend, not a brief encounter. Parents should also know that the movie addresses some racial discrimination concerns, as the one white student in the band is at first looked at with suspicion, but later accepted warmly.

Families who see this movie should talk about the conflict Dr. Lee faces as he tries to do what is best for the band. What does he decide is most important, and when, and why? Why was it important to show Devon’s confrontation with his father? How did that relationship affect his relationships with strong characters like Sean and Dr. Lee? What is it about Devon that Laila is drawn to? Why? What can you tell from the scene where each of the section leaders explains why that instrument is the most important? What does “one band, one sound” mean? Why does Dr. Lee think that honor and discipline are more important than talent?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Fame. Mature viewers should see Spike Lee’s outstanding film based on his experiences at a traditionally black college, School Daze. Families should also take a look at this website for more information about the real-life Morris Brown marching band.

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