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

Training Day

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2001

Denzel Washington has a coiled, controlled energy that puts tremendous power behind his coolness and grace. That quality works well for him when he plays good guys, adding complexity and ambiguity to his portrayal of heroes from the Washington Post reporter in “The Pelican Brief” to the lawyer in “Philadelphia” and real-life figures Hurricane Carter and Malcolm X. Here that cougar-like quality adds a lot of sizzle to his portrayal of a bad guy, a rogue cop who has crossed the line so many times that he doesn’t even see it any more.

Washington plays Alonzo Harris, head of an elite unit of LAPD narcotics officers. Ethan Hawke is Jake Hoyt, the rookie who has just one day to show Alonzo that he should join the unit. Jake is smart, tough, and very motivated – he wants to make detective, and this is his best opportunity. But Alonzo tells Jake that his ideas are all wrong, and that the streets and the police are very different from what he has been taught.

Jake climbs into Alonzo’s huge black Monte Carlo and before he knows it, he is smoking marijuana laced with PCP and watching Alonzo rough up attempted rapists and let them go. Like Dorothy in Oz, he knows he’s not in Kansas anymore. Alonzo is a master of manipulation, using a mix of trash talk, bullying, and charm to persuade Jake to violate every principle he has. He is constantly pushing, constantly testing. At first, Jake is so eager to be accepted that he accepts Alonzo’s view that only a wolf can catch another wolf. But when it appears that Alonzo thinks of Jake not as fellow predator but as prey, Jake decides that only one of them can survive.

Washington is dazzling in his Oscar-winning performance as Alonzo. He lets us catch a glimpse of Alonzo’s desperation as he interacts with a charming drug dealer with a taste for expensive drinks (Scott Glenn), three “wise men” who run the department, the mother of his child, and the men of his unit. With each encounter, he shows us a different approach. Hawke is just fair as the white-bread rookie, but Glenn and singers Macy Gray, Snoop Dog, and Dr. Dre make the most of small roles. The director, Antoine Fuqua, shows his music video roots with a style that is often flashy but not always in aid of the story.

Parents should know that the movie is a very strong R, with extremely rough language (including the n-word and anti-gay slurs), graphic violence (including the murder of major characters), drug use, brief nudity, and sexual references.

Families who see the movie should talk about the way that seemingly little exceptions to ethical rules end up creating very serious problems. When do the ends justify the means? This may be especially meaningful in light of the current debate about how to respond to terrorism.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Internal Affairs a better film with a similar story line, starring Andy Garcia and Richard Gere.

Traffic

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2000

A hard-line judge is selected as the President’s new general in the war on drugs. Front-line cops in Mexico and the US go after the small-time distributors and try to make cases against the sources of the drugs. A pampered wife, pregnant with her second child, finds out that her husband’s legitimate businesses are just a front for his real import — cocaine. The judge’s teenage daughter becomes a heroin addict.

Director Steven Soderbergh (“Erin Brockovich,” “Sex, Lies, and Videotape”) ably keeps these stories on track, cutting back and forth to let them provide context and contrast for each other, and using different color pallattes to help keep them straight. There are some good lines: a character compares efforts to cut off the drug supply to a game of “Whack-a-Mole” and when a wealthy high school kid overdoses, one of the other teenagers at the party says, “He can’t die on the f**ing floor–his parents are in Barbados!” And a cop notes that “In Mexico, law enforcement is an entrepreneurial activity.”

Despite a first-rate all-star cast, the movie feels flat and a little formulaic, almost like one of those old “Dragnet” episodes about the dangers of drugs. The script moves the characters around like chess pieces. Packing so many stories in so little time requires a lot of narrative short-cuts like coincidences and stereotypes. The Zeta Jones character switches from innocent and doe-eyed to commanding and vicious faster than you can say “Michael Corleone.” Individual scenes have some tension and some fine performances (especially by Benecio del Toro and Don Cheadle as cops), but the overall impact is muted.

Parents should know that the movie has everything that triggers an R rating: violence (including the death of major characters, murder, torture, and a teenage overdose), explicit sex (including the judge’s daughter trading sex for drugs), and strong language. Characters betray each other and there are intense family scenes. However, this is at its heart a morality tale, and all of the R-rated material is in the service of the overall anti-drug message.

Families who see this movie should use it as an opportunity to talk frankly about drugs, both their own views on individual drug use and the impact that the drug business has on the community and the country. As teenagers what they think about the way the judge and his wife responded to his daughter’s drug use, and about his decision at the end of the movie. Was it the right one? Why did the drug dealer’s wife decide to become involved in his business? Did the movie make you feel differently about the role that illegal drugs play in the lives of people around us? When the judge asks the staff for new ideas, the response is silence. What should the next person to hold the anti-drug czar job do?

Families who like this movie should see some of the other performances by its outstanding cast, including Del Toro (who won an Oscar for this role) in “Snatch” and “The Usual Suspects” (both for mature audiences) and Cheadle in “A Lesson Before Dying.” Families who enjoy this movie might like to see the English miniseries that inspired it, “Traffik.”

Town and Country

posted by rkumar
F
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2001

Part Woody Allen-style mid-life crisis movie, part old-fashioned, door-slamming bedroom farce, part “let’s laugh as rich folks mess everything up while we enjoy looking at their beautiful homes and clothes,” and possibly part therapy session for leading man Warren Beatty, this movie is ultimately mystifying.

Beatty plays architect Porter Stoddard, who seems to have it all. He has a beautiful wife, Ellie (previous co-star and onetime Beatty girlfriend Diane Keaton), who is successful in her own career as a decorator, and he has beautiful homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons. He has two attractive children, and if he is not entirely thrilled with their romantic partners (one does not speak English and one has a tongue stud), his attitude toward them is one of benign neglect. The Stoddards have just celebrated their 25th anniversary in Paris with their very best friends, Griffin (Gary Shandling) and Mona (previous co-star and onetime Beatty girlfriend Goldie Hawn).

But things are about to fall apart. Mona discovers Griffin checking into a bed and breakfast with a redhead, and she leaves him. Porter begins to wonder what he has been missing in 25 years of monogomy, and has a one-night stand with a cellist (Nastassja Kinski), has sex with Mona, and has almost-affairs with two other women, all of whom end up in the same ladies’ room at a black-tie event. There are many, many near-misses, which are supposed to be funny but are merely painful, before Ellie finds out, which is even more painful.

Porter has a near-affair with Eugenie (Andie MacDowell), a woman who thinks her stuffed animals are real and likes to have them simulate having sex. She takes him to meet her wealthy parents (Charlton Heston and Marian Seldes). Her mother crashes into things with her motorized wheelchair, screeching at Heston about his sexual inadequecy in the most explicit terms outside of a porn film, and Heston comes after Porter with a rifle for trifling with his little girl.

Rumors of problems have plagued this movie for at least two years, and some incoherence and inconsistency may be evidence that it has been recut. It is momentarily fun to watch these actors in these settings, and especially welcome to see a movie featuring stars over 25. But the characters never engage us. Ellie and Porter both seem so self-absorbed that it is hard to care whether they stay together or not, and there is something grotesque about the way the charmless Porter is immediately adored by every young, beautiful woman who sees him. Jenna Elfman is wasted in a small role, though she does look great dressed as Marilyn Monroe. There are some funny moments, but overall the movie will appeal most to those who are in the demographic of its performers and not much even to them.

Parents should know that the movie includes extremely explicit sexual references, sexual situations, brief nudity, and very strong language. A character has problems telling the people close to him that he is gay. The subject of the movie is adultery and some, but not all, characters pay a price for infidelity.

Audiences who see the movie should talk about their views on fidelity and resisting temptation.

Audiences who like this movie will also like “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy,” written and directed by Woody Allen.

Thomas and the Magic Railroad

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2000

The beloved PBS series about the little blue train and his friends moves to the big screen with a story that will please its many fans, though they might find it a little hard to follow. Even adults may scratch their heads at the plot, which has to do with the train and human characters finding a lost train hidden in Muffle Mountain, finding some magic gold dust somewhere on the magic island of Sodor and defeating the mean bully deisel train, all while finding courage, magic, and a sense of responsibility within themselves.

Series regulars Didi Cohn and Russell Means appear briefly, but they’ve brought in some real Hollywood talent for the main characters to add star quality. Alec Baldwin plays the conductor, Peter Fonda the sad man who is trying to get Lady, the missing train, back in shape, and Mara Wilson (“Matilda”) as his grand-daughter. All three give great, sincere performances that help make the story seem real. And the producers wisely stay away from high-tech special effects so that the trains look just as they do in television.

Thomas and the Conductor are faced with a lot of challenges. The big deisel train with the wicked looking pinchers is a bully who wants to take over. The only one who can stop him is a train called Lady, who has been missing for many years. The conductor is running out of the special gold dust that enables him to go back and forth between Shining Time Station and the Island of Sodor. He goes to his surfboard-loving cousin Junior for help, and Junior uses up the last of the dust. Meanwhile, Lily and Patch try to help Lily’s grandfather, who has a secret that just might help.

Parents should know that even though the movie is rated G, there is some violence and peril, though no one is hurt. It is also mildly troubling that the female characters are so passive — when Lily gets off at the wrong stop, she just sits there and waits for someone to help her, and Lady, the only female train and the only train that is supposed to be powerful enough to defeat the diesel, never confronts the bully. She just runs away from him.

The movie does give families a lot of important issues to discuss. First is the requirement of “the three R’s” — the conductor and the trains must all be responsible, reliable, and “really useful.” Families should talk about what that means and see if all members of the family can give examples of how each tries to accomplish those goals. Thomas says that “little engines can do big things,” and children should talk about what they can do to help others. Talk with them about what makes some people want to act like bullies. Make sure they notice how the foolish deisel says that he does not make mistakes, insisting that “I meant to do that!” whenever something goes wrong. And point out how Thomas encourages his friends, reminding Percy that he is really brave, and how important that kind of help can be. Lady says that “helping each other brings the magic to life in all of us.”

Some children may be concerned when Lily gets on the wrong train and does not know how to find her grandfather when she gets off. Families should talk about what a child should do if separated from parents, how to find someone who can help and how important it is to be able to tell the police your name, address, and telephone number. Some children may be upset by the references to Lily’s grandmother who died, and parents may get some questions about that.

Children who enjoy this movie will love the many Thomas the Tank Engine videos, especially Thomas and Friends: Spills and Chills… and Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends – The….

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