Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Fading Gigolo
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

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

 

Ride Along
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language,
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Chariots of Fire

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for adult situations and language
Movie Release Date:1981
DVD Release Date:July 9, 2012

In honor of the 2012 Olympics in London, this 1981 classic and winner of the Oscar for Best Picture has been reissued.

This is the true story of two athletes who raced in the 1924 Olympics, one a privileged Jewish student at Cambridge (Ben Cross as Harold Abrahams), the other a missionary from Scotland (Ian Charleson as Eric Liddell). Wonderfully evocative of the time and place, with superb performances, the movie shows us the source of the runners’ determination, for one a need to prove his worth to himself and the society that discriminates against him, for the other, a way of connecting to God.

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The movie begins with the memorial service for Harold Abrahams, and then goes back to his first day at Cambridge, just after World War I. A speaker reminds the entering class that they must achieve for themselves and for those who were lost in the war. Abrahams is a bit arrogant, but finds friends and impresses the whole university by being the first to meet a long-term challenge and race all the way around the quad within the twelve strokes of the clock at noon.

Liddell is deeply committed to missionary work. But when his sister asks him to give up running so that he can go with her, he explains that “I believe God made me for a purpose. He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

Abrahams is devastated when he loses to Liddell, saying he won’t race unless he can win. But his girlfriend reminds him that he can’t win unless he races. Both Abrahams and Liddell make the Olympic team. There is a crisis when Liddell’s event is scheduled for a Sunday, because he will not run on the Sabbath. But Lord Lindsay (Nigel Havers) graciously allows Liddell his place in a different event, “just for the pleasure of seeing you run,” and both Liddell and Abrahams win.

Both of the athletes must make difficult choices with a great deal of opposition. One uses a coach (who isn’t even English), in defiance of tradition and expectations. The other resists the urging of his sister, the person he loves most, who wants him to quit racing and defies the Prince of Wales, who wants him to race on the Sabbath.

One of the themes of the movie is the problems that the Jewish athlete has dealing with the prejudice of society. The other athlete has to confront the conflict between the dictates of his religion and the requirements of the sport (including the entreaties of the heir to the throne) when he is asked to compete on the Sabbath.

Families who watch this movie should talk about these questions: Why was running so important to these men? Was it different for different athletes? Why does Harold Abrahams think of quitting when he loses to Liddell? Have you ever felt that way? What did you do? Why doesn’t Eric’s sister want him to race? Why does he race despite her objections? Why don’t the teachers at Harold Abraham’s school think it is appropriate to have a coach? Would anyone think that today?

This movie deservedly won the Oscars for best picture, screenplay, costume design, and music.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy a two-part made for television miniseries called “The First Olympics — Athens 1896,” about the American team entering the first modern Olympics in 1896. It features Louis Jourdan (of “Gigi”), David Caruso (of the original cast of television’s “NYPD Blue”) and David Ogden Stiers (of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”). While it does not have the resonance and meaning (or the production values) of “Chariots of Fire,” it is heartwarming, funny, exciting, and a lovely period piece. Not currently available on video, it usually shows up on television around the time of Olympic competitions. An extremely silly movie about the first modern Olympics is “It Happened in Athens,” with Jayne Mansfield and real-life Olympic athlete Bob Mathias.

“Miracle on Ice,” another made for television movie, is the true story of the 1980 U.S. hockey team, which astonished the world at the Olympics in Lake Placid. Yet another Olympic made for television movie, “The Golden Moment,” is the story of a romance between a Soviet gymnast and an American athlete. Its primary charm is the fact that it takes place at an Olympics in which, in real life, the U.S. never competed — that was the year the U.S. protested the Soviet invasion of Afganistan by boycotting the Moscow Olympics.

See also “Cool Runnings” about the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team, “The Bob Mathias Story,” with the real-life decathalon champion playing himself, “The Jesse Owens Story,” with Dorian Harewood as the legendary athlete, and “Babe” with Susan Clark as Babe Deidrickson Zaharias.

On the silly side, try “Animalympics,” an animated spoof of the Olympics with some comical moments, and the very funny “Million Dollar Legs,” with W.C. Fields as the President of Klopstockia, a country entering the Olympics.

And of course Bud Greenspan’s documentaries about the Olympics are always worth watching, for the stories and the personalities as much as for the athletic achievements.

Changing Lanes

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

Most thrillers have audiences asking themselves what the characters will do next. This one will have them asking themselves what they might do in this situation, because it is a movie about how close all of us are to abandoning the thin veneer of civilization and breaking all the rules to lash out at each other. This is a harsh thriller about two men whose moral bearings are dislodged by a cataclysmic accident.

Ben Affleck plays Gavin Banek, a successful Manhattan attorney involved in a bitter contest over the control of a charitable foundation. On his way to court, he literally runs into Doyle Gipson, (Samuel L. Jackson), an insurance agent with a desperate plan to keep his estranged wife from leaving town with his children. Gavin, in a hurry, tries to pay the damages up front with a blank check. Doyle, wanting to straighten out his life, wants to swap insurance numbers. Haste and anxiety boil over into anger, and the confrontation leaves Doyle stranded without a ride.

The chance meeting has serious consequences for both characters. Doyle was on his way to family court. He is a recovering alcoholic, who is trying to start a new life. He is on his way to court to show his ex- wife and sons that he is buying a house, so that they will not move to Oregon. The plan is a surprise, to be delivered at the custody hearing he was en route to, when he collided with Gavin.

Gavin reaches court in time but without a crucial document, left at the scene of the accident with Doyle. Events quickly escalate out of control. Without the document, Gavin and his legal partners (one his father-in-law), are vulnerable to charges of fraud; Doyle, because of the accident, arrives late to family court and loses visitation rights with his children.

They confront each other again, but Doyle is too angry about losing his case to give Gavin the file. Gavin lies to the partners about the file to buy time, while Doyle goes into a bar to have a drink. Each blames the other for his troubles and wants revenge. What follows is a battle of wits, with each character striking at the other with all of his available resources, culminating in a second highway crash.

“Changing Lanes” is an explicit allegory about how the flaws of good people can bring them to the brink of murder. Both Gavin and Doyle are appealing, seemingly decent characters. But Gavin lacks the maturity to take full responsibility for his actions, while Doyle’s rage — an even more profound addiction than his alcoholism — overwhelms his good sense.

They both hover at the point of forgiveness, but neither is willing to let go of their self-righteous indignation and make mature choices. The characters along the way each present them with choices, each representing a world view that Gavin and Doyle must adopt or reject. Sidney Pollack (best known as a director) is outstanding as Gavin’s corrupt boss and there are other strong supporting performances by Toni Collette, William Hurt, and Amanda Peet.

Parents should know that this film involves a lot of realistic emotional violence which can be upsetting. A family is separated by the alcoholism of a parent, and there is an extremely harrowing scene of a father being forcibly removed from his son’s school. There is also a later confrontation between the father and mother where the father is told he’ll never see the children again. The physical violence in the film is brief and mild by modern standards, but realistic. There are religious references (the movie takes place on Good Friday) that some families will find awkward or heavy-handed.

Families who see this movie should talk about the characters’ conflicting impulses to forgive and to get revenge. What finally convinces Doyle to give the file back? What did his friend mean when he told Doyle “Alcohol was never really your drug of choice?” Why was Gavin unwilling to go to Texas to do his pro-bono work, and what do you make of his final speech to his father-in law? In a way, this is a movie about the way people do and don’t listen to each other and how that makes us feel. Where do we see that theme most clearly? Why was Gavin able to ignore the reality of his situation? Was the end of the film realistic? Parents will want to discuss safe driving habits with their teens after seeing this film as well.

Families who enjoyed this movie might also want to look at “Panic Room,” which also deals with divorced families and with emotions running out of control.

Cat On a Hot Tin Roof

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:1958

Plot: Big Daddy’s (Burl Ives) family is celebrating both his 65th birthday and his medical report, which shows his health problems have proven to be minor. He has two grown sons, Brick (Paul Newman), an alcoholic former athlete, and Gooper (Jack Carson), who is constantly trying to replace Brick as Big Daddy’s favorite. Gooper has five children, and Brick’s wife, Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor) knows that no matter how much Big Daddy loves Brick, he cannot inherit Big Daddy’s property unless he provides an heir. Brick is angry at himself and at Maggie, and wants nothing more than to drink until he feels the “click” of peace when he is too drunk to feel anything else. But the “odor of mendacity” is too strong for Big Daddy, and all the lies come tumbling down like skeletons out of a closet.

Discussion: This movie, based on Tennessee Williams’ play, is about a family that has been damaged more by lies than by greed. They lie to Big Daddy about the results of his tests. Brick lies to himself about what really went on with Skipper. Gooper and his wife lie about their feelings for Big Daddy. And Maggie lies about being pregnant. It is worth discussing the different kinds of lies and the different motivations behind them, and the impact the truth has on the characters, when they are finally confronted with it. Compare this family’s method of accomplishing its goals with the methods of some other movie families, to see which interactions make families stronger and which tear them apart.

Questions for Kids:

· Why does Maggie compare herself to a cat on a hot tin roof? What is the roof, and what makes it hot?

· Why won’t Brick agree to get Maggie pregnant? Who is he mad at? Why?

· Why does Brick have such contempt for himself? What does Skipper’s death have to do with it?

· What makes Brick change his mind?

Connections: Compare this family to another classic Southern dysfunctional family, the Hubbards, in “The Little Foxes.” Other Williams plays adapted for the screen include “The Glass Menagerie,” “Period of Adjustment,” and “Sweet Bird of Youth.”

Activities: Read the play, and you will see that Tennessee Williams wrote two different endings. Take a look at the other ending, and read his comments on it before you decide which one you prefer.

Cat Ballou

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1965

Plot: In the days of the old West, Catherine (Cat) Ballou (Jane Fonda) takes the train home, after finishing school. She does her best to appear proper, but peeks at potboilers about the notorious Kid Shelleen inside her book. On the train, she meets escaping cattle rustler Clay Boone (Michael Callan) and his uncle Jed (Dwayne Hickman). She is attracted to Clay, but not interested in becoming involved with a criminal.

Cat is angry and upset when she gets home and sees that her father (John Marley) is being pressured to give up his land. He is killed by hired gun Tim Strawn. When her father’s ranch hand, an Indian named Jackson (Tom Nardini) and Clay and Jed are not brave enough to help her fight back, she sends for Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin).

Kid arrives, a hopeless drunk. But they help him pull himself together, and they get their revenge. Cat is captured and sentenced to be hung, but is saved at the last minute by her friends.

Discussion: This cheerful satire of conventional Westerns is a lot of fun, with attractive performers and an Oscar -winning performance by Lee Marvin in the dual roles of Shelleen and Strawn. Stubby Kaye (“Guys and Dolls”) and Nat “King” Cole show up as something between a Greek chorus and medieval minstrels, singing the story as it unfolds. It is good for kids to see a movie with a strong, brave, and resourceful young woman, who is an effective and inspiring leader (though they all have crushes on her).

Questions for Kids:

· Why was Cat so effective at leading Clay, Jed, Kid, and Jackson?

· Do you agree with her decision to take matters into her own hands?

· How does she compare to other Western heroes, like Shane?

Connections: Watch for a character named “Butch Cassidy” in a minor role, four years before Paul Newman and Robert Redford appeared in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” by William Goldman. Marvin appeared more often as the kind of tough guy he parodies in this movie, for example, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” Jed is played by television’s Dobe Gillis, Dwayne Hickman.

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