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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

 

Pride
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and brief sexual content
Release Date:
October 9, 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

Silver City

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

A movie about a dim, rich, conservative political candidate named “Pilager” (pronounced “pillager”) who finds a corpse on the end of his fishing line when he is makng a commercial is not going for subtlety. Did I mention that the family fortune started with manure? Do I need to tell you about the dead fish in the lake?

After “Hail to the Chief”-backed opening credits, we see a legend across the screen, “Richard Plager cares about Colorado.” He is fillming a political ad, and trying to get through a script that has him saying, “I’ve always turned to nature to sort things out in my mind, make sense of the world.” Someone points out that his lure is not going to attract any fish, and Pilager’s campaign manager (Richard Dreyfuss) responds, “We’re trying to attract voters.”

But there is something on the end of his line. It’s a dead body. Pilager and the camera crew are whisked away to another scenic location to finish the ad. And Hank is left to figure out what is going on and clean up the mess.

He hires investigator Danny O’Brian (Danny Houston) to see if one of Pilager’s three most likely enemies had something to do with the body. Danny was once a reporter who lost his job when a big expose turned out to be a set-up. Danny’s investigation takes him to a mine safety expert whose career was destroyed by Pilager (Ralph Waite of television’s “The Waltons”), illegal immigrant workers, left-wing reporters who keep databases of the web of connections between politicians and wealthy executives, and Pilager’s bitter and angry sister, a woman who is overly fond of marijuana and archery, and Danny’s own ex-girlfriend (Maria Bello), a reporter now engaged to a lobbyist.

This is certainly lesser Sayles, shrill, cluttered, even a little silly in its heavy-handedness. But it is still watchable, with beautifully understated performances. If he fails in its insights on the political side, he still knows how to create a dozen characters we want to spend time with with dialogue it is a pleasure to hear.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of mature material, including explicit sexual references and situations, very strong language, and violence. Characters are in peril and some are badly injured or killed. Characters drink and smoke cigarettes and marijuana. While some characters exhibit racism, a strength of the movie is the loyal and respectful relationships between people of different races and its own frank portrayal of issues of race and class.

Families who see this movie should talk about how accurately it portrays political issues relating to immigration, development, and the role of lobbyists. They should also talk about the ways that characters in the movie try to shape the way that information reaches politicians, the media, and the public.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other Sayles movies, including Return of the Seacaucus Seven and Eight Men Out.

Code 46

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

The world director Michael Winterbottom creates is much more interesting then the story or the characters.

The story is set in a future when reproductive technology is so advanced and widespread that the odds are good the person who looks very attractive across a crowded room may be a clone of one of your parents or share more than half of your DNA through various test tube tricks. A law called Code 46 prohibits procreation unless the parents can establish that they are not genetically linked.

The culture has become as homogenized as the DNA. All cities have the same sort of pan-global sameness. Everyone speaks a hybrid English peppered with bits of other languages, including Spanish and Hindi. Travel is very restricted, requiring a post-modern version of Casablanca’s letters of transit called “papelles.”

William (Tim Robbins) has papelles because he is travelling on official business. He is an investigator who uses an “empathy virus” to enhance his natural intuition and talent for figuring out who is telling the truth. He knows which employee has stolen papelles, but he turns in someone else instead. Perhaps it is the extra helping of empathy that reveals Maria (Samantha Morton) as the culprit but also shows him qualities that draw him to her.

They have an affair, and she becomes pregnant. But it is a Code 46 violation, so she must be taken away for an abortion and memory erasure. He finds her again, but she has no recollection of him. Her memory has been reprogrammed so that she thinks she has been away for a finger replacement. William takes her away for what could be a moment of a kind of freedom for both of them, but there are so many obstacles, legal, practical, chemical, cultural, that it may not be possible.

It’s what goes on in the edges of the frame that matters here. The atmosphere of the film is rich and meaningful while the story is frustratingly simple and superficial, almost an afterthought. The connection between William and Maria that is supposed to be so powerful barely registers. There is no chemistry at all between Robbins and Morton, who both appear uncomfortable and awkward. The tantalizing glimpses of a fully-envisioned sense of the future prove to be disappointing indicators of what the movie could have been.

Parents should know that the movie has very explicit sexual references and situations, including bondage. Characters drink, smoke, use drugs, and use strong language. There are tense scenes of peril and some minor violence.

Families who see this movie should talk about what in today’s society inspired this idea of the future.

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate 1984.

Mean Creek

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004

When Sam (Rory Culkin) is beat up by a school bully, his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) and his friend Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) plot revenge. They will invite the bully (Josh Peck as George) on a boating trip, telling him it’s a birthday party for Sam, and then play a cruel trick on him.

On the water, things seem different. George seems vulnerable, almost childishly happy to be included. He explains that maybe his learning disability makes him “a superior being, the future of the race” and uses his video camera to record everything he sees. His agression seems clumsy rather than hostile.

Sam’s friend Milly (Carly Shroeder), who knew nothing about the purpose of the trip, makes him promise that they won’t try to hurt George. Sam, who has begun to feel sorry for George, agrees, and Rocky reluctantly tells Marty to call off the prank. But Marty has been looking forward to this and it feels like one too many compromises when he wants something to make him feel powerful. Sitting in the boat, far from civilization, they begin a game of Truth or Dare. And then things get tragically out of control.

The movie never makes it all the way from idea to story, but the talented young performers give their characters subtlety and depth far in excess of the script. The screenplay emphasizes the obvious and the characters are too obviously created to fit into neat categories across the range of perspectives. The car they drive to the river has an “honor student” bumper sticker on it. The bully pecking order from Marty’s older brother down to Sam is as carefully calibrated as a slide rule. After-school-special level dialogue hangs heavily in the air after it is spoken.

But each member of the cast is remarkable, utterly genuine, transcending the limits of the screenplay, benefiting from sensitive direction. Peck bravely lets us share the kids’ mixture of impatience and pity toward George. Culkin provides another touchingly open and brave performance. Mechlowicz is exceptionally impressive, with real leading man potential (more than making up for appearing in the awful Eurotrip). The cinematography is superb, showing us the contrast between the placid surroundings and the explosive emotions. But it is the cast that makes this trip up the creek worthwhile.

Parents should know that the movie includes extremely strong language and very explicit sexual references, including sexual epithets. A character is called “faggot” and insulted because his fathers are gay. Middle schoolers are challenged to French kiss and others are dared to take off their clothes. There is a bare tush and implied nudity. Characters use a gun, cut their skin with a knife, and a character is beaten and another is killed. Teens and younger kids drink, smoke, and use drugs, and one who declines is insulted and pressured. The movie’s themes include vigilante justice and there is a painful reference to suicide.

Families who see this movie should talk about how and why the characters reacted differently to the situations they faced. What is the right way to deal with a bully? Why do the kids have so little faith in the adult world to help them solve their problems? Be sure to notice all of the different tactics characters use to get others to do what they want — questioning everything from their loyalty and integrity to their manhood. They should also talk about the effect that a secret has on a group and the way it makes the power relationships shift. Instead of bringing them together, it pulls them apart. What do we learn from the cameras in the movie, including George’s camera and the one in the police station?

Families who appreciate this movie should also see The River’s Edge, Tex, Rumble Fish, The Outsiders, and Lord of the Flies.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

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

Another sweet lollipop of a movie, “Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” picks up five years later than the first and, though missing some of the original’s spark and humor, it’s a pleasant romp for girls of all ages. It’s the movie equivalent of a sticker scrapbook filled with rainbows and unicorns — it features not only guaranteed girl-pleasers like a princess and a romance and very cool outfits plus manages to include a princess slumber party with Disney Channel favorite Raven.

Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) is no longer a shy teenager, but a polished young woman ready to follow in her deceased father’s footsteps as the heir to the throne of Genovia, a fictional country perpetually sparkling in late afternoon sunshine. Having finished college with a degree in foreign affairs, she still dreams of a “foot-popping” kiss (a kiss so good that it makes your foot pop up) but between her studies and her friends she has not quite gotten around to relationships.

Mia and her exquisitely regal grandmother, Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) have developed a deep understanding and respect for one another, and the Queen believes it is time for Mia to replace her on the throne. Their plans are hampered, however, when the scheming Viscount Mabrey (John Rhys-Davies) pushes Parliament to enforce an old law that requires that a princess be married before she can become a queen, as he positions his own nephew — Mia’s distant relative — to become king. The result is that Princess Mia has thirty days to find a husband, to win over Genovia, and to learn how to be queen.

Within a week she is engaged to a sweet and slightly klutzy English duke, Andrew (Callum Blue), an honorable, accomplished, and thoughtful man who does not make her foot pop. And she has developed an “I detest you” type bickering attraction to Viscount Mabrey’s young nephew, Lord Nicholas (Chris Pine). While capturing headlines with her gaffes, Mia wins over hearts with her goodness and down-to-earth caring. Best friend Lily (Heather Matarazzo), returns to help her gain her stride and to give Mia a piece of normality in the decidedly unreal palace life.

Like many sequels, “Royal Engagement” loses some of the flavor of the first by trying too hard not to change anything in the winning formula while telling a different story. The fantasy of being a princess is not the same as that of being a queen. This make-over is more subtle than taming hair and wearing make up. Mia must establish a connection to the people of Genovia, while maturing and calibrating her own moral compass. The love story is stilted and missing some the quirky subtlety Hathaway showed in Ella Enchanted. Finally, there is a distracting deluge of under-written and overblown characters who labor too hard to keep the movie light, from the ladies’ maids to the young guardsman bellowing out orders while wooing Lily.

The scenes between Hathaway and Andrews are lovely, though, as the two are complementary souls. Grandmother Clarisse shelters Mia under the umbrella of her poise and dignity, while Mia reawakens the Queen’s sense of impish fun. With Andrews singing — albeit briefly and all in her lower register -— for the first time in years, the sleep-over scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Parents should know that there are scenes of social embarrassment and manipulation. Also, there are several kisses in this movie, including a couple of the foot-popping variety. An innocent night out that lasts until morning when the couple falls asleep (fully clothed) under the trees is portrayed in the media as scandalous. There is a brief reference to a gay character. Mia does discuss with her grandmother arranged marriages as a means to secure the throne, and there are revelations both about loveless marriages and marriage-less loves.

Families who watch this movie might wish to discuss how one’s duty to oneself might conflict with another duty, for example, when Nicholas acts in such a way as to secure the best outcome for Genovia, in his view, but he does not act honorably. Also, they might want to discuss how perspectives on a tradition change for the better or worse. Finally, they might want to talk about the different relationships in the movie and what Mia might do in the months that follow the movie’s end.

Fans of this movie should see The Princess Diaries right now if they haven’t already.

A little Princess is a sweet movie based on the classic book, aimed at the younger viewers and picking up the theme of finding one’s inner princess. Call me Madam is a fun movie with great music that involves an unpolished American taking on a delicate role in diplomatic circles beyond her ken. Mature teens and adults will enjoy watching another young lady struggle deciding between a suitable marriage and one inspired by love in the classic A Room with a View. Families might want to talk a bit about the influence of Nicolas Machiavelli, who encouraged royalty to use deceit to maintain control.

Previous Posts

Dr. Martin Luther King's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
This week's release, "Selma," begins with the ceremony honoring The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King with the Nobel Peace Prize. Here is the real footage of his famous speech. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/5r98tT0j1a0?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 12:00:34pm Dec. 22, 2014 | read full post »

A Child's Christmas in Wales
The whole family will enjoy this beautiful version of Dylan Thomas' classic memory about his family Christmases in Wales. [iframe width="420" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/GrLDaAG7j_o?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:23am Dec. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Pride
The ingredients for this film were so irresistible that it is a unexpected bonus to find that it is so much better than it needed to be. It's based on a true story of extraordinary kindness, generosity, and friendship and it stars a bunch of adorable English actors (Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy) w

posted 6:00:25am Dec. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Ava DuVernay of "Selma"
My favorite movie of the year is "Selma," the story of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King's march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital, Montgomery, to bring attention to the barriers the

posted 9:41:45pm Dec. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Smile of the Week: A Boy and a Penguin
This reminds me a little of the depiction of a child's world in The Complete Calvin and Hobbes and Barnaby. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iccscUFY860[/youtube] Many thanks to Slate for this and the others on its list of the year's best ads.

posted 12:06:45pm Dec. 21, 2014 | read full post »


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