Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

Foxcatcher
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some drug use and a scene of violence
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

Rosewater
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including some crude references, and violent content
Release Date:
November 14, 2014

 

Into the Storm
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2004

Lindsay Lohan plays a 15-year-old who has a lot to be dramatic about, or at least she thinks she does. First of all, her parents had the bad judgment to name her “Mary,” when she was born to be a “Lola.” No one seems to understand the importance of her dream of being an actress. In her family, she is “a flamingo in a flock of pigeons,” fighting not just against gross injustice, but also against “ordinariness.” But what is really devastating is that she has to move from New York City, which she thinks is the center of the planet, to New Jersey, which seems like the farthest end of the universe. At least, if you’re a drama queen. And there’s more stress to come. Her favorite rock band is breaking up. And she has to compete with a mean and snobbish alpha-girl for the part of Eliza in an updated version of “Pygmalion” called “Eliza Rocks!”

Lola copes with all of this and more, but sometimes she resorts to more than drama, including some real misbehavior that the movie does not take very seriously. She tells her best friend a terrible lie about her father “to seem more interesting.” She gets another friend to help her steal a costume so she can wear it to a party. She lies to her mother and tries to sneak into a concert and a rock star’s party. She almost lets down the “Eliza Rocks!” cast and audience by refusing to appear. She learns some lessons and faces some consequences, but parents will want to talk to kids who see this movie about how they see her choices.

The best part of the movie is Lohan. She is a delight. Kids will enjoy identifying with her as she tries to both fit in and be different, and as she tries to follow her dreams while coping with New Jersey and other obstacles. Parents may be more willing to put up with the movie’s logical loopholes than its casual treatment of behavior they would not want their children to imitate.

Parents should know that the movie has a couple of PG-level bad words. Of greater concern is that Lola lies, steals, and takes risks with very mild consequences, though she learns some lessons. She wears very skimpy clothes more revealing than even a free-spirited mother who throws pots for a living would permit. A character has an alcohol abuse problem. We see him drunk, and later he says he is getting treatment. In a very odd moment, Lola’s big triumph comes when he returns her necklace to her in front of her friends, seen merely as proof that she told the truth when she said she had been at his party. No one questions why she was taking her necklace off at his apartment or whether she was doing anything risky or improper there.

Families who see this movie should talk about Lola’s comment that she lied to make herself seem more interesting. Why does Carla pretend that she got the part she really wanted? Are there girls like Carla in your school and how do people feel about them? Why was Ella so surprised that her parents would let her go to the concert? How does Lola feel about Stu after she meets him?

Find out about the story of Pygmalion and see if you can figure out what it has in common with Lola’s story. If you were going to pick a new name for yourself, what would it be? Who in your family is a drama queen?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Never Been Kissed and a classic movie about teenage girls who have a crush on a musician, The World of Henry Orient. They might want to watch Camp (some mature material) about a summer camp for kids obsessed with theater. Families will also enjoy Lohan’s performances in The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday. And they should see Pygmalion and the musical version My Fair Lady.

Welcome to Mooseport

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

It’s a juicy premise: The most popular President of modern times retires to his summer home in the tiny town of Mooseport, Maine and ends up running for mayor against the handyman who owns the local hardware store — and dating his girlfriend, too.

And it’s an even juicier cast, with two Oscar winners and three top talents from television: Gene Hackman as former President Monroe Eagle Cole, Marcia Gay Harden as his longtime aide, Ray Romano (“Everyone Loves Raymond”) as “Handy” Harrison, Maura Tierney (“ER”) as the veterinarian who has been dating Handy for six years and is getting tired of waiting for him to propose, and Christine Baranski (“Cybill”) as Cole’s ex-wife.

So, if the script never rises above the sitcom level, at least the lines are delivered by people who are so good they almost seem like wit. Romano makes a respectable transition from television to film, and if he looks uncomfortable in the love scenes, at least that works with the character. Hackman is sheer pleasure, showing us everything that made Cole want to be President, get to be President, and succeed as President. There are some nice low-key details and some sly digs at modern politics and celebrity. But please, can we now have a moratorium on guys-who-can’t-take-risks-or-commit plot lines? And shrewish she-got-the-mine-I-got-the-shaft first wives? And long-suffering-but-devoted-aides-de-camp with a crush on the boss? And cutesy old folks who use terms like “booty poodle?”

Parents should know that the movie has some crude humor and non-sexual nudity (rear view of a nude male jogger). Characters drink in response to stress and get tipsy and there is a marijuana joke. Characters use brief strong language and there is some comic violence.

Families who see this movie should talk about their own elected officials and whether they would ever like to run for office.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy My Fellow Americans and Guarding Tess.

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004

Somebody, please put this baby in a corner.

Before we get into the reasons, let’s recap briefly why the original Dirty Dancing was so irresistibly watchable, because that will remind us of everything that this version is missing. The original had: Jennifer Gray, who lit up the screen. Wonderfully steamy dancing and music that made you long for summer nights in the Catskills. The sparks and even wit that Gray and Patrick Swayze brought to each other. A genuine sense of lessons learned and hearts expanded. All of this made up for an unabashedly cheesy script and everyone went home happy.

Despite the name, this movie is not a sequel. In Hollywood terms, it is a “re-imagining” of the first film, which basically means it has attempted to recreate it but completely missed the point. It does not have the characters, setting, or plot of the original. It does not have the heart or the charm or the chemistry. Worst of all, it does not have the dancing.

There are some slinky moves, but the camera keeps cutting away from the big dance numbers for reaction shots. Since there is barely enough of a plot to sustain a heartbeat, this probably means that the leads were not good enough dancers to do several different steps in a row, and it was intended to be distracting, pretty much defeating the entire purpose of the movie in the first place.

It all takes place before the first movie, in 1958 Cuba, just before Castro’s revolution. Kate (Romola Garai) and her family have just arrived. It does not take her long to figure out that the other American kids are rich snobs and that what she really wants to do is dance with the pool boy, Javier (Diego Luna). Her parents (James Slattery and Sela Ward) were once dancers, but gave it up to provide a conventional and comfortable home for their family. While they think she is with the boy they want her to date, she is off practicing with Javier so they can enter the dance contest and he can win enough money to take his family to America.

I have seen mayonnaise with more personality than the stars of this movie. And I have seen jello with more excitement than the plot of this movie. It isn’t that Garai and Luna have no chemistry with each other. They have anti-chemistry so powerful it seems to slow down the whole time-space continuum.

There’s a subtle reprise of the first movie’s theme song and Patrick Swayze appears briefly as a dance teacher, just to underscore’s this version’s inferiority.

Parents should know that the movie is rated PG-13 “for sensuality,” but that it is very mild compared to most PG-13 releases. As per the title, the dancing is suggestive. There is a discreet sexual situation — a couple spend the night together on the beach and the next morning she is wearing his shirt. Characters drink and smoke and use some mild language, including an ugly racial epithet. There is some violence connected with the revolution, but nothing graphic.

Families who see this movie should learn more about what happened in Cuba in the 1950’s and the results of the revolution led by Fidel Castro. They should talk about why Kate lied to her parents and how they feel about the way Kate blackmailed James into lying for her. Fans of the original movie should talk about what a better sequel would have included.

Families who enjoy this movie should watch the splendid documentary Buena Vista Social Club about Cuban musicians and their music. And of course they should watch the original Dirty Dancing.

50 First Dates

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 on appeal for crude sexual humor and drug references
Movie Release Date:2004
DVD Release Date:2004

Lucy (Drew Barrymore) wakes up every morning with no memory of anything that happened since her brain was injured in a car crash 18 months before. For the rest of us, everything that happens in this movie is just too, too familiar.

Yes, it’s another Adam Sandler movie, which means that a sweet but very immature man will fall for a winsome young lady amidst many, many, many attempts to find humor in sexual orientation, the impact of steroid use on sexual function, the relative merits of different sexual partners, getting walloped on the head, getting walloped on the stomach, getting bit by a shark, various physical disabilities and impairments, and more references to penis size and sexual stamina than an e-mailbox full of spam.

Sandler plays Henry Roth, an affable marine veterinarian at a Hawaiian acquarium whose only long-lasting relationships are with the walruses and penguins and with the goofy guy who cleans the tanks (Rob Schneider). Henry has many, many short-term relationships with female tourists, which keep him safe from commitment. Then he meets Lucy, whose short-term memory impairment makes it impossible for her to make any kind of commitment. He can’t break her heart because no matter what happens, she won’t remember him. But he falls in love with her. The girl who can’t remember is the one he can’t forget.

Barrymore is as delicious as ever, and, as in The Wedding Singer, she and Sandler have an easy chemistry that showcases their offbeat appeal. Even with an exceptionally sweet and tender romantic conclusion, some audience members will find there is too little romance and too much gross-out humor (did I mention the part where the walrus barfs all over the sexually frustrated but mannish woman with an accent?). Then there are some who will think the romance is just a distraction while waiting for the next joke about penis size. Some will be sorry about the waste of talented performers like Dan (“Saturday Night Live”) Ackroyd, as Lucy’s doctor, and Sean (Lord of the Rings) Astin as Lucy’s lisping, steroid-using brother. There may also be some who just wish everyone would get out of the way of the beautiful Hawaiian scenery. This movie has something to disappoint just about everyone.

Parents should know that this movie has exceptionally gross and crude humor, with extremely strong language for a PG-13 and comments that could be considered homophobic. Humor is drawn from drug use, disability, and injury, all portrayed as grotesque, including a clouded eyeball and a lisp. There are sexual references and situations. The movie includes a tragic car crash and comic violence, including a gross sharkbite wound and many, many very hard bonks on the head. Those who have not yet seen The Sixth Sense should know that this movie gives away the surprise. One positive note is that diverse characters demonstrate compassion and loyalty.

Families who see this movie should talk about the memories they would put into a book or tape like the one Henry makes for Lucy. How does your family try to help the members who have injuries or disabilities? They might want to talk about the way that Henry tried to protect his feelings with casual affairs and why that became unsatisfying for him. Families might be interested in more serious treatments of brain dysfunction like Lucy’s. In the book that became Awakenings Oliver Sachs also wrote about a patient with short term memory loss, which inspired the legendary Harold Pinter to write “A Kind of Alaska.” A syrupy but touching book by Nicholas Sparks called The Notebook describes a couple like Henry and Lucy.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy seeing Barrymore and Sandler together in The Wedding Singer. They will have fun with another comedy about someone who lives the same day over and over in Groundhog Day and another comedy about men who have many short-term relationships, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Families might like to compare Lucy to Dory in Finding Nemo — including the fact that both appear in movies with characters named Marlin!

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