Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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McFarland USA
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material, some violence and language
Release Date:
February 20, 2015

 

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

The DUFF
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying
Release Date:
February 20, 2015

 

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

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content
Release Date:
February 13, 2015

 

Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

Elizabethtown

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

I’ve always suspected that a failed Cameron Crowe movie would be more entertaining than a successful movie by most Hollywood screenwriters, and this shows I was right.

Okay, Vanilla Sky was not exactly entertaining, but it wasn’t exactly a CC movie, either. In this movie, Crowe returns to what he does best, quirky, hyper-verbal characters stumbling through life passages to a killer soundtrack. Even though the movie itself does a lot of stumbling, it is still worth seeing, to enjoy the parts that work and figure out what is wrong with the parts that don’t.

Orlando Bloom plays Drew, who is experiencing in real life one of those situations that frequently crop up in anxiety dreams. He is a shoe designer. He designed a shoe that failed so spectacularly that his employer has lost almost a billion dollars. As he returns to the office and is escorted to the inner sanctum of the CEO (another brilliant performance by Alec Baldwin, happily enjoying himself as the character actor he was meant to be), we see the pitying “last looks” he gets from people so simultaneously horrified and mesmerized by the monumental proportions of his failure (and so relieved to think that the depths of his fall are so far beyond anything they could do wrong that at least for now, they are a little bit safer).

Drew has lost his job. He has lost his girlfriend. And then things really get bad. His sister calls. Their father has died. His mother needs Drew to go to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where his father was visiting relatives, to make the arrangements.

And on the airplane, there is a flight attendant named Claire (Kirsten Dunst), who is every bit the unquenchable life force we feel entitled to look forward to in a Cameron Crowe movie.

And then things really get bad. All right, they’re still worse for Drew than they are for us, but then the movie begins to get muddled and Crowe completely loses control of the way his characters come across, particularly and most horrifyingly an awkward and clumsy memorial service that concludes with a scene even Susan Sarandon can’t make work. One reason Claire (note the name) is the only appealing character in the movie is that she is the only one who has no reason to be in mourning, so she is the only one who does not come across as oddly, ultimately chillingly, well, chilly. These people are not numb or in denial. They are just so frantically trying to show us how darned quirky and cute they are that they don’t seem to have noticed that there has been a loss.

Reportedly, a longer “unfinished” version of this film was derided by critics at the Toronto Film Festival and the movie was hurriedly recut before release. That might explain the disjointedness and inconsistency and the sense that the laws of time and space are suspended but only for some of the characters — while we and some of the characters were living through a couple of days, others seemed to have somehow gone through weeks worth of activity.

This contributes to the movie’s biggest stumbling block — the sense that the characters are not experiencing any of the emotions we associate with a devastating loss. They all seem much too chipper and self-consciously (and cloyingly) quirky and adorable, but they just come across as distant and self-involved. And the movie takes un-Crowe-ish cheap shots at its own characters, especially a too-cute bridal couple having a wedding blow-out at Drew’s hotel.

There’s a movie in there someplace worth seeing. In the meantime, there are parts of this one, especially Dunst and the soundtrack, that make the rest of it worth sitting through.

Parents should know that the movie has some tense and emotional moments, including an attempted suicide and an open-casket. There is some strong language and characters drink and smoke. The movie includes sexual references and a non-explicit sexual situation.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Drew’s mother was uncomfortable with her husband’s family and what Drew learned from his time with his father’s relatives. Why was it important to the story that Drew experience professional failure before experiencing personal tragedy? Why was it hard for him to mourn? Why did Crowe include the wedding party as a part of the story? If you were going to create a journey (complete with soundtrack) for someone you cared about, where would it be and what would you include?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Crowe’s Almost Famous and Say Anything.

Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Julianne Moore’s radiant performance as Evelyn Ryan does for this movie what the real-life Ryan’s “contest-ing” did for her family in the 1950’s — it holds it together with such mesmerizing grace that it makes the rough patches seem endearing.

The book that inspired this movie is the memoir by one of Ryan’s 10 children about the way that their stay-at-home mother supported the family by winning contests from companies offering money and prizes for the best jingle or limerick or recipe.

We didn’t call them stay-at-home mothers back then. They were just mothers, or maybe housewives. And Ryan looks like one of the moms from a 1950’s television program, always wearing a dress and an apron, always either diapering a baby, ironing a shirt, or making sloppy joes for everyone. And always smiling. Until most of her children were grown up, Ryan never ate a meal she didn’t cook or slept in a bed she didn’t make. If she wanted to go somewhere, she needed to ask for a ride because she did not know how to drive. She almost went to New York once, when she won a trip in a contest. But the family needed her, so she stayed home. She heard from another “contest-er” who invited her to visit the “Alpha-Daisies,” a whole group of contest-enterers, including one in a cheerfully decorated iron lung, and it became her dream to have a chance to meet those women.

Writer/director Jane Anderson (the biting The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom and the sensitive transgender drama Normal) uses stylized narrative techniques to invoke the perkiness and optimism of the 1950’s. At first it seems like a cutesy device to recall and gently tease the perky pastel harmonized style of the 1950’s. But it becomes clear that it is emblematic of Evelyn’s own imperishable open-heartedness. Like its heroine, the movie has its limits and obstacles, but it is very winning.

Parents should know that a theme of the movie is Kelly’s alcoholism and the impact on his family. He uses some strong language, including the f-word, and there are brief depictions of domestic abuse and some graphic injuries following accidents.

Families who see this movie should talk about Evelyn’s optimism and patience. Her comment to Tuff is reminiscient of the famous Zen parable.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy seeing Moore as a 1950’s housewife coping with a difficult marital situation in Far From Heaven (some mature material).

Two for the Money

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

There’s only one possible reason that Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey), a one-time quarterback with a busted knee turned 900-number sportsline win-predictor sticks around after he finds out what is really going on in the big-money sports betting advice, and it’s the same reason we stick around, too. We can’t take our eyes off of Al Pacino as Walter Abrams.

Brandon’s entire life has been sports for as long as he can remember. First it was because he thought if he was really, really good at sports, his father wouldn’t leave. Then, after his father left, it was because of the purity of sports, because it was a place where everything could be made right with just one play, just one score.

But Brandon’s hopes for a professional career ended with the knee injury. He worked the 900-number job in Las Vegas for a while and then one day got a call and an airplane ticket from Walter, offering him a chance at the big time.

Walter and his wife Toni (Rene Russo) introduce Brandon to the finer things in life — $12 bottles of water, thousand dollar suits, four-figure-a-night female companionship, use of the f-word, and a roomy apartment in a brownstone that also houses Walter, Toni, and their 6-year-old daughter and his company’s offices. It’s like a sort of “Real World: High Stakes Gambling” edition.

It’s a Faustian hubris story, with aw-shucks Brandon being transformed by Walter. Brandon gets a new look and even a new name. Betting is illegal in 49 states, but giving people advice on betting is not, and Walter has made a thriving business out of a cable show (Call 1-800-Bet-it!) that, like a drug dealer, gives away the first hit for free, and then pushes the high fliers to go for more.

Walter knows that the agression, testosterone, competitiveness, and impulse control problems of gamblers makes them very susceptible to sales pressure, and he has no qualms about applying pressure to his employees to get them to squeeze the suckers even harder. He even trolls Gamblers Anonymous meetings for those who might be ready to fall off the wagon. “You’re selling the world’s rarest commodity,” he tells Brandon, “certainty in an uncertain world.”

And Walter knows uncertainty. He insists he can beat anyone else’s rotten childhood story with his own. As Toni explains, he belongs to any group with an “Anonymous” at the end of it. The fun of this movie is seeing Pacino dive into the part and hang on for dear life.

That almost makes it possible to ignore the storyline, which zigzags from predictable to inconsistent with a slight detour into makes-no-sense-ville.

Parents should know that the movie has constant use of the f-word and other bad language. The movie includes sexual references (including prostitution and abuse) and an explicit sexual situation with brief nudity. Characters drink and smoke. A character is pushed around and threatened with a gun.

Families who see this movie should talk about what drew Brandon and Walter to each other and what made it hard for them to keep working together.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Boiler Room and On Any Sunday.

In Her Shoes

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Siblings divide up the world to prove who they are, and the closer they are to each other, the more they depend on each other, the harder they would to stake their claim to being different from each other. In this formulaic but affecting movie, two sisters are connected by — and torn apart by — the way that only the two of them understand what it was like to grow up in their house.

Rose (Toni Collette) is the good girl, the responsible, honor roll daughter, now a very serious lawyer whose romantic encounters are so rare that when we first see her, she is taking a photograph of the man sleeping in her bed as a souvenir. She works all the time and the closest she gets to having fun is spending money on insanely extravagant shoes, which sit neatly lined up in her closet in mint condition.

Her younger sister Maggie (Cameron Diaz) is the mess, nothing neatly lined up about her. She drinks too much, sleeps around too much, and is happy to take what she can get, lifting cash from family members’ sock drawers and smiling at men to get them pick up her bar tab. She gets fired a lot because she is dyslexic. She is afraid people will believe she is stupid. She wonders if they would be right. When her stepmother Sydelle (Candace Azarra) throws Maggie out of the house, all her things stuffed in a trash bag, she moves in with Rose.

Things begin badly and get worse. Maggie takes Rose’s money, messes up her apartment, wears her shoes, and seduces he man Rose is hoping will be her boyfriend. Rose throws Maggie out.

Maggie discovers a hidden drawer of undelivered letters from a grandmother she never knew she had, so she takes the train to Florida to meet her. Ella (Shirley MacLaine) lives in “a retirement community for active seniors.” At first, Maggie is as hostile and unyielding as a sullen teenager. But Ella’s patience and grandmotherly combination of wisdom and unconditional love get Maggie off of the lounge chair by the pool and into scrubs as an attendant at the local assisted living facility. Her sense of accomplishment there, especially her friendship with a blind former professor (Lloyd Nolan) who patiently encourages her to read, help her to find a way to a job that is just right for her.

Meanwhile, Rose is also exploring a different career path, and feeling better about herself allows her to see that there is someone who knew how special she was, even before she did.

The set-up is as heavy-handed as the shoe metaphor, but heartfelt performances, sympathetic direction from Curtis Hansen (L.A. Confidential, 8 Mile), and some sharp writing make up for some soapiness and inconsistency. The very different performing styles of Diaz (star dazzle), Collette (drama school), and MacLaine (old-time Hollywood) help convey the clash of their characters. The supporting cast, especially Nolan, go far to try to overcome the usual stereotyping — perfect boyfriend, adorable oldsters, witchy stepmother. And it has several of what my husband considers the definitive requirement of a chick flick — a big, fat apology. You might not want to walk a mile in these shoes, but for a couple of hours, they fit pretty well.

Parents should know that Maggie is promiscuous and drinks too much. When we first see her, she is drunk and having sex with someone whose name she does not quite know — until she interrupts sho she can throw up. There are sexual references and non-explicit sexual situations. Characters drink and smoke and use some strong language. There are references to mental illness and suicide and there is a sad death.

Families who see this movie should talk about all of the different feelings Rose and Maggie had about each other. What connected them? What drove them apart? How did they compete with each other? How did they help each other? How did their new jobs change the way they felt about themselves? Why did Simon say he could not marry Rose? What did Maggie and Rose find hardest to like about themselves? Families may also want to talk about people like Sydelle — why do they hurt other people’s feelings?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Terms of Endearment (with MacLaine’s Oscar-winning performance), Down in the Delta with Alfre Woodard, and 28 Days with Sandra Bullock. They should also read the poems read by Maggie in the movie, One Art by Elizabeth Bishop and i carry your heart with me by E.E. Cummings.

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