Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

Love is Strange
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language
Release Date:
08/22/2014

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

 

Draft Day
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language and sexual references
Release Date:
April 11, 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

 

Blended
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language.
Release Date:
May 23, 2014

Pokemon 4Ever

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2002

In this fourth installment of Pokemon feature films, Ash and his friends explore an enchanted forest and meet Celebi, a dove-like Pokemon with the power to move through time. They also make friends with a boy named Sammy who was catapulted 40 years into the present day when he tried to protect Celebi from being captured. But then Celebi is captured and turned into a supercharged evil force. Sammy, Ash, Pikachu, and their friends have to find a way to save Celebi and the forest. And Sammy has to go back to his own era.

This movie has more of a story than the previous Pokemon features, some surprisingly lovely background paintings, and a very impressive computer-animated monster made out of twigs and straw. I was a bit relieved to get away from the concept of possessing the pokemons and focus more on cooperation and friendship. But it is still a long slog for anyone but the most committed Pokemon fan, and parents may feel that the movie’s title is a reference to its running time.

Parents often wonder about the appeal of Pokemon. As I have written before, there are three reasons that children are drawn to characters like Pokemon. First is the perennial appeal of characters who appear to be weak but have hidden sources of power. Kids, who live in a world of powerful giants are drawn to stories of transformations and secret strength, from Clark Kent who is secretly Superman on through the Transformers, Ninja Turtles, and Power Rangers. Next, the many facts to memorize about Pokemon give children a chance to master something that is vastly beyond the ability of adults, giving them a sense of power and competence. Finally, as children start to develop social skills, fads like Pokemon provide a shared language that can help those conversations and imaginative games get started.

Parents should know that the movie has characters in peril and one apparent death that could be upsetting for younger children. There is one mildly crude joke that kids will find funny.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Ash and Sammy will continue to be close to each other, even though they will not be together. How did Celebi stop being violent? What is the difference between Jesse and James and the other member of Team Rocket they meet? What do you think Team Rocket is?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the other Pokemon movies.

Personal Velocity

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

With near perfect adherence to the original text, director Rebecca Miller has adapted three of the seven short stories from her book “Personal Velocity” for this engaging film about life’s turning points. She has transplanted her short, ambitiously descriptive sentences (“With relief Greta felt the ambition draining out of her like pus from a lanced boil“) from page to screen, taking advantage of the often unflattering effect of shooting in grainy digital camera to mirror the warts-and-all descriptiveness of the text. Miller has stayed so close to her own written word that those familiar with her book might be surprised to hear a man’s voice (John Ventimiglia) narrating the backgrounds of her heroines.

The stories summarized sound like fodder for a made-for-TV movie: Delia (Kyra Sedgwick) leaves her abusive husband in order to protect her three children; Greta (Parker Posey) leaves her milquetoast husband for her new career; and, Paula (Fairuza Balk) leaves childhood behind as she comes to terms with her pregnancy. Where they were discrete, the three stories are now tenuously linked by a narrative trick and geographical proximity to one another.

Each of these characters has her own source of power, from Delia’s sexuality to Greta’s intellect to Paula’s detachment, and each must use this power to attain her own ‘personal velocity’. This shorthand term for personal development and self-definition is used by Greta’s father, Avram (Ron Liebman), but is echoed in many aspects of the film. How personal velocity relates to unresolved issues with one’s parents and lovers is a theme Miller –herself the daughter of Arthur Miller and wife of Daniel Day Lewis—investigates with a hungry curiosity.

Kyra Sedgwick, long cast as the smiling and sympathetic best friend type, clearly relishes the role of steely-eyed, Delia, who swings her jean-clad hips from the brutal Kurt (David Warshofsky) into a hard new life fending for her kids. Parker Posey plays Greta with a deft touch and apparent ease, providing the least-self-conscious of the storylines and some much needed levity to the film. It is left to Fairuza Balk, who does an excellent job of projecting an iron will and feral impishness, to wrap up the stories with the sadly predictable “answer” to life’s big questions. Have a baby.

Each heroine is matched with one individual attribute: Delia Shunt is Courage; Greta Herskovitz is Ambition; Paula Friedrich is Hope. Perhaps Miller fears that sentimentality will prevent her characters from being “bony, rough and true” (Miller’s description of successful writing), but in taking a knife to the fat of emotions, she has left us a curiously lean dish. Although it makes some interesting insights, “Personal Velocity” never quite gets up to speed.

Parents should know that this film depicts very mature themes, including domestic violence, drug use, sexual politics, infidelity, underage sexuality, runaway teens, and child abuse.

Families who see this film should talk about how each character is influenced by her parents and by her past. If each character develops at her own “personal velocity” what does this mean for her relationships with those around her? This movie only touches on the male characters in each of the women’s lives. Why might Miller chose to make these characters two-dimensional?

Families who enjoyed this movie might wish to read the book, both for further understanding of the characters and for the other four short stories. Strongly recommended for those who like the camera feel and overall realism are the so-called “Dogme 95” films (“Italian Lessons for Beginners” and “The Celebration” in particular).

One Hour Photo

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

Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) cares deeply about making sure that the snapshots he develops at the SaveMart are as perfect as the family life he dreams that they represent. He relishes the glimpses he gets of parties, Christmas mornings, vacations, and other happy occasions, understanding that it is only the good times that people want to preserve for their scrapbooks. “No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.” He knows that the first thing people save in a fire after all the people are out of the house is the family photographs, their best hope of imperishable memories.

Sy’s customers don’t just give him family pictures. He also develops photos of crumpled fenders for an insurance claims specialist and nude photos taken by amateur pornographers. But what captures Sy’s attention is the peek inside lives of vibrancy, intimacy, connection, warmth, and affection. And the family that seems most perfect to him is Will and Nina Yorkin and their nine-year-old son, Jake.

Inside the Yorkin house, though, Will accuses Nina of wanting her life to be like the pictures she looks at in magazines, as entranced by the appearance of perfection as Sy is. Nina accuses Will of neglecting Jake and being distant from her.

Will does not pay enough attention to his family. Sy pays too much.

Writer/director Mark Romanek shows Sy and his small corner of the cavernous SaveMart in the blandest of neutral colors with cool undertones. The Yorkins, in person and in the photos meticulously color-balanced by Sy, are shown in warm, bright, vivid colors. In the movie’s most powerful sequence, Sy leaves the SaveMart to go to his apartment, furnished as sparely and generically as a motel room. Everything about him is beige, even his hair. Then the camera pulls back and we see one huge splash of glowing color, a mosaic of bright photos covering most of a pale wall. They are all of the Yorkins, going back to before Jake was born.

Another customer’s photo order gives Sy evidence that Will Yorkin does not appreciate his family. And Sy’s boss (Gary Cole) fires him for making hundreds of prints that are unaccounted for. He dreams of walking down endless, colorless, empty aisles at SaveMart, the bare shelves rising behind him like the wings of an avenging angel and his eyes spurting dark red blood.

The movie begins with Sy having his picture taken, full-face and profile, in a police station (“Do you have your own lab?” he asks on the way to the interrogation room). A detective (“ER’s” Eriq La Salle) tells him that they have developed his pictures and they are “not pretty.” So we know from the beginning that something bad will happen.

Romanek’s roots in music video show. This is his first feature film. He handles mood and tone well. The attraction of the material is obvious – as a director, he is something of a voyeur himself, obsessing about perfect pictures. But the result is that the movie is too much about images and surfaces, more artificial itself than the artificiality it attempts to depict. It’s not about anything real. It’s about what Romanek imagines middle America to be like.

The attraction of the material for Williams is obvious, too -– the utterly repressed character is the other end of the scale from his own personality and his best-known performances. But inside every comedian is a lot of hostility, and Williams uses his well to create both pathos and menace. Overall, the movie’s logical lapses (if both members of a romantic couple are in the supposedly intimate photo, who was taking the picture?), odd conclusion, and too-easy explanation keep it from being completely successful. Like Sy, Romanek seems to have lost the boundaries between the observer and the image.

Parents should know that this is an intensely scary thriller with severe peril (though not graphic), nudity, and sexual references and situations, including adultery and child molestation.

Families who see this movie should talk about the role that photographs play in their own lives. Would someone looking at your family’s photographs get an accurate picture of your family? They should also talk about whether we do enough to pay attention to people who are less fortunate and may be lonely.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the brilliant thriller, Manhunter, the original movie featuring the Hannibal Lecter character (played by Brian Cox). Its remake, “Red Dragon,” with Anthony Hopkins and Edward Norton is scheduled to be released in 2002. They should also listen to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” a song about “all the lonely people,” including the title character, who was “buried along with her name; nobody came.”

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2002

The story behind this film is as remarkable as the film itself. Actress/writer Nia Vardalos created a one-woman show about her Greek family and their response when she married a man who wasn’t Greek. Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson (who is Greek) saw the show and decided to make it into a movie with Nia playing herself.

You’ll fall in love with Vardalos and her family, too. The family is an irresistible force and she is just plain irresistible.

In the movie, Vardalos plays Toula, the shy, plain daughter of a loving but overpowering Greek family. Her father, Gus (Michael Constantine), can prove that any word originally goes back to a Greek source, even “kimono.” Dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins, who all seem to be named Nick, are constantly involved in the most personal details of each other’s lives. And, in a tradition that goes back to ancient Greek mythology, there is a sense of fate and determinism that leaves Toula feeling that her life has been mapped out for her. Her family believes that Greek girls are here to marry Greek boys, have Greek babies, and cook a lot of Greek food. In the unlikely event that they do not get married, they are expected to work in the family business, in her case, a Greek restaurant.

But Toula dreams of more, and with the help of her mother and her aunt, manages to have Gus thinking that it is his idea to have her go back to school and get another job – in her aunt’s travel agency.

This small change means a lot, and Toula begins not just to bloom, but to glow. She attracts the attention of Ian, a handsome teacher (“Sex in the City’s” John Corbett). She is a reluctant to have him meet her family, and there are certain cultural adjustments involved, but it all works out and the title event is squarely in the happily-ever-after tradition.

Vardalos and director Joel Zwick balance the specifics of the Greek-American culture with the transcendent universalities of family dynamics. Vardalos and Corbett have a believable sweetness with each other. The movie is riotously funny but heart-catchingly touching and it will make you want to go back and hug everyone you are related to.

Parents should know that there is a non-graphic sexual situation, but it is clear that Toula and Ian wait until they are really committed before going to bed together. Characters drink (Ian’s parents are introduced to powerful Greek Ouzo).

Families who see this movie should talk about why Toula has a hard time telling her family how she feels. How does this family compare to others that you know or have seen in other movies, or to your own? Does your family have a combination of ethnic cultures, and what are some of the issues that have come up in meshing them?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy some other family cultural clashes in Moonstruck (some mature material) and Flower Drum Song.

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