Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Noah
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Finding Vivian Maier
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

Sabotage
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

The Maltese Falcon

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:1941

Plot: Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) is a private detective. A woman who says her name is Ruth Wonderly (Mary Astor) comes to see him, asking for help in finding her sister. Sam sends his partner, Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) to follow her when she meets Floyd Thursby, the man she thinks her sister is with, and both Archer and Thursby are killed. It turns out that the woman has given him a false name. She is really Brigid O’Shaughnessy, and it turns out it is not her sister she is seeking, but a small, jeweled statue of a falcon, and she is mixed up with some people who will do anything to get it.

One of those people is Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), who comes to see Sam to insist — with a gun — that he be allowed to search Sam’s office to see if it is there. Sam is not at all intimidated by Joel, but allows him to search. Also after the statue is Mr. Gutman, “the fat man” (Sidney Greenstreet), with his “gunsel,” Wilmer. They alternately threaten and attempt to bribe Sam, while Brigid appeals to his protective nature and his heart. But Sam turns them all over to the police, including Brigid, whom he loves.

Discussion: One of the most interesting aspects of this classic movie is the way that Sam Spade thinks though the moral dilemmas. When he is deciding whether to tell the police about Brigid, he is very explicit about weighing every aspect of his choices. It is not an easy decision for him; he has no moral absolutes. On one hand, he loves her, and he did not think much of his partner. On the other, he does not trust her, he does not think she trusts him, and he knows that they could not go on together, each waiting to betray or be betrayed. And he has some pride; he says that when your partner is killed, you are supposed to “do something.” While it may be good for business not to appear too ethical, it is bad for business to allow a partner in a detective firm to get killed without responding. If he turns her over to the police, he loses her. But if he does not, he loses a part of himself, his own kind of integrity.

When this movie was made, moviegoers were used to cool, debonair detectives (like Philo Vance and Nick Charles, both played by William Powell), a sort of cross between Sherlock Holmes and Fred Astaire. But Sam Spade, created by Dashiell Hammett based on his experiences as a detective, was a modern day version of the cowboy, a loner with his own sense of honor.

This was the first movie directed by John Huston, who also wrote the screenplay, but he was already a master. Watch the two scenes where Sam goes to talk to Gutman, and see how the camera angles in the first scene lead the viewer to suspect that Sam’s drink is spiked (it isn’t), and then how different angles are used in the second one to make the viewer confident that it won’t be (it is).

Questions for Kids:

· What does Sam mean when he says the statue is “the stuff dreams are made of”?

· Where is Sam faced with moral conflicts? How does he resolve them? What are his reasons?

Connections: Bogart appeared as a similarly tough detective, Philip Marlowe, in “The Big Sleep,” based on the novel by Raymond Chandler. The books by Hammett and Raymond Chandler are well worth reading. Note the director’s father, Walter Huston, in an uncredited brief appearance as Captain Jacobi. Jerome Cowan, who appears briefly as Miles Archer, plays the prosecuting attorney who tries to prove that Kris Kringle is not Santa Claus in “Miracle on 34th Street.”

The Majestic

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2002

Jim Carrey has been brilliant in flamboyant, comic roles and in quieter, subtler roles, but both kinds of acting have come from the same source inside him – the kind of anger that fuels a lot of actors and comedians. He uses his hostility brilliantly. One of his best performances was in “The Truman Show,” because he could draw on his own conflicts about the pressures of being constantly watched and the struggle to maintain a respectable surface despite an increasing passion to be iconoclastic. “The Mask” and “Batman and Robin” gave him roles that expressed both sides of the duality that is the subtext of many of his performances.

For the first time, in “The Majestic,” Carrey opens himself up to draw from a more vulnerable part of himself as he plays a character who literally does not know who he is. It is not a great performance, but it is a moving one, within the context of the story and as an invitation to share some of Carrey’s own journey to a broader maturity as a performer.

“The Majestic” shares this double layer of meaning because it is as much about the movies and the role they play in our lives as it is about the characters and the story. The movie begins in a Hollywood story meeting in the early 1950’s. Before we see anything we hear a group of studio executives (hilarious vocal cameos by some of Hollywood’s top directors) eviscerating a script by casually throwing in every possible movie cliché. As they call out “How about a dog!” and “The kid should be crippled!” the screenwriter sits there, stunned into silence. Finally, he musters up a diplomatic, “That’s….amazing.”

The screenwriter is Pete (Carrey). His first screen credit, a formulaic B-movie, is about to arrive in theaters, and the starlet who appears in it is his girlfriend. A script he really cares about has been accepted for production. He feels like he is on the brink of achieving not only his dreams but the ultimate dream of every American. What could be more of a dream come true than the movies?

But dreams have a way of turning into nightmares. Pete’s life is turned upside down when his name comes up in the investigations into communism in Hollywood being conducted by the House of Representatives. Pete is so upset that he gets drunk, and then he goes for a long drive.

Pete has an accident and his car goes off a bridge. He is washed up on shore and is awakened, in a sly reference to the studio executives’ suggestions, when a dog licks his face. Pete has been so shocked by the accident that he has lost his memory. The dog’s owner takes him back to town, a community so idyllically Norman Rockwell that all the men call him “son” and the waitress at the diner asks “What can I do you for?” and serves him up some delicious scrambled eggs.

Everyone in the town says that Pete looks familiar. And Harry Trimble (Martin Landau) says he knows who Pete is – Trimble’s son, Luke, a war hero reported missing in action. Harry seems so sure that Pete begins to be persuaded. The town has lost many young men in the war, and his return is cause for celebration. Harry is so excited he even pledges to reopen the family business – a movie theater called “The Majestic.”

As Pete tries to figure out who he really is, he meets people from Luke’s past, including his girl, Adele (Laurie Holden). Meanwhile, FBI agents, convinced that Pete’s disappearance is evidence of his participation in a Communist conspiracy, resolves to track him down.

The freedom from a past allows Luke/Pete to think about what his dream really is. Still the screenwriter, he “fills in the blanks” to understand the lives of the people in the town. But in rebuilding The Majestic and connecting to Harry and Adele he achieves a greater authenticity of feeling and spirit than he had before.

Harry says that in a movie the good guy should always win, and this is a movie that Harry would love. It has enough of the guaranteed elements for warming the heart to please both the fictional studio executives in the movie and the real-life ones who got this made. And it presents these homespun values with enough sophistication (and a little bit of “just-kidding” ironic distance) to make it work. It plays with history and gets a little corny, but the movie itself has such a good time with it that the audience does, too.

Parents should know that the movie has brief strong and vulgar language, mild sexual references, a scary accident, and a sad on-screen death. Many characters are mourning sons killed in the war. One returning soldier is disabled and bitter. Pete responds to bad news by getting drunk and he drives while he is drunk.

Families who see this movie should talk about the Red Scare of the 1950’s that blacklisted many Hollywood writers and performers. As recently as 1999, when distinguished director Elia Kazan received a special Oscar, there were protests because he cooperated with the House Committee, as Pete is urged to do here. Some of those called to testify refused to cooperate. What were the different pressures that Pete had to reconcile? What were the priorities that made him decide what he did? How did his ideas about himself change? Why?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy some of the movies that inspired it, including “Hail the Conquering Hero” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” They should also see some of the other movies about the Red Scare, like “Tail Gunner Joe” and “The Front.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2001

Somewhere, there are future Hollywood directors who will tell magazine feature writers that they first decided to make movies as they watched “Lord of the Rings.”

It is that good. It is that once-to-a-generation, not since “Star Wars,” transcendent reminder of why we tell stories, why we have imagination, and why we must go on quests to test our spirits and heal the world. And it is a story that invites us into a fully-realized world with many different civilizations, all so thoroughly imagined that we do not only believe that they each have complete languages, but that they have dictionaries, histories, mythologies, schools, music, and poetry.

Our hero, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), comes from one such culture. He is a Hobbit. And he is on a quest to return a powerful ring to the place where it was created, so it can be destroyed. A great wizard called Gandalf has told him that the ring can be the source of great evil. But of course this makes it very sought after by all kinds of scary folks, so Frodo has a lot of adventures ahead of him.

Peter Jackson, who directed and co-wrote the script, has created a movie that seems astonishingly inventive and new and at the same time somehow seems as though it always existed inside us. Every detail, from the tiniest plant to the hugest battle, is exactly, satisfyingly right. The bad guys, all thundering hooves and billowing capes, seem to have come from the core of every nightmare since the world began. All three movies in the series have already been shot, so we can expect his singular vision to carry us through to the end.

A couple of caveats — like Harry Potter, Frodo is a character who is more interesting on the page, where we can share his thoughts, than in a movie, where he is primarily called upon to look amazed, scared, or sad. And like Harry Potter, there were benefits to producing a series of films at the same time (continuity, commitment to getting all of the details right), but some drawbacks, too. So, we get glimpses of people who will be important later but now are somewhere between placeholders and distractions. I know they were there first, but I could not help thinking that all the women in the movie dress like Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks.

Parents should know that the movie might be overwhelming for younger children who are not familiar with the characters and story. I recommend preparing anyone younger than 12 with some background or encouraging them to read the simpler first story in the series, The Hobbit (about Frodo’s uncle, Bilbo). Characters are in severe peril and there are intense battle scenes.

Families who watch this movie should discuss why it is that only Frodo seems immune to the ring’s power to corrupt even honorable, wise, and powerful people and the notion that “even the smallest person can change the course of the earth.” If you were going to form a fellowship for a grand quest, who would you want to be in it?

Families who enjoy this movie should read the books, starting with the prequel, The Hobbit, with beautiful illustrations by Michael Hague. They may want to read more about New Zealand because its extraordinary topography provides the settings for Middle Earth or look at the gorgeously imaginative illustrations by Maxfield Parrish that inspired some of the art direction. They will also enjoy the “Star Wars” movies, Labyrinth, and Dark Crystal. I enthusiastically recommend the BBC audio version of the books, which might be just the thing to keep kids patient until the second movie in the trilogy opens up in December of 2002.

The Little Vampire

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2000

On one hand, this is an imaginative and exciting story, based on a popular series of children’s books. On the other hand, the subject matter is vampires. Even though these vampires are friendly and only suck blood out of cows, several children in the audience at the screening I attended were visibly upset. One 5-year-old burst into tears, saying, “You told me this was going to be a funny movie!” So parents should be very cautious about taking younger children to this movie.

Jonathan Lipnicki (of “Stuart Little”) plays Tony, a boy who is not very happy about moving from San Diego to Scotland, so his father can build a golf course for Lord McAshton (John Wood). Every night, Tony has creepy dreams about vampires, but no one believes him when he says that they are real. His teacher punishes him and classmates bully him.

One night, a real vampire flies into Tony’s room. This vampire is Rudolph, and he is about Tony’s age — or he would be, if he had not been a vampire for 300 years. Rudolph tells Tony that the vampires want to be human again, and that they can do it if they can escape the vampire killer who is after them, and if they can find the missing amulet before the comet arrives.

Tony and Rudolph become friends. Tony helps Rudolph find cows so he can suck their blood. (Rudolph explains, “We want to become human, not eat them for dinner!”) Tony doesn’t have a coffin handy when he wants Rudolph to sleep over, but his footlocker works just as well. And it turns out that a vampire is a handy friend when it comes to dealing with school bullies.

All turns out fine, but there are some grisly adventures along the way. The production design is outstanding, and Richard E. Grant and Alice Krige as Rudolph’s vampire parents are first rate.

Parents should know that this movie includes dead bodies, stakes through the heart, a child locked in a crypt, a dead mouse, vampire cows, references to the undead, and a generally ghoulish atmosphere. Some kids, especially fans of the book, will love this stuff, but others will be upset by it. In addition, there are characters in peril, schoolyard fights with bullies, and a brief adult fistfight.

Families who see this movie should talk about what we do when we get scared. Tony pretends to be a vampire, one way to be less scared by them. And once he sees that Rudolph needs his help, he is not afraid anymore. Talk to kids about the bullies at school, and any experiences they may have had with bullies. Do they think that Tony becomes a bully in the movie?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the creepy but silly adventures of Scooby-Doo, like “Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers.”

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