Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence
Release Date:
October 24, 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

John Wick
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Begin Again
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
July 2, 2014

23 Blast
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some teen drinking
Release Date:
October 24, 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

The Fighting Temptations

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2003

You may or may not believe that gospel music saves the soul of an out of work advertising executive, but you just might believe that it saves the movie in in “The Fighting Temptations,” and that might be enough to make you say “Amen.”

Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Darren, who goes home to a small Southern town for the first time in many years after his aunt’s death. She leaves him $150,000, provided that he can get her beloved church choir to win a competition.

Darren has spent his life staying far away from the place where his mother was thrown out of the church for singing music that wasn’t considered appropriate. Although he is still bitter and angry, he is also insecure, so unsure of himself that he fabricates a background he thinks makes him more acceptable. He is so eager to be successful that he does not hesitate to come up with a proposed ad campaign that would exploit small-town blacks in order to sell more malt liquor.

But his lies about his qualifications are exposed and he is fired. He owes a great deal of money. That $150,000 is one temptation he cannot resist, especially when he sees a singer named Lilly (Beyonce Knowles of Destiny’s Child) who could not just win the competition but make some of his other dreams come true as well.

There is nothing particularly fresh or distinctive about what happens next. Beyonce Knowles cannot act, but she has a nice presence and a beautiful smile. Cuba Gooding, Jr. can act, but based on the evidence of this movie and several before it, he is chosing not to for the time being. There is some very broad attempted humor, as when they have to bring in a high-voiced convict in chains to sing in the choir. But that music is just plain glorious, especially when Knowles, the O Jays, Melba Moore, Faith Evans, and real-life gospel star Shirley Caesar raise up their voices.

Parents should know that one character is an unwed mother who is shunned by the church. There are some sexual references, including a man who brags about his conquests and asks children if they know he is their daddy and a crude reference to Mary Magdalene. One of the church leaders is exposed as a hypocrite who lied about her husband leaving her. Darren smokes expensive cigars and several characters drink, one to excess in a manner that is intended to be humorous.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether the church should have refused to include Darren’s mother and Lilly. What do you think of the admonition to “beware of brief delight and lasting shame?” What is the best way to help people who have made mistakes? Do you agree that gospel music gives people comfort? Is that its purpose?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Sister Act.

S.W.A.T.

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2003

If this movie was going to be sold in a grocery store, it would be in a plain white box with black letters that say, “GENERIC SUMMER EXPLOSION MOVIE.” It is as predictable as the rhymes in a limerick, but as predictably entertaining as well. There are no surprises in the story, but the action sequences deliver the goods that audiences for this film are there to receive.

The story follows Jim Street (Colin Farrell) and Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner) — the character names taken from the TV show give you an idea of the level of creative inspiration here — Special Weapons and Tactics officers who get into trouble in a hostage situation when Gamble shoots without authorization. They are thrown off of the SWAT squad, and Gamble quits in disgust. Street stays on, willing to serve time in the gun cage and earn his way back onto SWAT. Gamble feels betrayed.

Hondo Harrison (Samuel L. Jackson), a former SWAT commander, is called back into action and assembles a new team, including Street, Deke (LL Cool J), and Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez). We get to see them bond in a generic training montage and pass their big test just in time for the biggest SWAT challenge ever. An international dealer in drugs, weapons, and every sort of generic bad thing has offered a reward of $100 million to anyone who can break him out of jail. This attracts every kind of thug and the ones with no idea about what they are doing are just as big a threat as the ones who do.

It is a shame to assemble a high-powered cast of some of the most talented and charismatic people in Hollywood and then not give them any opportunities to let them show us what they can do. There is nothing distinctive about the characters (they are, yes, generic), despite brief attempts to sketch in some details by showing one with a child, another on a date, and some tender partings when the officers’ beepers go off. All these moments do is make stupifyingly obvious the supposed surprise plot twist half an hour before it occurs. Even more obvious is a “You’re Chris Sanchez?” surprise that the officer played by Rodriguez is a woman; this from someone who is supposed to have selected her by reading through her file.

Parents should know that the movie has extensive action peril and violence (not much blood, not too graphic). Characters are hurt and killed. There are some bad words. There are sexual references and situations, but nothing explicit. A character barfs onscreen. Suicide is portrayed as an honorable choice following disgrace. There is a politically incorrect Polish joke.

Families who see this movie should talk about the choice the captain presented to Street and how he responded. When do you decide not to follow rules or orders? They should also talk about the other alternatives the character who commits suicide might have chosen.

Families who enjoy this movie might like to take a look at the original television series, S.W.A.T. – The Complete First Season, now available on DVD. they will also enjoy The Dirty Dozen and The Magnificent Seven.

Le Divorce

posted by rkumar
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

“Le Divorce” may look and sound like a glossy romantic comedy but it is instead an uneven take on the culture clash between America and France.

Kate Hudson plays Isabel, a California girl arriving in Paris to help her pregnant sister Roxy (Naomi Watts). But just as Isabel arrives, Roxy’s artist husband Charles-Henri (Melvil Poupaud) leaves. So Isabel and Roxy are set adrift in a culture and legal system that is, well, foreign to them.

Both are very drawn to France where, as American expatriate writer Olivia Pace (Glenn Close) says, you could write a book chapter just about the way French women wear their scarves. Isabel, who arrives in California pastels and shell jewelry, is soon exploring French culture just as Americans have done for centuries — she becomes romantically involved. And not with one Frenchman, but two — Olivia Pace’s young assistant and an elegant, distinguished, and wealthy older man who is Charles-Henri’s uncle Edgar (a very dapper Thierry Lhermitte). Edgar is very direct with Isabel, asking her to be his mistress and sending her an Hermes Kelly bag (a very expensive purse).

But Isabel and Roxy do not know how to deal with the subtlety and indirection of the rest of Charles-Henri’s family, led by his mother (Leslie Caron). They serve exquisite meals and make soothing comments, but do not provide any opportunities for Roxy to talk about her situation. Meanwhile, they appear to be plotting to have a painting hanging in Roxy’s apartment declared to be part of the marital assets to be divided in the divorce. Roxy says that the painting belonged to her family, who just loaned it to her for her apartment. But it now appears that the painting might be much more valuable than they had thought, and Charles-Henri’s brother brings in a curator from the Louvre to authenticate it as a Georges de la Tour.

The ambiguity of the painting’s provenance (three different experts come to see it and all have different opinions) and its status as a marital asset parallels the precariousness Roxy and Isabel experience in their relationships. Roxy wants Charles-Henri to stay with her and their daughter and new baby, but he is in love with a Russian woman whose American husband (Matthew Modine) is frantic with grief. Isabel has something of a French makeover through her relationship with Edgar, but it doesn’t quite take — Edgar has to keep reminding her that she is carrying the Kelly bag on the wrong occasions.

All of the performances sparkle and there are some witty and sharply observed moments. But the movie’s own perspective becomes too ambiguous, especially when it veers into a tragedy that throws everything out of balance.

Parents should know that the movie has mature themes, sexual references and situations, including adultery. There is some strong language. And there is an attempted suicide, a character who threatens other characters with a gun, and serious (off-screen) violence.

Families who see this movie should talk about the way the different characters see and react to the same things — for example, the painting, marital fidelity, discussion of sensitive topics. Is that due to differences in culture or to something else?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Amelie.

American Wedding

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:R
Movie Release Date:2003

Okay, I admit it — I laughed. A lot. Even more surprising, I smiled.

I was even a little sorry that this is the last of the American Pie trilogy.

For anyone who has not been to a movie in a few years, let me remind you that the humor of this movie as raunchy as it gets, and then some. There is not a bodily function or a sexual practice that is not made fun of in some excruciatingly humiliating way in these movies. But while that is part of their appeal to young audiences, for whom it is a reassuring release to laugh at these uncomfortable topics, that is not the reason for their success. Many, many other films made the mistake of thinking that gross-out humor was enough. What makes these movies different is that at their heart is, well, heart. Once again, as in the first two movies, there is a lot of talk about sex and a lot of attempts to have sex, but the sex that actually occurs is almost entirely respectful, monogamous, and really quite sweet. And once again the best part is Eugene Levy as the least hip (but most loving) father in the world.

In the original movie, Jim (Jason Biggs) and his friends make a commitment to have sex by graduation. He tries to get together with a beautiful exchange student named Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth), he ends up with band camp nerd Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), who turns out to be surprisingly ardent and adventuresome. In the second, they take a beach house for the summer with plans to have a lot of sex in it. Jim again tries to get together with Nadia, but again ends up with Michelle, originally so that he can learn how to be a better lover, but ultimately because he realizes that he loves her.

In this installment, they have graduated from college and Jim, who continues to be a magnet for humiliation, proposes to Michelle. All of the preparations for the wedding, from finding the perfect dress to meeting the new in-laws, to the bachelor party to the big day, provide opportunities for wild adventures that include more conventional set-ups for humor like a dance-off in a gay bar and a personality switch as the irrepressible id Stifler pretends to be a sweet, polite, preppy and philosopher Finch pretends to be an obnoxious bad boy. But mostly it is just a series of humiliating escapades as the straight-laced in-laws walk in on what appears to be Jim having sex with another man and some dogs, a bachelor party that involves strippers, a guy in bondage, and some very revealing leather pants, a character unexpectedly ends up having sex with an elderly lady, and yet another dessert is destroyed by Jim. As in all classic sex farces, the outrageous situations are really a morality tale — the good are rewarded and the naughty are punished.

Parents should know that this is an exuberantly outrageous movie with humor that is good-hearted but extremely explicit. There are jokes about every body part and function and about every kind of sexual practice, heterosexual and homosexual, including oral sex, mild S&M, and the use of sex toys. The language is extremely strong, with non-stop swearwords and exceptionally explicit sexual references. A character moons the others. A character has sex with someone thinking it is someone else. Stifler once again ingests a substance for gross-out effect, this time not even human. There is social drinking. The issue of religious intermarriage is raised when one family member objects, but everyone else is completely supportive. As in the previous movies, the female characters are exceptionally honest, open, and in charge of their sexuality for movies directed at this age group (or any age group).

Families who see this movie should talk about which gender or generation in this movie understands the other one best. And they should talk about Jim’s supportive father, and possible ways he might improve the way he shows his support. Families might also want to talk about the importance of selecting sexual partners with whom they can share truly intimate moments.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy American Pie and American Pie 2.

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