Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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  New to DVD

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

 

The Giver
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
November 26, 2014

 

The Expendables 3
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Little Hope Was Arson
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not Rated
Release Date:
November 21, 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

Teacher’s Pet

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2004

The animated television series “Teacher’s Pet” makes a fast, fresh, tuneful, and funny feature debut that will entertain its fans and amuse their families.

Spot (voice of Nathan Lane) is a highly intelligent and articulate dog who dreams of becoming a boy. But then he wakes up. All he can do is pretend to be a boy, disguising himself as “Scott” and going to school with Leonard, the boy he lives with.

Leonard and his mother take off for Florida so she can participate in a teacher of the year competition, and Spot follows them after he sees a television interview with Dr. Krank (voice of Kelsey Grammar), who says he can change animals into humans. So far, his experiments on swamp creatures have produced some bizarre mutants, including something that looks like an alligator crossed with a kangaroo. But Spot helps Krank make some adjustments and gets turned into a human. Unfortunately, since they forgot to figure in the effect of dog years, Spot becomes not a boy but a middle-aged man “with hairy knuckles and lower back pain.” After many complications and adventures, a lot of sly humor, and several deliciously witty songs, everything is happily resolved.

Kids will enjoy the wild characters, silly plot turns, bright colors, and vivid images. The animation style is distinctive and unusual. While it is apparently simple, even childlike, with basic shapes and bold colors, it is actually quite sophisticated, designed by award-winning artist Gary Baseman, whose illustrations have appeared in many magazines and whose serious work is in the collection of major museums.

Older kids and parents will appreciate the wisecracks and the self-aware pop culture references from the Jetsons to Disney movies (including Snow White, Lady and the Tramp, and Sleeping Beauty).

And everyone will enjoy the music. While most movies directed at the youngest children have almost interchangeable soundtracks filled with watered-down rock and hip-hop or syrupy jingles, “Teacher’s Pet” has first-rate Broadway quality songs, beautifully sung by Tony-winner Lane and an able supporting cast of voice talents. Witty (and vocabulary-building) lyrics rhyme “defiance” with “science,” “appliance,” and “giants” and “foe” with “status quo.” One song hilariously lists all of the states and another reminds us that even the small among us can be mighty.

Parents should know that there is a little bit of potty humor and some comic peril and violence. One of the characters has an eye that keeps popping out. Some children may be concerned because Leonard does not have a father and his mother shows some romantic interest in Scott.

Families who see this movie should talk about how we can help each other even when we have different dreams.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the television series, still available in reruns. They might like to take a look at some modern artists whose work may have inspired the style of this cartoon, like Wayne Thiebaud. And they will enjoy the popular game Cranium, also featuring Baseman’s design work. Families who listen to the “Teacher’s Pet” song at the end of the movie might enjoy hearing it sung by Doris Day in a romantic comedy of that name co-starring Clark Gable or Parker Posey singing it at an audition in the deliciously looney Waiting for Guffman (for mature audiences).

The Fog of War

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

“The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara” is an intelligent documentary directed by Errol Morris and based upon an interview with Robert McNamara, who as Secretary of Defense for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson was for many the face of the war in Vietnam. Long seen as an energetic technocrat, blamed for increasing the body count in the brutal conflict, McNamara has reappeared in the news following his book “In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam” (1995).

The documentary features footage of iconic figures including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Curtis LeMay, John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev, as it marches its way from WWI –McNamara’s first memories—nearly to the present. Although filming started before 9/11, McNamara makes some prescient comments about our current engagements abroad.

The eleven lessons are:

1. Empathize with your enemy.

2. Rationality will not save us.

3. There’s something beyond one’s self.

4. Maximize efficiency.

5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war.

6. Get the data.

7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong.

8. Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning.

9. In order to do good you may have to engage in evil.

10. Never say never.

11. You can’t change human nature.

In “Fog of War”, Morris has made a very strong documentary that stops short of excellence. His interview style –to place the subject in another room from him and appear to the subject on a television screen—is not entirely effective with McNamara who is clearly comfortable in front of and with cameras. McNamara’s true moments of reflection seem fueled by his own thoughts from the intervening decades and not by Morris’ questions which he interprets to fit his answers. When Morris shouts questions, McNamara often shrugs them off as if they were impertinent or irrelevant, mere distractions from the internal dialogue he has with his own ghosts. What becomes apparent is that McNamara cannot clear the fog of war from his own eyes, much less from ours.

For those seeking to better understand the reclusive octogenarian, this film –while riveting—does not go beyond the line McNamara already drew in his book, which similarly contains a tone of semi-reporting, semi-excuse, semi-apology, stopping short of simple answers. Morris has done an excellent job of weaving footage and recordings together, complemented by Philip Glass’s score which is a narration in itself. We see more clearly what the decision makers said about the situation in Vietnam but the glimpses are neither incisive enough to answer our questions nor broad enough for us to question our answers. Morris cannot do the impossible task that he has created for himself, which is to help us see clearly in a time of war, but he can –and does—succeed admirably in presenting a good interview with an interesting and haunted man.

Parents should know that this movie touches on mature themes related to politics, protests and war. Allusion is made to fire bombs, nuclear weapons, Agent Orange and the effect of these weapons on the targeted populations. Self-immolation in protest of Vietnam and the near immolation of a protester’s child is discussed.

This movie provides rich content for family discussion, starting with the major issues McNamara raises in the interview. Who is responsible for US involvement in an extraterritorial conflict? Under the US political structure, what might be the checks and balances to prevent or guide US involvement in a time of war? How do perceptions of the mentioned military engagements, including WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, Iraq, differ and why?

“War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” Families might wish to discuss this sentiment, expressed here by General Sherman in the context of the Civil War, and how McNamara uses it to describe WWII bombings. Is there a developed sense of ethical behavior during a time of war? What “rules” might there be? If you can’t change human nature, what can you do to prevent war or ameliorate conflicts?

As described in the film, Congress placed the decision to wage war on Vietnam with the Executive Office, which some people argue means that they abrogated their responsibility. Should one person, in this case the President, be responsible for the decision to go to war? If you were in McNamara’s place as a close advisor to a president considering going to war, what would you have done? McNamara describes disagreeing with President Johnson on many aspects of the conflict in Vietnam and eventually leaving the administration. If you disagreed with the President, how would you address the problem? What other solutions would you consider? Would you resign?

Morris stops the interviews with discussions of Vietnam, but McNamara in his next job was responsible for re-shaping the World Bank to focus on poverty. McNamara argued that addressing inequality could prevent the causes of war. Do you think that there are other ways to prevent war?

Families who like this documentary might enjoy seeing Morris’ earlier works, including The Thin Blue Line about an innocent man imprisoned for murder, Fast, Cheap & Out of Control which is a poetic reflection on the obsessions of four men, and Gates of Heaven, the documentary about pet cemeteries that launched his career.

For families who wish to see a much different documentary with insights into ethics during a time of war, The Trial of Adolf Eichmann is a fascinating look at the man in charge of implementing the Third Reich’s horrific Endlosung (“final solution”). Other political documentaries about the U.S. that might be of interest include Point of Order, a mesmerizing snapshot of the last days of Senator Joe McCarthy’s hearings.

Chasing Liberty

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

Pop princess Mandy Moore plays the President’s runaway 18-year-old daughter in this formula romantic comedy designed for middle school girls and not of much interest or appeal for anyone else.

Anna (Moore) is a sweet kid who understands that being followed by secret service agents and having her picture taken with tourists and dignitaries is part of the job decription. Like any other 18-year-old, she thinks her parents are too protective. Her secret service code name maybe “Liberty,” but she feels anything but free. On a trip to Prague, her father (Mark Harmon) breaks his promise to limit her secret service protection to two agents, so she runs away, with the help of a handsome guy named Ben (Matthew Goode) with all three requirements to make any pop princess swoon — a dazzling smile, a moped, and a British accent.

It turns out that Ben is in the secret service, too, but the President orders him not to tell Liberty, so that she can have the illusion of an adventure. Things do not go as planned, and they end up having more of an adventure than they expected.

The movie has pretty things to look at, especially Prague and Venice and newcomer Goode who is very good indeed. And we want to root for the overprotected Liberty, never alone but always lonely, to take some risks and have some fun. But Moore is so limited as a performer, the plot and dialogue are so superficial and unimaginative, and the lack of chemistry between the leads is so intrusive that a recap montage of the would-be high points near the end just seems painful.

Parents should know that characters use some strong language in the movie (about the level of night-time network television) and characters smoke (there is a running joke about the President liking cigars) and drink (while they make it clear that Liberty is not breaking the law because it is legal to drink at age 18 in Europe, she does get tipsy and behaves foolishly as as result). Characters also lie and steal without any second thoughts or consequences. Liberty and Ben leave a restaurant without paying and lie to get a free gondola ride.

The movie has sexual references that are much spicier than the sexual situations. A girl begins to explain the appeal of a pierced tongue, but is stopped before she can finish. Liberty complains about not getting a chance to get to “third base.” Liberty twice takes her clothes off in front of Ben (nothing shown), once intending to seduce him, but he refuses. Even after they declare their feelings for each other, they do not have sex, a refreshing departure for the norm in this genre.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Liberty’s situation is just an exaggerated version of the struggles that all parents and teenagers have over independence. Why did Liberty try to get Ben to have sex with her? Why did he turn her down? What made them like each other? Families might want to read up on Alice Roosevelt, the headstrong and outspoken daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. When asked why he did not stop her from getting into trouble, he replied that he could control the affairs of state, or control Alice, but could not possibly do both.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy two classics of the lonely, overprotected rich girl runaway genre, the multiple Oscar-winning It Happened One Night and Roman Holiday, must viewing for all families with young girls. Older viewers might enjoy another peek at romance in the White House with Michael Douglas and Annette Benning in An American President. A bittersweet story about the relationship between a President’s widow and a Secret Service agent is Guarding Tess. The script is not very imaginative, but the movie is worth watching for lovely performances by Shirley Maclaine and Nicolas Cage.

Monster

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

Aileen Wuornos peers into the murky mirror of the gas station bathroom. Somewhere in that lumpy, mottled face, she catches a glimpse of a girl who dreamed of being admired and cared for. We glimpse that girl, too, hopeful, even loving. But we see no trace of the woman who is portraying her. Glamour girl Charlize Theron’s breathtaking, heartbreaking transformation makes this movie about the woman called America’s first female serial killer an astonishing achievement.

Aileen was an abused child who began turning tricks at age 13. She thinks she has nothing to live for. But then she meets Shelby (Christina Ricci), a shy and needy lesbian. Even though Aileen is not gay, she is drawn to Shelby. She finds that being able to take care of someone is even more important to her than being taken care of. For a moment, it seems that she can find a new life for herself. But she has no skills and no capacity to get a legitimate job. She is forced to go back to prostitution to take care of Shelby, and when a customer rapes and beats her, she snaps, and she kills him. She takes his money and his car.

And then she begins to entrap and kill more men, each less justified than the last as she becomes more desperate and ultimately delusional. The last victim is portrayed by Scott Wilson, perhaps in an echo to his own star-making role as a real-life headline-making killer in In Cold Blood.

At one point, Aileen planned to kill herself as soon as she spent her last five dollars. As she used it to buy a drink, she met Shelby, who gave her a chance to mean something to someone but at the same time showed her more devastatingly than ever how far she was from being able to live in a way that could make her feel loved and proud. The first murder may have been self-defense. It may have been her way of striking back at a world that had struck her once too often. The movie wisely does not pretend to explain what was going on in the mind and soul of a woman who was mentally ill. Unlike the similar Boys Don’t Cry however, it is unable to elevate the facts into a larger story about identity and intimacy.

What makes the movie worthwhile is Theron’s performance, open, vulnerable, tragic, moving, and most of all, honest. Aileen’s behavior is contradictory, volatile, and disturbed. She loses control and lashes out irrationally. There are moments when I was not sure whether Theron was acting or just trying to keep her dental appliance from slipping, and no one could make some of those voiceover speeches work, but with the ferocity of her grip on the character she never lets us lose sight of Aileen’s humanity. Theron’s portrait of Aileen is sympathetic without pretending that she is more of a victim than the men she killed.

Parents should know that the main character in this fact-based story is a serial killer and a prostitute. The movie has explicit sexual references and situations, including gay sex, prostitution, and rape, extremely strong language, violence (including a brutal rape and several murders), smoking and drinking. There are tense and upsetting scenes.

Families who see this movie should talk about who is the “monster.” If it is Aileen, what made her that way? What could have prevented it? In what ways is the movie sympathetic to Aileen, and in what ways is it not? How can you tell?

Families who appreciate this movie should look at the two documentaries about Aileen Wuornos by Nick Broomfield. In 1992, he made Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer which focuses on the way the people around Wuornos, including her lawyer, a woman who “adopted” her, and even the police who arrested her exploited her arrest. Eleven years later, he made Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, focusing on Wuornos as she approached her execution, defiantly and impatiently. Those who appreciate this movie will also appreciate Boys Don’t Cry, based on the true story of the murder of a young woman who was passing as a man.

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