Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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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

 

Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 2014

Boyhood
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use
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

Planes: Fire & Rescue
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action and some peril
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

The Emperor’s New Groove

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

The fast, fun, and funny “Emperor’s New Groove” is sheer delight for the entire family. It deserves to be taken out of the rarified category of “animation” and called what it is — a cartoon. It has more in common with classic Warner Brothers cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Road Runner than with Disney animation classics. This is not one of those movies where we see the sun glistening off every leaf on every tree. It has no perky heroine with big hair sitting down in the first half hour to look up into the sky and sing about her dreams. No adorable animal sidekicks to be immortalized on backpacks, lunchboxes, and beanie babies. No soulful romantic duet to be reprised over the credits and nominated for an Oscar. In fact, no love interest at all.

What’s left is nonstop action and comedy. Most important, we get a kind of freewheeling, even improvisational tone that is downright revolutionary for a big holiday theatrical release from Disney, and a very welcome relief after the overstuffed “102 Dalmatians.” The movie even spoofs itself, along with other movies from “The Fly” to “The Wizard of Oz.” This almost casual feel may have something to do with the origin of the movie, which was originally intended to be a much more serious and ambitious story set in the time of the Aztecs. Then they junked the original script, kept the backgrounds, and created an entirely new story to go on top of it.

Now it is the story of a spoiled emperor named Kuzco, hilariously voiced by David Spade with his trademark blend of snarky self-absorption. Kuzco dismisses his advisor Yzma (voiced somewhere between a purr and a growl by Eartha Kitt and looking like an Erte fashion design drawn with a skritchy pen). She decides to poison him. Her dim but muscular sidekick Kronk (voiced by Patrick Warburton, “Seinfeld’s” Puddy) accidentally gives Kuzco the wrong potion, and instead of being killed, he is turned into a llama. Kuzco needs to get help from a peasant named Pacha (voice of John Goodman) to get his body and his kingdom back. Their adventures almost approach Indiana Jones scale as they go over a rushing waterfall (with sharp rocks at the bottom), get covered with scorpions, cornered by jaguars, and chased by Yzma and Kronk. The animation is fine, but the voice performances are brilliant, especially Spade, who is sensational.

Parents should know that, like most Disney movies, this one has some scary moments, including a nighttime jungle scene reminiscent of the woods at night in “Snow White.” Most of the peril is comic, but it still might be too much for kids under 5.

Point out to kids that Kuzco thinks that all people are selfish — because he is, while Pacha thinks that all people have some good in them — because he does. Parents should ask kids how Kuzco got to be so selfish and why Pacha’s children enjoy squabbling with each other. Families may also want to talk about how Kronk thinks about what to do by consulting the angel and devil on his shoulders. They may also want to talk about how Kuzco and Pacha decide whether to trust one another.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “The Thief and the Cobbler,” an undiscovered animation gem.

The Dish

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2001

I started smiling ten minutes after the movie began, and didn’t stop until ten minutes after it ended. What a delight! I cannot resist saying that this “dish” is delicious.

It’s about one part of the race to the moon that Tom Hanks didn’t cover in his superb miniseries. It turns out that the United States had the technology and the resources to send astronauts to the moon, but it did not have the position on the planet necessary to broadcast pictures of that historic event back to the 300 million people who would be watching. That broadcast had to come from the Southern Hemisphere. So NASA sent a scientist to Parkes, Australia, a remote town with the world’s biggest satellite dish in the middle of a sheep paddock.

At first, the NASA scientist, Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton) and the three on-site engineers are suspicious of each other. But benign leader Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill), tempermental “Mitch” Mitchell (Kevin Harrington) and shy Glenn Latham (Tom Long) are drawn together by mutual respect and by awe at “science’s chance to be daring.” They are thrilled about being a part of the incredible adventure of a trip to the moon. But they are also shaken by the responsibility.

The town of Parkes is also a little overwhelmed by the visibility. All of a sudden, a town no one ever paid any attention to is being visited by dignitaries and the press, and that creates opportunities for all kinds of upheaval, presided over by the mayor, whose political ambitions are significant, but nowhere near as important as his ability to get real joy from his wife and from what is going on all around him.

The Prime Minister and the American ambassador are coming to town and must be duly celebrated. All goes pretty well, with a few hitches like a sulky teenager and a small confusion between the “Star Spangled Banner” and the theme song from “Hawaii Five-O.”

The real problem arises when Parkes, selected as the site for the dish because of its stable weather conditions, is subjected to high winds just at the time its position needs to be most precisely calibrated. We all know what happened, but that does not interfere with the pleasure of seeing how it happened.

The movie features dozens of sharply but observed moments and delightfully quirky characters including a dim security guard, a military-obsessed teenager with a crush on the mayor’s daughter, and the engineers themselves. Warburton, best known as Puddy on “Seinfeld” and as one of the highlights of last year’s “The Emperor’s New Groove,” is sheer pleasure to watch as the straight-laced NASA representative. Tom Long is marvelous as an engineer who can catch the errors in the NASA specifications but who can never quite get up the nerve to ask out the girl who delivers the sandwiches. Sam Neill’s comfort in being back home in Australia comes through in his warm portrayal of a man who had to be reminded to be excited about the trip to the moon, but who understood that all they needed in the contract with NASA was “we agree to support the Apollo 11 mission.”

Parents should know that there is brief strong language, social drinking and smoking, and some tension.

Families who see this movie should talk about the decisions that the engineers faced, including the decision to lie to NASA. Was that the right thing to do? Why or why not? What did it mean when Cliff told Glenn that “failure is never quite so frightening as regret?” Was he talking about more than one thing? Watch how the engineers respond to problems. What questions do they ask? How do they evaluate their options? How did Al and the Australians learn to trust each other?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Apollo 13,” with Tom Hanks, and Hanks’ superb miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon.”

The Diary of Anne Frank

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:1959

Plot: In WWII Amsterdam, a young girl and her family must hide from the Nazis in “the hidden annex.” Unimaginable horrors go on outside their tiny sanctuary. Inside, she struggles to understand, coping with both the normal confusions of adolescence and the the most abnormal and terrifying circumstances.

The movie begins as Otto Frank (Joseph Schildkraut), Anne’s father, returns to the annex after the war, the only one who survived. He finds her diary and begins to read. Anne (Millie Perkins), her parents, her older sister Margot (Diane Baker), Mr. And Mrs. Van Daan (Shelley Winters and Lou Jacobi), and their teen-age son, Peter (Richard Beymer) are welcomed into the annex by two brave gentile friends. The door to the annex is hidden by a bookcase. The annex is in the attic of a spice factory, and during the day, when employees are working, the families must be absolutely silent. Their friends have only three forged ration cards, so the food will be very limited. The families settle in hopefully.

But the claustrophobic living conditions, fear of discovery, and lack of food create stress, and the families bicker. Anne teases Peter and quarrels with her mother. Later, they are joined by a dentist, Mr. Dussell (Ed Wynn), who tells them that things have become much worse, and that many of the people they know have been taken off to concentration camps. They are almost discovered twice, once by a burglar, who breaks in to the factory, and once by the police. A radio gives them a connection to what is going on; they hear Hitler speak, and listen to music. They celebrate Hannukah, and Anne gives everyone small gifts she has made for them. She and Peter become close, and despite the lack of privacy, are able to share their feelings. Just as they are rejoicing that the war is almost over, they are found by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps.

Discussion: This is a faithful and affecting (if long) rendition of Anne Frank’s diary, and of her family’s experiences. Director George Stevens used the actual location (now a museum in Amsterdam) as a model for his set, and recreated every detail for authenticity. In addition to discussions of the Holocaust, this movie raises issues about the way that families work together (or don’t) in times of stress. Anne’s famous statement that, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart” is also worth discussing.

Questions for Kids:

· The Van Daans each have something that is very important to them: the cat, the food, the coat. Why is that? What does it tell you about each of them? What does it tell you about the impact of hiding?

· In what ways to the people behave like anyone living under normal circumstances? In what ways do they behave differently?

· Why is Anne’s relationship with her father different from her relationship with her mother?

· What do Anne’s Hannukah gifts tell you about the people she gives them to? About her?

· Is Anne’s father like Pollyanna when he tells her that she should be glad there will be no more fights about wearing boots or practicing, and says “How very fortunate we are, when you think of what is happening outside?”

Connections: “Anne Frank Remembered,” an outstanding documentary about Anne and her family, won an Oscar in 1996. “The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank” is a made-for-television drama starring Mary Steenburgen as Miep Gies, the woman who hid Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis. It provides a worthwhile opportunity to see the famous story from another perspective, and to consider the character of those who risked their lives to save others.

Activities: The diary itself should be read by every teenager. There is a lot of information for people of all ages about the Holocaust. Younger children should read the award-winning book by Lois Lowrey, Number the Stars, based on a true story, in which a little girl from Amsterdam helps some Jews escape. Children and especially teenagers may like to confide in a diary; remember Anne’s saying that, “I can shake off everything when I write.”

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

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

Woody Allen pays loving tribute to movies like “Double Indemnity” and “The Big Sleep” with this delicious comedy for grown-ups about a 1940′s insurance investigator who, under hypnosis becomes a brilliant jewel thief.

Allen is C.W. Briggs, an old-fashioned guy who likes things the way they are, which means solving crimes through tips and hunches and having his files right where he — but no one else — can find what he needs. The boss, Mr. Magruder (Dan Ackroyd) has brought in an efficiency expert, Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt). C.W. and Betty Ann clash immediately, despising each other on sight. But then, at a colleague’s birthday celebration in a nightclub, they are both hypnotized by Voltan the magician, who has them believing that they are deeply in love. That ends when the trance is over, but Voltan plants post-hypnotic directions that make C.W. and Betty Ann obey his commands whenever he says the trigger words. Voltan calls C.W., says the magic word, and C.W., in a trance, goes off to break into the homes of his firm’s clients and steal their jewels.

Criminal and romantic mix-ups follow as C.W. and Betty Ann run into each other in all kinds of compromising positions and discover that even the most skilled hypnotist cannot make someone do or feel anything unless there is some basis in reality.

This is the lightest of light comedies, silly but sophisticated, especially by comparison to the gross-out humor of just about every other comedy released this summer. It’s unapologetically pitched at people old enough to understand a reference to Mussolini and appreciate Charlize Theron’s dead-on take on all those spoiled rich femmes fatales played by Lauren Bacall and Gail Patrick. Allen’s quirky casting (starting with himself as the leading man) may not work for some audiences, but it can be fun to watch. Hunt is particularly fine as a woman who is not as sure of herself and her choices as she would like to be.

This story is reminiscent of Allen’s segment in “New York Stories.” In that short film, a nightclub magician makes the Allen character’s secret desire come true by making his smothering mother disappear, only to become his not-so-secret nightmare when she reappears as a looming image in the sky, so that everyone in Manhattan can hear her noodging. In this movie, we again have a nightclub performer who makes some real magic with unexpected romantic consequences. Possibly, Allen is trying to say something about connections between love and magic, guilt and freedom, or heart and brain, or perhaps he is just following the advice of the aliens who visit him in “Stardust Memories” and tell him that if he wants to help humanity he should make funnier movies.

Parents should know that in keeping with the period setting, characters smoke and drink a great deal, including drinking to numb emotional pain and drinking to excess. There are sexual references, including adultery and a character who makes it clear that she sleeps around and offers herself to C.W., but there are no explicit sexual situations. Characters discuss C.W.’s old-fashioned sexism and Betty Ann’s difficulties in being accepted as a professional woman.

Families who see this movie should talk about what they might do – and what they would not do – if they were hypnotized. Betty Ann trusts both Magruder and C.W., one rightly and one wrongly. How does she decide whom to trust and how does she deal with the consequences of her choices? Is there anyone you would trust despite all appearances? Is there anyone who would trust you? What would be different if the movie were set in 2001?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery” and “Sleeper” and the movies that inspired this one like “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Big Sleep” (some mature material in all of them).

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