Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Fury
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout
Release Date:
October 17, 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

St. Vincent
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 For mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

Dear White People
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

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

The silly summer explosions and kick-boxing movie of 2003 has arrived.

It’s pretty much the same movie as the first one, except more of everything, and this movie has a lot of everything to have more of. More lovely heads shaking lovely hair in slow-mo as the Angels run away from more explosions. More lovely legs kicking more bad guys. More cheesy 70’s pop songs and more references to other movies to show that they may not be smart or classy, but they’re self-aware and don’t take themselves seriously. More middle-school-style naughty jokes (the name Helen Zass sets off a series of tushie humor). More crazy get-ups (I know! Let’s make them dress up like nuns! And strippers!). More surprise guest stars — including one of the original Angels. More dancing. More modes of transportation, including a heliocopter, motorcross bikes, a thing that looks like a luge on wheels, and a very big truck. More booty shaking. More booty kicking. More booty. And more more Moore — Demi Moore strutting around in a bikini as an Angel gone bad.

The only thing there’s less of is plot, and does anyone who goes to this movie really care about that? Certainly no one who made the movie did.

The three Angels are all back: Dylan (producer Drew Barrymore), Alex (Lucy Liu), and Natalie (Cameron Diaz), and they are still happily taking orders from Charlie via speakerphone. There’s a new Bosley, though — Bernie Mac, a most welcome replacement for Bill Murray.

We begin in a Mongolian bar with a fast tribute to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (and “Urban Cowboy” and “Risky Business”) as our heroines rescue a federal marshal (“Terminator 2’s” Robert Patrick). They are then sent in to retrieve two rings containing the names of people in the witness protection program, taking time out to move Natalie in with her boyfriend (Luke Wilson), and taking time out from that to dance to Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”

Dylan, Alex, and Natalie behave as though they’re at a slumber party where the girls blow stuff up and perform on-the-spot forensic analyses without any equipment in between setting each other’s hair and short-sheeting each other’s beds. This gives a bouncy, buoyant, bubbly feel to the story that keeps the energy level high enough to sail through the silly dialogue and story. Moore is described as both having won the Nobel Prize for her scientific endeavors and mastering the Cosmopolitan Magazine bedside astrologer, and it is clear that this is the dream Angel, a sort of Marie Curie crossed with Barbie.

Parents are often distressed to observe their young daughters dressing their Barbies up like hookers and announcing that they are going to the office. After careful efforts to tell girls that they can be astronauts, doctors, chief executives, or even the President, it is disconcerting to see that, while the girls might want to have their dolls pursue these highly prestigious and worthwhile careers, they still want their dolls to wear glittery miniskirts while doing so. Movies like the “Charlie’s Angels” series recognize and tap into this dual fantasy.

Some families reject movies like these as sexist, but I believe a more thoughtful reaction appreciates that, while the main characters wear skimpy costumes, the women in those costumes are extraordinarily independent, capable, loyal, strong, honest, and highly educated.

The Angels are willing to take on any enemy of freedom or fairness without guns. Charlie is less their boss than their dispatcher, providing resources and opportunities for them. “Charlie’s Angels” is pop mind candy, and no one could call it a feminist ideal. But it is a mistake to dismiss its appeal as a portrayal of powerful women who are comfortable with themselves and love each other and who enjoy using all of their abilities as a force for good. If my middle-school or high-school-age daughter wanted to see it, rather than forbid it, I would use it to initiate a conversation about possible mixed messages our society sends young women and about the enduring attraction of those messages as well.

Problems include uninteresting villains and a dopey sidetrack as Alex’s boyfriend (Matt LeBlanc) and father (John Cleese) have a pointless misunderstanding about what Alex really does on the job. Yes, Demi Moore looks sensational as an Angel turned bad, but her performance is weak. Justin Theroux is also wasted as Dylan’s former boyfriend. Shia LeBeouf (“Holes”) is in the movie for no particular reason. But Crispin Glover returns for a few nicely creepy moments as the mute Thin Man who has a thing about hair.

Parents should know that the movie has non-stop “action violence,” meaning that it is not very graphic. A character is impaled and several characters are killed. There is a brief graphic scene of a calf birth. As in the first movie, the Angels do not use guns. Characters use some strong language and make some naughty double-entendres. Alex’s father believes she is a prostitute. Female and minority characters are brave, smart, loyal, and capable.

Families who see this movie should talk about how (and why) people create their own families.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original and the James Bond movies.

28 Days Later

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

Activists release animals from a lab, ignoring warnings that they are infected with a highly contagious “rage” virus. 28 days later, almost everyone is gone. Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital bed and wanders out into the deserted London streets.

This is a movie about a viral apocalypse. It has very scary zombies and jump-out-at-you attacks, but that is not what is most unsettling. Like the small group of survivors, we are cut off from any information and don’t know whether it is London, the UK, or the whole world that has been almost entirely wiped out. There is no way to know who or what to trust, no basis on which to evaluate alternative courses of action. When anyone becomes infected with the virus, there are only 10-20 seconds to kill him before he becomes a crazed, lethally infectious zombie. There is no time to plan to rebuild civilization. Survival is the only imperative.

And then, just as we begin to process — if not accept — all of that, the movie shifts into a whole other level of scariness. The zombies are terrifying, but they are not as bad as the “human” survivors, those people capable of higher reasoning and moral principles, and therefore of the most profound and disturbing betrayal.

Director Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting”) keeps the audience off-balance. Nightmarish quick cuts and digital video give the look of the movie a gritty, hallucinatory immediacy. Boyle also makes brilliant use of the empty artifacts, from the deserted London streets to a once-magnificent Gosford Park-style country house, now occupied by military, who eat rotting food around the table once used for glittering parties.

Each character gets just one defining quality (idealistic Jim, tough Selena, stout-hearted Frank, ingenue Hannah), but that just adds to the sense of urgency — we don’t have time to get to know them, just as they don’t have time to get to know each other.

Parents should know that this movie is very scary and deeply disturbing. It has has extreme and graphic peril and violence. Many characters are killed. Characters use very strong language. There is frontal male nudity. Characters drink and take drugs. There are sexual references, including rape.

Families who see this movie should talk about the different characters’ responses to ultimate questions about the meaning of life. Who is responsible for what happened? What will the world be like 10 years later? They should also talk about the enduring appeal of apocalyptic stories and the way they present moral choices in sharp relief.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other zombie-fests like the classic “Night of the Living Dead” and “Evil Dead,” and some of the other end-of-the-world movies like “On the Beach,” “The Road Warrior” trilogy, and the brilliant “12 Monkeys.”

From Justin to Kelly

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2003

Just about everyone already knows when Justin Guarini really met Kelly Clarkson — they were the two finalists on the wildly popular first season of “American Idol.” This quickie film was rushed into theaters to expand and extend their 15 minutes of fame; instead, it may extinguish it. This is not a terrible movie. It just isn’t a very good one.

A slight story about spring break romances is the excuse for a series of forgettable musical numbers, each delivered with the same shake-the-rafters power ballad punch.

Kelly’s namesake character is a waitress/singer in a Texas country and western bar who is persuaded by her two friends, scheming party girl Alexa (Katherine Bailess) and smart, loyal Kaya (Anika Noni Rose) to go to Miami for spring break. Also arriving in Miami are party promoter Justin and his two friends, party boy Brandon (Greg Siff) and nerdy Eddie (Brian Dietzen). The ensuing romantic intrigue includes jealous Alexa’s attempts to derail the romance between Justin and Kelly, Kaya’s dates with a poor but proud busboy, Brandon’s encounters with a stern female cop, and Eddie’s missed meetings with his online dream date.

It tries to be an updated Frankie and Annette beach party movie with cell phones and whipped cream bikini contests, but Frankie and Annette showed more energy, charm, and heart before the opening credits than this movie can manage in all of its seems-longer less-than-90 minutes. Guarini and Clarkson are game and clearly like each other, but there are no romantic sparks between them and they both seem a little dazed by the movie-making experience. Let’s just say that if there was an American Idol for acting, they would not have made it to the finals. The musical numbers are intermittently mildly enjoyable, but at about the level of a theme park variety show.

Parents should know that the movie has some mild swearing and sexual references. Kelly objects when Justin and his friends organize a whipped cream bikini contest. Some characters talk about “party” behavior (in mild terms), but the behavior they exhibit would impress even Annette and Frankie. Justin and Kelly share just one kiss. Characters drink in a bar. It is worthwhile to note that there are inter-racial friendships and romances, positively portrayed.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Alexa was jealous of Kelly and why it took Kelly so long to figure out that Alexa was disloyal?

Families who enjoy this movie might enjoy “Beach Party” and the other movies in the series. Fans of musicals that — to be kind — had trouble finding their audience might enjoy “Xanadu,” “Can’t Stop the Music,” “Lost Horizon,” and “At Long Last Love.”

The Hulk

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

If what you want from a comic book movie is to see the hero fight the bad guys, this is not your movie. Director Ang Lee creates images of great grace, elegance, and dignity, but he tries to make the inner conflicts the focus of the story and it does not work. It is also really, really, really long.

Eric Bana plays Bruce Banner, a scientist who has repressed memories of childhood trauma and as a result represses his emotions as well. He cares for fellow PhD Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) but is unable to let her get close to him. When he is exposed to gamma rays in a lab accident, it triggers a genetic mutation that was the result of his father’s experiments. When all that repressed anger is released, he becomes the physical embodiment of rage: an enormous green guy known as the Hulk.

Lee beautifully creates the sense of the comic book page with intercut scenes that show how comics and movies, popular entertainments that began at the same time and became art forms, influenced each other. But the story moves too slowly. And the Hulk moves too fast — the decision to make the Hulk character entirely computer-animated was a mistake. Computer animated characters can feel completely “real” in an entirely animated film, as shown by “Shrek” and “Finding Nemo,” and even in a live-action film, as with “The Two Towers'” Golum. But they had human actors providing the voices, giving great depth and character to the performances. The Hulk does not speak (except briefly), so he never comes to life. Furthermore, his interaction with the real physical world is not believable. He is supposed to be extremely dense and heavy, but when he jumps, he lands like a grasshopper, absurdly resembling a Gameboy version of Super Mario.

We never really care about him or root for him, and his fights, while impressively staged, are never compelling. He does not fight bad guys; he fights the Army, which is trying to stop him from destroying everything around him. He is more like King Kong than Spider-Man (and therefore truer to the comic book version of the character than the television version).

Like all superheroes, the Hulk is really the fantasy id unleashed. That could probably be turned into a good movie, but this isn’t it. Jennifer Connelly looks lovely, but basically carries over her “Beautiful Mind” role, except this time instead of being in love with a brilliant crazy guy she’s in love with a brilliant green crazy guy. Nick Nolte, looking more crazed than in the mug shot for his recent arrest for driving under the influence, overdoes the mad scientist bit as Bruce Banner’s father. His character is supposed to add dark, Oedipal themes of destiny and consequences, but his appearances frequently sparked laughter from the audience and his final conversation with his son plays like a parody of Sam Shepherd as translated from the Finnish. Eric Bana as the Hulk in human form just looks sorry to be there. When he cries at last, we feel his pain.

Parents should know that the movie has a great deal of comic-book-style “action violence,” meaning that there is a lot of destruction, but it is not very graphic. Some viewers may be upset by the tragic family events in the story.

Families who see this movie should talk about the appeal of comic book characters, especially the Hulk, the tangible representation of repressed anger.

Families who enjoy this movie might like to see the original “King Kong,” also about a misunderstood giant creature who loves a beautiful woman and is hunted by the military. They should also see some of the other comic book-based movies, including “Superman,” “Batman,” and “Spider-Man.”

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