Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
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Laggies
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, some sexual material and teen partying
Release Date:
October 31, 2014

 

Begin Again
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
July 2, 2014

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

 

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

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

 

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

Freddy vs. Jason

posted by rkumar

I hope needless to say, this extremely violent movie is only for the hard-core fans of the genre who are old enough not to be traumatized by it. Since I do not think I can be fair to these movies, this guest review was provided by the son of the Movie Mom, a 19-year-old fan of slasher movies who wanted me to give the movie an A-. Here’s what he had to say:

I was lucky enough to catch KISS in concert two days before I saw Freddy vs. Jason. Like KISS, the Freddy (“Nightmare on Elm Street”) and Jason (“Friday the 13th”) series have lasted for decades, are loved by ardent cult followings, and are hated by pretty much everyone else, especially parents and critics. The newest addition to the series will meet or surpass the expectations of the fans, while the heretics, I mean, deriders, will know to avoid it.

What is there to say about “Freddy vs. Jason?” The plot is ridiculous, and even if it made any sense it would be too pointless and too complicated to put down into a review. It’s just an excuse to have two of the scariest guys in movie history fight each other. Besides, the fans won’t want the key elements given away, and the plot isn’t what the naysayers want to hear about anyway. What both care about is the carnage.

It sure isn’t the characters or performances. Outside of the title characters, the cast is uninteresting, even interchangable; they’re only there to get killed anyway. Save for the classically trained Robert Englund, who reprises his role as the diabolical Freddy Krueger, there are no memorable performances, just busty, pouty-lipped girls in revealing clothing and stereotyped, drunk high school guys who scream and run and get gutted like fish. The highlights are definitely Freddy (of Nightmare on Elm Street fame) and Jason (of Friday the 13th fame), who kindly keep the audience from enduring the dumb teenagers for long, and join to engage in possibly the best movie fight you’re going to see all year, which is what we came to see. Cool, huh?

If you ask anyone why they love or hate these movies, they’d both probably answer with something like the above paragraph.

Freddy vs. Jason makes for a more interesting contrast than, say, Freddy vs. Chucky or Jason vs. Michael Myers would make, mainly because of the killers’ personalities. Whether you prefer killers like Jason who brood mutely while hulking towards you with a cleaver or killers like Freddy, a wild-eyed, deranged, wisecracking, sharp-fingered bloodthirsty hillbilly, no one will be left unsatisfied. The crowd I saw it with laughed, occasionally shrieked, and applauded, especially whenever Freddy cackled while slaughtering someone or Jason disembodied a victim. They obviously loved it, as will probably anyone who pays to see it. So much, in fact, that they’ll see the inevitable sequel. Sure, the chances of it even being considered for an Oscar nomination are even less than those of KISS ever getting a Grammy, but whether it’s a guilty pleasure or the film you’ve been anticipating ever since you first read about it on Wes Craven’s website, Freddy vs. Jason delivers.

Parents should know that the movie contains lots of nudity and some sex, lots of foul language, and characters who drink and do drugs. There is also an ambiguous date rape and a brief racial slur towards the only black character in the entire movie. Oh yeah, people are gutted, stabbed, impaled, torn apart, sliced open, burned, crushed, and killed in just about any way that produces lots of gushing blood. But if it’s any consolation to conservative parents, all the kids who engage in stupid behavior pay for it pretty heavily.

Families who see this movie should discuss the enduring appeal of slasher films, particularly the consistent theme that teens who have sex or use drugs get horribly killed. They may also want to talk about the impact a film like this has compared to more realistically portrayed violence as in “Saving Private Ryan.”

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the others in the series as well as the clever and convention-challenging Scream.

Grind

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

The press materials for this movie explain that “grind” refers to a particularly spectacular skateboarding move. In my case, it referred to what my teeth were doing as I had to sit through this dumb and boring movie.

What a shame, because I was really up for a good skateboarding movie after last year’s wonderful documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys. But this wasn’t it.

Instead, “Grind” is a complete time-waster about four guys who hit the road in hopes of becoming professional skateboarders, and the characters are all straight from cliche-land. One is the guy with the dream. One is the obnoxious guy who never changes his clothes and talks about sex all the time even though he’s never had it. One is the risk-averse guy who just wants to save all his money for college. And one is the guy with the van who can get any lady he wants just by asking if she wants to make out with him.

They hit the road for all kinds of highly un-funny adventures involving gross-out moments (one of the guys gets barfed on and peed on), and various un-funny hijinks (one gets involved with a girl who steals the van, the guys scam free food and try to scam their way into competition and into getting reviewed for sponsorship), and various un-funny encounters with the otherwise funny Randy Quaid and the never funny Tom Green, all to a pounding soundtrack of mediocre hip-hop music. And then there is the credit sequence out-takes, just as uninteresting and annoying as the movie itself. There are some guest appearances by real skateboarding champs that are fun for fans.

Okay, you might be saying, but what about the skateboarding? Surely that is a sport made for the movies and those scenes make it all worthwhile. I wish, I reply. While there are some terrific stunts, the final skate-off with the arrogant leader of the championship team is filmed without any sense of tension or exhilaration.

Indeed, it is exhilaration that is what is most missing from this movie. You never believe that these guys really love to skateboard; it seems that they just don’t want to do anything else.

Parents should know that the movie has strong language and sexual references and situations for a PG-13. The characters cheat and steal. Characters drink, sometimes to excess. There is a lot of gross humor involving bodily functions. One strong point is the presence of some classy and capable female characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Matt is so hurt by his parents decision and why his behavior toward women is so inconsistent with what he says he wants from them. Why do the guys want sponsorship so badly? Will they behave differently toward other aspiring professionals than the way the current professionals treated them?

Families who enjoy this movie should see the much better Dogtown and Z-Boys and Breaking Away.

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.

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Laggies
Lynn Shelton is known for writing and directing small, intimate, independent films with a lot of improvised dialogue ("Humpday,""My Sister's Sister," "Touchy Feely"), often using the same small group of actors. With "Laggies," she moves seamlessly to working with a more conventional screenplay, writ

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