Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Noah
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Finding Vivian Maier
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 11, 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

 

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

The Gunfighter

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:1950

Plot: Jimmy Ringo (Gregory Peck) is the fastest gun who ever lived, which makes him a target for every young man who wants to prove himself. On his way to Cayenne, Ringo stops in a bar. A “young squirt” taunts him, and Ringo makes every possible effort to placate him, finally asking the young man’s friends to make him stop, but finally he pulls his gun on Ringo, who kills him. Even though everyone saw that it was in self- defense, the witnesses tell him to move on. The dead man had three brothers, and “they won’t care who drew first.”

The three brothers come after Ringo, but he is waiting for them, and he takes their guns and sends their horses back to town, telling them to go back on foot. But he knows that they will probably follow him instead, and that once he gets to Cayenne, he will only have a brief time to do what he has in mind.

He gets to Cayenne, and is surprised and pleased to find his old friend Mark Strett (Millard Mitchell) as the sheriff. Mark tells him he will have to leave; even though Ringo does not want any trouble, and has not committed any crimes, trouble will come looking for him, as there are too many young men who will risk everything to be able to claim the credit for killing Ringo. Ringo wants to see his wife Peggy and their child. Mark knows where they are but won’t say. He does agree to ask Peggy if she will see Ringo, and tells Ringo to stay put, under the care of the sympathetic bartender (Karl Malden).

Ringo stays quietly in the corner. But every one of the boys in town plays hookey to peer in at him through the saloon window. And the local “squirt,” hot-headed Hunt Bromley (Skip Homier), comes after him. Ringo scares him off with a bluff. But Jerry is across the street with a rifle pointed out the window, sure that Ringo must be the one who killed his son. And the three brothers have found horses and guns and are approaching fast.

Peggy at first refuses to see him. She finally agrees, and when he says he wants to settle down in a place where no one knows him, she says if he can do that for a year, she will join him. He spends some time with his son, and prepares to leave, happy at the thought of his new life. But Hunt is waiting for him, and shoots him in the back.

As Ringo dies, he says that he drew first. He doesn’t want Hunt hanged. He wants him to suffer as he has suffered, knowing that wherever he goes, there will be someone who wants to be known as the man who shot the man who shot Ringo.

Discussion: This is really a Western version of the story of King Midas. Ringo’s wish came true, but at a terrible price. There was a time when he could think of nothing finer, nothing manlier, than being known as the fastest gun in the West. We see a glimmer of that again, when he asks what Jimmy (who does not know that Ringo is his father) thinks of him. When he hears that Jimmy admires Wyatt Earp, he can’t help telling the boy that he is far tougher than Earp. Yet now Ringo is tired. He knows that every moment he will have to watch for someone trying to kill him (as happens throughout this movie), and that someday someone will be a little less tired (or, as happens, a little less honorable) than he is.

It provides a good opportunity for a discussion of notions of manhood and courage, along the lines of the moving speech by Charles Bronson in “The Magnificent Seven.” Ringo would trade all of his fame for the chance to live with his family, as shown most poignantly when he shares a drink with a young rancher. Ringo is more successful with his intelligence than his speed — he is able to avoid shoot-outs with the brothers, with Jerry, and in the first encounter with Hunt. He arranges to have money paid to Peggy without giving away their connection, and thinks of a plausible reason to tell Jimmy why he wanted to see him so that he doesn’t have to tell him the truth. His innate decency and sense of justice are shown in his dealings with Jerry, his dreams for a life with Peggy, and especially in the scene in which he talks to the ladies of the town, when they do not know who he is. His pleasure in being able to have a moment’s interaction with people who are not either terrified, angry, or trying to shoot him is very moving.

This is also a good movie about the consequences of our choices. There are so many movies about redemption and triumph that it is automatically branded an “adult western” when a gunfighter doesn’t shoot the bad guy and ride off into the sunset. Unlike Alan in “The Petrified Forest,” who dies to help someone else, or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , whose death at the end of the movie only brightens their legend, Ringo chooses to tarnish his legend as he dies, to curse Hunt to the same fate that he suffered, and possibly also to give little boys and young squirts less reason to try to be like him.

Questions for Kids:

· Why does every town have a “young squirt” who wants to prove he is faster than Ringo?

· Why doesn’t Mark carry a gun?

· Why does Ringo insist that he drew on Hunt?

· Why was Mark able to get away and start over, when Ringo and Buck were not?

· Why does Peggy call herself Mrs. Ringo at the end?

Connections: One of the three brothers who come after Ringo was played by Alan Hale, Jr., who went on to play the Captain in the television show “Gilligan’s Island,” and was the son of Alan Hale, Little John in “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”

Compare Ringo’s final decision to the one made by Jimmy Cagney in “Angels with Dirty Faces.” A tough criminal on death row, he is asked by his lifelong friend, a priest, to go to his death a coward, so that the boys who look up to him will not want to follow his example.

The Great Race

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1965

Dedicated to “Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy,” this movie is both a spoof and a loving tribute to the silent classics, with good guys, bad guys, romance, adventure, slapstick, music, wonderful antique cars, and the biggest pie fight in history. The opening credits are on a series of slides like those in the earliest movies, complete with cheers for the hero and boos for the villain, and a flickering old-fashioned projector that at one point appears to break down. Always dressed in impeccable white, the Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) is a good guy so good that his eyes and teeth literally twinkle. His capable mechanic and assistant is Hezekiah (Keenan Wynn). The bad guy is Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon), assisted by Max (Peter Falk). Like Wile E. Coyote, Fate’s cartoonishly hilarious stunts to stop Leslie inevitably backfire.

After a brief prologue, in which Fate tries to beat Leslie in breaking various speed records, literally trying to torpedo him at one point, they both enter an automobile race from New York to Paris. So does a beautiful reporter (Natalie Wood as Maggie DuBois) trying to prove she can get the story — dressed in an endless series of exquisite ensembles designed by Hollywood legend Edith Head. Great%20Race2.jpg

The race takes them across America, through the Wild West, to a rapidly melting ice floe in the Pacific, and into a European setting that is a cross between a Victor Herbert operetta and “The Prisoner of Zenda,” where a spoiled prince happens to look exactly like Professor Fate and it takes all of the stars to foil an evil Baron (Ross Martin) who wants to use Fate to take over the throne.

The Great Escape

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Not rated
Movie Release Date:1963
DVD Release Date:May 7, 2013

great escape

In honor of the Blu-Ray release of this classic film, it is the Pick of the Week – and I am delighted that I have one Blu-Ray to give away.  Send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with Escape in the subject line.  I will pick a winner at random on May 15.  Don’t forget your address!  (US addresses only.)

Towards the end of WWII, the Germans built a special high-security prison camp for Allied prisoners with a record of escape attempts. This is the true story of the extraordinary courage and ingenuity of the men imprisoned there, and of their plans for the greatest escape ever. As the British ranking officer explains, when the camp commandant urges him to relax and “sit out the war as comfortably as possible,” his duty is to escape, or, if escape is impossible, to force the enemy to use as many resources as possible to contain them.

Each man contributes his expertise. There are “tunnel kings” to dig the three tunnels, a “forger king” (Donald Pleasence) to forge the papers the soldiers will need when they escape, a “scrounger” (James Garner) to beg, borrow, steal, or obtain through blackmail the materials they need, and others who work as tailors and manufacturers. An American who is something of a loner, Hilts (Steve McQueen) becomes the “cooler king” for his long stints in solitary confinement, as a result of his independent escape attempts. When “Big X” (Richard Attenborough), the British officer who supervises the escape, asks Hilts to go through the tunnel to get information about the area surrounding the camp, and then allow himself to be recaptured, so he can let them know what he has found, he refuses. But when his friend is killed trying to escape, his spirit broken by the camp, Hilts changes his mind.

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Seventy-five of the prisoners are able to escape before the tunnel is discovered. The Germans track almost all of them down, and fifty are killed, including Big X. It is to “the fifty” that the film is dedicated.

As in “Stalag 17″ and many other films about prison camp, the prisoners in this story must adapt to the direst of circumstances, and they choose differing approaches. Hilts adapts by working on his own, or with one partner, while others work on a massive group escape. Ives and Danny begin to unravel under the stress, not so much a “choice” as an involuntary response.

Unlike other prison camp movies, this one does not dwell on disputes between prisoners or on the deprivations of the prison camp, which seems almost comfortable. It is about the professionalism, courage, resourcefulness, teamwork, and loyalty of every one of the prisoners.

As in a traditional “heist” film, the story focuses on defining a problem and then solving it. They examine the restrictions imposed by their conditions, change the ones they can, and adapt to the ones they cannot. They must also adapt quickly and calmly when the plan does not go as they expected.

The story gives us an exceptional example of teamwork and loyalty. Note the way that the prisoners protect each other. When Danny (Charles Bronson) cannot take it any more and wants to escape on his own, his friend talks him out of it. When the Forger goes blind, Big X wants to leave him behind, for his own protection. But the Scrounger promises to take care of him.

Point out to kids what factors do — and do not — go into the prisoners’ calculations and strategy. Big X is cautioned not to allow his personal wish for revenge determine their strategy. But pride (in the sense of morale) is permitted to be considered. When asked “Have you thought of what it might cost?” he answers, “I’ve thought of the humiliation if we just tamely submit — knuckle under and crawl.” They also consider the risk of failure, to the extent they can. At the end, when the Scrounger asks whether the escape was worth the price, the best the British Commander can do is answer truthfully, “It depends on your point of view.”

Note: The  screenplay was co-written by blockbuster novelist James Clavell (Tai-Pei, Shogun). His own experiences as a prisoner of war in a Japanese prison camp are the subject of “King Rat.” The outstanding musical score is by Elmer Bernstein (“The Magnificent Seven” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”). Richard Attenborough, who played Big X, became a director in the late 1960s of films such as “Gandhi” and “Shadowlands.” He continues to appear as a performer, and played Dr. Hammond in “Jurassic Park” and Kris Kringle in the 1994 version of “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Family discussion: Why are the experts called “kings”?  What makes Hilts change his mind about getting the information they want? Who was right about taking the Forger out through the tunnel, Big X or the Scrounger? Given the results of their action in this story, should officers who have been taken prisoner feel duty-bound to try to escape?

If you like this, try: “Stalag 17″ and “King Rat”

 

The Grapes of Wrath

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:1940

Plot: The classic John Steinbeck novel about dust-bowl farmers emigrating from Oklahoma to California became a classic film with Henry Fonda as Tom Joad and Jane Darwell (in an Oscar-winning performance) as his mother. Tom returns home after serving time in prison for manslaughter to find that his share-cropper family is preparing to leave. They have lost the right to farm the land, so they are setting off to find jobs in California. Ma takes one last moment in their shack of a home, holding her earrings up to her ears, and then all twelve of them pile into the truck, including Casey, a former minister. On the way, their grandfather dies, and they bury him themselves. The grandmother dies, too, but Ma holds on to her and does not tell anyone until they get to California. Thousands of migrants have arrived for the 800 available jobs. Exploited and even robbed by the bosses, the workers are so desperate that they will do anything for any wage. They are too frightened to organize and insist on better treatment.

The bosses have hired thugs who prevent anyone from objecting to their treatment. Tom kills one to protect the people he is shooting at and Casey takes the blame. Casey is killed, and Tom kills the assailant. Wanted by the authorities, Tom cannot stay with his family, which has now found a government-sponsored work camp with better conditions. He tells his mother farewell: “Well, maybe it’s like Casey says. Fella ain’t got a soul of his own. Just a little piece of a big soul. One big soul that belongs to everybody… I’ll be around in the dark— I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look—wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beating up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be there in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be there in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry, and they know supper’s ready, and when people are eatin’ the stuff they raised, and livin’ in the houses they built, I’ll be there, too.” After he leaves, Ma says, “Rich fellers come up. They die. Their kids ain’t no good and they die out. But we keep a-comin’. We’re the people that live. Can’t wipe us out. Can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever, ’cause we’re the people!”

Discussion: This brilliant film shows us a family of enormous dignity and commitment. Though Ma says that they are not “the kissin’ kind,” and they show little emotion (except for Ma’s delight in Tom’s return from prison) there is clearly a great deal of love in the family.

Questions for Kids:

· Director John Ford was famous for using the landscapes in his movies to help create the mood and tell the story. How did he do that here?

· Casey is often considered to be a Christ-like figure. What causes people to make that comparison?

· What do you think about Tom’s comment that we all have “a piece of a big soul”? About Ma’s comment that “the people will go on”?

· What is the life of migrant workers like today? To the extent that it has improved, what and who made it better?

Connections: John Ford won an Oscar as Best Director. Darwell can be glimpsed as “the bird lady” in “Mary Poppins.” Carradine is the father of actors Keith and Robert Carradine.

Activities: Teens should read the book by John Steinbeck. They may also appreciate his books Of Mice and Men and East of Eden, and the films based on them.

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