Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
May 2, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

When the Game Stands Tall
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material, a scene of violence, and brief smoking
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Need for Speed
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language
Release Date:
March 14, 2014

Bowling for Columbine

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

Any documentary about gun violence in America in which the single most intelligent and insightful comment is made by a guy named after a dead beauty queen and a serial killer is worth a look. Then there is the bank that gives out free rifles to customers who open up new accounts, a guy who sleeps with a gun under his pillow, and of course Charlton Heston standing up at a meeting of the NRA just after the shootings at Columbine and yelling “From my COLD DEAD HANDS!”

So shock-rock star Marilyn Manson sounds positively statesmanlike when film-maker Michael Moore asks him what he thinks of the two boys who listened to his music before they took guns into their high school and killed 13 people and injured 21 more before turning the guns on themselves. Mason, wearing his garish stage makeup but speaking quietly, compares the endless media coverage of the Columbine shooting to the way the media all but ignored the record-breaking U.S. bombing in Kosovo that same day, the most extensive bombing expedition in world history. And then, when Moore asks what he would say to the boys in Columbine, Manson says simply, “I wouldn’t tell them anything, I would listen to what they had to say– which is what no one did.”

Moore is deeply concerned and the ultimate bleeding heart liberal, but he is not an ideologue. He learned to shoot in high school and is a life member of the NRA. When the bank gives him a rifle, he casually checks the action while he asks if anyone ever considered that maybe guns and banks were not the best possible combination. Much of the time he lets the story tell itself, as when he interviews the brother of Timothy McVeigh’s co-conspirator, Terry Nichols. John Nichols, who sleeps with a gun under his pillow, says that he believes that anyone should have access to guns or even bombs. Then Moore asks whether he thinks that anyone should have access to nuclear weapons, and McVeigh looks at him like he is crazy and says, “No! There are some real crazies out there!” Sometimes, Moore becomes the story, as when he brings two young survivors of the Columbine shooting to K-Mart’s national headquarters to protest their selling of ammunition, including the bullets still in the bodies of the two young men. After a day of deliberation, a K-Mart spokeswoman reads a statement

This is more mosaic than polemic and mordantly funny, though it does veer a bit over the top when Moore tries to link television producer Dick Clark to the murder of a six-year-old by a six-year-old, because the boy who killed his classmate had a mother who worked at one of Clark’s restaurants in a welfare-to-work program. And his relentless questioning of a clearly memory-impaired Charlton Heston, leaving a photo of the murdered girl in Heston’s home after Heston stalks out of the interview, has the unintended result of making Heston seem more sympathetic.

But the movie confronts complex questions fearlessly, even as it acknowledges that it does not have the answers. Why do our fellow North Americans in Canada, who have proportionately the same number of guns, shoot each other only one-tenth as often? Why are Americans fearful even out of proportion to the amount of violence we subject ourselves to? The movie’s violation of strict “documentary” standards by shifting some scenes around has been criticized. For one example, see this website. Moore’s response to some of the questions about the movie is here.

Parents should know that the movie’s subject is violence and it includes explicit real-life footage of the shootings at Columbine. It also includes very strong language and brief references to drinking, smoking, and sex.

Families who see this movie should talk about the questions Moore raises. Why do Americans shoot each other so much more often than any other country? Why don’t Canadians lock their front doors? Why was Moore successful in persuading K-Mart not to sell ammunition any more? What can you do to try to reduce violence or to change other things that matter to you?

Families who enjoy this movie should see Moore’s first film, “Roger and Me,” about General Motors and Moore’s home town of Flint, Michigan.

Blue Crush

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

If you want to ride this movie the way its heroine rides the waves, the best thing to do is bring a walkman and a really good pair of headphones and watch it while listening to your favorite assortment of surfer hits. A compilation of Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and, of course, the classic Surfari rendition of “Wipeout” will be a far better accompaniment to this movie’s visuals than the dreary attempt at story, acting, and dialogue.

And oh, those visuals! Some of the most glorious cinematography of the year takes you right inside those Hawaiian “pipe” waves that the big-time surfers master. Hawaii’s glorious natural resources, including many very pretty girls in very tiny bikinis, are lovingly photographed.

The story is one of those eye-of-the-tiger, Flashdance on a surfboard, will she believe in herself enough to follow her dream sagas with no special insight or freshness. Kate Bosworth plays Ann Marie, a cute tough-on-the-outside-but-vulnerable-on-the-inside surfer girl who has what it takes to be world-class if she can just (1) get over the fear she has had since almost drowning, (2) manage to train for her big chance while supporting herself and her younger sister, and (3) not get distracted by Prince Charming, a cute quarterback named Matt. Pals played by Michele Rodriguez and real-life surfer Sanoe Lake provide support.

The surfing scenes are breathtaking and by themselves worth the price of a ticket. The water is the most vivid and memorable character in the movie. MTV-style camera tricks will be annoying to some, but there are no tricks that can spoil the shots of the massive, thundering, walls of water that writhe like a sea serpent the size of a skyscraper.

The three actresses have a nice, easy camaraderie and it is easy to believe that they have lived together forever with a mixture of familial bickering and unquestioned loyalty and understanding. I was especially impressed with the surfer sisterhood that had one of the world champions taking time in the middle of a competition to give encouragement to a young competitor. And it was nice that Prince Charming (Matthew Davis, last seen as the boy who broke Reese Witherspoon’s heart in Legally Blonde), when asked for advice, instead provides support for Ann Marie and gently reminds her that she is a girl who does not need anyone else’s advice.

On the other hand, amidst all of this female empowerment there are some issues that make the characters less than ideal role models. Parents should know that Ann Marie accepts a lot of money ($1000 for “surfing lessons”) and expensive gifts from the quarterback. She has sex with him after knowing him for a couple of days and then is horrified to overhear a conversation that makes her think that he does not think of her as marriage material.

Parents should also know that the movie has strong language and a lot of vulgarity for a PG-13. We see a mess in a toilet bowl and a used condom. Ann Marie is a poor guardian for her 14-year-old sister. She chases after her sister when she sneaks out to go to a raucous party and worries about her smoking and ditching school, but makes very little effort to set an example or impose limits. Parents of younger kids who want to see a movie about two sisters in Hawaii who go surfing should watch Lilo and Stitch.

Families who see this movie should talk about the obstacles Ann Marie must overcome – not just the finding a way to support herself and doing all the training but overcoming her fears of failing and of succeeding. Some viewers may conclude that her attraction to Matt was in part a way to give herself an excuse not to do her best in the competition. Families might also want to talk about the way that the Hawaiian natives feel about the tourists (one tells a tourist to leave the beach he likes to surf, saying “We grew here; you flew here”).

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the surfer classic The Endless Summer and the recent documentary about the beginning of extreme skateboarding, Dogtown and Z-Boys. And of course there’s always Gidget!

Blood Work

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2002

The presence of a Hollywood icon as an actor and director cannot overcome the predictability in the script in “Blood Work.”

Clint Eastwood stars as Terry McCaleb, a veteran FBI profiler similar to Eastwood himself in having an enviable record and struggling to stay in the game for longer that his body wills him. However, while on the verge of capturing a taunting murderer, McCaleb suffers a heart attack and is forced into retirement. Two years later he is slowly recovering from a heart transplant when he is visited by the sister of the woman whose heart now beats in McCaleb’s body. Her sister’s murderer is still on the loose, and she wants McCaleb on the case. He reluctantly agrees and is soon finding clues and getting in danger just as he used to, sometimes being driven along by his lazy fishing neighbor (Jeff Daniels) who mostly plays Watson to McCaleb’s Holmes. And of course, McCaleb has to disobey doctor’s warnings and dodge the bumbling fellow officers to carry out his case, also becoming close to the woman (Wanda DeJesus) and her nephew (Mason Lucero).

The trouble with “Blood Work” is that the believable parts are unsurprising and the surprising parts are unbelievable. Eastwood’s presence hasn’t diminished one bit over the years and his storytelling skills still shine, and Daniels also does a very good job, but the movie is simply never too interesting to anyone who’s seen this kind of film before, especially after they’ve been done so well in Manhunter and The Silence of the Lambs. The film’s climax is probably the most interesting part, but it’s hard to believe that the McCaleb who was so perceptive in the film’s first half wouldn’t have figured out the killer and his/her motive much sooner, which seemed obvious to much of the audience.

Parents should know that this film has some strong language as well as some graphic images (mostly on videotape) of people getting shot. There is also some offscreen sex, and the happening and recovery of the heart attack are well documented.

Families who see this film should ask whether McCaleb felt the need to catch the killer because the murdered woman’s heart saved his life or because he cared about the woman and her nephew.

People who enjoy this movie should check out the Thomas Harris adaptations, as well as Eastwood’s best, Unforgiven and Dirty Harry.

Bloody Sunday

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002
DVD Release Date:2002

On January 30, 1972, thousands of civil rights demonstrators in Derry (Londonderry), Ireland, held a rally to protest the British Government’s use of internment without due process in Northern Ireland. British military forces were ordered into the unarmed crowd to capture some of the rowdier youths. What followed has been the subject of great debate and a well-known U2 song, but amidst the confusion, the army opened fire on the protestors, killing thirteen and wounding fourteen others. The day became a turning point for the Northern Irish “Troubles” and is attributed with inspiring thousands of new volunteers to the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

As far as subject matter is concerned, many people are more familiar with the U2 song than they are with the actual event or the factors that led to the day. This movie takes a turn at correcting this imbalance by recounting what happened on Bloody Sunday in a powerfully realistic half- drama, half-documentary.

Five characters represent the major forces of the day: a reluctant protest organizer and popular local –Protestant—politician, Ivan Cooper (a mesmerizing performance by James Nesbitt); a seventeen year old Catholic boy, just out of jail and torn between protesting and staying out of trouble, Gerry Donaghy (Declan Duddly); the radioman whose shock and disgust with his fellow soldiers is pitted against his loyalty to the unit, Soldier 027 (Mike Edwards); the dutiful but sympathetically human Brigadier, Patrick MacLellan (Nicholas Farrell); and, the unbending imperialist with the order to end the unrest, Major General Ford (Tim Pigott-Smith). However, it is in the faces of those around these characters where so much of the event is framed: the subtle shift of expression on the face of the Captain of the local police force as the Major General orders soldiers into position; the desperate grimace of an unnamed man as he rushes to resuscitate a corpse; the vacant eyed shock of a man learning of the death of a loved one beneath iridescent hospital lights.

Director Paul Greengrass does an excellent job at crafting a documentary feel for the story, complete with grainy film, jumpy shots, wavering sound and naturally gray light. Reportedly, Greengrass sought out people who were there on January 30th –those who lost loved ones as well as soldiers and bystanders—casting them as extras to add to the verisimilitude. The dialogue might be hard to follow between strong accents and a shifting aural perspective but the result is so realistic that the abrupt ringing of the phone or the crack of gun fire makes you flinch.

Not allowing the viewer to be passive, the movie catches us up in this pivotal day in Ireland’s history. Greengrass chooses not to review events leading to Bloody Sunday beyond passing references, however the moment itself is caught with a moving clarity: whether you agree with Greengrass’ portrayal of controversial events or not, he does a good job of capturing the feel of a society in flux during the early 1970’s and portraying the plight of Derry’s denizens. And, yes, they do play U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” as the credits roll.

Parents should know that this movie depicts a tragic, violent event. The graphic shooting of unarmed protestors is very disturbing and the ensuing images including mayhem and grieving are likely to terrify younger children. Young adults accustomed to Hollywood’s comic book portrayal of violence are likely to be disturbed by the events so realistically framed on 35mm film.

Families who see this film could be discussing it for days. First, from a historical perspective, families might wish to talk about how this movie relates to current news stories about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Both the Major General and the protest organizers work as much as possible with the media. How is the debate being presented to the court of public opinion? How has this changed since Bloody Sunday? When Ivan says that the IRA scored its biggest victory on Bloody Sunday, what does he mean?

Second, families may wish to discuss the ramifications of having military forces in populations that are predominately civilian. For some historical perspective, the paratrooper unit responsible for firing on the crowd –the First Battalion Parachute Regiment—was created in 1940 by Sir Winston Churchill, gaining the nickname “Red Devils” during fighting in Northern Africa, Sicily and France during WWII. In the years before being stationed in Northern Ireland, they were stationed in the Middle East, Aden, Cyprus and other hotspots. With a respected history in combat, the First Battalion considered themselves part of Britain’s fighting elite. Why would this group –trained to face armed enemies—be given a peacekeeping role in Ireland? What friction exists between the Regiment and the local police? What are their respective goals and responsibilities? What lessons might there be for us regarding troops in other urban situations, such as the Balkans or the Middle East?

Greengrass has chosen to film this account with a distinctly “documentary” camera style, intended to make an audience feel like they are there as a witness to history. As a brief notice in the credits mentions, the movie is based on events that did occur, however many of the conversations and characters were created for the purpose of the story. Is it important to the story that the audience think of this film as a documentary? If so, what issues might this raise for Greengrass or other filmmakers when they are presenting stories based on controversial events?

Families who are interested in seeing more on non-violent protest and the difficulties of maintaining peaceful demonstrations in the face of force might wish to watch “Gandhi” (1982). For those who are interested in the theme of mismatch between military units and the political objectives asked of them, “Black Hawk Down” (2001) might be of interest. Those who are interested in seeing more on the Irish Troubles might be interested in director Jim Sheridan’s 1990’s trilogy (“In the Name of the Father”; “Some Mother’s Son”; and, “The Boxer”) or Neil Jordan’s “Michael Collins” (1996). For families who wish to see James Nesbitt in a vastly different role, “Waking Ned Devine” is a lighthearted look at an isolated Irish town far away from Bloody Sunday and, indeed, from any troubles at all.

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