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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

A Little Princess

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1995

Plot: Sara Crewe is brought to Miss Minchin’s boarding school by her adored father, and promises to be “a good soldier” and be brave about staying there without him. She is the brightest girl in the school, with exquisite manners, but her odd fancies and her father’s lavish provisions for her make the other girls uncomfortable or jealous. Her only friend in the school is Ermengarde, a pudgy girl who has trouble with her lessons and is ver grateful for Sara’s attentions. Sara also befriends Becky, a scullery maid.

Captain Crewe is missing in action. Miss Minchin takes everything from Sara and has her stay on at the school as a servant, living in an attic next to Becky. She continues to think of herself as “a good soldier,” and tries to imagine she is a princess undergoing a trial to keep her spirits up despite deprivation and abuse. One night, while she is sleeping, her little attic is transformed into a comfortable bower with delicious food. She shares it with her friends. It comes from the gentleman across the street. It turns out that he has been befriending her father, not knowing that he was a close friend of his late son. Sara goes to thank him, and her father, seeing her, regains his memory. Sara leaves the school, taking Becky with her.

Discussion: Unlike Cedric in “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” Sara Crewe cannot be accused of being perfect, though she is not as deliciously unlikable as Mary in “A Secret Garden.” It takes her a long time to lose her temper and snap at Ermengarde, but she does, and she almost gives up hope. Her imagination is an important source of solace for her, and in a sense she is a stand-in for the author herself when she uses it to create stories for her friends.

This is also a wonderful movie to use for a discussion of empathy and compassion. Although Sara is desperately hungry, she gives almost all her food to a beggar child who is even hungrier. Note the way that her compassion inspires others; the baker who watches her give the buns to the beggar child is so moved that she gives the child a home.

Questions for Kids:

Austin Powers in Goldmember

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

Another year, another Austin Powers movie. And that means 30 very funny minutes surrounded by 60 minutes of far less funny jokes about body parts and body functions, primarily those relating to the bathroom.

Mike Myers returns as Austin Powers, his nemesis, Dr. Evil, and the odious Scottish Fat Bastard. He also plays the new title villain, a Dutchman named Goldmember because of an accident that left him with gilded private parts. Each of Myers’ new characters is less interesting than the one before. Powers takes such pleasure in being himself that he is fun to watch, but Dr. Evil is still his best character since Wayne Campbell and Linda Richman when he was on Saturday Night Live. But the more recent additions are not very memorable. Like Fat Bastard, Goldmember’s primary characteristic is disgusting personal habits. Then there are frequent jokes about prejudice against the Dutch. Huh?

The best part of the movie is the appearance by a number of guest stars. Try to see the movie soon, before all the surprises are given away. Beyoncé Knowles of Destiny’s Child gives sweetness and snap to her role as Foxy Cleopatra, a gentle tribute to the Pam Grier characters of 1970’s blaxploitation movies. There are some great riffs on situations and relationships from the earlier movies, but there are also some excruciating replays of some of their jokes (mostly apparently gross bodily functions) and even excruciating replays of some of the jokes from this movie.

Parents should know that, once again, the movie has a great deal of material that would get an R in a drama. Because some words miss being naughty by a vowel or two and the sexual acts are apparent rather than real, they pass muster with the MPAA. Parents should be very cautious about letting children and young teens see the movie without viewing it first themselves.

Families who see the movie should talk about the fact that most of the major characters feel unloved by their fathers. How does that affect them?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the other two Austin Powers movies and some of the movies that inspired them, like “Our Man Flint” and “Foxy Brown.”

Antwone Fisher

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

Therapy films usually follow the same pattern as romance films, a sort of one-sided romance of the subjects with themselves. In other words, it’s therapist meets patient, therapist loses patient, then therapist gets patient to open up with a big revelation to begin to heal. In films from “The Three Faces of Eve” to “Ordinary People,” we see the main character first resist and then embrace the challenges of self-knowledge and the opportunity for healing and change. But “Antwone Fisher,” a true story written by its subject, the journey inside himself is just the beginning. The story is not what goes on in his conversations with the doctor, but where that takes him.

Fisher (newcomer Derek Luke) is a sailor who is sent for a psychiatric evaluation to Dr. Davenport (director Denzel Washington) for getting into fights. At first, he refuses to talk. But Davenport insists that he sit in his office until he does. Finally, Fisher starts to tell Davenport his story of devastating neglect and abuse. And as he does, he finds himself opening up in other ways, even going on his very first date.

Davenport goes outside the Navy rules to continue to provide Fisher with therapy that turns into a real friendship that changes both their lives. He encourages Fisher to try to connect with his family so that he can understand his story better. Fisher confronts his abusive foster mother, meets the mother who abandoned him, and finds the family of the father who died before he was born.

The real-life Fisher was working as a security guard at a movie studio when he signed up for a screenwriting class. This is his first screenplay. That led to a book, Finding Fish, which became a best-seller. At first, the fact that this movie does not follow the usual pattern can feel disconcerting, even amateurish. There is an obvious tension between what is important to Fisher the person and what works on screen. Ultimately it gives the movie a kind of messiness and heart that provides some extra authenticity.

Washington does very well with his first directing job, especially with Luke and model Joy Bryant as Fisher’s girlfriend, both in their first major roles. Washington the director makes Washington the actor the foundation of the film, if not the story, a wise choice. As one of the very few in Hollywood who are at the same time fully actors and movie stars, his grace, dignity, sheer magnetism and ability to convey a complete character with every gesture are enough to carry an entire movie.

Parents should know that the movie deals frankly, if not graphically, with severe child abuse, including sexual abuse. Characters use strong language, including the n-word (used by African-Americans) and a gay slur. Fisher is justifiably proud of himself for not drinking, using drugs, or having promiscuous sex.

Families who see this movie should talk about what kept Fisher strong through all of the abuse. How did he have enough of a sense of himself to resist becoming a criminal, a drug user, or an abuser? Davenport gives Fisher a book that suggests that the beatings he received from his foster mother were a legacy of the beatings that slaves received from their white masters. What do you think of that perspective and is it more or less helpful than a more generalized perspective on child abuse? What does it mean to say that Fisher is “more honest in his anger” than most people? Why is it important that Fisher influenced and inspired Davenport? Families should also talk about the theme of forgiveness, the ability “to regard without ill will despite an offence.” Why is forgiveness more important for the person doing the forgiving than for the person being forgiven? They should talk about Fisher’s saying that he was ashamed for being unwanted, and the importance of forgiving those who do not appreciate us as a way of appreciating ourselves.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Prince of Tides, Ordinary People, K-Pax, and another film about a psychiatrist in the service, Captain Newman, M.D. starring Gregory Peck. And they should read Fisher’s book, Finding Fish.

Andre

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:PG
Movie Release Date:1994

“Plot: A shy little girl from Maine makes friends with a seal in this fact-based story about a seal that swam from Boston to Maine every summer for 24 years. Toni (Tina Majorino) is more comfortable with animals than with kids. Her father, Harry (Keith Carridine), is not very responsible, but he has a real gift for animals, and his wife manages to cope with the chaos and be “”the only grown-up in the house.””

Previous Posts

If I Stay
Hamlet asked it best. "To be, or not to be: That is the question." We struggle through, worrying about whether someone likes us or whether we will be accepted at the school of our choice

posted 6:00:09pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
If you want to not just see but hear an eyeball being pulverized, then see "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For."  If you want to see and hear it in the company of an audience who thinks that's

posted 5:59:27pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

When the Game Stands Tall
This dreary assemblage of every possible sports cliché has one thing in common with the game it portrays. Every time it seems to be going somewhere, it stops. More frustratingly, it wastes the opportunity to tell a good story by trying to squeeze in too many great ones. There are too many crises

posted 5:59:00pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Christian Indie Films of 2014
This year has already seen a remarkable and perhaps unprecedented number of Christian and Biblically-based films, from big-budget epics like "Noah" and "Son of God" to small faith-oriented films like "God's Not Dead."  There is an excellent summary of four Christian independent films of 2014 on In

posted 3:59:03pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Frank: The Real Story of the Singer With the Paper-Mache Mask
One of the handsomest men alive spends almost the entire movie wearing a huge round paper maché head in "Frank," a moving film inspired by the real-life story of the late Frank Sidebottom.  Michael Fassbender plays Frank, a sweet-natured but very quirky musician who wears his big head mask even in

posted 9:10:16am Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »


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