Movie Mom

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Believe Me
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

Tracks
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
Release Date:
June 27, 2014

The Boxtrolls
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Neighbors
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

Narc

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

How do you make a good cop movie these days when so many already exist? Apparently, if you are director Joe Carnahan, you spend years thinking about the screenplay, you get two solid actors to give you extraordinary performances and then you invest a lot of time in the editing room. His hard work pays off and, if you like the genre and have a high tolerance for on-screen brutality, then you are in for a treat. If it does not transcend its genre, at least is is a solid example of why that genre endures.

This movie is very bloody and violent with an adrenaline-pumping opening sequence that evokes the unblinking carnage of the beach scene from “Saving Private Ryan.” From the first jolting shots of the hand-held camera following the escaping drug dealer in his sprint for freedom, you know that there will be no day-saving heroics and that the protagonists are as scarred as a junkie’s arm.

While the plot might seem familiar -– an undercover narcotics officer is slain and two detectives are assigned to find the murderers -— the acting of the main characters and the tart flippancy of the dialogue brings a freshness to the story. Against the backdrop of Detroit’s industrial rot, the film (actually shot in Toronto) follows narcotics officer Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) as he is reluctantly partnered with Henry Oak (Ray Liotta) to find who killed Oak’s former partner.

A striking counterpart to the claustrophobic inside scenes, the sprawling urban lots are shot in all their cold and grainy ugliness by cinematographer Alex Nepomniaschy (“The Score”). The movie radiates an intense realism from the landscapes to the equally cold emotional terrain. That there are no angels here is almost a relief. Patric’s Tellis gives off a cold intelligence and seeming indifference as he wrestles with his internal monsters, including his own former drug addiction. The rest of the world retreats as he gets wrapped up in a mystery which allows him not to confront his reawakening hungers or the frustration of his wife (Krista Bridges).

Tellis’ repressed electricity provides a good counterpoint to Liotta’s plodding Oak, who emanates a protective paternalism for his partner(s) and their families. Oak, as solid as his name, is blankly brutal toward anyone who stands in his way and clearly does not trust his superiors who sway to the political pressure to pin the crime on a white suspect. Suspects Beery (Busta Rhymes) and Steeds (Richard Chevolleau) are brutally beaten as he seeks something more than retribution.

Fans of this genre will find that “Narc” provides a tightly edited, intense story with good dialogue and standout performances by both Patric and Liotta.

Parents should know that this movie is a very strong R and is not for any but the most mature of teens. The violence, drug use and non-stop coarse language are enough to make the most jaded of audiences flinch.

Families should discuss whether the end ever justifies the means. Each character here has a very different idea of what “justice” means, however, they will go to great personal lengths and endanger themselves (and others) in order to pursue what they see as the necessary course of action. What do you think will happen to Tellis at the end? What are the consequences of his actions?

Parents should also discuss the dangers of drug use even if the user wears a police officer’s badge. Drug addiction here leads to violence, broken homes, destruction and death, with little glorification but great prevalence. A former detective for the NYPD, Todd Merritt, advised on this movie and says that it raises many issues that undercover agents must face. For those officers who pursue drug dealers, becoming an addict, he says, is an occupational hazard. What does this mean for the pursuit of justice?

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” These words from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche pertain to the results of living on the edge. Each of these characters are wrestling with their own internal monsters with varying levels of success. What monsters do Tellis and Oak face? What does it mean when Oak says “I became a much better cop the day (my wife) died”?

Powerful movies about the fine line between those who would enforce the law and those who would break it are legion. Families who wish to watch Jason Patric in another mesmerizing performance as a drug addicted undercover agent might consider renting “Rush” (1991), which takes place in Texas (not Detroit) during the ‘70’s. Denzel Washington’s shining performance in the otherwise murky “Training Day” (2001) offers another take on the theme. A master at playing ambiguously legal police officers and the criminals they pursue, Al Pacino offers noteworthy performances in three decades of cop/criminal movies, including “Serpico” (1973), considered by many the gold standard of police internal investigation; “Donnie Brasco” (1997), “Heat” (1995); and “Insomnia” (2002). The underrated “Internal Affairs” has mesmerizing performances by Richard Gere and Andy Garcia. Finally, Lawrence Fishburne in “Deep Cover” (1992) gave a memorable performance as an undercover agent who, in realizing his own natural talents as a drug dealer, must become a monster to battle with them.

3-2-1 Penguins! – The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2002

From the producers of the Veggie Tales series comes a new computerized cast starring in gently funny stories with gentle morals about integrity and sharing. But this time, instead of vegetables starring, they now have space exploring penguins! (How do they think of this stuff?)

The second in the series, “321 Penguins! The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka” features speckled-wearing twins Michelle and Jason furiously combating in a board game called “Squid-Tac-Toad”. When Michelle cheats to win, though, it’s time for the Penguins to call, sucking her up into their space ship and whisking her away to Bullamanka, where the dishonest Lizard King is cheating in a game eerily similar to Michelle’s. But the difference is when he cheats, innocent Bullamankan lives are at stake! It’s up to Michelle and the Penguins to prove that the Lizard King is corrupt. Even though you can guess what the outcome will be, this is still fun to watch. It’s not as visually engaging as the Veggie Tales series, but it is better than most of what is out there for this age group.

Some parents may be concerned about the mild reference to God’s not wanting us to cheat. Be prepared to talk to kids about your own family’s notion of morality and religion. If the kids liked the penguins, you might want to take them to a museum about the Arctic or check out some books about penguins from the library. “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is a perennial favorite.

25th Hour

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

coming

Just Married

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

There’s a reason that they call comedies like this one “sophomoric.” It is because they are designed to appeal to high school sophomores who are just beginning to go out on dates. For the girls, there is a happy-ever-after love story with a wedding and it is even emphasized throughout the movie that the couple is very young, which makes it even more romantic – if you are very young yourself. For the guys, there is that hit-on-the-head-style comedy of excruciation, with jokes on such always-reliable topics as a rich lady named Pussy, huge, electrical marital aids, body cavity searches, getting hit on the nose, getting hit on the head, and getting hit on the head again.

Brittany Murphy plays Sarah, the daughter of a wealthy family, who wants a relationship where she won’t always know what is going to happen next. Ashton Kutcher plays Tom, a community college graduate who wants to be a sportscaster but is currently the substitute late-night traffic announcer on a radio station. They met when he (just try to guess) beans her with a football pass as she is walking her dog on the beach. A month later, they are living together, and nine months after that, they get married.

Then they go on a honeymoon that is one disaster after another. She gets a bloody nose on their wedding night. They arrive at a dream honeymoon castle, but get kicked out after frying the hotel’s entire electrical system by trying to plug in a marital aid. They end up having to sleep their car after it gets stuck in a snow bank, and then in a decrepit little hotel in Venice. They have the three most popular marital arguments: sex, money, and in-laws. They hurt each other’s feelings. And they each worry about a past lie. Sarah never told Tom that she had sex with the guy her parents wanted her to marry. And Tom never told Sarah that he was indirectly responsible for her dog’s death. These revelations will come at a bad moment, just as each suspects the other of cheating. Tom and Sarah have to learn to trust each other and to trust themselves.

Murphy and Kutcher are cute together. They became a real-life couple while making this movie and their chemistry comes across on the screen. But the movie relies too much on Murphy’s twinkly laugh and Kutcher’s goofy grin to cover up the tired jokes. Tom and Sarah are immature and annoying. At one point, in a crowded plane, they announce that they aren’t talking to each other any more and the other passengers applaud. The audience felt the same way.

Parents should know that this is a PG-13 that keeps just a millimeter away from an R. There is no nudity but there are frequent sexual references and situations, some graphic, and some raunchy, including an attempted sexual encounter in an airplane bathroom and overheard sex in the next room. The same material in a drama would have earned an R rating. Characters drink a lot, often to help themselves feel better when they are upset. A character refers to regrets about having sex with someone after drinking too much champagne. There is strong language (and much attempted humor from the name “Pussy”).

Families who see this movie should talk about how people in any kind of relationship, but especially any kind of family relationship, have to learn how to communicate honestly and how to cope with catastrophe without blaming each other. What clues do you see to the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship that Sarah and Tom have? They have different backgrounds and interests, but they have some very important things in common – what are they? An issue in any romantic relationship is how much of yourself you have to give up for the other person. Where do you see Tom and Sarah deal with that issue? The idea for this movie came from the screenwriter’s own honeymoon catastrophes. What events in your life could make a good movie?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Kutcher in “Dude Where’s My Car?” A little-known gem about a couple’s first days of marriage after an impulsive wedding is “Period of Adjustment,” the only comedy written by Tennessee Williams, starring Jane Fonda and Jim Hutton.

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Tomorrow on PBS: The Makers: Comedy
Be sure to tune in to PBS tomorrow night for what is sure to be one of the highlights from one of the all-time best series on PBS: "The Makers," the story of women in America.  Tomorrow's episode is about women in comedy. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHxHMgSF7UI[/youtube]

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Tomorrow on HBO: "The Fifty Year Argument" -- Scorsese on The New York Review of Books
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