Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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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

 

Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 2014

Boyhood
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use
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

Planes: Fire & Rescue
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action and some peril
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

The Chocolate War

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:1988

Plot: While Jerry Renault (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) a freshman at Trinity Prep boy’s school, is belittled by the football coach, two boys, Archie (Wally Ward) and Orbie (Dough Hutchison) sit high up in the stands watching them. Archie determines the “assignments” to be given to those boys selected for the school’s elite club, the Vigils, and Orbie is the club secretary. Jerry, whose mother has recently died, is selected for an assignment.

At home, Jerry’s father is remote, still overcome by grief. In school, teacher Brother Leon (John Glover) is tough and imperious. He brutally berates an outstanding student, then tells him, “You passed the toughest test of all — you were true to yourself.”

Brother Leon tells Archie the boys have to sell 20,000 boxes of chocolates for their annual fund-raiser, twice the number from previous years, and at twice the price, to help ensure that he will become headmaster. He won’t refer to the Vigils by name, but acknowledges Archie’s “influence.” Each boy must sell 50 boxes. All of the other boys agree, but Jerry refuses. Brother Leon says that selling is voluntary (“that is the glory of Trinity”), but tells the class that “the true sons of Trinity can pick up your chocolates in the gym. The rest — I pity you.”

It turns out that refusing to sell the chocolate was the “assignment” given to Jerry to prove his worth to the Vigils. But after the time period of the assignment expires, he continues to refuse to participate, despite harassment by the other boys. It gives him a feeling of strength and independence, not just from Brother Leon, but from the Vigils as well. Brother Leon says that sales are poor because the boys have become “infected” by Jerry. Brother Leon tells Archie that “if the sale goes down the drain, you and the Vigils go down the drain. We all go down the drain together.”

The Vigils decide to make the chocolate sale a success by making it popular. “We make it cool to sell the things.” The head of the Vigils tells Archie his position depends on his making his plan work.

At last, all of the chocolates are sold, except for Jerry’s quota. Archie arranges an assembly, with a raffle, the prizes the chance to select the punches in a boxing match between Jerry and a tough boy named Janza. But Archie has to take Janza’s place, and Jerry beats him. Jerry says, “I should have just sold the chocolates, played their game anyway.” Archie is now secretary, and Orbie has taken over assignments for the Vigils.

Discussion: Mature teenagers, especially fans of the popular book by Robert Cormier, will appreciate this dark story, a kind of “Dangerous Liaisons” for teenagers. Archie says that “people are two things, greedy and cruel,” and devises his plans to take advantage of those qualities.

Although the story is exaggerated for satiric effect, much of it will seem true to teenagers, who often feel a heightened sense of proportion. The movie shows us some of Jerry’s dreams or fantasies, which add to the surreal and claustrophobic feeling of the movie.

The movie provides a good basis for a discussion of the different ways that people get other people to do what they want, the exercise of power, and the ways that power is maintained — and lost. The interaction between Brother Leon and Archie is especially interesting, because of their uneasy interdependence. As powerful as both of them seem, they ultimately lose their power without much of a struggle.

Questions for Kids:

· What are the tools that Archie uses to maintain and exercise power? What tools does Brother Leon use?

· How can anyone or any group decide to make something “popular” and “cool” as Archie does with the chocolate sale?

· Why does Archie tell Janza to “use the queer pitch” on Jerry?

· Why does the screenplay have Archie holding an impaled butterfly when he talks to Janza on the phone? Why does Jerry tell the girl she was right?

· What is the significance of the Vigil’s marble test for the person who gives the assignments?

Connections: Read the book by Robert Cormier, and his other popular novel, “I Am the Cheese” (filmed in 1983, and remade in Canada as “Lapse of Memory,” (also known as “Memoire Tranquee”) in 1992. Compare this story to other books and movies about power struggles in a school context, including “Perfect Harmony,” “Lord of the Flies,” “School Ties,” and, for mature high school and college students, “The Lords of Discipline” (rated R), the surrealistic “If…” (1968, rated R) and one of its inspirations, the French film “Zero for Conduct” (1933).

The Cell

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2000

I think the idea here was to cross “Silence of the Lambs” with “The Matrix.” It’s a story about a serial killer, now in some sort of irreversible catatonia. How can the police find where he has hidden his last victim, who may still be alive? Well, it just so happens that a billionaire whose child is in a mysterious catatonic state has funded one of those mysterious science labs that only exist in movies, lots of sleek corridors and white-coated geniuses and equipment that requires a skin-tight jumpsuit to operate. This one has figured out a way to allow an empathic social worker named Catherine (Jennifer Lopez) to enter the boy’s mind and communicate with him. So the police decide to allow her to see if she can make any progress with the serial killer.

All of this is just an excuse for lots and lots of stunning but often gruesome surreal visual effects that fall somewhere between the hyper-clarity of a nightmare and the claustrophobic grotesquery of a bad acid trip.

The movie is all sensation, no plot, no logic, no meaning, no effort to explore or illuminate. It is filled with juxtapositions that seem more meaningful than they are, creating an illusion of profundity that dissolves before your eyes.

Parents should know that the movie has many gross, upsetting, and scary moments, including child abuse, torture, murder, perversion, mutilation, a terrifying full-immersion baptism, and characters in peril. A character smokes marijuana to calm her nerves.

Families who see this movie should talk about what it would be like to enter someone else’s mind and about the differences in the ways individuals think. They may also want to talk about mental illness, its causes and treatments.

Families who enjoy this movie will also like “The Matrix.”

The Caveman’s Valentine

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2001

Once a brilliant, Julliard-trained musician and composer, Romulus Ledbetter (Samuel L. Jackson) now lives in a cave in the park. He is severely mentally ill. Images of giant moths and fears of an imaginary villain haunt him. But he still loves his wife Sheila (Tamara Tunie), who appears to him in his hallucinations to give him advice, and his daughter Lulu (Aunjanue Ellis), a policewoman.

On Valentine’s Day, Romulus finds the dead body of a young man propped up in a tree near his cave. The police think it was an accident. But Romulus believes the young man was murdered. He wants to find the murderer, even though it means that he will have to brave the real and imagined terrors of society’s daily interactions. He begins to think that the murderer is David Leppenraub (Colm Feore) a well-known artist, a photographer who specializes in homoerotic images of savaged and maimed angels. He knows that no one will listen to him. If he accuses the artist, it will be lost among his paranoid ravings. Romulus has to gather evidence. With some new clothes from a lawyer, bemused by his knowledge of music and a call to an old friend from Julliard, Romulus gets invited to Leppenraub’s home.

Romulus, like Leppenraub, is haunted by nightmare images and obsessions. For Romulus, though, they are madness. For Leppenraub, they are art. Romulus’ fears make people feel discomfort and pity. Leppenraub’s make people feel titillated and clever. Romulus must use his madness to understand the killer, but he must use the part of him that is not mad to put the pieces together and make sure that the killer gets caught. Jackson and director Kasi Lemmons deftly blend Romulus’ internal and external worlds. His rational self is represented by imaginary conversations with his estranged wife (a beautiful performance by Tamara Tunie). Feore as Leppenraub and Anne Magnuson as his sister give multi- layered performances that lend weight and complexity to the story.

Parents should know that the movie has very violent images, including dead and mutilated bodies. Characters use very strong language, and there are heterosexual and homosexual references and situations, including a passionate sexual encounter between two people who hardly know each other.

The movie also includes smoking, drinking, and drug use. The scenes depicting Romulus’ delusions may upset some audience members. His illness causes his family a great deal of loss and pain.

Families who see this movie should talk about mental illness and its causes and treatments. How can family members be supportive without being enablers? They may also want to talk about whether art like Leppenraub’s could be a critical and popular success, as portrayed in the movie. Why would Moira react to Romulus the way she did? Why did Bob react the way he did, and was that right? What are some of the feelings that Lulu has about Romulus?

Families who enjoy this movie will also like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Jackson’s brief but memorable performance as a drug addict in “Jungle Fever” (both for mature audiences).

The Cat’s Meow

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

Peter Bogdanovich is still in love with the movies.

He has paid tribute to classic movies sucessfully (“Paper Moon,” “The Last Picture Show,” “What’s Up Doc?”) and unsuccessfully (“At Long Last Love”). At his best, he is able to not just salute, but evoke the mood and spirit of Hollywood’s golden era of innoocence and magic. At his worst, he is so caught up in his fantasies of the good old days that he becomes overly obscure and self-referential. This movie shows him at both extremes.

Once upon a time, the richest man in America was William Randolph Hearst. If anyone thinks of him today, it is either as the man who inspired “Ctizen Kane” or the grandfather of Patty Hearst, kidnapped heiress and actress in offbeat John Waters movies.

Think of Hearst as Bill Gates crossed with Michael Eisner (the head of ABC/Disney). Hearst was the wealthiest man in the United States and his newspapers were the primary source of information and enertainment for most Americans. He never divorced his wife, but he had a love affair with silent screen actress Marion Davies for 37 years.

Hearst was more powerful than anyone can ever be again because he controlled the newspapers and the newspapers were the only source of news. If he wanted a story told a particular way — or not told at all — that is what happened. When one of Hollywood’s biggest names, Thomas Ince (the man who created the Western) died after a visit to Hearst’s yacht, it was officially recorded and reported in Hearst’s newspapers as “natural causes.” Rumors, or as Bogdanovich says, “whispers” continued to circulate, and this movie tells the story that is whispered most often.

The movie is a loving recreation of the era with impeccable performances by Eddie Izzard as Charlie Chaplin and Joanna Lumley (of “Absolutely Fabulous”) as sensational novelist Elinor Glyn. Izzard has one of the most difficult challenges an actor can face — portraying someone whose face and manner are so well documented that they will be familiar to many viewers. Those who do think they know Chaplin know the character he portrayed, or perhaps the brilliant, Oscar-nominated performance by Robert Downey, Jr. in the epic biographical film. Izzard evokes Chaplin; he does not impersonate him. And he gives us a portrait of Chaplin that is rich, complex, and intimate. We see the genius, the charm, the discipline in some things and lack of discipline in others, the neediness, and the self-awareness. Lumley’s delivers devastating commentary with scrumptious bite, timed down to the nanosecond. Edward Hermann as Hearst and Kirsten Dunst (of “Spider-Man”) as Davies are also memorable.

Bogdanovich’s mistake is in thinking that everyone is naturally as fascinated with the story and the era as he is, and so he does not have to do any work to draw the audience into the story. For that reason, it all comes across as a little too precious and distant.

Parents should know that adultery is a theme of the movie and frequently discussed. A character is shot, possibly accidentally. Characters smoke, drink (illegally) and briefly use drugs. The movie has strong language and sexual situations (not explicit).

Families who see this movie should talk about how the 1920’s differ from current times – and how they were the same. Who is most like Hearst today? Why was Davies so important to Hearst? Why was she so important to Chaplin? What was important to her?

For more about Marion Davies, take a look at Captured on Film – the True Story of Marion Davies. If you are ever in the vicinity, don’t miss a visit to San Simeon, Hearst’s preposterously lavish mansion in the mountains, where Hearst and Davies presided over celebrity gatherings that included just about everyone in Hollywood.

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