Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Fury
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

St. Vincent
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 For mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

Dear White People
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

2 Fast 2 Furious

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2003

As I sat through this stupifyingly incompetent movie, I amused myself (because there was other possible way to be amused while watching this movie) by thinking about why sequels so often completely miss the appeal of the original.

In this case, I was not a fan of the first movie, but even I can tell what made it popular: it had attitude to spare, a believable (in movie fantasy terms) outsider culture of street racers, and capably filmed action sequences. And it had car porn — the vehicles were as lovingly backlit and erotically charged as a Maxim cover model. This movie takes only the least interesting character from the first film, played by the vapid Paul Walker, and puts him into a dumb undercover story that feels like a rejected script for “Miami Vice.”

Walker plays Brian O’Connor, who walked away from his job as an undercover cop in LA at the end of the first film. Now he lives in Miami and races on the streets for money. When given a choice between being arrested or going undercover to get the goods on a sleazy bad guy, Brian agrees to pose as a driver, as long as he can team up with childhood pal Roman Pearce (R&B star Tyrese, the only actor in this mess who shows any presence or class). Yes, there’s some history the two of them have to work through, yes the bad guy (Cole Hauser, barely registering on screen) gives them a test run to prove themselves, yes, the other undercover cop is a gorgeous babe who may be so far undercover that she can’t be trusted, and yes, there are lots of chases, races, and what Roman refers to as “Dukes of Hazzard stunts.”

Talented writer/director John Singleton (“Boyz N the Hood,” “Shaft”) is really slumming here. This movie has some of the most numbingly inane dialogue I have heard in many months. For a story about people who are in love with machinery, it is also absurdly low-tech. In one completely idiotic scene, the bad guy tortures a policeman with a metal bucket, a huge rat, and a torch (you don’t want to know, believe me).

It also has many too many close-ups of feet slamming down on pedals, hands shifting gears, and eyes narrowing meaningfully in the rear-view mirror. The cars may be fast, but I am the one who is furious at having to sit through this dumb movie.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong language and a great deal of violence, including gunplay and torture. There are girls in skimpy clothes and sexual references.

Families who see this movie should talk about Brian’s conflicts in deciding which side he is on. They should also discuss the difficult choices faced by undercover operators, who must stand by or even assist while their subjects commit crimes.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original and “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

Whale Rider

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2003

This lovely, lyrical fable of a movie is set in the Maori community of New Zealand. According to legend, the Maori came to Whangara when their great leader Paikea led them by riding on a whale.

Ever since, the Maori have been led by the descendants of that leader. The movie begins with the birth of twins, the latest in that line. But the boy twin and his mother die. Over the objection of the current leader, Koro (Rawiri Paratene), the girl twin is named Paikaea. Her heartbroken father leaves New Zealand, and Pai is left to be raised by her grandparents.

Koro loves Pai deeply, but he is still bitter about not having a male heir. When she is 12 (an exquisite performance by Keisha Castle-Hughes), Koro assembles the local boys to begin to train them in the traditions of their culture and test them to see which has the courage, skill, wisdom, and leadership. It is clear to her grandmother (Vicki Houghton), to us, and to Pai herself that she has all of those qualities, but Koro, struggling fiercely to maintain the Maori pride and identity against the assaults of the modern world, cannot allow himself to consider such a change.

Writer-director Niki Coro perfectly suits the style to the story. The modest buildings in the midst of the starkly beautiful setting conveys the contrast between the timeless culture of the Maori and the ephemeral artifacts of the modern age. Pai’s perceptiveness and quiet persistence are always evident, but when she finally speaks from her heart, standing on stage in a school production, wearing traditional garb, she is purely luminous. The movie is not just genuinely lyrical, but, even harder to manage, it is lyrically genuine.

Parents should know that the movie has some tense family confrontations. The death of a mother and baby in childbirth is very sad. A character is injured, but ultimately recovers. There is brief strong language. Characters drink and smoke and there is a and a brief drug reference. A character refers to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. The movie presents a minority culture with great dignity and respect, and the theme of equality is exceptionally well handled.

Families who see this movie should talk about the traditions of their own cultures. How do we decide which traditions to hold on to and which to change to adapt to changing times?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “The Secret of Roan Inish,” “Into the West,” and “Island of the Blue Dolphins.” They should also find out more about the Maori culture. This site is a good place to start and this one has information about Maori carvings.

The Italian Job

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

I plead guilty to being a sucker for heist films. It’s such a reliable plot structure — we see the problem (usually an elaborate security system, as in Mission Impossible), we see how they plan to solve it, and then we see how they respond when things don’t go according to plan. I am happy to have my heart stolen as long the characters are charming and clever. They also have to meet at least one of the three key requirements for movie thieves: they have to be stealing for a good reason (How to Steal a Million), stealing from someone genuinely hateful (see The Sting), or — I’d better keep that last category a secret, to avoid spoiling the ending of some wonderful movies.*

This movie fits into the second category. It begins with the theft of $35 million in gold bars (not just tricky to steal, but almost impossible to transport). But then there is a second theft as one of the team double-crosses the others and, thinking he has killed them all, he takes the gold for himself. The rest of the movie is about how the team gets back the gold.

The team is led by Charlie (Mark Wahlberg), and includes genius tech whiz Lyle (Seth Green), genius demolition whiz Left Ear (Mos Def), genius getaway driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham, essentially reprising his role from the underrated The Transporter), and the latest addition to the group, genius safecracker Stella (Charlize Theron), the daughter of Charlie’s great mentor — and genius safecracker John (Donald Sutherland). They want to get the gold back from colleague-turned-enemy Steve (Edward Norton), who killed John. Stella just wants revenge. And if a little romance enters into the picture, no one should be too surprised.

Charlie keeps telling Steve that he has no imagination, an unfortunate reminder that the movie, a remake of a Michael Caine caper film (also featuring both Noel Coward and Benny Hill!) doesn’t have much, either. But it has enough panache and charm to make it an enjoyable genre film. Def, Green, Statham, and Sutherland deliver their usual top-notch performances, even when the script gets formulaic. Norton, who reportedly was not happy about being contractually obligated to do the film, at least acts as if he was not happy about being contractually obligated to do the film. The film’s biggest waste of time is a running Napster joke that is two years out of date and tired the first time it is used, excruciating by the 10th. Apparently, they were stuck with it because of the appearance in the film of real-life Napter creator Shawn Fanning in the film, a joke maybe one percent of the audience will get and one tenth of one percent will care about.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of tense scenes. Characters are shot and killed and there are implications of other painful murders. Characters punch someone as a way to satisfy feelings of betrayal and revenge. The main characters are all thieves, charming or not, and while they show loyalty and are committed to crime without violence, they are hardly role models. There is some strong language and characters drink alcohol.

Families who see this movie should talk about why we are able to identify with characters in a movie that in real life we probably would not want to cheer for. Why are these people theives? Will they stop?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy some of the other classics of the genre, including Topkapi, The Thomas Crown Affair, To Catch a Thief, The First Great Train Robbery and How to Steal a Million.

* Say, for example, The Lavender Hill Mob or Topkapi.

Finding Nemo

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:G
Movie Release Date:2003
DVD Release Date:2004

Pixar Studios may have the most advanced animation technology in the world, but they never forget what matters most in a movie: story, characters, imagination, and heart. “Finding Nemo” has it all.

It is an epic journey filled with adventure and discovery encompassing the grandest sweep of ocean vastness and the smallest longing of the heart.

Marlin (Albert Brooks) is a fond but nervous and overprotective clown fish. A predator ate his wife and all but one of their eggs. The surviving egg becomes his son Nemo (Alexander Gould), and when it is time to start school, Nemo is excited, but Marlin is very fearful.

Nemo has an under-developed fin. Marlin has done a good job of making Nemo feel confident and unselfconscious. They call it his “lucky fin.” But it still makes Marlin a little more anxious about protecting Nemo, and it still makes Nemo a little more anxious about proving that he can take care of himself.

On his first day of school, Nemo swims too far from the others and is captured by a deep sea diver, a dentist who keeps fish in his office aquarium. Marlin must go literally to the end of the ocean to find his son and bring him home.

And so, in the tradition and spirit of stories from the Odyssey to “The Wizard of Oz,” Marlin takes a journey that will introduce him to extraordinary characters and teach him a great deal about the world and even more about himself. He meets up with Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a cheerful blue tang who has a problem with short-term memory loss. They search for Nemo together, despite stinging jellyfish, exploding mines, and creatures with many, many, many, many teeth.

Meanwhile, Nemo has made some very good friends in the dentist’s aquarium, including a tough Tiger Fish (Willem Dafoe) who helps him plan an escape before the dentist can give Nemo to his careless eight-year-old niece, whose record with fish portends a short lifespan.

The movie is a visual feast. The play of light on the water is breathtaking. The characters imagined by Pixar in “Monsters, Inc.” were fabulously inventive, but they have nothing on the even more fabulously inventive Mother Nature. This movie will make an ichthyologist out of anyone, because all of the characters are based on real-life ocean species, each one more marvelous than the one before. While preserving their essential “fishy-ness,” Pixar and the talented people providing the voices have also made them each wonderfully expressive, and it seems only fair to say that they create performances as full and varied as have ever been on screen.

There are some scary moments in this movie, including the off-screen death of Marlin’s wife and future children. It is handled very discreetly, but still might possibly be upsetting to some viewers. There are terrifying-looking creatures, but one of the movie’s best jokes is that even the sharks are so friendly that in an AA-style program, they keep reminding each other that “we don’t eat our friends.” There really are no bad guys in this movie — the danger comes from a child’s thoughtlessness and from natural perils. The movie has no angry, jealous, greedy, or murderous villains as in most traditional Disney animated films.

Another strength of the movie is the way it handles Nemo’s disability, frankly but matter-of-factly. But best of all is the way it addresses questions that are literally at the heart of the parent-child relationship, giving everyone in the audience something to relate to and learn from.

And there is another special treat — the chance to see Pixar’s first-ever short feature, “Knick-Knack,” shown before the feature. It shows how far the technology has advanced, but it also shows that Pixar’s sense of fun was there right at the beginning.

Parents should know that even though there are no traditional bad guys in this movie, there are still some very scary moments, including creatures with zillions of sharp teeth, an apparent death of a major character, and many tense scenes with characters in peril. At the beginning of the movie, Marlin’s wife and all but one of their eggs are eaten by a predator. It is offscreen, but might upset some viewers. There is a little potty humor. The issue of Nemo’s stunted fin is handled exceptionally well.

Families who see this movie should talk about how parents have to balance their wish to protect their children from being hurt (physically or emotionally) with the need to let them grow up and learn how to take care of themselves. They should talk about Nemo’s disability and about everyone has different abilities that make some things easier for each of us to do than for most people and some things harder. How do you know what your abilities are, and what do you do to make the most of them?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the other Pixar films, “A Bug’s Life,” the “Toy Story” movies, and “Monsters Inc.” They will appreciate other movies with underwater scenes, including Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” “Pinocchio,” and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” and “Yellow Submarine,” with innovative animation, a witty and touching script, and, of course, glorious music from the Beatles. Families with younger children will enjoy reading “The Runaway Bunny,” and families with older children will enjoy “Amazing Fish” from the outstanding Eyewitness series.

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