Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

 

Noah
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 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

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

 

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 Filth and the Fury

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

More than 20 years ago, the Sex Pistols made one album, were let go by two record companies, one after only one day, and had the number one song in the UK, though it was so controversial it could not be played on the radio or even named on the published top 40 list. They were prouder of the blank space on the top of the charts than they would have been to see their names there.

Twenty years ago, director Julien Temple made “The Great Rock and Roll Swindle,” a documentary about the Sex Pistols from the point of view of their manager, Malcolm McLaren, who was presented as a Svengali who conceived and marketed the group. He said that they were the clay and he was the sculptor. Now, Temple returns with another take on the same story, as the surviving Sex Pistols tell their side.

According to the band members, McLaren was incompetent and corrupt. He played no part in creating the band; all he did was market them badly and take all their money. Johnny Rotten (John Lydon) talks about their origins as furious and iconoclastic working-class boys who wanted to make people think about what was going on all around them – and about what was not going on. When the Sex Pistols got together, the economy in England was stagnant. Garbage strikes led to streets piled with trash for months, job losses led to thousands being on welfare, and cuts in services left people feeling helpless. The Sex Pistols wanted them to feel angry. For a brief time, they served the role of the fictional character in “Network” who urged people to go to their windows and scream, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” They said their music was “almost a battle cry.” They wanted the working class to question the system, and to fight back.

They pierced their skin with safety pins and wore shredded clothes. “Wear the garbage! At least you’re dealing with it!” They did everything they could to offend and enjoyed the horrified reactions. But there were a few things that they were not at all prepared to deal with.

The first was McLaren. The Sex Pistols were not the kind of rock and roll band who trash the establishment on stage but act like the establishment off-stage. They never gave any thought to money or made any plans. They trusted McLaren, who is portrayed in this movie wearing a bondage mask of the kind he used to sell when he first met the members of the Sex Pistols in his store. Or perhaps it is more likely to say that they did not pay much attention to him. He gave them a few pounds a week spending money, and the rest is gone. The Sex Pistols faced all of the problems of any young, uneducated, unsophisticated kids who become famous very quickly, but to make it worse they got the fame without the fortune.

They were also not prepared for the problems that face all people who rise to fame on shock value. There is inevitably a Catch-22 dilemma. First, audiences get over shock very quickly, and as soon as the act is popular it immediately becomes no longer shocking, but normal. One day, punks are appalling everyone by sticking safety pins in their ears and wearing shredded clothes and the next day some enterprising soul is selling special piercing safety pins and pre-shredded clothes. The fans pay tribute to role-shattering rock stars by imitating them, and suddenly they are the new role model instead of the one rebelling against role models. The alternative is for the fans to compete by trying to be even more outrageous. So the fans spit on the band members and slash them with razors.

Even in the world of rock and roll, which has always relied on challenging the accepted and rebelling against authority, the Sex Pistols were so shocking that no one would record them or book them. One of their tours was called SPOT (“Sex Pistols on Tour”) so that the authorities would not know who was booked. When they put a sign on their tour bus that said “Nowhere,” they did not know it would literally be true.

One of the things they rebelled against was the notion of competence. When one member was told he had to learn to sing, he said, “Why?” You can rebel against the whole oppressive notion of success being tied to talent, but it is difficult to get anyone to buy your records. Another problem was that they were a lot better at knowing what they didn’t like than what they did like. The shelf life of anyone who criticizes without presenting an alternative is even briefer than the shelf life of someone who markets offensiveness. The most poignant moment in the movie is when they perform at a benefit for the children of striking fire fighters. The band has come together musically and at last they are about something that is meaningful to them. But it is too late.

By then, they were on an irreversible downward spiral. Lydon says, “Yes, I could take on England, but I couldn’t take on one heroin addict.” When Sid Vicious becomes involved with Nancy Spungen and with heroin, that is the beginning of the end. Today, speaking in shadows, Lydon breaks down in tears when he talks about how he could not save his friend.

Temple, who was around when the band was together, clearly has the trust of the surviving members. He shoots them in shadows, so our visual image of them is not diluted by signs of aging. We see their present-day recollections over footage of themselves more than two decades ago. Temple skillfully intercuts scenes from music hall performers, Laurence Olivier’s “Richard III” and “Hamlet,” contemporary commentators, and “The Great Rock and Roll Swindle” to provide a sense of context and contrast. There are some fascinating details about the band members. Lydon had meningitis as a child, and lost his memory. It may have been his having to learn everything again that led to his insistence that everyone question their assumptions. And Sid Vicious was not from a lower-class family. He was the son of a prestigious Grenadier guard, which must have made for some interesting conversation at home when their controversial salute to the Queen was banned from the charts.

The Sex Pistols were enormously influential, and many rock bands found some inspiration in their willingness to take on any authority. For a brief time, they played the role of the child who tells the emperor he has no clothes. As one band member says, “I question everything. I always have done.” Not a bad slogan for rock and roll, for adolescence, or even for everyone.

Parents should know that this movie includes very strong language, drug use (though a powerful anti-drug message), and explicit sexual references.

Families who see this movie should talk about the role of rebellion, the influence of the Sex Pistols, and who is closest today to the role they played. People who like this movie will also like Julien Temple’s “Absolute Beginners.”

The Fast and the Furious

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

I don’t ask for much from summer popcorn movies. Give me some car chases and explosions, some romance, and a nasty villain who meets a nastier end, and I’m happy. I had high hopes for “The Fast and the Furious” to be a classic of this genre, but it turned out to be a major disappointment, not a good bad movie-as-video-game but a bad bad movie-as-brain-numbing-waste-of-celluloid. In fact, it is a bad bad bad bad bad movie.

Paul Walker plays Brian O’Connor, a loner with a fancy racecar who wants to get into the hidden world of street racers, and if you don’t guess that his motivation is more than getting close to Mia, the pretty sister (Jordana Brewster) of the fastest driver of them all, then you have never seen “Point Break,” one of several much better movies that this movie steals from shamelessly. The street racers swoop down to take over a quarter mile stretch for races that last less than 10 seconds, then disperse before the police catch up with them.

Brian challenges Mia’s brother Dom (Vin Diesel) and loses both the race and his car to the jeers of the onlookers. But he rescues Dom from the police and sticks with him through an encounter with a rival gang. Soon, he is a member of Dom’s rag-tag “team,” a family of outcasts that includes brilliant but attention-defecit-mechanic Jesse (Chad Lindberg), brooding Vince (Matt Schulze), and tough girl Letty (Michelle Rodriguez of “Girlfight”). Races and chases in various locales and several product placement moments later, it turns out that neither Dom nor Brian has been telling the truth and that both will have to put what they care about most on the line before it is all over.

This is one of those movies that cannot even fake authenticity. It is not about what is cool or about what the people in the audience think is cool. It is about what people in Hollywood think that the people in the audience think is cool, and it is about as cool as the fake rock music they used to play in “Brady Bunch” episodes when Greg and Marcia went to school dances. There is a lot of posing and attitude, and people say fake-tough and fake-profound things like, “It’s not how you stand by your car — it’s how you race your car” and “It doesn’t matter whether you lose by an inch or a mile – winning’s winning.” Nearly every line is a cliché, spoken without any sense of irony, tribute, or transcendence. There is some flashy photography (but doesn’t it defeat the purpose to make a 10-second race last for a minute onscreen?) and a lot of blasting faux-hip rap music, very fine cars with a button on the dashboard like that thing in “Star Wars” that makes them go into hyperspeed, and sprays of automatic weapon bullets that manage to miss all the main characters. The last fifteen minutes is genuinely, deeply, infuriatingly stupid. Diesel and Rodriguez are talented and watchable, but this movie insists on interfering with our ability to enjoy them. There is more tension and excitement in the one 10-minute “chickie run” segment of “Rebel Without a Cause” than in any race in this movie.

Parents should know that the movie is as close to an R as it can be and remain a PG-13. It is very violent, with shoot-outs that leave one character dead and another seriously wounded. A character takes one risk that appears suicidal. Characters drink and smoke. Corona beer seems to be an especially obvious product placement, and giving someone a beer is a gesture of honor and acceptance. There is a same-sex kiss and some skanky behavior. A woman offers one of the racers a threesome if he wins, then insults him when he does not. A man tells his girlfriend, “You’re my trophy.” Women appear in scanty clothing, including a thong. There is a non-graphic but explicit sexual situation. Characters use very strong language, including the n-word and other racial slurs. We see some gross photographs of an injured man. Characters are in extreme peril, both in racing and in shoot-outs. Robbing and shooting are sympathetically portrayed, and Brian’s ultimate decision is a serious betrayal. And someone needs to get the message to Hollywood that making a couple of the female characters strong and smart does not mean that the rest of them can be sexist bimbos.

Families who see this movie should talk about the way that even outcasts create families, as where Dom presides over a barbecue dinner that is like a cover illustration from Tatooed Biker done by Norman Rockwell. They even say grace. They should also talk about the people who do not tell each other the truth, and those who make the decision to violate the law to make things easier for themselves.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “Point Break.”

The Family Man

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2000

The grand tradition of “what if?” movies from “A Christmas Carol” to “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the more recent “Passions of Mind” and “Me Myself I” show us an unhappy hero or heroine who finds out what life would have been like if he or she had made a different choice. But in this version, Nicolas Cage plays Jack Campbell, a man who is perfectly delighted with his life the way it is. He loves money, making it on Wall Street and spending it on expensive suits, gourmet meals, and a snazzy sports car. He has an elegant, if somewhat sterile, apartment, decorated with expensive photographs of anonymous body parts. He doesn’t mind Scrooge-ily calling a meeting at the office on Christmas, telling himself it is for the employees’ own good, since they will be making so much money.

But then he stops to buy eggnog and sees a man (Don Cheadle) pull out a gun when a store clerk refuses to pay off his lottery ticket. His offer to buy the ticket mysteriously catapults him into the life he chose not to have — a life in the New Jersey suburbs, married to his college sweetheart (Tea Leoni), with two small children and a job selling tires. His old life has disappeared. It is his worst nightmare, and there will be many opportunities for him to be horrified by diapers and outlet store merchandise and completely deconstruct his old life before he begins to realize what he has missed.

Despite some predictability and some awkward construction — the movie feels as though it was edited heavily after focus group testing, leaving some characters and plot lines unresolved — the movie is a holiday pleasure. Cage and Leoni are enormously appealing in their various incarnations. There are some funny lines and warm moments, especially when the one person Jack cannot fool is his daughter, who knows this is not the Daddy she loves and decides he must be an alien. And there is a satisfying resolution that incorporates the best of both options.

Parents should know that the movie has some mature themes, including sexual references and situations. Jack is very nice to a woman he slept with, but it is clear that there is no intimacy between them. He and his wife start to have sex, but when he says something she finds inappropriate, she stops him. A woman suggests an affair, and Jack’s friend tells him that it would be disastrous: “Don’t screw up your whole life just because you’re a little unsure about who you are.” The movie does make it clear that loving, married sex is the ideal. Characters repeatedly turn to liquor to relieve stress, and a character makes a joke about his wife’s drinking. There is some strong language.

Families should talk about some of the “roads not taken” they still think about, and what they think their lives would be like now if they had made another choice. How do we make choices? What do we do when circumstances make choices for us? What do you think the angel will do for the young woman who accepted too much change?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Me Myself I.”

The Emperor’s New Groove

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2000

The fast, fun, and funny “Emperor’s New Groove” is sheer delight for the entire family. It deserves to be taken out of the rarified category of “animation” and called what it is — a cartoon. It has more in common with classic Warner Brothers cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Road Runner than with Disney animation classics. This is not one of those movies where we see the sun glistening off every leaf on every tree. It has no perky heroine with big hair sitting down in the first half hour to look up into the sky and sing about her dreams. No adorable animal sidekicks to be immortalized on backpacks, lunchboxes, and beanie babies. No soulful romantic duet to be reprised over the credits and nominated for an Oscar. In fact, no love interest at all.

What’s left is nonstop action and comedy. Most important, we get a kind of freewheeling, even improvisational tone that is downright revolutionary for a big holiday theatrical release from Disney, and a very welcome relief after the overstuffed “102 Dalmatians.” The movie even spoofs itself, along with other movies from “The Fly” to “The Wizard of Oz.” This almost casual feel may have something to do with the origin of the movie, which was originally intended to be a much more serious and ambitious story set in the time of the Aztecs. Then they junked the original script, kept the backgrounds, and created an entirely new story to go on top of it.

Now it is the story of a spoiled emperor named Kuzco, hilariously voiced by David Spade with his trademark blend of snarky self-absorption. Kuzco dismisses his advisor Yzma (voiced somewhere between a purr and a growl by Eartha Kitt and looking like an Erte fashion design drawn with a skritchy pen). She decides to poison him. Her dim but muscular sidekick Kronk (voiced by Patrick Warburton, “Seinfeld’s” Puddy) accidentally gives Kuzco the wrong potion, and instead of being killed, he is turned into a llama. Kuzco needs to get help from a peasant named Pacha (voice of John Goodman) to get his body and his kingdom back. Their adventures almost approach Indiana Jones scale as they go over a rushing waterfall (with sharp rocks at the bottom), get covered with scorpions, cornered by jaguars, and chased by Yzma and Kronk. The animation is fine, but the voice performances are brilliant, especially Spade, who is sensational.

Parents should know that, like most Disney movies, this one has some scary moments, including a nighttime jungle scene reminiscent of the woods at night in “Snow White.” Most of the peril is comic, but it still might be too much for kids under 5.

Point out to kids that Kuzco thinks that all people are selfish — because he is, while Pacha thinks that all people have some good in them — because he does. Parents should ask kids how Kuzco got to be so selfish and why Pacha’s children enjoy squabbling with each other. Families may also want to talk about how Kronk thinks about what to do by consulting the angel and devil on his shoulders. They may also want to talk about how Kuzco and Pacha decide whether to trust one another.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “The Thief and the Cobbler,” an undiscovered animation gem.

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