Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

 

The Giver
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
November 26, 2014

 

The Expendables 3
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Little Hope Was Arson
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not Rated
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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

There is absolutely no need for you to read any further than the title of the film if you are not a fan of slasher flicks. If you are a fan, than this is a solid enough, if derivative, scare-fest with sufficient “eww” factor to satisfy those weaned on the blood-floods of Michael, Jason and Freddy. However, there is not enough originality here to make this version of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” better than average, and there is certainly nothing to justify it entering the vaunted ground of classic horror movies, where its predecessor and namesake resides.

The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre set the standard for horror movies of the blood-letting kind for the decades that followed and continues to top the lists as one of the most influential movies in a genre. This substantially more sanguineous remake –- the original had a full 40 minutes without bloodshed— again takes the Ed Gein murders as a starting point, places them in the heart of Texas in the 1970’s and replaces Ed’s hunting knife with a chainsaw. This movie pays homage to the original but delights in amplifying the bloodshed and adding its own twists to that nest of Gothic horror where Leatherface resides.

As for plot, don’t ask why, but a van of five bell-bottomed rebels, having just returned from Mexico on a penny-ante drug run, are driving across Texas and choose to stop in a small town as a result of picking up a hitchhiking waif whose strong desire not to go on to that town is made patently evident when she kills herself rather than return. It turns out that the small town is tiny -– comprising a slaughterhouse, a freaky farmhouse, an abandoned barn, a trailer home, a decrepit shack and a gas-station with a rotting meat display that would make David Lynch feel at home. The five youths wait at the barn for the sheriff to show up to cart away the suicide’s body but because they have Lynyrd Skynyrd tickets for that evening decide to expedite the process by going to the farmhouse where the Sheriff allegedly lives. As you might guess this is the last in a series of bad decisions that follow some of the familiar rules of slasher movies. These include:

  • 1. When you come across a spooky hitchhiker who warns you about continuing on the road that you are traveling, do not listen to her but go right to the creepy location in question.
  • 2. When greeted by the native, who is eyeing you from behind a display case full of flies, maggots and meat, you stay and chat. After all, how often do any of us have a chance to visit with the colorful locals in small eccentric towns?
  • 3. If you meet with a feral kid, nesting in an abandoned and bizarrely decorated barn, stay. It will make a great story later.
  • 4. Split up your party as often as possible to cover more ground and allow for more prolonged carnage. “Safety in numbers” is so passé.
  • 5. Trust everyone, even the freaky sisters alone in their trailer home who insist you drink tea with them while a maniac wearing your boyfriend’s face is just steps behind you with his chainsaw. Sure, they will protect you.

The movie does a fair job at helping the audience to suspend disbelief at these and many, many more highly dubious choices, both by setting the movie in the early ‘70’s (like the original) when people apparently did not know that exploring freaky houses alone was a bad idea, and by relying heavily on the acting of lone survivor, Erin (Jessica Biel). While she does a decent enough job, the standout performance here is R. Lee Ermey (who made Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket into an icon) as the Sheriff who might be even scarier than the mechanically-inclined behemoth, Leatherface, or the rest of his enabling brood.

For dedicated admirers of the original, this version is just another rehash of the classic, but for new-comers or those who are looking for a good, old-fashioned scare, then there is plenty of meat on this table.

Parents should be aware that there is nothing misleading about this movie’s title. The chainsaw in question is assisted in its macabre work by meat hooks, axes, sledgehammers, knives and other assorted tools of the slasher trade. In addition to quick death, there is torture, mutilation (self and inflicted) and amputation under less than sterile conditions. Leatherface’s trademark fashion statement is his fondness for wearing other people’s skin to mask his disfigured face. While there is sexuality, drug use and strong language, it is the peril and carnage that pushes this movie to the cusp of its R-rating. This movie is only for audiences strong-stomached (I am not going to say “mature”) enough to handle the gore.

Families who watch this movie might discuss what about the setting, the characters and the circumstances heightens the scariness of this movie. What decisions would you make differently and how would you react?

Some families might wish to discuss why the survivors in slasher movies like this one are typically the kids who do not use drugs or become involved in casual sexual encounters. With their roots deep in morality lessons, scary stories have been popular throughout history. What might be the appeal of this medium? Why do some people find horror movies cathartic?

Families who enjoy this movie should see the original. For those who find the gore excessive but the story interesting, Hitchcock’s Psycho, and Silence of the Lambs both feature characters based on Ed Gein.

Gothika

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

Dr. Miranda Gray (Halle Berry) explains that “Logic is overrated” in the middle of a climactic confrontation. It feels like a last-minute attempt to justify the resolution of a movie that begins as a promisingly creepy thriller but then falls apart.

Miranda is a psychiatrist at a facility for the criminally insane. The director of the facility is her husband, Doug (Charles S. Dutton). Driving home on a dark and stormy night, Miranda swerves to avoid hitting a girl standing in the road. When she gets out of the car, she sees that the girl is badly hurt. Miranda tries to talk to her. The next thing she knows, she wakes up in the mental hospital, but now she is on the other side of the glass wall. She is a patient. Doug has been murdered, and all of the evidence points to Miranda as the killer. How can she find out what really happened if everyone thinks she is crazy?

Director Mathieu Kassovitz (who played the love interest in Amelie) creates a nicely creepy feeling, though he overdoes the flickering lights and the guess-what’s-just-out-of-her/our-field-of-vision surprises. But the last half and especially the last half hour are both predictable and presposterous.

Parents should know that this movie has intense peril and disturbing, graphic, and grisly images of violence. There are references to extremely violent crimes. There is nudity in a scene of a group shower and a joke about circumcision. Characters use very strong language. One positive note is the portrayal of a strong, intelligent, resourceful black woman.

Families who see this movie should talk about Pete’s comment that “the ability to repress is actually a vital survival tool.” What other survival tools did Miranda demonstrate?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound.

Looney Tunes: Back in Action

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2003

Chuck Jones, who produced over 100 of the greatest Warner Brothers cartoons, was asked whether he was making his cartoons for adults or children. “Neither,” he responded. “I make them for myself and my friends.”

Those cartoons are still wonderfully entertaining, even for those who don’t quite get some of the 1940’s-50’s-era satire. Jones and the other Warner Brothers legends like Tex Avery and Friz Freleng had no focus groups or demographic surveys. They just tried to outdo each other and to make each other laugh. That was the secret of their deliriously looney sensibility, their sublime silliness, and their brash and fearless anarchy.

So it is most promising when this new live action/animated feature begins with Daffy Duck being let go by the studio because while everyone loves Bugs Bunny, Daffy’s fan base consists of “angry fat guys in basements.” Then Kate, the studio’s Vice President of Comedy (Jenna Elfman, looking a little wan), sits down with Bugs to explain that she wants to leverage his synergy. Kate’s claim to fame is “Lethal Weapon Babies.” A little later a character explains that it would “send the wrong message to children” to let a car blow up and then it does, and then when Walmart appears in the middle of the desert and the characters explain that it’s product placement. So we are happily assured that the subversive spirit of the Looney Tunes is in good hands.

Director Joe Dante is clearly a fan and he keeps the jokes coming. There are movie parodies (Psycho, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), throwaway gags (watch the signs, especially the French poster for a Jerry Lewis movie), and lots of all-out mayhem, especially a wildly surreal romp through the paintings at the Louvre. And though Wile E. Coyote is now ordering online from Acme.com, the goodies are just as outrageous and subject to Murphy’s law as ever.

Live action performers Brendan Fraser (as a stuntman for Brendan Fraser who was fired for taking too much screen time in The Mummy), Timothy Dalton as his father, a dashing movie star/spy, Steve Martin (as the chairman of Acme), and Joan Cusack (as a scientist at Area 52 — Area 51 was just a decoy), all have fun, but they can’t steal the movie from Bugs, Daffy, Foghorn Leghorn, Tweetie Pie, Marvin Martian, the Tasmanian Devil, Pepe LePew, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, and of course Mr. Coytote.

Parents should know that there is a great deal of comic peril and violence, though of course no one is hurt. The film includes a little potty humor and a couple of mildly naughty words.

Families who see this movie should talk about the original cartoons and which characters they like the best. How are the Looney Tunes different from other animated characters, like those in the Disney movies?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Looney Tunes classics like “What’s Opera, Doc?” and “Duck Dodgers.”

In America

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

Screenwriter/director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot) tells the story of his family’s move to America as something of a fairy tale set in a sweltering and grimy apartment building where even the kind-hearted drug addicts help look out for the children.

Johnny (Paddy Considine) and Sarah (Samantha Morton) move to New York with their daughters Ariel and Christy (real-life sisters Emma and Sarah Bolger) from Canada, still shell-shocked from the loss of their son, Frankie.

Sarah is a teacher and Johnny is an actor, but the only jobs they can get are waitress and cab driver. They are struggling, sometimes even desperate and their surroundings are often sordid. But we see the story through the eyes of 11-year-old Christy and she makes it all magical. The girls insist on trick-or-treating in their apartment building, even at the door with a “keep away” sign, the home of an angry neighbor named Mateo (Djimon Hounsou). And he turns out to be not mean, just angry, bitter, and lonely — except that with the girls he is exquisitely tender.

Indeed, the whole movie is exquisitely tender. The girls’ sense of wonder brings a softness and a glow to whatever they see, whether it is a street fair or a broken-down air conditioner. Lovely, touching performances by all, especially the Bolger sisters and Hounsou, add delicacy and lyricism. The story may be predictable and it teeters on the edge of twee with its references to angels and aliens. But thankfully it is messy and episodic enough to capture the attention and even the heart.

Parents should know that the movie includes strong language, drinking, smoking, and drug use, violence, and very sad deaths. There is a sexual situation (and resulting childbirth). Tense moments include a violent confrontation and a serious health problem.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Christy thinks that Frankie can grant her three wishes and about the different ways that each character response to the loss of someone important to them. The movie may give families a chance to talk about their views on what happens after people die and how we talk to very ill people about what they are facing.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Hope and Glory and The Commitments (mature material).

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