Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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

 

If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

Foxcatcher
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some drug use and a scene of violence
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

Into the Storm
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

The Eye

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

The Eye is a Taiwanese ghost film that will please the American audiences who flocked to The Sixth Sense, The Others, and The Ring, far superior to recent American trash that has been made to cash in on the fascination with ghost stories.

The Eye focuses on Mun (Angelica Lee), a blind girl as she is about to receive some donated retinas in an operation that will give her vision. The operation is successful, and over time she can see as well as anyone and better communicate with her supportive family, her doctor, and a sickly child she has befriended in the hospital. However, one night, she sees the old lady near her in the hospital being escorted out by a stranger after visiting hours, and the next morning she is dead. When Mun is finally out in the real world, she sees people that others can’t see, all of them very strange and some of them particularly frightening. By the time her doctor recommends her to his nephew psychiatrist Dr. Wah (Lawrence Chou), it is clear that she is seeing ghosts, and while trying to get someone to believe she tries to find out more about the donor.

It’s no surprise that this film has already been optioned for an American remake, especially with the success of the Ringu remake The Ring. The US version may have more expensive special effects and a more upbeat resolution, but this version is a very likeable movie. It is beautifully filmed by the Pang brothers and it has some ambitions to be more than a typical mindless scarefest, taking on important topics like intolerance. It’s very easy to make a bad scary movie and hard to make a good one, especially considering how many have been made recently (I hope you all missed The Mothman Prophecies and Dragonfly), The Eye delivers the goods without insulting anyone’s intelligence.

Lee and Chou both have charm and talent and are great finds for the Pang brothers, who have proven themselves worthy of an American audience. Scenes like Lee’s operation are done with warts and all realism, and Mun and Dr. Wah’s relationship is very believable when it could have easily been contrived. These realistic elements convince the biggest naysayers that even the ghosts could be real, and situations, from the horrific climax to full, intriguing stories that link the ghosts with their past lives will send chills down your spine.

Parents should know that the movie is very scary and has pervasive tension, violence, and some disturbing images.

People who enjoy this movie should try the recent popular (and chilling) ghost stories, particularly the aforementioned The Sixth Sense, The Others, and The Ring and the original Ringu. Families might also enjoy two other movies about blind people who gain their sight, Blink and At First Sight.

The Other Side of the Bed

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

As the credits roll in this first entry in the Sundance series, we meet two couples, the men asleep in their beds, their girlfriends both crooning a silly pop song about honeymoons and sunlight. Then, in a restaurant, Paula (Natalia Verbeke) tells Pedro (Guillermo Toledo) that she is leaving him because she is in love with another man. Pedro goes to tell his best friends, Javier (Ernesto Alterio) and Sonia (Paz Vega) that his heart is broken. The reason for Javier’s discomfort is revealed when we find out that it is Javier for whom Paula has left Pedro. And he becomes even more uncomfortable when she pushes him to tell Sonia about their affair.

That leads to a light-hearted romp of musical beds with real music — every so often one of the characters breaks into song with assorted bystanders as a chorus line.

The result is a lightweight but highly enjoyable romantic farce, as ever-sillier complications mount until things are sorted out and everyone gets to live happily ever after.

Parents should know that the movie has very explicit sexual references and situations, nudity, very strong language, comic violence, and drinking and smoking. Some characters discuss homosexuality in an ignorant manner, but the gay character is dignified and not at all stereotyped.

Families who see this movie should ask whether the characters have learned anything and will be likely to behave differently in the future.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Noises Off.

Under the Tuscan Sun

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

Like the crumbling Italian villa at the center of this story, there is a lot wrong with the movie, but it is so enticing — especially for its intended audience — that it is hard to resist.

The best-selling book by Frances Mayes about her restoration of a crumbling villa is beautifully written and wonderfully evocative, but it does not have much of a story. So writer/director Audrey Wells has taken the real Mayes, and thrown a lot of plot at her, just the kind of thing that last year’s Adaptation should have warned her against.

Mayes (played by the exquisite Diane Lane) is now a book critic and would-be novelist who is dumped by the husband she has been supporting. This means that he is entitled to alimony in addition to his half of the house, which he wants to keep. She is financially and emotionally devastated and moves into a depressing furnished apartment complex filled with people who are getting divorced.

When her best friend Patti (the marvelous Sandra Oh) becomes pregnant, she gives Frances her ticket for a tour of Tuscany. It’s a “Gay and Away” tour, which is fine with Frances, who is relieved that there will be no possibility of romantic entanglements.

But she ends up with an entanglement is of a different kind, impulsively buying an ancient house called Bramasole, which translates into “yearning for the sun.”

And yes, it is Frances who is yearning for the sun, and yes, the renovation of the house is a metaphor for renovating her spirits. On this emotional journey, she will meet kind souls who will impart life lessons with a profundity somewhere between fortune cookie and Dr. Phil.

A free-spirited Englishwoman, a kind local realtor, and three Polish construction workers help her get ready to enter back into life again, and a charming Italian man helps her begin by reminding her that she is capable of loving and being loved. Frances makes a wish for a wedding and a family in the house and when at first it seems that the wedding and the family are not the ones she wished for, she begins to understand that they really are just what she wanted. And she learns that she can help others who yearn for the sun, healing herself at the same time.

The problem is that director/screenwriter Wells tells us a lot more than she shows us. She seems to have no understanding of how to translate a story into film. The movie often seems abrupt and unfinished and the characters are superficially drawn. The script tells us how the characters feel about each other but does not make it matter enough for us to believe in or care about the way their relationships are resolved. Lane brings as much to the material as is humanly possible, but is given little to do beyond looking wistful and wounded. But it is all beguilingly pretty to watch and its message of hope and second chances is beguilingly pretty, too.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong language for a PG-13. There are sexual references and situations, including a sexual encounter between two people who barely know each other — portrayed as deeply romantic and healing — and a sexually active young couple. Another character is happily promiscuous. Mayes’ husband leaves her for another woman. The movie does a good job of avoiding stereotypes with a gay Asian character.

Families who see this movie should talk about all of the advice that Mayes gets and what she learns from it, especially the stories about the train tracks, about bad ideas being like playground bullies, and about the ladybugs. How important is “childish enthusiasm?” Why did Frances believe the relationship with Marcello was more than it was? In the book, Mayes says that “the house is a metaphor for the self.” How is that shown throughout the movie?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Enchanted April and A Room With a View, both part of the rich tradition of movies showing how the sun-dappled vistas and luscious food of Italy can restore souls and open hearts. There’s an almost-as rich tradition of harried home renovations movies (the best is Mister Blandings Builds His Dream House) and of house-as-metaphor movies, most recently Life as a House with Kevin Kline. Families might also like to try some Italian cooking, learn more about the tradition of the flags in Siena, and of course visit Tuscany if they can.

Marci X

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

Screenwriter Paul Rudnick (Adams Family Values, In and Out) had an idea that could have made a funny seven-minute “Saturday Night Live” sketch — a culture clash between a pampered Jewish socialite and a “ghetto fabulous” rap star. But the shelf life of satire is rarely long enough to sustain a movie production schedule, and much of the material in this movie feels outdated already. Are we still making fun of boy bands? And how long has it been since Bill Gates was an eligible bachelor? The material here is so slight that it is not enough to sustain an entire movie, and the absence of any comic energy whatsoever in Richard Benjamin’s direction makes it seem endless even at a less than 90-minute running time.

Lisa Kudrow plays Marci Feld, the daughter of a mogul (played by director Benjamin) whose conglomerate includes a rap music label called Felony Assault. The explicit language on the latest release from its star performer, Dr. S (Damon Wayans) has offended the powerful Senator Spinkle (Christine Baranski), and she calls for a boycott that puts Feld’s entire corporation at risk. When he is hospitalized with a heart attack, Marci decides that she will go to see Dr. S and work things out.

Rudnick manages a couple of sassy comebacks, but ultimately is reduced to stealing from himself with a poor re-enactment of the best scene from In and Out. Many of the set-ups are painfully flat, especially a weird fund-raiser for a purportedly funny medical condition — lack of feeling in the arms, demonstrated by poking children with forks.

Kudrow’s offbeat line readings provide some punch and Paula Garces parodies J.Lo (in her Puff Daddy phase) with some spirit. But Wayans just sounds whiny and about as threatening as a daffodill.

Parents should know that the movie has exceptionally mature material, with strong language and explicit sexual references. There is some humor that may strike some audience members as insulting to homosexuals (though screenwriter Rudnick is gay). Characters drink and smoke marijuana and there are jokes about Valium and Prozac. The movie includes comic violence, including gun use. One positive note is the handling of the relationships between people from different races and religions.

Families who see this movie should talk about what it means to “keep it real” and about the current debate on the influence of explict sex and violence in lyrics.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the far better Undercover Brother.

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