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

Showtime

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

Who imagined that one of the best comic actors of the 21st century would be…Robert DeNiro? The brilliant timing and utter fearlessness when it comes to looking goofy that DeNiro showed in “Analyze This” and “Meet the Parents” gets kicked up a notch higher for inspired silliness in this knowing but affectionate parody of buddy cop films.

DeNiro plays Mitch, a (what else) tough, seen-it-all police detective who just wants to everyone to stay out his way so he can do his job. Eddie Murphy is Trey, a cop who wants to be an actor. Both end up in a new “reality TV” series produced by Chase (Rene Russo) called “Showtime.” As Mitch and Trey try to track down a gun dealer, cameras and a satellite uplink follow them everywhere they go.

The movie tries to have it both ways but succeeds best as satire, with some very funny digs at cop shows, reality and otherwise. William Shatner contributes a hilarious performance that plays with his own image as the former star of “T. J. Hooker,” now directing Mitch and Trey in such time-honored TV cop essentials as jumping on the hood of a car and raising one eyebrow very slightly to indicate that an important statement is about to be made. Johnny Cochran makes a brief but very funny appearance, showing that he is a far better performer than the guy who parodied him on “Seinfeld.” Chase and her assistant redecorate Mitch’s office and apartment to respond to research reports about what viewers like to see, and their matter-of-factness about their notion of “reality” plays off of DeNiro beautifully.

The movie’s action plotline is less effective, requiring even more suspension of disbelief than usual. Despite protestations from Mitch that real cops are nothing like those on television, he ends up behaving like a TV cop, throwing punches and mistreating a suspect. That seems out of character for both Mitch and the movie.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of action violence, including a special highly destructive gun that can blow up a car or knock down a house. Characters are killed (offscreen). Characters deal in drugs and illegal weapons. The police violate police procedure and abuse the rights of suspects and prisoners, manipulating one into talking without his lawyer present and getting into a fistfight with others. Characters use strong language, including comic sexual references.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether “reality television” is an oxymoron. Is it possible to put “reality” on television? How do TV cops differ from real ones?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Eddie Murphy in two action-comedy classics, “48 Hours” and “Beverly Hills Cop” as well as a popular buddy cop series “Lethal Weapon” and its sequels. Those who are interested in seeing more about what happens when cameras follow people around should watch DeNiro in “15 Minutes” (very violent) and the comedy “EdTV.”

Shanghai Noon

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

Jackie Chan has his best American movie role so far as Chon Wang, an imperial guard sent from China’s Forbidden City to Colorado’s Carson City to rescue a kidnapped Princess (Lucy Liu) in the old West of 1881. Along the way he meets Roy (Owen Wilson) a smooth-talking robber and con man, and they have various adventures that provide many opportunities for humor and many, many opportunities for fight scenes that show off Chan’s trademark fast, flashy, and funny footwork.

In classic buddy movie fashion, Roy and Chon begin as antagonists, and it takes them a while (and Roy’s finding out that there is gold involved) to figure out that they are on the same side. Chan and Wilson have a nice rapport and Wilson’s easy-going surfer style works very well with Chan’s more reserved approach. Liu is elegant and beautiful at home in the palace, spirited and honorable when she finds out that she has been kidnapped and that Chinese people are being used for slave labor. And of course the fight scenes are sensational, as Chan uses anything he can get his hands and feet on to help him vanquish all the bad guys.

A lot of younger kids will want to see this movie. Parents should know that the movie has some bad language, potty humor, scenes in a brothel, and drinking and drug use (portrayed humorously, including a prolonged drinking game and a drunken horse). The racism of the era is touched on. Chong is thrown out of a bar and he is very hurt when he overhears Roy agree with an anti-Chinese comment. The prostitutes are portrayed stereotypically, but the leading women in the movie are brave, smart, capable, and loyal.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Roy and Chong learn to trust each other and work together, how Chong uses quick thinking (and a good knowledge of basic physics) to use whatever he can find to help him fight the bad guys, and how people from many different cultures reacted to life in America. Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Chan’s other films, especially “Mr. Nice Guy” and “Rumble in the Bronx.”

Shallow Hal

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

The Farrelly Brothers, known for shattering the good taste barrier with gross-out comedies like “There’s Something About Mary” and “Dumb and Dumber” have taken a couple of giant, if uncertain, steps toward the mainstream with a fairly conventional romantic comedy. It even has an undeniably sweet moral. If you’ve ever seen one of their movies, you know that “moral” is not the first word that comes to mind, unless you could say that the moral of “There’s Something About Mary” is that guys should be very careful when they zip up their pants and girls should watch what they put in their hair. But here the moral is that true beauty is seen with the heart, not the eyes (short pause for everyone to say, “Awwwwwww”).

Hal (Jack Black) and his best friend Mauricio (Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander) are two pudgy guys who insist on women with absolute physical perfection. We see why Hal feels that way in a brief prologue from his childhood. His dying father, a minister, tells him that the one thing for him to remember is that “hot young tail is what it’s all about” and he should “never settle for average.” Even though Hal grows up to be a pretty nice guy who is good at his job, when it comes to women, he is undeniably shallow.

Then he and infomercial star Anthony Robbins (playing himself) get stuck in an elevator together, and Robbins gives Hal a gift — from now on, Hal will see people the way they are, not the way they look. Suddenly, all around him are gorgeous girls who are very interested in him. They’re interested in him because he thinks they are beautiful, and he thinks they are beautiful because they are kind, generous, beautiful people. Mauricio is horrified, especially when Hal falls for Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), who volunteers at the local hospital and works for the Peace Corps. Mauricio looks at her and sees a hugely obese woman. Hal looks at her and sees — Gwyneth Paltrow.

Black is one of my favorite comic performers. His performance was the best part of “High Fidelity” and he made “Saving Silverman” almost worthwhile. His speciality is a sort of frenzied but charming energy, and unfortunately, this movie does not give him much opportunity to show it off. Paltrow has some nice moments as Rosemary. She makes us see the vulnerability of a woman who has felt humiliatingly invisible all her life. But one problem with the movie is that instead of the characters themselves being funny, the jokes in the movie happen around them. A bigger problem is that almost all of the jokes are in the commercial and coming attraction. Black and Paltrow do the best they can, but there just is not enough comic energy at the core of the movie.

Some Farelly trademarks make it into the movie, including a disabled character (athlete Rene Kirby, who has spina bifida) and a bizarre physical aberration. But overall, it seems as though it is something of a transitional film for the Farrellys, enjoyable on its own and as a suggestion of better things to come.

Parents should know that the movie has very strong language for a PG-13, especially the sexual references. Characters drink, and several scenes are set at a bar/nightclub. The overall theme of the movie is the importance of judging people based on their behavior, not their looks. Robbins explains that Black is not hypnotized now — he was hypnotized before, when he thought that all of the television and movie images of beauty were what mattered. Some viewers may feel that the movie itself makes fun of people who do not fit current standards of beauty. A disabled character is treated with complete naturalness — he is by no means perfect (because he gets around on all fourts, he tells girls he recognizes them by their panties), but he is good-hearted and respected.

Families who see this movie should talk about what we look at and what we look for when we meet people. If we saw the way Hal does, who would be the most beautiful person you know? How would you look? Would you like to see people the way Hal does?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Outside Providence based on a book by Peter Farrelly.

Shaft

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

This movie gets four stars just for coolness. Samuel L. Jackson, the Armani leather coat, and the Oscar-winning theme song are a match made in heaven, and it is just plain summer-popcorn-movie fun to see them all work it together.

This Shaft goes back further than the original Shaft movie to the days of the cool, ironic, been-there, seen-that, but still a man of integrity at heart characters that Humphrey Bogart played in movies like “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Big Sleep,” and before that to the sagas of knights and quests and damsels in distress. They will always be outsiders, cleaning up the messes of the insiders, and they will always be stronger, smarter, and more loyal than the people they help. They are always too honest to be able to get along with anyone. Even the law enforcers have to cut too many corners and they never pick the right corners to cut.

What made the original “Shaft” so galvanizing was the notion of a black man in this role, a man who wasn’t trying to impress Spencer Tracy or Rod Steiger as Sidney Poitier was doing in mainstream Hollywood movies of that era. He was not trying to get what whites had. He was completely satisfied living within the black world, and he would take on even a white man who threatened it. In movie terms, he was Malcolm X to Poitier’s Martin Luther King. This was deeply threatening, but deeply exciting, too.

And it was new in a way it can never be new again. The challenge was creating a new version that would be just as electrifying although it was released in a different environment.

Director John Singleton, whose “Furious” character in “Boyz N the Hood” shared a lot of Shaft’s outlook, has updated the movie and the character. This is a story about the nephew of the original Shaft (played again in this movie by Richard Roundtree), who is so far from his private detective uncle’s commitment to independence that he is a policeman. But when a corrupt system lets a rich racist murderer jump bail, Shaft throws his badge at the judge like a ninja weapon and goes out on the street to see that justice is done.

The script is uneven and filled with holes, showing evidence of reported on-set disagreements between the producer, director, and star. Reportedly, too, Jeffrey Wright’s performance as drug dealer Peoples Hernandez was so exciting that the movie was reworked to give him more screen time. That is easy to believe, because he is electrifying. That contributes, however, to the difficulty in managing all the plot threads. Efforts to bring the two bad guys together, the Dominican drug dealer and the preppy racist (Christian Bale) may provide some interesting moments, especially when the drug dealer starts networking in a holding cell, asking the preppy for his business card, but it slows the story down.

But Singleton knows that when things waver, all he has to do is cut back to Jackson and the theme song to keep the audience happy, and it works remarkably well.

Parents should know that there is incessant use of the f-word and graphic violence, including self-inflicted ice-pick wounds and lots of punching and shooting. A character is blatantly racist and another is a drug dealer. Especially troubling is a conclusion that is surprisingly supportive of vigilante-style solutions, despite indications that even Shaft believes that this time the system will result in justice.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Shaft knows when to follow the rules and when to break them, and what would happen if someone with a less perfectly honed sense of justice were to break as many rules (and noses) as Shaft does.

People who like this movie might enjoy seeing the original to compare the way that different directors, different times, and different budgets change the way the story is told.

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