Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Believe Me
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

Tracks
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
Release Date:
June 27, 2014

The Boxtrolls
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

 

Neighbors
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2002

The story behind this film is as remarkable as the film itself. Actress/writer Nia Vardalos created a one-woman show about her Greek family and their response when she married a man who wasn’t Greek. Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson (who is Greek) saw the show and decided to make it into a movie with Nia playing herself.

You’ll fall in love with Vardalos and her family, too. The family is an irresistible force and she is just plain irresistible.

In the movie, Vardalos plays Toula, the shy, plain daughter of a loving but overpowering Greek family. Her father, Gus (Michael Constantine), can prove that any word originally goes back to a Greek source, even “kimono.” Dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins, who all seem to be named Nick, are constantly involved in the most personal details of each other’s lives. And, in a tradition that goes back to ancient Greek mythology, there is a sense of fate and determinism that leaves Toula feeling that her life has been mapped out for her. Her family believes that Greek girls are here to marry Greek boys, have Greek babies, and cook a lot of Greek food. In the unlikely event that they do not get married, they are expected to work in the family business, in her case, a Greek restaurant.

But Toula dreams of more, and with the help of her mother and her aunt, manages to have Gus thinking that it is his idea to have her go back to school and get another job – in her aunt’s travel agency.

This small change means a lot, and Toula begins not just to bloom, but to glow. She attracts the attention of Ian, a handsome teacher (“Sex in the City’s” John Corbett). She is a reluctant to have him meet her family, and there are certain cultural adjustments involved, but it all works out and the title event is squarely in the happily-ever-after tradition.

Vardalos and director Joel Zwick balance the specifics of the Greek-American culture with the transcendent universalities of family dynamics. Vardalos and Corbett have a believable sweetness with each other. The movie is riotously funny but heart-catchingly touching and it will make you want to go back and hug everyone you are related to.

Parents should know that there is a non-graphic sexual situation, but it is clear that Toula and Ian wait until they are really committed before going to bed together. Characters drink (Ian’s parents are introduced to powerful Greek Ouzo).

Families who see this movie should talk about why Toula has a hard time telling her family how she feels. How does this family compare to others that you know or have seen in other movies, or to your own? Does your family have a combination of ethnic cultures, and what are some of the issues that have come up in meshing them?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy some other family cultural clashes in Moonstruck (some mature material) and Flower Drum Song.

Mr. Deeds

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

I may be too old for Adam Sandler movies, but it seems to me that he’s getting too old for them, too.

Sandler really brings out my “Mom” side – I want to tell him to stand up straight, stop dressing like a slob, and start living up to his potential. His movies are one-sentence concepts plus cheap shots and middle-school-style body part jokes to fill out the rest of the 90 minutes. This time, he didn’t even come up with his own one-sentence concept. Instead he lifted one from a genuine Depression era movie classic starring Gary Cooper, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.” Then he took out all of the wit and warmth (and the point) and substituted jokes about getting hit on the head, getting hit in the genitals, snapping off the arm of a frozen dead body, getting stabbed in the foot, physical deformity, and getting hit in the throat.

Sandler can’t be bothered to move on from the 1980’s, which still serves as his touchstone for comic references (like John McEnroe). As with the courtroom scene of Big Daddy, Sandler could also not be bothered to spend five minutes asking a few questions about annual shareholder meetings actually work, thus making the situations more ludicrous than humorous.

As in the original, the main character is a small-town guy named Longfellow Deeds who writes poems for greeting cards and is kind to his neighbors. Deeds unexpectedly inherits a fortune. (It was $20 million in the original, now $40 billion in the remake.) So, he goes to the big city, where an unscrupulous reporter named Babe (Jean Arthur in the original, Winona Ryder in the remake) pretends to be a damsel in distress to get close enough to him so that she can write stories about what an idiot he is.

Sandler’s “I’m just a sweet guy who likes dumb jokes” routine is getting tired, and apparently so is he – he looks puffy and uninterested in many of the scenes and oddly uncomfortable when called upon to kiss his leading lady. Ryder is far classier than the material, as are supporting stalwarts John Turturro, Conchatta Farrell, and Steve Buscemi. The other supporting actors range from bland to incompetent, including the obviously uncomfortable John McEnroe.

Parents should know that the movie has extremely vulgar humor and strong language for a PG-13.

Families who see this movie should talk about what they would do if they inherited $40 billion, how childhood dreams turn into adult realities, and how the media covers celebrities.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Sandler’s best films, The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy. All families should see the classic original film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and talk about whether ideas about money were different during the Depression than they are now.

Moonlight Mile

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

Minority Report

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

It is fifty years from now, in Washington, D.C., where familiar landmarks like the Washington Monument are surrounded by vertical highways and where computers in The Gap not only recognize you when you walk in the door but remember what you bought the last time you were there.

John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is a top detective in an experimental “pre-crime” unit. An experimental program wires the brains of genetically altered “precogs” (short for “precognition”) to computers that display their glimpses of the future. Anderton stands before the display like he is conducting a symphony and directs the images so that he can find the perpetrators before they kill. There is no way to know if everyone who is arrested under this program would in fact have become a murderer, but the fact is that since the program has been in place, there has not been a single murder in Washington. It has been so successful that it may be expanded to the whole country.

Anderton only feels alive when he is stopping a crime. When he is not at work, he numbs himself with drugs and watches his old home movies. He was so devastated by the abduction and probable murder of his son that his marriage fell apart. The only feeling he allows himself to feel is the satisfaction that he is sparing others from the agonizing pain that he has suffered. And then the precogs’ next vision identifies Anderton himself as the next killer. He has to run, and as he is running he has to figure out how you prove that you are not going to commit murder.

As with Blade Runner, also based on a story by Philip K. Dick, this is a very traditional noir-ish detective plot set in an ominous future where the apparent ease created by technology has overtaken human individuality. How much privacy and justice would you be willing to give up to bring the murder rate down to zero? Anderton finds that it is less than he thought.

The three precogs are named for mystery novel greats: Agatha, Arthur, and Dashiell (for Christie, Conan Doyle, and Hammett). They turn out to be the result of an experiment that went wrong. The most striking scene in the movie is Alderton’s meeting with the scientist who created them (a brilliant performance by Lois Smith). This is yet another tradition of movies – and before movies, fairy tales and sagas, as the hero makes a journey through thickets of plants to the isolated home of the wise person who will give him the answers he needs to help him solve the mystery. These creatures who can predict the future were ironically the product of a scientist who never anticipated the direction her experiment would take. Like Odin, Anderton must give up his eyes to find wisdom; it is only when he literally sees through someone else’s eyes that he can understand what he is seeing.

The movie is visually stunning, with brilliantly staged action sequences and vividly realized characters. Colin Farrell is mesmerizing as Anderton’s rival and Ingmar Bergman star Max von Sydow brings great depth to his role as Anderton’s boss.

Parents should know that the movie has some graphic violence, including sci-fi shooting, fist-fights, brutal and graphic murders, and suicides. Anderton abuses illegal drugs. We see a flashback of his son’s abduction. The movie also has some gross and grisly visuals, particularly when Anderton has his eyes replaced as a way of avoiding the retinal scans that the police use to track everyone’s whereabouts.

Families who see this movie should talk about how it relates to the challenges our FBI and CIA are facing right now in interrogating and imprisoning possible terrorists. Is it worth violating the rights of some innocent people in order to prevent another terrorist attack? How would Anderton answer that question at the beginning of the movie, and how would he answer it at the end? What about the rights of the precogs? Is it fair to ask them to give up any kind of normal life if it will prevent people from being killed? Families should also talk about Anderton’s inability to come to terms with the loss of his son. How do people go on after devastating losses? And they should talk about their own notions of what life will be like half a century from now.

Families who enjoy this movie might like to take a look at Spielberg’s other movie about the future, A.I. Critics and audiences were not enthusiastic about this collaboration with Stanley Kubrick (“2001″), but it makes an interesting companion piece to “Minority Report.” Families will enjoy Spielberg’s more successful movies about contact with extraterrestrials Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. They may also want to try Blade Runner.

Previous Posts

Believe Me
Will Bakke has followed his two thought-provoking documentaries on faith with a remarkably smart, funny, brave, and heartfelt first feature film that explores religion and values without ever falling

posted 11:06:16am Sep. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Gone Girl's Rosamund Pike
Rosamund Pike delivers a stunning breakthrough performance in this week's "Gone Girl." She's been a favorite of mine for a long time, for her elegant voice and precise acting choices. It's a good

posted 8:00:23am Sep. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Telling Time in "All That Jazz"
One of my favorite writers provides insights into one of my favorite (if flawed) movies -- Matt Zoller Seitz created a beautiful video essay about Bob Fosse's autobiographical "All That Jazz" for the Criterion Edition, and then they were unable to use it due to rights problems with the movie clips h

posted 3:19:48pm Sep. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Tomorrow on PBS: The Makers: Comedy
Be sure to tune in to PBS tomorrow night for what is sure to be one of the highlights from one of the all-time best series on PBS: "The Makers," the story of women in America.  Tomorrow's episode is about women in comedy. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHxHMgSF7UI[/youtube]

posted 8:00:45am Sep. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Tomorrow on HBO: "The Fifty Year Argument" -- Scorsese on The New York Review of Books
Once upon a time, there was no internet. And instead of bloggers and pundits and tweets we had something called public intellectuals, people who read widely, thought deeply, and wrote long, passionate, carefully reasoned, thoroughly documented and beautifully written articles about the important is

posted 3:59:26pm Sep. 28, 2014 | read full post »


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