Movie Mom

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

 

Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 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

Pay it Forward

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

A child challenged to change the world comes up with a plan. He will do three important favors for people who need them. Then, instead of allowing them to pay it back, he will ask each of them to “pay it forward,” doing three favors for other people, and asking them to do the same. One character describes it as a “Mother Theresa conga line.” The principle is the same as multi-level-marketing, except that instead of soap or vitamins, it’s “generosity between strangers” that is being passed on exponentially.

Trevor has every reason to believe that life is harsh and painful. His parents are alcoholics and his father is either absent or abusive. He walks into school every day through a metal detector. Outside his classroom window is an endless expanse of desert. And his mother works two jobs in a city filled with despair, Las Vegas.

But Eugene encourages his students to “backflip” the world into something better. He does not expect much — maybe a clean-up of some graffiti. But he gets Trevor’s utopian idea.

If that theme appeals to you and you’d like to see three of the finest actors ever put on film, then you are the audience for this movie. If it sounds syrupy, go see something else. As for me, I’m in the first category, and my heart was happily warmed and my tears happily jerked.

Trevor, the 7th grader who comes up with the idea, is played by Haley Joel Osment, nominated for an Oscar last year for his performance in “The Sixth Sense.” Again, he shows us an extraordinary child, wise and sensitive beyond his years because of what he has had to face, but still completely believeable as an 11-year-old. Helen Hunt is heartbreaking as Arlene, a recovering alcoholic with a history of loss and abuse. And Kevin Spacey is breathtaking in a role that is a departure from the tough and wily guys he played in “The Usual Suspects,” “Wiseguy,” “Swimming with the Sharks,” and “L.A. Confidential.” He plays middle school teacher Eugene Simonet, scarred inside and out. One of Trevor’s favors is to bring Eugene and Arlene together, though it turns out that is is not just to make them happier.

Arlene and Eugene put all of their effort into making sure they do not get hurt again until they learn that it is risking hurt that makes us alive. Trevor’s idea does not always work, but when it does, people are transformed, not by the favors others do for them as much as by the favors they do for the next people in the chain. We get a glimpse of its impact as the story is interwoven with scenes four months into the future, as a reporter tries to track down the source of the mysterious acts of generosity.

Parents should know that there is some strong language, and characters abuse alcohol and drugs, including heroin and marijuana. There are references to the most severe domestic abuse. There are some fights, one resulting in mortal injury. A character attempts suicide. Another shoots his gun, though no one is injured. There is some strong language. A character dies tragically. There are sexual references, including references to having to be drunk to have sex and there is a discreet sexual situation. Scenes take place in a tawdry Las Vegas setting with skimpy clothing and strippers. A character’s burn scars may be upsetting. Pre-teens and teen-agers may be especially concerned by the violence that occurs at a school, despite the metal-detectors kids walk through as they enter.

Families should talk about the pay it forward idea. Would it work? What favors would family members like to do? Why is “routine” so important to Eugene? Why do we see him ironing his shirt twice in the movie? Why do we see Eugene sitting at a student’s desk when he talks to Trevor? Why does Trevor say that “it has to be hard?” Families should also talk about Trevor’s comment that the most important thing is watching people, paying attention to things they may not even know they need. Some families will also want to dicuss whether there is a religious allusion in the death of one character.

Families who enjoy this movie will also like “Magnificent Obsession” and “Field of Dreams.”

Passion of Mind

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

This is the movie equivalent of a juicy beach book, an old-fashioned guilty pleasure chick flick.

The plot is “Sliding Doors” crossed with the fairy tale of the dancing princesses with a touch of “Truly Madly Deeply.” Demi Moore plays a woman with two lives: Marty, a successful New York career woman and Marie, an American widow living in the French countryside with her two daughters. Every night, when Marty goes to sleep, she dreams of Maria’s life in France, and when Marie goes to sleep, she becomes Marty in New York. Both wonder which is real, and each is afraid to find out.

The two lives echo each other, and each seems to provide something missing in the other. But one thing is missing in both – love. Marty meets Aaron (William Fitchner) and Marie meets William (Stellan Skarsgård).

Both relationships begin with conflict. Marty confronts Aaron for capitulating to a client’s request to settle a lot of money on an unfaithful spouse and Marie has given a bad review to William’s book. Both men are completely captivated by the elusive woman/women. And both courtships are rapturously romantic – this movie has two of the all-time great movie boyfriends.

At first, the two storylines provide counterpoint. One relationship becomes physically intimate. The other becomes emotionally intimate because she tells him of her double life. Then both relationships deepen and the two lives begin to provide some resolution for one another. Items from one life begin turning up in the other. She begins to understand that she can take what she needs from her dreams and make it work in real life.

It is very schmaltzy. But I found myself beguiled by its unabashed romanticism. There are some nice subtle touches – the clusters of hats, Marty’s relationship with her therapist, Marie’s relationships with her daughters and her confidant – and the resolution has some psychological validity, at least in movie terms.

Parents should know that the movie has sexual references and situations (frank but not graphic), some strong language, and smoking and drinking.

Families who see the movie will want to talk about the way that people consciously and subconsciously work through unresolved issues, and the way that opening oneself up to being known by someone else can seem scary. If your real-life self had a dream life, what would it be?

Families who enjoy this movie will like “Truly Madly Deeply” and a Bette Davis oldie, “A Stolen Life.”

Panic Room

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

This thriller, in the claustrophobic mode of “Rear Window”, finds Meg (Jodie Foster), a recent divorcee, and her combative daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart), trapped in the secret vault/bomb shelter/safe room set up by their apartment’s previous owner, a paranoid millionaire with a squabbling family. The least favorite cousin, Junior (Jared Leto), has broken into the apartment with the help of security expert Burnham (Forest Whitaker) and tag-along psycho Raoul (Dwight Yoakam). The bad guys want in to the vault, where the old millionaire hid his millions. The girls just want to get out, but the protected phone line inside the room hasn’t been activated yet (they just moved in).

This is not a movie about insight into the human condition or subtle, complex characters. This is just a movie about scaring the heck out of you, and it does that very expertly.

Jodie Foster’s inner mama tiger takes over and escalates as the burglars take more and more drastic steps to try and enter the impregnable vault, and Kristen Stewart moves from being a tough, sullen teen to a tough, sullen, wily teen. On the outside, Forest Whitaker gets to play the good bad guy, while Mr. Leto and Mr. Yoakam act progressively more evil.

For a story which should have been a claustrophobic battle of wits, too often it’s simply a battle of violence, although there are some riveting action sequences. And while the family dynamics are underdeveloped, the film does show how divorced parents and their children can remain a family even after separation.

Parents should know that the movie has extreme suspense and some graphic violence. A child is in peril. Characters use strong language.

Families who see this movie should discuss what the characters do to escalate the level of violence, and how acting from emotions as opposed to reason can aggravate problems, no matter how satisfying it may seem at the time. Divorced families will be especially interested in Sarah’s father, who has in no way abandoned his daughter.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the director’s other movies (very mature material), “Seven” and “Fight Club.”

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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

The Coen brothers’ latest is based in part on the Odyssey (a prologue credits the story to Homer). But its title comes from that most sublime of Preston Sturges classic comedies, “Sullivan’s Travels,” made in 1941. The title character is a successful director of silly comedies (like “Hey Hey in the Hayloft”), but he wants to make a serious movie about the Depression, and he wants to call it — “O Brother Where Art Thou.” That movie never got made, until now. But in sly Coen brothers fashion (these are the guys behind “Fargo” and “Barton Fink”), this movie has as much to do with “Hey Hey in the Hayloft” as it does with Sullivan’s vision of a penetrating dissection of the lot of the laborer.

Like the Odyssey, this is the story of a man named Ulysses who is trying to get home to his wife (here called Penny instead of Penelope) before she marries one of her suitors. There are other echoes to that classic saga, from a blind seer who predicts that they will not find the treasure they seek to a one-eyed villain and three singing sirens to distract the travelers from their journey.

But this Ulysses is no war hero from ancient Greece. It is America during the Depression, and Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) is a prisoner on a chain gang in Mississippi. He persuades the two men chained to him, Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) to esape with him so they can get a hidden treasure. They have to get to it right away because the area will be flooded in two weeks as part of a project to bring electricity to the community.

They make their way home, meeting up with an assortment of oddball characters, including bank-robbing legend George “Babyface” Nelson. They get some money by singing for a man who records bluegrass. They cross paths with two bitter opponents in an upcoming election for governor. The incumbent is Governor Menelaus “Pass the Biscuits” Pappy O’Daniel (Charles Durning). He and his cronies all have huge bellies, with pants that reach to their chests to be held by suspenders. O’Daniel’s opponent, Homer Stokes, is selling himself as a man of the little people who wants to clean house, and he makes campaign appearances with a midget and a broom to show that he means it.

McGill and his friends do their best to evade the sheriff and make their way home, amidst washed-out landscapes. As always, the Coen brothers present an array of quirky characters with astonishing faces, closer to gargoyles and caricatures than to the usual Hollywood smooth prettiness. Delmar’s lashless, lipless, neckless head makes him look like a fetus or an alien. O’Daniel almost looks like a biscuit, instead of a man who’s just eaten too many of them.

And there is the offbeat dialogue — when Delmar, just baptized, says he has been saved by Jesus and a black guitar player says he just sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads, McGill replies, “Well, I guess I’m the only one who remains unaffiliated.” He also explains that “It’s a fool who looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.” McGill is passionately devoted to a hair pommade called “Dapper Dan’s,” and spends a lot of time making sure his hair is just right, completely ignoring any other aspect of hygiene or appearance.

This is a lighter story than many of the Coens’ previous movies, which makes it easy to forgive the parts that don’t work very well, especially when we have the pleasure of the year’s finest soundtrack, sheer bluegrass joy.

Parents should know that the movie has some mild language and some incidents reflecting the racism of its setting, including a KKK rally and attempted lynching.

Families who see the movie should talk about its origins in the greatest of all epics, and how that story has endured. They might also want to talk about the symbolism of fire and water throughout the movie (notice the way that the sheriff’s dark glasses always reflect fire).

Families who enjoy this movie should see “Sullivan’s Travels” and compare the two, especially the scenes in both where the prisoners watch a movie. Families will also enjoy other Sturges classics like “The Lady Eve” and “The Palm Beach Story.”

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