Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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The Wrecking Crew
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for language, thematic elements and smoking images
Release Date:
March 27. 2015

 

The Imitation Game
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

Home
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
March 27, 2015

 

Wild
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language
Release Date:
December 5, 2014

Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Secret Ocean 3D
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
March 20, 2015

 

Interstellar
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some intense perilous action and brief strong language
Release Date:
November 7, 2014

Howl’s Moving Castle

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2005

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones seems especially suitable for adaptation by Hayao Miyazaki because it has many of his favorite themes. The central character is a young girl who shows determination and loyalty when she is brought into a world of strange and magical characters, many of whom appear oddly remote. She faces challenges that teach her that she is more capable and loving and deserving of love than she knew. And it has the kinds of settings that Miyazaki loves to illustrate, with intricate mechanical devices, characters who are transformed or disguised, and shifts of angles and planes that show off his gift for vertiginous perspectives.

The story is about a girl who is transformed into an old woman by a witch whose spell prevents her from even telling anyone what happened. So, she becomes the cleaning lady for a mysterious wizard who lives in a magical castle that flies from one place to another.

It turns out she is not the only one who is not what she seems. A graceful but silent scarecrow, a wheezing dog, a little boy, the wizard, and even the wicked witch will all have unexpected transformations as they try to escape from the order of the king, who wants all magicians to help him fight a war.

There are some gorgeous visuals,a lush field of flowers, a charming town, and the endlessly inventive castle, which moves along on chicken feet. But like the title character, it seems to be missing a heart. The characters are reserved and distant, and they tolerate, even seem to expect a level of disengagement from enemies, friends, and even family that is disconcerting. The voice talents include Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, and Christian Bale, but they never mesh; it’s as though each is in a different movie. It is unsettling that the objects — a flame (voice of Billy Crystal), a scarecrow, even the machines seem to have more personality than the humans. Ultimately, it is easier to appreciate the movie than to be enchanted or engaged by it.

Parents should know that this movie includes battle violence and frequent peril and tense confrontations. Characters are transformed or disguised in forms that may be troubling to some in the audience. A character smokes a cigar. There is brief non-sexual nudity (tush) and implied off-screen nudity.

Families who see this movie should talk about the advantages and disadvantates Sophie finds in being old. Why does she change her mind about the witch?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. They should read the book and some of the other stories by Diana Wynne Jones. They will also enjoy the books of Lloyd Alexander, Brian Jaques, and Tamora Pierce.

March of the Penguins

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2005

In the coldest place on earth, the only place where it is safe to care for newborns is 70 miles from the only place to find food. And so, the Antarctic’s hardiest and most determined inhabitants, the emperor penguins, must march, trudge, waddle, and slide on their bellies, back and forth hundreds of miles to raise the next generation so that they can march in their turn.

This extraordinary documentary brings us inside the penguin community with footage of heart-stopping beauty and a story of poignancy, inspiration, and resilience. The purity of the setting — blue shadows on white ice, literally a world away from the soot and grime of modern life — lulls us so that for a moment we forget how unforgivingly brutal it is. The elegance and tenderness of the penguins beguiles us so that for a moment we forget how brave and resolute they are.

Every year, the penguins march 70 miles over the ice to their breeding ground, a place where the ice is so thick it will not crack under their weight as they stay long enough to hatch the eggs and raise the chicks until they are able to make the trek back to the water, where they can get food.

When they arrive at the breeding ground they have what can only be described as a mixer. Like hopeful eHarmony subscribers, they circulate nervously in search of a mate. It’s a very serious choice, as penguins are monogamous during each breeding season and the decision can literally make the difference between life and death.

As explained with warmth and sympathy by Morgan Freeman in voiceover narration, the couples share parenting duties from the very beginning. When the mother has laid her egg, she carefully hands it over — no, she foots it over — to the father, who gathers it under his feathers and huddles against the freezing winds with the other daddy penguins, taking turns at the center of the group, while the mothers, reduced to half of their pre-march bodyweight, trudge back the 70 miles to get some food for the family. Then, when Mom arrives back at the breeding ground just as the chick has been born and Dad is near starvation, it is his turn to trek back to the water again.

There are hazards along the way. Predators pick off some of the penguins, but the more serious challenges come from the near-lethal living conditions. Still, the elegant creatures persevere with touching grace and even tenderness.

This is a beautiful, touching, and inspiring film.

Parents should know that while the movie is rated G it may be upsetting to younger or more sensitive viewers. Life in Antarctica is extremely harsh and many of the penguins, including the babies, do not survive.

Families who see this movie should talk about what makes the penguins persevere and how they depend on each other to survive. What about the penguins is like human behavior? What is different?

Families who enjoy this movie can learn more about the emperor penguins and Antarctica, which is larger than Australia and the sub-continent of Europe, with 98 percent ice and 2 percent barren rock. They will also enjoy National Geographic and Discovery Channel documentaries and feature films like Two Brothers and The Story of the Weeping Camel.

The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D

posted by rkumar
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:PG
Movie Release Date:2005

This movie spends a lot of time and energy on the importance of dreams and imagination, delivering its message in both form and content. I wish it had spent a little more time and energy on the importance of structure, character, story, and depth.

Yes, of course dreams and imagination are necessary, but without focus and meaning they are cotton candy — a sweet delight for a moment until it melts away, leaving a sugar buzz and a sticky film on your teeth.

Dazzling effects and whimsical humor don’t make up for a flabby and uninspired story. It’s not a watered-down version of The Wizard of Oz; it’s a watered-down version of The Neverending Story, which itself teeters on the edge of being a watered-down version of The Wizard of Oz.

Max (Cayden Boyd) is a dreamy kid who keeps a notebook filled with stories about the characters he has imagined, including Sharkboy, a boy raised by sharks, and Lavagirl, who can shoot fire from her fingertips. Kids at school make fun of him and his practical-minded mother (Kristen Davis) reminds him to stick to reality: “Dreaming keeps you from seeing what’s right in front of you.”

But one day, what’s in front of Max is Sharkboy and Lavagirl in person. They come right into his schoolroom and tell him they need his help to save their home on Planet Drool, which is being attacked by Mr. Electric (George Lopez), his sidekick Minus, and an army of electric plugs. Max hops into their spaceship, and off they go.

The stars of the movie are real kids, not Hollywood kids. That means that they have a nice, unaffected quality, but it also means that they are not really actors. The real stars of the movie are the special effects, which are as much fun as a banana split (actually, one of the best really is a banana split). There are some charming ideas, like a real-life “Stream of Consciousness” but there is too much to see and not enough to think about. The people who made this movie should have taken the advice of Tobor the robot to “dream a better dream, a useful dream.”

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of mild peril and some action-style violence, including getting hit in the crotch and getting an electric shock (no guns and no one badly hurt). There is brief schoolyard language and some barfing and spitting. A strength of the movie is its positive portrayal of strong, capable female and minority characters who demonstrate loyalty and respect for each other.

Families who see this movie should talk about who was right, Max’s mother or father. Is there a way to make both happy? Why did the teacher say he was “an awakener?” How do teachers learn from their students? Families might want to talk about bullies and how to respond to them. And they should also think about keeping a journal like Max’s.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Neverending Story, Time Bandits, and Spy Kids and its sequels. They will appreciate the deliciously silly Captain Underpants series of books. Every family should read the wonderful The Phantom Tollbooth, which deals with many of the same issues as this movie. And every family should try Boomerang, the audio magazine for kids that inspires, amuses, and teaches kids about the world they live in.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for thematic elements, some sensuality and language.
Movie Release Date:2005

This is a story about one summer in the life of four friends, told with sincerity, heart, and a little bit of magic — the very same qualities that made the original book and its sequels a “you have to read this” classic for young girls.

Four 16-year-olds, friends since before birth, when their mothers met in a prenatal exercise class, are about to be separated for the summer for the first time ever. Just before they leave, they find a mysterious pair of blue jeans that somehow fit each of them perfectly, even though their sizes as shapes are as different as their personalities. They decide to share the pants as a way of sharing their experiences over the summer. As they mail the pants back and forth to each other, the jeans will help them share their stories and stay connected.

The first to wear the pants is shy artist Lena (Alexis Bledel of television’s Gilmore Girls) goes to Greece to visit her grandparents. On the island of Santorini she meets Kostas. Despite a multi-generation feud between their families — and a promise never to see him again, Lena and Kostas fall in love.

Outgoing and athletic Bridget (Blake Lively) goes to soccer camp. She thinks a romance with her handsome coach is what she needs to make up for the emptiness that she has felt since her mother died.

traveling pants.jpgAspiring writer Carmen (America Ferrera of Real Women Have Curves) goes to South Carolina to see her father (Bradley Whitford), who did not tell her that he was living with a woman (Nancy Travis) with two children and planning to get married.

And rebellious would-be film-maker Tibby (Amber Tamblyn of television’s Joan of Arcadia) stays home, working at a huge discount store called Wallman’s and trying to make a movie about how bleak and meaningless everything is. She meets a girl named Bailey (Jenna Boyd) who becomes her film crew.

Each of the girls wears the pants and sends them on to the next with a letter. As they all try on new experiences and emotions and feel a little lost and vulnerable, the pants and their friendship keeps them feeling close and supported.

What takes this above the level of the average something-for-everyone collection of stories with a group hug at the end is its willingness to keep things a little complicated and messy instead of tying everything up neatly into the TV-style resolutions most people think are required in stories for young audiences.

Characters make real mistakes, not cute flubs that are either quickly corrected or happy accidents that work out even better than the original plan. Some characters learn lessons and change their minds or their behavior, but others do not. Some wounds are healed and some of what is lost is found, but some not. This is more reassuring, rather than less, because in our hearts even kids know that is true; all endings are not happy. It is good to see how people handle that — and can even be enlarged by it.

The film benefits, too, from sensitive and committed performances by its five young stars (including the precociously centered Boyd, a real presence on screen here as she was in the otherwise awful Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star). They make us believe in the connection between very different characters. It’s almost possible to think of them as different aspects of the same adolescent — shy and bold, thoughtful and impulsive, cynical and hopeful. Together, like the movie itself and like those magical Levis, they are more than the sum of their parts.

Parents should know that there is a subtle reference to a sexual encounter [spoilers alert] that one of the characters initiates but later considers a mistake. This is handled sensitively and responsibly. The same is true of other difficult issues the characters must face, including the suicide of a parent, a difficult adjustment to a divorced parent’s re-marriage, and a very sad death.

Families who see this movie should talk about what makes such different girls such loyal and devoted friends? What are the most important lessons each one of them learns over the summer? Why don’t the pants fit Bailey? Families should talk about why this movie does not try to give everyone a happy ending or even an ending at all. Why was Bridget so wrong about what she thought would make her feel less lonely? How did her mistake help her to share her feelings with her friends in a way she could not before? What could Carmen have done to try to get to know her father’s new family better?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy The Baby Sitters Club. And, of course, they should read the bookand its sequels. They might also enjoy a different kind of story about a magical piece of clothing shared by a disparate group of people in a life-changing series of adventures, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.

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The Wrecking Crew
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