Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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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

 

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

Boyhood
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use
Release Date:
July 18, 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

Planes: Fire & Rescue
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action and some peril
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

Max Keeble’s Big Move

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2001

I smiled a couple of times and can even say I enjoyed myself, but this is clearly a movie that no adult will ever be able to get the way a kid does. An adult is going to sit there and say, “Wait a minute! Why doesn’t he just tell his parents?” or “No principal ever acted like that!” But a kid knows that none of that matters, any more than it mattered that no kid could ever string up the booby traps of “Home Alone.” This movie is just for fun, and it fits the bill.

Max Keeble (Alex D. Lindz) is filled with hope on his first day of middle school, but things just refuse to go right. The school bully, who telegraphs each day’s victim by emblazoning the name on his t-shirt, has selected Max as his starting point. His dream girl is a foot taller than he is and barely knows who he is. The animal shelter near the school is about to be shut down. An evil ice cream truck driver is after him. When Max finds out that his family is going to move to Chicago in just two days he is angry and sad until it occurs to him that this presents an opportunity for revenge without consequences. Before anyone can catch up with him, he’ll be gone. Max and his friends Megan (Zena Gray) and “Robe” (Josh Peck) set up a variety of pranks and enjoy them very much. But then it turns out that Megan and Robe do not have the “plausible deniability” Max promised. And that Max is not moving after all.

Kids all around me laughed happily at the slapstick humor, especially the scenes with the evil principal, Mr. Jindraike (Larry Miller) and the cafeteria food fight. They loved seeing the school’s two bullies (one throws kids in the dumpster, one takes their money) get their just desserts. Lindz has a lot of personality and he keeps us rooting for Max.

Parents should know that the movie has some crude humor, including a jockstrap, vomit, whacking someone in a sensitive area, and some schoolyard language. Kids do foolish and dangerous things, including riding a bicycle down cement steps, sucking helium, breaking into school at night, putting chemicals into a character’s breath spray, and operating machinery. Kids are harassed by bullies in various ways, including a “swirlie.” One of the bullies is black, but so is the friendly manager of the animal shelter.

Families should talk about why some kids act like bullies and why other kids let them. Some adults can act like bullies, too. The movie makes it clear that Max’s father has to learn how to deal with a bullying boss. What is the best way to respond to a bully? When should you ask adults for help? The janitor tells Max that “any kid can make a mess — it takes a man to clean it up.” And Max tells the kids that they should not bully the bullies when they get the chance because that would make them bullies, too. Families may want to discuss this in light of America’s consideration of the response to terrorism.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Harriet the Spy and Spy Kids.

Mask

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:PG-13
Movie Release Date:March 8, 1985

Plot: This is based on the true story of Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz), a teenager with a genetic defect that turned his face into a huge “mask” of bone. As the movie begins, Rocky and his mother Rusty (Cher) go to his new school, where the principal tells them Rocky cannot enroll. Rusty pulls out a file of paperwork and the name of her “lawyer”; she has been through this many times before. Rocky is enrolled. Then he is examined by a new doctor, who advises him sympathetically that he cannot expect to live more than three to six months. Rocky and Rusty have heard that before, too; they tell the doctor he has already outlived all previous predictions.

Rocky does very well in school, and the principal suggests that he become a counselor’s aide at a summer camp for the blind. There he meets Diana (Laura Dern) and has his first romance. They have a lovely time together, but her parents disapprove of the relationship.

Back at home, Rocky is getting impatient with Rusty. He is disappointed when she is not able to maintain a relationship with former boyfriend Gar (Sam Elliott), and loses patience with her alcohol and drug abuse. For him, she cleans up. Maybe it is because she knows at some level that he is nearing the end, and she wants him to die knowing that she will be all right.

Discussion: This is not a typical “disease of the week” movie about someone triumphing over adversity. It is a far more complex and moving story about two people who love and care for and about each other. Rusty does not work, lives on the fringes of society, uses drugs and abuses alcohol, and is sexually indiscriminate. Though in other aspects of her life she is completely irresponsible, even dissolute, with Rocky she is the ideal of maternal strength and commitment. And Rocky is a source of strength for her, too, acting almost as her parent, trying to help her do better and (mostly) forgiving her when she fails.

The movie has several exceptionally touching moments. Rocky tries to teach Diana about colors by using her other senses, giving her a frozen rock to touch to feel “blue.” Rocky peers into a funhouse mirror, and gets a glimpse of his features, distorted into what they might have been had he been “normal.” And, moved by Rocky’s academic triumph, a tough-looking biker named “Dozer” (for Bulldozer) reveals the real reason for his silence when he stutters so thickly he can barely get out the words of congratulation. The movie shows us over and over again that it is not about an “abnormal” boy in a normal world, but about a real boy in a world where everyone is different. As he says, “I look weird, but otherwise I’m real normal.”

Rocky has some interesting ways of coping with his problems. He has his version of Pollyanna’s “Glad Game,” using happy memories to help him through hard times. And his mother, who herself uses drugs, helps him manage his headaches without drugs by “talking them away.”

Questions for Kids:

· What do you think of the way that Rocky tries to show Diana what colors look like? If you were going to try to explain colors to a blind person, what would you do? What tastes, smells, touches and sounds would you use to give a blind person the feelings of red, yellow, blue, pink, green?

· Why don’t Diana’s parents want her to see Rocky? Does that surprise you? How do Rocky and Rusty take care of each other? Give some examples. Why is Rusty better at taking care of Rocky than she is at taking care of herself?

· Were you surprised by the tenderness of the bikers? In what way were they like a family?

· In what ways is it harder for Rocky to resolve his feelings of teenage rebellion than it would be for you?

· What do you think will happen to Rusty after the movie ends?

Connections: Families might also like to see actor Eric Stoltz without his “mask,” as John Brooke in “Little Women.” And mature high schoolers may appreciate “The Elephant Man,” another true story of a man with a facial disfigurement who enlarges the understanding and compassion of those who get to know him.

Activities: Teenagers who see this movie might like to try helping out in a facility for the handicapped, as Rocky did at the summer camp.

Major Barbara

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:1941

Plot: Major Barbara (Wendy Hiller) is a member of a mission devoted to saving souls, and she promotes temperance, non-violence, and socialism. Adolphus Cusins (Rex Harrison), a classics professor, falls in love with her, but before she accepts his proposal, she insists that he must meet her family. He is surprised to find out that she is the daughter of a wealthy industrialist.

Her father, Andrew Undershaft (Robert Morley), a munitions manufacturer, returns to the family after an absence of many years. He tries to convert Barbara to his views by presenting her with an ethical dilemma. Will she accept large contributions to her mission from the makers of munitions and liquor, the very things she opposes? She cannot, and is disillusioned but understanding when her superior accepts the funds, reasoning that despite their source, the money will do some good.

Barbara visits the munitions factory and sees that her father is right about capitalism. It does not mean much when someone accepts her views in order to get food and shelter. But if she can persuade people simply by the force of her ideas, those are converts worth having. Furthermore, she can aid the poor by providing good jobs, good wages, and good benefits. Her father says that being a millionaire is his religion. Christianity is Barbara’s religion, but she will pursue it through capitalism.

Discussion: More directly political than “Pygmalion,” this provides a good opportunity for a discussion of what is now termed “corporate social responsibility,” and the role of the government, the church, and the corporation in meeting society’s needs.

Questions for Kids:

· How socially responsible should corporations be? How should they balance the interests of employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers, and the community?

· Who is in a better position to help society, government, religion, or business? Which kinds of help are each uniquely able to provide?

Connections: Robert Morley, age 32 when this movie was made, was only four years older than the actress who played his daughter. A very young Deborah Kerr appears as Jenny Hill, and Emelyn Williams, author of the autobiographical “The Corn is Green,” appears as Snobby Price. Wendy Hiller, picked by Shaw himself to appear in this movie and “Pygmalion,” also appears in “A Man for All Seasons” and “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Playwright and co-screenwriter Shaw was one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant writers, well known as a dramatist, essayist, critic, and social reformer. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925. His play, “Pygmalion” (also filmed with Wendy Hiller) became the musical “My Fair Lady.” Among the many pleasures of his work are the superb female characters — strong, intelligent, and principled.

Activities: Teenagers may want to read or even act out some of Shaw’s other plays, including “The Man of Destiny,” “Misalliance,” “Caesar and Cleopatra,” and “Arms and the Man,” and will also enjoy his essays and criticism.

Lucky Numbers

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

A message to those of you who might be considering larceny, fraud, or murder — it’s much, much more complicated than it seems. Unfortunately, the people who are not smart enough to figure that out are the people who think that it might make sense to, for example, inject paint into the number balls that they use to select the winning lottery ticket, so that only certain numbers will come up. It turns out that the people in this movie use whatever intelligence they have to think up this idea, leaving none left over for small details like what to do with the people who discover what they’ve done and want a piece of the action.

Inspired by a true story, this is the tale of a Harrisburg, PA television weatherman who conspires with the girl who selects the winning numbers for the state lottery to make sure they will have the winning ticket.

John Travolta plays Russ Richards, a popular local figure with a permanent parking space and roped-off table at his favorite local bistro, Denny’s. He has ambitiously but unwisely invested in a snowmobile franchise. Despite his professional expertise, he did not anticipate that Harrisburg’s uncharacteristically balmy winter would leave him on the brink of bankruptcy. He consults his friend, Gig (Tim Roth), who owns a strip joint. Gig arranges a robbery of the snowmobile showroom, but that goes wrong. So he suggests to Russ that perhaps Russ’s girlfriend Crystal (Lisa Kudrow), who goes on camera in a ball gown each week to select the winning lottery numbers, might just be persuaded to help make sure that the numbers she picks are the ones they pick. It turns out that Crystal is delighted.

Russ and Crystal behave like people who know for sure that they were meant to be rich, and are getting increasingly annoyed that somehow the message never got across. But Russ is a sweet guy at heart, if cowardly and self-centered. What he really loves are the fans. Crystal turns out to be completely ruthless. What she really loves is stuff — as she models her new Italian leather coat she happily announces that she will never again have to wear anything that didn’t come over on a boat. Crystal brings in her weird, hulking, snuffling, fun-doll fan of a cousin (Michael Moore) to be the ostenstible purchaser of the lottery ticket. But when he tells her he wants more of the money, she dispatches him with less interest than she would show in a broken nail.

Director Nora Ephron, best known for writing and directing sparkly romantic comedies like “Sleepless in Seattle,” goes for a darker kind of comedy here. She gets terrific performances from a first-rate cast, especially Bill Pullman as a lazy police officer. But Ephron is a long way from the Coen brothers. She has some sharp insights about the ambitions and strategies of her characters and there are some very funny moments, a sort of “Maltese Falcon” on acid, but ultimately it does not work.

Parents should know that the movie has very strong language, nudity, sexual references and situations, assault, murder, shooting, drinking, smoking, and drug use, in addition to the overall theme of larceny and fraud. Some characters are punished, but some are not.

Families who see this movie should talk about why the money is important to the characters and how they calculate their risks. Movies about crime are always in some sense movies about problem-solving, and it is worth pointing out the way that the characters respond to the initial challenge of figuring out a way to sabotage the lottery and to the subsequent problems that they did not anticipate. Families may also want to talk about why people do and do not obey the law and what the consequences are for themselves and society if they don’t.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Fargo,” a darker but more successful comedy about larceny and murder.

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