Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Tusk
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content
Release Date:
September 19, 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

This is Where I Leave You
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Think Like a Man Too
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material
Release Date:
June 20, 2014

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Godzilla
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Release Date:
May 16, 2014

U-571

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

U-571, a fictional story inspired by several different WWII incidents, follows a group of sailors who are trying to capture the German’s Engima code machine, so that they can find out where the U-boats are headed in time to prevent them from sinking the Allies’ supply ships.

Minute for minute, it is one of the most tense and exciting war movies ever made, with the crew on the brink of disaster and often several disasters at once, for most of the movie’s running time. Indeed, it is so busy being exciting that it is sometimes impossible to tell what is going on, especially since the sets are so dark, drippy, and claustrophobic and the dialogue so jargon-crammed. Still, it is more than a mindless testosterone explosion-fest. As Lt. Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) learns, it is not enough to be brave, loyal, and honorable.

As the movie begins, he is bitter at not having been recommended for command. The Captain (Bill Paxton) explains that it is not enough that Tyler is willing to give his life for the men. He has to be willing to order them to give their lives, and then he has to be able to live with the consequences. And he as to be able to do it “without pause, without reflection, or you’ve got no business being a submarine captain.” Later, when Tyler and his men have taken over the U-Boat, and his first orders are tentative, Chief Klough (Harvey Keitel), the non-commissioned officer who has seen it all, takes him aside to tell him that “The skipper always knows what to do, whether he does or not.” Tyler is confronted with decision after decision, forced to chose quickly and credibly among nothing but long shots. 1234567890

Submarines immediately grab our attention. They are isolated and vulnerable. Once they leave the dock, they become a world of their own, with no time to wait for orders when they get into trouble. In movies from “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” to “Operation Petticoat,” “Crimson Tide” and “The Hunt for Red October” we see men who must make life and death decisions without time or information, and we get to think, as we lean back and eat our popcorn, about how we would fare 100 kilometers below the surface. We get to see some terrific examples of problem- solving and moral choices.

Families who see this movie should discuss how we develop the foundation of values and experience to enable us to make those choices. They should also talk about the difference between fiction and reality. The setting and the references to historical incidents like the capture of the Enigma may lead people who watch this movie to believe that it was based on a true story. It is not. It is based on pieces of several stories, mostly involving British, not American, sailors and soldiers, and it is heavily fictionalized, at times bearing more relation to Star Wars than it does to history.

The movie does give credit to the extraordinary heroism of British and American servicemen who succeeded in getting the Engima, by thanking them at the end of the movie. Some older kids will want to know more about this. They will enjoy Capturing Enigma: How HMS Petard Seized the German Naval Codes by Stephen Harper, Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War, 1941-1945, by Leo Marks, and Station X: Decoding Nazi Secrets, by Michael Smith. Families may also want to talk about the treatment of the movie’s one black character, Eddie (Terrence “T.C.” Carson), clearly overqualified for the only position on the ship for which he is eligible – he serves the crew’s food. At this time, of course, the service was still segregated.

Parent should know that this is an exceptionally intense and scary movie. Many people are brutally killed, including characters that the audience comes to care about.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other submarine movies, including Crimson Tide, Das Boot, and The Hunt for Red October.

Training Day

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

Denzel Washington has a coiled, controlled energy that puts tremendous power behind his coolness and grace. That quality works well for him when he plays good guys, adding complexity and ambiguity to his portrayal of heroes from the Washington Post reporter in “The Pelican Brief” to the lawyer in “Philadelphia” and real-life figures Hurricane Carter and Malcolm X. Here that cougar-like quality adds a lot of sizzle to his portrayal of a bad guy, a rogue cop who has crossed the line so many times that he doesn’t even see it any more.

Washington plays Alonzo Harris, head of an elite unit of LAPD narcotics officers. Ethan Hawke is Jake Hoyt, the rookie who has just one day to show Alonzo that he should join the unit. Jake is smart, tough, and very motivated – he wants to make detective, and this is his best opportunity. But Alonzo tells Jake that his ideas are all wrong, and that the streets and the police are very different from what he has been taught.

Jake climbs into Alonzo’s huge black Monte Carlo and before he knows it, he is smoking marijuana laced with PCP and watching Alonzo rough up attempted rapists and let them go. Like Dorothy in Oz, he knows he’s not in Kansas anymore. Alonzo is a master of manipulation, using a mix of trash talk, bullying, and charm to persuade Jake to violate every principle he has. He is constantly pushing, constantly testing. At first, Jake is so eager to be accepted that he accepts Alonzo’s view that only a wolf can catch another wolf. But when it appears that Alonzo thinks of Jake not as fellow predator but as prey, Jake decides that only one of them can survive.

Washington is dazzling in his Oscar-winning performance as Alonzo. He lets us catch a glimpse of Alonzo’s desperation as he interacts with a charming drug dealer with a taste for expensive drinks (Scott Glenn), three “wise men” who run the department, the mother of his child, and the men of his unit. With each encounter, he shows us a different approach. Hawke is just fair as the white-bread rookie, but Glenn and singers Macy Gray, Snoop Dog, and Dr. Dre make the most of small roles. The director, Antoine Fuqua, shows his music video roots with a style that is often flashy but not always in aid of the story.

Parents should know that the movie is a very strong R, with extremely rough language (including the n-word and anti-gay slurs), graphic violence (including the murder of major characters), drug use, brief nudity, and sexual references.

Families who see the movie should talk about the way that seemingly little exceptions to ethical rules end up creating very serious problems. When do the ends justify the means? This may be especially meaningful in light of the current debate about how to respond to terrorism.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Internal Affairs a better film with a similar story line, starring Andy Garcia and Richard Gere.

Traffic

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

A hard-line judge is selected as the President’s new general in the war on drugs. Front-line cops in Mexico and the US go after the small-time distributors and try to make cases against the sources of the drugs. A pampered wife, pregnant with her second child, finds out that her husband’s legitimate businesses are just a front for his real import — cocaine. The judge’s teenage daughter becomes a heroin addict.

Director Steven Soderbergh (“Erin Brockovich,” “Sex, Lies, and Videotape”) ably keeps these stories on track, cutting back and forth to let them provide context and contrast for each other, and using different color pallattes to help keep them straight. There are some good lines: a character compares efforts to cut off the drug supply to a game of “Whack-a-Mole” and when a wealthy high school kid overdoses, one of the other teenagers at the party says, “He can’t die on the f**ing floor–his parents are in Barbados!” And a cop notes that “In Mexico, law enforcement is an entrepreneurial activity.”

Despite a first-rate all-star cast, the movie feels flat and a little formulaic, almost like one of those old “Dragnet” episodes about the dangers of drugs. The script moves the characters around like chess pieces. Packing so many stories in so little time requires a lot of narrative short-cuts like coincidences and stereotypes. The Zeta Jones character switches from innocent and doe-eyed to commanding and vicious faster than you can say “Michael Corleone.” Individual scenes have some tension and some fine performances (especially by Benecio del Toro and Don Cheadle as cops), but the overall impact is muted.

Parents should know that the movie has everything that triggers an R rating: violence (including the death of major characters, murder, torture, and a teenage overdose), explicit sex (including the judge’s daughter trading sex for drugs), and strong language. Characters betray each other and there are intense family scenes. However, this is at its heart a morality tale, and all of the R-rated material is in the service of the overall anti-drug message.

Families who see this movie should use it as an opportunity to talk frankly about drugs, both their own views on individual drug use and the impact that the drug business has on the community and the country. As teenagers what they think about the way the judge and his wife responded to his daughter’s drug use, and about his decision at the end of the movie. Was it the right one? Why did the drug dealer’s wife decide to become involved in his business? Did the movie make you feel differently about the role that illegal drugs play in the lives of people around us? When the judge asks the staff for new ideas, the response is silence. What should the next person to hold the anti-drug czar job do?

Families who like this movie should see some of the other performances by its outstanding cast, including Del Toro (who won an Oscar for this role) in “Snatch” and “The Usual Suspects” (both for mature audiences) and Cheadle in “A Lesson Before Dying.” Families who enjoy this movie might like to see the English miniseries that inspired it, “Traffik.”

Town and Country

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

Part Woody Allen-style mid-life crisis movie, part old-fashioned, door-slamming bedroom farce, part “let’s laugh as rich folks mess everything up while we enjoy looking at their beautiful homes and clothes,” and possibly part therapy session for leading man Warren Beatty, this movie is ultimately mystifying.

Beatty plays architect Porter Stoddard, who seems to have it all. He has a beautiful wife, Ellie (previous co-star and onetime Beatty girlfriend Diane Keaton), who is successful in her own career as a decorator, and he has beautiful homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons. He has two attractive children, and if he is not entirely thrilled with their romantic partners (one does not speak English and one has a tongue stud), his attitude toward them is one of benign neglect. The Stoddards have just celebrated their 25th anniversary in Paris with their very best friends, Griffin (Gary Shandling) and Mona (previous co-star and onetime Beatty girlfriend Goldie Hawn).

But things are about to fall apart. Mona discovers Griffin checking into a bed and breakfast with a redhead, and she leaves him. Porter begins to wonder what he has been missing in 25 years of monogomy, and has a one-night stand with a cellist (Nastassja Kinski), has sex with Mona, and has almost-affairs with two other women, all of whom end up in the same ladies’ room at a black-tie event. There are many, many near-misses, which are supposed to be funny but are merely painful, before Ellie finds out, which is even more painful.

Porter has a near-affair with Eugenie (Andie MacDowell), a woman who thinks her stuffed animals are real and likes to have them simulate having sex. She takes him to meet her wealthy parents (Charlton Heston and Marian Seldes). Her mother crashes into things with her motorized wheelchair, screeching at Heston about his sexual inadequecy in the most explicit terms outside of a porn film, and Heston comes after Porter with a rifle for trifling with his little girl.

Rumors of problems have plagued this movie for at least two years, and some incoherence and inconsistency may be evidence that it has been recut. It is momentarily fun to watch these actors in these settings, and especially welcome to see a movie featuring stars over 25. But the characters never engage us. Ellie and Porter both seem so self-absorbed that it is hard to care whether they stay together or not, and there is something grotesque about the way the charmless Porter is immediately adored by every young, beautiful woman who sees him. Jenna Elfman is wasted in a small role, though she does look great dressed as Marilyn Monroe. There are some funny moments, but overall the movie will appeal most to those who are in the demographic of its performers and not much even to them.

Parents should know that the movie includes extremely explicit sexual references, sexual situations, brief nudity, and very strong language. A character has problems telling the people close to him that he is gay. The subject of the movie is adultery and some, but not all, characters pay a price for infidelity.

Audiences who see the movie should talk about their views on fidelity and resisting temptation.

Audiences who like this movie will also like “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy,” written and directed by Woody Allen.

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