Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Annie
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
Release Date:
December 19, 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

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

Veronica Guerin

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

I’m sure that there were a lot of people scurrying around Hollywood looking for the next Erin Brockovich, and this must have seemed like a good candidate — the true story of a courageous Irish journalist who would not be deterred from her coverage of drug dealers, even after being beaten and shot. When she was murdered by the people her stories were exposing, it inspired changes in law and law enforcement that sharply reduced the crime rate.

Veronica Guerin the person was a genuine heroine. But “Veronica Guerin” the movie is no Erin Brockovich. Cate Blanchett brings her always-vibrant life force to the role, but the character never feels real. Guerin is portrayed as cheerily indomitable to the point of irresponsible recklessness, especially when she puts her entire family at risk. She neglects her husband and child (she does not even know what she gave her son for his birthday), she easily beguiles them into forgiving her, evidently because she is just so darn irresistibly perky that resistance is futile. And that’s about as deep as it goes. We see that she never wants anyone to know that she is scared, but we don’t see why. And she is so flippant that we never really know what is important to her. When a bad guy calls her a “dangerous little b***,” she cheekily replies, “Do my best!” Is she a crusader for justice or just someone who likes to stir things up? We need to know in order to give this story the resonance it deserves.

The rest of the characters are one-adjective types, so one-dimensional that they might be played by paper dolls. Guerin’s boss, mother, husband, and son are all perfect, supportive, patient, and adorable. The bad guys are all brutal, ruthless, and sadistic. If it were really that simple, we would not need crusading journalists at all.

We find out right at the beginning that Veronica Guerin is feisty and charming and that she gets killed. The rest of the movie is just filling in the details, and it is curiously uninvolving for a story with so much built-in drama. And the disclaimer at the end that the movie’s most important villain is a composite character leaves us feeling manipulated and unsatisfied.

Parents should know that the movie has brutal and graphic violence and extremely strong language. Young drug addicts are vividly depicted, including one who has become a prostitute. There are scenes in a brothel and in a strip bar and non-explicit sexual situations.

Families who see this movie should talk about what makes someone willing to risk not only her own life but her family’s lives as well. Should she have been more careful? Should she have stopped? Why did it take her death to bring about changes that people knew were necessary while she was alive? How do you fight people who don’t play by your rules? The movie does a good job of showing how much hard work goes into the kind of reporting that Guerin did. Families should talk about the way that her dedication and her background as an accountant were as important in exposing the drug dealers as her courage.

Families who enjoy this movie should also see some of the other true stories about brave journalists who risk a great deal to get the story to the people, including Z and All the President’s Men. And they might also like the true stories about brave women who took on big corporations, Erin Brockovich and Silkwood.

My Life Without Me

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

A young wife and mother finds out she has two months to live. She makes a list of the things she wants to do before she dies, like recording birthday greetings for her two daughters for each year until they are 18, finding a new wife for her husband, getting fake nails and doing something about her hair, visiting her father in jail, and having someone fall in love with her.

Now, this plot could be a generic Lifetime made-for-tv-movie with a former sitcom star showing off a little range and a lot of mascara while dying beautifully and reminding everyone how sweet life is before the last commercial. Or, it could be what this movie is, a sweetly specific story, tenderly told.

Ann (Sarah Polley) does not get to do everything on her list. Or perhaps it is more that she revises the list as she learns that the life that chose her when she became pregnant at 17 is one has been very precious to her. She takes control of what she can and lets go of what she can’t. She learns that all the things we try to do and buy to keep us away from death don’t work.

And she revises the lives of people around her. Lee, a surveyor who lives in an empty house, waiting for the woman who left him to bring back the furniture, learns that he can love someone new. Ann’s sepulchral-looking doctor learns that he can look death — and life — in the eye. Her neighbor, another Ann, learns that she has more love to give than she thought.

There are lovely moments as Ann and Lee sit on the floor in his empty house, his arm around her, as the doctor brings Ann the candy she likes, and especially when she envisions people dancing through the aisles of the grocery store. And it is impossible not to be touched by Polley’s simple sincerity.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong language and non-explicit sexual situations, including adultery. There is a reference to a drinking problem and Ann puts drinking and smoking as much as she wants on her list (but does not do much of either). The theme of the movie may be very hard on some audience members, but others may find that it helps them to address some sensitive issues.

Families who see this movie should talk about what they would put on their lists, and whether those kinds of lists are good to keep in mind even without an immediate need. Ann says there is no such thing as “normal people.” Do you agree? Why was the mention of Milli Vanilli, the musical group who was famous for lip-synching to recorded voices, so appropriate for this movie? What does the doctor mean when he says that dying is not as easy as it looks?

Families who enjoy this movie should also see My Life with Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman and The Doctor with William Hurt. They will also enjoy the classic weepies No Sad Songs for Me, about a dying woman who wants to find a new wife for her husband and Sentimental Journey, about a dying woman who adopts a child as company for her husband. And they might want to listen to some of the music of Blossom Dearie.

Wonderland

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

Heartfelt performances and tricked-up flashy film-making are not enough to distract us from the fact that we never find a reason to care about what happens in this story of porn star John Holmes and his involvement in a drug-related quadruple murder after his movie career was over.

Before the movie starts, we are informed of the essentials: Holmes (Val Kilmer) was the first superstar of porn, making more than 1000 movies and sleeping with more than 14,000 women. But when we meet him, he is no longer making movies. Holmes and his young girlfriend Dawn (Kate Bosworth) have dim hopes of some kind of big score, but mostly live from moment to moment on what’s left of Holmes’ notoriety. He lives off of the declining good will of some hot-headed small-time bad guys who live on Wonderland Street and one big-time bad guy named Eddie Nash (Eric Bogosian). He comes up with the idea of double-crossing them both at the same time and making off with the loot, but it does not go the way he planned and many people are killed.

It is all very sordid and unexpectedly dull. Lisa Kudrow’s appearance as Holmes’ estranged wife is the only character with any depth or humanity.

Parents should know that this movie includes explicit sexual situations, graphic violence, drug abuse, and constant profanity. It is a veritable encyclopedia of material most parents would consider inappropriate for children and teenagers, though it is all presented as sordid and destructive.

Families who see this movie should talk about the different ideas Sharon and John had about what they wanted. Why was Sharon willing to take care of John and Dawn? What was the point of view of the film-makers about what happened to Holmes?

Families who appreciate this movie will appreciate the far better Boogie Nights, inspired by Holmes’ career. Like this movie, that one is appropriate for the most mature audiences only.

Runaway Jury

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2003

John Grisham’s courtroom thriller is given the big-time Hollywood treatment and the result is as reliably entertaining — but also as forgettable — as an airplane novel. This is the kind of story that benefits from the willing suspension of disbelief (and logic) that is usually required for books designed to be read while wearing a seatbelt.

And it’s harder to be that generous in a movie when there is such a gap between the level of the script and the level of the performers. Grisham books are such a reliable franchise that it is impossible to film them without the kind of big Hollywood budget usually reserved for summer action blockbusters and Oscar-bait dramas. The perverse result is to make the result less enjoyable. As much fun as it is to see Oscar-winners Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman square off against each other, you can’t help feeling that they overpower the material. It’s like those commercials where movie stars read aloud letters from satisfied dish tv viewers as though they were sonnets. Only this is supposed to be serious. A scene in which Hackman and Hoffman, friends for decades, onscreen together for the first time, in shoehorned in so that they can face off against each other, but it does not advance the story. Star power in even the smaller roles provides more distraction than support. This movie could have worked better with a made-for-tv-movie level cast more suitable to its potboiler sensibility.

The story is about a groundbreaking lawsuit in an era in which “trials are too important to be left up to juries” and cases are won or lost before the opening arguments.

A distraught employee fired by brokerage firm returned to his office with an assault weapon and killed eleven people before turning the gun on himself. Four years later, the widow of one of the men killed has brought a suit against the gun manufacturer, charging that the company bears some responsibility because it made it too easy for a disturbed person to buy and use a gun that could have no legitimate purpose.

A lot is at stake. If the jury finds the manufacturer liable in this case, it will open the door for hundreds, even thousands of other lawsuits. It could bankrupt the industry. So all of the gun manufacturers have contributed millions of dollars to make sure that the defense team is the best that money can buy. That does not just mean top talent at the counsel table. It may be more important to get top talent in jury selection, and that means Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman).

We first see Fitch pulling a Sherlock Holmes as he glances at a photo and a parking lot stub in a cab and correctly deduces the details of the driver’s current problems. But when it comes to juries, Fitch relies on more than intuition and deduction. In a huge secret command center Fitch’s staff uses everything from high-tech databanks to low-tech surveillance to find out all they can about the pool of potential jurors. But Fitch is the best at what he does because he goes much further than psychology and percentages. He wants their secrets, their vulnerabilities. It’s good to know how people of particular backgrounds and percentages are inclined to vote, but it’s better to be able to apply pressure to make sure that they vote the way Fitch’s client wants them to, even if that means a little blackmail.

The plaintiff’s counsel, Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman), has retained a jury consultant, too. But someone else has gone a step further. Nick (John Cusack) has managed to get himself actually onto the jury. Both sides get calls from Marlee (Rachel Weisz) who tells them that she has control of the jury and will sell the outcome for $10 million. Marlee is able to demonstrate to Fitch and Rohr that her contact’s subtle powers to guide the other jurors can determine the outcome of the trial. Are they willing to bet on old-fashioned ideals like evidence and justice?

This is a courtroom drama where the drama does not come from what happens in the courtroom but what happens outside it. That leaves room for lots of intrigue and Grisham knows how to hold the attention of the audience. But the conclusion feels too easy, not earned by the way the issues have been presented throughout the movie or even the powerhouse performances. Like the insider on the jury, Grisham is a facile manipulator. But audiences are likely to be a little less willing to go along with it than the other jurors — unless they’re watching it in the same low-brain-cell-output locations the book is most often read — on an airplane or at the beach.

Parents should know that the movie has some violence and very tense moments. The movie opens with a tragic shooting (off-camera) and describes another. The movie’s theme is gun control. Characters are in peril and some are injured. There is a violent video game. Characters smoke and drink (one has a drinking problem) and use strong language. A character attempts suicide. And many of the characters in the movie are ruthless and unethical.

Families who see this movie should talk about any jury duty experiences they have had and about the movie’s (exaggerated)depiction of the corruption of the jury system. The three main characters have different ideas about justice and winning — who is right? Should gun companies be responsible for acting within the law if people who buy their products break the law? Families may also want to talk about why the tobacco company defendant in the book became a gun company defendant in the movie, possibly because tobacco companies have been found liable in court.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of the other Grisham movies, especially The Client, The Firm (also with Hackman), and The Pelican Brief. They will also enjoy the 1957 version of the classic jury drama 12 Angry Men starring Henry Fonda and the 1997 made-for-cable remake starring Jack Lemmon.

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