Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Fury
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

St. Vincent
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 For mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

Dear White People
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2002

Many kids will enjoy this traditionally animated story about a brave wild mustang in the 19th century American west, but parents may find it overlong even at a running time of less than 90 minutes. Parents should also know that there are some scary scenes and that the story may be hard for younger children to follow because the horse characters do not talk.

Spirit is born (in a discreet G-rated scene) to a loving mare and grows up in a paradise of mountains and plains, with plenty to eat and drink and freedom to run as far as he can dream. He becomes the leader of the pack of horses, and watches out for his group to keep them safe from predators. His curiosity leads him to investigate a campsite, and he is captured by cavalry soldiers. A brutal commander tries to break him, but even starvation does not make him submit.

Spirit escapes with an Indian boy named Little Creek and they grow to care for each other. Spirit also cares for Little Creek’s pretty palomino, Rain. But Spirit still will not let anyone ride him. Little Creek sends Spirit back to his home, but he is captured again and has many more adventures before returning to his family.

There are some lovely and powerful images of horses racing through endless stretches of grass, mountains, and rivers. The scary scenes are very vivid, especially the fire and a railroad engine knocked off its tracks that comes tumbling downhill. But the story moves slowly, especially during the dreary Bryan Adams songs. The narration (by Matt Damon) is more poetic than descriptive, so younger kids will benefit from some discussion about the story before they get to the theater.

Parents should know that the movie may be too scary for younger kids. The soldiers use guns and treat Spirit harshly, applying whips and spurs. The blacksmith makes an unsuccessful attempt to brand him. Characters are in peril and it appears that one has been killed. There is a fire and a chase scene.

The Native American boy is portrayed as brave, compassionate, and honorable. Some families may be concerned that all of the white males are portrayed as brutal and insensitive.

Families should talk about the different ways that the Colonel and Little Creek have of trying to teach Spirit to carry a rider. Do different parents have different ways of teaching children? What ways work best? What made Spirit different from the other horses, those of his family and those he met on his travels? Families of older children might want to talk about the triumph and tragedy of the Westward Expansion in the 19th century.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the two greatest horse movies ever made: The Black Stallion and National Velvet.

Spirited Away

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2002

Solaris

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

More meditation than story, “Solaris” is a series of images and moments that address themes of identity, memory, and loss, ambitious in both form and content.

George Clooney plays Chris Kelvin, a psychiatrist who receives an urgent SOS from a friend on a space station. He gets there to find everyone dead except for an oddly detached crew member (Jeremy Davies) named Snow and the captain (Viola Davis), who won’t leave her room.

Snow says cryptically, “I could tell you what’s happening but I don’t know if that would tell you what’s happening.” And it turns out to be just that mysterious. Kelvin is awakened the next morning by his wife Rhea (Natascha McElhone), who is not only not on the space station with him but who died long before. He shoots her off into space, looking back at him out of the spacepod window. But the next morning, she is there again, and this time his longing for her overcomes his fear, and he reaches out to her.

It turns out that there is something about the planet Solaris below them that is sentient. It reaches into each of them to send them what appears to be the person they most want to see. Kelvin’s friend who called him to the spaceship saw – or conjured up – his young son, who even after the friend’s death is still racing around the space station, oddly ignored by the remaining humans. Snow says that his entity was his brother. Whatever the captain’s was, it is keeping her in her room, but it is unclear whether that is to say close to it or away from it.

The story is told impressionistically, as we go back and forth between the scenes on the space station and scenes from the past. Flickering through his struggle to understand what is going on, we see Kelvin and Rhea meeting, falling in love, and then we see his angry departure and her suicide. And then, back on the space station, it seems he does not want to understand it. He would rather lose himself in the fantasy (if that is what it is) than lose her again.

But just as that happens, Rhea (or whoever she is) does want to understand. She, or the part of her that is not Rhea, wants to be more than just a reflection of his memories, even if that means losing him and losing whatever it is she does have.

I suspect this will not be a popular movie. Most audiences, like Kelvin in the early part of the movie, want to understand things. But if you open yourself up to the ambiguities, this can be a very rewarding film.

Parents should know that the movie has a deeply unsettling feeling and some disturbing violence. We see Clooney’s bare behind as he tenderly embraces his wife. There is some strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about how we can stay close to those we have lost.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy 2001: A Space Odyssey. They might also like to see the original Solaris, made in the Soviet Union in 1972.

Simone

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2002

Movie director Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino) has had it with actors. The star of his new movie (Winona Ryder, relishing her cameo as a temperamental “model with a SAG card”) insists that he pick all the red Mike and Ike candies out of the bowl and ensure that her trailer is not only the biggest but also the tallest. She walks off the movie and Viktor is about to lose his deal with the studio, even though the executive in charge is his ex-wife Elaine (Catherine Keener).

But thanks to a bequest from a computer genius, Viktor finds the perfect substitute to star in his movie. She’s perfect because she will do anything he says. And she will do anything he says because she is not a human being – she is a computer simulation living in a hard drive. He can take a little bit of Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Greta Garbo, and a dozen other stars and then program her to do, say, wear, or digitally appear anywhere he wants to. It’s Pygmalion for the digital age. He collapses the name of the program (“Simulation One”) is to name her Simone.

Viktor digitally substitutes Simone for his departed star, and she causes a sensation. He is aided in his deception by Hollywood’s phoniness – many people are only too willing to claim that they have met her in order to make themselves seem more important. And Simone’s apparent unwillingness (in reality, “her” inability) to meet with members of the press only adds to the public fascination with her. As happened to Dr. Frankenstein (who was also named Viktor) or the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Viktor Taransky’s creation takes over.

Viktor rationalizes his deception as just one small step beyond current practice (“Most actors have digital work done to them!”) and decries Hollywood’s “irrational allegiance to flesh and blood.” According to him, “the only real truth is the work.”

It is great fun to see Pacino do farce and the movie has some deliciously sharp satire. Told that a star is willing to do all her own stunts, including a fall from a plane, a studio executive says, “Shoot it the last day.” A radio news broadcast announces that no one is paying attention to world affairs because the Oscar nominations are out. It goes on a little long, but it is one of the better comedies of the summer.

Parents should know that the theme of the movie is lying, and while Viktor suffers for his lies, he pretty much gets away with them. Characters drink and smoke. And the movie has the “Parent Trap” problem of reuniting divorced parents, which may be a difficult subject for some families.

Families who see this movie should talk about how it compares to traditional stories about liars like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and “Pinocchio.” And they should talk about how performances by “live” actors compare to those of digitally created characters in movies like “Toy Story” and “Shrek.” Do you think there will be a day when movie stars are created by computer? (By the way, Simone is indeed played by a real-life actress, model Rachel Roberts.)

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy other Hollywood satires like Steve Martin’s Bowfinger and Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending. They may also want to try Tootsie. And everyone should see the all-time classic Singin’ in the Rain.

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