Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

 

The Giver
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
November 26, 2014

 

The Expendables 3
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Little Hope Was Arson
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not Rated
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

A Man Apart

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

This is a dumb guy with nothing to lose explosion movie, which is forgiveable, but it is a pretentious, manipulative, and incompetent dumb explosion movie, which is not.

Vin Diesel plays a DEA cop who makes a big arrest — a cocaine kingpin. The minute we see him make that call to his beautiful adoring wife, we know what’s coming next. But no, first we have to live through a syrupy scene on the beach at sunset and then, yep, the bad guys come after Sean, and he gets shot and his wife is killed. So, ho hum, he’s out long enough to grow a goatee and then this time it’s personal yadda yadda, and we still have 3/4 of the movie for Sean to go after whoever did it.

The usual conventions are in place — the strip club scene, the “you need some time off, give me your badge” scene, the humorous interlude with the small-time drug dealer, the partner who first says he won’t go along on a boneheadly rogue mission but then shows up at the crucial moment, and of course the many, many, many moments of hitting, shooting, and blowing things up. But none of the scenes have any life, originality, or conviction. And there is this irritating effort at making it all seem more meaningful, with voiceovers that just sound silly, even with Diesel’s gravelly voice.

Parents should know that the movie is very, very violent, with a lot of firepower and many characters killed, including a woman and child. Policemen violate the civil rights of suspects, including beating them. Characters drink, smoke, and deal in drugs. They use very strong language, and a child’s use of a swear word is supposed to be humorous. When a character tries to insult Sean by suggesting he is gay for turning down a lap dance, Sean gets infuriated. Black and white characters are deeply loyal to each other. Most of the drug dealers and criminals are black or Latino.

Families who see this movie should talk about the dilemma posed to Sean’s partner, Demetrius (Larenz Tate, in the movie’s best performance). Demetrius must do what he thinks is right or what Sean wants him to do. Sean says at one point that “that’s not my fault if somebody gets out of line.” Families should discuss his failure to accept responsibility for his actions (and the police department’s casual attitude toward his many violations of law and procedure).

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy better films with Diesel, including “Pitch Black” or “Boiler Room.”

Holes

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2003

In sharp contrast to most movies directed at 10-15-year-olds (come to think of it, to most movies of any kind), “Holes” respects the intelligence of its audience. It is even willing to challenge them, and that makes it a movie for everyone in the family to treasure.

Adapted by Louis Sacher from his Newbery award-winning book, this is the story of Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf), whose name is the same backwards and forwards, a palindrome. Stanley is wrongfully accused of stealing a very valuable pair of sneakers and sentenced to a juvenile facility in the desert. Each boy there is required to dig a five-foot-deep hole every day. They are told it is to help them develop character, but could it be that the Warden (Sigourney Weaver) is looking for something that just might be buried in the endless stretch of sand that once was Green Lake?

We cannot understand the answer to that question until we learn the stories of Stanley’s pig-stealing great-great grandfather, who was cursed by a gypsy, and of the notorious outlaw of the Old West, Kissin’ Kate Barlow, who left lipstick kissprints on the faces of the men she killed.

These two stories are interwoven with Stanley’s, providing counterpoint and illumination.

Author Louis Sacher (who appears briefly as a man who is going bald) adapted his own story, and it retains all of the complexity and understated, offbeat charm of the book. The adult actors are excellent, especially Arquette and Hill, but the kids are the center of the story, and they handle it beautifully. Khleo Thomas is wonderfully engaging as Zero.

Parents should know that the movie deals frankly with some very serious issues, including racism, injustice, and the sometimes tragic consequences of poor choices. The boys at Green Lake are not beaten, but they are treated very badly and do not always treat each other very well. Characters are in intense peril and some are killed. There is a gross wound and a character throws up on screen. A character commits suicide. There is some strong language for a PG movie. There are very devoted and loyal inter-racial relationships, including one that ends tragically due to prejudice.

Families who see this movie should talk about its themes of fate and choice. What actions in the movie seem to have been decided by fate (or a curse) and what were decided by the characters? How much of our present is influenced by or determined by the past? There are even more connections between the three stories than you see at first. How many can you find? If you pay close attention, there is something significant about when the boys use their real names and when they use their tough nicknames. What does that tell you? Why doesn’t Stanley tell the truth in his letter to his mother? How is Stanley different at the end of the movie?

“Holes” is also a good story to introduce young readers to the idea that the setting of a story can tell you something about the characters. Green Lake appears in very different form in the three stories. What does that tell you about what is going on with the people in the stories?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Tuck Everlasting.” They should read the book and the companion volume, Stanley Yelnats’ Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake, as well as some of Sacher’s other terrific books.

What a Girl Wants

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2003

This is not just a fairy tale — it is a full-out fantasy straight from the heart of all young girls and former young girls who really really love their daddies. It may feel to other people like a adorableness overdose, but its intended audience will enjoy it very much.

Adorable Amanda Bynes plays Daphne Reynolds, the spirited daughter of a wedding singer and single mom named Libby (Kelly Preston). Daphne has always dreamed of meeting her father, but her parents split up before he even knew she was going to be born, and he doesn’t know anything about her. After she graduates from high school, she hops on a plane and shows up at his house. Except it isn’t exactly a house — it’s one of those hundred-room Masterpiece Theatre-style palaces.

It turns out her father is Lord Henry Dashwood (adorable Colin Firth), who has just given up his hereditary seat in the House of Lords to stand for office (they say “stand” instead of run in England) just like a commoner. He is engaged to a horrible social-climbing monster named Glynnis (Anna Chancellor) with a snooty teen-age daughter. Daphne is a breath of fresh air and both she and Henry learn a lot about themselves as they learn about each other.

Bynes is a gifted comedienne who does not get a chance to show off what she does best in this movie the way she did in “Big Fat Liar” and her television show. But she has a fresh and engaging presence and some able and charismatic support from classically trained stage actors Firth (who looks GREAT dancing in leather pants), Eileen Atkins, and Jonathan Pryce. The love interest, played by Ian Williams, should be high on the Teen Beat hearthrob list.

The movie feels too long because it is more like a string of unconnected sit-com episodes, each one signaling its conclusion the moment it starts. Each incident fails to build on or even be reflected in the one that comes next. It has a pre-packaged feel, leaving absolutely nothing to chance, not even the possibility that there might be some eight-year-old who has never seen a movie before and might not know that the bad guys are really bad unless they engage in the most idiotically outrageous (and self-defeating) behavior. Those parody villains who let the hero plot his escape because they just have to go into long explanations of everything they are doing have nothing on these guys. The climactic, Cinderella-ish conclusion to the big coming-out ball makes Daphne seem inconsistent and immature. And the climactic decision by Henry makes him seem irresponsible and immature.

Parents should know that there is some brief strong language in the movie, including a reference to a dog that bit a man’s testicle and an ugly insult (from a villain) about a character’s mixed race heritage. The family issues, including the “Parent Trap” problem of having a child bring her estranged parents together, may be difficult for some children.

Families who see the movie should talk about the way Daphne tried to “fit in” and whether Henry was doing the same. What were the most important things Daphne and Henry learned from each other? They should also Henry’s decision to change direction and what the impact is likely to be.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “The Princess Diaries” and Disney’s “Pollyanna.” The movie is very loosely based on “The Reluctant Debutante,” which is available on video, and it might be fun to compare them. It is by no means a classic, but it does have a rare film performance by one of the 20th century’s most exquisite comediennes, Kay Kendall, who appears with her husband, Rex Harrison and Sandra Dee as the American debutante who falls for a musician.

Basic

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

It’s probably not even worth explaining the premise of this sorry attempt at a thriller because the “basic”premise is to tell you one thing and then turn it upside down and then do that again about six more times in ninety minutes. But here goes: John Travolta plays Tom Hardy, a DEA agent called in to investigate some mysterious deaths at his old Ranger base in Panama. One surviving soldier has returned from an arduous training mission, but three others have not, and he refuses to talk to anyone but a fellow Ranger.

He talks to Hardy, but the story he tells is contradicted by the other survivor, the gay son of one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Giovanni Ribisi), who is in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound. As each tells the story, we see it re-enacted, in one of the most tiresome of movie conventions, the subjective flashback that exists just for the “gotcha!” when we find out that it was unreliable. By the time we have seen the same story with variations all those times, we really don’t care any more which version is right. It doesn’t help much that the final answer is so nonsensical.

The dialogue is terrible. Fortunately, it is frequently drowned out by the incessant rainstorms that howl throughout all the flashbacks. The rain also makes it difficult to tell the characters apart, even in this standard army every-soldier-has-just-one-identifying-characteristic format. Those who are looking forward to seeing Travolta reunited with his “Pulp Fiction” co-start Samuel L. Jackson should know that they appear together only very briefly, and, in any event, their performances are among the most single-dimensioned they have ever given. Jackson just yells and Travolta just grins. Furthermore, Connie Nielson has the worst attempt at a Southern accent in memory.

Parent should know that this is a very violent movie with many character deaths. Characters smoke (one who gave up smoking years earlier takes a cigarette to relieve stress). Characters have alcohol and drug abuse problems and some characters deal in illegal pharmaceuticals and cocaine. Characters use very strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about the various forms of betrayal and loyalty it illustrates.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the far better “A Soldier’s Story” and “A Few Good Men.”

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