Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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  New to DVD

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

Signs

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

M. Night Shyamalan knows what scares us. It scares him, too.

As in “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable,” writer/producer/director Shyamalan’s latest is a story of a crisis of faith, a wise child, and something out there that is very, very disturbing but ultimately part of a pattern that supports and embraces all of us.

Mel Gibson plays Graham Hess, a recent widower who lives with his two children and his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) on a farm in Pennsylvania. He had been a minister, but lost his faith when his wife was killed. Now he winces when people call him “Father.”

He wakes up one night with a sense of dread. His children are not in bed. He runs out into the cornfield and his children show him that the stalks have been bent into a mysterious pattern. It can’t have been made by a machine, because the stalks are not broken. And it can’t have been done by hand, because the shapes are too perfectly even.

It turns out that the strange signs have appeared all over the world. Graham wants to believe that the shapes are a prank or a hoax. He cannot bear the thought that his family could be vulnerable to more injury or loss.

Gibson is outstanding in a role that calls for subtlety, maturity, and a mixture of vulnerability and strength. The children, played by Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin, are just right. They act like smart kids who know what loss is and are scared but also tantalized by what is going on around them. Shyamalan’s skills as a director are getting stronger and stronger. His use of the camera to tell the story is masterful. There is a moment when the screen goes completely black that had the audience gasping. He has clearly been paying attention to Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg, and has a few tricks of his own to contribute. His only mistake is in leaving too little to the imagination. Like his characters, he likes to have everything explained.

Parents should know that this movie has extreme tension and peril, though it is not graphic or gory. Some audience members will find it very scary. Some will be comforted by its ultimate conclusion, but others will find it disappointing, even sugary or superficial. They might even be offended at its deterministic take on things.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether they see patterns and purpose in what occurs around them and what it means to them. Where do people find their faith? What kind of person says that it doesn’t feel right not to swing? They might also want to look at websites like this one to find out more about efforts to contact life on other planets.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy more benign stories about contact with aliens: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Contact. They may also want to try the very creepy The Others and one of the scariest movies ever, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Secret Ballot

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

Those who are interested in the Iranian election and protests should see this superb Iranian film that is one of the finest explorations of freedom, elections, democracy, and the rule of law I have ever watched on screen.

It begins with a surreal image as a solitary soldier patrolling an Iranian island coast sees a box dropped by parachute from a plane. Soon after, a boat arrives and a woman disembarks. She informs the soldier that she is there to collect as many votes as possible before 5 pm and he is to accompany her. They travel the island debating the legitimacy of the voting process and the ability of the law to ensure fair treatment. The woman is a stickler for the letter of the law, even when the result is difficult to justify. That is, until they get stopped by a broken red light and she must decide whether to stop at the deserted intersection, missing her boat and invalidating the votes she has collected, or break the law by running the light. The film, made by Canadian-Iranian Babak Payami works brilliantly as allegory and as quasi-documentary. We never learn the names of the characters; they are just “the soldier” and “the girl.” But they and their predicament are immediately involving and distinctive. Highly recommended for high school and college civics classes and for anyone who appreciates superb film-making.

Scooby-Doo

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

It’s trickier than you might think to translate a Saturday morning cartoon program into a live-action movie. The first challenge is figuring out who your audience is going to be. Is it the little kids who watch the cartoon now and want to see every detail replicated on the big screen (like the live-action “101 Dalmatians”)? Or is it the former little kids who want to see their memories of the show through a filter that is part retro, part camp, part irony (like the Brady bunch movies) and be able to recognize Scrappy-Doo, Pamela Anderson, and Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath on sight? There is not a lot of overlap, and yet this movie tries to reach both. It ends up somewhere between a live action cartoon that is much too scary for most children and Saturday Night Live sketch that goes on too long for most teens.

The Mystery Machine crew has just discovered the secret of the ghost who captured Daphne (it’s a man in a mask!), when their egos collide and they decide to go their separate ways. Two years later, they find out that each of them has been hired by Mr. Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson), whose Spooky Island theme park is a little spookier than he had in mind. Fred, Velma, and Daphne try to solve the mystery on their own, but find that they have to work together to find…well, this time it’s not a man in a mask, exactly.

The young stars have the voices down perfectly and do the best they can to bring the characters to life, but that only emphasizes how sketchy and shallow the cartoon characterization really is. Like the Smurfs, the Scooby-Doo characters each have only one basic attribute: Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) is self-centered, Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) wants to be more than the girl who has to be rescued all the time, Velma (Linda Cardellini) is the brainy girl, and Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) is the always-hungry slacker. Prinze, who will someday find a movie that will show off his considerable talent, has his best moments when Fred becomes something like a hip-hop zombie. Lillard has his best moments anytime he is not challenging Scooby to a flatulence and burping contest.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of intense and scary special effects. The characters are in frequent peril, though no one gets hurt. There are a couple of mild swear words and some mild drug humor (as “Pass the Dutchie” plays on the soundtrack, what appears to be marijuana smoke turns out to be something else) and some vulgar jokes and graphic bathroom humor. The girls wear very skimpy clothes.

Families who see this movie should talk about why the friends broke up and why they got back together. They might also want to talk about what has made Scooby and his pals so enduringly popular over the years.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the original Scooby cartoons like Scooby Classics (including the very first episode) and Scooby-Doo’s Spookiest Tales. If they want something a little spookier, they should try The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Road to Perdition

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

Road to Perdition is a powerful, beautifully made film about fathers and sons and sin and redemption, that overrides minor flaws through beautiful directing and first class performances.

Tom Hanks plays Michael Sullivan, a tough hit man in 1931 Chicago, whose loyalty and sense of duty keep him working for John Rooney (film legend Paul Newman), a friendly but firm Irish mob boss who cares about the men he works with but will not hesitate to kill anyone who gets in his way. Rooney treats Sullivan like a son. Rooney’s real son, Connor (Daniel Craig) is paranoid and impulsive.

Sullivan keeps his family out of his work, but when his curious son Michael, Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) sees something he isn’t supposed to see, Rooney’s jealous and paranoid son Connor (Daniel Craig) tries to make sure he doesn’t talk by killing Sullivan’s wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and youngest son (Liam Aiken) but missing Michael Jr. The rest of the film follows Sullivan on a road trip with his surviving son as he seeks vengeance on the hiding and protected Connor and trying to avoid his former affiliates. Along the way he robs banks, making sure the bankers give him money from other crooks (“If I find out this belonged to some poor farmers, I’m going to be very unhappy,” he tells one (not exact quote)) while his son drives the getaway car. To make matters worse, there is a sadistic, despicable man who photographs murder scenes (Jude Law, amazingly turned into something unsightly) on Sullivan’s trail, and he’s willing to assist the murder process to get a good shot. Adventures ensue, and the Sullivans meet many people and go many places with mixed results until the film’s inevitable conclusion.

This is one of the best made films so far this year, and Mendes, Hanks, and Newman are sure to be remembered during Oscar predictions at the end of the year. The story, too is interesting, with the father-son relationships and David Self’s (Thirteen Days) adapted screenplay being both realistic and intriguing. However, some important factors, such as more about Jude Law’s character and some essential aspects of Sullivan and Rooney’s relationship are ignored, as this ambitious film is scared of being overlong, an oft-criticized quality of epic dramas like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. It leaves the viewer to decide, but if it had just gone out on a limb there, the film could’ve been saved from having some baffling moments at its conclusion. Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly one of this year’s best films, and I’m hoping there will be deleted scenes on the DVD.

Parents should know that there is predictably coarse language from the 1930s gangsters, as well as some bloody murder scenes, always by gunfire. A woman and small child are killed off screen, and the main characters are often in peril.

Families who watch this movie should ask why Mr. Sullivan was so bent on killing the murderer of his family, and even what makes criminals likeable in movies.

Families who enjoy this film may also enjoy some of the classic films chronicling lives and crimes, such as Bonnie and Clyde and the Coen brothers’ Miller’s Crossing. As epic, family drama, and crime story, the The Godfather films are unbeatable.

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