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The Wrecking Crew
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for language, thematic elements and smoking images
Release Date:
March 27. 2015

 

The Imitation Game
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

Home
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
March 27, 2015

 

Wild
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language
Release Date:
December 5, 2014

Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Secret Ocean 3D
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
March 20, 2015

 

Interstellar
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some intense perilous action and brief strong language
Release Date:
November 7, 2014

King’s Ransom

posted by rkumar
F
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

At times, during this movie, I looked up at the ceiling, not so much casting my eyes heavenward for assistance as trying to find something more interesting to look at than what was on the screen. The ceiling won, hands down.

Then there were other moments when I watched the movie trying to imagine how it would have been different if the screenplay had been written, not by Wayne Conley of Nickelodeon’s “Kenan & Kel” and “Nick Cannon Show” but by the Grand Klagon of the Ku Klux Klan, and deciding that other than possibly being more sophisticated and less racist, there would have been almost no difference at all.

This is a dumb, offensive, poorly paced, and downright incompetent movie about three different plans to kidnap a very wealthy and obnoxious man named King (Anthony Anderson) who is about to get divorced. He plans his own kidnapping to keep his assets away from his wife. Meanwhile, an aggrieved employee (Nicole Ari Parker) wants revenge and a guy who lives in his grandmother’s basement (Jay Mohr) needs $10,000 for his gangsta sister.

The three plans collide, giving rise to a series of scenes in which people either explain what is going on or make fake jokes, mostly low comedy-style insults and comments indicating that the characters are rapacious, greedy, stupid, liars, old, have too much sex, or have too little. Then it sinks even lower as the kidnap victim teaches the kidnapper to be more assertive (by smacking him in the face with a mustard-smeared slice of bread) and the estranged couple has to find a way to work together and it brings back fond memories. The comic timing is way off and even talented performers like Anderson, Mohr, Parker, and Regina Hall (as the mistress) do little more than shout and wave their arms. I think I caught a couple of distress signals; I know I wanted to send one back.

Parents should know that this movie has a great deal of crude humor, including “jokes” about menstruation, bikini waxes, prison rape, and oral sex and some homophobic situations. There is some strong and raunchy language and potty humor. Characters drink and smoke. The movie has a good deal of “comic” violence, including a punch in the crotch.

Parents who see this movie should talk about what was important to King, Andre, Miss Gladys, and Renee. They should also talk about the movie’s use of caricature.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the classic kidnap comedy (mature material) Ruthless People, 9 to 5, and the one that started it all, The Ransom of Red Chief. The Ref is a scathing comedy about a robber who holds a warring couple hostage, with outstanding performances by Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey, and Judy Davis.

The Interpreter

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

“The Interpreter” is a watchable, if not always absorbing thriller, thanks to sheer star power and top directing talent.

Nicole Kidman is Silvia, an American raised in Africa, who works as an interpreter at the United Nations. One night she overhears an assassination plot that appears to be about a controversial head of state who is about to make a speech to the General Assembly. Secret Service agents Keller (Sean Penn) and Woods (the superb Catherine Keener) are assigned to evaluate the threat. That means that they have to decide whether to believe Silvia. Is she holding back some of what she knows because she is afraid, or is she part of the plot? “What is she now, a victim or a suspect?” one character asks.

Director Sidney Pollak (who appears in a small role as a Secret Service official) knows how to create an ominous tone and his sense of pace and timing is superb. One scene that takes place on a bus should be used in master classes on how to direct a thriller. The script has some clever lines. “I’ll be honest with you,” Silvia says to Keller. “I don’t know how honest I can be with you.” It cleverly uses structure to help tell the story. A series of frustratingly incomplete phone calls evolves into connections in both technical and emotional terms. Finally, two people communicate in person, revealing their secrets.

Those scenes with Silvia and Keller are the heart of the movie, and Kidman and Penn have the conviction and the charisma to deliver all that the script offers them and more. The UN setting is fresh and intriguing and the film avoids some of the expected developments. Keener makes a strong impression as more than the usual wise-cracking sidekick.

But the story begins to work against itself by not giving us a clear enough reason to root for any side in the larger picture. It goes on for about 20 minutes too long and at least one of the plot twists dissipates the tension and our attachment to the characters.

Parents should know that the movie is a tense and scary thriller with characters in frequent peril and several very violent situations, including shooting and bombs. Characters are injured and killed. The movie also includes brief strong language and some drinking. A character appears to drink to numb feelings of pain and loss.

Families who see this movie should learn more about the United Nations and the Hague, where international trials are held. Organizations like Human Rights Watch provide information and advocacy on “ethnic cleansing” and other issues like those portrayed in the movie. They should talk about the importance of using exactly the right word, especially in sensitive communications like diplomacy. And they should talk about Silvia’s story about her country deals with murderers and the families of their victims.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the classic romantic thrillers Charade, in which Audrey Hepburn briefly plays an interpreter, and Arabesque, with Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck, which also concerns an assassination plot. Director Pollack is responsible for a nicely paranoid thriller starring Robert Redford, Three Days of the Condor. And another good thriller about a Secret Service agent is In the Line of Fire with Clint Eastwood.

The Amityville Horror

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:R
Movie Release Date:2005

Going over the same ground as the original 1975 cult classic and its many derivative offspring, this “Amityville Horror” provides enough of a shiver for novice horror fans to guarantee an opening-weekend audience but, for more well-versed fans of the genre, will feel like a redundant round of recycling.

The script here differs slightly from the original but still has not figured out how to solve the ending. With the ominous (and highly suspect) intro “Based on a true story,” this version cuts quickly to the premise. A young man living at home wakes one night and shoots his family one by one. When the police bring him in for questioning, he explains that his family was demonic and that the house told him to do it.

Flash forward a year to young married couple, George (Ryan Reynolds) and Kathy Lutz (Melissa George), who are working together to build a good home for her three children, who are still dealing with their father’s death. They come to the house, now for sale at a discount, and snap it up despite the visible nervousness of the realtor and her passing reference to the tragedy that took place there.

Within hours of moving in, everyone from the family pet to the young daughter have seen serious signs that this house needs a lot more than a Fab Five make-over. Ghosts, some chatty, some just ghastly, lurk in the shadows, the windows open and shut like eye-lids, and the vents have a habit of whispering. As the days pass and George begins to get testy and more than a little red in the eyes, Kathy realizes that she has a mystery to solve before she and her children fall victim to the house’s new plaything.

The recent rash of horror flicks prompts a soul-searching all their own: if you have seen it all before can they still scare you? When done well, old stories and equally familiar images will have you rattling your popcorn by the time the opening credits roll. This remake, though, has fair special effects, some jump-out-at-you surprises, decent acting by attractive performers, but its familiar antics just as likely to leave your popcorn static. Does the step-dad get possessed? Is there a creepy kid? Does the family pet make it to the last reel? What do you think?

Parents should know that this movie earns its R rating and then some. Besides the murder of children, the images of torture, references to suicide, the death of innocents (including a pet), and near constant peril, this movie dwells on the psychological metamorphosis of a gentle, family man into an abusive monster. There are sexual references as well as a fairly explicit sex scene between a married couple. Playing to horror’s growing female demographic, actor Reynolds spends a considerable amount of his time with his shirt off. Strong language is used, at times directed at family members. There are social drinks and drug references. Possibly the world’s worst babysitter smokes pot and makes sexual references to the children.

Families who see this movie should talk about a common theme of many ghost stories: the unhappy soul with unresolved issues. Families might also want to talk about George’s insecurity about his role as step-father and how his relationship with the house exacerbates his worst characteristics. They should also talk about the fact that while the original book was published as nonfiction, the story has been thoroughly discredited.

Families who see this movie might want to look at the very unusual reviews by two critics who didn’t make it to the end of the movie. Families who enjoy watching scary ghost movies might want to see the original Amityville Horror (1975). Also picking up the ghosts with unresolved issues theme are The Grudge and The Ring. The Shining is one of the best of the genre.

A Lot Like Love

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Somebody decided to remake When Harry Met Sally but they left out the charm, the wit, the detail, the sincerity, the endearing characters, the romance, the scene in the deli, and the great soundtrack. Unsurprisingly, it does not work. This movie is not “A Lot Like Love.” It should be called “Nothing Whatsoever Like Love and By the Way, Nothing Whatsoever Like a Good Movie, Either.”

Amanda Peet, surely a contender for the title of most talented and appealing actress to appear in a string of movies that range from not very good to truly terrible, plays Emily, a free-spirited type we meet as she gets dumped by her boyfriend at the airport and then has anonymous sex with someone on the airplane. That someone is Oliver, played by Ashton Kutcher, and it is not much of a compliment to say that he is above this material. He actually shows some flickers of acting ability from time to time, but they are no match for the stranglehold of the script’s limitations. The situations are dull and worse, artificial, especially not one but two tiresomely obvious fake-outs.

There is not one moment of believeable connection, tenderness, insight, or intimacy between them. The point of When Harry Met Sally was that they were friends first who talked about everything in their lives. They had dialogue that was charming and touching. These two barely manage a dozen syllables.

Emily and Oliver run into each other on and off over a seven-year period, changing hairstyles, jobs, and significant others, but somehow coming back together. The movie expects us to believe that they find each other interesting without giving us a reason to find them interesting or giving them anything interesting to do or say. We are supposed to find it adorable that they stick things up their noses and spit water at each other. The brief scenes showing Oliver’s relationship with his brother are vastly more vivid and intriguing than the entire romance with Emily. His relationship with his sister, however, is instantly tiresome and goes downhill from there. But the big romance does not have a single moment of genuine connection between the characters or with the audience.

Parents should know that this movie has very strong material for a PG-13 including sexual references and situations, including casual sex with strangers, portrayed as charming and romantic, and non-explicit nudity. Characters drink and smoke a great deal and use strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about what drew Oliver and Emily to each other at the different stages of their relationship and what kept them apart.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy When Harry Met Sally or Same Time Next Year and the wonderful French film, And Now My Love, all with some mature material.

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