Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Rosewater
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including some crude references, and violent content
Release Date:
November 14, 2014

 

If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

Beyond the Lights
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual content including suggestive gestures, partial nudity, language and thematic elements
Release Date:
November 14, 2014

 

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

Dumb and Dumber To
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references
Release Date:
November 14, 2014

 

Into the Storm
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

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

Kate Hudson is irresistably adorable in this frothy update of the 1950’s-style battle of the gorgeous (and gorgeously-attired) sexes romantic comedy. It’s easy to imagine Doris Day and Rock Hudson as the magazine columnist and advertising executive at the center of a head-on-collision between two competing bets and one overpowering attraction.

Hudson plays Andie Anderson, who writes the “how to” column for Compusure, a popular magazine for young women devoted to fads, diets, fashion, and celebrity gossip. She wants to write about politics. She gets to write about decorating with feng shui and charming her way out of a traffic ticket. Her next assignment give this movie its title. She is supposed to pick up a guy and make every mistake women make to drive men away, to get him to dump her in ten days.

Matthew McConaughey plays Ben, a guy’s guy specializing in ads for beer and sports equipment who wants to move up to the advertising big time with a huge new account, a company that handles seventy percent of the world’s diamonds. His boss (Robert Klein) says that he can have the account if he can make a woman fall in love with him in ten days. His rivals at the advertising agency (played by supermodels Shalom Harlow and Michael Michele), knowing about Andie’s column, pick her as the subject.

The movie has some clever jabs at the war between the sexes. Andie’s glee at torturing Ben is softened a little because the torture comes from gestures that are seen as natural to women. What men see as being clingy and possessive, women see as affectionate and caring. We see this contrast in the way Andie and Ben treat (and are treated by) their friends. And we suspect that it is good for Ben to have to stick it out a little bit with a woman for a change.

Andie takes Ben to a chick flick festival and a Celine Dion concert. She gives him a houseplant and marks his apartment as her territory by spreading stuffed animals, potpourri, and feminine hygiene products all over it. Even worse, she becomes friendly with his mother, intrudes on his poker night, and gives a part of his anatomy a name that is, um, counter-productive. She even makes him go to couples therapy — and pay for it. But we also see how truly right Andie and Ben are for each other and how crazy they are about each other right from the beginning. It isn’t just the bet that keeps Ben going. It is his sense that somewhere inside this crazy behavior is a girl he really wants to get close to.

Parents should know that the movie has very mature material for a PG-13, including explicit and graphic sexual references and situations. There are references to impotence, orgasms, sex between people who do not know each other very well, and the appropriate name to give to genitals. Characters drink and smoke. Drinking to the point of drunkenness is portrayed as a way to handle unhappiness. There is also very strong language for a PG-13, including continuous use through one long scene of the word “Bull*****” in a card game my family used to just call “I Doubt It.” Most important, this is a movie in which the characters lie to each other and manipulate each other and make no effort to tell each other the truth, even after they have become very close.

Families who see this movie should talk about how men and women may have different communication styles. And they should talk about bets that may hurt someone’s feelings.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy three Rock Hudson movies: “Pillow Talk,” “Come September,” and “Lover Come Back” (all of which reflect the early 1960’s era morality).

The Recruit

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

When you lie all the time, how do you remember what is true? How do you remember to care?

That is a theme of most spy movies, and it is right at the center of this twisty story about a grad student from MIT who is recruited for the CIA, put through a brutal training period, and then sent out to find a mole, someone from the inside who is working for the bad guys.

In what used to be the Tom Cruise part (supremely talented but hot-headed kid with father issues), we have Cruise’s co-star in “Minority Report,” the supremely talented and magnetic Irish actor Colin Farrell. His Obi-Wan Kenobi equivalent is grizzled veteran Burke (Al Pacino), who has mastered the art of identifying the right candidates and enticing them to join up, even though there is no chance of money or recognition. You might win a medal, but they just show it to you and take it back — you aren’t even allowed to keep it.

Burke tells James Clayton (Farrell), Layla Moore (Bridget Moynahan), and the other recruits that everything is a test; nothing is as it seems. CIA training facility (called The Farm) is like boot camp crossed with “Fear Factor.” They learn not to believe anything or anyone. They learn to lie without quickening their pulses or dilating their pupils. And they learn that nothing matters — no feelings, no friendships — except for completing the mission.

The other students are told that Clayton was dropped, so that Burke can use him undercover to find which one of them is working for the other side. Is it Layla?

It’s a “Top Gun”-style part, and Farrell has everything it takes to be a huge star, but it is unlikely that this movie will make it happen for him. There are some supple plot twists, but the story sags in the middle, there aren’t any gee-whiz gadgets, and the preview gives too much away. It’s an above-average thriller, but not especially memorable.

Parents should know that the movie has strong language and sexual references and situations, some exploitive (intended to get access to secrets). Characters smoke and drink, sometimes to excess, especially after receiving bad news. There is a lot of peril and violence, including torture that is graphic for a PG-13. Characters are killed.

Families who see this movie should talk about the classic conflict we confront when we allow the ends to justify the means. How do we create an organization of liars and keep them honest? Would you like to be a spy?

Families who enjoy this movie should watch the brilliant BBC miniseries, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” inspired by the real-life British mole Kim Philby.

Biker Boyz

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

It’s just a bunch of music video-style motorcycle races punctuated with brief interludes that are more dramatic place-holders than story, but a top-notch cast, some flashy camera work, and attitude to spare make “Biker Boyz” highly watchable.

Like “Saturday Night Fever” or “The Hustler,” it gives us a look at a vibrant sub-culture that is in a direct line from the knights of the roundtable through to the cowboys of the old west. They operate a fully-functioning society based on honor, dreams, loyalty, flair, and, of course, a huge helping of extravagently macho contests.

Jaleel (“Antowne Fisher’s” Derek Luke) adores his father Will (Eriq La Salle), the mechanic and best friend of the “King of Cali,” Smoke (Laurence Fishburne). A hundred and fifty years ago, he would have been the fastest gun in the west. Now, he’s the fastest biker in California and a guy who can make an entrance a Vegas headliner would envy.

Will is killed standing on the sidelines of a race. Jaleel is devastated. He blames Smoke. He stays away for six months and then shows up, bitterly angry and bursting to take Smoke down. But Jaleel has to earn the right to race Smoke, first by joining a gang and then by winning some races. Each confrontation moves the story forward until the big moment when Jaleel and Smoke, more alike and more connected than they realized, challenge each other to do what Will always said, “Burn rubber, not soul.”

The plot tries to be epic and primal, but it is just derivitive and creaky. What works, though is the vibrant presence of some of today’s most arresting actors. Fishburne, Jones, Luke, and Vanessa Bell Calloway as Jaleel’s mother give a lot of snap to the lukewarm dialogue. In small roles, Djimon Hounsou, Lorenz Tate, Rick Gonzalez, and Meagan Good manage to be vibrant and distinctive. One of the movie’s strengths is the way that this sub-culture has its own dignity and honor; it is clear that cheating, hustling, and disloyalty are not allowed and that any challenger is welcome. There is a nice moment when we find out that the character we know as “Soul Train” has a daytime persona — as a pinstripe-suited lawyer.

Parents should know that characters drink, smoke, and use strong language. There are sexual references and situations. There is some sexual humor and there are references to promiscuity and issues of paternity (with a traumatic discovery), but the relationship of the main characters is loving and devoted. Characters are in peril and there is serious injury and one death. Characters also “hustle” by pretending not to be able to race and betting a lot of money. While most characters are African-American, the gangs are open to all races, and Jaleel’s group has white, Hispanic, and Asian members. Characters get tatooed. The bikers engage in racing that is not just very dangerous but also illegal, and at one point some are arrested.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the biker culture is like and not like other cultures they know. What are the rules? How is status determined? How does that compare to groups in school? In sports? Or show business? What do you think about Smoke’s decision in the last race? Why does Jaleel say what he does about the helmet?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of the classics with similar themes, including “West Side Story” and “Saturday Night Fever.”

The Life of David Gale

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

Somewhere between potboiler and polemic, this overripe melodrama signals every one of its plot twists as hamhandedly as it bangs out its message.

Kevin Spacey plays Texas philosophy professor turned death row inmate David Gale, who agrees to his first interview just days before he is to be executed for a brutal rape/murder. David and the murder victim, Constance (Laura Linney) had been co-leaders of a group that opposed the death penalty.

He will speak to only one journalist, a reporter for a weekly news magazine named Bitsy (Kate Winslet) who herself has just been released after serving a week in prison for refusing to reveal a source.

The terms of the interview are that David will be paid half a million dollars in cash and that Bitsy will see him for two hours a day on the last three days before the execution.

Is the evidence against David overwhelming? Does Bitsy come to believe he is innocent? Does possibly exonerating evidence show up at almost the last minute? Does the car break down so that Bitsy has to run to the prison at the real last minute? Do people in this movie continually behave in the dopiest possible way in an unsuccessful attempt to create some suspense and conceal the “surprise” ending? Oh, yes. Does it work? Oh, no.

Spacey and Winslet give their weakest performances ever. Linney manages one brief believable moment when she is discussing Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages in confronting death (though she gets them in the wrong order). The best performance is by Matt Craven as another opponent of the death penalty. He has almost no lines but manages to bring a little dignity to his moments on screen.

Parents should know that the movie includes very mature material. There are sexual references and explicit sexual situations, including rape charges. A student offers a teacher sex for a passing grade (he declines). There is also non-sexual nudity and footage that may show a murder. Characters use strong language and one abuses alcohol, ultimately becoming an alcoholic. The movie also features suicide in what could be seen as an approving manner.

Families who see this movie should talk about the death penalty. They might want to look at information on sites like Death Penalty Info and Pro Death Penalty to learn more about the current debate on that issue. Families should also talk about how David’s choices relate to the lecture he gave his class. Is our greatest happiness in dreaming of future happpiness? What must we do to make our lives meaningful? How do our values inform our choices? What will David’s son think about his choices?

Families who enjoy this movie will appreciate the far better Dead Man Walking and The Green Mile.

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