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

Red Dragon

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

Hannibal Lecter is back in “Red Dragon,” but he cannot ever scare us again as much as he did in “Silence of the Lambs.” We know him too well. But that very knowledge becomes one of the pleasures of seeing this movie about what happened before “Silence of the Lambs.” Another pleasure is the very fine performances. But the primary pleasure is just being so scared that you might forget to breathe.

No, we don’t get to see the fava beans or the nice chianti. But we do get a glimpse of the life of Hannibal before anyone (but us) knows that he will soon be called Hannibal the Cannibal.

As the movie opens, a symphony orchestra is performing in concert, before an appreciative audience. All of a sudden, among the hundreds of people, we see a familiar face. It is Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Is he noticing that the flute-player is a little off tonight? When we next see him hosting a gourmet dinner for the symphony board, the simple sight of seeing a guest swallow a bite of food gives us goosebumps. Later, when we see the odious prison psychiatrist, Dr. Chilton (portrayed again by Anthony Heald), there is a guilty pleasure in knowing what lies ahead of him.

This story has been impressively filmed once before as 1986’s Manhunter, with Brian Cox as Lecter. But everyone wanted to see more of the Anthony Hopkins take on the character, and so we got this version, showing the best of what a big-budget Hollywood production can do. Every single part is meticulously cast and brilliantly performed. Among many notable appearances, particular standouts are Harvey Keitel and Ken Leung as FBI agents and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a tabloid reporter.

Edward Norton plays Will Graham, an FBI agent who consults Lecter on a series of murders and then is responsible for his capture, after Lecter tries to kill him. Graham retires from the FBI, but is called back in to consult when another serial killer has murdered two families. Like Clarise Starling in Silence of the Lambs, Graham visits Lecter in prison to ask for his help, and once again, as engrossing as it is to track down the new killer, the real thrill of the movie is the interaction between Graham and Lecter. Norton’s character is more of a challenge for Lecter than novice Starling, and the history between them – and some similarities between them – make for some electric moments on screen.

Ralph Fiennes plays Francis Dolarhyde, and we know very early on that he is the man Graham is seeking. At first, the effort to explain his compulsion seems overly simplistic, but the way it is used in the movie’s climax makes it work. Dolarhyde is drawn to Reba, a spirited blind woman (Emily Watson), and Fiennes makes the conflicts between the imperatives from the William Blake-inspired demons that tell him to kill and the tender feelings he has for her heartbreaking. Director Brett Ratner, cinematographer Dante Spinotti, and production designer Kristi Zea have created a world that reflects and illuminates these competing dual forces.

Parents should know that the movie has extreme peril, including a child in danger, and explicit, graphic violence. The overall tone of the movie can be deeply disturbing for some audience members and viewers of all ages should carefully consider whether it is appropriate viewing. There are some sexual references and situations.

Families who see this movie should talk about Graham’s conversation with Reba. How was what he said important to her? If the FBI comes back to Will to ask him to help again, what should he do? Why? Why are people so fascinated with the Hannibal Lecter character?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Manhunter and Silence of the Lambs. They may also want to try Psycho, inspired by the same real-life killer that inspired Hannibal Lecter. For more information about serial killers who also provided some inspiration for author Thomas Harris, see here.

Punch-Drunk Love

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

Comedians use humor to transcend norms and act outside the rules of civility to express the feelings we strive to keep inside – anger, insecurity, resentment, and selfishness. Many of them assume the freedoms of childhood to unleash the superego and say and do and grab and insult without any restrictions. Adam Sandler is very much in this tradition. His comedies are based on essentially the same character — a sweet but immature guy with an anger management problem. They have been been very successful with adolescent (and formerly adolescent) male audiences, topping the box office almost without exception.

Writer-director P.T. Anderson (“Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia”) has taken that same character and created around it a highly original and intelligent movie. It’s still about a sweet but immature guy with an anger management problem, so I can’t say that the performance is a stretch for Sandler, but he deserves a lot of credit for playing that character straight, without the distance and comfort (and hostility) of laugh lines.

Sandler plays Barry, a man whose affable exterior hides enormous fear and fury. We first see him in a bright blue suit sitting at a desk in a bare corner of a warehouse, talking on the phone to some low-level staff person about the intricacies of a promotion that gives frequent flyer miles for purchases of groceries. Two stunning, almost hallucinatory events occur that no one seems to see but him. First, there is a massive truck accident that just seems to evaporate. Then, a small piano-looking instrument called a harmonium somehow just seems to appear on the sidewalk. He picks it up and brings it inside, and we see that he has an office in the warehouse and is in fact the boss of a business that sells novelty toilet plungers.

All of this tells us that we are embarking on a journey inside Barry, who through the course of the movie will unstop his clogged up feelings, chart a course between the sacred and the profane, and reach toward love and harmony. And it works very, very well on this level, as we see Barry no longer able to bear his current life and therefore willing to take risks, some wiser than others, to allow him to change. Anderson shows us Barry over and over again running through hallways. He confides to his brother-in-law that he needs to talk to someone. He calls a 900 number just to have someone to talk to. Both violate his trust in the most shattering manner, and both unleash siblings (played by real-life siblings) who abuse him emotionally and physically.

His fascination with the frequent flyer mile opportunity leads him to buy hundreds of boxes of chocolate pudding. Even though he does not yet know where he wants to go, and has never really been anywhere, at some level he knows he yearns to go somewhere. When he meets Lena (Emily Watson), he feels that she is what he is longing for. He tries to use his absurd pudding miles to follow her to Hawaii, and when that does not work, he jettisons all dodges and maneuvers and just pays for a ticket. In a tradition that goes back to Shakespeare, it is only in an exotic natural location away from home that the lovers can tell each other the truth and find one another. And, as tradition requires, there is a second-act complication as Barry’s call to the sex line results in a disastrous attempt at extortion.

Watson is luminous, if enigmatic, as the warm-hearted girl who is a little surprised at how drawn she is to Barry. Anderson regular Philip Seymour Hoffman is outstanding as the would-be extortionist.

Audiences are likely to feel a bit punch drunk themselves as they try to make sense of this odd romantic journey with its offbeat dualities, combining extremes of chaos and harmony and love and anger. In one scene Barry and Lena tenderly kiss as they describe the violence of the way they would like to express their feelings. Still, Lena is so completely warm and healthy that the story seems lopsided, even if seen from Barry’s point of view. But it is undeniably an arresting and challenging film. Those expecting an Adam Sandler movie or a romantic comedy will be disappointed, but those who are open to something a little twisted and messy will find it very rewarding.

Parent should know that this movie has a good deal of mature material, including very strong language, sexual references and situations including a call to a telephone sex line, and violence. Parents of Adam Sandler fans should know that this is very different from his other movies and should exercise caution in allowing teenagers to see it.

Families who see this movie should talk about the use of symbols in the movie. Why is the word “love” spelled out in the abrasions on Barry’s knuckles? Compare that to Robert Mitchum’s famous portrayal of a con man posing as a preacher in “Night of the Hunter,” with “love” tattooed across the knuckles of one hand and “hate” tattooed across the other.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Raising Arizona.” Families looking for a more conventional Adam Sandler comedy will enjoy “The Wedding Singer” and “Happy Gilmore.”

Possession

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

No one thinks more carefuly about words than poets, scholars, and detectives. All three come together in two parallel love stories spanning two centuries, based on the astonishingly inventive, dauntingly intellectual, but rapturously romantic novel by A.S. Byatt.

Neil LaBute, best known for his harrowing and very contemporary portrayals of bitter, selfish, and manipulative people and abusive relationships in “Your Friends and Neighbors” and “In the Company of Men,” is an unexpected choice for this film. It required him to adapt someone else’s material, work with settings in another time and place, and portray relationships with genuine respect and intimacy. While he is not able to master the scope of the novel, the result is smart, satisfying, and fun.

Aaron Eckert (star of all of LaBute’s films and the biker boyfriend in “Erin Brockovich”) plays Roland Michell, a scholar of English literature who gets little respect because he is (1) a lowly research assistant and (2) American. Assigned the trivial task of leafing through a famous 19th century poet’s personal copy of a science book, in case the poet made any interesting marginal notes, he makes an astounding discovery.

The poet, Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northern), was famous for his devotion to his wife and is thought to have been completely faithful to her. But between the pages of the old book are early drafts of what appear to be Ash’s love letters to another woman. Impulsively, Roland takes the pages. They are potentially a career-making discovery. But more important, they are exactly the kind of scholarly mystery that fires his mind and spirit.

Roland decides that the Ash letters may have been written to Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle), a minor poet. Roland goes to meet with Maud Bailey, (Gwyneth Paltrow), a professor, who is not only an expert on LaMotte, but also a great-niece. From there, the story goes back and forth between the two sets of lovers.

This is a high-gloss romance with pretty people falling in love. Forget bodice-ripping — bodice untying is conclusively shown to be even more voluptuous. But the subtlety and complexity of the novel is lost. There are vestiges about some ambitious thoughts about love, honor, risk, emotional and intellectual precision, and even scholarship, but what remains is a nice date movie, but not much more.

Parents should know that the movie has sexual situations and references, including sex between unmarried couples, a lesbian relationship, and an out of wedlock pregnancy. Roland and Maud almost become sexually involved when he stops, telling her that he has hurt others in the past and does not want to become physically intimate until they have a better sense of their relationship. A character commits suicide. Characters steal documents of great value. There is some strong language, and characters smoke and drink. Some audience members may be upset by scenes of an unauthorized exhumation.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the two couples are alike and how they are different, and they should talk about the decisions made by Ash and LaMotte to become involved with each other despite prior relationships. Who was hurt by what they did? What do we know about Roland’s and Maud’s prior relationships, and how did they help and hurt the development of their relationship with each other? What led them to trust — and mistrust — each other? What was the right thing for Roland to do when he discovered Ash’s draft letters? How much is it fair for us to learn about historical figures and what do we do with that information?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the book, Possession: A Romance, with extraordinarily poems “by” Ash and LaMotte. They will also enjoy another story that counterpoises a 19th century love story with a contemporary one, The French Lieutenant’s Woman with Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep.

Pollyanna

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1960

Plot: Pollyanna (Hayley Mills) arrives in Harrington to live with her wealthy aunt, Polly Harrington (Jane Wyman), after the death of her missionary parents. Polly is generous with money, buying Pollyanna lots of beautiful clothes, but is reserved and joyless. She uses her influence to run all aspects of the town, even telling Reverend Ford (Karl Malden) what to preach on Sundays. His fire and brimstone sermons make the congregation miserable. Pollyanna’s friendliness and her expectation that everyone else will be friendly, too, endear her to everyone from Polly’s servants and Reverand Ford to a cranky invalid (Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Snow) and the town recluse (Adolphe Menjou as Mr. Pendergast). She teaches her friends “the glad game,” finding something to be glad about in any situation.

When the people in the town decide that instead of accepting Polly’s charity, they will give a bazaar to raise money for a new orphanage, Polly forbids Pollyanna to go. She sneaks out by climbing down a tree and has a wonderful time, but falls on the way back in and is badly hurt. She no longer wants to try to play the glad game, until the whole town shows up to tell her how much she means to them. She leaves for an operation, confident that she will soon be well.

Discussion: This is Disney at its finest, a lavish and gorgeous fantasy of an idyllic American past. Using first-rate actors (including two former Oscar-winners) and sumptuous period detail, this movie is a delight for the eyes as well as the spirit.

Pollyanna is best remembered for “the glad game,” in which the challenge is to find something to be glad about, no matter how bleak the situation. But what really makes her special is the way that she expects the best from everyone, and the transforming effect it has on each person she meets. Pollyanna wears on a chain a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “When you look for the bad in men, expecting to find it, you surely will.” She thanks Aunt Polly for her generosity, and the clothes become a gift instead of a duty or a way of establishing position. (Cedric has the same effect on others in “Little Lord Fauntleroy.”) Pollyanna expects Mrs. Snow and Mr. Pendergast to want to participate in the bazaar, and they do. She quotes her father to Reverend Ford. He told her that with 826 “happy texts” in the Bible, God must have wanted people to be happy. Pollyanna helps Ford find again not just his own joy in preaching, but also his integrity in preaching what is in his heart, and not what Polly Harrington tells him to say. At his next sermon, he tells everyone to enjoy the beautiful day (and to come to the bazaar), and admits, “I should have been looking for the good in you, and I failed, and I apologize.”

Many of the mistakes people make in this movie come from trying to protect themselves from hurt. Polly, hurt by her estrangement from Dr. Chilton, relies on her sense of duty. Mrs. Snow, worried about illness and dependence, tries to blame others and achieves some sense of control (and some attention) with her contrariness. Mr. Pendergast just avoids any contact at all. Pollyanna shows them how to make sure that fear of pain and loss do not prevent opportunities for joy.

Pollyanna, like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” gets a rare opportunity to have all she has done recognized and acknowledged by the community. Ask kids who in their community has had a beneficial impact, and how it could be acknowledged.

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