Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

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

 

Adventure Planet
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:

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

 

Blended
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language.
Release Date:
May 23, 2014

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

 

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some scary images and mild peril
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

Return to Never Land

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2002

This pleasant but forgettable sequel to Disney’s “Peter Pan” is not just not up to the original animated feature. It is not even up to the standard set by the vintage Pluto cartoon (“Pluto’s Fledgling,” from 1957) that precedes it.

The original has terrific songs (“You Can Fly,” “Never Smile at a Crocodile”) and one of my all-time favorite movie moments, as Peter, Wendy, Michael, and John soar around Big Ben and look down on Victorian London. This version manages a couple of magical moments, especially the opening credit sequence and Captain Hook’s pirate ship flying through London, but the music, performances, animation, and story are strictly at the straight-to-video level.

Wendy has grown up, and is married with two children, Jane and Daniel. She loves to tell them stories about Peter Pan and Captain Hook. But World War II is underway, and London is blasted by bombs. Wendy’s husband leaves for the war, telling Jane to take care of her mother and brother. Jane is strong and brave, leading Nana 2 through London in the midst of an attack. But she can’t let herself believe in Peter Pan or fairies, because that would make it even harder to bear the loss and destruction – and the fear. So she gives her little brother socks for his birthday (a size large, so he will have room to grow), and is given to crisp pronouncements like, “I’ve no time for fun and games” and “I don’t know why you fill his head with silly stories.”

Just before Jane and Daniel are going to be sent away to the countryside, where it is safer, Jane is kidnapped by Captain Hook. He thinks that if he captures Wendy, Peter Pan will come to save her. Because he lives in Never Land, he does not realize that Wendy has grown up. But then, neither does Peter, who does come to rescue her, and is just as happy when it turns out to be Jane. But she does not want to stay with the Lost Boys, even when they make her a Lost Girl. Before Jane can go home, though, she will have to learn to believe in “faith, trust, and pixie dust.”

For a story about the power of imagination, the movie is especially lackluster. The original story’s crocodile has been replaced by an octopus for no particular reason, and the action sequences are replays of the first version. The sexism and racism of the original are excised – Jane rescues Peter in this one. But that is not enough to make up for a script that even at under 90 minutes, is just too long. Of all the changes, though, I think the one that would most upset James M. Barrie, the very British man who created Peter Pan, is probably hearing Peter speak with an American accent and even use baseball slang.

Some of Disney’s recent follow-ups have been quite good, especially the sequels to “The Little Mermaid” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” with theater-quality voice talent and animation and some bright new songs. It is hard to figure out the reasoning that had both of those movies go straight to video and give this one a theatrical release.

Parents should know that while the movie is rated G, there is some peril, much comic but some a little scary. Children may want to know more about the Blitz (the movie never tells us who it is that is dropping bombs on London, we briefly see children being sent away from their families by train, and we can’t tell from the end if the war is over or not).

Families who see this movie should talk about “faith, trust, and pixie dust,” and how even children have to be brave and helpful during difficult times. Some children may make a connection between the Blitz and the terrorist attacks.

Families who enjoy this movie should watch the original, one of Disney’s best. They will also enjoy another Disney classic, like “Peter Pan” written in Victorian times and filmed in the 1950’s, “Alice in Wonderland.”

Return to Me

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2000

No surprises here, but it is a pleasant date-movie, a romance that tries hard to transcend its gimmick and just about succeeds. Let’s get the gimmick out of the way first – guy has girl (architect Bob — David Duchovney — married to beautiful Elizabeth — zookeeper Joely Richardson). Then guy loses girl in a car accident, guy meets new girl named Grace (Minnie Driver) who doesn’t want to tell him that she had a heart transplant, guy finds out that the heart came from his late wife, and everyone gets over it and gets on with living happily ever after.

I know, I know, it is a very creaky premise. At least it isn’t one of those movies that drags out the telling part and then just as she is about to spill the beans he finds out anyway and it takes another half hour to straighten it all out. And at least there is no maudlin “Chicken Soup for the Soul”-type stuff about how this is the gift his late wife brought to him or anything like that. Grace tells Bob as soon as she finds out and it does not take him too long to figure out that he loves her anyway, and if it just happens that the big clinch happens in Italy, where he was always trying to take Elizabeth, we won’t make too big a thing of it.

We know where it is all going from the first five minutes. So we can sit back and enjoy the ride, in the capable hands of director/co-star/co- scriptwriter Bonnie Hunt. Hunt, a terrific character actress (Renée Zellweger’s sister in “Jerry Maguire” and Tom Hanks’ wife in “The Green Mile”) lets the couple’s friends and family add a lot of life and depth to the story. They give Bob and Grace more personality and interest, sort of character by association.

Grace lives with her grandfather (Carroll O’Connor), owner of an Irish-Italian restaurant that is home to a community so adorable and loving that they could be birds and cherubs perching on the finger of an animated Disney heroine. Her friend Megan (director Hunt) is living in happy domestic chaos with her husband (James Belushi) and four children. Bob’s friend Charlie (David Alan Grier) is there to fix him up with Ms. Wrong, so that he can have a reason to go to Grace’s grandfather’s restaurant and leave behind the 21st century equivalent of a glass slipper – his cell phone.

Everyone has to cope with the risks of letting others see us clearly. It is not just major secrets like heart transplants that people are afraid to share with others. Families who see this movie should talk about how people decide how much of themselves to share, about how people cope with loss that seems devastatingly overwhelming, and about Grace’s grandfather’s comment that “It is the character that’s the strongest that God gives the most challenges to.” Before Grace goes out with Bob for the first time, Megan advises her not to shave her legs, as insurance against “going too far.” This is a rare movie in which the couple does not go to bed together almost immediately, partly because of Grace’s sensitivity about her scar, and possibly also because Bob needs to take things slowly, too. Some families will want to talk about how couples make decisions about the risks of physical intimacy as well as emotional. And families should also talk about the loving way the people in this movie care for each other and enjoy each other.

Parents should know that though the movie is rated PG, there are a few strong words, including some used by children, and some mild sexual references.

Families who enjoy this movie will also like “Sleepless in Seattle.”

Resident Evil

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

The definitive comment about “Resident Evil” was made by my friend Luke, who walked out of the theater with me and said, “The computer game is more realistic than the movie.” At least, I think that’s what he said. My ears were still ringing from the highest decibel audio track I can remember.

Okay, no one was going in expecting insights about the human condition or Oscar-worthy performances in a movie based on a CD-ROM. All we hope for is some cool special effects and fight scenes. But even on that level, “Resident Evil” is a disappointment.

A huge corporate conglomerate operates a mysterious underground research facility called The Hive. When something goes wrong with a devastating virus experiment, the governing computer system (think “2001’s” Hal the computer with the voice of Alice in Wonderland) shuts everything down, including killing off all the people. Two amnesiac security officers are brought down into The Hive by a team of commandos. And the rest of the movie consists of the group being confronted by various booby-traps and being chased by various mutants and zombies.

For the record, I can accept forgoing insight, characterization, and even dialogue in a movie like this. But it is not okay to forego stunning visuals, clever plot twists, and a sense of humor, and here “Resident Evil” falls short. What it does have is undead humans who look like rejects from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, mutant vampire Dobermans who look like they they’ve been turned inside out, some laser beams that slice into people in a really gross way, and, on the plus side, a literally kick-ass performance by Michelle Rodriguez.

Parents should know that this movie has extremely gross and graphic violence, with many disgusting deaths and truly icky monsters. Characters are in extreme peril and most of them are killed. There is very strong language and a brief sexual situation with nudity.

Families who see this movie should talk about how people should respond if they believe that their organization is doing something wrong and about the kinds of controls our society establishes to keep private organizations from getting out of control. They can also talk about how this movie could have been better.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the much better The Fifth Element, also starring Milla Jovovich.

Remember the Titans

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2000

This movie about the real-life integration of a Virginia high school football teem teeters on the brink of cliche and stereotype but manages to come down on the side of archetype, thanks to a sure script, solid direction, and another sensational performance by Denzel Washington.

It was not until 1971, seventeen years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, that black students came to T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria Virginia. Every other team in that football-loving district was still segregated. But the white T.C. Williams players were confronted with not only a whole new set of black players, but a black coach, Herman Boone (Washington). In a matter of a few weeks, Boone has to make them into a team — and it has to be a winning team, because the school board is looking for any reason to fire him so they can reinstate Coach Yoast (Will Patton), now demoted to assistant.

This is the kind of movie that begins with all the characters attending a funeral under a bright autumn sun and then takes us back to where it all began. This is the kind of movie in which people say things like, “Is this even about football anymore or is it just about you?” and where the supreme bonding moment is when everyone sings Motown songs together. In other words, no surprises here. If everyone hadn’t achieved a sense of brotherhood that transcended race and it hadn’t all turned out pretty well, Disney would not have made a movie about it. But that just leaves us free to enjoy the movie’s appealing characters and special moments. And that’s all right. There is a reason for the classic structure of the sports movie — we like to watch raw recruits learn honor and loyalty out there on the field when it’s done right, and here it is done very nicely.

Washington is, as ever, that rarest of pleasures, equally an actor and a movie star. His power to mesmerize and inspire as a performer works perfectly with his role as a coach who can capture the attention and loyalty of these teen-age boys. Boone is so secure in himself that he can devote all of his energy to the team, so he inspires them by example.

Boone loves football because the football field is the one place where only what is inside the players matters — talent, loyalty, hard work, integrity. He is a man who has faced racism with dignity and self-confidence, not bitterness. He also loves football because it provides a constructive outlet for his emotions. He tells the team that football is “about controlling that anger, harnessing that aggression to achieve perfection.”

Boone takes the boys to a college near Gettysburg for training. It is impossible to say which is the tougher workout for the team — the physical challenges of drills and practices or the emotional challenge of overcoming a lifetime of anger and prejudice. He takes them to the Gettysburg battlefield and tells them that “Fifty thousand men died on this same field fighting the same battle we are still fighting today…If we don’t come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed.”

But there is another battlefield waiting for them when they get back to school. The team has a number of tough moments on and off the field. So do the coaches. As Boone reminds them, in mythology the titans were even greater than the gods. Like all great coaches, Boone and Yoast teach the team that they have it within themselves to be great as well. And they realize that they get as much from the boys as the boys get from them.

Parents should know that the movie includes racist comments and situations and some locker room insults. A major character is critically injured in a car accident. When the boys refer to a long-haired teammate as a “fruitcake,” he responds by kissing one of them on the mouth. There are some scuffles and threats of more serious violence.

Families who see this movie should talk about the arguments Boone and Yoast have about how to motivate the team. Yoast thinks that Boone is too tough. Boone thinks that Yoast is more protective of the black players than the white players. Ask family members who inspired them to do their best, and how they did it. Notice that Boone may criticize a player’s performance on the field in front of the others, but that he never lets the team know that he is helping one member with his schoolwork. Talk about the way that the boys show respect and affection by insulting each other.

Families might also want to talk about Yoast’s willingness to stay on as assistant coach, despite the blow to his pride, and about why he relinquishes his chance to be in the Hall of Fame.

Parents may want to share their recollections of the civil rights era in light of the players’ experience in not being allowed to eat at a restaurant. The movie focuses on racism, but it also deals with other kinds of prejudice. See if the kids in the family notice the prejudice against the boy with long hair or Boone’s patronizing attitude toward Yoast’s football-loving daughter.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy “Brian’s Song,” the true (and very sad) story of the first racially mixed roommates in the NFL, Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo.

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