Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Tusk
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

This is Where I Leave You
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Think Like a Man Too
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material
Release Date:
June 20, 2014

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Godzilla
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Release Date:
May 16, 2014

The Legend of Bagger Vance

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2000

There is a golden boy, young, handsome, a champion golfer, and he wins the heart of Adele (Charlize Theron), the most beautiful debutante in Georgia. His roots in Savannah are so deep that even his name seems spelled with a Southern accent — Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon). Then he goes off to fight in World War I, and comes home “confused, broken, and unable to face a return to a hero’s welcome.” He does not speak to Adele or see any of his old friends and he does not play golf for more than 10 years. And then Adele needs him to play the two greatest golfers in the world at an exhibition match that can keep her from bankruptcy. A mysterious stranger named Bagger Vance (Will Smith) arrives to give Junuh the guidance he needs to get back in the game.

Your ability to appreciate this movie will depend on your tolerance for larger-than life stories with allegorical, even epical, overtones. Some people will find it simplistic and clichéd. They will see Bagger Vance’s relationship with Junuh as too much like having Yoda coach Luke Skywalker on whether he should use an iron to get out of the sandtrap. Vance tells Junuh things that will either strike you as wise or fortune-cookie corny, depending on your point of view: “Golf is a game that cannot be won, only played,” “A man’s authentic swing can’t be learned, only remembered,” and “You can’t make the ball go in the hole, you can only let it.” But others, particularly those who have spent some time in the South, will recognize it as not too far off from the way things actually occur in that part of the country, especially on the golf course. They will enjoy the sun-dappled greens and the pleasures of seeing a man find a swing that makes a sound like thunder when it drives the ball.

This movie has a lot in common with what I consider director Robert Redford’s best film, “A River Runs Through It.” Like that one, this story begins with an old man remembering the sport and the setting of his youth, with golf, like fly-fishing, as a metaphor for man’s interaction with nature and fate and even love. But “A River Runs Through It” was more complex and more comfortable with ambiguity. Its message was that a person can love completely without understanding completely. This movie, with its more traditional journey of redemption, is not as wise or moving. But it is a good story, lovingly told, and beautiful to watch.

Parents should know that the movie has a brief but bloody battle scene, brief mild language, brief sexual references, and inexplicit sexual situations. A woman offers to trade a man sex for a favor. She does not go through with it, even though it is clear that she loves him, in fact, probably because she loves him. A man commits suicide (off-camera). Junuh abuses alcohol in an attempt to forget his experiences and his pain.

This is a very good film to help families initiate discussions of important issues, including how we respond when things go badly. One character kills himself when he loses his money. Another says he would rather do nothing than do something beneath his dignity. Junuh tries to make himself feel better by isolating himself and drinking and gambling. But another character insists on paying all of his debts instead of declaring bankruptcy and takes whatever job he can find so he can feed his family. And Adele, a steel magnolia in a series of divine cloche hats, refuses to give up on her father’s dream of a golf resort, showing courage, intelligence, and resilience. Junuh learns to accept the fact that he will never be the naively confident man he was before the war. He can still be someone who will take risks, even though he now knows how painful the consequences can be.

Talk to kids about Bagger Vance. Who is he? Why does he want “$5 guaranteed” instead of a part of the prize? Why does he leave when he does? Why does he tell Junuh to hook and to quit? What does he mean when he advises Junuh to see the field? Why does he leave him alone in the woods? Some families may want to talk about whether a black man would really have been called “sir” and “Mr.” and allowed to sit on a resort’s porch in 1930′s Georgia. Older kids may want to talk about the potential racism inherent in assigning a sort of magical “otherness” to the lone black character.

The movie also shows us the importance of integrity, not just for the community but for ourselves. When a character tells Junuh that one of the best things about golf is that it is the only game in which a character calls a penalty on himself, we know that information is going to be important. Talk to kids about what that means, and why Junuh makes the choice that he does. Ask them why Junuh has to find a way to feel good about himself again before he can return to Adele. And discuss the different approaches of the other golfers, one who makes every shot perfect and one who makes one brilliant shot make up for three terrible ones. Talk with them, too, about how we find our own “authentic swings,” the ones that our hands know before our heads do.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Hoosiers.”

The Last Starfighter

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:1984

Plot: This adventure saga mixes an update of the old system of “recruiting” sailors by shanghai with the fantasy of saving the universe by being a star at computer games. It turns out that one particular arcade game is really a test, put on earth by very advanced beings from another planet, to find someone good enough to be “The Last Starfighter.” And the only one to meet that challenge is Alex, who lives in a trailer park with his mother and younger brother, and who has just found out that he did not get the loan he needed for college.
Centauri (played with magnificent panache by Robert Preston) is the outer-space recruiter who takes Alex to the Starfighter deployment center on his planet and explains that Alex is the only one left who has the skill to be the Last Starfighter. Alex refuses, and is on his way back to Earth when all of the other Starfighters are destroyed by the evil Ko-Dan. When the bad guys come after him because they know he is the last remaining threat to them, he agrees to stay and fight.
Centauri thoughtfully leaves behind a “courtesy replacement simuloid,” a robot that has Alex’s looks, so his family won’t worry. The simuloid, however, has no idea of how to behave like an Earthling, and gets into all kinds of trouble.
Meanwhile, Alex is paired with Grig, a reptilian-looking alien navigator (under all of that latex is a remarkably expressive Dan O’Herlihy). Alex worries, “I’m just a kid from a trailer park.” “If that’s all you think you are, that’s all you’ll ever be.” Because all of the other Starfighters have been killed, Alex must face opposition leader Zor alone. “It will be a slaughter!” “That’s the spirit!” “No, I mean us!” But he is successful, and returns to Earth to collect his devoted girlfriend and take her back with him.
Discussion: This movie has a lot of action and special effects. The efforts of the “simuloid” to understand life on Earth provide some good slapstick. The relationship between Alex and Grig is handled nicely. The movie is no one’s idea of a classic, but kids who like space-age shoot-’em ups will enjoy it, and with the caveats noted below, it is a good family movie.
Questions for Kids:
· Why does Alex change his mind and agree to fight?
· How can he tell which are the good guys and which are the bad?
Connections: This was the last film performance by Robert Preston (“The Music Man”). Aside from Preston, the movie’s greatest asset is the production design, by Ron Cobb of “Alien,” “Star Wars,” and “Conan the Barbarian.” For a much more thoughtful and mature depiction of bonding between a human and an alien, see “Enemy Mine.”

The Ladies Man

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2000

First, the good news. (1) It isn’t very long. If you are going to waste time at a movie, you won’t waste more than 85 minutes on this one. (2) It isn’t as bad as some of the other SNL movies, like “Superstar” and “It’s Pat.” It’s more of the caliber of “Stuart Saves His Family,” meaning that there are some very funny moments. (3) Will Ferrell is great as the husband of one of The Ladies Man’s ladies and some of the other SNL and “Kids in the Hall” veterans provide some bright spots. (4) It’s always great to see Billy Dee Williams.

Now, the bad news. You can’t make a five minute SNL sketch into a feature-length movie, even a short movie. It will have to have stretches of obvious padding, as in a useless sequence about how The Ladies Man grew up in the Playboy mansion. Most attempts to make a sketch character work in a movie try one of two options. Either he has to stay one-dimensional and get tiring or he has to have more depth and become less funny. This movie makes both mistakes, recycling the same jokes over and over and then asking us to believe that he’s really a loveable guy. Meadows the screenwriter should do better by Meadows the performer, who is much more talented than this material.

Tim Meadows plays Leon Phelps, a late-night talk show host who drinks Corvoisier as he does his broadcast and has been repeatedly fined by the FCC for using inappropriate language on the air. He and his beautiful producer Julie (Karyn Parsons of “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”) are fired and have to find new work. Julie gets organized and begins making pitches to other local stations. But Leon’s approach to problems is to “go have sex and wait for something to randomly happen.” He tries to track down a former lover who has written to offer him a fortune. He doesn’t realize that the husbands of many of his ladies have banded together to go after him, communicating via a “victims of the smiling ass” website, a reference to a tattoo of a smiley face that is glimpsed as he jumps out of the bedroom windows. Much comic chaos ensues, including a very gross bar-food eating contest.

Parents should know that this gets a well-deserved R rating for frequent and explicit sexual references. Though intended to be comic, Leon’s behavior is foolish, risky, hurtful, and exploitive. It may be an odd sign of progress in race relations that a movie like this can include a comic scene of a potential lynching, but it still may strike some viewers as uncomfortably insensitive to the tragic evidence of past racism.

Families who see this movie can talk about the ways that some people use sex to hide from feelings of sorrow or loneliness, and how Julie sees something in Leon that no one else does.

People who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the best of the SNL movies, “Wayne’s World.”

The Hustler

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:1962

Plot: “Fast” Eddie Felsen (Paul Newman) is a pool hustler. He and his partner, Charlie, go into pool halls and set the local players up. Eddie pretends to be a pool player who likes to make big bets. When he beats them and takes their money, he makes it look like luck, so they can’t tell they have been hustled. Eddie’s dream is to beat the legendary Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), the champion. He challenges him to a contest. At first, Eddie is ahead. But he gets cocky, drinks too much, and is finally worn down by Fats. After more than 24 hours, Eddie realizes he can’t win. He leaves Charlie the money and the car, and goes off on his own. Eddie meets Sarah (Piper Laurie), an alcoholic, and moves in with her. When Charlie finds them, Eddie tells him to go. Charlie wants to make enough money to set up his own pool hall. Eddie wants more; he wants to win, and to be a winner. Angry at himself and the world, Eddie hustles some young punks, and shows off, humiliating them. They beat him up and break his thumbs. He has time to reflect, and to grow closer to Sarah. He agrees to go into partnership with Bert Gordon (George C. Scott), a silky gambler who sees everything in terms of dollars. Bert sets up a game with a decadent rich man. In a mirror image of the game with Fats, Eddie loses at first, and then, defying Sarah’s appeal to quit, persists, and wins $12,000. At the hotel, Bert and Sarah acknowledge that in the tug-of-war for Eddie, Bert has won. Sarah commits suicide. Bert once told Eddie that he needed more than talent to beat Fats — he needed character. He shows that he has developed character when he goes back and takes Fats on again. Fats concedes, “I can’t beat you.” Bert says that Eddie owes him his piece of the proceeds, but Eddie refuses. Bert allows him to go, but says he will never be able to play in a big-time poolhall again. That doesn’t matter. Eddie has what he wanted. Discussion: Despite the seedy settings (so evocative that they are almost a character in the story), this is almost a traditional morality play about humility and redemption. In the beginning Eddie is, as Fats notes, as fast as his nickname, slick, cocky, superficial. He wants to win for the kick of it. But inside him, there is someone who wants to win for the beauty of the game, and the honor of doing something surpassingly well. He is really not so far removed from Eric Liddell (“Chariot’s of Fire”), who feels God’s pleasure when he runs. But before he can be a real winner, he must get rid of the part of himself that wants to lose, that is afraid to take a real risk. For that, he has to experience real loss, the beating, the damage to his thumbs that could have ended his ability to play pool, the loss of Sarah. As Nietzsche said, “That which does not defeat me makes me stronger.” Eddie is strengthened so by these experiences and by what he has learned, that he can no longer be contained by what had once been his entire world. Bert’s threat that he will no longer be able to play big- time pool is meaningless to him. Even if Bert had offered him a 50-50 deal, he would not have taken it. That world is too small and self- contained for him now. Most of the movie takes place in smoky, dingy bars and pool- halls. The scenes at the rich man’s home in Louisville are just as squalid in their own way. There is only one scene in which Eddie and Sarah are outside together. They are having a picnic. It is in that scene that they first reveal the truth about themselves to each other. Sarah confesses the real source of her money (her father) and her limp (polio), contrary to what she has told him before. And she tells him that she loves him. Eddie tells her what he barely admitted to himself, the way he loves the game of pool, the way it makes him feel to play it well. Understanding what it means to him is what enables him to begin to go back to it. The relationship between Eddie and Sarah is a weak part of the movie, mostly because her character is the least well-crafted in the otherwise all-male movie. It is hard to feel sympathetic towards her because she thinks so badly of herself. Yet her willingness to love Eddie is what causes him to recognize what is best in himself. It is also interesting to look at this movie from Fats’ perspective. He represents one direction Eddie could take. He could become the new champion and take on every tough kid who wanted to topple him, until one finally would, just as he toppled his predecessor. This is the theme of “The Gunfighter,” in a life-and-death context. Questions for Kids: · People in the movie have different ideas about what makes someone a winner or a loser. What are those ideas? How do they fit with others you have heard about, or with your own? · What made Eddie different between his two games with Fats? · Why didn’t Sarah want Eddie to keep playing Findlay? · How do Sarah and Bert represent two different parts of Eddie that fight with each other? Connections: “The Color of Money,” also starring Newman as Eddie Felsen, is a sequel made twenty-six years later by Martin Scorsese (rated R). Felsen becomes a mentor for a young hustler played by Tom Cruise. Both performances are outstanding (Newman won a long-overdue Oscar), but the script is weak, especially in the second half.

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