Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence
Release Date:
October 24, 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

John Wick
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
Release Date:
October 24, 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

23 Blast
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some teen drinking
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2001

Somewhere, there are future Hollywood directors who will tell magazine feature writers that they first decided to make movies as they watched “Lord of the Rings.”

It is that good. It is that once-to-a-generation, not since “Star Wars,” transcendent reminder of why we tell stories, why we have imagination, and why we must go on quests to test our spirits and heal the world. And it is a story that invites us into a fully-realized world with many different civilizations, all so thoroughly imagined that we do not only believe that they each have complete languages, but that they have dictionaries, histories, mythologies, schools, music, and poetry.

Our hero, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), comes from one such culture. He is a Hobbit. And he is on a quest to return a powerful ring to the place where it was created, so it can be destroyed. A great wizard called Gandalf has told him that the ring can be the source of great evil. But of course this makes it very sought after by all kinds of scary folks, so Frodo has a lot of adventures ahead of him.

Peter Jackson, who directed and co-wrote the script, has created a movie that seems astonishingly inventive and new and at the same time somehow seems as though it always existed inside us. Every detail, from the tiniest plant to the hugest battle, is exactly, satisfyingly right. The bad guys, all thundering hooves and billowing capes, seem to have come from the core of every nightmare since the world began. All three movies in the series have already been shot, so we can expect his singular vision to carry us through to the end.

A couple of caveats — like Harry Potter, Frodo is a character who is more interesting on the page, where we can share his thoughts, than in a movie, where he is primarily called upon to look amazed, scared, or sad. And like Harry Potter, there were benefits to producing a series of films at the same time (continuity, commitment to getting all of the details right), but some drawbacks, too. So, we get glimpses of people who will be important later but now are somewhere between placeholders and distractions. I know they were there first, but I could not help thinking that all the women in the movie dress like Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks.

Parents should know that the movie might be overwhelming for younger children who are not familiar with the characters and story. I recommend preparing anyone younger than 12 with some background or encouraging them to read the simpler first story in the series, The Hobbit (about Frodo’s uncle, Bilbo). Characters are in severe peril and there are intense battle scenes.

Families who watch this movie should discuss why it is that only Frodo seems immune to the ring’s power to corrupt even honorable, wise, and powerful people and the notion that “even the smallest person can change the course of the earth.” If you were going to form a fellowship for a grand quest, who would you want to be in it?

Families who enjoy this movie should read the books, starting with the prequel, The Hobbit, with beautiful illustrations by Michael Hague. They may want to read more about New Zealand because its extraordinary topography provides the settings for Middle Earth or look at the gorgeously imaginative illustrations by Maxfield Parrish that inspired some of the art direction. They will also enjoy the “Star Wars” movies, Labyrinth, and Dark Crystal. I enthusiastically recommend the BBC audio version of the books, which might be just the thing to keep kids patient until the second movie in the trilogy opens up in December of 2002.

The Little Vampire

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

On one hand, this is an imaginative and exciting story, based on a popular series of children’s books. On the other hand, the subject matter is vampires. Even though these vampires are friendly and only suck blood out of cows, several children in the audience at the screening I attended were visibly upset. One 5-year-old burst into tears, saying, “You told me this was going to be a funny movie!” So parents should be very cautious about taking younger children to this movie.

Jonathan Lipnicki (of “Stuart Little”) plays Tony, a boy who is not very happy about moving from San Diego to Scotland, so his father can build a golf course for Lord McAshton (John Wood). Every night, Tony has creepy dreams about vampires, but no one believes him when he says that they are real. His teacher punishes him and classmates bully him.

One night, a real vampire flies into Tony’s room. This vampire is Rudolph, and he is about Tony’s age — or he would be, if he had not been a vampire for 300 years. Rudolph tells Tony that the vampires want to be human again, and that they can do it if they can escape the vampire killer who is after them, and if they can find the missing amulet before the comet arrives.

Tony and Rudolph become friends. Tony helps Rudolph find cows so he can suck their blood. (Rudolph explains, “We want to become human, not eat them for dinner!”) Tony doesn’t have a coffin handy when he wants Rudolph to sleep over, but his footlocker works just as well. And it turns out that a vampire is a handy friend when it comes to dealing with school bullies.

All turns out fine, but there are some grisly adventures along the way. The production design is outstanding, and Richard E. Grant and Alice Krige as Rudolph’s vampire parents are first rate.

Parents should know that this movie includes dead bodies, stakes through the heart, a child locked in a crypt, a dead mouse, vampire cows, references to the undead, and a generally ghoulish atmosphere. Some kids, especially fans of the book, will love this stuff, but others will be upset by it. In addition, there are characters in peril, schoolyard fights with bullies, and a brief adult fistfight.

Families who see this movie should talk about what we do when we get scared. Tony pretends to be a vampire, one way to be less scared by them. And once he sees that Rudolph needs his help, he is not afraid anymore. Talk to kids about the bullies at school, and any experiences they may have had with bullies. Do they think that Tony becomes a bully in the movie?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the creepy but silly adventures of Scooby-Doo, like “Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers.”

The Little Mermaid

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1989
DVD Release Date:September 30, 2013

little mermaid diamondAfter some lackluster years, Disney came back into the top rank of animated features with this superbly entertaining musical, based loosely on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen (but with a happier ending).

Ariel was the first in a series of refreshingly plucky Disney heroines. Instead of dreaming about the day her prince will come, or waiting for a fairy godmother or a Prince’s kiss, Ariel is a spirited and curious mermaid who is willing to take action in order to meet Prince Eric, the man of her dreams, though she is gullible and impetuous in agreeing to the terms demanded by the seawitch in exchange for making it possible for her to go on land.

She goes to the seawitch (Pat Carroll, first rate as Ursula the octopus) to ask her to turn her tail into legs. But Ursula has two conditions. Ariel has to give up her voice. And if Eric does not kiss her within three days, Ariel will become Ursula’s slave forever. She agrees, and has to find a way to persuade Eric to fall in love with her without using her voice, despite Ursula’s crafty plans to prevent it.

NOTE: In addition to the “normal” scariness of the sea witch, some children may find the casual bloodthirstiness of the French chef upsetting, especially in the musical number in which he tries to turn Sebastian into crabmeat.

The wonderful voice characterizations in this film include Buddy Hackett (“The Music Man”) as Scuttle the scavanging seagull and Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian, the calypso-singing crab. The first-class musical score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (who worked together on the off-Broadway hit, “Little Shop of Horrors”) ranks with the best of Broadway and won Oscars for Best Score and Best Song (“Under the Sea”). Some viewers criticize the movie for providing yet another wasp-waisted Disney heroine whose whole world revolves around a man. But Ariel is adventuresome, rebellious, and brave. It is true that she makes the mistake of giving up her voice to the sea witch (a very strong female character, to say the least), which provides a good opportunity for family discussion.

A straight to video sequel about Ariel’s daughter called The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea is exceptionally good, with first-class animation and a lot of heart and humor.

The Lion King

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1994

Sort of a cross between “Richard III” and “Hamlet,” this is the story of Simba (voice of Jonathan Taylor Thomas as a child, Matthew Broderick as an adult), the cub of Mufasa (James Earl Jones), the king of the jungle. Simba “just can’t wait to be king.” But his evil Uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons), bitterly jealous of Mufasa, wants to be king, so he arranges for Mufasa to be killed in a stampede and to have Simba think he is responsible.

Simba runs away, and finds friends in Pumbaa the warthog (Ernie Sabella) and Timon the meerkat (Nathan Lane), who advise him that the best philosophy is “hakuna matata” (no worries). Simba grows up thinking he has escaped from his past, but his childhood friend, Nala finds him, and tells him that under Scar’s leadership, the tribe has suffered badly. She persuades him to return to take on his responsibilities as King of the Pridelands. He learns that it was Scar who caused Mufasa’s death, and he vanquishes Scar to become King.

NOTE: The death of Mufasa is genuinely scary. More troubling is the arrogance of the “Circle of Life” explanation, which is mighty reassuring as long as you are the one on top of the food chain. And worse than that is the whole “hakuna matata” idea, which is genuinely irresponsible. Make sure that kids realize that even Simba finds out that he cannot run away from his problems.

Not just a movie, but a marketing phenomenon, this blockbuster was the highest grossing film of the year. Amazingly, it made even more money in merchandise than it did at the box office, a fact for which audiences have been paying ever since, as each subsequent Disney animated movie seems to be designed primarily as a commercial for teeshirts, lunchboxes and action figures. The score, and the song “Circle of Life,” with authentic African rhythms and instruments, won Oscars for Elton John and Tim Rice, and the movie later became a Broadway blockbuster.

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