Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Laggies
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, some sexual material and teen partying
Release Date:
October 31, 2014

 

Begin Again
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
July 2, 2014

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

 

Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 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

The Replacements

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

What is it about football movies? I don’t even like football, but I am a sucker for a good football movie. I’m even a sucker for a pretty good one like this lightweight but likeable story about players called in when the team goes on strike. It’s sort of “Rocky” crossed with “The Longest Yard,” “The Dirty Dozen,” and “The Bad News Bears.”

Gene Hackman plays Jimmy McGinty, a former coach of the Washington Sentinals football team brought back by the owner (Jack Warden)when the players go on strike. The other teams quickly hire professionals, but McGinty has been keeping a file of talented players who for one reason or another, have never played pro ball. One had an injured knee, one is in prison, one is deaf, one is a Welsh soccer player, one is a sumo wrestler, and one, Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves) was a college superstar who quit after a disastrous showing at the Sugar Bowl.

Not that I’m trying to spoil the ending or anything, but this is definitely a feel-good movie, and if we have to suspend a little disbelief with regard to a few small issues, oh, well, we don’t go to summer movies to think too hard.

What we do go to summer movies for is to enjoy ourselves, and that we do. As McGinty says, these guys get “what every athlete dreams of, a second chance.” They get to play for the love of the game and the challenge of defeating the other guys and their own demons. Loners get to be a part of a team. Their time on the field may be brief, but they leave forever changed. We get to see “everyday guys” playing in the big league. It is a delicious fantasy and just plain fun to watch.

Director Howard Deutch takes no chances, loading up the soundtrack with every classic sports movie standard from “We Will Rock You” to Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll, Part II,” and adding in some replacement cheerleaders who come from a strip club for some sizzle. It all comes together nicely. There are some very funny spots along the way, including a prison cell rendition of “I Will Survive” and a stripper-led cheer that distracts the opposing team at a crucial moment. The romance between Falco and head cheerleader Annabelle Farrell (Brooke Langton) is handled nicely, making it clear that it is not until he begins to feel better about himself that he can allow himself to get close to her. The team’s growing sense of loyalty and dignity and the coach’s faith in them are warmly portrayed. And, when all else fails, the football games are a hoot.

Parents should know that the movie includes some salty language, sexual references, and highly suggestive cheerleader moves. There is also substantial violence on and off the field, mostly punching and shoving, and a few mildly gross moments as well. Characters smoke and drink, and there are scenes in bars.

Families who see this movie should talk about what it is that makes people feel good about themselves, how a leader can make all the difference on a team, and whether fame and money hurt professional athletes and sports. Families should also talk about the coach’s comment that the difference between a winner and a loser is that a winner gets back on the horse and keeps trying.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “M*A*S*H” and “The Longest Yard” (both for mature audiences).

The Princess Diaries

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2001

This is a great big luscious lollypop of a movie, terrific fun for girls of any age and for their families, too.

Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) is a shy 15-year-old who says, “My expectation in life is to be invisible, and I’m good at it.” She dreams of a “foot-popping” kiss from high school hunk Josh Bryant (Erik von Detten) (that’s a kiss so good that it makes your foot pop up) and she would like to be able to get up in front of the class to speak without going to pieces. Her sympathetic mother, an artist, her best friend Lily (Heather Matarazzo), and her “baby,” a beat-up Mustang she is having repaired, keep her going.

Just before her 16th birthday, she gets a visit from her grandmother (Julie Andrews), whom she has never met. An even bigger surprise is the reason for the visit. It turns out that Mia’s grandmother is the queen of Genovia, her late father was the king, and that makes her – a princess! Mia will have to get some fast princess lessons to get ready for the annual ball. That is, if she decides to accept the job, which is not too appealing. As she says to her mother, “Just in case I’m not enough of a freak already, you add a tiara!”

Things get worse when Lily feels deserted and a couple of very public mistakes make Mia feel that she is not up to the job. But this would not be a fairy tale if everyone did not live happily ever after, so somehow everyone’s wishes come true.

This is a terrific movie for any age. It might not be of much interest to boys, though Hathaway is spectacularly gorgeous (the least realistic part of the movie is the highly ineffective attempt to make her look like an ugly duckling), and there are some cool cars and very funny moments. But it is a wonderful story about growing up, finding ourselves, and taking chances, with lots of great things for families to talk about afterwards. The queen’s head of security (Hector Elizondo in another impeccable performance) quotes Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous words, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And Mia realizes that the important part of being a princess is not what it does for her, but what it makes it possible for her to do for others.

Parents should know that Mia drives without a license and manages to escape a ticket using tactics they might find troubling.

The movie is rated G because it has no profanity, violence, or sexual material, and there is very little to concern parents. But that does not make it a kids-only movie. This is a family movie in the best sense, a movie that the whole family will enjoy. This might be a good time to tell the kids about some of your own mistakes and fears when you were Mia’s age, and what you did to help you move on from them. They may also want to talk about what teens should consider before deciding to kiss someone, and how important it is to be loyal to true friends.

Video/DVD notes: There is no Genovia, but it might have been inspired by Monaco, where an American actress became a real-life princess, the late Grace Kelly. Families will enjoy seeing some of her movies on video, especially “High Society” and To Catch a Thief.

The Perfect Storm

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

It’s very hard to make a good book into a good movie, even a good book that seems inherently cinematic, as this one does, with all its swirling winds and crashing waves. But in adapting this book, the screenwriter made a number of choices that make the main character’s decision to ride into the storm seem prudent by comparison, and the movie starts to sink long before the boat does.

The first challenge was finding a substitute for one of the book’s great strengths, its narrative voice. The first mistake was substituting dialogue that was corny back in 1940’s movies about fighter squadrons. At least then it seemed like an understandable response to being in battle. But to have your main character say things like, “So this is the moment of truth. This is where they separate the men from the boys,” with a straight face is to jar us out of any identification with the characters.

The second challenge was to give us a movie called “The Perfect Storm,” based on a book called “The Perfect Storm,” based on an actual perfect storm, and then keep our attention for an hour and a half before we actually get to see the storm. The second mistake was in wasting this chance to make us care about the characters. Instead, each member of the crew of the Andrea Gail is trotted onstage Smurf-style, with one identifying characteristic for us to grab onto. Captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney) has to prove to himself and to the owner of the boat that he can bring in a good load of fish. Bobby (Mark Wahlberg) has to choose between his love for the sea and his girlfriend Christina (Diane Lane). Bugsy (John Hawkes) has the prospect of a new love to come home to. Scully (William Fichtner) and Murph (John C. Reilly) don’t get along with each other. It would have made more sense to let us know something more about the characters who pop up later on, the Coast Guard rescue team and the three people they save from the sailboat. Furthermore, in a movie like this, positively the last thing in the world anyone needs is foreshadowing, and yet before the storm comes, we keep being hit over the head with foreboding, with comments like, “I have a bad feeling about this,” and “this is the last time, I promise.” Believe me, “this is the last time, I promise,” is a more certain indicator of disaster than a slasher movie’s “I’ll be right back!”

The third challenge was making use of the kind of all-star cast that this kind of a highly visible and well-financed project can draw. The third mistake was a criminal waste of the talents of people like Cherry Jones and Karen Allen, whose roles primarily consist of yelling “Mayday” and bobbing in the water, and Christopher McDonald, whose role primarily consists of staring meaningfully at a computer monitor. Wahlberg, Fichtner, Lane, and Reilly, four fine actors, are left more adrift by the script than their characters are by the storm.

The fourth challenge was making it all make sense. Someone once said that the difference between real life and movies is that movies have to make sense and real life doesn’t. What that means is that movies, like any other kind of story, have an internal logic that people understand instinctively. Part of that logic governs who in a movie can die without leaving an audience feeling cheated. There was a way to make the logic of the movie fit the facts of what happened, and the fourth failure was missing it.

The fifth challenge was taking a sad story and making it feel sad, not maudlin. The fifth mistake was failing on this one, too. The scenes on land following the storm go on too long. This is where we really need some insight and some good dialogue, and we just don’t get it. And there is one scene, just before one character dies, where he speaks to a loved one and sees her in an apparition that even the producers of “Message in a Bottle” would have been embarrassed to try.

The sixth challenge is the one most people care most about, and that is the special effects on the storm and the filming of the action scenes as people fight to stay alive. That one is met in full, and for that alone the movie gets three stars.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong sailor language and some sexual references that can get crude. Characters drink and smoke a great deal. For most parents, the primary concern will be the scariness and sadness of the movie. It is very intense and many characters are killed. Parents should be willing to give kids deniability (“I really want to see it but my parents won’t let me!”) if they sense that the kids do not want to go.

Families who see this movie should talk about the way the characters evaluate their options and deal with the consequences of their decisions. After the first rescue, the Coast Guard is told that their superiors cannot order them to go to the second, because it is too hazardous. What went into their decision about how to respond? Captain Tyne had to decide whether to try to get home through the storm in time to save their catch or protect his men’s lives while losing all their money. How did he decide?

Families who enjoy this movie might like to see another movie about a Massachusetts captain taking on the sea, “Moby Dick,” with Patrick Stewart as Captain Ahab.

The Patriot

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

As I watched this movie, I kept thinking of the tagline from “Jaws 4:” “This time it’s personal.” Mel Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, a veteran of the British army who was a hero during the French and Indian war. Twenty years later, he has no love for the monarchy but some skepticism about the alternative. He asks, “Why should I trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants one mile away?” and “I haven’t got the luxury of principles.” More than that, his memories of the atrocities of war, his own as well as the enemy’s, and his passion for protecting his seven children won’t allow him to fight again.

But that would not be much of a movie, would it? And we get a portent in the very first scene, when Benjamin fails in his umpteenth effort to make a rocking chair for himself. And there is a long Hollywood tradition of reluctant heroes who are forced into violence, thus giving us the best of both worlds with a hero whose heart is in the right place, but whose muscles and gun are, too. So, Benjamin has to find a reason to fight. It would have been nice if that reason had something to do with liberty and democracy, but instead it is about revenge. Benjamin’s son is killed by a British soldier. So Benjamin throws guns to his younger boys, straps several onto himself, and goes off to fight his own personal war, a sort of Robin Hood crossed with Terminator. The only heartfelt struggle for independence in the movie is teen-age rebellion.

It’s one thing when producing/directing team Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich give us a movie like “Independence Day,” with bad guy aliens who are pure evil. But it is another thing when they take an actual historical event and actual historical characters and play fast and loose with the facts. The bad guy in this movie is Colonel Tavington (Jason Isaacs), a villain so reprehensible that he not only burns down a church filled with civilians, he enjoys it. He makes Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil look small-time. This level of cartoonish exaggeration makes it harder for us to engage with the characters.

That aside, though, this is a very enjoyable summer popcorn movie, sumptuously and excitingly filmed, and rousingly entertaining. It faced quite a challenge, because there has never been a successful movie about the Revolutionary War. One reason is that it is not very cinematic. The dress and weaponry of that time seems more suited to 4th of July parades than to an action movie. The muskets took forever to reload. And there are other troubling issues. Many of the heroes of that era were slave holders, and thus impossibly unsympathetic by today’s standards. Those issues are handled capably. The action sequences play well, and the black characters are treated with as much dignity as possible. A French soldier says to one of the slaveholders, “Your sense of freedom is as pale as your skin.” And a slave who is given to the militia by his owner demonstrates his courage and honor, becoming a valued colleague.

Gibson delivers, as always. He is utterly compelling whether he is hacking an opponent to death, looking tenderly at a tiny daughter who will not speak to him, or agonizing over his past sins. Fellow Aussie Heath Ledger is superb as oldest son Gabriel, at first impatient to join the fight, later a brave and mature soldier and an ardent suitor. Lisa Brenner, as the object of his affection, is radiantly lovely. Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography perfectly captures the colors and textures of the era.

Families who watch this movie should talk about the real origins of the Revolutionary War. They might want to look up Francis Marion, known as the Swamp Fox, who, like the fictional Benjamin Martin, defeated the British soldiers by using his knowledge of the local topography and by staying away from open-field battles. It is also worth talking about the notions of rules within wartime, as shown in the negotiations between Benjamin and Cornwallis. How do enemies agree on rules? What should those rules be? Why did Benjamin refuse to give his name? Why did Cornwallis care about limiting the damage to civilians?

Parents should know that this is a very violent movie, with many graphic battle scenes, vividly portrayed. A character commits suicide when his family is killed. There are some gentle sexual references in a scene depicting the colonial custom of “bundling bags” for courting couples.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “The Friendly Persuasion” (about a Quaker family during the Civil War) and the most successful Emmerich-Devlin production, “Independence Day.”

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Laggies
Lynn Shelton is known for writing and directing small, intimate, independent films with a lot of improvised dialogue ("Humpday,""My Sister's Sister," "Touchy Feely"), often using the same small group of actors. With "Laggies," she moves seamlessly to working with a more conventional screenplay, writ

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