Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Guardians of the Galaxy
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

 

Noah
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

Get on Up
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use, some strong language, and violent situations
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

 

Finding Vivian Maier
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

 

Sabotage
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Release Date:
March 28, 2014

Birthday Girl

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

A very uneven thriller-romance is brightened by dark comedy and another magnetic performance by Nicole Kidman as the 21st century equivalent to a mail order bride. Shy bank teller John (Ben Chaplin) orders his bride from an internet company called “From Russia With Love.” He orders a brand new double bed and cleans up his little suburban house in anticipation, though he is not able to (foreshadowing alert) rid his house of an infestation of ants, and then goes off to the airport to pick her up.

The good news is, well, she looks like Nicole Kidman. The bad news is that she does not speak English, she smokes, and on the way home from the airport she has to throw up.

John has some second thoughts, but he can’t get anyone from the agency on the phone. Meanwhile, Nadiya efficiently discovers his stash of porn and even more efficiently makes herself sexually indispensible.

Nadiya stays at home and knits, and John goes off to the bank with a spring in his step and the ring she brought him on his finger. He presents her with a Russian/English dictionary and she uses it to tell him that it is her birthday. But the celebration is interrupted by the arrival of her cousin and his friend.

At this point, things start to go wrong. Many betrayals, a bank robbery, a lot of smacking around and threats with guns later, there is a resolution as uneven as the movie’s tone. There are some signs of real talent here in John’s generic performance evaluation and the bank’s “trust” exercises, Nadia’s monologue about her binoculars and her bright red knitting. The movie’s director, screenwriters, and producer (three brothers) clearly intended to make a movie that transcends genre, but it does not really work. It just feels unsettlingly muddled.

Parents should know that the movie has very strong language, a lot of violence and explicit sex, including bondage, references to prostitution, and an out of wedlock pregnancy. Stealing and corruption are positively portrayed.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Kidman’s sensational performance as a woman who entices two teenage boys to kill her husband in To Die For and Francois Truffaut’s mail-order bride thriller Mississippi Mermaid.

Billy Elliot

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

As two 11-year-olds walk home from school, the girl casually bounces a stick along the side of a building. The building ends and, still chatting, she keeps bouncing it along the shields held up by a line of policemen. They pay as little attention to her as she does to them. It is Thatcher-era England, 1984, and the police have come to this small mining town of Durham to keep order during the miners’ strike.

The 11-year-olds are Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) and the daughter of the local ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkenson (Julie Walters). Billy watches the ballet class from his boxing lesson. When Mrs. Wilkenson impulsively pulls him into the class, he discovers that ballet both answers and creates a need in him that he can no more name than he can resist.

Billy lives with his father (Gary Lewis), brother, and grandmother. His mother died the year before, his grandmother is forgetful, and his father and brother are on strike. The adults are busy with their own problems, and no one has time to notice Billy other than to shout at him or swat him out of the way. So for a while he manages to switch from boxing to ballet without anyone finding out. When his father discovers what Billy has been doing, he is furious. He is sure that this means that Billy is going to be gay and sure that this would be the ultimate failure on his part. He forbids Billy to go back.

But Billy has to dance, and he reminds Mrs. Wilkenson of a passion she once had for ballet. She gives him private lessons without charge, to prepare him for an audition with the London Ballet. Billy hides his ballet shoes under the mattress and hopes that no one will pay enough attention to him to figure out what he is doing. But his father does find out about the lessons and the audition.

This movie is well above average, tender, funny, and touching. Bell is extraordinary as Billy, the best child actor performance since Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense.” Lewis is also first-rate as the father who makes an unbearably painful sacrifice in order to give his son the chance he never had. Director Stephen Daldry has a real gift for visual story-telling. A chase through hanging laundry, dance lessons in a boxing ring, and the opening shot of Billy on a trampoline are images that are fresh and memorable.

Parents should know that everyone in this movie uses terrible language all the time. That is the primary reason for the R-rating, but the movie also includes sexual references, some child sex talk, a brief glimpse of bare buttocks when one character moons another, homophobic comments, and a transvestite character. Some teens may be upset by the way that family members treat each other. They are insulting, neglectful, and cruel. A parent hits a child and threatens another.

Families who see this movie will want to talk about what families should do when one member finds something as vitally important to him as dancing is to Billy. They should also discuss how the stress of painful external circumstances can affect the ability of family members to be kind to each other. Why was the strike so important to Billy’s dad and brother? How was that like and not alike the importance of ballet to Billy? Why did Mrs. Wilkenson want to help Billy? Why did Billy’s interest in ballet make Billy’s dad think he might be gay, and why was that so terrifying to him? What made him change his mind? Why do you think the writer put a gay character who did not have anything to do with ballet into the story? What does it tell us that Billy’s father had never been out of Durham, and that Billy had never been to see Durham’s famous cathedral? What do you think of Billy’s dad’s response when Billy says he is scared?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Educating Rita, in which Julie Walters plays a lower-class university student who studies with a professor played by Michael Caine. Two popular movies with similar themes are Brassed Off (laid-off miners find music and meaning in a brass band competition) and The Full Monty (laid-off workers put on a strip show). The question “Why do you dance?” and Billy’s answer recall a similar scene in that most famous of all ballet movies, the brilliant The Red Shoes.

Big Trouble

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

If not quite as sharp as it could be, “Big Trouble” is still a sharp, funny movie. Based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Berry, it has a terrific cast getting caught up in delicious comic chaos seasoned with a couple of howlingly funny wisecracks.

Tim Allen plays Eliot Arnold, a once-successful columnist reduced to writing ad copy after an altercation wiith his boss. He is held in contempt by his teen-age son Matt (Ben Foster), who is on a quest to “kill” a pretty classmate named Jenny (Zooey Deschanel) by squirting her with a water gun, part of a tag-like contest.

Meanwhile, Arthur (Stanley Tucci), Jenny’s stepfather, is the target of a less benign hitman. It seems that Arthur, a bag man for some bad guys, diverted some of what was in the bag into his own bank account. A couple of cops (Jeaneanne Garofolo and Patrick Warburton), a Frito-loving, tree-sitting, strong but sweet guy with a Jesus hairdo (Jason Lee), some Russians who deal weapons from the back room of a dingy bar, a nuclear device that looks like a garbage disposal, a remarkable number of televisions with their screens shot out, and a flock of goats all manage to play a part before things get resolved.

The translation of book to screen is uneven, primarily because the story is all situation and no character. Even with exceptionally strong personalities in the roles and a director with a refreshing combination of a laid-back tone and a brisk pace, the film still asks too much of the audience by wanting us to care about characters we hardly know.

Parents should know that the movie has comic violence (no one badly hurt), including shooting and scuffles. Characters lie, cheat, steal, smoke, drink, and use bad language. There are comic sexual situations (including a foot fetishist) and brief non-sexual nudity. The scenes involving airport security and a bomb on a plane, the reason the movie’s release was delayed after the terrorist attacks, may cause more twinges than laughter. The movie is at the upper end of the PG-13 rating, closer to an R.

Families who see this movie should talk about the relationship between Matt and Eliot and between Jenny and her mother and step-father. They should also talk about the decision faced by the film-makers following September 11. Should they have changed the story, in addition to delaying the release?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Rat Race.

Big Momma’s House

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

This is less a movie than a string of skits based on one concept — Martin Lawrence in a fat suit and a dress.

It’s a great concept, crossing two terrific movies: “Stakeout” and “Tootsie,” with a little bit of “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Some Like it Hot” and “Little Red Riding Hood” thrown in.

Malcolm (Martin Lawrence) and John (Paul Giamatti) are FBI agents trying to track down Lester (Terrence Howard), a bank robber who has escaped from prison. They set up a stakeout across the street from the home of “Big Momma,” the grandmother of Lester’s former girlfriend Sherry (Nia Long). Sherry arrives just as Big Momma leaves town, so Malcolm, a master of disguise, puts on a fat suit and a flowered housedress and is there to greet Sherry and her son Trent with open arms.

It’s a promising premise. But instead of a script, we get a series of situations, strung together in a lackluster story that underuses its three talented stars. Big Momma has to deliver a baby! Big Momma kicks butt at karate class and on the basketball court! Big Momma can’t cook! Big Momma sings in church! Sherry gets scared by a thunderstorm and crawls into bed with Big Momma! Oh, and by the way, Malcolm has to struggle with his feelings for Sherri because he thinks she was Lester’s accomplice and besides, he starts off the movie explaining that a wife and family are just a distraction for a lawman.

It’s a shame, because Lawrence (who also co-produced) is one of the funniest and most talented people around, and he does marvels at times in this movie. Even under all that silicone, he is able to use his eyes and body to hilarious effect. And even under all that broad comedy, he shows us a potential for tenderness and heart so enticing that we wish for more. Nia Long, so marvelous earlier this year in “Boiler Room” has sweetness, toughness, and humor, and it is always a pleasure to see Paul Giamatti, quickly becoming a top character actor.

Lawrence the producer should do better for Lawrence the performer. The script is very weak, relying heavily on bathroom humor, jokes about sexy old people, and “Big Momma’s” highly un-grandmotherly feelings for Sherri. Inconsistencies of plot and character keep the audience from connecting to the material.

Parents should know that the movie contains a lot of sexual humor and potty jokes. There is brief nudity, including the real Big Momma’s backside. Violence includes a menacing bad guy, characters in peril, fighting, and gunplay.

Families who see the movie should discuss Sherri’s mistake and how she handled it, stereotypes of the elderly, how we decide whom to trust, and the way that families support each other through bad times. The role of the church is nicely handled. Families with older children who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Tootsie,” “Stakeout,” “Some Like It Hot,” and Lawrence’s “Blue Streak.”

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Guardians of the Galaxy
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posted 5:59:33pm Jul. 31, 2014 | read full post »

Get on Up
There are a lot of challenges in taking on the life story of James Brown, known variously as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, the Godfather of Soul, Mr. Dynamite and others with vari

posted 5:59:21pm Jul. 31, 2014 | read full post »

Magic in the Moonlight
Woody Allen's 44th film is an amuse bouche without a meal, a dollop of whipped cream without the dessert underneath.  In last year's film, "Blue Jasmine," the strength of the performances (especially Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett) and the resonance of its Bernie Madoff-ish crossed with "Streetcar Nam

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