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

On the Waterfront

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:1954

Plot: Based on a true story (with a less satisfying conclusion), this is the story of the men who had the courage to stand up to the corrupt longshoreman’s union. The union is controlled by Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). He and his men decide who will work each day, which means that they get paid off by the men and by the ship-owners who rely on the union to unload their goods. “Everything moves in and out, we take our cut,” Johnny brags. One of Johnny’s top aides is Charley Malloy (Rod Steiger), whose brother Terry (Marlon Brando), a former prize-fighter, is treated almost like a mascot by Johnny. He gives Terry errands to run and makes sure he gets the easiest and most lucrative work assignments. Terry keeps pigeons, on the roof of his apartment building, and is a hero to the local boys.

As the movie begins, Joey Doyle, who dared to speak out about the corruption, is killed by Johnny’s thugs. Terry had unwittingly helped to set Joey up, and he is distressed. “Too much Marquess of Queensberry, it softens him up,” Charley explains, telling Johnny that Terry’s exposure to the rules of fair fighting in boxing have made him idealistic. Joey’s sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint) tells local priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) that he has to get out of the church to help them; “Saints don’t hide in churches.” Father Barry invites the longshoremen to the church, to talk about what is going on. Charley tells Terry to go to the meeting to keep tabs on who is being disloyal. At the meeting, one man explains that “everyone on the dock is D&D–deaf and dumb.” Everyone knows that if he speaks out, or even notices too much, he will not be allowed to work; he may even be killed, as Joey was. Thugs break up the meeting. Terry escapes with Edie. Dugan (Pat Henning) agrees to talk, and Father Berry agrees to support him. But Dugan is killed, too.

Terry and Edie fall in love. Johnny tells Charley to make sure that Terry does not tell the crime commission about his activities, because if he lets Terry tells the truth, everyone will do it, and he’ll be “just another fellow.” At first Charley resists, but Johnny makes it clear that if Charley can’t stop Terry, Johnny will get someone else to take care of him. So Charley finds Terry, and they talk, in the back seat of a cab. Terry tells Charley that he hates being a bum, that Charley should have looked out for him, and not made him take a dive in the boxing ring, a “one-way ticket to palookaville.” Charley lets Terry go, and then Charley is killed by Johnny’s thugs. Terry is overcome with grief, and swears he will get Johnny. Father Berry persuades him that the way to do it is to testify, and Terry does, while Johnny stares at him from across the room.

No one will talk to Terry. The boys who once worshipped him kill all of his pigeons. Down on the dock, at first Johnny wins, putting everyone to work except for Terry. When Terry calls him out, they have a furious battle, as the longshoremen watch. Terry is badly hurt. When Johnny tells them to go back to work, they refuse, saying they are waiting for Terry to lead them to work. Father Berry whispers to Terry that “Johnny’s laying odds you won’t get up.” Father Berry and Edie help him up, and he walks slowly to the dock. Johnny shouts, but everyone ignores him.

Discussion: This movie contrasts two conflicting ways of looking at the world and especially at responsibility. Edie and Father Berry see a world in which people have an obligation to protect and support each other. Johnny sees the world as a place where what matters is taking as much as you can. Terry is somewhere in the middle, with his kindness to the Golden Warriors and his pigeons on one side and his willingness to take what Johnny’s way of life has to offer on the other. Then Joey is killed, and Terry meets Edie.

In part, Terry falls in love not just with Edie, but with the vision of another life that Edie represents. At first, when she asks, “Shouldn’t everybody care about everybody else?” he calls her a “fruitcake” and says that his philosophy of life is “Do it to him before he does it to you…Everybody’s got a racket.” He tells her, “I’d like to help, but there’s nothing I can do.” Like Edie, Terry is inspired to fight back by the death of his brother. When he tells Charley “You should have looked after me,” he is acknowledging the obligation brothers have for each other. He should have looked out for Charley, too.

After Terry testifies, Edie tells him to leave town, asking, “Are they taking chances for you?” Terry tells her that he’s not a bum, and that means he must stay. Fighting Johnny, Terry finds a way out of “palookaville.”

This movie also raises some important issues about the nature of power. At the beginning, Johnny seems very powerful, and power matters more to him than money. But it is clear that the choices he makes to protect that power, more than any action taken by anyone else, are the beginning of the end. As he orders people killed, even Charley, his own close associate, he begins to appear desperate. The men who will kick back a few dollars and stay “D&D” about corruption will not stand for that level of violence and uncertainty.

Questions for Kids:

· Joey’s jacket is worn by three different characters in this movie. What do you think that means?

· Why do you think the director does not let you hear the conversation when Terry tells Edie about his role in Joey’s death?

· Edie admits that she is in love with Terry, but still wants him to leave. Why? What do you think of Edie’s ideas about what makes people “mean and difficult?” Do you think that applies to Johnny?

· How does Johnny get power? How does he lose it?

· If Johnny had not killed Charley, would Terry have testified against him?

Connections: The music is by Leonard Bernstein, composer of “West Side Story” and many others. This movie won eight Oscars, including best picture, best director, best actress, and best screenplay. Steiger, Malden, and Cobb were all nominated as well.

On the Line

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2001

The only way to write about “On the Line” is to have separate mini-reviews for the three categories of people who are most likely to be curious about it. I’ll begin with the group least able to wait (but also least likely to care what anyone else says about it): N’Sync fans. You will like the movie. Lance Bass (who also co-produced) and Joey Fatone appear throughout the movie and are cute. There are a lot of jokes and there is a sweet romance. There are some N’Sync songs on the soundtrack and some good songs by other performers and some cameo appearances by other stars, including Richie Sambora and Brandi. You also get to hear Joey perform some hard rock songs like “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” and Lance sings “Two Princes.” The other members of N’Sync appear very briefly during the end credits. Judging by the reaction of the mostly teenage girl audience in the screening I attended (and that was a group of intense fans who aced a pre-show N’Sync trivia contest), that was the highlight of the film.

Next, for parents of kids who want to see the movie and want to know how bad it is: I’ve seen worse, but then I am one of the few adults who has seen all three “Pokemon” movies AND all three “Mighty Ducks” movies. But I well understand the audience for this movie — back in the day, I went to see an awful musical called “When the Boys Meet the Girls” just because it had a performance by Herman’s Hermits.

If your kids want to see the movie, it is probably because they are fans of N’Sync, because, though it never mentions the group in its advertising, the movie stars two of its members. The story is a basic boy meets girl (on Chicago’s elevated train), loses girl because he is too shy to ask for her name and phone number, and then finds her again after several near misses. It is rated PG for some crude humor and brief bad language. On the scale of pop star vanity productions that reaches from the depths of “Glitter” and “Can’t Stop the Music” to the pinnacle of “Hard Day’s Night,” it is not very good but not destined for status as a legendary disaster. It’s about as harmless as an average sitcom episode.

Finally, in case there is anyone out there who is considering going to this movie for any reason other than its N’Sync connection: don’t bother. Go see “Serendipity” instead – it has a similar story with a better script and a much better cast. The script is really terrible, not just dumb but sloppy. It can’t even get the definition of “tweens” right, a pretty big lapse, considering that tweens are the primary demographic for the movie’s audience. Much of the movie takes place on Chicago’s famous “El” trains, and yet in the movie they spell it “L.” And Lance’s character either goes massively into debt with a last grand gesture to find the girl of his dreams or he embezzles the client’s ad campaign money to put his copy on their billboards. Apparently, this little detail was not important enough to clear up. Furthermore, the movie unforgiveably wastes the talents of Dave Foley and Jerry Stiller. We may forgive Stiller for complaining about his internal organs and bodily functions in “Zoolander” — that was a favor to his son, who wrote and directed it. But in this movie we get the same shtick for no reason whatsoever.

Parents should know that the movie has some vulgar humor and some strong language for a PG (there is some obvious overdubbing that indicates that the movie may have been cut down from a PG-13). Characters drink beer and wine. One actor does what could be considered an insensitive caricature of flamboyant gay male behavior. Guys ask each other how much “action” they got following a date. Despite some crude conversation, the behavior of the characters is not inappropriate and one male character comes on too strong is told by his date in no uncertain terms that his behavior is inappropriate, a good role model for the young girls in the audience.

Families who see the movie should talk about how it can be hard to take a risk. Parents may want to talk about some of their own experiences and how they learned from their mistakes.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the best teen idol movie ever made, A Hard Day’s Night, starring the Beatles.

One Night at McCool’s

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2001

This black comedy about the different way that people can see the same characters and events is disappointingly uninvolving, too violent, and just not very funny.

Liv Tyler plays a literally femme fatale named Jewel, a con woman who will do anything and use anyone to get the only thing she cares about, a home of her own. She meets likeable bartender Randy (Matt Dillon) when he rescues her from an abusive boyfriend. Or so he thinks. After he brings her home and they have wild sex, she admits that it was all part of a scam, and that her boyfriend is on his way there so that they can rob him. But when she finds out that he owns the house, she switches gears, and before he knows what hit him, Randy has confessed to a murder he did not commit, lost his job, and gained a full-time, in-house decorating machine.

Meanwhile, Randy’s lawyer cousin Carl (Paul Reiser), is tantalized by Jewel, too. Before he knows what hits him, he and Jewel are fitted out in all kinds of leather and chains for some steamy S&M action.

And in the middle of all that, a kindly cop (John Goodman) sees Jewel as the sweet replacement for his late wife. Each of these three men recounts their involvement with Jewel to a slightly sympathetic listener — the cop to a priest (Richard Jenkins, knocking back some sacramental wine as the details raise his blood pressure); the lawyer to a therapist (Reba McEntire, the classiest presence in the movie); and the bartender to a sleazy hitman (producer Michael Douglas, with a toupee that looks like a possum died on his head). The movie attempts to derive some humor from the intersection and inconsistency between the various stories.

One funny visual gag with a DVD and one funny joke about the Village People are not enough tomake this movie worthwhile. Tyler certainly looks beautiful, especially when she is soaping down a dirty car in slow motion and soft focus. But she does not have the range to make Jewel interesting with any of the three men. And the movie never establishes its tone.

Parents should know that the movie has extremely strong language, vivid sexual references and situations, including S&M and oral sex, and explicit violence, some shown very casually. Major characters are killed and no one seems to care about it very much. The characters lie, cheat, steal, and kill. Many viewers will be offended by the portrayal of the priest, who munches on communion crackers and behaves in an overall un-priestly manner.

Families who see this movie should talk about how different people see the same events and characters differently, and how they can best communicate their different views to each other.

Audiences who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “To Die For,” a better movie with Matt Dillon as a man whose wife (Nicole Kidman) persuades some teenagers to kill him.

Oliver and Company

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1988

Loosely based on Dickens’ Oliver Twist, this animated Disney release is the story of an orphaned cat named Oliver who is befriended by vagabond dogs led by the the dashing rapscallion, Dodger. Oliver is adopted by lonely rich girl Jenny, whose prize-winning poodle, Georgette (voice of Bette Milder), has a world-class case of jealousy. First Oliver and then Jenny are kidnapped for ransom, but are saved from wicked Sikes by the clever animals.

While not up there with the Disney classics, this movie has real pleasures, especially Dodger’s “Why Should I Worry” musical number (written and sung by Billy Joel) with Dodger leaping and dancing through Manhattan traffic.

There are also some scary moments, but kids will appreciate the way that Oliver takes care of himself, and the way that the dogs take care of him, of each other, and of their human friend, the hapless Fagin (voice of Dom DeLouise).

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