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

Little Nicky

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

There are two kinds of Adam Sandler movies: the kind where he plays a complete idiot and uses a (supposedly) funny voice through it all and the kind where he just plays a sweet doofus with his regular voice. Generally, those regular voice movies (“Happy Gilmore,” “Big Daddy,” and “The Wedding Singer”) are more broadly appealing than the funny voice movies, like “The Waterboy.” Although this movie is in the funny voice category, it benefits from higher production values and a strong supporting cast and ranks as one of the better Sandler movies. That voice gets extremely annoying very quickly, though — like after the first thirty seconds.

Sandler, surrounded by his usual gang of college pals and SNL alums, plays the title character, the third son of a loving father who happens to be Satan (Harvey Keitel). The two older sons (wrestling star Tom “Tiny” Lister, Jr., and “Notting Hill’s” wacky roommate Rhys Ifans) are furious that Satan will not allow one of them take over as commander-in-chief of hell, so they decide to leave and form their own Hell in New York City. Unless Little Nicky can get them back home within a week, their father will literally fall apart. So even though he has never been to earth before, he goes to New York to try to bring them back. A talking guardian bulldog is there to help.

Little Nicky learns important lessons about life on earth, from eating and sleeping to staying out of the way of heavy moving metal things. He also learns about the butterflies in the stomach feeling he gets from talking to a pretty girl (Patricia Arquette) and some other feelings he gets from eating a cake laced with marijuana. And he learns something about who he really is and how powerful he can be.

All of this is just an excuse, of course, for a lot of low-wattage jokes, usually repeated for no additional benefit. But the movie is enlivened by some funny cameos (Rodney Dangerfield as Satan’s father, Reese Witherspoon as an angel, Henry Winkler as himself, and a surprise visit by a rock star). Sandler fans will enjoy it, but it will not have the cross-over appeal of “The Wedding Singer.”

Parents should know that this movie is right up at the R edge of PG-13, with one use of the F-word and a lot of other strong language and sexual references. One of Satan’s daily tasks is to punish a French-maid’s-uniform-clad Hitler by inserting a pineapple into his rear end. Satan punishes another character by making realistic-looking breasts grow out of his head, and in subsequent scenes they get fondled by other characters. A character is a weird transvestite who pours hot wax on his chest and plays with his nipples. A voyeur gets sent to hell. In addition to the marijuana mentioned above, the devils lower the drinking age to 10, and we see drunken children coming out of a bar (and puking). They also change New York’s tourism slogan to “I love hookers.” And there are some jokes that can be interpreted as homophobic.

Families who see this movie should talk about the idea of a “balance between good and evil.” Is there a balance? Why? They may also want to talk about their own ideas about heaven and hell.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “The Wedding Singer” and “Happy Gilmore.”

Lili

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1953

Plot: Lili (Leslie Caron), a French orphan, is dazzled by a handsome carnival magician named Marcus (Jean Pierre Aumont) when he speaks kindly to her, and she follows him back to the carnival. She gets a job as a waitress there, but is fired for spending too much time watching his act. Lonely and sad, she thinks of suicide, but a puppet called Carrot Top calls out to her kindly, and she starts to talk to him and the other puppets: Golo, the simple giant who is shy with girls; Margurite, the vain beauty; and Renaldo, the sly, crafty fox.

Paul (Mel Ferrar) the puppeteer, a bitter, angry man, offers her a job in the act. His assistant, Yacov (Kurt Kaszner) explains that he had once been a great dancer but was wounded in the war. Paul, drunk, refers to himself as “half man, half mountebank.”

Audiences love Lili’s conversations with the puppets because she is so sincere, and the show is very successful. She spends the money she makes on foolish games and knicknacks, and Paul angrily asks if there isn’t something she really wants. At the show, the puppets gently ask the same thing, and we see Paul’s face as he has the puppets tell Lili that what she wants is to be loved, and that he cares for her.

Marcus gets an offer from a hotel, and leaves the carnival. It turns out he was secretly married to his assistant (Zsa Zsa Gabor). When Lili runs after Marcus to give him the ring he dropped in her trailer, Paul thinks she is running after him because she loves him, and he slaps her.

Paul is offered a wonderful opportunity to take his act to Paris. When asked if Lili is a superb actress or if he is a Svengali, he says, “She’s like a little bell that gives off a pure sound no matter how you strike it, because she is in herself so good and true and pure.” When he finds that the men did not know he had been crippled, he is deeply moved. He has succeeded in transcending his disability and no longer sees himself as less than a complete man.<p.

But Lili has decided to leave. She tells Marcus, “I’ve been living in a dream like a little girl, not seeing what I didn’t want to see,” and that sometimes a person outgrows dreams like a girl outgrows her dresses.

As she leaves, Carrot Top calls her back again, and asks to go with her. As each of the puppets tells her how much they care, we see Paul speaking through them. At first very touched, she thrusts back the curtain to see Paul. All he can do is speak harshly to her about the new offer, and she thinks he has been pretending to be nice to her just to get her to stay with the show.

He tells her that the puppets are the parts of him he cannot show any other way. But she runs away. On the road, she dreams of dancing with the puppets, each one transforming itself into Paul. Understanding that all of the characters she loves are really him, she runs back to him.

Discussion: This is a charming story with a lovely theme song, simply told but with a great deal of psychological insight. Lili believes what she sees on the surface. She believes the shopkeeper who offers her a job, but it turns out that he is just making a pass at her. She believes Marcus’ easy charm and small tricks. She believes Paul is unfeeling. But that same naiveté is what makes her interaction with the puppets so endearingly believable. As she says, she always forgets that they are not real. Just as Paul can only open up through them, she only opens up to them.

Paul is attracted to Lili because she is such a contrast to him — she is direct, completely clear about her feelings. His leg is not as crippled as his heart. He has closed himself off, and yet his spirit needs to express itself; he needs to relate to people. So he does it through the puppets, and through them he has a freedom he could not otherwise have. When the act becomes successful, he can for the first time since his injury begin to develop the self-confidence he needs to be able to open himself up to a relationship without going through the puppets as his intermediaries. Questions for Kids:

· Why is it easier for Paul to say what he is thinking through the puppets?

· What does he mean when he says, “I am the puppets?”

· What does Lili mean when she says that people outgrow dreams?

· Why is it so important to Paul that the men who made him the offer didn’t know he had a limp?

Connections: The story for this movie was by Paul Gallico, who was inspired by Burr Tillstrom and his television show, “Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.” Gallico was a prolific writer who enjoyed writing in a variety of genres, and films made from his work include, “Pride of the Yankees,” “The Three Lives of Thomasina,” and “The Poseidon Adventure.”

Activities: Put on a puppet show. Let the kids try to make puppets that express different parts of themselves or behave in ways they cannot.

Life or Something Like It

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2002

It’s been months since we have had a good old-fashioned date movie and that makes this one particularly welcome.

Angelina Jolie plays Lanie, a television news reporter in Seattle who thinks her life is just about perfect. For her, that means a great apartment, great friends, a great fiance, and a shot at her dream job on the network. And perfection is what she strives for, from the tip of her cotton candy hair helmet to the calves that show the effect of thousands of hours on a stairclimber. She never questions what she wants or what she has to do to get there.

But she is sent to do a story on a homeless man who predicts the future, and he tells her what the score will be in the football game to be played later that day. He tells her that it will hail the next morning. And he tells her that she will not get the job she wants, and has only a week to live. When the first two predictions come true, she begins to think that she might just have a week to live, and that her life is not so perfect after all.

Where did Lanie get her ideas about what constiituted perfection? There is some nonsense about sibling rivalry with a sister who has a rich husband and a fancy house. What makes more sense is that Lanie gets her idea of perfection from the very place she seeks it, television. With an indestructible platinum helmet hairdo, flawless muscle tone, and a baseball player fiance, she is a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Barbara Walters. Her idol is Deborah Connors (Stockard Channing), the queen of interviewers, who always gets her subjects to cry.

The prospect of having no more time makes Lainie think about what she was postponing. The first surprise is who she asks for advice. She turns for help to a man she thought she hated, Pete (Edward Burns), her cameraman. He tells her to talk to the people she cares about most.

The script has no surprises, but Jolie and Burns have a nice rythym as they constantly ask each other to define their words. It is easy to believe that they would both be attracted to someone who doesn’t let them get away with easy charm. The biggest surprise is Jolie in a role clearly designed for someone like Meg Ryan or Sandra Bullock. She doesn’t let Lanie get too cute and shows us Lanie’s vulnerability, inescurity, and her capacity for giddy joy.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong language. An unmarried couple lives together and there are references to a drunken sexual encounter and an out of wedlock pregnancy. Getting drunk is portrayed as freeing. There is non-graphic violence. Some viewers may be upset by the seer’s prediction. And some younger viewers may be disturbed by the reference to divorced parents, even though it is amicable.

Families who see this movie should talk about how we decide what “perfection” means to each of us and whose approval matters most to us. How do we live in a way that balances planning for the future with recognizing what is important in the present. How do our family dynamics transfer over into our work relationships? Why didn’t Lanie understand how important she was to her father?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the black and white classic “Theodora Goes Wild.” They will also enjoy Martha Beck’s book “Following Your North Star.”

Life as a House

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

When a movie is called “Life as a House” you enter on full metaphor alert. When it turns out to be about an estranged father and son who pull down an old shack and construct a dream house overlooking the ocean and it turns out to be a transforming experience for everyone who happens by while it is in progress plus including a tragic death that is still another transforming experience for everyone, you have every right to expect a generic made-for-TV-movie uplifting weepie. But this movie gives us something more, thanks to a script by Mark Andrus (of “As Good as it Gets”) and a first rate cast.

Kevin Kline plays George, an unhappy man who creates meticulously crafted models in an architectural firm. His skills are no longer valuable in an era of computerized design, his ex-wife does not like him, his teenage son hates everyone, including himself, and his house is literally falling down around him. When George is fired, he decides to tear down his house, which was built by his father, and build a new one with his son, Sam (Hayden Christiansen). At first, Sam is hostile and uncooperative. Then he is hostile and a little bit cooperative. Then he, like George, learns the power of tearing down painful parts of their history and starting over again to build something new.

George’s ex-wife Robin (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her children become intrigued with the project. And the pretty teenager next door becomes intrigued with Sam. Soon, everybody is pitching in except for the angry neighbor who vows to stop them.

There is a lot wrong with this movie. The plot is creaky and manipulative. The female characters are all fantasy figures. Some of the plot lines never get resolved — they just stop (or, in one case, just fall off the roof). The solution to the problem with the neighbor is unintentionally unnerving. But there is a lot that is right with the movie, too, including subtle, magnetic performances and moments of real power and feeling. If the movie is not as dazzling as the finished house, at least it is not as decrepit as the shack.

Parents should know that this movie has drug use, very strong language, sexual situations and references, including teen prostitution, nudity, masturbation involving attempted suffocation, and adult-teen sexual encounters. Teenagers take very foolish risks with little consequence beyond their own misery. There is a very sad death.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was so hard for Sam to feel good about about himself, and why the things he tried to make himself feel better did not work. What did he mean when he said that it felt better to feel things? Why was physical touch so important to many of the characters? Families will also want to talk about the behavior of Colleen and Alyssa and their decisions about their sexual relationships.

Take a good look at Hayden Christiansen, who plays Sam. The next time you see him will probably be as the young Anakin Skywalker (and future Darth Vadar) in the next episode of “Star Wars.” Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Shoot the Moon, about a disintegrating marriage, with brilliant performances by Diane Keaton and Albert Finney.

Previous Posts

Tusk
You can make a good movie about slackers, for example "Slackers," from Richard Linklater and "Clerks" from Kevin Smith. But you can't make a good movie by a slacker, and Smith does not seem wi

posted 5:59:40pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

This is Where I Leave You
A toddler carries his little potty out in front of the house so he can try out his new-found skill in public. Twice. Plus another time when the contents of the potty are first displayed for the

posted 5:59:39pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

The Maze Runner
Yes, it's another dystopic YA trilogy (actually, there's a fourth volume, a prequel), and yes, only a teenager with fabulous cheekbones can save the day. But "The Maze Runner" is not a lesser repeat. It is a worthy addition to the genre, an absorbing drama with surprising turns and even more surpris

posted 5:59:23pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

The Art of John Alvin -- Designer of Iconic Movie Posters
Any fan of film history and design will love this magnificent new book devoted to the iconic movie posters and other artwork from John Alvin, assembled and written by his widow, Andrea Alv

posted 8:00:05am Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Guest Post: Tara Sonenshine on "Calvary"
My deepest thanks to Tara Sonenshine for allowing me to publish her thoughtful comments on "Calvary," starring Brendan Gleeson as a troubled priest in a small Irish t

posted 11:19:17pm Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »


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