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Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

Monkey Kingdom
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 17, 2015

 

Wild Kratts: Shark-Tastic
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating:
NR
Release Date:

Ex Machina
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence
Release Date:
April 17, 2015

 

Big Eyes
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language
Release Date:
December 25, 2014

True Story
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some disturbing material
Release Date:
April 17, 2015

 

Wild
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language
Release Date:
December 5, 2014

New in Theaters

grade:
B+

Monkey Kingdom

Lowest Recommended Age:
Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 17, 2015
grade:
A-

Ex Machina

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence
Release Date:
April 17, 2015
grade:
B

True Story

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some disturbing material
Release Date:
April 17, 2015

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New to DVD

pick of the week
grade:
B+

Wild Kratts: Shark-Tastic

Lowest Recommended Age:
All Ages
MPAA Rating:
NR
Release Date:
grade:
B+

Big Eyes

Lowest Recommended Age:
High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language
Release Date:
December 25, 2014
grade:
B+

Wild

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language
Release Date:
December 5, 2014

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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2004
A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date: 2004

Dashing pilot Joe “Sky Captain” Sullivan (Jude Law) and intrepid reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) investigate the disappearance of a group of top scientists and the invasion of enormous robots in this magnificently imaginative tribute to the adventure films of the 1930’s. Solving the puzzle — and saving the world — takes them from Manhattan to Tibet, from an aircraft landing strip that floats above the clouds to a dynamite-packed abandoned mine and the depths of the ocean. And every bit of it except for the actors, costumes, and a few props, is made from nothing but imagination and pixels.

The story is an unabashed and un-ironic tribute to the days of cliff-hanger adventure serials. There are plenty of thrills and some so-so antagonistic-lover banter that gets a boots from its rat-tat-tat delivery, with the snap of a stick of Wrigley’s gum, briskly chewed. And there’s a lollapalooza of a last line, one of the choicest ever.

No matter how exciting, I’m not sure that any movie could eclipse the story behind this one, almost a fairy tale in its own right. Writer/director Kerry Conran spent ten years creating this film on his computer. The actors stood before a green screen and every set, building, car, airplane, robot, street, abandoned mine, even the ocean, even every snowflake and raindrop, were all straight from computer to screen.

So, it is not always easy to step back from amazement and admiration for the technology of the film to just enjoy the story. One reason is the imbalance — the script is only good, but the visuals are spectacular.

Conran does more than create arresting pictures. He creates a world with consistent (and very dramatic) light sources and a sense of three-dimensional believability that makes the floating airstrip and underwater airplane as real as Radio City Music Hall. The scenes are so superbly imaginative they get distracting. There is so much richness of detail that they feel half-remembered, even when re-creating the New York City of the 1930’s with Godzilla-sized Art Deco monster robots stomping down 6th Avenue or an airplane that turns into a submarine. I was especially taken by another set of robots with arms like spaghetti and by an elephant small enough to hold in a hand. The overall look of the movie is a little soft and glowing, not quite sepia-toned, but the explosions are sharp and bright.

Paltrow and Law are fine, as are Giovanni Ribisi as Law’s mechanical whiz buddy who gets kidnapped by the robots and Angelina Jolie with an eye-patch as the endlessly sporty Commander Franky. They all spent weeks in an empty room being told to move precisely two feet to the right and then look amazed or resolute, difficult enough. But then they also had to find a way to pay tribute to the 30’s films with their performances without seeming arch or winking at the audience.

Still, it might have made more sense to go all the way and computer-generate the actors, too. After all, Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona gave remarkably expressive and vivid performances that could only be described as acting, even if the voice and animation talent have to share the credit. Conran hints at the possibility of an all-computerized movie by using one long-departed actor whose “performance” was created by using old footage in a new context. Maybe Shangri-La for director/screenwriters is not having to deal with actors at all.

Parents should know that the movie has a good deal of intense peril and violence including gunplay and explosions. There are some grisly images (skeletons, dead body) and some scary-looking robots. There is brief crude humor including non-sexual nudity (nothing shown). A strength of the movie is its very able and courageous female characters but some viewers may be uncomfortable with the portrayal of a character who appears to be based on “dragon lady” stereotypes in films and comic strips of that era.

Families who see this movie should talk about what they would photograph if they only had two shots left. Why? Why would Conran have The Wizard of Oz playing when Polly was at the theater? Why that particular scene? If you could design an entire movie, when and where would it take place and what would it look like? Conran’s reported next film will take place on Mars!

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Raiders of the Lost Ark and the other Indiana Jones movies, Rocketeer, and the classic sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still, one of Conran’s inspirations. The special effects look endearingly amateurish by today’s standards, but the story is still powerful. Older children and adults who enjoy the stylized design of this movie will also appreciate Metropolis and Things to Come. You can read the poem Joe quotes here and learn something about navigating by the stars here.

Ladder 49

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2004
A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
Movie Release Date: 2004

This is one of those “they don’t make them like that anymore” movies, an unabashed love letter to firefighters that might as well have been made sixty years ago.

It is irony-free, which is fine — certainly, we could all use a vacation from irony and its lite version, snarkiness. But it makes the mistake of allowing its resolute decency to idealize the characters. That can make a heartwarming Saturday Evening Post cover, but makes the movie seem one-dimensional, if touching. The relentlessly wholesome characters all blend together, all as adorable as Ewoks. The only dramatic tension comes from the fires, which begin to blend together, too.

We first see Jack (Joaquin Phoenix, looking chunky and snaggle-toothed) heroically saving a man from a fire at great risk to himself. Then he is injured and trapped in the burning building. And we go back in time to see what brought him to that moment.

Jack shyly enters the firehouse to introduce himself to the chief (John Travolta, also looking chunky — they must have had quite some caterer on this film). After some good-natured hazing, he is one of the guys.

Jack meets a beautiful girl named Linda (Jacinda Barrett of The Human Stain). They fall in love, get married, and have children. She worries terribly that Jack will be injured or killed, but understands (most of the time) why he loves being a firefighter and why he cannot take a safer job.

With one exception, every one of the characters is kind, honorable, dedicated, thoughtful, and devoted. Actually, the exception is all those things except maybe kind; he’s a little bitter and cynical. But the only bad guy in the movie is the fire. The characters are all so decent that they are practically interchangeable, and that keeps them at more of a distance from us than the movie intends.

It’s fine to be sincere, but the film is unnecessarily obvious, with “That’s Just Love Sneaking Up on You” as a couple falls in love and that wavery Irish flute music to strum our heartstrings. But the fire-fighting sequences are excitingly staged and I’ll freely admit to a couple of tears and the sense that I am privileged to share the planet with people of such honor, courage, and dedication.

Parents should know that the movie has frequent and very intense peril and violence relating to firefighting. Characters are badly wounded and some are killed. There is brief strong language. Characters drink a lot including drinking games and drinking to excess. Alcohol is portrayed as bonding and healing, and a way to prove oneself as “one of the guys.” The movie includes a mild gay joke, some sexual references, and a non-explicit sexual situation. Strengths of the movie include the portrayal of diverse characters who are loyal and committed to each another, though all of the firefighters are male.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Jack took risks even after he had a wife and children who depended on him. What kind of people become fire fighters, police officers, soldiers, and others who face death every day? Families should also talk about how people who see terrible tragedies handle the stress. Notice the use of humor, sometimes rather wild and outrageous, which can be the best adaptive mechanism for dealing with terribly difficult situations, the comment about finding God, and the idea that “we honor Dennis” by “sticking together.”

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the underrated Ron Howard film about firefighters, Backdraft and the classic disaster film, The Towering Inferno. They may also appreciate other movies about people who risk their lives on the job like The Perfect Storm and Gardens of Stone.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

posted by rkumar
C
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004
C
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date: 2004

That nasty old Umbrella Corporation, “the largest and most powerful corporation in the world,” is up to its bad old tricks again. This time the evil virus that it unleashed in its huge underground facility, The Hive, in Resident Evil has gone above ground and is infecting the residents of Raccoon City. The virus kills them. But then “they don’t stay dead.”

So, that means zombies. Lots and lots of zombies. Zombie grown-ups and zombie children. Flying zombies. Climbing out of grave zombies. A Komodo dragon-like zombie with a long lashing tongue. Bare-breasted hooker zombies. And, in a repeat from the first movie, zombie Dobermans that look like they have been turned inside out. And then there is a sort of zombie terminator creature with really big teeth.

Alice (Mila Jovovich) was once head of security in The Hive who then fought the mutants and zombies who took it over. Now, following various experiments in the Hive, she has enhanced powers. She joins an intrepid group trying to escape from Raccoon City, which has been quarantined so that no one can leave. But first they must rescue the young daughter of a scientist so that he will tell them how to get out.

The group includes a reporter with a video camera, two military rescue operatives, and a smart aleck (Mike Epps). Still more videogame than story, it’s mostly a series of confrontations — in a church, in a school, on the street, with guns, with knives, with kick-boxing, with rocket launchers and grenades. And there’s hand-to-hand combat with a beauty and a beast.

It’s pretty much by the numbers — two beats, then a fake-out, two beats, then a jump-out-at-you surprise. This stuff works a lot better as a game than as something unfolding in front of you without any chance to interact with it. But it is a slight improvement over the original, thanks to a lively and likeable performance by Epps and a couple of funny moments to break the tension. Pay attention at the end of the scene with the zombie Dobermans for the best one.

At the end of the movie, one of the characters gets, well, rebooted, and the clear implication is that “Resident Evil 3″ is in the works. Now that’s scary. Like the zombies it depicts, this franchise won’t stay dead.

Parents should know that this movie has extremely gross and graphic violence, with many disgusting deaths and gross monsters. There are a lot of “ewwwwww” moments. Characters are in extreme peril and most of them are killed. A character commits suicide and another attempts it. There is very strong language and non-sexual nudity. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of exceptionally capable and courageous women, though of course they dress for combat in very scanty clothing.

Families who see this movie should talk about the enduring appeal of zombie movies, the challenges of turning a game into a story, and how different organizations try to influence the news. What did it mean to say that the STARS had become “expendable assets?” What can keep a corporation from becoming as powerful as Umbrella Corp? What’s the difference between mutation and evolution?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the much better The Fifth Element, also starring Milla Jovovich, Aliens, and zombie movies like 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, and the “zom-rom-com” (zombie romantic comedy) Sean of the Dead.

Cellular

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2004
B
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date: 2004

This serviceable little thriller suffers even more than most from the dreaded “none of this would have happened if our hero had even made one logical choice” syndrome. It more than makes up for it with its brisk pace (less than 90 minutes long) and the satisfyingly clever use of some of today’s most universal annoyances: people who blare loud rap music from their cars, people who buy huge SUVs to sit in the pick-up line at suburban schools, cell phone signal failures; obnoxiously unhelpful salespeople; cell phone battery failures; arrogant people in ostentatious sportscars; and cell phones that ring at the wrong time. Plus, it has William H. Macy.

Kim Basinger plays Jessica, a loving mother and high school science teacher who is abruptly kidnapped from her luxurious Brentwood mansion after dropping her son at the school bus. We know these guys mean business because they shoot the housekeeper.

They leave her in an empty attic, smashing the phone with a sledgehammer. But she is a science teacher, so she McGuyvers the bits together and clicks the wires until it randomly dials some number which fortunately happens to be a cell phone that is right in the neighborhood.

The guy who answers is Ryan (played by unmemorable Chris Evans). We know he’s a slacker because he’s just been told off by his girlfriend for being irresponsible and superficial.

Ryan realizes Jessica is telling the truth and after a half-hearted attempt to get some help from the police, decides he will rescue her. His behavior for the first 2/3 of the movie is so purely idiotic that there is no room left over to feel much tension or indeed any emotion other than irritation at the complete failure of logic or intelligence by just about every character except for Mrs. Wizard up there in the attic.

Once it gets going, though, there are some clever twists and pleasurable thrills, mostly provided by the always-watchable William H. Macy as a cop named Mooney who is just about to retire to run a day spa. The result is a silly summer thriller somehow languishing as a fall release.

Parents should know that the movie has strong language for a PG-13, references to drug dealers, and a lot of tension, peril, and violence. A mother and her child are in peril and characters are killed.

Families who see this movie should talk about what Jessica’s husband should have done that could have prevented much of what happened and why Moon did not give up.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Phone Booth, with a very similar theme and by the same author. Other movies with related themes include the classic Sorry, Wrong Number with Barbara Stanwyk and The Slender Thread with Sidney Poitier and Anne Bancroft. Families will also enjoy seeing Macy as a cop in the sweet and funny Happy Texas (some mature material).

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