Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Strange Magic
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and scary images
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

 

The Boxtrolls
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Release Date:
September 26, 2014

Mortdecai
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some language and sexual material
Release Date:
January 23, 2015

 

The Drop
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some strong violence and pervasive language
Release Date:
September 12, 2014

Cake
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, substance abuse and brief sexuality
Release Date:
January 24, 2015

 

Lucy
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R For strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Release Date:
July 25, 2014

Manic

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

This documentary-style film about teenagers in a mental hospital has enough sincerity to make up for whatever it lacks in professionalism or originality. It is well worth watching with the teenagers in your life.

The story is traditional,following the classic model of hospital-based stories from “David and Lisa,” to “Clean and Sober,” “28 Days,” and “Girl, Interrupted,” along with dozens of made-for-TV-movies. We focus on one patient, Lyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt of television’s “Third Rock from the Sun”). A court sentenced Lyle to the facility because he beat a fellow student with a baseball bat. At first, he is angry and uncooperative. But as he listens to a sympathetic doctor (Don Cheadle) and observes the other patients, he begins to allow himself to be open to acknowledging their feelings and his own.

Shooting on digital video gives the film a spareness and immediacy that works well with its subject. The writers and first-time director Jordan Melamed worked with the actors to develop their characters through improvisation and worked with psychologists and patients to ensure authenticity. The cast includes some former residents of juvenile mental facilities. The portrayals are all so natural and deeply felt that there are moments when it does not even feel like a documentary movie; it feels like we are watching something that is happening right now. Co-screenwriter Michael Bacall plays Chad, a bi-polar kid who is Lyle’s first friend. Zooey Deschanel is the fragile Tracey, Cody Lightning is the shy Kenny, Elden Henson is the angry Michael, and Cheadle is the doctor who has to find a way to make all of them feel accepted for who they are while encouraging them to change. All create characters who are distinct and believable.

The camera work feels amateurish at first until it becomes clear that it is intentional. Shaky, off-center shots replicate the fragile reality of the characters. As the movie continues and Lyle is able to encompass a psychological and metaphorical larger picture, the camera pulls back to give us the bigger picture as well. The final shot, the first real long shot we see in the movie, is very moving.

The kids in the Northwood Mental Institution are not that different from other teenagers. They feel the injustices of the world, especially those affecting them, very passionately. Their feelings overwhelm them. They are desperate for the love and approval of their families and angry because they do not have it. They are terrified of allowing themselves to be vulnerable. They fight any intimacy. They do not want to understand anyone else’s feelings because they might have to understand their own.

Teens who see this movie might feel that the biggest difference between the kids in the hospital and the people they know is not that they are any healthier, just luckier. And that’s a very good starting point for a talk with friends or family about handling emotions and responding to loss, injustice, and tragedy. One strength of the movie is the way it avoids an “aha” moment — there is never a scene where a patient suddenly remembers some childhood trauma and has a transforming epiphany. There is just a doctor who is a real human being with his own frustrations and flaws. He admits that Lyle may carry his rage forever but shows him that he can find a better way to handle it.

Parents should know that the movie has non-stop four-letter words. There are sexual references, including child molestation and rape. There is some violence, including one brief graphic scene that is very brutal. The movie has very strong minority characters and strong bonds between characters of different races.

Families who see this movie should talk about how they handle their angry impulses and what it is that gives their lives meaning. Does it help to have someone say “I’m sorry” even if it isn’t the one responsible? Does it help to be the one who says “I’m sorry?”

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “David and Lisa,” showing how dramatically our understanding of mental illness has changed. They will also appreciate the understanding psychiatrists of “Captain Newman, MD.,” “Antwone Fisher,” and “The Three Faces of Eve.”

The Lizzie McGuire Movie

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2003

The squeals of joy from the audience began as soon as Hilary Duff’s name appeared in the credits and quickly escalated into sounds only dogs could hear as Duff, playing Lizzie McGuire, worked her way through guaranteed girl-pleasers: Lizzie is admired by a handsome international pop star, she gets a makeover and tries on a lot of wild clothes, she triumphs over the popular girl who insults her all the time, and she even gets to live a superstar dream with all her friends and family in the audience. That means that if you or someone you love is between the ages of 7-14, and especially of the female variety, then as those Borgs say in “Star Trek,” “Resistance is futile.”

Lizzie’s graduation from middle school becomes massively humiliating when she is called on as a last minute substitute speaker and trips so spectacularly that she brings down the backdrop on top of the entire graduating class. But she is looking forward to a trip to Rome with her friends, even though it is led by her new high school principal, Miss Ungermeyer (Alex Borstein), a woman with all the tactics and charm of a drill sergeant. Her spirits remain undimmed even when she finds out that Kate (Ashlie Brillault), a girl whose pleasure in being popular is nowhere near the pleasure of reminding Lizzie that she is not, will be coming along.

In Rome, Lizzie meets Paulo (Yani Gellman), a dreamy Italian teen pop idol who is mesmerized by her uncanny resemblance to his singing partner. She pretends to be sick so she can sneak out to tour Rome on the back of his Vespa, and he persuades her to pretend to be his partner on a live award broadcast. She feels like Cinderella. But she ends up learning some new things about old friends, and some old lessons about her new one.

It’s not really a movie. It’s just a 90-minute episode of the popular television show on the Disney channel, with some extra money in the budget to film on location in Rome. But we can be grateful that it is a nice, wholeome story created for an age group usually neglected by Hollywood. Duff has a warm, sweet presence and the use of a little animated Lizzie to comment on the action adds a liveliness to her adventures. I liked Lizzie’s relationship with best pal-who-just-might-be-more David Gordon (Adam Lamberg). And I liked the way that Lizzie’s friend-turned nemesis, Kate showed a little class and more than a little humility without getting sugary.

Parents should know that there is some mildly crude language. Lizzie’s brother and his best friend conspire to blackmail Lizzie and to sell embarrassing pictures of her. Lizzie and her friends lie so that she can spend time with Paulo. There is a very sweet kiss between people who care very much for each other. Lizzie wears a navel-baring outfit.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether people really do make their own luck, and how wishes can help. They should talk about the lies Lizzie, Kate, and Gordo told — which are worse? Should Lizzie have been suspicious when Paulo wanted her to deceive the audience? How did Lizzie decide whom she could trust? Paulo says everyone has trouble feeling confident — do you agree? Why do Miss Ungermeyer and Sergei speak of themselves in the third person? Do you agree that girls who act like they know everything are a “turn-off?”

Families who enjoy this movie might like to compare it to some of its inspirations, including “Gidget Goes to Rome,” and the syrupy classic with the Oscar-winning theme song, “Three Coins in the Fountain.” And every family should watch the utterly enchanting first leading performance by Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday.”

X2: X-Men United

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2003

It’s bigger, badder, and better than the first one, but in essence, what I said the first time applies to this one, too:


Let’s get right to the point. Extremely cool special effects? Check. Highly overqualified actors bringing Shakespearian line readings to comic book dialogue? Check. Highly attractive young stars bringing sensational bodies to skin-tight costumes? Check. Really fun action sequences, at least one involving a national landmark? Check. Just the right balance of irony, self-awareness, and oh, what the heck, check your brains at the door, grab some popcorn and let’s just go with it? Check. And did I mention the extremely cool special effects? Check!!

In other words, this is the summer movie for teenagers and anyone who’d like to pretend to be one, which is just what summer movies are all about.

This time it is the ubiquitous Brian Cox (of “Adaptation,” “The 25th Hour,” “The Ring,” and “The Rookie” in 2002 alone) as Colonel Stryker who wants to wipe out the mutants. Stryker and his soldiers invade the school run by wise and benevolent mutant Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart). They capture Xavier and some of the students. Stryker plans to use Xavier’s brain and the machine he developed to track down and destroy every mutant.

Meanwhile, Magneto (Ian McKellan) is in an enormous plastic prison, unable to use his powers because they require metal. The way metal is smuggled into him is highly original, to say the least. Once he is out, he has to work with Xavier’s mutants (the X-Men), his former enemies, to defeat Stryker.

This movie is all about the action, so it seems unfair to quibble about the fact that there are so many characters it is hard to include them all in anything meaningful, giving parts of the movie the feel of a prolongued introduction. The fans of the comics want to see every character up on the screen, and the movie tries to make it happen. But the result is that it is hard for people who are not familiar with the stories to keep everyone straight or develop much of a commitment to any of them. Halle Berry and Anna Paquin in particular are still criminally underused. The most memorable character is Mystique, played by Rebecca Romjin-Stamos, who is so good that she can even act under all that blue paint and those sequin-like scales. Alan Cummings is a welcome addition as Nightcrawler, but his German accent and Biblical references seem out of place and attracted some laughter from the audience. This is handled with more sensitivity in the comic books, where he is portrayed as a devout Catholic.

Parents should know that the movie has intense and graphic comic-book-style violence, including injury and death of characters. There are some mild sexual situations and references.

Families who see this movie should talk about the way the story uses the fights over the mutants as a metaphor for struggles over racism and other forms of bigotry. What are some of the real-life examples most like the debates over the mutants? Which characters and which powers are most appealing to you? They may also want to discuss the sacrifice one character makes to save the others.

Families who enjoy this movie should see the first one and they should read the comics as well as some of the classic comics that inspired them. It used to be that only comic books could create the kinds of fantasy stories that included superpowers and other worlds, and the comics of the 1930’s-40’s have some of the most imaginative and striking images ever created. They were an important influence on the movies, which did not catch up to them until the development of computer graphics in the 1990’s.

Families who like this movie will also enjoy other comic book-based movies like the “Batman” series and “Spiderman.”

The Real Cancun

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

This is not your parents’ spring break. There is no sign of Gidget at the bump-and-grind dances or the topless-but-for-whipped-cream contest. The bands on stage are singing lyrics explicit to a different order of magnitude than those of the Beach Boys. However, as with any ode to spring break, certain features seem timeless, including the boozy fumes and the fog of pheromones that float down from the screen in a palpable haze. Even for the genre, “The Real Cancun” seems as thin as the bikini straps worn by sunburned girls, an unreal little peep show which will leave some viewers with hangovers and others with a longing for the responsibility-free days of young adulthood.

In line with its other successful “real” –i.e. unscripted— shows including “Road Rules” and “Sorority Life”, MTV is aiming at its key 18 – 25 year old male demographic with a sensory overload of attractive youths seeking the ultimate party. As with its “Real World” series, “The Real Cancun” involves filming “real” people –meaning attractive, insecure youths, not actors—in everyday situations such as tropical locations where they are forced to interact with carefully selected roommates and the resulting antics are craftily edited for greatest effect. In this case, the cushy location is a color-saturated, beach-front hotel, sporting the most tolerant of cleaning staffs, and the lovely, young strangers are filmed in almost every aspect of their lives (bathrooms are thankfully off limits but everything else is pretty much laid out) for the duration of their showy but finally forgettable spring break.

The days of non-stop filming have been reduced to a handful of vignettes about who is going to sleep with whom. If there is a main character, it is the geeky, sober Alan who –thanks to peer pressure— finds booze and then a girlfriend, as he takes on a new, more confident personality like a modern day Sandra Dee transforming from bobby socks to black leather at the end of Grease. While there is quite a bit of raw, often unintentional, humor in laughing at their antics, the hangover of the movie comes from the sour aftertaste of watching people getting genuinely hurt by one another.

In this place where belly buttons are the shot glasses of choice and it is usually enough to know someone’s first name before having sex, “The Real Cancun” reminds everyone over the age of 24 that they are no longer invited to the party, but that it is the same party that has existed since the invention of the teenager. Ninety minutes of partying with these 16 college-age kids will be enough to send most parents home with a hangover and a strong desire to send their kids to labor in the fields during all future spring breaks.

Parents should know that this movie has a alcohol-content level high enough to make the audience feel drunk. Characters rely heavily upon alcohol, with several individuals doing things while under the influence that they clearly would not do under other circumstances. The movie does not show what must have been the other effects of all that drinking, skipping the vomiting and hangovers for the more voyeur-friendly hooking-up and suggestive dancing.

Parents should know that sex is a major theme of this movie and that the camera follows several couples into the bedroom to record their activities. While many movies have explicit scenes of couples who are acting, there is a notable line being crossed here, where the audience is watching actual intercourse albeit thinly veiled under a blanket.

Families who see this movie should talk about why peer pressure can be an influence on an individual no matter what age they are. Also, they might discuss how insecurities often make us act in a way that overcompensates for a weakness that we see in ourselves. Some of the individuals in this movie are callow, selfish and superficial, hurting those around them while preying on the insecurities of others. Who are the people in this movie who seem to be happy with themselves? Which people make choices that you respect?

Families who enjoyed this movie might be interested in MTV’s “Real World” series or their annual coverage of “MTV’s Spring Break”. For those who would like to visit (or revisit) the college party scene, movies like “Animal House” and “Back to School” provide lots of laughs with no hangover. And for those who would like to think about how far we have come (or how far we have fallen) it might be fun to take a look at the original spring break movie, “Where the Boys Are.”

Previous Posts

Contest: Win Swag From One of the Year's Worst Movies!
Mortdecai is a simply terrible movie. Don't go see it. But its very terribleness just might be a reason to look super-cool in a Mortdecai t-shirt and socks! I have them and you can win them! Send

posted 11:58:25am Jan. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Before They Were Stars: Television Commercials With Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, and More
Phil Hall has a delightful collection of "before they were stars" television ads featuring Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, James Dean, Morgan Freeman, Matt LeBlanc, Steve Carell, and more. Here's one I love that he left out, with pre-"Laverne and Shirley" Penny Marshall and pre-"Charlie's Angels" Farr

posted 8:00:34am Jan. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Alan Menken Plays His Hits
[iframe width="416" height="234" src="http://abc.go.com/embed/VDKA0_i2msn1gc" frameborder="0"] Alan Menken, currently composing the songs for "Galavant," here sings some of his greatest hits, including songs from "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," "The Little Mermaid," "Enchanted," "Pocahontas,"

posted 8:00:02am Jan. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Strange Magic
Despite the big names behind it, including George Lucas, who came up with the story and produced, it feels like a straight-to-DVD, about the level of Disney's Tinkerbell series. It's bright,

posted 5:25:48pm Jan. 24, 2015 | read full post »

Bad Movies Inspire Great Critics: Mortdecai
Johnny Depp's "Mortdecai" is sure of a place of dishonor on the end of the year worst lists.  Business Insider and Huffington Post have some choice quotes from some of the movie's best bad reviews, and I've found some good ones, too, including: David Edelstein, New York Magazine Having combed

posted 3:35:40pm Jan. 24, 2015 | read full post »


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