Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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

And So It Goes
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Release Date:
July 25, 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

Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

 

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

3000 Miles to Graceland

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

Nine-tenths attitude and one-tenth gunplay, this testosterone-fueled story has a tasty premise – in the middle of an Elvis convention in Las Vegas, a team of five Elvis impersonators rob a casino. (A couple of weeks ago it was a high school cheerleaders robbing a bank – what’s next, the Teletubbies knocking over a convenience store?) But despite some clever cinematography, fast-paced editing, and the never-ending appeal of Elvis and Elvis impersonators, it never rises above average.

The movie makes a bad mistake in getting the heist out of the way quickly. We do not get to see them plan – we just get to see them bicker on the way there. We don’t get the fun of seeing them plot the robbery so we can be impressed with their solutions to the challenges posed by security systems. That means that much of the rest of the movie is anti-climactic, taking far too much time with post-heist schemes and betrayals. And, though I know some will disagree with me on this, there is just too much shooting. Rambo didn’t fire off as many rounds as these guys do. After a while it gets tired, and so does the audience.

Kevin Costner plays Murphy, the man behind the scheme. He hooks up with Michael (Kurt Russell, looking happy to be back in his Elvis clothes after playing Elvis in a memorable made-for-TV movie 21 years ago). They and three other guys (Christian Slater, David Arquette, and Bokeem Woodbine) suit up as Elvises and break into the cash room of the casino. Things do not go exactly as planned, and there is a lot of shooting involving a lot of automatic weapons. Most of the rest of the movie focuses on Murphy, Michael, and Cybil (Courteny Cox), a down-on-her-luck woman with a larcenous young son, who is supposed to be endearing but comes across as a budding sociopath. They try to get away with the money with Murphy and federal marshals (Thomas Haden Church and Kevin Pollack — both terrific) in pursuit.

The rumor is that Costner and Russell battled over the final cut of the film and even tested two different versions. This one may have been a compromise, because there are some plot holes that appear to have been set up to be resolved but just got left hanging when it was recut. Or, it may be that writer/director Demien Lichtenstein was more interested in jazzy images and explosions than he was in the plot. Many who will want to see this movie will feel the same way.

Parents should know that this movie is extremely violent, at a level that would have received an X-rating just a few years ago. The movie also has very strong language, bathroom humor, and sexual references and situations (explicit, but no nudity). Couples have sex immediately after they meet. Many characters are killers and thieves to the point of preposterousness. They deceive each other and betray each other and they kill carelessly and recklessly. A child is an incorrigible thief. He is repeatedly exposed to extreme violence and sexual activity and he is both abandoned and kidnapped.

Families who see this movie should talk about the enduring appeal of Elvis, and how the dreams of the different characters affected their choices.

Families who enjoy this movie will also like the equally violent but more literate “Way of the Gun” and “The Usual Suspects.” Families looking for a more traditional heist film will like “Ocean’s Eleven,” “How to Steal a Million,” and “Topkapi.”

15 Minutes

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

There is an inherent hypocricy in any satire about our fascination with violence. Invariably, it tries for the best of both worlds, giving us a lot of violence and allowing us to assume moral superiority through ironic distance. Like the tabloid television show it features, “15 Minutes” gets to decry the depiction of violence by showing us examples of what it decries. This movie, its title a reference to Andy Warhol’s statement that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes, pits a cop who’s been on the cover of People Magazine against two killers from Eastern Europe who have figured out that in America “no one is responsible for what they do.”

Emil Slovak (Karel Roden) and Oleg Razgul (Oleg Takarov) arrive in the United States from Eastern Europe with two goals. Slovak, just out of prison, wants to get his share of some stolen money. Razgul wants to find the America of the movies, especially the movies of his favorite director, Frank Capra. When they catch up with their old friend, it turns out the money is gone. Slovak kills the friend and his wife, while Razgul films it all with a stolen video camera. They set the apartment on fire, but a witness escapes.

Robert De Niro plays Eddie Flemming, a detective who appears frequently on a “Hard Copy”-style tabloid TV news program hosted by Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer). He is in love with another television reporter who covers crime in New York (“Providence’s” Melina Kanakaredes). The uneasiness of their relationship stems in part from the tension between journalist and source and in part from his shyness in trying to propose to her — in Greek.

Flemming teams up with a young fire inspector named Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns) when a fire turns out to be arson intended to disguise the two brutal murders. Warsaw’s commanding officer urges him to grab a little of Flemming’s spotlight: “The better you look, the more money I get to pay you guys overtime.” But Flemming warns that “this stuff hurts as much as it helps — probably makes them nervous downtown.” It does help. An elegant madam (Charlize Theron in an unbilled appearance) turns from wary to warm when Flemming comes by to talk to her, even gushing “what an honor!” But Flemming’s visibility makes him a target for two killers who want to get on television.

Slovak is mesmerized by American talk shows, looking up “self-esteem” in his Czech dictionary. He concludes that if they can get their crimes on television and explain that it was all because of their abuse as children, “not only will Americans believe me; they will cry for me.” Slovak and Razgul sell footage of one of their most shocking crimes to Hawkins, who piously insists that it is his obligation as a journalist to broadcast it.

Top-notch performances from all, especially Roden and Takarov in their first American roles, and some powerful cinematography and editing give this film a lot of energy. And it makes some clever points about the way we see fame and responsibility.

Parents should know that the movie is exceptionally violent, with graphic murders, including the death of a character we care about. Interestingly, the most upsetting crime is broadcast to a television audience but not shown onscreen. The movie has strong language and sexual references, including prostitution. Characters drink, smoke, and steal.

Families who see this movie should talk about how we determine who is responsible for violence and whether our society creates perverse incentives for those seeking their 15 minutes of fame. They should talk about what it is like to be famous, what is good about it and what is not so good.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Heat.”

13 Ghosts

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

Producer William Castle is better remembered for his outrageous marketing. schemes than for the content of the movies. He would do anything to attract attention, from taking out a million-dollar insurance policy for anyone who died of fright while viewing one of his movies to the “Coward’s Corner” set up to refund the ticket price of anyone who wanted to leave before the movie revealed its big secret. My favorite of Castle’s gimmicks was in “13 Ghosts,” where audiences were presented with special “ghost viewers” to hold before their eyes. If you looked through the red cellophane, you would see the ghosts, but if that was too scary, you could just look through the blue and then you would not see them.

In its television broadcasts, of course, this was impossible, and the movie has been shown since its 1960 theatrical release without this special effect. Now, the new DVD edition, which comes complete with one ghost viewer and an order form for those who want extras, enables you to see (or not see) the ghosts just as Castle intended, and the cheesy fun makes this just right for family movie night or a teenager’s Halloween party.

A family inherits a haunted house and a mysterious pair of spectacles from a reclusive uncle. It turns out that 12 ghosts occupy the house, including a lion and his headless tamer, a jealous chef and the wife and her lover that he killed with a meat cleaver, a hanging woman, and the ghost of the uncle himself. A Ouija board tells them that a 13th ghost will be added soon. Who will it be?

The special effects were low-budget even for their time, and today’s audiences will find them more silly than scary. But there are a couple of jump-out-at-you moments and plot twists that still work pretty well. The DVD includes both the version that requires the glasses and the one that does not and a brief documentary about Castle that is as much fun as the movie, especially the selection from the movie’s original introduction, which explained how to use the glasses.

Parents should know that this movie does include occult material, including a Ouija board and a seance, which may be upsetting to some children. There is an attempted murder of a child, and another character is murdered. Some families may be uncomfortable with the father’s irresponsibility about money.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy a movie inspired by Castle’s wild gimmicks, Matinee, starring John Goodman. They might also like Castle’s Homicidal(the one that was shown in theaters with the Coward’s Corner and ushers dressed in nursing uniforms), but parents should know that it is scarier than “13 Ghosts” and has more mature themes. They might also enjoy the big-budget remake with terrific (and very graphic) special effects but an even dumber plot, starring Matthew Lillard and Shannon Elizabeth.

102 Dalmatians

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2000

In “101 Dalmatians,” all-time movie villian Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close) is sent to jail for dognapping with the intention of making the dalmatian puppies into a fur coat. As the sequel begins, Cruella has been rehabilitated through the experimental efforts of a behaviorial scientist. Now, she wants to be known simply as “Ella,” a friend to all animals. So, she is released from prison and assigned to a sweet parole officer named Cloe (Alice Evans), who just happens to own a family of dalmatians. Ella tosses away all her furs, and takes over the “Second Chance” dog sanctuary, run by the adorable Kevin (Ioan Gruffudd).

But “Ella’s” rehabilitation, it turns out, can be reversed by the chimes of London’s famous clock tower, Big Ben. A couple of gongs later, she is back to Cruella and her old passion for a dalmatian puppy coat, only this time she wants it with a hood. And that means that she will need 102 of them. With the help of fashion fur designer Monsier LePelt (Gerard Depardieu) and her loyal henchman Alonzo, they capture the puppies, making it look as though Kevin took them, and take off for Paris, followed by Cloe, Kevin, and their assorted animals, including a parrot who thinks he’s a dog.

It’s better than the first live-action version, though still not as good as the original animated classic. The problem is that other than Cruella, the human characters are bland. In the live-action versions, the dogs do not talk, which makes it much harder to connect to them as characters. That leaves us with not much more than a plot that is already very familiar (Cruella takes dogs, dogs get rescued) along with a great villain, cute puppies, and sensational costumes. Although there are some nice moments and a satisfyingly silly fate for Cruella, the movie is slow going — the credit sequence is livelier than the movie that follows. In a particularly poor choice, there is a scene in which the dogs watch a video of “Lady and the Tramp,” enjoying the “Bella Note” scene while Cloe and Kevin, out on a date, share a plate of spaghetti. It may be intended to induce nostalgia and a sense of connection, but what it induces instead is regret that we are watching this movie instead of that one.

Kids may find parts of the movie confusing, like the brief scenes with “Dr. Pavlov,” who explains that he has cured Cruella with behavior modification and her subsequent relapse, triggered by a clock striking. One of the dalmatian puppies has no spots, and is named “Oddball.” As we expect, she feels bad about being different and then proves her worth. But this mild little message is undercut by having her then develop spots as a part of the happy ending.

Parents should know that the movie includes a lot of comic peril and slapstick humor. A character’s repeated injuries are treated as jokes. The overall theme of catching puppies so that they can be killed to make a fur coat may be upsetting to some children.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Oddball felt bad about not having spots and the way the people who love her tried to help. Kevin explains that he was arrested once for kidnapping dogs from a laboratory, and families may want to discuss how people decide to break rules in defense of more important values. They may also want to talk about what does happen to people in jail and how decisions are made about releasing prisoners.

Families who enjoy this movie should see the original animated version of “101 Dalmatians” and “Lady and the Tramp.”

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