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

Raising Victor Vargas

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

Identity

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

It was a dark and stormy night.

Ten strangers are stranded at a seedy motel. And then, as one of them later explains, “people started dying.”

At first, it seems that they have nothing in common: a movie star (Rebecca De Mornay) and her limo driver (John Cusack), a prostitute (Amanda Peet), a police detective and his prisoner, a man (John C. McGinley) with a critically injured wife (Liela Kenzle) and her young son, and a just-married couple (Clea Duvall and William Lee Scott). Once they have all assembled and we have established that all communications and exits have been cut off by the rain, scary-movie things begin. Close-ups with suspenseful music mean that something bad has happened or is going to happen just outside the frame. But the conventions of the genre are treated more as traditions and they are expertly handled and wonderfully creepy. As the lower-billed actors get killed off, the remaining characters try to figure out who the murderer is and what the pattern is to the deaths. At first, the murders seem as random as the assortment of people who just happened to be driving by the motel when they were stopped by the storm. But then, as each body has a motel room key counting down in sequence, it seems clear that there must be a connection. It is very tempting to say more, but the plot twist is so, well, twisted that it would be, well, a crime to divulge any more.

This is a thriller with real thrills — both the kind that make you jump and the kind that make you think. It is one of those rare “Sixth Sense”-style puzzles that may send audiences back to see it a second time just for the fun of knowing how it all fits together.

Parents should know that it is a very scary movie with a lot of intense peril and some grisly and upsetting deaths. A character is a prostitute and there are some sexual references, including a discussion of a possible out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Characters drink, smoke, and use strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about the enduring appeal of movies about serial killers.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “And Then There Were None,” referred to by one of the characters. Based on Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie, it is the story of a group of strangers who arrive at an isolated location and then start dying off one by one. The best version is the original from 1945, directed by Rene Clair, but the 1965 remake is not bad. The 1974 version is worth watching only for curiosity, however. Take a look at the Christie book, too, which has a more fiendish ending than the movie. Families who enjoy this genre will also enjoy the “Scream” trilogy and “Poltergeist.”

Malibu’s Most Wanted

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

Yes, it’s dumb and yes, it’s a 15-minute skit stretched out to 80 minutes, but I have to admit it — it is very funny.

MTV’s Jamie Kennedy plays Brad Gluckman, son of a wealthy man (Ryan O’Neal) who is running for governor. Brad and his friends are posers (sometimes known as wiggers) who adopt the clothing, slang, and outlook of black rappers from the poorest and most violent communities. He insists on being called B-Rad, and has made a demo album called “Mali-booty.”

This is an embarrassment to the campaign, so the candidate’s political advisor (Blair Underwood) hires two clasically trained actors to pretend to be real gangstas and “scare the black out of” Brad and turn him back into acting like Richie Cunningham (from television’s “Happy Days”). The actors (Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson), despite the fact that rap style is even more foreign to them than it is to residents of Malibu.

Subtle and sophisticated are not terms that belong anywhere near this movie, but I have to say that compared to the numbingly formulaic “black people teach white people about how much more there is to life” themes of recent films like “Bringing Down the House” and “Head of State,” this movie is more even-handed and generous-hearted. And unlike those other movies, it has enough confidence and respect for the audience to put some of its best jokes in throwaway lines instead of spotlighting them with everything but a drum roll. The relationship between Diggs and Anderson’s characters is deliciously loopy as they evaluate each others’ performances in the midst of complete catastrophe. Snoop Dog makes a surprise appearance that only those who can recognize his voice will catch. And if the movie’s final message is, “Be yourself, even if that self is a talentless poser whose appreciation of another culture is all-encompassing,” at least that message is kind of sweet.

Parents should know that the questionable material in this movie is relatively mild for the genre. We see a man lying down with two women, but fully clothed and doing nothing more than kissing. A couple appears to be engaged in oral sex but really is not. The only nudity is a glimpse of some tush clevage. There is comic peril, including a lot of gunplay, but no one is hurt. Characters use bad language, but nothing as raunchy as in real rap songs.

Families who see this movie should talk about why people are drawn to other cultures and when it is possible to “be yourself” by immersion in a culture that is not your own. There is a long tradition of white performers co-opting the music and humor of ethnic performers. How do the themes of this movie relate, for example, to “8 Mile,” starring and inspired by Eminem, a white rapper?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Tommy Boy.”

Bulletproof Monk

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2003

Here is how cool Hong Kong action superstar Chow Yun-Fat (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) is: while clearly capable of outshining just about anyone and anything in movies today, instead he manages to somehow shine his coolness over everything around him, making action heroes out of Seann William Scott (of “Dude Where’s My Car” and “American Pie”) and model-turned actress Jamie King (“Pearl Harbor”). The result is a popcorn pleasure, an action movie with a little wit, a lot of spirit, and some kick-butt kick-boxing.

Chow plays the Monk With No Name (like the Clint Eastwood character, The Man With No Name), who back in World War II was assigned the task of guarding a sacred scroll. A Nazi officer named Strucker tries to get it, but the Monk escapes. Sixty years later, the Nazi and his grand-daughter are still after the scroll. Strucker is old and in a wheelchair, but the Monk, because of his special assignment, has not aged. It is time for him to find the next guardian of the scroll, however, and it just seems that it might be a petty thief and chop-socky film projectionist named Kar (Scott).

Scott has shown an appealing comic presence in previous movies, but I would never have expected him to be able to carry a leading role as well as he does here. He is buff and he is game. He is confident enough not to take himself seriously, and he does very well. King, playing a “Bad Girl” (that’s her nickname) with a secret, handles herself well. She and Kar fight as a way of getting to know one another (as Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck did in “Daredevil”), so their thrusts and parries help to tell the story.

The fight scenes are staged wonderfully, and the production design is outstanding, especially the underground lair of a ragtag bunch of scoundrels who live in subway tunnels. The dialogue is not completely embarassing, which makes it a big step up from most action films. And Chow, as ever, has all the presence it takes to make the screen come alive.

Parents should know that the movie is very violent, though not as graphic as many PG-13s. Characters are killed, including one who is impaled. There is brief strong language. There are some sexual references, though it is very clear that the “Bad Girl” is, as far as sex goes, a “good girl.”

Families who see this movie should talk about why the monks did not just destroy the scroll. What is there in the world today that is as susceptible as the fictional scroll to being used for devastating purposes?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the magnificent work of art, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” And they will also enjoy some other kick-boxing action films by stars like Jet Li and Jackie Chan.

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

Alan Menken Plays His Hits
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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
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Four Disney Artists Paint a Tree
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posted 8:00:31am Jan. 24, 2015 | read full post »


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