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

 

Heaven is for Real
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations
Release Date:
April 16, 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

X-Men

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2000

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.

At a time in the not too distant future, some humans are mutating. Around the onset of adolescence, they develop strange powers (and to-die-for cheekbones and abs). Politicians are in an uproar — should they be registered, like weapons? Or are attempts to track them down a new form of McCarthyism — or worse? The movie’s opening scene hints at worse when it shows us a boy whose powers are first revealed when he and his parents are taken to a concentration camp.

But the appeal here is not to the political, but the personal. X-Men comics have been popular for decades because, like many successful comic book stories, they key into the insecurities and sense of outsiderness of adolescence. They may be outcasts, but they have great powers that their friends and families could never dream of!

The mutants have two elder statesmen, old friends and adversaries. One, wheelchair-bound Professor Charles Francis Xavier (Patrick Stewart), has established a school for mutant teen-agers. He wants to cooperate with humans and teach the mutants to use their powers for good. The other, Magneto (Ian McKellen) is after our old friend, total world domination — “We’re the future, Charles, not them! They no longer matter.”

Two mutants, Logan, known as “Wolverine” (Hugh Jackman), and a teenager named Marie, known as “Rogue” (Anna Paquin) arrive at Professor Xavier’s school after a battle with one of Mageneto’s henchmen (a wookie-looking guy played by wrestler Tyler Mane). Wolverine’s mutant strength and healing powers have enabled him to be surgically altered so that long, sharp, metal blades can pop out of his knuckles, but he has no memory of how that happened. Rogue draws the life force and powers out of anyone who touches her skin. At the school, they meet Storm (Halle Berry), who can call on lightning; Cyclops (James Marsden), whose eyes shoot laser-like beams; and Jean (Famke Janssen), who does not have a cool mutant name but does have telekinesis and telepathy. And of course great cheekbones. There are a bunch of other characters who barely show up, and may be there just for fans of the comics and to lay a foundation for big things in the sequel. If it all seems a little bit like the Justice League of America crossed with the Backstreet Boys, well, the movie has enough of a sense of humor about itself to make it work as well as possible. As usual, the villains are more fun to watch than the good guys. Magneto’s chief sidekicks are Toad, played by Ray Park of “Phantom Menace” and the shape-changing Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), both absolutely terrific. We can only hope that Storm and Cyclops and some of the others will have more interesting things to do in the inevitable sequel.

Kids will get a big kick out of the movie, and parents may even be able to entice them to talk about some of the implications of the movie, the ends-justify-the-means approach of Magneto, the way that the humans and mutants fear each other, the issue of registration of a minority group, and the way that Logan begins to learn to trust for the first time. Parents should also make sure that kids know that the creator of the X-Men and many other comic book superheroes, Stan Lee, has a brief appearance as a hot dog vendor.

Parents should know that the movie’s rating comes from comic-book-style violence that will not be upsetting to most kids of middle-school age or older. There are a few naughty words.

Families who enjoy this movie might like to watch other comic book-inspired movies like “Superman” with Christopher Reeve and “Men in Black” with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.

What Women Want

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

Mel Gibson shows us just what women want in his first-ever romantic comedy — we want Mel Gibson.

Mel plays Nick Marshall, a Chicago advertising executive who is successful at work (he thinks up ideas like the Swedish bikini team) and with the ladies, whom he wheedles and charms but never really thinks about. His ex-wife (Lauren Holly) says that he never understood her, but, even on the day of her marriage to someone else, she still softens when she speaks about him. His 15-year-old daughter says that he is more like an “Uncle Dad” than a father.

Nick is pretty sure he has it all figured out, until the day that instead of getting promoted to Creative Director, he gets a new boss, Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt). It turns out that the advertising agency needs to appeal to women consumers, and the Swedish bikini team just does not send the right message. Darcy hands out a pink box filled with products for the staff to explore, and Nick does his best, experimenting with mascara, leg wax, nail polish, and exfoliater. But an accidental near-electrocution leaves him with a new power — the ability to hear women’s thoughts.

At first horrified, Nick realizes that there are some real advantages to being the only straight man in the world who knows how women think. He uses it to manipulate women, including Darcy and a pretty coffee shop waitress (Marisi Tomei). But it turns out that women do not think about Nick the way that he thought they did, and he is forced to think about himself in a new way. Nick has never listened to women before, but now he can’t help it. He sees the damage that he has done, and he begins to correct it. And of course he begins to fall in love with Darcy and to connect to his daughter.

Gibson is sheer heaven in the movie, dancing to Frank Sinatra in his apartment, watching his daughter try on prom dresses, or just reacting to snippits of thoughts he hears from girls, women, and even female dogs as he walks down the street. He has the physical grace of a leading man and the timing and unselfconsciousness of a comic. The script sags in places, but Gibson keeps the movie floating in the clouds.

Parents should know that the movie has stronger language than indicated by the previews. Nick manipulates the waitress into having sex with him by reading her thoughts. He is apalled to hear her thoughts in bed and find out what a poor lover he is. So, he listens to her thoughts and is able to give her an extraordinary experience which leaves her deeply touched. He then forgets all about her, until she confronts him a week later. He take the only out he can think of to explain why he had not called her — he tells her that he is gay.

Nick hears his daughter thinking that she has promised to have sex with her boyfriend on prom night. After an awkward attempt to talk to her about it, he neglects her until crisis strikes. Fortunately, she manages to make the right decision without him, and he is there after the fact to provide some support. Nick drinks a lot, and another character responds to stress by smoking a joint. In an embarassing moment, Darcy says, “A smart person would get very drunk now.” And a character plans to commit suicide.

Families should talk about whether it is hard for men and women to figure each other out, and how they can do better. They may also want to talk about the pressure Nick’s 15-year-old daughter feels to have sex with her 18-year-old boyfriend and how she decides what to do about it. They should also talk about how a small act of kindness can be very important to someone who is coping with depression. (But make sure that children know that clinical depression is a serious illness that cannot be “cured” by a few kind words.)

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “You’ve Got Mail.”

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

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

This movie has a terrific cast and some very funny moments. But there is an overall slackness and an underlying cynicism that takes this outside of the category of mindless fun and makes it uncomfortably distasteful.

Martin Lawrence plays a thief named Kevin who falls in love with a pretty English anthropologist named Amber (Carmen Ejogo). She gives him a lucky ring that once belonged to her father. He and a pal named Berger (John Leguizamo) break into what they think is the deserted vacation home of Max (Danny De Vito), only to find that Max is there, having an assignation with Miss September. Max captures Kevin and calls the police. When they arrest Kevin, Max sees the ring and tells the police that it is his. They believe him, and make Kevin give Max the ring. Kevin spends the rest of the movie trying to get revenge – and trying to get the ring back, too.

The movie’s underlying premise is that everyone is a thief and that the only difference between the businessman, the politician, the lawyer, and the man who steals is that at least the professional thief is honest about what he does. Some people, like Donald Westlake, the author of the book that inspired this movie, can make that premise seem wickedly delicious. But screenwriter and director Sam Weisman, remove the satiric twists to make it into a star vehicle for Lawrence and the result lacks any sense of dramatic build-up. Instead of two wily adversaries, it is so one-sided in favor of Lawrence’s character that any narrative arc evaporates. It’s just a string of skits.

That might be all right – some of the skits are pretty funny and I don’t insist on logic or political correctness or even trivial consistencies in a movie. But there is something unsettling about the underlying assumptions here, especially the smug self-righteousness of the thieves (including Max). Ask us to believe that Kevin is a crook and the hero of the movie, and we can accept it. But it is a little harder to accept that his girlfriend is an educated, loyal, devoted person who is happy to be a “perky” waitress and wait up nights for Kevin to come home from a hard night of packing other people’s things into his bag of loot. The mincing gay detective and the evil businessman who uses Yiddish and his long-suffering lawyer and mistress are tired stereotypes. And too much simply does not make sense. The last scene in particular is nothing more than a chance to put Lawrence in a huge Afro and pretend that everyone is living happily ever after.

Parents should know that the movie includes drinking, smoking, swearing, and sexual references and situations. A woman has sex with a man who does her a favor, and this is shown as charming and even romantic. The stereotypes mentioned above will make many families uncomfortable.

Families who see this movie should talk about the idea that everyone is a thief of one kind or another, and what they think would be a fair resolution.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of Lawrence’s other movies, like “Big Momma’s House” and “Bad Boys” (both for more mature audiences).

Where the Money Is

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

Two characters stare blankly at the closed door, as flashing lights from the patrol cars circle the room and a voice booms out, “Come out with your hands up!” Henry (Paul Newman) turns to Carol (Linda Fiorentino) and says, “You haven’t lived until you’ve had someone say that to you.”

Henry is a bank robber, released from prison into a nursing home because he is completely incapacitated by a stroke. Or so it appears. Carol, a nurse, thinks he is faking. Behind those vacant eyes she gets a glimpse of a kind of vitality and adventure that mesmerizes her. Every trick she tries to get him to respond, including climbing onto his lap, fails, until she takes one last chance. She was right.

Eventually, it becomes clear to her what she really wants. She wants to do a bank job with him. She once dreamed of thrills and excitement, and now she spends her time teaching frail and elderly people to do wheelchair calisthenics. She does not want to become like the people she works with in the nursing home, at least not without some adventures to remember. Carol has a husband, Wayne (Dermot Mulroney). Though she promises Henry that “he is clutch,” what will he do when things go wrong?

Though far from the glamour of the robbery of the world’s tallest building in “Entrapment,” this is essentially the same idea – a fabulous old coot and a fabulous young beauty plan a heist and take us along. This movie is better. It has some clever dialogue (one line about a toaster is one of the funniest of the year), and it has the impeccable delivery of Newman and Fiorentino, who could make the time of day recording sound riveting.

The great thing about good heist movies is that they are such marvelous puzzles. Here are the obstacles – how do we overcome them? Then here are the things we never anticipated – how do we respond to them? No one is more fun to watch play wicked than Newman and Fiorentino, but the script lets us down by conveniently skipping a few steps. Worse is the ending, which feels, given the less than 90 minute screening time, as though the movie was chopped up before release. It leaves us disappointed, making the characters less loveable scamp adventure-seekers into soul-less sociopaths.

Parents should know that the movie begins with a flashback scene in which Carol and Wayne make out while driving, leading to an accident, there is an R-ish scene in which we see and hear Carol and Wayne having sex, many characters smoke and drink and one uses drugs, and, even considering the conventions of heist movies, this one has an amoral tone that leaves us unsatisfied.

People who enjoy this movie will also like Paul Newman’s performance as a con man and card sharp in the Oscar-winning “The Sting” and as an old west train robber in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

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