Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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A Will for the Woods
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
May 2, 2014

The Expendables 3
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

 

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

Let's Be Cops
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity, violence and drug use
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

 

Need for Speed
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language
Release Date:
March 14, 2014

Cat On a Hot Tin Roof

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:1958

Plot: Big Daddy’s (Burl Ives) family is celebrating both his 65th birthday and his medical report, which shows his health problems have proven to be minor. He has two grown sons, Brick (Paul Newman), an alcoholic former athlete, and Gooper (Jack Carson), who is constantly trying to replace Brick as Big Daddy’s favorite. Gooper has five children, and Brick’s wife, Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor) knows that no matter how much Big Daddy loves Brick, he cannot inherit Big Daddy’s property unless he provides an heir. Brick is angry at himself and at Maggie, and wants nothing more than to drink until he feels the “click” of peace when he is too drunk to feel anything else. But the “odor of mendacity” is too strong for Big Daddy, and all the lies come tumbling down like skeletons out of a closet.

Discussion: This movie, based on Tennessee Williams’ play, is about a family that has been damaged more by lies than by greed. They lie to Big Daddy about the results of his tests. Brick lies to himself about what really went on with Skipper. Gooper and his wife lie about their feelings for Big Daddy. And Maggie lies about being pregnant. It is worth discussing the different kinds of lies and the different motivations behind them, and the impact the truth has on the characters, when they are finally confronted with it. Compare this family’s method of accomplishing its goals with the methods of some other movie families, to see which interactions make families stronger and which tear them apart.

Questions for Kids:

· Why does Maggie compare herself to a cat on a hot tin roof? What is the roof, and what makes it hot?

· Why won’t Brick agree to get Maggie pregnant? Who is he mad at? Why?

· Why does Brick have such contempt for himself? What does Skipper’s death have to do with it?

· What makes Brick change his mind?

Connections: Compare this family to another classic Southern dysfunctional family, the Hubbards, in “The Little Foxes.” Other Williams plays adapted for the screen include “The Glass Menagerie,” “Period of Adjustment,” and “Sweet Bird of Youth.”

Activities: Read the play, and you will see that Tennessee Williams wrote two different endings. Take a look at the other ending, and read his comments on it before you decide which one you prefer.

Cat Ballou

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1965

Plot: In the days of the old West, Catherine (Cat) Ballou (Jane Fonda) takes the train home, after finishing school. She does her best to appear proper, but peeks at potboilers about the notorious Kid Shelleen inside her book. On the train, she meets escaping cattle rustler Clay Boone (Michael Callan) and his uncle Jed (Dwayne Hickman). She is attracted to Clay, but not interested in becoming involved with a criminal.

Cat is angry and upset when she gets home and sees that her father (John Marley) is being pressured to give up his land. He is killed by hired gun Tim Strawn. When her father’s ranch hand, an Indian named Jackson (Tom Nardini) and Clay and Jed are not brave enough to help her fight back, she sends for Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin).

Kid arrives, a hopeless drunk. But they help him pull himself together, and they get their revenge. Cat is captured and sentenced to be hung, but is saved at the last minute by her friends.

Discussion: This cheerful satire of conventional Westerns is a lot of fun, with attractive performers and an Oscar -winning performance by Lee Marvin in the dual roles of Shelleen and Strawn. Stubby Kaye (“Guys and Dolls”) and Nat “King” Cole show up as something between a Greek chorus and medieval minstrels, singing the story as it unfolds. It is good for kids to see a movie with a strong, brave, and resourceful young woman, who is an effective and inspiring leader (though they all have crushes on her).

Questions for Kids:

· Why was Cat so effective at leading Clay, Jed, Kid, and Jackson?

· Do you agree with her decision to take matters into her own hands?

· How does she compare to other Western heroes, like Shane?

Connections: Watch for a character named “Butch Cassidy” in a minor role, four years before Paul Newman and Robert Redford appeared in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” by William Goldman. Marvin appeared more often as the kind of tough guy he parodies in this movie, for example, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” Jed is played by television’s Dobe Gillis, Dwayne Hickman.

Cats & Dogs

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2001

Anyone who has ever lived with a cat or dog already knows what this movie finally reveals to the rest of the world – they are the ones who are really in charge. While humans go about their business, tossing a ball here, scratching behind the ears there, they never notice that cats and dogs use extensive technology to conduct all kinds of surveillance and spy missions – and then to clean up all the mess afterwards, before the humans get back home.

It turns out that once cats ruled, back in the days of ancient Egypt. But with the help of dogs, humans took over, and cats have been trying to regain their position ever since. As this movie begins, an evil rogue cat named Mr. Tinkles (that name would probably make any cat into an evil rogue) has a plot to foil the development of an injection that would cure allergies to dogs. If he can get the formula, reverse its effects, and expose every human in the world to it, then everyone would become allergic to dogs, and cats could take over. This is the worst affront to dog dignity since those Siamese-if-you-please cats got Lady into such big trouble.

The movie is silly fun, a throwback to the classic Disney days of “The Absent-Minded Professor” and “The Shaggy Dog.” It moves along swiftly thanks to a brief running time (less than 90 minutes) and spectacularly seamless special effects work. It also benefits from outstanding voice talents: Tobey Maguire (Lou, the young pup called upon to save the world), Alec Baldwin (Butch, the senior agent, using some of the same world-weary courage and avuncular twinkle that he gave to James Dolittle in “Pearl Harbor”), and Susan Sarandon (kind-hearted canine femme fatale Ivy), as the good guys, and Sean Hayes (from “Will and Grace,” enjoying the role of evil villain Mr. Tinkles), and Jon Lovitz (his sidekick) as bad guys. Live action duties are undertaken with good spirits by Elizabeth Perkins, Jeff Goldblum, and Miriam Margolyes, who does a funny twist on her role as the Nurse in the Leonardo DiCaprio version of “Romeo and Juliet.”

All of this is aimed at 8-year-olds, so expect some PG-rated litter box humor, a couple of mild references to whether a male dog has been fixed and a lot of slapstick pratfalls and head-bonks. All of this was a huge hit with the kids in the screening I attended. They got a special kick out of the ninja cats (with a now-obligatory “Matrix” joke). There were a couple of good moments for parents, too, including a dog who explains that she is not homeless, just “domestically challenged,” a canine news commentator named (of course) Wolf Blitzer, and having the dogs read the Miranda warnings to thousands of arrested mice. The movie comes down on the side of loyalty and families. And Mr. Tinkles’ punishment is both funny and (literally) fitting.

Parents should know that the movie features several potty jokes and a great deal of comic/fantasy violence (no one hurt). Some children may be upset about an elderly character on life support, especially when his condition is used for comedy. A boy is sad when his dog disappears, and is reluctant to make friends with a replacement. The movie is mildly sexist -– although one of the spy dogs is female, she is not a part of the team, and the message that goes out to the spy dogs is prefaced with “gentlemen.” A boy’s feelings are hurt when he does so badly at soccer try-outs (off screen) that the coach suggests that he try out for the girls’ team. Although Michael Clarke Duncan (of “The Green Mile” and “See Spot Run”) provides voice talent, the movie has an all-white Dick and Jane feeling.

Families who see this movie should compare the way that the cats and dogs deal with failure and setbacks and their ability to work as a team. Those are the keys to the resolution. Families should also talk about Ivy’s comment, “Sometimes mad is just a way of hiding how sad you are.” This is a very important concept for children to understand. They may also want to talk about the way that Goldblum’s character gets so caught up in his work that he forgets how important it is to spend time with his son.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Absent-Minded Professor (Colorized) and it’s colorful but dumber remake, Flubber. They might also enjoy a gentler comedy featuring a dog and cat, The Adventures of Milo & Otis/ And every family should enjoy the irresistible pig story, Babe.

Cast Away

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

What happens when everything we hold on to is taken away from us?

This is the story of Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), trouble-shooter for Federal Express, who travels to Moscow to remind the wayward Russian office that “We live or die by the clock.” Before leaving home, he sent a timer to himself in Russia, so that he could track down to the second the time it took to be delivered. He is proud of a new facility that is the ultimate marriage of technology and systems.

He goes home for Christmas Eve, only to be paged in the middle of dinner. He is needed in Asia. He quickly trades gifts with his girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt) on the way to the airport, before racing off, promising to be back for New Year’s.

But he does not keep that promise. The plane crashes in the Pacific, and everyone else is killed. Chuck is washed up on a deserted island. Suddenly, all he has is time.

At first, he expects to be rescued. He efficiently retrieves the Federal Express packages that wash up on the shore and sorts them into piles for delivery. As it is borne in upon him that he is alone and completely out of reach, he starts to open the boxes. We see that these precious items of enormous meaning to the people who sent them — divorce papers, videos, a tulle party dress, ice skates, a volleyball — have little value on a deserted island. Noland (“No Land”), a problem-solver by nature and profession, gets to work, using the net from the dress to catch fish and the ice skate blades to crack coconuts. The volleyball, stained with his own blood, he makes into a companion named “Wilson” (after the ball’s manufacturer).

For 45 minutes in the middle of the movie, we are alone on the island with Noland. There may be crystal waters and azure skies, but this is no “Blue Lagoon” and he is no Brooke Shields. There is no music, and almost no dialogue. It is brutal and painful. He shreds his leg on coral and has to extract an abscessed tooth. Noland is an engaging character (signing “Light My Fire” when he finally is able to get sticks to light), and Hanks is undeniably one of the world’s most engaging actors. But it is more impressive than involving and begins to seem more of an acting exercise than a saga about the triumph of the human spirit or the importance of love and family.

No matter what deprivation he endures, Noland leaves one package unopened. It has an intriguing insignia on the return address, a pair of wings. He holds on to it as a promise of escape and as a symbol of his continuing identity as a man who gets the packages delivered.

Four years later, the side of a cabin bathroom is washed up on the island, and Noland has what he needs to create a sail. He knows the tides and the seasons well enough to begin to plan an escape from the island, and he knows that he would rather die on the ocean than stay where he is. What finally made it possible for him to leave was not the reason he relied on in his old life but the hope he has learned on the island. Still, it is his sense of the press of time (“let’s not commit the sin of turning our backs on time”) that it spurs him to action.

There are some moving and beautiful moments on the raft, especially the glimpse of a whale’s eye peeking just above the water. But once he gets home, the movie falters. We know, though, that the world he left now seems strange to him and that it will take a long while for him to reorient himself and decide where he will go next. He has mastered the skill of spearing a fish and making a raft, but he has to learn a whole new set of survial skills back at home.

Parents should know that the movie has brief strong language, a very scary plane crash, a dead body, and scenes of peril (some bloody). The deprivation and losses may be very upsetting to some children and teenagers. Noland considers suicide, and speaks of attempting it, which some people may also find disturbing.

Families who see the movie should talk about what is left when we strip away the conventions and conveniences of our society. How do we decide what our priorities are, and what our values are? Compare this movie to other desert island sagas, from “Lord of the Flies” to “The Admirable Crichton.”

Families who enjoy this movie might also enjoy one of Hanks’ less successful comedies, “Joe Versus the Volcano.”

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