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 Book of Life
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements and brief scary images
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

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

 

The Judge
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including some sexual references
Release Date:
October 10, 2014

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

 

Fury
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

A Guy Thing

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

If you made a copy of a copy of a copy of “Meet the Parents” and then ran it through one of those script-generating software programs advertised in the back of movie magazines, you might come out with something like “A Guy Thing,” a completely inept attempted screwball comedy without a single memorable moment.

Jason Lee plays Paul, a guy so risk-averse that he gives the “groom” hat at his bachelor party to his best man, so that the dancing “tiki girls” in grass skirts won’t pay any attention to him. Yet somehow he wakes up the next morning, hung over, with one of those dancing girls (Julia Stiles) in his bed. Oh, no – his fiancée (Selma Blair) is coming over and the girl can’t find her underpants. He manages to get her out of his apartment and hide the panties, but then it turns out that she is his fiancée’s cousin Becky, so she keeps turning up at all the family events. There is much faux humor about Paul pretending to have a massive gastro-intestinal disorder, getting an itchy STD and having to get some medication which is discussed loudly in the pharmacy as his future mother-in-law is standing there; the steroid rage of Becky’s ex-fiancé, an evidence-planting cop; a rehearsal dinner spiked with pot; and some dirty pictures found by a young boy that end up stuck together, not with glue.

This is a step down for everyone associated with it, including director Chris Koch, who made a promising debut with “Snow Day,” and Lee, Blair, and Stiles, who show no energy whatsoever. One reason the script seems so much like “Meet the Parents” is that the story is by the same writer, though even four screenwriters could not manage to come up with a single memorable line of dialogue, character to care about, believable motivation, or genuinely funny moment. Every joke and plot development is telegraphed so ham-handedly that it is instantly anticlimactic. There are sit-coms on the WB that have more laughs before the first commercial than this movie has in 90 minutes.

Parents should know that the movie has gross humor and very mature material for a PG-13, including graphic references to a sexually transmitted disease, masturbation, drugs, and adultery. Characters use very strong language and there is social drinking to excess, at one point resulting in the encounter that triggers the plot. A character is beat up and arrested for possession of cocaine. There is also such a weird sort of homophobic vibe to some of the jokes that for one mad moment I actually thought the big pay-off was that Paul was going to turn out to be gay.

Families who see this movie should talk about the way Paul and Becky think about fears and what his behavior and attraction to Becky should tell him about his plan to marry his boss’ daughter.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Meet the Parents” (raunchy and very crude humor) and some of the classic screwball comedies like “Bringing Up Baby” and “My Man Godfrey.”

Kangaroo Jack

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

“Kangaroo Jack” is not just a very bad movie. It is a very bad movie that shows how inadequately the MPAA rating system handles the kinds of materials that are of concern to parents. This movie received a PG rating despite “humor” about topics that include masturbation, homosexuality, drinking and drunkenness, epilepsy, murder, grabbing a woman’s breasts, the famous case where a dingo (wild Australian dog) ate a baby, a hit ordered by a mob boss on his stepson, and the ever-popular camel flatulence.

Jerry O’Connell plays Charlie, the hairdresser stepson of Sal, a Brooklyn mob boss (Christopher Walken, slumming). His best friend is Louis (Anthony Anderson), who constantly wheedles him into all kinds of messes by reminding him of the time he saved Charlie’s life when they were both eight years old.

Charlie and Louis accidentally lead the police to a mob stash of stolen goods. Sal tells them that he would have them killed, but because of Charlie’s mother, he is giving them another chance. He sends them to Australia with $50,000 cash, to be delivered to “Mr. Smith.”

Charlie and Louis hit a kangaroo with their jeep, and, thinking it is dead, dress it up in Louis’ jacket to take pictures. But it hops away with the jacket – and the $50,000, which is in the pocket. The rest of the movie is about Charlie and Anthony chasing the kangaroo while they are being chased by Mr. Smith and the mob guys from back home.

It is impossible to imagine that the people associated with this movie have ever seen or even been children because there is so much that is either of no interest to children or likely to upset them. The reference to the 1980 Lindy Chamberlin murder case in which a mother said that a dingo took her baby is just one example. Today’s children will not have any idea what that refers to and the idea that a wild dog killed a baby may be very upsetting to them. There are a number of homophobic suggestions that Charlie is or might be seen as gay because he is a hairdresser, “jokes” that are inappropriate for any age but especially unsavory in a movie made for children. The same goes for the epilepsy “jokes” that arise out of an attempt by Louis to indicate how pretty a girl is by making odd sounds and gestures. And I do not think there are many kids – or parents – who will find it especially funny when the vocabulary-building mobster confuses the words “plethora” and “anathema.” The movie was originally filmed as a PG-13 or R but was reconfigured as a PG after test audiences said it was awful. It still is.

The action sequences are poorly staged, the jokes are staged even more poorly, the montages to rock music have no energy, and the acting ranges from mediocre to dreadful. Estella Warren, who plays the love interest, cannot act. The best performance is unquestionably that of the computer folks who designed the CGI kangaroo. Two positive notes are the long and and loyal inter-racial friendship and a strong, independent, brave, and capable woman.

Parents should know that the advertising campaign is seriously misleading in terms of the movie’s appropriateness for children. The ads suggest that the funny talking and rapping kangaroo is a large part of the movie, but as in last year’s “Snow Dogs,” it is a brief highlight that appears only in a fantasy sequence. As noted above, the movie has a great deal of material parents might consider inappropriate for children, including peril, violence and gunplay, a stepfather who orders his stepson killed, drinking to excess seen as impressive, drinking portrayed as a way to cope with problems, violence, potty humor, and a co-ed swim in underwear that leads to kissing. There is a sexist joke and the black character is portrayed in “sidekick” terms with no interest in having any kind of independent life or relationships. The “happy” ending is somewhat sour as the only character who had been doing something to contribute to improving the world appears to have abandoned that completely for a life of hedonistic pleasure.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Louis thought that the only reason Charlie stayed with him was because he saved Charlie’s life. Why does Charlie blame himself for his mother’s marrying Sal? What should Charlie have done differently?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy “Crocodile Dundee” (some mature material) and “Zebra in the Kitchen.”

Narc

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

How do you make a good cop movie these days when so many already exist? Apparently, if you are director Joe Carnahan, you spend years thinking about the screenplay, you get two solid actors to give you extraordinary performances and then you invest a lot of time in the editing room. His hard work pays off and, if you like the genre and have a high tolerance for on-screen brutality, then you are in for a treat. If it does not transcend its genre, at least is is a solid example of why that genre endures.

This movie is very bloody and violent with an adrenaline-pumping opening sequence that evokes the unblinking carnage of the beach scene from “Saving Private Ryan.” From the first jolting shots of the hand-held camera following the escaping drug dealer in his sprint for freedom, you know that there will be no day-saving heroics and that the protagonists are as scarred as a junkie’s arm.

While the plot might seem familiar -– an undercover narcotics officer is slain and two detectives are assigned to find the murderers -— the acting of the main characters and the tart flippancy of the dialogue brings a freshness to the story. Against the backdrop of Detroit’s industrial rot, the film (actually shot in Toronto) follows narcotics officer Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) as he is reluctantly partnered with Henry Oak (Ray Liotta) to find who killed Oak’s former partner.

A striking counterpart to the claustrophobic inside scenes, the sprawling urban lots are shot in all their cold and grainy ugliness by cinematographer Alex Nepomniaschy (“The Score”). The movie radiates an intense realism from the landscapes to the equally cold emotional terrain. That there are no angels here is almost a relief. Patric’s Tellis gives off a cold intelligence and seeming indifference as he wrestles with his internal monsters, including his own former drug addiction. The rest of the world retreats as he gets wrapped up in a mystery which allows him not to confront his reawakening hungers or the frustration of his wife (Krista Bridges).

Tellis’ repressed electricity provides a good counterpoint to Liotta’s plodding Oak, who emanates a protective paternalism for his partner(s) and their families. Oak, as solid as his name, is blankly brutal toward anyone who stands in his way and clearly does not trust his superiors who sway to the political pressure to pin the crime on a white suspect. Suspects Beery (Busta Rhymes) and Steeds (Richard Chevolleau) are brutally beaten as he seeks something more than retribution.

Fans of this genre will find that “Narc” provides a tightly edited, intense story with good dialogue and standout performances by both Patric and Liotta.

Parents should know that this movie is a very strong R and is not for any but the most mature of teens. The violence, drug use and non-stop coarse language are enough to make the most jaded of audiences flinch.

Families should discuss whether the end ever justifies the means. Each character here has a very different idea of what “justice” means, however, they will go to great personal lengths and endanger themselves (and others) in order to pursue what they see as the necessary course of action. What do you think will happen to Tellis at the end? What are the consequences of his actions?

Parents should also discuss the dangers of drug use even if the user wears a police officer’s badge. Drug addiction here leads to violence, broken homes, destruction and death, with little glorification but great prevalence. A former detective for the NYPD, Todd Merritt, advised on this movie and says that it raises many issues that undercover agents must face. For those officers who pursue drug dealers, becoming an addict, he says, is an occupational hazard. What does this mean for the pursuit of justice?

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” These words from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche pertain to the results of living on the edge. Each of these characters are wrestling with their own internal monsters with varying levels of success. What monsters do Tellis and Oak face? What does it mean when Oak says “I became a much better cop the day (my wife) died”?

Powerful movies about the fine line between those who would enforce the law and those who would break it are legion. Families who wish to watch Jason Patric in another mesmerizing performance as a drug addicted undercover agent might consider renting “Rush” (1991), which takes place in Texas (not Detroit) during the ‘70’s. Denzel Washington’s shining performance in the otherwise murky “Training Day” (2001) offers another take on the theme. A master at playing ambiguously legal police officers and the criminals they pursue, Al Pacino offers noteworthy performances in three decades of cop/criminal movies, including “Serpico” (1973), considered by many the gold standard of police internal investigation; “Donnie Brasco” (1997), “Heat” (1995); and “Insomnia” (2002). The underrated “Internal Affairs” has mesmerizing performances by Richard Gere and Andy Garcia. Finally, Lawrence Fishburne in “Deep Cover” (1992) gave a memorable performance as an undercover agent who, in realizing his own natural talents as a drug dealer, must become a monster to battle with them.

3-2-1 Penguins! – The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2002

From the producers of the Veggie Tales series comes a new computerized cast starring in gently funny stories with gentle morals about integrity and sharing. But this time, instead of vegetables starring, they now have space exploring penguins! (How do they think of this stuff?)

The second in the series, “321 Penguins! The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka” features speckled-wearing twins Michelle and Jason furiously combating in a board game called “Squid-Tac-Toad”. When Michelle cheats to win, though, it’s time for the Penguins to call, sucking her up into their space ship and whisking her away to Bullamanka, where the dishonest Lizard King is cheating in a game eerily similar to Michelle’s. But the difference is when he cheats, innocent Bullamankan lives are at stake! It’s up to Michelle and the Penguins to prove that the Lizard King is corrupt. Even though you can guess what the outcome will be, this is still fun to watch. It’s not as visually engaging as the Veggie Tales series, but it is better than most of what is out there for this age group.

Some parents may be concerned about the mild reference to God’s not wanting us to cheat. Be prepared to talk to kids about your own family’s notion of morality and religion. If the kids liked the penguins, you might want to take them to a museum about the Arctic or check out some books about penguins from the library. “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is a perennial favorite.

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