Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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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

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

St. Vincent
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 For mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

Dear White People
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2000

The Coen brothers’ latest is based in part on the Odyssey (a prologue credits the story to Homer). But its title comes from that most sublime of Preston Sturges classic comedies, “Sullivan’s Travels,” made in 1941. The title character is a successful director of silly comedies (like “Hey Hey in the Hayloft”), but he wants to make a serious movie about the Depression, and he wants to call it — “O Brother Where Art Thou.” That movie never got made, until now. But in sly Coen brothers fashion (these are the guys behind “Fargo” and “Barton Fink”), this movie has as much to do with “Hey Hey in the Hayloft” as it does with Sullivan’s vision of a penetrating dissection of the lot of the laborer.

Like the Odyssey, this is the story of a man named Ulysses who is trying to get home to his wife (here called Penny instead of Penelope) before she marries one of her suitors. There are other echoes to that classic saga, from a blind seer who predicts that they will not find the treasure they seek to a one-eyed villain and three singing sirens to distract the travelers from their journey.

But this Ulysses is no war hero from ancient Greece. It is America during the Depression, and Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) is a prisoner on a chain gang in Mississippi. He persuades the two men chained to him, Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) to esape with him so they can get a hidden treasure. They have to get to it right away because the area will be flooded in two weeks as part of a project to bring electricity to the community.

They make their way home, meeting up with an assortment of oddball characters, including bank-robbing legend George “Babyface” Nelson. They get some money by singing for a man who records bluegrass. They cross paths with two bitter opponents in an upcoming election for governor. The incumbent is Governor Menelaus “Pass the Biscuits” Pappy O’Daniel (Charles Durning). He and his cronies all have huge bellies, with pants that reach to their chests to be held by suspenders. O’Daniel’s opponent, Homer Stokes, is selling himself as a man of the little people who wants to clean house, and he makes campaign appearances with a midget and a broom to show that he means it.

McGill and his friends do their best to evade the sheriff and make their way home, amidst washed-out landscapes. As always, the Coen brothers present an array of quirky characters with astonishing faces, closer to gargoyles and caricatures than to the usual Hollywood smooth prettiness. Delmar’s lashless, lipless, neckless head makes him look like a fetus or an alien. O’Daniel almost looks like a biscuit, instead of a man who’s just eaten too many of them.

And there is the offbeat dialogue — when Delmar, just baptized, says he has been saved by Jesus and a black guitar player says he just sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads, McGill replies, “Well, I guess I’m the only one who remains unaffiliated.” He also explains that “It’s a fool who looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.” McGill is passionately devoted to a hair pommade called “Dapper Dan’s,” and spends a lot of time making sure his hair is just right, completely ignoring any other aspect of hygiene or appearance.

This is a lighter story than many of the Coens’ previous movies, which makes it easy to forgive the parts that don’t work very well, especially when we have the pleasure of the year’s finest soundtrack, sheer bluegrass joy.

Parents should know that the movie has some mild language and some incidents reflecting the racism of its setting, including a KKK rally and attempted lynching.

Families who see the movie should talk about its origins in the greatest of all epics, and how that story has endured. They might also want to talk about the symbolism of fire and water throughout the movie (notice the way that the sheriff’s dark glasses always reflect fire).

Families who enjoy this movie should see “Sullivan’s Travels” and compare the two, especially the scenes in both where the prisoners watch a movie. Families will also enjoy other Sturges classics like “The Lady Eve” and “The Palm Beach Story.”

Osmosis Jones

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

The Farelly brothers, whose “There’s Something About Mary” plumbed new depths of bodily function humor (and ended up on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 funniest movies) have plumbed new depths of internal plumbing in “Osmosis Jones.” It’s a PG-rated, mostly animated movie about a very hip white blood cell (voice of Chris Rock) and a cold capsule (voice of David Hyde Pierce) who fight a nasty virus (voice of Laurence Fishburne) to save the scrofulous body of zoo attendant Frank (Bill Murray).

The live action story, starring Murray with Elena Franklin as his daughter, Shane, Chris Elliott as his friend and a brief, effervescent appearance by Molly Shannon as Shane’s teacher, takes up about a quarter of the screen time. The rest takes place inside Frank’s body, cleverly conceived as a swarming metropolis with white cell cops fighting off everything from gingivitis to intestinal unpleasantness. The details — and many of the jokes — may be a little hard to follow for anyone who does not have a working knowledge of anatomy. But the basic story line of a cop who likes to do things his way paired up with a straight-arrow, by-the-books partner joining forces against a lethal bad guy is standard movie stuff, and, as usual, it works pretty well.

Parents should know that the PG rating is deceptive. The ratings board does not take cartoon violence very seriously, but some kids may be upset that characters they care about are in peril and some characters die or come very close. More than that, the movie is extremely gross, with both tension and jokes relating to every kind of bodily fluid, excretion, and function. If you see this movie, pass by the snack bar, as you will not be in the mood to eat a bucket of popcorn or anything else. Parents should also know that the movie features a child whose mother has died and who is terribly worried about losing her father, who seems bent on suicide by junk food. Some children will be upset by the way that the child has to assume the role of parent.

Families who see this movie will want to talk about how we keep our bodies strong enough to fight off infection and viruses, and the challenge of deciding between things that feel good now and those that feel good later. How does that relate to the choice between the two candidates for mayor?

What does Osmosis mean about “being too careful?” Talk about the news broadcasts that the characters inside of Frank watch. If there was one going on inside you, what would it say? Think about how well your family does on taking care of yourselves and what you can do to do better. Believe me, you won’t be stopping for fast food on the way home from this one — you may even be inspired to eat your broccoli.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Fantastic Voyage,” an exciting adventure inside a human body, and “The Iron Giant,” by the same animators. Both are outstanding family movies.

Ordinary People

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:1980

Plot: Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) has returned home after four months in a mental hospital. He tried to kill himself following a tragic boating accident with his brother, Bucky, who drowned. He is trying to find a way to fit in, both at home and at school. His father, Calvin (Donald Sutherland), tries to reach out to him, but is afraid of saying the wrong thing, and is shy about his own emotions. His mother, Beth (Mary Tyler Moore), is uncomfortable with emotions and with anything else that might be “messy” or hard to control.

After some hesitation, Conrad seeks out Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch), a psychiatrist recommended to him when he left the hospital, telling him that he is seeking “control.” Berger warns him that control is tough to achieve, but says he will do what he can. He advises Conrad to start from the outside, work on his actions and let the feelings follow.

Conrad begins to reach out to a sympathetic girl at school, Jeannine (Elizabeth McGovern). He makes contact with Karen (Dinah Manoff), a friend from his hospital stay, who seems to have “control,” to be busy with friends and activities and sure of herself. He is devastated when he tries to call her again, and hears that she has killed herself. He calls Berger in the middle of the night, and insists on seeing him. He relinquishes what he thinks of as “control” to confess to Berger — and himself — that he can’t forgive himself for surviving when his brother died, that he feels guilty and unworthy.

Calvin begins to realize that Beth’s unwillingness to connect to her own emotions or anyone else’s is suffocating the family. They had had the appearance of closeness, but the tragedy revealed how superficial it was. Their relationship unravels quickly, and she leaves, as Cal and Conrad begin to share their feelings.

Discussion: This is a movie about emotional honesty, about the courage and emotional vocabulary that are necessary for the connections and intimacy we need to be able to survive challenges like the tragedy faced by this family. Berger says, “If you can’t feel pain, then you’re not going to feel anything else, either.” The characters represent a wide variety of approaches and abilities to emotional openness and “control.” Conrad and Calvin are both groping their way toward a better understanding of themselves and others and the ability to communicate.

Beth does not want to try. She is by no means an ogre. Indeed, it is clear that the director and writer of the movie feel sorry for her. She has chosen emptiness she can control rather than “messy” feelings. Beth preferred Bucky to Conrad because Bucky’s easy confidence did not place any emotional demands on her. Conrad says, “I can’t talk to her! The way she looks at me! She hates me!” What Conrad feels as rejection is really Beth’s fear that his sensitivity and vulnerability will put demands on her that she can’t or won’t be able to respond to. She can’t bear the thought that she might somehow be responsible for Conrad’s pain, while Calvin is willing to confront that issue in order to be able to help Conrad.

Jeannine at first pulls back from Conrad’s attempt to connect with her by telling her the truth about himself, but then apologizes. She wants to understand him; it was just that at first she did not know how to respond, so retreated into the more comfortable and familiar environment of joking around. In contrast, Karen, who seems to have so much “control” and goes to elaborate pains to persuade Conrad that she is doing fine, is unable to cope.

Teenagers may know of someone who has attempted suicide, or of someone who has been successful. This movie provides an opportunity to discuss what led Conrad and Karen to consider it, how the perspective of a person about his own worth is very different from that of those around him, and what the other options are for people who are deeply depressed. Questions for Kids:

· Why is control so important to Conrad? Is it important to Beth and Calvin, too?

· What do you think of Berger’s advice about starting from the outside?

· How does Berger help Conrad? How does Jeannine help him?

· Why does he quit the swim team? Why doesn’t he tell his parents?

· How do you feel about Beth? Do you dislike her or feel sorry for her or both? Why is it so hard for her to give her husband and son what they feel they need?

Connections: This film received Oscars for Best Picture, Screenplay, and Supporting Actor (Timothy Hutton). It also popularized the lovely “Canon” by Pachelbel. Viewers of “Nick at Nite” will recognize Mary Tyler Moore from “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Orange County

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

There is some irony in the fact that this movie is about a boy who is trying to escape from the cartoonishly dysfunctional adults in his life, when in reality it is the adults in the lives of the people behind the movie who got it made and contribute the only tolerable moments.

“Orange County” stars the children of two Oscar-winners (Tom Hanks’ son Colin and Sissy Spacek’s daughter Schuyler Fisk) and is directed by Jake Kasden, son of screenwriter-director Lawrence Kasden (“The Big Chill,” “The Empire Strikes Back”). Hanks plays Shaun Brumder, a high school senior whose mother (Catherine O’Hara) is a drunk, father (John Lithgow) is too busy making deals to pay any attention to him, and brother Lance (Jack Black) is drugged out and “constantly recovering from the night before.” Shaun also has an airheaded bimbo stepmother, a wheelchair-bound stepfather, and two stoned surfer buddies. And he has a sweet, animal-loving girlfriend named Ashley (Fisk).

Shaun’s dream is to go to Stanford because his idol, Marcus Skinner, teaches there. But when his addled college counselor (Lily Tomlin) sends the wrong transcript, he is rejected. So Shaun, Lance, and Ashley drive up to Stanford to meet with the director of admissions (Harold Ramis) to try to persuade him to let Shaun in. Unfortunately, they accidentally feed him some of Lance’s drugs and burn down the Admissions office. Funny, huh? But after a few moments with his idol, Shaun, like Dorothy, learns that there’s no place like home.

This is the kind of movie that begins with a comic death in a surfing accident, followed by a funeral at which female mourners wear black bikinis. Drugs and drunkenness are supposed to be so inherently funny that no actual jokes have to accompany them. Then there are the wildly un-funny moments involving forgetting to give a sick man his medicine and then having a lot of things hit him on the head.

Since the very beginning of time, movies have featured sensitive teenagers who wanted to be writers and were not understood by the people around them. It’s an obvious theme because movies are written by people who all started out that way, so it is an experience they know well and feel deeply. Besides, writing the story gives them some ability to pay back those who helped or subbed them. But in this movie, our hero shows no evidence of being sensitive or a writer. His opening letter to his idol is ungrammatical and mundane – it sounds like a fan letter to O-Town from an 11-year-old. It may seem like a detail that does not matter in a silly comedy, but in fact it is details like this that separate a string of pratfalls from a story. Even in a comedy, there have to be believeable characters you root for, and that never happens here.

Hanks and Fisk, as the ostensible force of sanity at the heart of the movie, don’t get much of a chance to prove themselves as actors, but they seem to have some presence. Black, as always, even with terrible material, is a joy to watch. The top talent in small roles, including O’Hara, Lithgow, Tomlin, and Ramis, as well as Chevy Chase, Ben Stiller, and especially Kevin Kline, are like the oases in the movie’s desert. Kline, who seems to be on loan from another movie, has a very nice scene with Hanks, and shows us how a real actor can create a complete character with just a few words in a script and a few moments onscreen.

Parents should know that despite the PG-13 rating there is a lot of material that they may consider inappropriate for teenagers. Abuse of alcohol and drugs is portrayed as normal and funny. While on drugs, a character drives dangerously, has casual sex, and sets a building on fire, also intended to be comic. Another character is accidentally given drugs, which is supposed to be funny. A character pretends to be asleep so that he can watch a couple have sex. Some kids may also find the horrendous parenting – or the fact that the dysfunctional parents decide to reunite — upsetting. One of the “good guys’ blackmails a friend by threatening to expose her sluttish behavior.

Families who see this movie should talk about what really goes into applying to college and how people respond to terrible family situations.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy How I Got into College.

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