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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

A Goofy Movie

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1995

One of the great existential questions of childhood, memorably explored in “Stand By Me,” is “If Mickey is a mouse, and Pluto is a dog, what is Goofy?” Goofy may be in a class (and genus) of his own, as we see in this thoroughly enjoyable film. At the center of the story is Max, struggling through the torturous insecurity and self-consciousness of adolescence. Like all teens, he is humiliated by his father’s goofiness. But the movie’s great joke is that in this case, his father is not just goofy, he is Goofy, the Goof of all Goofs, the Uber-Goof!

When a prank at school gets Max in trouble, Goofy decides that what Max needs is some quality time with his father. So he takes him on a fishing trip, not knowing that Max will have to miss his first date with his adored Roxanne, and that in order to get out of the date, Max has lied to Roxanne, telling her his father is taking him to a rock concert. It takes a while (and a run-in with Bigfoot) for Goofy and Max to start talking to each other instead of at each other. But they ultimately strengthen their connection and find a satisfying resolution. Free of the pressures that sometimes smother the big Disney releases, this movie has a refreshingly casual, even insouciant feel, with some sly humor (look fast for a glimpse of Elvis at a remote lunchcounter), even daring to poke fun at Disney itself. The teen characters are contemporary without the prepackaged feel of other Disney productions (like “The New Mickey Mouse Club”), and there are lively songs performed by by Tevin Campbell.

Although the material in this movie is certainly suitable for all ages, younger kids may be uncomfortable with the strain between Max and Goofy. It’s a shame that the G rating scared off the film’s optimal audience, the 10-14 age group. If you can persuade them to take a look, they will find much to enjoy and identify with, and, if parents and kids watch it together, it can inspire some good discussions about parent-child communication.

Far From Heaven

posted by rkumar

The 1950’s was a time of peace and plenty, but it was also a time of conformity. It was especially inconvenient to be female, gay, or black. In “Far From Heaven,” characters struggle with all three.

Writer/director Todd Haynes sets his story not in the world of the 1950’s but in the world of 1950’s movies. It is inspired by the films of Douglas Sirk, whose specialty was stories of women suffering nobly in fabulous clothes, accompanied by Chopin-inspired music on the soundtrack. Sirk, long dismissed as a maker of “women’s movies,” is having something of a renaissance this year. One of his films, “Imitation of Life,” is briefly glimpsed in “8 Mile,” as a character watches a scene about a black girl who is trying to pass as white. “Far From Heaven” is a tribute to Sirk’s “All that Heaven Allows,” in which widow Jane Wyman loses her heart to gardener Rock Hudson.

The world of Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) seems perfect. She lives in a suburban home with her husband and two children and they look like a slightly more stylish version of the family in the Dick and Jane readers. Her home is as immaculate, coordinated, and generic as a furniture showroom. She has gloves to match every outfit, every hair is perfectly curled and sprayed in place, and she wears an apron over her bouffant skirts. Her children call her “Mother” and mind their manners and her black maid wears a starchy apron and calls her ma’am. She spends her days caring for her family, organizing social events for her husband’s company and for the community, and talking to her friends, whose lives all seem exactly like hers. Everyone knows the rules and the rules seem to work.

But the Technicolor burnished leaves of the trees in autumn are about to fall on Cathy’s neatly manicured lawn, signaling decay and, ultimately, renewal. Cathy’s husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) is struggling with his longing for other men and with the self-hatred it engenders. When he is picked up by the police, Cathy believes his story that it was a mistake. But then she decides to bring him dinner when he is working late one night and discovers him kissing another man.

Frank goes to a doctor who is, well, frank about the likelihood of a “cure.” And just as Frank needs an honest relationship, Cathy does, too. She begins to feel drawn to Raymond (Dennis Haysbert), her gardener, who is black. Like the character who inspired him, the gardener played by Rock Hudson in Sirk’s “All That Heaven Allows,” Raymond symbolizes the natural man in an artificial world, and Haysbert (currently seen as the President in television’s “24”) plays him with dignity, warmth, and a subtle magnetism that shows us how Cathy can feel safe enough to allow herself to be drawn to him.

Moore and Quaid, too, give performances of breathtaking sensitivity and courage. But it is not clear whether the movie is set in the 1950’s as a way to show us what Sirk could only hint at about that era or whether it is an attempt to say something about our own. It is tempting to distance ourselves from the problems faced by the people in this movie. They have no context or vocabulary to talk about the disconnect between what they feel and what they are expected to feel. Though the point of view of the movie is sympathetic, it feels distant. While Sirk’s movies can still move me to tears, this movie did not. The meticulous re-creation of the movies of the era, down to the style of the credits and the music by the legendary Elmer Bernstein, feels more elegiac than immediate, more admirable than involving.

Parents should know that the movie deals with mature issues, including bigotry, homosexuality, and adultery. Characters make comments that are anti-Semitic and racist remark. Characters drink and smoke. Frank gets drunk in an attempt to numb the pain he feels about not being true to himself.

Families should talk about why the story is set in the 1950’s and about what has changed. Younger family members may want to know more about the older members’ recollections of that era. Did Raymond and Frank make different choices when it came to what was best for their children? What do those children think about what is going on around them? How will film-makers 50 years from now see today’s movies and what will they pick to pay tribute to?

Families who enjoy this movie should compare it to some of Sirk’s classics, like “All that Heaven Allows,” “The Magnificent Obsession,” and “Imitation of Life.” They might also like some of the other films of that era like “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit,” “Strangers When We Meet,” and “A Summer Place.”

Catch Me If You Can

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2002

Steven Spielberg has made the real-life story of the youngest person ever to make the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List into a terrifically entertaining movie. It is set in the candy-colored ring-a-ding 1960’s where jet pilots were glamorous and even bank tellers in big cities had a small-town belief in the honesty of someone cashing a check, especially if he had a charming smile. There is no hint of the upheavals and anguish of that era. This is the 1960’s of big hair, smooth surfaces, and bikinis, fueled by martini music like Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me.”

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Frank Abagnale, Jr. He adores his parents. His father (Christopher Walken) thinks he can always find an angle to get what he wants, and he often can. He has Frank Jr., still a teenager, pretend to be his chauffeur so that he can make an impressive showing when he tries to borrow money from a bank. But eventually his schemes catch up with him and he gets in trouble with the IRS. The family has to leave their home and Frank has to leave his prep school. When Frank is 16, his parents get divorced and he is told to choose which one he will live with. He cannot handle it and he runs away. Like a child, he thinks he can recreate the perfect world he once thought he had. But he has one very un-childlike quality, an astonishing eye for detail. Combined with the charm and panache he learned from his father, the ability to appear innocent to give him apparent credibility and – just as important – the actual youthful innocence to make him all but fearless because he just doesn’t know how outrageous his scams are, he becomes one of the most successful con men in history. Before he is imprisoned in France, he manages to pass himself off as a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. He also manages to pass off bad checks worth over $4 million.

Every single element of this movie works brilliantly together and the result is as irresistible as its con man hero. The Saul Bass-inspired opening credits and Henry-Mancini-inspired John Williams score set the mood just perfectly – part period piece, part chase film, part drama. The screenplay by Jeff Nathanson (based on Abagnale’s book) is one of the best of the year, as crafty as its subject and with just the right touch of heart. DiCaprio and Hanks are as good as they have ever been, and that means as good as it gets. Hanks, as the FBI agent who chases, admires, and ultimately inspires Frank, makes each moment on screen a small masterpiece, even the way he bites an éclair or hands someone a fork. DiCaprio captures us from his first moment as an awkward 13-year-old to his sheer pleasure in his own ability to master the adult world.

Parents should know that there is some mature material, including the fact that the main character is a con man who never considers the impact that his lies and scams may have or the risks he is taking. It includes some non-explicit sexual situations and a negotiation with a call girl. A character says that her parents refuse to see her following her out of wedlock pregnancy and abortion. Characters drink and smoke and use strong language. The scene where Frank’s parents tell him they are getting a divorce may be upsetting to some audiences.

Families who see this movie should talk about the different ways Frank and Hanratty felt about each other at different times. How were Frank Sr. and Hanratty like opposing father figures in Frank’s life? What did he hope for in the relationship with Brenda?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy two other movies about charming con men: “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “The Sting” (both with mature material) and “The Music Man,” one of the best movies ever made for people of any age.

The Hours

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

In this story of three women of different eras whose lives connect and parallel each other, we see each of them struggle between despair and meaning. Small moments repeat themselves as the same themes shimmer through the single day we spend with them. We see them wake. We see them prepare for a special occasion and we see them worry about family members who are worrying about them.

Nicole Kidman transforms not just her nose but her skin tones, posture, and even somehow her presence to play author Virginia Woolf, who has moved to the country in an attempt to cure her deep depression. She is looking forward to a visit from her sister (Miranda Richardson), longing to return to London, and writing a book called Mrs. Dalloway about one day in the life of a woman who is giving a party.

Julianne Moore is Laura Brown, a post-WWII suburban mother, pregnant with her second child. It is her husband’s birthday and she is trying to make a cake for his celebration.

Meryl Streep plays Clarissa Vaughn, a present-day editor who is preparing a party for Richard (Ed Harris). He is a poet and novelist who is receiving a prestigious award. But he is very sick with AIDS and may not make it to the ceremony or the party.

Laura is reading Mrs. Dalloway. Richard’s nickname for Clarissa is “Mrs. Dalloway” because she shares her first name with the title character. Like Mrs. Dalloway, all three women get flowers. And, like her, all three share an emotional kiss with another woman. And all three try to find something to hold on to so that they can feel that their lives are worthwhile.

This is a smart, thoughtful, Oscar-bait movie, beautifully directed by Steven Daldry (“Billy Elliot”) and beautifully performed by Streep, Kidman, Moore, and supporting actors Harris, Claire Danes, and Toni Collette. Some audiences may find it pretentious, disturbing, or boring, but others will appreciate its subtlety and willingness to grapple with existential questions.

Parents should know that the movie has tense and sad situations, including two suicides and one near-suicide. A character speaks of having to have a serious operation. There are sexual references and situations including artificial insemination and same-sex kisses. Characters use strong language. Gay and bi-sexual characters are positively portrayed though sometimes anguished and isolated.

The Pulitzer-prize winning novel by Michael Cunningham is, according to the author, a tribute to Woolf’s view that “there are no ordinary lives, just inadequate ways of looking at them.” He says, too, that Woolf “spent her career writing the extraordinary, epic tales of people who seem to be doing nothing unusual at all. If most great writers scan the heavens like astrophysicists, Woolf looked penetratingly at the very small, like a microbiologist. Through her books, we understand that the workings of atomic particles are every bit as mysterious as the workings of galaxies – it all depends on whether you look out or look in.” Families who see this movie should talk about what this means, and how most of us are defined and define ourselves not by huge heroic adventures but by small connections and kindnesses. What did Virginia, Laura, and Clarissa find to give value and meaning to their lives? They have people to love and people who love them – what are they missing, and why? What is the significance of those three kisses, none of which seems to give the characters the comfort and intimacy they are seeking? Why does Cunningham give us three stories touched by the fictional character created by Woolf? Does he think that any of his characters are successful? How can you tell? What book could inspire you as Cunningham was inspired by Woolf?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Julia,” “Far from Heaven,” and another movie based on a Virginia Woolf book, “Orlando,” the story of a character who lives from Elizabethan times to the 20th century, first as a man and then as a woman. They might also like to see the movie version of “Mrs. Dalloway,” starring Vanessa Redgrave. And they might like to read more about Virginia Woolf and her friends, known as the Bloomsbury writers. This is a good place to start.

Previous Posts

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Mortdecai is a simply terrible movie. Don't go see it. But its very terribleness just might be a reason to look super-cool in a Mortdecai t-shirt and socks! I have them and you can win them! Send

posted 11:58:25am Jan. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Before They Were Stars: Television Commercials With Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, and More
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posted 8:00:34am Jan. 25, 2015 | read full post »

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posted 8:00:02am Jan. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Strange Magic
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posted 5:25:48pm Jan. 24, 2015 | read full post »

Bad Movies Inspire Great Critics: Mortdecai
Johnny Depp's "Mortdecai" is sure of a place of dishonor on the end of the year worst lists.  Business Insider and Huffington Post have some choice quotes from some of the movie's best bad reviews, and I've found some good ones, too, including: David Edelstein, New York Magazine Having combed

posted 3:35:40pm Jan. 24, 2015 | read full post »


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