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

Men of Honor

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

Carl Brashear, Jr. was the first black man to achieve the rank of Master Diver in the Navy. He was also the first amputee to be returned to active duty in the armed services. In this movie, produced by Bill Cosby, Brashear gets the kind of respectful, go-for-the-Oscar® treatment that reached its zenith in the 1960’s. Everyone tries very hard, but the story is old-fashioned and predictable — even down to the marriage proposal that melts the girl’s heart and the courtroom climax. The real problem is that the characters are so one-dimensional, the good guys so good and the bad guys so bad, that it has the feel of an after-school special.

This is the kind of movie that begins with one character being transported by MPs and then goes into a flashback of a little black boy running through the woods and diving into the water. It has big-serious-movie cinematography, with every autumn leaf perfectly outlined against every cloudless sky and diving gear that looks like burnished armour in its grandeur.

Brashear’s saintly sharecropper parents (Carl Lumbly and the woefully underused Lonette McKee) urge him to get as far away as possible and not come back for a long time. He has to quit school in 7th grade to help out at home, but when he grows up (played as an adult by Cuba Gooding, Jr.) he enlists in the Navy. The armed services have just been desegregated, and he has hopes for new opportunities.

It turns out that desegregation is more theoretical than real, and he is relegated to one of the few positions open to blacks — kitchen duty on board an escort carrier. When the ship’s captain discovers what a strong, fast swimmer he is, he is promoted to the search and rescue team, though he still has to bunk with the stewards. He dreams of becoming a master diver, one of the men who go on the most dangerous underwater missions. He sends over 100 letters of application before being accepted. Then, when he gets to the training facility, first they won’t let him on the base and then all of the white sailors but one refuse to stay in the barracks with him.

Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro) a master diver grounded due to an embolism, is in charge of diver training. He is a profane, angry, alcoholic, racist, abusive guy who, deep down inside, has more integrity than all those pretty-boy officers put together blah blah. Sunday begins by mentioning his namesake, the famous evangelist, explaining that “the only difference between me and that old preacher is that he worked for God and I am God.” He throws every possible obstacle in Brashear’s way, and even gives a medal Brashear earned to another sailor. But Brashear, true to his father’s orders, never gives up. He gets help from a pretty med student named Jo (Aunjanue Ellis) on the academic side, and relies on his own natural talent and determination to pass the performance tests. Despite the orders of Mr. Pappy, the commanding officer (Hal Holbrook), that no black sailor graduate, Brashear makes it. Then Brashear’s star is on the rise. And Sunday’s begins to fall.

Ultimately, Brashear marries the pretty doctor and becomes a star diver. But he loses a leg and the command wants him to retire. Sunday re-appears to help him prove that he can return to active duty.

The story is a stirring one. De Niro, Gooding, Charlize Theron (as Sunday’s beautiful, well-bred, but unhappy and alcoholic wife), Michael Rapaport (as Brashear’s one friend), and Holbrook all do their best, but the script does not give them enough to work with and the result is that movie feels simultaneously overstuffed and empty. Brashear candidly discusses his alcohol abuse problem in his book, but in the movie other than being an absent husband and father he is portrayed as just about perfect.

I couldn’t help thinking about the recent Spike Lee movie, “Bamboozled.” The need to make the fictional Brashear so idealized echoes Lee’s concerns about the minstrel show aspect of popular culture, making a real story less real to make it more entertaining. It would show more respect for both Brashear and the audience to let us see a character with more depth and complexity. It is especially disappointing that the story is so simplified that it should be suitable for kids, but it has strong profanity, earning it an R rating.

I could not help being very curious, too, about Jo Brashear. A black woman doctor in the early 60’s must have a story that is at least as interesting as this one. But we get no sense of what went into her life choices or how she handled her challenges. In real life, the marriage did not survive. But in the movie, she shows up at the crucial moment to provide love and support.

Parents should know that the R rating is primarily based on salty Navy language, including racist comments. Characters are in peril and one is badly injured. There are some sexual references. Characters have alcohol problems and one is shown in rehab.

Families who see this movie should talk about what motivates the characters. Brashear is asked why he wants to be a diver and he says, “Because they said I couldn’t have it.” Brashear asks Sunday why he is helping him after the amputation, and Sunday says, “To piss people off.” It is pretty clear why Mr. Pappy does not want Brashear to graduate — he’s a racist. But why does the later commanding officer want Brashear to retire so badly? Talk, too, about the meaning of “ASNF” on Brashear’s father’s radio, and Sunday’s response to it.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “An Officer and a Gentleman,” but there the R rating is well-deserved for explicit sexual situations, so parents should watch it before deciding whether it is appropriate for teens.

Meet the Parents

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

There is a sub-category of comedy that can only be termed “comedies of excruciation,” in which we laugh at the hideously humiliating experiences of some poor sap. If this is your kind of humor, then this is your kind of movie.

Think about the most stressful emotional situation imaginable and, if you are past your teens and before your 15th high school reunion it is likely to be meeting the family of the person you love. Now imagine that your beloved’s father specialized in sweating the truth out of double agents in the CIA and all your worst fears about exposing every miserable incident in your whole miserable life come together into one endless nightmare.

That is the plot of “Meet Your Parents,” written by the screenwriter of the awful “Meet the Deedles” (who will we meet in his next movie?) and directed by the director of “Austin Powers.” Ben Stiller plays Greg, who loves Pam (“Felicity’s” Teri Polo) and wants to make a good impression on her father, Jack (Robert De Niro). But everything goes wrong. Jack’s natural over-protectiveness meets with Greg’s panicky clumsiness and, depending on your sense of humor, it is either hilarious or agonizing or both. There are many jokes about Greg’s name (Focker, get it?) and his occupation (nurse, which isn’t manly, get it?). The airline loses Greg’s suitcase, so he has to borrow bizarre clothes — enormous pants from Pam’s brother, a tiny Speedo bathing suit from Pam’s former fiancé. Jokes center on a catheter, a “Mountie strap-on dildo,” a cat who uses the toilet, a cat strung out on nicotine gum, a fire, and an overflowing septic tank. Greg is compared to Pam’s sister’s fiancé, a doctor, and to Pam’s former boyfriend, now fabulously wealthy and still pining for her. Greg, who is Jewish, is asked to say grace at dinner, and can only helplessly babble the lyrics from “Godspell.” And, in the movie’s high point, Greg has to cope with the only situation more grueling than a terrifying in-law — airline bureaucracy.

Parents should know that the movie has some strong language, drug use, sexual references and situations, and potty humor.

Families who see the movie should talk about how some people may make us feel uncomfortable and inadequate, and about how even non-CIA families have a “circle of trust” that is very important to them. They may want to discuss how families see the people who want to marry a member, and what they can do to get to know one another, and talk about some of their own experiences.

Families who enjoy this movie will also like The In-Laws and The Freshman as well as the sequel, Meet the Fockers.

Max Keeble’s Big Move

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2001

I smiled a couple of times and can even say I enjoyed myself, but this is clearly a movie that no adult will ever be able to get the way a kid does. An adult is going to sit there and say, “Wait a minute! Why doesn’t he just tell his parents?” or “No principal ever acted like that!” But a kid knows that none of that matters, any more than it mattered that no kid could ever string up the booby traps of “Home Alone.” This movie is just for fun, and it fits the bill.

Max Keeble (Alex D. Lindz) is filled with hope on his first day of middle school, but things just refuse to go right. The school bully, who telegraphs each day’s victim by emblazoning the name on his t-shirt, has selected Max as his starting point. His dream girl is a foot taller than he is and barely knows who he is. The animal shelter near the school is about to be shut down. An evil ice cream truck driver is after him. When Max finds out that his family is going to move to Chicago in just two days he is angry and sad until it occurs to him that this presents an opportunity for revenge without consequences. Before anyone can catch up with him, he’ll be gone. Max and his friends Megan (Zena Gray) and “Robe” (Josh Peck) set up a variety of pranks and enjoy them very much. But then it turns out that Megan and Robe do not have the “plausible deniability” Max promised. And that Max is not moving after all.

Kids all around me laughed happily at the slapstick humor, especially the scenes with the evil principal, Mr. Jindraike (Larry Miller) and the cafeteria food fight. They loved seeing the school’s two bullies (one throws kids in the dumpster, one takes their money) get their just desserts. Lindz has a lot of personality and he keeps us rooting for Max.

Parents should know that the movie has some crude humor, including a jockstrap, vomit, whacking someone in a sensitive area, and some schoolyard language. Kids do foolish and dangerous things, including riding a bicycle down cement steps, sucking helium, breaking into school at night, putting chemicals into a character’s breath spray, and operating machinery. Kids are harassed by bullies in various ways, including a “swirlie.” One of the bullies is black, but so is the friendly manager of the animal shelter.

Families should talk about why some kids act like bullies and why other kids let them. Some adults can act like bullies, too. The movie makes it clear that Max’s father has to learn how to deal with a bullying boss. What is the best way to respond to a bully? When should you ask adults for help? The janitor tells Max that “any kid can make a mess — it takes a man to clean it up.” And Max tells the kids that they should not bully the bullies when they get the chance because that would make them bullies, too. Families may want to discuss this in light of America’s consideration of the response to terrorism.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Harriet the Spy and Spy Kids.

Mask

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:PG-13
Movie Release Date:March 8, 1985

Plot: This is based on the true story of Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz), a teenager with a genetic defect that turned his face into a huge “mask” of bone. As the movie begins, Rocky and his mother Rusty (Cher) go to his new school, where the principal tells them Rocky cannot enroll. Rusty pulls out a file of paperwork and the name of her “lawyer”; she has been through this many times before. Rocky is enrolled. Then he is examined by a new doctor, who advises him sympathetically that he cannot expect to live more than three to six months. Rocky and Rusty have heard that before, too; they tell the doctor he has already outlived all previous predictions.

Rocky does very well in school, and the principal suggests that he become a counselor’s aide at a summer camp for the blind. There he meets Diana (Laura Dern) and has his first romance. They have a lovely time together, but her parents disapprove of the relationship.

Back at home, Rocky is getting impatient with Rusty. He is disappointed when she is not able to maintain a relationship with former boyfriend Gar (Sam Elliott), and loses patience with her alcohol and drug abuse. For him, she cleans up. Maybe it is because she knows at some level that he is nearing the end, and she wants him to die knowing that she will be all right.

Discussion: This is not a typical “disease of the week” movie about someone triumphing over adversity. It is a far more complex and moving story about two people who love and care for and about each other. Rusty does not work, lives on the fringes of society, uses drugs and abuses alcohol, and is sexually indiscriminate. Though in other aspects of her life she is completely irresponsible, even dissolute, with Rocky she is the ideal of maternal strength and commitment. And Rocky is a source of strength for her, too, acting almost as her parent, trying to help her do better and (mostly) forgiving her when she fails.

The movie has several exceptionally touching moments. Rocky tries to teach Diana about colors by using her other senses, giving her a frozen rock to touch to feel “blue.” Rocky peers into a funhouse mirror, and gets a glimpse of his features, distorted into what they might have been had he been “normal.” And, moved by Rocky’s academic triumph, a tough-looking biker named “Dozer” (for Bulldozer) reveals the real reason for his silence when he stutters so thickly he can barely get out the words of congratulation. The movie shows us over and over again that it is not about an “abnormal” boy in a normal world, but about a real boy in a world where everyone is different. As he says, “I look weird, but otherwise I’m real normal.”

Rocky has some interesting ways of coping with his problems. He has his version of Pollyanna’s “Glad Game,” using happy memories to help him through hard times. And his mother, who herself uses drugs, helps him manage his headaches without drugs by “talking them away.”

Questions for Kids:

· What do you think of the way that Rocky tries to show Diana what colors look like? If you were going to try to explain colors to a blind person, what would you do? What tastes, smells, touches and sounds would you use to give a blind person the feelings of red, yellow, blue, pink, green?

· Why don’t Diana’s parents want her to see Rocky? Does that surprise you? How do Rocky and Rusty take care of each other? Give some examples. Why is Rusty better at taking care of Rocky than she is at taking care of herself?

· Were you surprised by the tenderness of the bikers? In what way were they like a family?

· In what ways is it harder for Rocky to resolve his feelings of teenage rebellion than it would be for you?

· What do you think will happen to Rusty after the movie ends?

Connections: Families might also like to see actor Eric Stoltz without his “mask,” as John Brooke in “Little Women.” And mature high schoolers may appreciate “The Elephant Man,” another true story of a man with a facial disfigurement who enlarges the understanding and compassion of those who get to know him.

Activities: Teenagers who see this movie might like to try helping out in a facility for the handicapped, as Rocky did at the summer camp.

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