Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Annie
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date:
December 19, 2014

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

The Yearling

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1946

Plot: This quiet, thoughtful, visually striking adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings covers a year in the life of the Baxter family, post-Civil War settlers in remote Florida. The focus is on Jody (Claude Jarman, Jr.), 12, a dreamy boy who loves animals and wishes he could have a pet, “something for my own, something to follow me.” Pa Baxter (Gregory Peck) is warm and understanding. Ma (Jane Wyman) seems harsh and rigid, but only because she has been so devastated by the loss of three children that she feels she has to contain her feelings, that if she allows herself to be vulnerable she will not be able to stand the pain.

The only other boy Jody knows is a frail boy named Fodderwing, who lives nearby. Jody loves to visit him, to hear his imaginative tales and play with his pets. Over Ma’s objections, Pa insists that Jody be allowed to have a young deer as a pet, and Jody goes to Fodderwing to ask him to name the deer. Fodderwing has died, but his father tells Jody he once said that if he had a deer, he would name it Flag, and that is the name Jody chooses. Jody loves Flag, and does everything he can to keep him, even building a high fence to keep Flag out of the corn crop, which is essential to the family’s livelihood. But Flag cannot stop eating the crop and has to be destroyed. Ma shoots him, and then Jody has to put him out of his misery.

Jody runs away, but returns. His father notes approvingly that Jody “takes [the loss] for his share and goes on,” and tells Ma that “He’s done come back different. He’s taken the punishment. He ain’t a yearling no more.”

Discussion: This is a classic story of loss, not just of a beloved pet, but of the innocence and freedom of childhood that Flag symbolizes. Pa says to Jody: “Every man wants life to be a fine thing, and easy. Well, it’s fine, son, powerful fine. But it ain’t easy. I want life to be easier for you than it was for me….A man’s heart aches seeing his young ‘uns face the world knowing that they got to have their insides tore out the way his was tore.” All parents want to protect their children this way. And yet, all parents realize that having one’s “insides tore out” is a necessary part of growing up, that no one ever learns how to make responsible choices without these painful experiences. Pa tells Jody that life is “gettin’, losin’, gettin’, losin’.”

In the last moment of the film, as in the book, the boy and the deer run off together in Jody’s imagination. In part, this means that Jody’s innocence is gone with the deer. But it also means that a precious part of his spirit, the part that loved the deer so deeply, will be with him always, and will be a part of everything that he does.

Questions for Kids:

· Who is “the yearling?”

· What do you think of Pa’s strategy for trading his dog for a gun? What did he mean when he later said that his words were straight, but his intentions were crooked?

· What do Jody’s friends Fodderwing and Oliver tell you about him?

· Why was it hard for Ma to show affection? How can you tell?

· How was Jody different when he came back home?

Connections: Mature teenagers may be interested in “Cross Creek,” a fictionalized account of Rawlings’ life, including the writing of The Yearling, and “Gal Young ‘Un,” a film based on one of her short stories, about an exploitive husband his wife and his girlfriend.

Activities: Middle school kids will enjoy the book.

The Wedding Planner

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2001

This disappointing would-be romantic comedy is neither comic nor particularly romantic. Its biggest problem is a sitcom-style script with too much emphasis on the situation and not enough on the comedy. It fails to create a single believable or sympathetic character. What it gives us instead is a string of barely related skits about people whose behavior ranges from inconsistent to random. The result ranges from dull to annoying, with the few comic bits already overly familiar to us from the commercials.

Jennifer Lopez is a talented and attractive performer, but she does not have the acting or comedy skills to transcend the limits of the script. She looks beautiful, but a little remote and unsympathetic.

Lopez plays Mary, a wedding planner who is so organized that she has all the essentials strapped to her belt, including smelling salts and superglue. She is also so cynical that she can predict the length of the marriage based on the song selected by the couple (“I Honestly Love You” is a bad sign). Mary is supremely competent and confident at work, negotiating for a partnership in the firm if she can land an assignment for a dot-com zillionaire bride Fran (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras). But at home, Mary eats alone in front of the TV, watching “Antiques Roadshow.”

Prince Charming arrives in the person of Matthew McConaughey as Steve, a pediatrician who saves Mary from an onrushing dumpster. They go out with Mary’s friend for a movie and a dance under the stars, and Mary is smitten.

Then she discovers that Steve is Fran’s groom-to-be. How cute is that! Not very. Meanwhile, Mary’s father (Alex Rocco, who struggles valiently with the unforgiveably hackneyed role of choleric ethnic dad who just wants his daughter to get married) is trying to fix her up with a horrendous loser from the homeland.

There is no real narrative, only different locations for the characters to get into faux-adorable fixes. Here’s one example: Mary and Steve knock over a nude male statue and his genitals break off. Much hoped-for hilarity but no actual laughs ensue as they try to glue it back on. Here’s another example: Mary and Steve run into Mary’s former beau and Mary hides under a table to avoid him. But they run into him (with his pregnant wife) anyway, and Mary responds by getting drunk. Two weddings have to be disrupted before it can all get straightened out and even that never-fail standard of the romantic comedy drags on until we can go home to find something better to watch on UPN.

Parents should know that the movie includes some strong and graphic language (typical of PG-13’s, that means one F-word and scattered lesser words). The movie includes comic drunkenness and a character’s alcohol abuse is also played for laughs. The scene with the statue includes a fairly graphic depiction of male genitals, which at one point get superglued to a character’s hand.

Families who see this movie should talk about how we know when we have met the person we truly love. Was the behavior of the main characters responsible? What hardships did their behavior impose on others? How is what Mary does to Massemo different from what her old boyfriend did to her? Families should also discuss Mary’s reaction to seeing her old boyfriend with his pregnant wife. First she hides, then she embarasses him, and then she gets drunk. Why does she behave this way? How could she have behaved in a way that preserved her dignity and self-respect?

Mary describes herself as a “control freak.” Families should talk about the way that people who have been hurt sometimes try to protect themselves by exercising a lot of control. Families may also want to ask why Lopez, an Hispanic actress, played an Italian character. Was it because audiences might feel more comfortable with a WASP-Italian romance than with WASP-Hispanic?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the superior, “The Runaway Bride.”

The Way of the Gun

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

Christopher McQuarrie, the screenwriter of the deviously brilliant “The Usual Suspects” wrote and directed this bleak, tough-talking story about a couple of petty criminals named Longbaugh (Benicio del Toro) and Parker (Ryan Phillipe).

Longbaugh says, “Our path had been chosen and we had nothing to offer the world. So we stepped off the path.” The opening scene, a confrontation outside a club, shows us that our heroes are tougher than they are smart. Later in the story Joe Sarno (James Caan), who is both smart and tough, asks which is the brains of the outfit, and Longbaugh responds honestly, “Tell you the truth I don’t think this is a brains kind of operation.” They have no ability to think about the risks they are taking, and even if they did it would not matter because they just do not care.

Their lack of ability and indifference to the outcome turn out to be their greatest assets when they decide to kidnap a pregnant woman named Robin (Juliette Lewis). She is a surrogate mother, carrying the child of a wealthy couple, so they think they can get enough ransom money to take care of themselves. The kidnapping and ensuing chase are so badly organized that the experienced bodyguards who escort Robin to the doctor are not able to figure out what they are going to do, and they get away.

As in “The Usual Suspects,” the dialogue is terrific (“$15 million is not money. It’s a motive with a universal adaptor.” “Karma is only justice without the satisfaction.” “I can promise you a day of reckoning that you will not live long enough to remember to forget.”) The characters are exceptionally interesting, especially as the story unfolds and there are some surprises in their relationships and history. The performances are outstanding, especially Caan, Taye Diggs as one of the bodyguards, Dylan Kussman as Robin’s obstetrician, and Kristen Lehman as the millionaire’s trophy wife. McQuarrie shows a sure hand in his first time as director, with a muted color palatte, strong rhythm, and effective action sequences.

If only it was held together with a brilliant conclusion, as McQuarrie did in “The Usual Suspects.” No thrill in the ending here, just a long, long, shoot-out. Longbaugh and Parker are not coincidentally the real names of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and this movie has some resonances with the classic western about two men who ran out of options. But unlike that classic and like McQuarrie’s own “The Usual Suspects,” he doesn’t let us care about the protagonists, leaving an empty feeling.

Parents should know that this is an exceptionally violent movie with a very gory childbirth scene and lots and lots of gunfire. Many characters die brutal deaths. Characters drink, smoke, commit adultery, use profanity, lie, cheat, and steal.

Families who see this movie may want to talk about the family and non-family relationships, and how loyalties are — and are not — determined. Some family members may have questions about surrogate parenthood and how the biological parents and the mother who carries the child feel about it.

People who enjoy this movie should see “The Usual Suspects” and “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.”

The Watcher

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

A couple of clever turns don’t rescue this movie from its tired plot, laughable dialogue, and disastrous casting. James Spader plays Campbell, a burned-out FBI agent from Los Angeles who was unable to catch a serial killer and now lives on disability in Chicago, taking massive doses of pharmaceuticals and talking to a therapist (Marisa Tomei). Griffin, the serial killer (Keanu Reeves) follows Campbell to Chicago and starts sending him photos of his next victims, daring him to find them before it is too late. It seems that the killer is less interested in killing than he is in having someone pay attention to him.

In other words, this is the kind of serial killer who only exists in movies, more a plot device than a character. Any characteristic he has or is described as having is jettisoned without explanation when necessary for the purposes of the plot. Reeves can be effective in many kinds of roles, and can convey a spookiness that plays as shyness in one part or nihilism in another. But he fails to convey any sense of menace or evil. The movie would have been much more effective if Reeves and Spader had switched parts, with Reeves the damaged cop and Spader the obsessive killer. Tomei is onscreen long enough to show us how much more she can do. It is obvious from the beginning that her character is there to give Campbell — and the audience — a potential victim to care about. But she manages to convey such warmth, compassion, and charm, that despite ourselves, we do care about her.

The movie tries to show us that the cop and the killer have a lot in common. Both watch their prey, keeping track of every detail. Both seek an appreciative audience. Each fascinates the other. But the last half hour becomes ludicrous as Campbell engages in Stupid Movie Behavior #1 (things people do in movies that make absolutely no sense whatsoever but if the characters did what any intelligent person would do there would be no plot): after working closely with the local police every step of the way, Campbell goes to meet with Griffin alone, without telling anyone where he is. Then, when they do get together, the dialogue becomes so idiotic (Griffin tells Campbell that he gives Campbell’s life meaning, and Campbell responds, “Do you know how many serial killers there are in Chicago? Eight!”) that the movie loses any tension that it had.

Parents should know that this is a very violent movie about a serial killer who preys on vulnerable young women. It has some gorey deaths and crime scenes. There is some strong language. Campbell abuses pharmaceutical drugs and another is skeptical about his ability to perform under their influence. It has sexual references, including references to adultery, strong language, smoking, and drinking.

Families who see this movie should talk about Griffin’s feeling that it is important to be noticed, and his view that he and Campbell need each other.

People who like this movie will also enjoy the vastly superior “No Way to Treat a Lady,” also about a serial killer who develops a relationship with the cop who is working on the case.

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