Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

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 Mothman Prophecies

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

I really tried to go with this attempt at a creepy thriller, but found it impossible to be either creeped or thrilled.

Richard Gere stars as John Klein, a star Washington Post political reporter who thinks his life is going just right when, following a car accident, he finds out that his wife (radiant Debra Messing) has a rare brain tumor. After her death, he sees some odd, angel-like drawings that she made in the hospital.

Two years later, he suddenly finds himself in the midst of all kinds of nutty stuff, mostly in a small town in West Virginia on the Ohio River. For one thing, he ends up in the town even though it was 400 miles from where he was driving and there is no way he could have covered that much road in 90 minutes. For another, when his car fails and he goes to a nearby house to ask for help, the man in the house (Will Patton) holds him at gunpoint, saying that John has been there three nights in a row.

A skeptical policewoman named Connie (Laura Linney) tells John of the odd happennings in town, including sightings of a winged creature with red eyes who looks sort of like the drawings John’s wife did. So John tells the Post he is working on a story and settles in at the local hotel to investigate.

After that, it is all spooky noises and creepy camera angles. Director Mark Pellington, whose “Arlington Road” had the scariest conclusion of any movie released in the 1990’s, knows how to handle suspense and when to throw in some “boo!”-ish surprises. But the happenings themselves are so un-compelling that it hardly seems worthwhile. Maybe it is because they decided to be true to whatever really happened (though they had no problem moving the time of the story up more than 30 years to take placein the present). But even the Mothman at his most ominous just didn’t seem that scary to me. The spookiest thing he does is call John on the phone and tell him that he hid his watch in his shoe and he misses his wife. And the best officer Connie can do when all this happens is wail, “I hate this!”

Another problem is the way that, after all that business with having voiceprints done on the Mothman’s recordings and having the sightings substantiated by many different people, the movie hedges its bets at the end by telling us that it all might be a post-traumatic manifestation of John’s grief over losing his wife or guilt over thinking about letting her go so that he can move on. It’s possible that both are true — that it was the grief that made John available to otherworldly messages and that he decides to walk away from it. But that still leaves us with a big “so what?”

Parents should know that, though it is not very graphic or gory, the movie is a psychological thriller that may be deeply upsetting to some people. There is a car crash and a tragic accident with many deaths. Another death could be suicide. There is a brief non-graphic sexual situation, and brief strong language.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Sixth Sense, Poltergeist, and Flatliners. And they might like to keep an eye out for a documentary about the strange happenings in Point Pleasant, Special Investigations: Mothman.

The Miracle Worker

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:1962

Today is the 142nd anniversary of the birth of one of the most extraordinary teachers in American history, Annie Sullivan, who gave a little blind and deaf girl the power of language. William Gibson, who wrote two plays about the teacher and her student, says that when people refer to “The Miracle Worker” as “the play about Helen Keller,” he replies, “If it was about her, it would be called ‘The Miracle Workee.'” Sullivan, herself visually impaired, was first in her class at the Perkins School for the Blind. When she went to work for the Keller family she was just 21 years old. And Keller, who was blind and deaf due to an illness when she was 19 months old. When Sullivan arrived, Keller was almost completely wild, without any ability to communicate or any understanding that communication beyond grabbing and hitting was possible.

Every family should watch the extraordinary film about what happened next, and read more about Keller, who, with Sullivan’s help, graduated from Radcliffe magna cum laude and became an author and a world figure.

Ann Bancroft and Patty Duke won Oscars for their performances as Sullivan and Keller, repeating their Broadway roles and Duke later played Sullivan in a made-for-television adaptation. In this scene, after months of teaching Keller to fingerspell words, Sullivan is finally able to show her that language will give her the ability to communicate, with a new world of relationships, feelings, and learning. No teacher ever bestowed a greater gift.

Monday After the Miracle is Gibson’s sequel to the play, and Keller’s own book is called The Story of My Life. There is a photobiography of Sullivan called Helen’s Eyes.

The Mexican

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

Two of the biggest stars in Hollywood took pay cuts to appear in what is essentially a quirky independent movie — with two of the biggrest stars in Hollywood. Even though Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts are both top-notch acting talents who do not get enough credit for taking risks (Pitt’s performance in “12 Monkeys” was one of the best of the decade), in this movie their star power overwhelms not just their acting but the movie’s story as well. The effect is like trying to juggle a bowling ball with a dozen eggs. Fortunately, when things get out of kilter or the plot begins to sag, there is all that star power to keep us happy and give us something to enjoy until it gets going again. If the movie has a lot of pieces that don’t quite fit together, at least they are all high-quality pieces. It may be something of a mess, but it is an interesting mess to watch.

Pitt and Roberts play Jerry and Samantha, a couple whose romantic relationship is complicated enough when Jerry is called on to perform one last errand for a mob boss. He has to go to Mexico to get a valuable antique gun called “The Mexican” from a man named Beck and bring them both back with him. Jerry tries to explain to Samantha that given a choice between letting down the mob and letting down his girlfriend, the fact that only one of those options involves death has to factor into the calculus. Samantha, who is a big fan of the women’s magazine school of relationships and who reads books like “Men Who Can’t Love” with a highlighter in her hand, tosses Jerry’s clothes out the window and sets off to pursue her dream of becoming a croupier in Las Vegas.

The mob guys know that Jerry’s focus and competence cannot be counted on without a little added incentive, so they arrange for Samantha to be kidnapped by a hitman named Leroy (James Gandolfini of HBO’s “The Sopranos”).

Gandolfini is just plan brilliant in the role, and the scenes between Leroy and Samantha are the best part of the movie. He explains that he is “here to regulate funkiness” and she tells him that he has “trust issues.” Soon they are giving each other relationship advice in between shoot-outs. Meanwhile, Jerry, who tends to “Forrest Gump through life,” is chasing after the gun, with intermittent success.

We want Jerry and Sam to get together, but the movie becomes less interesting when they do. Even a surprise cameo from another big star does not help us through a final act that involves the loss of characters we have come to care about. Jerry and Samantha react and behave in ways that we are not used to seeing characters played by big stars behave. Pitt and Roberts give it all they have, but the script does not have enough weight to help make that behavior consistent with what we know of the characters.

Parents should know that the movie is very violent, with a lot of shooting, graphic injuries, and the deaths of important characters. A woman commits suicide when her lover is killed. Characters drink and smoke and one character is drunk. There are mild sexual references, including a homosexual relationship. Some of the Mexican characters could be considered stereotypes, but then so could some of the American characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about how people work out the complexities of relationships and why it is that so many of the characters care more about relationships than about money or the life and death situations all around them. Leroy may have more than most people to worry about when he thinks about what a romantic prospect will think about what he does and who he is, but that is always a concern for anyone contemplating an intimate relationship. The idea that “the past doesn’t matter — it’s the future that counts” is a beguiling one — is it true? Under what circumstances? Leroy talks about being “surrounded by lonliness and finality,” and about how the people who die having loved are different from those who die alone. This is worth discussing, along with the way that Sam and Jerry begin to think about their relationship as being special enough so that they cannot walk away from it.

Families may also want to talk about the way that Jerry’s friend justifies participating in criminal acts by compartmentalizing, explaining that he is just doing his “portion.”

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Raising Arizona.”

The Man Who Wasn’t There

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

The Coen brothers (“Fargo,” “Raising Arizona,” “O Brother Where Art Thou”) are known for flamboyant, even grotesque, images and outlandish dialogue. They also have a deep appreciation for film history, and many of their past films have been tributes to the 1930’s and 40’s genres. With “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” they return to the inspiration for their first film, “Blood Simple,” the films noir of the 1930’s and 1940’s. With this film, a clear nod to the movies based on James M. Cain novels like “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” they go further than they have before in submersing themselves into the genre, with little of their usual ironic distance.

Billy Bob Thornton plays Ed Crane, a man who thinks of himself simply as “The Barber.” He is responsible for the second chair in a barbershop owned by his wife’s brother. He is not particularly happy with his life in a small California town called Santa Rosa, but that does not bother him too much. He does not expect happiness, and even if he did, he would not expect himself to be able to take any steps to find it. He does what he is told, not because he is meek or submissive, but because it never occurs to him that he has a choice. If he takes some quiet satisfaction in the ignorance of those around him of the cynicism of his internal running commentary, that is as far as his rebellion goes.

Ed believes that his wife, Doris (Frances McDormand), is having an affair with her affable boss, “Big Dave” Brewster (James Gandolfini). Ed is not jealous or angry. He has no particular feeling about it (or about anything else). But then he meets Creighton Tolliver (Joe Polito) who tells him that for only $10,000, Ed can invest in a new invention so strange and wonderful it would just have to make a man wealthy – “dry cleaning.”

Ed decides to blackmail Big Dave to get the money. But things go wrong, two people are murdered, and the wrong person is arrested. A pretty teenager who plays the piano makes Ed think about the world outside of Santa Rosa.

Part of the code of the films noir was that evil could not triumph. This was a literal code, the Hayes Code, which governed the content of Hollywood films until adoption of the MPAA rating system. But it also worked well for those dark films, providing morality tales for uncertain times. These times may be just as uncertain, but audience expectations have changed. This movie is so traditional in structure, tone, language (mild by today’s standards), and content (with the exception of one jolting moment in a car) that it might bewilder viewers not familiar enough with the genre to recognize that some of the names in the movie are taken from noir classics like “Double Indemnity” and Gandolfini’s performance seems to channel the brilliant, underrated 1940’s actor, Paul Douglas.

They will, however, appreciate outstanding performances from the entire cast, especially Tony Shaloub as Califonia’s leading criminal defense lawyer. Like all Coen brothers films, it is filled with stunning images, this time brilliantly filmed in black and white.

Parents should know that the movie’s themes include adultery, blackmail, murder, and the death penalty. There is a very violent struggle and a character is killed. Another dead body is briefly visible. A character commits suicide and characters are injured in car accident (off-screen). An adult has some unfocused fantasies about an intimate relationship with a teenager. Characters drink and smoke (Ed smokes constantly).

Families who see this movie should talk about how it compares to the movies that it salutes, and about whether audiences have changed. Why was Ed so passive? What else could/should he have done?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “They Won’t Believe Me” and “Double Indemnity.”

Previous Posts

Actors Of Color Discuss Racial Stereotypes In Hollywood
Film Courage produced this excellent and very compelling film with actors of color talking about the challenges they face in Hollywood. If we did a better job of representing diversity in film, we would not just tell better stories and tell stories better, we would make better progress toward under

posted 8:00:49am Dec. 19, 2014 | read full post »

Annie
The story of the plucky little Depression-era orphan with the curly red hair has been not just re-booted but re-imagined into the world of rent-a-bikes, viral videos, DNA tests, YOLO, corpora

posted 5:59:13pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Fans of the first two "Night at the Museum" films will like this one because it is pretty much the same film. They go to another museum, this time the British Museum in London, and the exhibi

posted 5:23:46pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Listen to People's Lives: David Plotz's Working Podcast
Former Slate editor David Plotz, now at Atlas Obscura, says that he is a big fan of Studs Terkel's classic book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. He has paid tribute to that great work in the best possible way, by updating it with his podcast seri

posted 3:59:23pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Little Orphan Annie: From Comic Strip to Radio, Broadway, Television, and Two Movies
The spunky little girl with the curly red hair and a dog named Sandy began as Little Orphan Annie in 1924, created by Harold Gray.  Her pluck, self-sufficiency, and resilience cau

posted 8:00:48am Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.