Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Tusk
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

This is Where I Leave You
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Think Like a Man Too
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material
Release Date:
June 20, 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

 

Godzilla
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Release Date:
May 16, 2014

Big Trouble

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

If not quite as sharp as it could be, “Big Trouble” is still a sharp, funny movie. Based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Berry, it has a terrific cast getting caught up in delicious comic chaos seasoned with a couple of howlingly funny wisecracks.

Tim Allen plays Eliot Arnold, a once-successful columnist reduced to writing ad copy after an altercation wiith his boss. He is held in contempt by his teen-age son Matt (Ben Foster), who is on a quest to “kill” a pretty classmate named Jenny (Zooey Deschanel) by squirting her with a water gun, part of a tag-like contest.

Meanwhile, Arthur (Stanley Tucci), Jenny’s stepfather, is the target of a less benign hitman. It seems that Arthur, a bag man for some bad guys, diverted some of what was in the bag into his own bank account. A couple of cops (Jeaneanne Garofolo and Patrick Warburton), a Frito-loving, tree-sitting, strong but sweet guy with a Jesus hairdo (Jason Lee), some Russians who deal weapons from the back room of a dingy bar, a nuclear device that looks like a garbage disposal, a remarkable number of televisions with their screens shot out, and a flock of goats all manage to play a part before things get resolved.

The translation of book to screen is uneven, primarily because the story is all situation and no character. Even with exceptionally strong personalities in the roles and a director with a refreshing combination of a laid-back tone and a brisk pace, the film still asks too much of the audience by wanting us to care about characters we hardly know.

Parents should know that the movie has comic violence (no one badly hurt), including shooting and scuffles. Characters lie, cheat, steal, smoke, drink, and use bad language. There are comic sexual situations (including a foot fetishist) and brief non-sexual nudity. The scenes involving airport security and a bomb on a plane, the reason the movie’s release was delayed after the terrorist attacks, may cause more twinges than laughter. The movie is at the upper end of the PG-13 rating, closer to an R.

Families who see this movie should talk about the relationship between Matt and Eliot and between Jenny and her mother and step-father. They should also talk about the decision faced by the film-makers following September 11. Should they have changed the story, in addition to delaying the release?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Rat Race.

Big Momma’s House

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

This is less a movie than a string of skits based on one concept — Martin Lawrence in a fat suit and a dress.

It’s a great concept, crossing two terrific movies: “Stakeout” and “Tootsie,” with a little bit of “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Some Like it Hot” and “Little Red Riding Hood” thrown in.

Malcolm (Martin Lawrence) and John (Paul Giamatti) are FBI agents trying to track down Lester (Terrence Howard), a bank robber who has escaped from prison. They set up a stakeout across the street from the home of “Big Momma,” the grandmother of Lester’s former girlfriend Sherry (Nia Long). Sherry arrives just as Big Momma leaves town, so Malcolm, a master of disguise, puts on a fat suit and a flowered housedress and is there to greet Sherry and her son Trent with open arms.

It’s a promising premise. But instead of a script, we get a series of situations, strung together in a lackluster story that underuses its three talented stars. Big Momma has to deliver a baby! Big Momma kicks butt at karate class and on the basketball court! Big Momma can’t cook! Big Momma sings in church! Sherry gets scared by a thunderstorm and crawls into bed with Big Momma! Oh, and by the way, Malcolm has to struggle with his feelings for Sherri because he thinks she was Lester’s accomplice and besides, he starts off the movie explaining that a wife and family are just a distraction for a lawman.

It’s a shame, because Lawrence (who also co-produced) is one of the funniest and most talented people around, and he does marvels at times in this movie. Even under all that silicone, he is able to use his eyes and body to hilarious effect. And even under all that broad comedy, he shows us a potential for tenderness and heart so enticing that we wish for more. Nia Long, so marvelous earlier this year in “Boiler Room” has sweetness, toughness, and humor, and it is always a pleasure to see Paul Giamatti, quickly becoming a top character actor.

Lawrence the producer should do better for Lawrence the performer. The script is very weak, relying heavily on bathroom humor, jokes about sexy old people, and “Big Momma’s” highly un-grandmotherly feelings for Sherri. Inconsistencies of plot and character keep the audience from connecting to the material.

Parents should know that the movie contains a lot of sexual humor and potty jokes. There is brief nudity, including the real Big Momma’s backside. Violence includes a menacing bad guy, characters in peril, fighting, and gunplay.

Families who see the movie should discuss Sherri’s mistake and how she handled it, stereotypes of the elderly, how we decide whom to trust, and the way that families support each other through bad times. The role of the church is nicely handled. Families with older children who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Tootsie,” “Stakeout,” “Some Like It Hot,” and Lawrence’s “Blue Streak.”

Big Fat Liar

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2002

In this likeable family comedy, Jason Shepherd (Frankie Muniz of “Malcolm in the Middle”) plays an 8th grader who relies on his easy smile and even easier lies to keep him out of trouble, with a little help from his reluctant but loyal friend Kaylee (Nickelodeon’s Amanda Bynes). But it all catches up with him when he tells his teacher an elaborate story about being late with his homework because his father choked on a meatball. Though he thinks he has backed it up by pretending to be his father on the phone, he is busted when his parents show up at school. He has until 6:00 pm to turn in the paper, which must be in his own handwriting. If he doesn’t get it in on time, he’ll have to repeat the class in summer school.

He writes a story called “Big Fat Liar.” Racing to get it in on time, he collides with a car that turns out to contain an even bigger liar than he is, Hollywood producer Marty Wolf (Paul Giamattti). Jason gets into Wolf’s car and everything falls out of his backpack. He shoves it all back in, but when he gets to the school, the story is missing. Summer school is bad enough, but even worse is that no one believes that he really did write the story or that he got a ride from a Hollywood producer. He is literally the boy who cried (Marty) Wolf.

Summer comes, and summer school is miserable. At the movies, Jason sees a coming attraction for a Marty Wolf movie called….”Big Fat Liar.” Wolf has taken the story Jason left in the car and turned it into a major motion picture!

Jason sees this as his chance to prove to his parents that for once he really was telling the truth. When his parents go away for the weekend, Jason take his entire bank account and buys two tickets to Los Angeles so that he and Kaylee can find Wolf and make him tell Jason’s father the truth.

Jason and Kaylee scam their way into getting a limo ride from the airport and duck off the Universal Studios tour bus to find Wolf’s office. Then they scam their way into his office, but Wolf refuses to tell the truth. So Jason and Kaylee, along with a growing group of fellow Wolf-haters, set up a series of pranks designed to torture Wolf into admitting that Jason wrote the story for his new movie.

Muniz and Giamatti are deft comic actors, but the highlight of the movie is Bynes as Kaylee. Her two different but equally hilarious renditions of Hollywood secretaries are gems. Giamatti is so relentlessly selfish and egotistical that it gets a bit tedious, but he does do a wonderful little dance to “Hungry Like a (what else?) Wolf.”

Parents should know that, while the movie’s theme is the importance of telling the truth and being trustworthy, the message is a little mixed. In order to prove that he was telling the truth about finishing his story, Jason and Kaylee have to lie, steal, vandalize, and generally behave in an irresponsible – and illegal – manner, even by the standards of comic fantasy. And at the end, Jason’s parents are proud of him for proving that he was not lying when he said he had written his paper, never mentioning that perhaps two 14-year-olds should not have flown to California when they were supposed to be at home. One small bright spot worth mentioning is that all of Jason’s efforts are intended to show that he was telling the truth. His motive for pursuing Wolf is never getting any money or credit for his story. Another strength of the movie is its racially diverse cast.

Families who see this movie should talk about why people lie and how it feels not to be trusted. When someone is caught in a lie, how can he or she regain the trust of those who have been disappointed? Would you like to see the movie based on Jason’s story? What do you think it would be like?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Harriet the Spy. The Kid, and Snow Day.

Beyond the Mat

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

This is the best documentary since “Hoop Dreams,” and it is not a coincidence that it, too, is about sports. That means that it is about money, ambition, competition, dreams realized and dashed, race, money, families — both functional and dys — integrity, money, corruption, rookies, veterans, money, the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat. And, did I mention money? In other words, it is about America.

If it had been fiction, we would dismiss it as a cliché. It has all the stock characters, from the young wrestlers with dreams, trying to break into the big time to the old-timers, families begging them to quit, who just can’t walk away. And it has all the stock situations as the characters test themselves over and over, giving their heart and often many other parts of their body to see how far they can go, competing with each other and with themselves. And it’s a story, as the narrator tells us, of “pageantry, athleticism, incredibly cheesy acting,” of “strong men taking matters into their own hands,” of guys who live to make people say, “I can’t believe they did that!” — of professional wrestling. It turns out that “it’s not as fake as you think.” The outcomes may be set in advance, but the blood is real.

Writer-director Barry Blaustein asks, “What sort of man bashes another man’s head into a ring post for a living?” And then he goes on the road to show us the answer. We begin with Vince McMahon, the fourth generation in his family to own the then-called World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment). At over $1 billion at the time of the film, it was larger than the New York Rangers, Knicks, and Mets combined. Its licensing scope was second in the nation, after South Park. If you ask him what business he is in, he doesn’t say sports -– he says, “We make movies.” And indeed, just like the old-time movie studios, they have in-house musicians, costumers, scriptwriters, and directors, who work together to create the spectacle. We even see props – – items that show up in the ring include snakes, a parrot, a branding iron, barbed wire, a metal folding chair, a toaster, and, perhaps most improbably, pedicured toenails on the feet of a female wrestler who protests, “You’ll make me cry!” when complimented.

We see McMahon working with a former Denver Bronco, whose ability to throw up on demand leads to the creation of a new “character” to be added to the WWF. Just as Norma Jeane Baker became Marilyn Monroe, Darren Drosdov becomes “Puke.” And we see a would-be wrestling superstar protesting to a director/coreographer, “That WAS my strut!” Puke is not a successful character (and, as we learn in a note following the movie, Drosnov is later paralyzed from a wrestling injury). But McMahon has endless ideas, even turning himself into a character, for all those in the audience who like to see the employees beating up on the boss. As they sing in “Gypsy,” “You gotta have a gimmick!”

Blaustein takes us to a training school for would-be WWF stars, where part-time wrestlers who make $25 a fight and live over the gym dream of getting their big chance. The two best students travel to the WWF for a try-out. And we see the upstart ECW –- Extreme Championship Wrestling, so low budget that, “Wayne’s World”-style, their promos are taped in the basement while Mom irons out of camera range.

They all hope to achieve the heights of superstars like Terry Funk, in his third decade of wrestling, and Mick “Mankind” Foley, who fights in a shirt, tie, and leather mask. And they hope to avoid the fate of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, whose family would make the Jerry Springer Show seem like Little Women, and who is at peace only in the ring (“In the ring, nothing hurts and everybody’s glad to see you.”). His erratic behavior and drug use have isolated him from everyone but the hard-core fans. But Funk and Foley are a part of deeply loving families who worry about them. Funk sits in his doctor’s office, gazing balefully at his x-rays as his doctor tells him that he needs a new knee. Foley tells his children that Daddy is only pretending (“They can’t hurt Dada”), but the children become hysterical when they see him get whacked repeatedly on the head with a folding chair, blood gushing from his forehead.

Even the superstars have dreams. Jesse “The Body” Ventura leaves pro wrestling for a successful run for the governor of Minnesota. He says, “Politics is way more cutthroat than wrestling.” And a black wrestler called “New Jack,” who claims four justifiable homicides, tries out for “Denzel’s pal” in Hollywood. Terry Funk just dreams of being able to stay in the game –- as an unsuccessful wrestler says, “I’d rather be in the main event than breathe.” But Mick dreams of a way out that will make it possible for him to take care of his family.

Parents should know that, like the WWF shows, this movie is violent and profane. Unlike the WWF shows, this is the truth, and scenes showing Jake with his estranged father and daughter and Mick’s wife and children horrified by a fight may be far more upsetting than the fights themselves. Parents whose children or teens see this movie should talk about the enduring appeal of a violent sport and about the ways that the wrestlers do and don’t communicate with their families. After all, even “Puke’s” first reaction on being hired by the WWF is to call his mom to tell her how proud she will be.

Previous Posts

Tusk
You can make a good movie about slackers, for example "Slackers," from Richard Linklater and "Clerks" from Kevin Smith. But you can't make a good movie by a slacker, and Smith does not seem wi

posted 5:59:40pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

This is Where I Leave You
A toddler carries his little potty out in front of the house so he can try out his new-found skill in public. Twice. Plus another time when the contents of the potty are first displayed for the

posted 5:59:39pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

The Maze Runner
Yes, it's another dystopic YA trilogy (actually, there's a fourth volume, a prequel), and yes, only a teenager with fabulous cheekbones can save the day. But "The Maze Runner" is not a lesser repeat. It is a worthy addition to the genre, an absorbing drama with surprising turns and even more surpris

posted 5:59:23pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

The Art of John Alvin -- Designer of Iconic Movie Posters
Any fan of film history and design will love this magnificent new book devoted to the iconic movie posters and other artwork from John Alvin, assembled and written by his widow, Andrea Alv

posted 8:00:05am Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Guest Post: Tara Sonenshine on "Calvary"
My deepest thanks to Tara Sonenshine for allowing me to publish her thoughtful comments on "Calvary," starring Brendan Gleeson as a troubled priest in a small Irish t

posted 11:19:17pm Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »


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