Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Selma
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief strong language
Release Date:
December 25, 2014

 

Pride
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and brief sexual content
Release Date:
October 9, 2014

Into the Woods
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material
Release Date:
December 25, 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

Unbroken
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language
Release Date:
December 25, 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 Tao of Steve

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

Dex (Donal Logue) is a fat, irresponsible, pot-smoking slacker with no ambition. But he is so charming that women cannot resist him. And neither can the viewers. Dex may have no ambition, but he has no pretention, either. He has a wonderful command of repartee covering everything from Lao Tzu to Josie and the Pussycats. And he has a system for seducing women that is just about foolproof. As he explains to his friend Dave, there are three rules. First, “Eliminate your desire.” Women cannot let down their defenses as long as they sense that a man is trying to get them into bed. Second, “Do something excellent in their presence, thus demonstrating your sexual worthiness.” Third, “Retreat.” This is the titular “Tao of Steve,” named for Dex’s three polar stars, $6 million man Steve Austin, Hawaii 5-0 cop Steve McGarrett and the greatest Steve of them all, Steve McQueen. Channeling these Steves allows Dex to feel cool. And smoking marijuana every morning and having a lot of one-night stands allows him to feel less purposeless, or maybe it just allows him not to feel very much at all.

Then, he attends his 10th college reunion, where he has sex with a classmate’s wife, makes a date with a student tending the bar, and is re-introduced to Syd (co-screenwriter Greer Goodman). She has come to town to design sets for a production of “Don Giovanni” (Don Juan). Dex begins to think that he might be a little like Don Giovanni, who “slept with thousands of women because he was afraid he wouldn’t be loved by one.” He tells Dave to ignore all of his advice: “I’ve been trying to turn you into me and I’m not sure even I want to be me anymore.”

This is a classic “the love of a good woman inspires a man to grow up at last,” but it is a sweet, funny romantic comedy with appealing characters and witty dialogue. Logue, a character actor in movies like “Steal this Movie,” “The Runaway Bride,” and “The Patriot,” is wonderful. According to the credits, the screenplay is “Based on a story by Duncan North” which is “Based on an idea by Duncan North,” which is “Based on Duncan North.” North appears on the movie’s website answering questions about love and relationships.

Parents should know that the movie has drug use and a lot of drinking and smoking. Dex has an affair with a married woman, the wife of a good friend. Although the resolution of the movie has Dex becoming more mature, the movie makes immaturity (to the point of hedonism) seem very appealing. Dex cites St. Augustine’s famous, “Lord make me chaste — but not yet.” Although it is clear that Dex’s behavior does not make him very happy or proud of himself and it hurts the woman he seduces, teen-agers may come away with the same conclusion.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Dex went from the brilliant and promising student his classmates remember to a philosophy that “doing stuff is overrated.” Talk about his quote: “the sage, because he never does anything, never ruins anything,” and ask whether that is possible. Why is it that Dex’s behavior does not make him happy, and why doesn’t he change? What is he afraid of? Why does he feel differently about Syd? Why does she put up with him? Is Dex right when he says that romance is our national religion?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Next Stop Wonderland.”

The Sword in the Stone

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:1963

Plot: Based on the book by T.H. White, this is the story of the early years of King Arthur. Nicknamed “Wart,” the future King Arthur is squire to a knight when he meets Merlin the magician, who promises to take on his education. Merlin turns him into a fish, a bird, and a squirrel to teach him lessons like the importance of brains over brawn. He gets to see this in action when Madame Mim, Merlin’s enemy, challenges Merlin to a duel by magic, and, though she cheats, Merlin is able to defeat her.

Wart still has his duties as a squire, and, having forgotten the sword for a jousting match, he runs to get it. He sees a sword stuck in a stone and pulls it out, not knowing the legend that whoever will pull the sword out of the stone will be the rightful king. He becomes King Arthur, and listens when Merlin reminds him that knowledge is the real power.

Discussion: The Arthur legend has fascinated people for centuries, and this story about Arthur’s childhood as special appeal for children. Aside from the fun of seeing what it is like to be a bird, a squirrel, or a fish, and from having your very own wizard as a teacher, there is the highly satisfying aspect of having one’s worth, unappreciated by everyone, affirmed so unequivocally.

Questions for Kids:

· What made Arthur the one who could pull the sword out of the stone?

· What did he learn from his adventures with Merlin?

· How will what he learned help him to be a good king?

· How did Madame Mim cheat?

· How did Merlin fight back when she did?

Connections: Older kids may like to see “Camelot,” the musical by Lerner and Lowe (of “My Fair Lady”), to find out some of what happened to Arthur later (WARNING: the focus of that movie is on Guinevere’s infidelity with Lancelot). Mature teenagers might like the rather gory “Excalibur,” which has some stunning images.

The Sweetest Thing

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

None of the men at the screening I attended liked this movie. Some of them even came out of the theater looking a little shell-shocked. But many of the women walked out smiling.

This movie’s audience may break down along gender lines, but believe me, this isn’t your mother’s chick flick. That is, unless your mother is an Adam Sandler fan, because what this is is an Adam Sandler movie from the girl’s point of view.

Written by Nancy Pimental (of “South Park” and “Win Ben Stein’s Money”), this is a cheerfully obscene tribute to girlfriends and of course to true love.

Cameron Diaz is Christina, an advertising executive and full-time heartbreaker and party girl. She lives with gal pals divorce lawyer Courtney (Christina Applegate deglamorized into sidekick mode) and salesgirl Jane (Selma Blair). They aren’t waiting for Mr. Right. They are perfectly happy with Mr. Right Now. At least that’s what they tell themselves. But what they do, just like male characters in many, many movies of the past, is put up barriers to genuine intimacy in their romantic relationships, keeping genuine closeness for each other. Christina enjoys using the power of her beauty and freshness (in both senses of the word) to control men so that she can have the fun of dropping them quickly to run back and share the dish.

Then Christina meets Peter at a disco. He piques her interest by not being dazzled by her and by sizing her up right away. He mentions that he is going to a wedding the next day. So, when she can’t put him out of her mind, she and Courtney decide to track him down anc crash the wedding. They’re off on a road trip.

All of this is just a thin excuse for a series of extremely raunchy and explicit jokes and situations, any of which would have earned an immediate NC-17 rating if this hadn’t been a comedy and, more important, if not for the indestructible sweetness of Cameron Diaz, who acts as something between Teflon and a disinfectant.

The three leads are so bright and even endearing that somehow the fact that they behave like complete skanks does not compute. Their loyalty and high spirits and the fact that no one is taking this movie very seriously (they announce that there will be a clothes-trying on montage and then appear as Julia Roberts, Madonna, and Olivia Newton-John) make this a guilty almost-pleasure.

Parents should know that this movie has some of the most explicit sexual references and situations ever included in a mainstream film. There are extensive and graphic jokes about oral sex (including a humiliating visit to the dry cleaner and a medical emergency involving a very personal piercing). Parents should exercise the strongest caution in exposing kids or teens to the language and behavior in this movie.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Christina was afraid to get close to a man and why she was so concerned about having the power in her relationships. They should also talk about the way the friends showed loyalty and unconditional acceptance to each other.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “American Pie” and “There’s Something About Mary.”

The Sum of All Fears

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

Part of the magic of movies is the way they make us not just willing – even eager to suspend all kinds of disbelief. It isn’t just that we are willing to believe that Jet Li can knock out a guy with one kick or that Harry Potter can soar through a Quidditch match on his broomstick – we want to. That’s part of what movies are for.

And we have lived through five different actors asking for martinis that are shaken, not stirred, as James Bond – so far. So I don’t think audiences will have any problem accepting the fact that Russia analyst Jack Ryan of the CIA, played by 50-something Harrison Ford in two previous films set in the 1990’s based on Tom Clancy novels (and Alec Baldwin in a third) has now lost some thirty years and turned into Ben Affleck. There may not be much suspense in the love story – we already know who Jack Ryan marries – but that isn’t what the movie is about.

What it is about is a new Russian president. The U.S. is concerned that he is a hard-liner. Ryan believes that he is only trying to sound tough to get the support of hard-liners in the Russian government. U.S. officials get even more concerned when Chechnya is hit with chemical weapons. And then the U.S. is attacked with an atomic bomb and it seems that America’s only choice is to retaliate. It is up to Jack Ryan to save the world.

The movie is ably done, a big time Hollywood production with big time actors (Morgan Freeman as the head of the CIA, James Cromwell as the U.S. President), and big time special effects. Everything is very professional. But as easy as it is to settle back with our popcorn and adjust our notion of a Jack Ryan of the 21st century, there are some parts of the story that are so hard to accept that they seem to violate the covenant between the audience and mainstream movies. There is a level of destruction that might be acceptable in a book but feels excessive to the point of pornography on screen, even more so in an era of suicide bombings and terrorism. The fact that the bad guys in this movie are so much less scary than the ones on the news adds to the sense that the story is more about sensation than about sense. And the ultimate resolution does not feel either ultimate or resolved. Movies like these need interesting villains and satisfying conclusions. Like people who make roller coasters, they need to strike a balance between making us pleasantly dizzy and making us sick. On that scale and at this time, this movie does not work.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of graphic violence and destruction of unimaginable proportions. There is prolonged, intense peril and characters die. Characters use very strong language, drink and smoke. There is a non-graphic sexual situation.

Families who see this movie should talk about how people at any level, from heads of state to siblings, learn to trust one another.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the other Jack Ryan movies (and the other Jack Ryans), especially “The Hunt for Red October” and “Patriot Games.” Two other movies, both made in 1964, dealt with the prospect of an accidental missile attack by the U.S. on Russia and both are worth watching. One is the thoughtful drama “Failsafe” and the other is the unforgettable classic, “Dr. Strangelove.”

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