Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence
Release Date:
October 24, 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

John Wick
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Begin Again
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:

Release Date:
July 2, 2014

23 Blast
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some teen drinking
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Wish I Was Here
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Release Date:
July 18, 2014

crazy/beautiful

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

Sensitive but highly responsible and straight-laced guys have been falling for sensitive but high-maintenance and irresponsible girls in movies since before they started selling popcorn from theater concession stands. That theme has been played for comedy (“Bringing Up Baby”) or poignancy (“The Sterile Cuckoo”), and its appeal is enduring, especially to teenagers, which is where this latest entry will find its most sympathetic audience.

Kirsten Dunst plays Nicole, the troubled daughter of a California congressman (Bruce Davison). She and her best friend Matty spend as much of their time as possible either getting wasted, getting into trouble, or both. She meets Carlos (Jay Hernandez), a poor but hard-working Latino boy who has to get up at 5 am to get to school and who dreams of going to the Naval Academy to become a pilot.

Nicole and Carlos are drawn to each other. At first, Nicole treats him like another drug. She brings him back to her house, tosses him a condom, and unzips her pants. He is another way to erase her feelings and hurt her father. But his tenderness and authenticity and his interest in knowing and loving the real Nicole, not the bad girl or the fun girl or the up for anything girl she can pretend to be make her want to deserve him.

Carlos has felt the burden of delivering all his family’s dreams of achievement. Every second of his life is planned. He is drawn to Nicole’s spontaneity and warmth. But he does not know if he is prepared to risk everything he has worked for to try to save her from herself.

There is nothing new here, but Dunst and Hernandez deliver warm, thoughtful performances as the two leads. Dunst is a little beyond her range, but deserves credit for taking on a complex challenge and being willing to present herself as vulnerable and without a movie-star glow. The director (who also did the first-rate docudrama “Cheaters,” about a real-life Chicago high school team that cheated on a scholastic competition) has a real feel for teenagers.

The weakest points are the cardboard character bad guys (the evil stepmother, played by the talented Lucinda Jenney, is an inexcusable stereotype) and the teen-dream resolution, in which everything turns out all right after a parent admits it was all his fault and sees the light. But that is just one more aspect of this teen fantasy that will appeal to its target audience. Many movies about teenage life feel more authentic to adults (who, after all, create them) than to teens themselves. I suspect that this will seem false to adults, but will seem real to a lot of 15-year-olds, whose stage of life leaves them naturally hypersensitive and with heightened emotions. They will also identify with the way the film portrays the importance (and unconditional support) of friends, the insensitivity of classmates and teachers, and the neglect of parents.

Parents should know that the movie includes very strong language, drug use and drinking by teenagers, driving under the influence, sexual references and situations, and difficult emotional confrontations. An off-camera suicide and suicide attempts are discussed. The romance is inter-racial, triggering some hostility from both sides, and there is an ugly racial dispute.

Families who see this movie should discuss the difficulty Nicole and her father have in showing love for one another, the way that Carlos does not want to have sex with Nicole until he can be sure it is for the right reason and at the right time in their relationship and the way that Nicole’s love for Carlos (and for her sister, Megan) makes her want to get better so that she can feel she deserves to be loved in return. When did Carlos stop being a symbol to Nicole and start being a human being?

Families who like this movie will also like “Save the Last Dance” and “The Sterile Cuckoo.”

Coyote Ugly

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

The people behind “Flashdance” have delivered another movie with about the same level of believabilty, but with little less flash and a lot less dance. You won’t see much more dance on screen than you do in the commericals. There are no full-fledged dance numbers, just snippets of glorious long legs stomping on the bar and glimpses of glorious upper bodies as the girls hose down the paying customers. And fair warning up front — the delectable Tyra Banks appears as a Coyote bartender very briefly before going off to finish law school(!).

“Flashdance” gave us, unforgettably, the steel welder who wanted to be a ballerina and made extra money doing elaborate postmodern erotic dances in a working class bar in Pittsburgh. “Coyote Ugly” gives us a pizza waitress from New Jersey who wants to make it as a songwriter in the big city. She is too shy to sing her songs in public, so of course she gets a job that requires her to be an exhibitionist, in the working class bar of the title, famous for its glorious bartenders and the way they display their glory. Think “Cocktail” starring the Spice Girls.

Coyote Ugly is owned by Lil (Mario Bello), who has a tough exterior but (surprise!) a heart of gold. She tells our heroine, Violet (Piper Perabo) that the bar is successful because men have two-year-olds in their pants, and she knows how to keep the two-year-olds happy. The girls are supposed to appear available but not be available and make the customers crazy but not too crazy. For this reason, the film-makers and some audience members have decided that the movie is not sexist — it is empowering.

Violet must, of course, conquer her stage fright and get a darling boyfriend with a dark secret (the adorable Adam Garcia, another in this summer’s series of handome Aussies). She has to try to make up with her adored father (John Goodman in yet another brilliant performance). He is disappointed in her and embarrassed about what she is doing. And Violet has to try to make it as a songwriter when no one wants to listen to the songs she composes on the roof of her picturesque but working-class apartment building. Despite all these challenges, somehow it all comes together in the end.

Parents should know that the movie has sexual references and situations, but pretty mild by PG-13 standards. There are a number of jokes about the girls’ sexual availability but no evidence that they engage in casual sex. Drinking, even drinking to excess, is handled lightheartedly, and drinking hard liquor is considered a sign of strength. Violet does something of a strip tease for her beau, ostensibly to make him nervous, which makes no sense, but then it didn’t make any sense when Jennifer Beals removed her bra without taking off her sweatshirt in “Flashdance,” either, and no one complained about that.

Families who see this movie should talk about the way that Violet adopts what she thinks was her late mother’s weakness, possibly as a way of keeping her close by being like her or from some notion of not betraying her by being able to do what she could not. They might want to talk about Violet’s somewhat one-sided relationship with Kevin. She shows very little interest in his life or willingness to support him, and she decides that he is unfaithful on very flimsy evidence. Families should also talk about the demeaning way that the girls in the bar see men’s view of women and the ways that women convey sexuality and availability and the problems that can occur if you don’t have huge bouncers on hand, as they do at the bar.

Families who enjoy this movie will also like “Flashdance” (though note that it has more mature material than this one does).

Corky Romano

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

This tired attempt at comedy has no imagination or energy. The script is like a smudgy carbon originally rejected by Jerry Lewis as too dumb and then reworked for Gilbert Gottfried. It isn’t even second rate — it’s more like eighth rate. The biggest tragedy is the way it wastes the talents of people who deserve a lot better, especially its star, Saturday Night Live’s Chris Kattan, and castmates Peter Falk, Richard Roundtree, and Fred Ward.

Kattan plays Corky Romano, the outcast son of a crime family led by his father (Falk) and brothers (Chris Penn and Peter Berg). Corky is the white sheep of a family of black sheep. He is a tender-hearted vetrinarian who thinks his father is in the landscaping business. The FBI has the evidence they need on Pops, thanks to an informant. The family wants to destroy the evidence, so they decide to send someone undercover as an FBI agent. Since Corky is family, they trust him, and since he has had no connection with their operations, the FBI does not know him. They fix him up with a fake ID and a phony resume and send him into FBI headquarters as an agent.

The rest of the movie is the same lame jokes over and over again. And then over and over again again. Corky messes up but somehow it appears that he is a brilliant and fearless agent. People keep calling him by the name the hacker who created his record gave him — “Pissant,” and Corky keeps trying to make them pronounce it as though it were French: “Piss AUNT.” Corky knocks things over and gets beat up. Corky sings to cheesy 80’s music. Corky wears funny outfits. One of Corky’s brothers can’t read and the other doesn’t want anyone to know he’s gay. None of this is very funny the first time, and any humor it might have had is long gone before the movie is done recycling it. It will only appeal to giggly middle-schoolers who find the jokes enjoyably naughty. Let me put it this way. If you find it marvelously witty that the vetrinarian clinic is called “Poodles and Pussies” and that a snake crawls up Corky’s pants and comes out his fly, then you’ll love the rest of the movie.

Parents should know that there is comic violence, including shooting (no one gets hurt) and a lot of fighting. We hear of an offscreen crime in which the victim’s genitals were torn off, and see the flies buzzing above a corpse (played for comedy). A character is tortured by having jumper cables attached to his nipples and then being shocked. A character accidentally inhales cocaine and is supposed to be comically intoxicated. There is some bathroom humor. The FBI has racially diverse agents working well together, but the female agent complains of not being treated equally. There are sexist and anti-gay comments and some very vulgar language.

Families who see this movie should talk about the conflict between loyalty to the family and doing what is right. They might also want to talk about the way that many of the characters are hurt by not feeling loved and appreciated.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other SNL-star movies like Wayne’s World and a much better crime comedy, Married to the Mob(mature material).

Committed

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

Joline (Heather Graham) is a woman of her word. Her parents “had a way of moving on from things, including each other.” But Joline believes in commitment. When she gets married, she has the ring tattooed on her finger. Less than two years later, when her husband Carl (Luke Wilson) leaves her without telling her where he is going or why he is going, she goes after him.

Joline narrates the story, and she often prefaces her statements with “I read somewhere,” as in “I read somewhere that the reason most relationships break down is that both parties are waiting for the other to fix it.” She also read somewhere that people can find each other just by following their instincts, and sure enough, she somehow tracks down Carl in El Paso, Texas. But she does not let him know she is there. She just parks near his new home and watches him, taking time out to inadvertently disrupt his relationships with Carmen, his new girlfriend (Patricia Velasquez) and his boss (Dylan Baker). Joline and Carmen become friends, and when Joline’s brother, Jay (Casey Affleck) comes after her, he and Carmen become romantically involved. Joline also gets advice from Carmen’s grandfather (Alfonso Arau), who has mystical powers.

Things do not go well, and Joline says, “I had no choice but to get more extreme with my rituals.” She camps out opposite Carl’s apartment, conducting a “spiritual vigil.” Finally, she is “committed” in both senses of the word, and ends up in a mental hospital.

Joline is less committed to Carl than she is to the idea of commitment. Her sense of herself is so deeply tied up in the idea of permanence that she does not stop to think about whether Carl is the one she should be committed to. Carmen’s grandfather explains that she needs to do what he did in exposing himself to a little of the rattlesnake’s poison in order to become immune. She learns that the distinctions between stupid and brave, crazy and lucky, sick and well, committed and uncommitted, are not as clear as she thought. She says, “For a long time I was telling a joke that nobody got.” Finally, she tells Carl that “I’m still committed, but not to you.”

Families should know that the movie is rated R for language and sexual references. Carl’s artist neighbor makes sexual overtures to Joline that include suggestive caressing of a life-size doll he made of Joline. Carmen’s former boyfriend is abusive and threatening. Jay lives with a lesbian couple and occasionally has sex with one of them, which makes the other one jealous and possessive. There is also a brief but weird brother-sister kiss.

Families who see the movie should discuss the challenge of maintaining a balance between supporting the person you love and enabling destructive or self-destructive behavior. They may also want to talk about Joline’s terms, “spiritual wheelchair” and “spiritual coma,” and the metaphor of the rattlesnake poison.

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