Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

McFarland USA
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material, some violence and language
Release Date:
February 20, 2015

 

Big Hero 6
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements
Release Date:
November 7, 2014

The DUFF
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying
Release Date:
February 20, 2015

 

Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content
Release Date:
February 13, 2015

 

Beyond the Lights
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual content including suggestive gestures, partial nudity, language and thematic elements
Release Date:
November 14, 2014

Simone

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2002

Movie director Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino) has had it with actors. The star of his new movie (Winona Ryder, relishing her cameo as a temperamental “model with a SAG card”) insists that he pick all the red Mike and Ike candies out of the bowl and ensure that her trailer is not only the biggest but also the tallest. She walks off the movie and Viktor is about to lose his deal with the studio, even though the executive in charge is his ex-wife Elaine (Catherine Keener).

But thanks to a bequest from a computer genius, Viktor finds the perfect substitute to star in his movie. She’s perfect because she will do anything he says. And she will do anything he says because she is not a human being – she is a computer simulation living in a hard drive. He can take a little bit of Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Greta Garbo, and a dozen other stars and then program her to do, say, wear, or digitally appear anywhere he wants to. It’s Pygmalion for the digital age. He collapses the name of the program (“Simulation One”) is to name her Simone.

Viktor digitally substitutes Simone for his departed star, and she causes a sensation. He is aided in his deception by Hollywood’s phoniness – many people are only too willing to claim that they have met her in order to make themselves seem more important. And Simone’s apparent unwillingness (in reality, “her” inability) to meet with members of the press only adds to the public fascination with her. As happened to Dr. Frankenstein (who was also named Viktor) or the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Viktor Taransky’s creation takes over.

Viktor rationalizes his deception as just one small step beyond current practice (“Most actors have digital work done to them!”) and decries Hollywood’s “irrational allegiance to flesh and blood.” According to him, “the only real truth is the work.”

It is great fun to see Pacino do farce and the movie has some deliciously sharp satire. Told that a star is willing to do all her own stunts, including a fall from a plane, a studio executive says, “Shoot it the last day.” A radio news broadcast announces that no one is paying attention to world affairs because the Oscar nominations are out. It goes on a little long, but it is one of the better comedies of the summer.

Parents should know that the theme of the movie is lying, and while Viktor suffers for his lies, he pretty much gets away with them. Characters drink and smoke. And the movie has the “Parent Trap” problem of reuniting divorced parents, which may be a difficult subject for some families.

Families who see this movie should talk about how it compares to traditional stories about liars like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and “Pinocchio.” And they should talk about how performances by “live” actors compare to those of digitally created characters in movies like “Toy Story” and “Shrek.” Do you think there will be a day when movie stars are created by computer? (By the way, Simone is indeed played by a real-life actress, model Rachel Roberts.)

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy other Hollywood satires like Steve Martin’s Bowfinger and Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending. They may also want to try Tootsie. And everyone should see the all-time classic Singin’ in the Rain.

Signs

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2002

M. Night Shyamalan knows what scares us. It scares him, too.

As in “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable,” writer/producer/director Shyamalan’s latest is a story of a crisis of faith, a wise child, and something out there that is very, very disturbing but ultimately part of a pattern that supports and embraces all of us.

Mel Gibson plays Graham Hess, a recent widower who lives with his two children and his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) on a farm in Pennsylvania. He had been a minister, but lost his faith when his wife was killed. Now he winces when people call him “Father.”

He wakes up one night with a sense of dread. His children are not in bed. He runs out into the cornfield and his children show him that the stalks have been bent into a mysterious pattern. It can’t have been made by a machine, because the stalks are not broken. And it can’t have been done by hand, because the shapes are too perfectly even.

It turns out that the strange signs have appeared all over the world. Graham wants to believe that the shapes are a prank or a hoax. He cannot bear the thought that his family could be vulnerable to more injury or loss.

Gibson is outstanding in a role that calls for subtlety, maturity, and a mixture of vulnerability and strength. The children, played by Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin, are just right. They act like smart kids who know what loss is and are scared but also tantalized by what is going on around them. Shyamalan’s skills as a director are getting stronger and stronger. His use of the camera to tell the story is masterful. There is a moment when the screen goes completely black that had the audience gasping. He has clearly been paying attention to Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg, and has a few tricks of his own to contribute. His only mistake is in leaving too little to the imagination. Like his characters, he likes to have everything explained.

Parents should know that this movie has extreme tension and peril, though it is not graphic or gory. Some audience members will find it very scary. Some will be comforted by its ultimate conclusion, but others will find it disappointing, even sugary or superficial. They might even be offended at its deterministic take on things.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether they see patterns and purpose in what occurs around them and what it means to them. Where do people find their faith? What kind of person says that it doesn’t feel right not to swing? They might also want to look at websites like this one to find out more about efforts to contact life on other planets.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy more benign stories about contact with aliens: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Contact. They may also want to try the very creepy The Others and one of the scariest movies ever, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Secret Ballot

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:2002

Those who are interested in the Iranian election and protests should see this superb Iranian film that is one of the finest explorations of freedom, elections, democracy, and the rule of law I have ever watched on screen.

It begins with a surreal image as a solitary soldier patrolling an Iranian island coast sees a box dropped by parachute from a plane. Soon after, a boat arrives and a woman disembarks. She informs the soldier that she is there to collect as many votes as possible before 5 pm and he is to accompany her. They travel the island debating the legitimacy of the voting process and the ability of the law to ensure fair treatment. The woman is a stickler for the letter of the law, even when the result is difficult to justify. That is, until they get stopped by a broken red light and she must decide whether to stop at the deserted intersection, missing her boat and invalidating the votes she has collected, or break the law by running the light. The film, made by Canadian-Iranian Babak Payami works brilliantly as allegory and as quasi-documentary. We never learn the names of the characters; they are just “the soldier” and “the girl.” But they and their predicament are immediately involving and distinctive. Highly recommended for high school and college civics classes and for anyone who appreciates superb film-making.

Scooby-Doo

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

It’s trickier than you might think to translate a Saturday morning cartoon program into a live-action movie. The first challenge is figuring out who your audience is going to be. Is it the little kids who watch the cartoon now and want to see every detail replicated on the big screen (like the live-action “101 Dalmatians”)? Or is it the former little kids who want to see their memories of the show through a filter that is part retro, part camp, part irony (like the Brady bunch movies) and be able to recognize Scrappy-Doo, Pamela Anderson, and Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath on sight? There is not a lot of overlap, and yet this movie tries to reach both. It ends up somewhere between a live action cartoon that is much too scary for most children and Saturday Night Live sketch that goes on too long for most teens.

The Mystery Machine crew has just discovered the secret of the ghost who captured Daphne (it’s a man in a mask!), when their egos collide and they decide to go their separate ways. Two years later, they find out that each of them has been hired by Mr. Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson), whose Spooky Island theme park is a little spookier than he had in mind. Fred, Velma, and Daphne try to solve the mystery on their own, but find that they have to work together to find…well, this time it’s not a man in a mask, exactly.

The young stars have the voices down perfectly and do the best they can to bring the characters to life, but that only emphasizes how sketchy and shallow the cartoon characterization really is. Like the Smurfs, the Scooby-Doo characters each have only one basic attribute: Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) is self-centered, Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) wants to be more than the girl who has to be rescued all the time, Velma (Linda Cardellini) is the brainy girl, and Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) is the always-hungry slacker. Prinze, who will someday find a movie that will show off his considerable talent, has his best moments when Fred becomes something like a hip-hop zombie. Lillard has his best moments anytime he is not challenging Scooby to a flatulence and burping contest.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of intense and scary special effects. The characters are in frequent peril, though no one gets hurt. There are a couple of mild swear words and some mild drug humor (as “Pass the Dutchie” plays on the soundtrack, what appears to be marijuana smoke turns out to be something else) and some vulgar jokes and graphic bathroom humor. The girls wear very skimpy clothes.

Families who see this movie should talk about why the friends broke up and why they got back together. They might also want to talk about what has made Scooby and his pals so enduringly popular over the years.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the original Scooby cartoons like Scooby Classics (including the very first episode) and Scooby-Doo’s Spookiest Tales. If they want something a little spookier, they should try The Nightmare Before Christmas.

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