Movie Mom

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Fading Gigolo
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Release Date:
April 19, 2014


Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
Release Date:
November 22, 2013

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014


The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Release Date:
April 19, 2014


Grudge Match
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language
Release Date:
December 25, 2013


posted by Nell Minow

Transcendence2014PosterThink of it as “Her 2: The Revenge of Him.” Or Samantha infected by Heartbleed.

Just as in last holiday season’s Her, “Transcendence” is the story of an artificial intelligence contained in a computer program that becomes or is seen as human consciousness.  Instead of the warm, affectionate voice and bubbly laughter of Scarlett Johansson, we get the portentous monotone of Johnny Depp, as a scientist murdered by anti-technology activists, whose mind and memories and personality are uploaded to a mainframe before he dies.  Apparently he has time to read the Oxford English Dictionary aloud, too, so his voice can be preserved.

Cinematographer Willy Pfister, best known for working with Christopher Nolan, turns to directing for a story set in the world of the highest of high tech but grounded in hubristic themes that go back to Icarus and up through “Frankenstein,” and “The Unknown Known.”  Even with Nolan as producer, however, he is weak on narrative, pacing, tone, and working with his talented cast.  Morgan Freeman, Clifton Collins, Jr., Kate Mara, Paul Bettany, and Rebecca Hall have never appeared so toned-down and disconnected, just plain under-used.   Depp appears mechanical even when he is still human.  And the film has the unmistakable flavor of a recut following disappointing early audience responses.

A promising premise gets bogged down right from the beginning when Max Waters (Bettany) introduces us to a post-apocalyptic world where traffic lights no longer work and discarded keyboards are used to prop open the doors of bodegas that are out of more items than they have to sell.  The grid is down. It has been down for a long time.  And no one knows when it will be back.

We go back five years earlier to meet the brainy, gorgeous, and so-in-love couple Will and Evelyn Caster (Depp and Hall).  Here’s how adorbs they are; in her beloved garden (hmmm, Evelyn — is she Eve?) he is installing a copper canopy, to cut them off from cell phone signals and other technological intrusions).  They are on their way to present their work to donors, where he explains that she is the one who wants to change the world.  He just likes to work on cool stuff.

When he is fatally injured in an anti-technology attack led by Bree (Kate Mara) — we know she is up to no good because of the heavy eye liner) — Evelyn decides she can keep him alive in some sense by uploading his consciousness to the mainframe.  Max helps her, but when it works, he immediately sees that it is a problem, and Evelyn, furious, tells him to leave.  Evelyn is so happy to have Will back in any form that she is happy to follow his directions.  Soon, his intellectual capacity is increasing exponentially and she is following his directions to take over a remote, all-but-deserted town, install a football field-sized solar panel energy generator and a five-stories-below-ground lair a Bond villain would envy.  She walks through endless corridors like Beauty in the castle of the Beast.

“It’s like my mind has been set free,” the computer-Will tells Evelyn.  The combination of the human urge for learning and growth and the unlimited capacity of the computers leads to problems that are only evident when Will is too big to stop.  Somehow, even his infinitely magnified intelligence and endless capacity to snoop do not make him capable of understanding women.  “Your oxytocin and serotonin levels are off,” he tells her tenderly, if a bit robotically), “I’m trying to empathize.”  This becomes extra-creepy (as in “Her”) when he tries to come up with a way for them to be together physically,

Will figures out a sort of 3D printer of any kind of cell, including human tissue.  He is able to cure any illness, heal any wound.  Without asking or even telling the patients, he tweaks them all as well, inserting himself into their brains.  Those anti-technology activist/terrorists are looking pretty smart now, but perhaps not as smart as the government, who allies with them only so they will have someone to blame.

We know where this is going because we saw the beginning of the movie, just two hours earlier.  Just to remind us, we get to see the exact same images all over again, but instead it reminds us we have not seen very much in between.

Parents should know that this film includes bloody violence with guns and heavy artillery and some disturbing and graphic images, some strong language, and some sexual material.

Family discussion: Was the computer consciousness Will? Did it stop being Will? What is the significance of Will’s name?

If you like this, try: “Her” and “12 Monkeys” (rated R)


posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:G
Movie Release Date:April 19, 2014

Copyright Disney Nature 2014

This year’s Disney Nature release for Earth Day is “Bears,” the story of an Alaskan bear named Sky and her twin cubs, Scout and Amber, their trek from the den where they’ve hibernated all winter to a place where they can find enough food to sustain themselves through the summer and the next year’s hibernation.  John C. Reilly is the genial narrator in a highly relatable story that has adventure, humor, peril, discovery, and some very powerful maternal love.  There’s a reason that we call our toughest human mothers mama bears.

As in the previous entries in this series, the footage is stunning, both the breathtaking grand vistas of snow and mountains in the five million acre national parkland on the Alaskan peninsula to the tiny faces of the brand-new cubs.  And it is filled with “how did they get that” moments, with no indication until the final credit sequence of any human presence.  The water sequences are especially thrilling.

The narration is less intrusively anthropomorphic than some of the previous entries in this series.  While there are many dangers and some animal battles and predators, it is also less sad and scary than African Cats. Parents of younger children should know that it appears at one moment that one of the cubs has been killed, but it turns out that he is fine.

Sky and her tiny cubs wake up in the den she prepared for giving birth and dozing through the winter.  She is depleted and the tiny cubs are not quite ready for the week-long trek through the snow to find a place where the salmon are running, and Sky can have access to the 90 pounds of protein a day she will need to survive the next hibernation.  The trio face many threats.  They reach a pack of other bears (the cubs’ are very excited to find others of their species), but Magnus, the over-1000 pound alpha male, is capable of eating the cubs if no other food is available.  An outcast from the pack is also after them.  The hunt for salmon takes them to the shore, where there are clams to eat, but it is also dangerous when the tide comes in.

The devotion and persistence of these animals is a powerful reminder that family connections link all species.  With this peek into their world, we are more aware of our own.

Parents should know that this movie includes some peril and animal fighting.  It appears at one point that one of the main characters has been killed but he turns out to be fine.

Family discussion:  Why was Chinook an outcast?  How does Sky teach the cubs what they need to know?  Who is your role model and why is it important to have one?  How would the story be different if it was from the point of view of one of the other animals or the salmon?

If you like this, try: “Chimpanzee” and “African Cats”

Interview: Martha Williamson of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”

posted by Nell Minow

signed sealed deliveredTalking to Martha Williamson is pure positive energy and a real treat. The creator of “Touched by an Angel” has a new series on the Hallmark channel. It’s called “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and it is about a USPS dead letter office where a quirky but very dedicated group of people track down the recipients and change lives by delivering letters. I’ve seen the first two episodes, starring Eric Mabius (“Ugly Betty”) and Kristin Booth, with a special appearance by the effervescent Valerie Harper.  It premieres on April 20 at 8/7 central.  Carol Burnett will guest star on the series finale.

The first two episodes are great!

Thank you, thank you. They’re both different; I want everybody to realize that there’s a broad world out there of storytelling that we can do.  We can get you laughing and crying and we can talk about the serious things with a light touch and the sunny things with a deep touch and we’ll be covering a lot of ground.

Why in the world of texting and IMing and instagram create a television program about old fashioned, analog letter writing?

It is a lost art.  Letter writing should not take the place of texting and tweeting and emailing but neither should those things take away the power of the written letter and the written word. I can hold a letter in my hand that my father wrote to me forty years ago and I can still feel what it was like to receive it, I can still hear his voice, I can still look at the little tiny holes in the onionskin paper that he always used for stationary. There’s something so real and so tangible about it. As we stop writing things down on paper we are losing a lot of history. I was just watching last night on TV which is I just stopped for one moment to get my head out of this script and I watched the news and they were talking about global warming and the problems of how long we are going to have electricity.

What happen someday when you can’t boot up and download or upload or recall all those emails that somebody zapped off to you in two seconds? But I can always go to that box of letters from my friends and my family and hold them in my hand. I’m certainly not advocating that we cut down more trees. I’m a big believer in recycling but when you stop to think about what you’re saying with a pen in your hand, you chose your words more carefully. You don’t write things and hit send before you think about it and wish you could retrieve it. You can dash off a letter that you could then put into a drawer and think better about it and not accidentally send it off. There is something about our amazing language and how we are losing our ability to use it effectively that makes me very sad.

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Tell me a little about this wonderful assortment of characters you’ve brought together.

Oliver, played by Eric Mabius, is a wonderful fellow from the twentieth century and how he manages to be so young and so old at the same time is really an example of the best of both centuries. This is a guy who was probably raised by old fashioned folks like mine. My dad was born in 1901. He’s a gentleman, he believes in old fashioned values but does not make values a dirty word.

He doesn’t combine values with judgment, he goes to church and sings in the choir but tries to live out his faith more than impose it and he truly tries to do the right thing. And I think more than anything he is kind and that is what draws Shane (Kristin Booth) to him.

Shane is very much a creature of the 21st century and of the new technologies and those are easy things to hide behind. And Oliver is so strong in his gentle mentality and Shane doesn’t quite know what to do with that.  You imagine Shane being one of those women who would go to a happy hour with the girls after work. But she would never see Oliver there; this is a guy that she’s never run across before. This is a guy who probably values her more than she even values herself sometimes as a friend and as a person and not as an object. He’s married and has had his heart broken and I think that that’s an important message that our faith does not inoculate us from pain but it does help us get through it and I love that. I just made that up!

And then you’ve got a character with a perfect memory?

Oh yes, Rita Haywith, played by Chrystal Lowe. I love her.  Every one of these characters is some part of me that you’ll find everywhere. Rita I think is the most childlike part of me, the part that still wants to believe the absolute best in everyone she meets and is excited about every day. There’s a line in the Bible that says “His mercies are new every morning,” and I just imagine that Rita is the living example of that. That she just wakes up every day so excited that she got another one. And that’s very fun and easy for me to write.  I don’t really have a photographic memory although I used to have one that was pretty good, until I had children.

You’ll see later on, she makes a choice to not compete in the traditional way. She can only compete against herself; otherwise it doesn’t matter.  It just hit me but I think that’s kind of what I’ve always sort of been.

And Norman (Geoff Gustafson) is somebody who has been deeply hurt, I think. I think he’s the part of all of us who is looking for kindness by being kind, who has an amazing ability for survival, not ability but a facility for survival. And he knows so many things.  He loves knowing a whole bunch of stuff and doesn’t always put it in the right order, he always has a cousin who’s connected to something or someone, he can always find a solution but it’s not always going to be the one you’ll expect and it’s going to be fun to watch him come out of his shell.  One of the great dividends of this show will be to explore the friendship of men and how they have the opportunity to elevate each other rather than to bring each other down.

I was surprised and very tickled to see that there are musical numbers in the show.

Oh, absolutely! I just wrote a musical member from the special delivery. It’s the funniest thing it goes like “You’re the special delivery, yes you’re our post office queen….”

I can’t wait to see it!

Trailer #2: The Box Trolls

posted by Nell Minow

Did I mention how excited I am about this?  Coming in September, from the people who did “Coraline” and “ParaNorman.”

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Previous Posts

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posted 3:43:11pm Apr. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Tribute: Hurricane Carter
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter died at home at age 76.  A prize fighter who was wrongly convicted of murder and released after serving 19 years in prison, he devoted the rest of his life to helping others. Denzel Washington portrayed Carter in the movie The Hurricane. [youtube]

posted 11:28:53am Apr. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Celebrate Easter!

posted 7:00:48am Apr. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Trailer: Chef
Jon Favreau follows his big-budget special effects movies ("Iron Man," "Cowboys and Aliens") with a return to his small, indie roots ("Swingers") as director/writer/star of the scrumptious-looking "Chef."  (WARNING: Some strong language) [youtube][/yout

posted 8:00:51am Apr. 19, 2014 | read full post »

Have a Blessed Easter: Movies for the Family
My gallery of Easter movies includes "Ben Hur," several different movie versions of the life of Jesus, a couple of choices just for kids, and a classic musical named for a classic song, Irving Berlin's "Easter Parade." There's something for every family celebrating this weekend. [youtube]https://

posted 8:00:44am Apr. 19, 2014 | read full post »

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