Because I Said So

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MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, some mature thematic material and partial nudity.
Profanity: Very crude language for a PG-13
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, including drinking to deal with stress and nervousness
Violence/ Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: Insensitive racial stereotyping
Date Released to Theaters: 2007
Date Released to DVD: 2007
Amazon.com ASIN: B000OCZA0E

I blame “Sex and the City.”


Now everyone thinks that what it takes — or all it takes — for a story about a bunch of women characters to work is non-stop talk about sex and shoes and a complete absence of boundaries. But this film is missing three key elements of “Sex and the City.” First: wit. Second: interesting, distinctive, believable characters and situations. Third: Conversations that are pleasantly racy and edgy between friends are just plain ewwwwwwwwwww when they’re between mothers and daughters.

This movie manages to be offensive and yet dull and predictable, as phony as a Kate Spade sidewalk knock-off bag and as unoriginal as the ready-for VH1 soundtrack. Does it give you an idea if I mention that there are not one, not two, but three intended-to-be-hilarious dropped cakes? And not one of them is actually funny?

With an apparent complete lack of direction and a fingernails-on-blackboard screenplay, all the talented cast can do is race around in a frenzied ditz-fest.


Diane Keaton plays Daphne the supposed-to-be-adorably ditzy, funkily chic, and hopelessly overinvolved mother of three daughters. The older two aren’t important enough for us to care what their names are, but they are played by the should-fire-their-agents-for-this “Gilmore Girls'” Lauren Graham and Piper Perabo. The youngest is Milly (Mandy Moore), also supposed-to-be-adorably-ditzy, who runs a catering service. Her mother says things to her like “Go talk to that guy, but don’t do that thing you do.”


So, what’s an interfering mother to do? The internet is just sitting there, filled with prospective sons-in-law. So, after a brief intended-to-be-humorous interlude in which Daphne gets stuck on a porn site (I hope Gateway didn’t pay for product placement), she posts a “looking for someone for my daughter” ad and soon enough has 17 would-be-suitors lined up for interviews.


And one musician named Johnny (Gabriel Macht) performing in the bar who rescues her from a volunteer therapist who shows up for an impromptu intervention. Daphne thinks she’s found Mr. Right in Jason (Tom Everett Scott), a successful architect. But the musician goes after Milly, too. Soon she’s dating them both. Two problems here: one, there is no reason to believe that Jason would have any interest in Milly, and two, Milly’s failure to be honest with either of them makes her much less sympathetic. Oh, and there’s also a child who enters the picture who makes a lot of only-in-the-movies, intended-to-be-cute-and-funny-but-completely-synthetic comments. But one of these suitors has a handsome dad (Stephen Collins) who makes Daphne think that maybe it’s her own love life she should be fixing. What she should have been fixing is this tedious, unfunny, embarrassing movie, but I’m afraid it’s as beyond repair as those three smashed cakes.


Parents should know that this movie has some crude language and extremely explicit sexual references and situations for a PG-13 movie, including mother-daughters discussions of the pros and cons of thong underwear and circumcised penises, about oral sex and numbers of orgasms. There are some scanty undies, scenes of internet porn (inspiring a dog to hump the furniture), and a brief “humorous” same-sex kiss. Characters do some social drinking and some drinking to deal with stress, loneliness, and nervousness. There is some insensitive racial and ethnic stereotyping and humor involving a possibly suicidal man in counseling that is intended to be humorous but comes across as offensive.


Families who see this movie should talk about how parents know when to step back from their involvement in their children’s lives. And they should talk about how people who care about each other handle the “off days.”


Families who enjoy this movie may enjoy some of the other (and much better) movies about mothers trying to run their daughters’ love lives, including Next Stop Wonderland and For Love or Money. The two wonderful Gary Cooper movies Daphne likes are Love in the Afternoon with Audrey Hepburn and A Farewell to Arms.

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Comedy Romance

The Situation

B+

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Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence, language and a scene of sexuality.
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Wartime violence, many characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2007
Date Released to DVD: 2007
Amazon.com ASIN: B003XTO330

Parents should know that this film contains disturbing wartime violence involving military and insurgent groups. Characters are injured and killed. There are some non-explicit sexual situations. Characters drink, smoke, and use some strong language. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of strong, loyal friendships between people of different races and cultures, even in the midst of war.


Families who see this movie should learn more about the war in Iraq. They may want to review the report of the Iraq study group and updates from the White House.

Families who appreciate this movie will also enjoy the documentaries Gunner Palace, Control Room, and The War Tapes and feature films Three Kings and Jarhead.

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Drama Movies

Amazing Grace

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MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic material involving slavery, and some mild language.
Profanity: Brief strong language, ugly racial epithets
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Tense emotional scenes, severe symptoms of illness, description of torture and abuse, sad deaths
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2007
Date Released to DVD: 2007
Amazon.com ASIN: B000VNMMQG

Parents should know that this film includes frank descriptions of some of the most profound atrocities of the slave trade, including torture and rape. The painful symptoms of Wilberforce’s long-term illness are also included. The movie’s portrayal of extraordinary leadership, courage, and persistance is in the context of positions taken by other characters that by today’s standards are obviously inhumane and racist.


Families who see this film should talk about why Wilberforce was among the first to see that slavery must be abolished. What was different about the situation in Britain that permitted this to be accomplished years before slavery was abolished in America, and without a war? How are the arguments and tactics adopted by the opposition similar to those used in other great debates, from civil rights to women’s suffrage?

Families who appreciate this movie will want to learn more about William Wilberforce and William Pitt, the youngest prime minister in British history. Families will also appreciate Amistad and the groundbreaking television miniseries Roots. The essay “When Mr. Beecher Sold Slaves in Plymouth Pulpit” describes the actions of abolitionist minister Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe) took the dramatic step of staging a slave auction to demonstrate its barbarity. Families will enjoy Bill Moyers’ superb PBS special about the history of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

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Not specified

Blood and Chocolate

C-

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Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, some sexuality and substance abuse.
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, drug dealer
Violence/ Scariness: Intense and graphic peril and violence, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Strong female character
Date Released to Theaters: 2007
Date Released to DVD: 2007
Amazon.com ASIN: B000OCY7TY

There was enthusiastic applause in the theater when the name of author Annette Curtis Klause appeared in the opening credits. The book, about a teenage girl in Maryland whose werewolf issues serve as a metaphor for the sometimes-disturbing forces in adolescence, has a devoted following. But by the time the movie ended, there were only a few half-hearted claps from that same part of the theater. And the book’s fans were not the only ones who were disappointed.


The movie version’s lead is a little older (she seems to be out of school, with a job in a chocolate shop) and the location has been moved to Romania, for no particular reason.

Vivian (“ER”‘s Agnes Bruckner is a lone wolf, so to speak, regarded with some suspicion by the rest of the pack, and some jealousy, too. There’s some yadda yadda about a prophecy and her being chosen and “these are the ways of our people,” but it boils down to the fact that the leader of the pack, so to speak (Olivier Martinez, oily as always) has picked her to be his new she-wolf. Apparently, they have solved the whole seven-year-itch thing by giving the Big Bad Wolf the chance to select a new mate every seven years. But Vivian is different. The wolf pack loves to find a human to chase and kill, but she just loves to run because it makes her feel free.

Vivian meets Aiden, a human (Hugh Dancy), a graphic novelist with his own backstory, and soon he has her feeling hungry like a wolf, but only metaphorically. A couple of montages later (trying on clothes for the big date, running through fountains, looking up at the sky, all to some faux-indie music),


But wolves have strong feelings about their territory. They don’t like Vivian’s relationship with Aiden. When a confrontation with Vivian’s cousin ends in his being killed (by Aiden’s silver pendant), the young couple has to find a way to trust each other and create their own destiny.


There are a few nice touches — a falling red ribbon, an abandoned historic church, Vivian’s exuberant race through the streets. But the dialogue is weighted with dull claptrap about prophecies and “these are the ways of our people” and howlers like, “If you cared a Goddamn thing about me, you’d have left me before we even met,” the transformation scenes have no special vibrance, and Vivian’s existential angst just seems petulant. This wolf story is toothless.

Parents should know that this movie has intense and explicit peril and violence for a PG-13, including close-up shots of cuts and wounds, and fights with guns, knives, and very sharp teeth. Many characters are injured and killed. Characters use some strong language and drink and one deals drugs. There are some sexual references and there is brief non-sexual nudity.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Vivian felt responsible for her parents’ death. How did Aidan’s family background help him to understand her situation? What will happen to them? Are the wolf people cursed or blessed? Why?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy An American Werewolf in London, The Lost Boys, Sleepwalkers, and Wolf.

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Drama Fantasy Movies Romance

Smokin’ Aces

C

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Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use.
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, drug use
Violence/ Scariness: Extreme, graphic, and intense peril and violence, many characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: 2007
Date Released to DVD: 2007
Amazon.com ASIN: B002VEJKQI

This is a flashy, nasty, hyper-violent story about a lot of people who are very, very interested in a snitch, magician and five time entertainer-of-the-year Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven).

He’s about to turn state’s evidence against his long-time cronies in the mob. The FBI is particularly interested in mob boss Primo Sparazza (Joseph Ruskin), and Buddy is the only evidence they have.

So, that means a lot of people are very, very interested in Buddy, now holed up in a penthouse suite in Lake Tahoe after jumping bail, waiting to hear from his lawyer about an immunity deal. Interested parties include the FBI, the bail bondsman, who hires three former cops to get Buddy back, Buddy’s own entourage, who suspect he may be giving them up to protect himself, those mobsters mentioned earlier, and several different paid assassins, some in teams and some alone, who are competing for the very generous price the bad guys are offering.


The assorted hitmen (and women) include the trigger-happy punkish Tremor brothers, a master of disguise, a mysterious guy known only as “the Swede,” an emotionless assassin who once chewed off his own fingertips so he could not be identified by fingerprints, and a ambitious black lesbian couple very happy about the chance to show what they can do with their first big-time opportunity.


The interactions between each and all of these characters create the opportunity for some stylish set-pieces, dynamically shot (in both senses of the word) and energetically acted by big stars having fun in small roles. Ben Affleck (cop turned bounty hunter), Chris Pine (most coherent of the growling Tremors, especially when he’s speaking lines of forgiveness from someone he just killed), Jason Bateman (as a lawyer so scuzzy you’ll want to take a bath in antibiotics after watching him), rap star Common (Buddy’s straight-talking sidekick), Mathew Fox (unrecognizable as head of hotel security), and especially multi-Grammy-award winner Alicia Keyes and Hustle and Flow star Taraji P. Henson (the all-woman team) all have fun with their brief showy moments, shooting off colorful dialogue and very big guns.


But the twists of plot and piles of bodies go way over the top. People have just got to stop trying to be Tarantino. I know he makes it look easy, but being audacious and understated at the same time in the middle of balletic bloodbaths is not enough.


Parents should know that this is an exceptionally violent film, with extreme, intense, and especially graphic violence and injuries and many, many injuries and deaths. Characters use extremely strong language, drink, smoke, and use drugs. Most of the characters are criminals, including mobsters and hired killers. There are extremely explicit sexual references and non-explicit situations with some nudity and references to prostitutes, orgies, and homosexuality. The characters are a veritable Benneton ad of diversity, so to the extent that it is a positive sign that the killers include women, minorities, and gay characters, it is worth mentioning.


Families who see this film should talk about Messner’s final decision. Was he right? What were some of his alternatives? Who is this movie designed for? How can you tell?


Audiences who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Layer Cake, Pulp Fiction, and Lucky Number Slevin (all very violent and explicit).

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Action/Adventure Crime Drama Movies Thriller
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