Category: Family / Kids


Eighth Grade

August 12th, 2018 — 7:24pm

***

Eighth Grade-rm

You can make an argument that the eighth grade may be the most difficult transitional period for a young girl. This film certainly makes this case. Certainly, the storyline shows that the main character is struggling with her own identity, friendships with others and her relationships with her single parent dad. (Although the other girls in her class seemed happier?) We hardly know anything about the details of her family. She has no siblings and only her dad is in the picture. It is also no surprise that the girl and most of her contemporaries are on their cell phone all the time. Social media also plays an important role as this young eighth grader is making a series of online videos which tells everyone how to “find and express themselves” which of course was her own main struggle.

It is a special accomplishment when a director can lead a young eighth grader or thereabouts to star in a major film. Director/writer, Bo Burnham and his actress, Elsie Fisher deserves credit and recognition for their accomplishment. We suspect that many young people will be able to identify with the young eighth grader and this film will be a big hit. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids

Wonder

December 6th, 2017 — 7:18am

*****

Wonder-rm

 

It might not be too difficult to remember your feelings or your children’s anxiety at the time of the first day of school. In this case it is magnified exponentially as we see the situation through the eyes of a young boy who has facial deformities since birth. In addition he has been home schooled by his mother (Julia Roberts) until he is now starting fifth grade. This movie is based on a bestselling novel by R.J. Palacio, which has been extremely popular with both parents and children.( See Book review – Age 10 in 2014) In fact after Ms. Roberts read this story to her children and heard that the movie was being made, she wanted to play the mother.

The storyline follows the experience of this young boy Augie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), as he encounters his new classmates. We also appreciate the complicated reactions of other kids both boys and girls in this New York City Prep School. In addition, we gain insight into his oldest sister (Isabella Vidovic), who has been growing up with a brother she loves, but yet whose circumstances have indelibly shaped her relationship with her parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson). We see how not only does Augie and his family have to deal with the challenges of the boy’s life circumstances but so do his teachers, the school principal (Mandy Potankin), classmates and some of their parents.

Accolades have to be given to Jacob Tremblay, the star of this movie who was ten years old when the film was made. In his young career he has been in several well-received movies including The Room for which he received critical acclaim. Director Stephen Chbowsky also deserves recognition not only because that should be the case whenever a young child actor stands out but also because he co-wrote the screenplay and directed a very complicated emotional story.

We both felt  that we were not only experiencing a very well done movie that was examining children and adults’ complex understanding in responses to one of the sad and unusual variations of the human condition but we also were deeply and visceral touched and brought to tears by how the story was played out on the screen. (2017)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids

Captain Fantastic

July 1st, 2016 — 6:18am

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 6.10.29 PM****

Captain Fantastic-sp

Initially we thought that despite the title this is not a movie about a superhero, but perhaps on second thought it is, but not in the usual sense. It is the story of a father who is raising his six kids in the wilderness (but not quite the bush country as we saw in the setting of the previous New Zealand film that we reviewed). Ben (Viggo Mortensen) is homeschooling his children in the wilderness in the United States. He also just found out that his wife and his partner in this endeavor has tragically died. Her parents, Jack (Frank Langella) and Abigail (Ann Dowd) haven’t quite forgiven them for keeping the grandchildren in the woods and don’t want Ben to come to the funeral. Ben and the kids come anyway on a determined mission.

The film examines some very complicated issues. We are shown the depth and benefit of homeschooling with living very close to family and nature. We are also stimulated to think about the potential shortcomings of children being raised away from their peers.

This movie is the brainchild of writer/director Matt Ross and in a post screening discussion we learned how he shared his views about the subject matter with Mr. Mortensen who took on this acting role and became in sync with his ideas. He also chose and trained a very talented group of children to take on their roles. This included climbing mountains, wielding knives and making music together. These children are George Mackay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Besso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks and Charlie Shotwell. This film will stretch your imagination and the take away emotion is “feeling good”. The film is a well done accomplishment. (2016)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Family / Kids

Inside Out

June 23rd, 2015 — 9:46pm

***Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 2.54.18 PM

Inside Out

We were  tag alongs as our children took our nine and six-year-old grandchildren to see the 3D Pixar animated film released by Walt Disney Studios titled Inside Out. Things appeared to get off a good start as the coming attractions were shown of several different animated features most in 3D. They each had interesting appealing characters, music and special effects. They showed us all the highlights and the audience was obviously delighted.

Things then settled in for the feature film. One of us used to make up a story that he told our kids when they were very young how inside of us there were numerous teeny people who looked exactly like each of us and they would run all our bodily systems. Some run our digestive system, others run our hearing and seeing senses, or heart system. There was a central control headquarters that controlled our locomotion and there was a brain central where our thinking was run. We had lots of fun with these stories. Well, more or less this is the premise of this movie. The main character is a little girl who moves with her family from Minnesota, where they had a large house and played hockey in the winter, to San Francisco where she has to go to a new school and make new friends. We see the inside workings of this little girl’s mind through various “people” who control her emotions. In this case they don’t look exactly like her but they are representations of her in a joyful state, depression, anger, fear, disgust, etc. Each of these characters is very interesting, likeable, and a really great cartoon. The inner workings of her brain are depicted including long-term memories whether they be happy or sad.  The animated graphics filled the screen as we saw memories in the form of thousands of balls rolling down various chutes. There is a dream department that creates dreams which is all very creative.

While the on-screen images and voices might hold the attention of the children some of the time, we doubt that anyone under 12 would follow the actual plot and all its nuances. It is also hard for us to believe how anyone over 20 would care about 102 minutes of this story which actually seemed much longer to us. However, in this case it seems that we are clearly in the minority here as this movie is receiving outstanding reviews and appears to be one of the top rated Pixar films that has come out in a long time. (2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Family / Kids

McFarland, U.S.A.

February 19th, 2015 — 7:05pm

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.31.19 AM*****

McFarland, U.S.A. – sp –

What could be more all American than a sports film staring Kevin Costner? (think Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Tip Cup, For the Love of the Game) Add to this, a New Zealand director who has established credentials in understanding cultures, not her own, by immersing herself within these places. That is Niki Caro who previously made the award winning film “Whale Rider” about an obscure Maori tribe. On top of that , Disney Studios is backing the film. McFarland, U.S.A. is certainly a United States story, but it is also an authentic depiction of first generation Mexican immigrants living in the Central California town of McFarland. The community lives by picking fruit and vegetables that will be on American tables. The kids attend school but are also employed in the fields doing the back-breaking “picking” work to add to the support of their families. Along comes a new teacher, Jim White, (Kevin Costner) who had had problems in his previous jobs and comes to McFarland as the only place which was so desperate for a teacher that he is hired. He arrives in this small, dusty, impoverished town with his wife and two daughters, none of whom is happy to be coming to this place so alien to them. He is to be the assistant football coach and teach life sciences courses. While his job as football coach soon ends, he realizes that while the kids have little going for them, some of them are incredibly fast, strong runners. The story takes off from there. On one hand you might think that you can guess the drift of the film, but this is much more than a “Chariots of Fire” lookalike. It is a moving story based on the lives of real people who you will hear about in the closing scenes and rolling credits. It will touch you, excite you and make you laugh. It will send a chill up your spine, bring a tear to your eye and you will walk out of the theater knowing you have experienced an outstanding film. (2015)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids, Sport

Life of Pi

November 10th, 2012 — 4:15pm

****

 Life of Pi-sp

If you have by some chance read the book, we did not, you probably will be very curious how the story would be told in the film . If you are a big Ang Lee fan(Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film), Hulk (2003), and Brokeback Mountain (2005), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director,  you most likely will want to see his latest work. If you love 3D movies where everything seems so real and comes right at the audience, this would be on your list to see. Finally if you  are a real big animal lover, you will be drawn to this movie. Since we really don’t fit in any of these categories we were quite neutral when  we found ourselves at the sneak preview showing of this movie. The Life of Pi  was like nothing we have ever seen. The story is quite unique which revolves around one young man from India who as you can see from the movie poster is  shipwrecked in the middle of an ocean with a ferocious tiger. The 3D effects are as realistic as we have ever seen . The CGI ( Computer Generated Imagery) is clearly state of the art or perhaps years ahead itself. In a Q & A after we saw the movie, the  audience actually questioned the  guest at our screening, Elizabeth Gabler,  Fox 2000 President, whether trained animals were being used for most of the complex dramatic scenes because every hair on their bodies was totally realistic as was the fast moving action. The beautiful and powerful  depiction of nature was beyond description and has to be seen to be appreciated. There were essentially 5 people in the film although it revolved around one person Pi Patel . However, there were 14,000 people hired to work on the movie who worked an estimated 600,000 hours in a film that had a budget of around 100 million dollars. This alone should pique your curiosity to see this movie. Pi Patel was played by Suraj Sharma a young man who had no intention of being an actor but showed up with his brother at one of numerous castings held all over the world and was chosen. He had to endure wind, water and much movie trickery to help Director Ang Lee achieve his effects. If there was one shortcoming of the film, it was that we did not respond strongly to  to the intended emotional undercurrent and the twists at the end of the movie as did some of our fellow movie goers. That did not make us sorry in any way that we had spent 127 minutes with this unusual film.(2012)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids

The Magic of Belle isle

July 6th, 2012 — 6:50am

****

The Magic of Belle Isle –sp  Rob Reiner has brought a bit of magic to this story by Guy Thomas. There is this older curmudgeon alcoholic  (Morgan Freeman) who used to be a western novelist but doesn’t write anymore since his wife died 6 years ago. His nephew drops him off at a vacation cabin for the summer on this lovely island.  Next door is this woman (Virginia Madsen) and her three kids. You probably can guess most of the remaining outline of the plot of the story and you wouldn’t be too far off. Yes, at times it seems contrived but you won’t mind at all, as you get a feel for the characters and really like each one of them. What comes across is a real sense of how people can care for each other. Age, race, disability don’t matter. The ability of a person to see what isn’t there and imagine what could be is an important part of the story. The dialogue is wonderful from all the characters but especially the expression and wisdom coming from the 9 1/2 year old Finnegan (Emma Fuhrmann) are perfect. The story will touch you and it is definitely worth experiencing for any adult. We also can’t imagine a better film to bring along a pre-adolescent girl. (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids, Romance

Lorax

March 6th, 2012 — 8:10am

**

Lorax: This is a well publicized  blockbuster movie of  a Dr. Seuss book which was just released on the author’s birthday. It is a high tech computer animated film directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda  starring the  voices of Zac Efron, Taylor Swift , Danny DeVito and Betty White.  When we arrived at our local multiplex with two grandchildren ages 8 & 10 to see this movie, ½ hour before show time  we found that the 5pm show was soldout so we got tickets to the 7:40pm ( this was the regular HD –not the Imax or the 3D. )When we came back 40 minutes before show time we still had to wait on long line that snaked around the mall and had to sit up close and a little to the side. Both kids had read the book recently and knew the story, which was ancient history to us. Us  grown ups found the movie, fair, not at all compelling as we recalled feeling about the Disney classics. The 10 year old agreed but said she didn’t expect more. The eight year old liked it a lot but agreed that  the music wasn’t particularly appealing (It seemed splashy maybe even grungy to us). There were a lot of younger kids in the theatre who clearly didn’t have the slightest idea what was going on story wise but liked it when someone crashed down or perhaps when there was a nice furry animal but it wasn’t really a movie for those younger kids. The lesson of the movie is that one should not  destroy trees. The young hero( who looks like a young kid-he is suppose to be 12,  but rides a motorbike) of the movie leads us to this conclusion although his motivation is because he wants to please his girl friend so she will kiss him and marry him . It is not because he starts off believing trees are good for this earth and in fact it is only his grandmother who even remembers trees. What Dr. Seuss ever lacked in a plot, he always made up with his  wonderful language and poetry. This movie didn’t use his language although it certainly tried to capture the spirit. It probably is going to be a big hit although we would suggest that you and the kids stick to the book. (2012)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Family / Kids

Hugo

February 1st, 2012 — 4:32pm

****

Hugo –rm   _ The movie open with a beautiful scene of Paris with snow flakes falling. The 3D effect is fantastic. It actually almost feels as if the snow is falling on the audience. This is followed by a breathtaking run through the railroad station taking full advantage of the three dimensional technique that is being used. However, by the end of the film we concluded that we could have done without the 3D effect and the movie would have been just as good and the glasses were a tad uncomfortable anyway. This film has all the ingredients of a successful movie. First of all it has Martin Scorsese fully behind it as director and a producer. It is a movie about movies which almost always is an attraction to movie goers (and critics and award givers). It has appealing child actors (Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz) and a delightful grandfather figure played by Ben Kinglsey. It also has Sacha Baron Cohen as the railway policeman who is the scary threat on one hand but a humorous injured soul on the other. Oh yes, there is also a dog – a big tough mean  dog but any dog always seems to push up the positive rating  meter especially for young people. There are moving moments when a young boy’s father dies and he is searching for a bond with his lost Dad. He meets a grandfather figure who can’t think about his own lost glorious past because it is too painful to contemplate.  There is clash, suspense, action, resolution and a grand finale. While this certainly is a children’s movie probably for nine and ten year olds and older, it is also made for us adults who are not only young at heart but always want to learn a little history.  The book by Brian Selznick and the screen play by John Logan is telling us the story of Georges Meilies who was a French illusionist and filmmaker who became very famous for many special techniques which he developed during the early days of  cinema. He suffered a decline and tragic losses and was alienated from his earlier great successes. He ultimately became recognized and revered once again in his senior years. The real story of how this came about was not the fairy tale story, which is depicted in this movie, which is quite delightful and resonates with all our fantasies and sentimentality. The bonus treat here is that we  also see lots or real footage of classic French movie clips, many by the real Georges Meilies. So when we toss our 3D glasses in the bin on the way out – the memory and the good feeling of the movie will stay with us. (2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids

We Bought a Zoo

January 6th, 2012 — 6:48am

***

We Bought A Zoo– rm  You get exactly what you expect with this movie. We saw it with our grandchildren and we all thought it was a good enjoyable movie. Interestingly enough, it is based on a true story. After his wife dies Benjamin Mee  (Matt Damon) moves his   family which consists of two kids (Colin Ford  and Maggie Elizabeth Jones) to the California countryside (the real life location was in London, England) where he buys a house connected to a dilapidated zoo. There is a crew of variegated zoo keepers trying to fix it up which includes their wise and appealing leader  Kelly  (Scarlett Johansson). There is Mee’s  caring older brother  (Thomas Haden Church) who thinks Mee is clearly doing the wrong thing by spending all is money trying to save this zoo. Then there are the animals who are …well exactly as you would expect them to be. There are a couple of other well done roles including Elle Fanning as the budding teenager who takes a fancy to the budding Mee child and  John Michael Higgins as the mean zoo inspector who could prevent the zoo from reopening.  Cameron Crowe ( of  Jerry McGuire fame) had the directing honors and the movie has all the ingredients for a successful Christmas movie which will live on for children and grown up children of all ages through Netflix. (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Family / Kids

Back to top