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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

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

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

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

Interview: Todd and Jedd Wider about the Bullying Documentary “Mentor”

posted by Nell Minow

Producers Todd and Jedd Wider generously took time to answer my questions about their documentary, “Mentor,” the story of two teenagers who committed suicide following relentless bullying. The film, which received Honorable Mention for Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival this past weekend, will be shown this week at the Austin Film Festival:
Sunday, October 26 at 12:00pm @ Rollins Theatre
Thursday, October 30 at 7:00pm @ IMAX Theatre

How did you first hear of the problems in Mentor?

We read about the problems several years ago as we were researching an idea to examine the concept of bystander versus upstander behavior.

Was it difficult to get the cooperation of the families?

No, they were very willing to help and wanted to share their stories.

What is the status of the lawsuit?

The Mohat lawsuit was settled, the Vidovic lawsuit is on appeal.

If you could have interviewed the principal or school counselor, what would you have asked?

All school representatives refused to speak with us. We would have asked one simple question: why?

If you could have interviewed the bullies, what would you have asked?

This film really is about the victims and the devastation that bullying can bring to individual families and the community at large.

What makes kids into bullies?

We feel that at this moment in time, with the rise of internet and social media, bullying is increasingly easier because it is more anonymous and impulse control is reduced to simply deciding to click a button on your computer. The anonymity has made the bullying more vicious because one can seemingly bully with almost no ramification. Look at what happened after Robin Williams tragic death with the amount of hateful tweets that his daughter received. In the past, when we grew up, you had to look someone in the eye if you bullied them. Now, you do not. The internet has essentially created a generation of cowards. As to why kids do it? One root cause has always bothered us which is the choice to pick on the outsider. You rarely see the captain of the football team or the head of the cheerleading squad getting bullied. It happens, but it is more rare. Usually it is a child that is somehow branded an outsider–a person that dresses a bit differently, or perhaps is smarter, or speaks differently, or thinks about things differently. There is a real tragedy here because we are a nation built from diversity. It was the diversity of all of the people that came here and brought with them different ideas and skills that helped build this nation. We should be celebrating diversity, not denigrating it.

Did the school take any steps in suicide prevention education and support?

You should ask the school this. We would argue not nearly enough was done.

What can schools do to be more effective? Are there any communities that have responded more effectively?

We feel that schools and parents need to teach kindness and empathy to children. One excellent program that helps kids learn basic civics and decency is Facing History and Ourselves which is available in many school around the country and internationally. If your school doesn’t offer this program or a similar program, ask your school administrators to bring it to your district.

Clip: Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast

posted by Nell Minow

The latest in Disney’s animated Tinkerbell series adds Ginnifer Goodwin to the cast. Coming in March of 2015, it explores the ancient myth of a mysterious creature whose distant roar sparks the curiosity of Tinker Bell’s friend Fawn, an animal fairy who’s not afraid to break the rules to rescue the NeverBeast before time runs out. The fairies meet Gruff who is a massive creature and the subject of an ancient Pixie Hollow myth. Hidden in a dark lair on the fringes of the fairies’ beloved home, Gruff is discovered by curious and empathetic animal fairy Fawn, who sees something special in his glowing green eyes. His penchant for stacking rocks mystifies Fawn and her friends—but Gruff’s true purpose is the real surprise.

It also features the voices of Mae Whitman (Tinker Bell), Megan Hilty (Rosetta), Lucy Liu (Silvermist), Raven Symone (Iridessa), Anjelica Huston (Queen Clarion) and is directed by Steve Loter (“Kim Possible”) and produced by Makul Wigert (“Secret of the Wings”).

Interview: “Avatar” Villain Stephen Lang on Playing a Good Guy Coach in “23 Blast”

posted by Nell Minow

Stephen Lang is best known for playing the villain in “Avatar.” But in “23 Blast,” based on the real-life story of Travis Freeman, a high school football player who lost his vision but stayed on the team, Lang plays a good guy, the coach who encouraged and supported him. I talked to Lang about acting and what it is like to play a real-life character you know will be watching.Copyright 2014 Touchdown Productions

I’ve seen you play a lot of bad guys and a lot of guys from other eras and it was really nice to see you playing just a regular nice contemporary guy. What was that like for you?

I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought, being nice or not nice, you know when I was still making this film, but when I watched the film I was like, “ Huh, what is it about this that…oh yeah, I am actually sympathetic. Wow.” And I realized, gee it’s kind of a while since I played someone who is not doing things bad things to people, so it is really quite a pleasure to watch.

From the very first scene, when you’re coaching the little kids, we see how decent and honorable your character is.

I love that scene. This is one of my favourite scenes in the movie. You know if you recall in this they were really little kids, you know.  And the bench was kind of high and their feet didn’t even touch the ground; they all were in football uniforms. And we only had this one bench and it really was not a very long bench. And we had like eight or nine kids crammed down to the bench, right and I was kind of at the end of the bench. So if you were the kid furthest away from me you had to lean far out so we could see everybody. And there was a kid who leaned far back, he just tumbled off and fell on his head. Once we made sure he was okay, it was very funny, a kind of slow motion dance.  It was what we would have called precious.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dylan Baker last week, so I got his take on what it was like to be a first time director, but tell me about what it was like to work with him.
I’ve known Dylan and have really a lot of respect for him as an actor – as an actor’s actor.  I was pleased to be asked to be part of his effort and I suspected that he would do a good job. I knew he would do a good job with the actors. And in fact, he did. And you know, he was well supported, I think from the technical side. I think he came into it knowing a certain amount but until you have actually directed, I mean so what. But he was really up to the task in that movie, it looks quite splendid.  And I enjoyed working with him very much. We worked to fine-tune it together. He was very open to what I brought to it, and it was always very clear about stepping in and saying, “How about if we tune this, try this and everything.”  I worked in concert with him. And I know that when I deal with him, I’m dealing with somebody who is intimately familiar with the whole process. So it was an altogether pleasurable experience.

When you take on a role like this, how much is what is on the page and how much is based on meeting the real person?

It really would depend on the project. If you were playing Bear Bryant for example, a coach who is nationally renowned,  it would be really a wise thing to study very, very hard, understanding that the audience already has an expectation of the character. But Coach Farris is a wonderful guy, he is physically quite different from me and I met him during the filming and enjoyed meeting him but I felt there was enough on the page for me to work with and to create my version of who this coach was and hopefully he is satisfied. There are no historical imperatives for me to be concerned about. When I played Stonewall Jackson, you want everything dead on accurate as you can be or if you are going to make an alteration, you want to know you are doing it because it is a choice, maybe because dramatically it may better than the truth. There is a tremendous amount written and said about Jackson so we know. The same cannot be said of Coach Farris. Although down in Portland I think he is quite well known and anyway, a nice guy.

Did you play high school football?

Yes, and I was a center, like Travis in the movie. I had a coach who was a really good man and a really good coach, for football and lacrosse.

You have done a lot of theater. Can you tell me a little bit as an actor about what it is that you can do in a film role that you can’t do on stage?

I would say in film very often it is a question of mastering mechanical skills, whether it be hitting your mark while you are riding a motorcycle or jumping off something. Not that that doesn’t occur on stage but theatre is that experience that you shared that you’re having and it is there and it is gone. Film is just this recorded out of sequence moments.

What’s the best advice you ever heard about acting?

Hit your mark and tell the truth. One actor did say to me years ago something which I have thought of over the years, because you know it is a tough business, right? In the best of careers there are disappointments, things that you think are going to turn out great don’t turn out great – and along with the moments of joy and the actor said to me right at the beginning, forty years ago, he looked at me, he says, “Hey, remember this; get angry but don’t ever turn bitter.” That’s pretty good advice in a way, you know. And keep getting better, keep learning all the time because if you are standing still then you’re petrified in this business. That is why I have to play a role like this. It was cool for me because I can be the authority thing, the bad guy thing, I can be that. It is nice to get an opportunity to work with little kids or to play a more sympathetic role now and again.

What are you most proud of with this film?

It is a true story. And I think the thing that is most outstanding about it is that it is a film that could have been done in a less sensitive, way it could have come very perilously close to a kind of a cloying sentimentality. And I think that was avoided totally, completely. It is told simply and at times it is charming, at times it is highly emotional, at times it is quite funny. And it is told literally with an authenticity and an honesty and a simplicity that is very, very moving, a real testament to the filmmaker, to Dylan and to his editors and the choices that they have made.

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

posted by Nell Minow
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence
Movie Release Date:October 24, 2014

michael-keaton-birdman (1)Filmed as though it was almost entirely one long, stunning, audacious, breathless and breathtaking shot, “Birdman” (subtitled “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”) explodes with ideas and visions, adopting the language of dreams to explore and upend the very idea of storytelling.

Michael Keaton plays a character in superficial ways like Keaton himself. He is Riggan, an actor who has undertaken at least three impossible tasks at once. He has adapted the acclaimed but notoriously difficult and difficult to adapt Raymond Carver collection of short stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, into a Broadway play. The translation of stories whose art is in the spareness and lyricism of the prose into a theatrical production is at best ambitious, at worst impossible. But Riggan is not just the writer. He is also the director and star. He has put his last dime into the show. If it fails, he loses everything. And there is more. His estranged and angry daughter Sam (Emma Stone), just out of rehab, is working as his assistant so he can keep an eye on her and perhaps repair their relationship. One of the actresses (Andrea Riseborough), may be pregnant with his child. And a piece of equipment has just fallen on the head of one of the actors. They are about to go into previews and he cannot perform.

Riggan and Jake, his best friend/lawyer/producer (a slimmed down and pitch-perfect Zach Galifianakis), throw out (real-life) names of possible actor replacements. The best of their generation: Michael Fassbender, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey, Jr — but they are all in Hollywood playing superheroes. Riggan knows something about that. He played a superhero called Birdman in a series of wildly popular films. He had money, fame, success, and the kind of power all of that brings. But now he has an ex-wife (Amy Ryan), an angry daughter, a possible new child on the way, and he is risking his future on the longest of longshots, a serious play in the high-pressure world of Broadway theater, between the vicious barbs of dyspeptic, despotic critics and audiences who would rather be at the latest musical.

Riggan and Jake argue about what to do next.  The understudy? No! “It’s not like the perfect actor is just going to knock on the door!”  Cue knock on the door.  It is Lesley, the non-possibly pregnant actress in the show (Naomi Watts), volunteering her boyfriend, Michael (Edward Norton), who is available (he just got fired or quit or both) and wants to do it.  He is a Broadway darling, a Serious Actor with a lot of fans.  Jake is ecstatic.  This will sell a lot of tickets.

Michael shows up with the script already memorized and able to give a dazzling performance that pushes Riggan to do his best. But Michael is also narcissistic and arrogant. His relationship with Lesley is deteriorating and he is hitting on Sam. Worse, he is sending her mixed signals, making her feel even more insecure and putting her recovery at risk. Riggan is under even more pressure externally and internally as a voice — his Birdman persona? His younger self? His future self? — is urging him, taunting him, distracting him.

It is a high wire act, the endless, dreamlike take festooned with farce-style slamming doors, fantasy interludes with monsters and explosions, sharp satire, poignant drama, and across the board performances of superb precision. As sheer, no-net, bravura filmmaking it is pure wonder, and if it raises more questions than it answers, at least they are the big questions of meaning, identity, work, love, art, and, of course, superheroes.

Parents should know that this film includes very strong and crude language, explicit sexual references and situation, gun violence, drinking, smoking, and drug use.

Family discussion: How much of what we see in this film is “real” and how can you tell? What do you think is happening in the final scene?

If you like this, try: “All That Jazz” and “Nine”

Previous Posts

Interview: Todd and Jedd Wider about the Bullying Documentary "Mentor"
Producers Todd and Jedd Wider generously took time to answer my questions about their documentary, "Mentor," the story of two teenagers who committed suicide following relentless bullying. The film, which received Honorable Mention for Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival th

posted 3:56:57pm Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Clip: Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ApzHJhZz2JQ" frameborder="0"] The latest in Disney's animated Tinkerbell series adds Ginnifer Goodwin to the cast. Coming in March of 2015, it explores the ancient myth of a mysterious creature whose distant roar sparks the curiosity

posted 1:23:59pm Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: "Avatar" Villain Stephen Lang on Playing a Good Guy Coach in "23 Blast"
Stephen Lang is best known for playing the villain in "Avatar." But in "23 Blast," based on the real-life story of Travis Freeman, a high school football player who lost his vision but stayed on the team, Lang plays a good guy, the coach who encouraged and supported him. I talked to Lang about actin

posted 5:56:30am Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Filmed as though it was almost entirely one long, stunning, audacious, breathless and breathtaking shot, "Birdman" (subtitled "The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance") explodes with ideas and visions, adopting the language of dreams to explore and upend the very idea of storytelling. Michael Keaton p

posted 5:59:46pm Oct. 23, 2014 | read full post »

John Wick
This is a movie directed by two stunt men, which means it is pretty much a first-person shooter video game projected onto a movie screen. But that also means that it is directed by people wh

posted 5:44:02pm Oct. 23, 2014 | read full post »


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