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Movie Mom

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New in Theaters
  New to DVD

Hail, Caesar!
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking
Release Date:
February 5, 2016

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
1937

The Choice
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some thematic issues
Release Date:
February 5, 2016

 

Freeheld
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, language and sexuality
Release Date:
October 9, 2015

The Finest Hours
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of peril
Release Date:
January 29, 2016

 

Bridge of Spies
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some violence and brief strong language
Release Date:
October 16, 2015

New in Theaters

grade:
B+

Hail, Caesar!

Lowest Recommended Age:
High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking
Release Date:
February 5, 2016
grade:
B

The Choice

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some thematic issues
Release Date:
February 5, 2016
grade:
B

The Finest Hours

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of peril
Release Date:
January 29, 2016

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New to DVD

pick of the week
grade:
A-

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Lowest Recommended Age:
All Ages
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
1937
grade:
B

Freeheld

Lowest Recommended Age:
High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, language and sexuality
Release Date:
October 9, 2015
grade:
A-

Bridge of Spies

Lowest Recommended Age:
High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some violence and brief strong language
Release Date:
October 16, 2015

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Interview: Nicholas Sparks on “The Choice”

posted by Nell Minow

Copyright Warner Brothers Entertainment 2015

Copyright Warner Brothers Entertainment 2015

Nicholas Sparks is one of the must successful and best-loved authors in the world. All of his books have been New York Times bestsellers, with over 100 million copies sold worldwide, in more than 50 languages, including over 65 million copies in the United States alone, and all of them have been made into movies, with stars like Paul Newman, Kevin Costner, Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, and Robin Wright. Sparks is the man behind some of the most memorable love stories of the past 20 years, including “The Notebook” and “Dear John.”

The newest film based on his books is “The Choice,” with Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer as a couple who meet as neighbors on Sparks’ beloved North Carolina coast. I was delighted to get a chance to talk to him about what he loves so much about that setting and why letters are always a key feature of his stories.

Why are old-school letters on paper so important to your characters?

When I went off to college, back then they use to charge per minute on just regular phones. So I had to correspond with letters. My mom would write three letters a week and one of the high points of my day was to reach into the mailbox and to get letters. I was from that generation. I’m a person who is used to handwriting thank you notes and things like that. That has just evolved over the years into letters of appreciation for those people with whom I worked and of course letters to those whom I love. And so for me it’s natural and almost expected even in the age of email and texts and things like that, and it is sad to me that there will be some people who never get a personal letter ever in their whole lives.

In “The Choice,” Travis and Gabby learn that sometimes the people who bother us are the people who are best for us. Why is that?

I think that is hard to be bothered by someone unless you have some sort of relationship with them in general. I don’t mean really bad people, but the people who just get to you — you really can’t hate someone so much deep down inside unless you love them. And I think that by bothering what these people are doing is essentially challenging them to be the best versions of themselves. That’s a wonderful thing that we should always aspire to be, to be the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be. But the conflicts of the choice we see when Travis (played by Ben Walker) is saying “You’re bothering me,” he is saying “You are making me a better person, you’re making me the best version of myself and that’s hard for me at this time in my life.” And I think there’s something wonderful in that because that is a lifelong journey with ups and downs.

The beach and the ocean always play a very important role in your stories and it’s never been photographed more beautifully, more lovingly that it is in this film. What do you think we learn from going out on the water and experiencing that atmosphere?

There’s a few reasons why those elements seem to recur in both my novels and my films. I like stories that are set in coastal North Carolina. North Carolina is a little unique in that it’s a state in which the closer you get to the coast the smaller the towns become. And small towns on the beach means a slower pace, a slower rhythm of life and I think a slower rhythm of life allows people more time to think, more time to simply be alone and simply just be like Travis does in his chair, his single chair on the back lawn until he brings a second one and I think that’s when people are able to connect at the most human level, when the world slows down enough for each of them to really be able to talk and listen and be heard.

In the film, Travis tells a lie about a lizard, and lets a little girl think that her lizard has not died. Do you think that was the right thing to do?

I think in this particular context yes because it was a lizard. I certainly would not have done the same thing with a kitten, or a dog but as a father you do want to shelter your kids from the harsh realities of life when it’s possible while at the same time preparing them for a life that will be include some harsh reality and I know that often there are moments in which it’s very hard to have certain kinds of conversations with your children and certainly those conversations would be different depending on the child’s age.

Travis and Gabby both learn that they jumped to the wrong conclusions about each other; is that something that is true to an extent of all people who fall in love?

Their first impressions were made during a moment of emotion, so to speak, or at least hers were, and when people are in an emotional state they are not always the people that they are the rest of the time. Their emotions were faulty so that led to I guess a faulty persona that wasn’t necessary reflective of who they are most of the time. At the same time I think that first impressions can be very accurate, not always but I think a lot of people can form opinions about another person within a few minutes of talking to them if they given the chance to really have the kinds of conversations that lend themselves to it.

Do you ever learn something new about your story by seeing it in the film?

Without question I learn something new every time. I learn different ways in the future for example to condense two characters into one for the sake of efficiency. I learn to think in terms of even when writing to think in terms of making the scene visual to the reader.

What is the biggest challenge do you think of taking a novel and making it into a movie? Doesn’t it lose some of the descriptive language that you have worked so hard on?

Primarily I think what’s lost is the ability to have characters be introspective so you know what’s going on in their heads. At the same time, a novel is a story told with worlds and in film it’s a story told with pictures. So some things are better in one, like introspection, and other things are better in another like arguments or car chases or fires. Anything exciting always works better in film or even in this particular case the scenery works better in film that I can ever hope to portray in the novel. So the challenge is to take a story told with words and put it into a story told with pictures, well knowing some things work better in one than the other whilst still maintaining the spirit and intent of the story, the spirit and intent of the characters. I think that certainly “The Choice” was able to do that. And I have been very fortunate in that all my films were able to do that.

Black History Month 2016

posted by Nell Minow

Be sure to take time during Black History month to watch movies the Civil Rights movement, (“Eyes on the Prize,” “Selma,” “Boycott”), and movies that are themselves a part of black history and film history (add to that list: “Killer of Sheep,” “Nothing But a Man,” “The Learning Tree,” “Bright Road,” and “Hollywood Shuffle”).  And there are many other good choices for exploring the history of race in America and the story of some of our greatest heroes.

We’re lucky to have a very good movie opening up this month that tells the true story of a very important figure in African-American history: Jesse Owens.  “Race,” starring Stephan James, opens on February 19, 2016, and it tells the story of one of the greatest athletes of all time.  As Hitler was trying to tell the world about Aryan superiority, Jesse Owens competed in the Berlin Olympics and provided the ultimate refutation with his brilliant achievements, winning the gold not only in the three events he registered for but in a fourth event where he was a last-minute substitute.

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PBS has a great line-up of programs, including Misty Copeland’s “A Ballerina’s Tale,” American Masters tributes to Fats Domino and B.B. King, and the superb documentary, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.”

A Moving Tribute to a Father Through Movies

posted by Nell Minow

Jessica Ritchey wrote a touching essay for Rogerebert.com about the movies she watched in the year after her father died, and how watching them helped her to keep him close.

I’ve been published several times by the time I see “Crimson Peak.” I’m starting to feel like real writer at last. It haunts me, though, that so much good news can come with the bad. I can’t share my upturn in fortune with the person I want to most.
But that’s starting to feel like something that can be carried. There’s lots of space to think about this in the watery shadows that flicker over the film’s walls.

Hail, Caesar!

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking
Movie Release Date:February 5, 2016
B+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking
Movie Release Date: February 5, 2016

Copyright Mike Zoss Productions

Copyright Mike Zoss Productions 2016

The Coen brothers love old movies, and not just the classics. I remember reading an interview where they discussed their affection for “With Six You Get Eggroll,” which even Doris Day’s most fervent fans do not consider one of her best. With “Hail, Caesar!” they pay loving tribute to the final years of the golden era of the Hollywood studios, in part because it gives them a chance to tell a story about change, and choice, responsibility and irresponsibility, and in part because it gives them a chance to play studio heads themselves, overseeing not just one movie but five. And as Orson Welles said, that’s “the biggest electric train set any boy ever had.”

There really was an Eddie Mannix, the MGM executive who had various titles but who was pretty much a full-time fixer. Whether it was a starlet’s nude photos or a male star’s casting couch encounter with a male director, his job was to keep it out of the courts and especially out of the gossip columns and scandal magazines with names like “Confidential.” This was accomplished with bribes, intimidation, and trading of favors. A reputation would be saved by giving the reporter exclusive access or even a juicy story about a lesser star who could be sacrificed to save the day for someone the studio considered a major asset.

The Eddie Mannix played by Josh Brolin works at a studio called Capitol Pictures, but the issue of capital will arise as well. Eddie is under so much stress he goes to confession every day. He is responsible for keeping the entire studio running smoothly, and that begins before dawn, where he extracts an actress from a compromising situation (paying off the cops), and continues on the studio lot. There he assigns an amiable singing cowboy star named Hobie Doyle (a winning Alden Ehrenreich) to put on a dinner jacket and take over the lead in a high-prestige drawing room drama, even though he’s “a dust guy” and his dialog in previous films was pretty much limited to whistling for his horse, Whitey, and “Hold on, there, partner.” Cleaning him up and putting him in a dinner jacket is not a problem, but the intricate drama he is thrown into requires tricky lines like “Would that t’were so simple,” preceded by a mirthless laugh.

Mannix visits the set of a big-budget musical and sees a water ballet out of Busby Berkeley’s wildest dreams. But the star is pregnant but not married (a career-killer in those days). She’s played by Scarlett Johansson with enough wit and brio to power the massive flume of water that lifts her mermaid character up into the sky.

The biggest studio production is the epic “Hail, Caesar,” about a Roman centurion who becomes a follower of Jesus (oddly similar to the upcoming “Risen”). It stars the studio’s most valuable actor, with the manly name of Baird Whitlock (a wickedly funny George Clooney). Mannix thinks his biggest problem is going to be making sure that the movie does not offend anyone in the audience, and in a hilarious scene, he consults with a focus group of clergy, or tries to. But then a real problem arises. Baird Whitlock is kidnapped and being held for ransom by a group that calls itself “The Future.” They are a group led by the most improbable of 20th century scholars, accurately quoted if not accurately portrayed, and supported by…well, no more spoilers here.

It’s flat-out funny, whether you know the history or not, and I left wishing for a quadruple feature that would include all of the films we see in production (well, maybe not the other “Hail, Caesar”). What keeps it buoyant, even effervescent, is the pure affection for films and filmmaking in every one of what in the pre-digital days we used to call frames. (We see them up close and personal in a hilarious scene with Frances McDormand as an old-school film editor.) The movie touches lightly on issues of story-telling and the inherent chaos and frustration of trying to balance art and commerce, plus the skills and needs of a large group of people. But the love story here is between Mannix, as a stand-in for the writer/directors, and the movies.

Parents should know that this film includes kidnapping, out-of-wedlock pregnancy and paternity issues, some sexual references, drinking and references to alcoholism, and smoking.

Family discussion: Which real-life characters inspired this movie? Should Eddie take the job offer?

If you like this, try: some of the movies that inspired this one like “Million Dollar Mermaid,” “Anchors Aweigh,” “My Pal Trigger,” and “The Robe”

Previous Posts

Interview: Nicholas Sparks on "The Choice"
Nicholas Sparks is one of the must successful and best-loved authors in the world. All of his books have been New York Times ...

posted 8:00:53am Feb. 06, 2016 | read full post »

Black History Month 2016
Be sure to take time during Black History month to watch movies the Civil Rights movement, ("Eyes on the Prize," "Selma," "Boycott"), and movies that are themselves a part of black history and film history (add to that list: "Killer of Sheep," ...

posted 3:55:11pm Feb. 05, 2016 | read full post »

A Moving Tribute to a Father Through Movies
Jessica Ritchey wrote a touching essay for Rogerebert.com about the movies she watched in the year after her father died, and how watching them helped her to keep him close. I’ve been published several times by the time I see "Crimson ...

posted 8:00:40am Feb. 05, 2016 | read full post »

Hail, Caesar!
The Coen brothers love old movies, and not just the classics. I remember reading an interview where they discussed their affection for ...

posted 5:59:12pm Feb. 04, 2016 | read full post »

The Choice
Nicholas Sparks is one of the rare authors who has become a brand of his own, bigger than any of his movies. One reason is their predicability; ...

posted 5:55:13pm Feb. 04, 2016 | read full post »

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