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Selma
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief strong language
Release Date:
December 25, 2014

 

Pride
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and brief sexual content
Release Date:
October 9, 2014

Into the Woods
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material
Release Date:
December 25, 2014

 

Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date:
August 1, 2014

Unbroken
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language
Release Date:
December 25, 2014

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

Joy to the World

posted by Nell Minow

Merry Christmas 2014!

posted by Nell Minow

Selma

posted by Nell Minow

Copyright 2014 Cloud Eight Films

Copyright 2014 Cloud Eight Films

“Selma,” director Ava DuVernay’s film about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital at Montgomery, to make the case for the right to vote, is superb as biography, as history, and as drama. It is one of the best movies of this year and this decade.

And somehow it has arrived just as we need it most, as Americans continue to struggle to reconcile our notions of equality. This film is a powerful reminder of the Civil Rights Movement cry that “we’re not where we want to be, we’re not where we’re going to be, but, thank God, we’re not where we were.” It is a reminder of the difference one person can make, and the inescapability of an idea whose time has come. And it should also be a powerful reminder that the voting rights people fought — and died — must be exercised to carry that dream forward.

This is a story of politics and race and history, but it is also very much the story of a man who just wanted to be “a pastor in a small college town” but found himself called to lead a movement, even though he put himself, his followers, and his family at risk. King has to try to keep his supporters together, increasingly difficult as the very progress he has made has made them impatient and independent.

British actor David Oyelowo makes Dr. King into a real person, polite and respectful but also canny and insistent in his meetings with President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) in the Oval Office, devoted and compassionate with the members of the movement, stirring and inspirational at the pulpit and podium, and at his most vulnerable when he is alone with his wife, Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo, who played the same role in the superb “Boycott”). Even over the course of the few weeks covered by this film, we see Dr. King constantly assessing, re-evaluating, learning, and growing.

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We also see that wiliest of politicians, LBJ, outmaneuvered by King, partly because he refused to give up but also because for the first time there was television coverage of what was going on and the rest of the country, 70 million viewers, were no longer able to pretend that this country was living up to its ideals of justice and equality. Even with the passage of the monumental Civil Rights Act, which required equal treatment without regard to race or gender in public accommodations and the workplace, the inability to vote imposed an insurmountable barrier to meaningful change. At the beginning of the film, we see Annie Lee Cooper carefully, deliberately filling in her application to register to vote. When the contemptuous official quizzes her on the number of county judges in the state, she is prepared with the answer. Clearly, she has tried this before and done her homework. She gives the correct number: 67. He responds, “Name them.”

“This voting thing is just going to have to wait,” Johnson explains. “You have one problem. I have a hundred and one.” He tries to persuade King that his War on Poverty is of central importance to black citizens. But King understood that without the right to vote, blacks would continue to be excluded. Everyone tries to stop him. The FBI sends tapes to Mrs. King that purport to reveal his affairs. There are constant threats. A church is bombed, killing Four Little Girls. The first time they try to walk to Montgomery, the 600 marchers are attacked by the police with tear gas and billy clubs wrapped in barbed wire.

But there are television cameras there. And the images put even more pressure on Johnson, who finally brings Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth) to the Oval Office, to see if he could force some progress on the man whose inaugural address included the words, “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Today we live in a world that is saturated in images and opinions, often angry ones. This film, like King’s patient but insistent voice, is a clarion call, the story of a man, a movement, and a journey that can and must continue.

Parents should know that the movie’s themes include historic depiction of virulent racism including verbal and physical attacks and murder, strong language including racist epithets, brief sexual sounds and discussion of affairs.

Family Discussion: How did Dr. King make President Johnson change his mind? How did President Johnson make George Wallace change his mind?

If you like this, try: Other films about the Civil Rights movement including “Boycott” (also featuring Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King), “Separate But Equal,” and “Eyes on the Prize”

Into the Woods

posted by Nell Minow
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material
Movie Release Date:December 25, 2014
Copyright Disney Studios 2014

Copyright Walt Disney Pictures 2014

This is not a Disney movie. Oh, well, yes, it is a Disney movie in the sense that it is produced by Disney, which is the only possible explanation for the PG rating (and the slightly sweetened storyline), but this is not the happily ever after fairy tale story time we are used to from Disney. You didn’t remember that in the original version of Cinderella the mean stepsisters sliced off pieces of their feet to try to fit into the slipper the prince was using to find his true love?  That’s because it was, well, cut out of the classic Disney animated version as well as most contemporary printed versions.  But it’s back here, in a complicated, challenging retelling of classic fairy tales where having your wish granted may leave you worse off than you were before.

Parents looking for a movie for the family for the holidays need to know that this is not this year’s “Frozen.”  It is a sung-through (almost no spoken dialogue) and there are characters who are injured and killed, including parents of young children. And the characters struggle with the consequences of their wishes and of the actions they take when they want something desperately. They lie and they steal to get what they want. And they learn that no one is all bad or all good. “Though scary is exciting, nice is different from good.”

Writer James Lapine says the idea came from a conversation with his frequent collaborator, Stephen Sondheim, who wanted his next project to be about a quest. Lapine wanted to write something about fairy tales.  And so “Into the Woods” became that project, a mash-up of many different classic fairy tales with a witch, and giants, and a dark place where the paths are not clear, a place for people who are yearning for something and willing to take some risks.  “I wish,” they all sing as the movie begins.  Cinderella, with her evil stepmother (Christine Baranski) and mean girl stepsisters, wishes to go to the festival held by the royal family.  The baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) wish for a child.  A boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone, who has a voice like a bell), wishes his milky-white cow would give milk and his mother (Tracy Ullman) wishes they had money so they could have enough to eat.  And a girl in a red riding hood (the very gifted Lilla Crawford) wants some bread to take to her grandmother (and some pastries for herself).

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And there’s a witch (Meryl Streep) who wishes for something, too.  She tells the baker and his wife that she will remove the curse that is keeping them from having a child if they will bring her four things: a cow white as milk, hair gold as corn, a cape red as blood, and a slipper pure as gold.  The problem is that all of these items are essential props in other stories.  If the baker and his wife take them, then Jack will not have a cow to trade for magic beans, Rapunzel will not have hair to let down so her prince can climb the tower, Red Riding Hood will not be able to go to her grandmother’s house, and Cinderella’s prince will not be able to find her.  What happens to wishes when they cancel each other out? When one person’s wish is another’s nightmare? And when the handsome prince explains that he was raised to be Charming, but not necessarily Sincere? Is there any good in being good?

The characters explore themes of innocence, and the competing urges to protect children by keeping them from knowing about the dangers of the world and to protect them by making sure they understand those dangers. “How do you say it will all be all right/When you know that it might not be true?”

Even the witch tries to protect her (stolen) daughter from the scary world outside her tower. But children do not listen. They will grow up and want to leave, even if it means learning “secrets I never wanted to know,” as Red Riding Hood sings thoughtfully, after she is rescued from the belly of the wolf. On the other hand “children will listen,” sometimes when we don’t want them to, so we need to be careful in setting a good example and in taking care of them. And somehow, it is in taking care of them we become most fully ourselves. “Fairy tales understood us before we understood them,” we are told. This exploration of fairy tale themes shows us that they still understand us better than we understand ourselves.

Parents should know that this film includes fairy tale/fantasy peril and violence with some characters injured and killed (including two parents of children), some disturbing images and troubling situations, mild sexual references and non-explicit situations with some kissing.

Family Discussion:  What is your favorite fairy tale and why?  In the song where everyone blames someone else, who is right?

If you like this, try:  Revisionist fairy tales “Ella Enchanted,” “Stardust,” and “Ever After” and, for more from Sondheim, Six by Sondheim and Sondheim: The Birthday Concert

Previous Posts

Joy to the World
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/DLT9dSt8cwg?rel=0"]

posted 12:00:46pm Dec. 25, 2014 | read full post »

Merry Christmas 2014!
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/8DeAClYGjQc?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 5:00:29am Dec. 25, 2014 | read full post »

Selma
"Selma," director Ava DuVernay's film about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital at Montgomery, to make the case for the right to vote, is superb as

posted 5:55:52pm Dec. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Into the Woods
This is not a Disney movie. Oh, well, yes, it is a Disney movie in the sense that it is produced by Disney, which is the only possible explanation for the PG rating (and the slightly sweet

posted 5:55:31pm Dec. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Unbroken
Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie breaks into the top ranks of American directors with "Unbroken," showing an exceptional understanding not just of actors, but of tone, scale, and letting the

posted 5:49:18pm Dec. 24, 2014 | read full post »


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