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A snowstorm at Christmas time makes a busy woman stop and reconsider her priorities when she is stuck in her apartment with two people she has just met: a little girl who does not want to be there and a homeless man who tried to protect her from some muggers.

Catherine Mary Stewart plays Kathleen, a successful restaurant-owner. Ever since she was a little girl, when her father walked out on Christmas, she has hidden her hurt and feelings of abandonment with a brisk and businesslike manner. She is not unkind, but she is brusque and unapproachable.
And then the single father she is dating asks her to take care of his little girl, Lucy (the terrific Cameron Ten Napel). And a homeless man named Sam (Muse Watson) with a quiet, peaceful demeanor is hurt when he tries to protect her from some muggers, so she brings him back to her apartment, just for one night. And then the three of them get snowed in.

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Snow has a way of helping us separate the urgent from the important. The weather outside may be frozen, but Katherine begins to thaw. And as communication with the outside world is cut off, communication inside her apartment begins to bloom. When Sam reads aloud his favorite passage from the Bible, Simeon’s words on seeing the infant Jesus, a small place of peace begins to take hold of all three. And without electricity or phone they return to the simpler pleasures of the past including the meaningfully named s’mores and a board game called “Break the Ice.”
But there is still a hard pain in Kathleen that she just can’t let go. Sam has one more lesson for her that will help her understand that the only one who is hurt by a refusal to forgive is the one holding onto the anger. This is a touching story with humor and heart and a little wisdom, too.

Josh Brolin plays Jonah Hex, a man transformed by loss in a fantasy western set just after the Civil War, based on the series of comics and graphic novels. The war is over in the United States, but it continues to haunt Hex, who rides the West as a gun for hire still wearing his Confederate Uniform.

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Hex has no friends, at least not any who are alive. He has one enemy, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), who made Hex watch as he ordered his men to make Hex suffer as he had, to watch as he loses everything he loves and has to live on, scarred inside and out. After Turnbull burns down Hex’s home with his wife and child inside, he orders his men to apply a fiery brand to Hex’s face, burning through the skin to the jawbone. “Every day that mark will remind you of the man who took everything you had.”

But that physically and psychologically searing experience gave Hex something, too. “It left me with the curse of talking to the other side,” he tells us. And so he rides, feeling nothing but vengeance, a gunman for hire, haunted by the dead and answerable to no one but himself.

Turnbull steals the most powerful weapon ever made, a sort of pre-industrial age H-bomb, And President Grant (Aidan Quinn) orders Lieutenant Grass (Will Arnett) to get Hex to find Turnbull and stop his plan to bring down the United States government as it reaches its 100th birthday.

It has a trim just-over-80 minutes running time, so I’m guessing there will be a future DVD release with a lot of deleted scenes. But the lean story-telling works well for its taciturn characters and spare settings, beautifully presented by cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen, and well scored by Marco Beltrami and John Powell with assistance from Mastodon. The blend of history and fantasy, both tweaking and saluting the conventions of both genres, works better than the clumsy references to current concerns like terrorism and tea party anti-government sentiment. Brolin is as at home in the role as he is in the saddle. As (of course) a prostitute with a mean right hook and, at least for Hex, a heart of gold, Megan Fox has to learn that a husky voice and a smoldering look are not enough to create a character. On the other hand, in that wasp-waisted corset (reportedly a Scarlett O’Hara-size 18 inches in diameter) she should get an award for staying upright.

A tragic series of suicides has put the spotlight on bullying and other forms of peer abuse of kids and teenagers. It has also prompted the It Gets Better project on YouTube from columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller, who have posted a video telling LGBT teens who are getting picked on that it will get better for them and that support and resources are available. They have invited others to participate and the videos from celebrities like Tim Gunn and Ellen DeGeneres as well as individuals who just want to share their stories and their support are extraordinarily generous, touching, inspiring, and meaningful. The Trevor Project is a hotline for LGBT kids who need someone to talk to. On its website are messages of help and hope from “Glee’s” Chris Colfer and “Harry Potter’s” Daniel Radcliffe.

Today is National Coming Out Day and everyone can participate by coming out for dignity, equality, and rejoicing in the diversity of ideas, perspectives, talents, and beliefs that unite us as humans as much as our shared commitments and experiences.

Vince Vaughn has just agreed to take a gay joke out of the trailer of his new film, “Dilemma.” It is not clear whether it will remain in the film. What’s interesting is that even the the brief clip, the joke is explicitly not related to any person’s sexuality — it is a reference to an electric car. Vaughn’s character makes it clear that he is using “gay” not to mean homosexual but to mean overly careful and concerned about one’s impact on the rest of the world — while in this movie as in others the “bromance” element is more likely to read as gay to the audience. While publications like The Globe and Mail decry Vaughn’s backing down (they might say it is “so gay” to worry about the sensitivity of the audience in making a crude, dumb joke), it seems to me that this is on the contrary a triumph of freedom of speech. After Anderson Cooper and others responded to the trailer with their objections, Vaughn made the decision that the joke was creating more problems than it was worth. I am hoping Vaughn’s experience will help make it clear to impressionable teens that “that’s so gay” and “no homo” references cannot be separated from their bigoted foundation.

I was also very encouraged by the wonderful “no makeup Tuesday” program at a Texas high school, a powerful message of acceptance and the recognition of true beauty. I’d love to see it go nationwide.

I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences to prevent bullying and harassment and build support in your community.

The sheer exhilaration of flying along with our hero on the back of his new best friend, a dragon, is exceeded only by the exhilaration of top-notch film-making with a witty and heartwarming script, endearing characters, dazzling visuals, and a story worth cheering for. The movie is in stunning 3D but it is the 4th dimension — heart — where it truly excels.

Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruschel) is a puny misfit in his Viking village of Burke located “north of freezing to death,” where burly warriors battle dragons. His father, Stoick (voice of Gerard Butler), a mountain of a man and the leader of the village, is confused and embarrassed by his son. Because he thinks Hiccup is not strong and brave enough to battle with fire-breathing dragons, Stoick has asked his closest friend Gobber (voice of Craig Ferguson) to take him as an apprentice. Gobber, who lost a hand and a leg to dragons in battle, is now in charge of forging weapons and training the next generation of dragon-fighters.

Hiccup is something of an inventor and when a catapult he designs hits the fiercest and most terrifying breed of dragon, the Night Fury, he cautiously tracks it down. He discovers that it has been wounded and cannot fly. And he discovers that it is not fierce or violent but as scared of him as he is of it. He names the dragon “Toothless” and creates a prosthetic flap for its tail. As they get to know one another, they learn that Toothless can only fly with Hiccup’s help. Meanwhile, Hiccup is accepted into Gobber’s training program. So his days are spent learning to fight many different dragons and his nights are spent learning to tame — and be tamed — by one.

The screenplay by directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders and others is exceptionally literate and witty (Night Furies are described as “the unholy offspring of lightning and death”) and the visuals are intricate and imaginative. The stirring score by John Powell and first-rate voice work by an outstanding cast bring energy and spirit to the story. DeBlois and Sanders make excellent use of the 3D, not just in the soaring and vertiginous flying scenes and the battles but in the use of space and ability to make us feel included in the quietest moments. Those moments have a delicacy, a tenderness, even a grace that gives this film a power that resonates as only the best movies can.