12 Angry Men on Screen and Stage

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Would you stand alone?  Without a strong reason, just a feeling, would you refuse to go with the crowd?

On a hot afternoon, twelve people are locked in a room, tasked with determining the fate of a 16-year-old accused murderer. Can one juror make a difference?

12 Angry Men (1957 NR) is an excellent movie starring Henry Fonda as Juror #8, and the only juror who believes there is reasonable doubt for the kid’s guilt.  Other writers have give better explanations than I about the characters, and what we can learn from this show.  Be sure to follow some of the links at the end of this post.

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This is a great movie for pointing out how groups work, how prejudices can distort, how strong personalities dominate, how conclusions should not be jumped to quickly.

Teenagers can learn from this, too!  And if they aren’t sitting to watch this old movie (and they should), they can act in the stage version!

12 Angry Men becomes Twelve Angry Jurors when played at American high schools.  Still set in the 1950’s, yet including girls, this is a one-set show that gives quality teenage actors a chance to shine.

Compare the set of the movie, with one of a recent high school production:

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Watch this movie.  Or catch the play at your local high school.  And be convicted.  How would you act in the same situation?

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-jurys-trials/201202/what-we-can-learn-twelve-angry-men

http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451f6f769e2011572535895970b

http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/1995-10-things-i-learned-12-angry-men

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Edge of Tomorrow: Fun Video Game Viewing

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Edge of Tomorrow (2014 PG-13) has been compared to Groundhog Day (1993 PG), the Bill Murray comedy in which a news reporter repeats the same day until he learns a valuable life lesson.  Funny movie!

But Edge of Tomorrow is more like Source Code (2011 PG-13), the Jake Gyllenhaal action thriller in which an army specialist repeats the same terrorist train crash until he learns how to stop it.  Good movie!

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Edge of Tomorrow has the same premise.  An army guy (Tom Cruise) wakes up every day at the same English base right before the final battle with alien invaders on the beaches of France.  He dies, and repeats the same day, each time trying something a bit different to survive.

The thing is, Captain Cage is not a fighter, but an advertising man who travels to England to promote the latest fighting gear.  The British commander (Brendan Gleeson) decides that Cage would be the best man to prove the merits of this fighting gear.  Demoted for trying to run away, Private Cage is unceremoniously dropped into an infantry unit led by Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton).

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After the set up, the movie continues through three parts.

1.  Fish out of water

Cage is terrified and unprepared to fight with the infantry, even in the same battle gear he promotes for a living.  He doesn’t even know how to use it!  Cage is forced to listen to the same speech by Master Sergeant Farell, endure the same taunts from the other soldiers, and drop into the same disastrous alien battlefield over and over.  It’s fun to see Tom Cruise as an inept weakling!

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2.  Video game tactics

Here is the bulk of the movie.  Cage realizes there is no true consequence to making a mistake, since when he gets killed, he just repeats the day again.  So, he tries to figure out how to survive.  Sometimes that means running away.  Sometimes that means hiding.  But mostly that means figuring out why the aliens always win, so that in the next life he can help destroy them.

Kinda like playing a video game!  Early on he determines that Specialist Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who has had success fighting the aliens, is the key to winning.  She has to train him.  Remember, he is a wimp who has many lives to become a fighting machine.  And when he fails, she can just shoot him, and he can try again another day.  Clever!

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3.  Beat the alien and survive

Cage has become the ultimate fighting machine.  He has advanced through his video-game-style life to the point of advancing together through the countryside of France.  Can they beat the aliens?

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Fun movie!

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Chef: Why Rated R?

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Chef (2014 R) is all Jon Favreau.  If you want to make a movie with fewer people telling you what to do, you write, direct and star in it yourself.

But Favreau also had no one telling him to cut out the profanity.

This is a nice movie that could have a wide audience.  It has many things going for it.  But the R rating limits this film.

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1. Well rounded story

Carl Casper (Favreau) is a chef who does not feel he can express his talent working for someone else.  Working long hours, he mostly pushes aside his young son Percy (Emjay Anthony) during his visits.  He gets fired after launching an insulting twitter fight with a food critic (funny!).  His ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) suggests he starts his dream job working for himself in a food truck.  We see as he starts to bond with his son over Cuban sandwiches.  Casper keeps his language clean around his son (mostly, and I cringe when he doesn’t), but lets loose the rest of the movie.

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2.  Food

Food shows are everywhere.  Food trucks are popular.  Pinterest is filled with food photos.  In the movie, Casper shows love by cooking.  It is enjoyable watching him put so much care into his meals.  Yet we have to hear unpleasant words, which isn’t enjoyable.

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3.  Cute kid

Percy wants his dad to pay attention to him.   He wants to know his dad loves him.  Eleven-year-old Emjay Anthony does a terrific job showing the struggles Percy internalizes as a child of busy, divorced parents.  Other kids would like this movie, if the language was cleaned up for a more friendly rating.

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4.  Great guest appearances

Favreau has given actors wonderful parts to play with.  Sofia Vergara is not a stereotype Latina, but a successful businesswoman who loves her son.  John Leguzamo mostly just plays straight man as the assistant cook. Scarlett Johansson holds the restaurant together as Casper melts down.  Dustin Hoffman is the stick-in-the-mud restaurant owner. Robert Downey Jr has one hilarious scene as the ex-husband.  It feels like these actors were given dialogue outlines, then allowed to improvise.  Unfortunately,  some of them improvise with the type of language that gives a movie an R rating.

Bottom line

About the profanity, IMDb says Chef contains, “About 45 F-words and its derivatives, 3 sexual references, 51 scatological terms, 22 anatomical terms, 11 mild obscenities and 3 religious exclamations (e.g. Christ, Oh My God).”

About the profanity, Favreau says, “Kitchens are not PG places…. But I’m very comfortable with my kids seeing this. This is how people speak, and I think it’s a responsible film.”

What do you think?

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The Fault In Our Stars: A Special Guest Review

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The Fault in Our Stars (2014 PG-13) is based on the popular young-adult book by John Green.  Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort) are two teens who meet at a cancer support group and fall in love.  If you are young and dying, should you be falling in love?

My teenage daughters and their friends have all read the book.  While reading, some sob, some shed a few tears, and some just choke up a bit.  I asked them how the movie stands up to the book.

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How was the movie different from the book?  

It left a few things out, but they weren’t crucial to the story.

Some of the things they left out were important-ish, not really needed, but would have made the movie better.

There were a couple book parts that were left out in the movie, but it was nothing major.

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Is it better to read the book first?  All of the teens seemed to think either way was fine.

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Who would like this movie?

Non-emotional people – so sad!

If someone enjoyed the book, they’d probably like the movie.

Anyone who read the book, or anyone who likes sad movies.

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My daughters said that I should not see the movie, and they are in disagreement as to whether I should read the book or not.  I’m going to skip both, knowing how much Kleenex I’d probably need.

Thanks for the special guest review, girls!

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Mom’s Night Out vs. Date Night

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Date Night (2010 PG-13) and Moms’ Night Out (2014 PG) are two comedies with similar themes.  Family members take a break from their normal routine to enjoy a night out, and instead encounter disastrous yet funny situations.

The movies are the same in other ways:

Over-the-Top Characterizations.  The audience is supposed to identify with parts of these extreme characterizations and find them funny.  Or, unintentionally, just get really annoyed.

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Moms’ Night Out stay-at-home mom Sarah Drew is frazzled beyond reason. Pastor’s wife Patricia Heaton maintains the perfect image above all else.

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Moms’ Night Out dads Kevin Downes and Sean Astin are clueless about how to care for their own children.

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Date Night dad Steve Carell is more interested in the babysitter than his wife.

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Date Night’s wife Tina Fey is completely oblivious to the need for romance in a marriage.

Crazy Car Chases.  I suppose since these can be considered Chick-Flix, the car chases are thrown in to appeal to the men in the audience.

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In Moms’ Night Out, cabbie David Hunt races moms Logan White, Patricia Heaton, Abbie Cobb, and Sarah Drew in search of a missing baby. Police cars, bikers, and minivans join in the chase.

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Date Night’s couple are mistaken for gangsters, and undercover cop Common gets involved. Cars are crashed.

Bonding Over Music.  Audiences like a good dance scene.

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Tina Fey and Steve Carell have to do a sexy dance for the gangster boss. Yucky scene.

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The moms dance at the bowling alley after biker Trace Adkins has helped them find the baby.

Funny Smaller Roles.  Both movies have hilarious scenes with snobby restaurant hostesses.

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Anjelah Johnson-Reyes in Moms’ Night Out.

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Olivia Munn in Date Night.

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The Tattoo Desk Guy (Manwell Reyes) in Moms’ Night Out is great.

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Mark Wahlberg plays his private security role well.

Dumb Smaller Roles.  Both movies have them.

Moral of the Story:  Show Appreciation for the People in Your Life.  Good advice for us all!

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And the Winner is…..  Moms’ Night Out!  Date Night has too many icky parts played for comedy.  If I wouldn’t feel comfortable watching the movie with my teenage daughters, I shouldn’t be watching it at all.

 

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Captain America: A Good Avenger Movie

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Captain America:  The Winter Soldier (2014 PG-13) is the next in the series of Avenger movies (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America are all Avenger superheros).

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Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a super soldier from World War 2 who gets frozen and woken decades later to help save the world from bad guys in Captain America:  The First Avenger (2011 PG-13).  S.H.I.E.L.D. is the government organization charged with defending the world from bad guys, and S.H.I.E.L.D. calls on the Avengers for help, which we see in their various movies.

Here are the things you just have to take as a part of an Avenger series movie:

  • There are a lot of fights, and Avengers win them all.
  • The main characters come close to dying, but survive to fight another day.
  • The bad guys seem to die, then come back at the end to secretly recover, ready to cause problems in the sequel.
  • The boys are all muscular, and the girls are all thin.
  • Everyone can hack into computers, snack machines, and underground tunnels with ease.
  • Thousands of bullets fly, and most all of them miss.

So, accept these silly things as truths, and enjoy this Captain America movie.  Here are my favorite parts:

S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be infiltrated by traitors.  Steve is saddened, and is leaving the building.  As the elevator descends, people get in the elevator with him.  Watch as a different style of bad guy gets on at each floor –  paramilitary, devious business men, Russian gangsters, ninja fighters.  As the audience catches on, it’s fun to see who gets on the elevator next!

Captain America is just Steve, a soldier made artificially strong, then pulled from his proper timeline and dropped into the present.  Several times in the movie we get a glimpse of how he deals with the adjustment.

Here is an intrepid viewer who has found the differences in what Steve wrote in his notebook, based on what country the movie is showing in:

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What things do you think Captain America should add to his list of things to watch, hear, and read?

 

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Heaven Is For Real, and the Movie is Pretty Good, Too

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Heaven is for Real (2014 PG) recounts the story of a 4-year-old boy, Colton (Connor Corum), who nearly dies during an emergency appendectomy, then surprises his family over the next months with comments about seeing heaven.  His father, Todd (Greg Kinnear), is a rural pastor who struggles with what to believe about the heaven his son is talking about.  His mother, Sonja (Kelly Reilly), believes Colton is just repeating what he’s heard in church and in Bible stories all his life.  Colton’s big sister, Cassie (Lane Styles), doesn’t like when classmates make fun of Colton’s heaven stories.

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The book came out in 2010 and reads like a father’s musing over his son’s amazing experience.

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When we watch a faith-based movie like this, we have to separate our opinions into two categories.

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1.  Is Heaven for Real?

Colton says in heaven, “Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses.”  Colton says he spoke with Jesus, and He was nice.  You can either believe in heaven, believe that Colton saw heaven, or not believe in heaven at all. Because of my Christian faith, I believe in heaven.  To me, it doesn’t matter what Colton saw in heaven.  It doesn’t matter if there are streets of gold or what age my body in heaven will be. I simply believe that heaven will be a wonderful place.  Even if you don’t believe in heaven, you can answer the second question.

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2.  Is the movie any good?

The movie is really about a family in crisis and how they struggle and how they support each other.  There are money issues.  Health issues.  The church threatens to fire Pastor Todd because of his heaven talk.

Now, the big beautiful farmhouse they live in does not look like something that a struggling firefighter/garage installer/pastor would live in; there should be some peeling paint or battered equipment laying around.  And a few of the supporting cast are not great actors, so the scenes with them, in which we should see how Todd is a friendly pillar of the community, are forced.

But the key actors are spot-on!  You feel the struggle Sonja has to support her husband in is conflict. You can feel the financial pinch the family is in, and know that there is no way out.  Todd is under pressure to financially support his family, guide his church, show love to his kids and wife, and keep his side businesses afloat.  All while wrestling with the things that little Colton has told him.  Cassie doesn’t get much screen time, but when she does she acts seamlessly.  And little Colton is adorable.

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