Little Boy: Big Surprise for a Little Movie

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Little Boy (2015 PG-13), directed by Alejandro Monteverde, tells the story of a small boy in a California town who believes that with enough faith, and actions to build that faith, he can bring his dad home safely from World War II.

The big surprise in this movie is how many types of people will enjoy it!

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  • Star watchers.    Many of the actors, hidden under 1940’s hair and wardrobe, are well known.  My teenage daughter and I kept nudging each other and whispering, “That’s the guy from that Monk show,” and “Isn’t that the mother from that other WWII movie?”

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  • History buffs.  The entire movie looks and feels authentic for the period.  And those of you who know history will feel realy smart for figuring some things out in advance.

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  • Children.  The little boy (Jakob Salvati) is very close to his loving father, who imagines stories in which they are the heros.  There are town bullies that pick on Little Boy, and we see his father captured during fighting, so you will have to decide for yourself if the PG-13 rating means your child should wait to see it.

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  • Teens.  The older brother is played by David Henrie, famous for his starring role in Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place.  In the long running TV show, he plays the geeky big brother.  In this movie, he is the big brother who has to keep the family business running while his dad is gone.  He shows an intense range of emotions, and is a quality actor.

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  • Church people.  Little Boy hears in church that if he has faith like a mustard seed, he can move mountains (Matthew 17:20).  Father Oliver (Tom Wilkinson) discusses this pracitality with him, and suggests he complete a list of good works to ‘strengthen’ his faith.  Father Oliver handles Little Boy’s tricky questions with honesty and shows how Christians grapple with God’s will.

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  • Schools.  One of the things on Father Oliver’s list for Little Boy is to befriend the only Japanese man (Cary-Hirojuki Tagawa) in town.  The movie does not shy away from the unpleasant way the government treated Japanese living in America during World War II.  This movie has humor and drama and conflict and action, and would be a terrific classroom movie.

Check out these other articles about the movie, and then watch it yourself.  It’s a good movie for everyone!

http://sgwm.com/blog/news/the-little-boy/

http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/little-boy

http://littleboyresources.com/

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B. B. King and Robert Downey Jr.

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Here’s a scene from a forgotten gem of a movie, Heart and Souls (1993 PG-13).  Robert Downey Jr has to help a ghost of an aspiring opera singer who was too afraid to sing in public.  He has to do this before the green bus to heaven arrives.  I know, it sounds strange, but the movie is really fun!

At a concert, Downey gets the opera ghost to use his body to sing the national anthem before B. B. King takes the stage. No one expects the Star Spangled Banner, which makes the scene clever.

And B. B. King’s reaction is the best part of all!

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Cinderella: It’s Fun to Dress Bad

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We all rave about Cinderella’s blue ball gown.  And it’s no wonder!  It seems to simply float!

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But I am also interested in the costumes the bad girls wear.

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Every gown the evil step-mother wears is green.  Is the costume designer trying to show us that she is jealous of Cinderella?

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All her dresses are full of hard angles and make sharp shadows.

This reminds me of movie stars of the 1940’s.  Do you know these Hollywood beauties?  (The ANSWER is below)

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It turns out that is also what the director was going for!

ANSWER:  The Hollywood actresses pictured, from top left, are Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford again, Lauren Bacall, Rosalind Russell, and Ann Blyth.

How many did you get right?

Interview with Costume Designer Sandy Powell

Dress Old Hollywood Glamour Today

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Fast & Furious: A Crash Course

I like movies about cool cars, so I was surprised then Furious 7 arrived, and I had never seen any of the previous 6 movies.  So, before seeing 7 in the theater, I needed to watch six movies!

All the movies are about guys (and the occasional girl) who race tricked out cars in illegal street races, and the team who helps them.  Sometimes they are against the law, sometimes they work with the law.  Sometimes the bad guys become good guys, sometimes the good guys become bad.  But through it all, they are family.

The cars are always cool, the girls at the races always wear skimpy clothes, the stunts are always impressive, and the cast always seems to have lots of fun.

The Fast and the Furious (2001 PG-13), directed by Rob Cohen

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Los Angeles.  Lots of body shop time, with cars up on lifts, and the risk of the race is emphasized, but no fatalities.  We meet the team who helps Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) win the races, and helps Dominic rob trucks loaded with freight.  How else do you pay for these fancy cars?  Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) wants in, but really is an undercover police officer trying to stop the crimes.

At the end, one of Dominic’s crew is gunned down, and when chasing the killer, Dominic rolls his dad’s car.  This was very painful for me to watch!  Most people walk away from the crashes in the movie, but it was nice to see that Dominic was shaken and in pain and unable to use his arm after the terrible crash.  So it hurt him to wreck such a beautiful car, too!  Brian the cop gives him his own car so he can escape.  Watch to the end of the credits to see where Dom ends up.

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Five of these characters appear in other Fast & Furious movies, one is dead by the end of the first movie, and the other two simply aren’t there anymore.  From left:  Matt Schulze, Michelle Rodriguez, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Johnny Strong, Jordana Brewster, Rick Yune, Chad Lindberg

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003 PG-13), directed by John Singleton

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Miami.  Street races pit foreign cars vs. American muscle cars. This movie has the first race fatality, and it is meaningless. Brian is no longer a cop, and is street racing in Florida.  He is needed again to go undercover, and he asks for an old friend/enemy to be released from parole so he can help him.  Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Brian get over their differences quickly, and the two actors seem to truly have fun together in this movie (ad libbing was allowed).  Paul Walker is getting a bit old (he’s 30), yet the wardrobe department still has him dressing like a punk kid.

Keep your eyes open at the beginning – the Universal Studios logo starts to rotate, then spins and chromes out to become a wheel – cool!  In the first race, four cars are lined up, and each driver in turn looks at Brian – a very awesome shot.

The pit crew characters are interesting.  FBI Agent Bilkins (Thom Barry) is back again and puts a grounded hand on the undercover work, in a nice contrast to the other federal agent characters, who act all hysterical.  Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) is undercover.  Just because she is a girl doesn’t mean that she fall for Brian.  But she does.  Why doesn’t she fall for Roman?  They both race cars and talk big. No one important dies, and Brian and Roman steal just a bit of the drug money to help them open an auto shop of their own.

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Only one character was in the first Fast & Furious movie. Three of these characters are in future Fast & Furious movies. The other two just stay in Florida and I miss them.  From left:  Tyrese Gibson, Paul Walker, Devon Aoki, Jin Auyeung, Ludacris

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Bad guy Cole Hauser and undercover agent Eva Mendes hang out in a mansion formerly owned by Sylvester Stallone.

The Fast and the Furious:  Tokyo Drift (2006 PG-13), directed by Justin Lin

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Tokyo (obviously).  Culture shock in high school.  Japanese mafia.  Skidding cars sideways instead of straight racing.  Japanese race girls dress skimpy, just like American race girls.  Teen Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) gets sent to stay with his Navy dad because he races illegally at home.  So, he immediately finds the illegal races in Tokyo.

All Fast & Furious movies have unbelievable parts to them.  You chose to ignore them and enjoy the movie.  But this one had unbelievable aspects that were too glaring to miss.  Lucas Black is 24, and looks nothing like a high school student.  American Sean has no difficulties driving on the wrong side of the road – it isn’t even mentioned.  There are mechanics and pit crew, but only once do they mention how the tires are damaged by drifting.  Why don’t you ever see new tires being put on?  Why does the gangster allow the whole movie to be decided by a race?

And why does the best character in the whole movie die?  And how does Dom show up at the end to say this dead guy is ‘family’?

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Just because he has a back pack, doesn’t mean he looks like a high school kid. From left: Lucas Black, Shad Moss

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The girl. And the boy, who happens to be the best villian; a conflicted, loyal, mean, intimidating bad guy boy friend. Nathalie Kelley and Brian Tee

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Neither of these characters were in the first two Fast & Furious movies. Only one of them is in future Furious movies. From left: Sung Kang, Lucas Black

Fast & Furious (2009 PG-13), directed by Justin Lin

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What a minute – Han is alive after all!  He’s in the Dominican Republic hijacking fuel trucks with Dom and his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez)!  Also new on the crew are Spanish-speaking friends Leo (Tego Calderone) and Santos (Don Omar).  Han (Sung Kang) finishes the job, then says he will go to Tokyo.  Don’t take the car, Han!  You’ll kill yourself!

Los Angeles.  Races through tunnels just to sell video games.  Computer databases that are realistically slow, used for a plot device.  No real pit crew to get to know.

Brian did good in Miami, so the FBI have him again investigating crimes committed by racing cars.  Letty is killed, Dom infiltrates the same car crime gang.  But Dom hates Brian because he’s a cop.  And because Brian broke his sister’s heart.

The best scene is when Dom and Brian, both undercover for different reasons, are at a party with the crime boss and try to pretend they don’t know each other.  Funny dialogue!  And watch – two animated cars race through the closing credits, one is Dom and the other is Brian.  Who will win?

Dom pulls his dad’s car back together, just to wreck it in another race.  They sure wreck a lot of cool cars in these movies!

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One of these bad guys becomes a good guy in future movies. From left: Vin Diesel, Laz Alonso, John Ortiz, Gal Gadot.

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Fast Five (2011 PG-13), directed by Justin Lin

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The opening credits are a gift to movie fans!  Each character that is back gets highlights shown of their previous adventures with the Fast & Furious franchise!

Rio de Janeiro.  Dom’s team is made of everyone we know from previous movies.  Computer databases that are unrealistically fast, used for a plot device (Han’s full name is Han Seoul-Oh. His other car must be a Millennium Falcon). The first F-word (thanks a lot, Dwayne Johnson.)  Hundreds of Dodge Chargers made into Rio cop cars, just to be wrecked.  Brazilian race girls dress scantily, just like in America and in Japan.

The team is happy to see each other again, and to meet the members who were in episodes that they were not in.  This time they steal a huge safe and drag it through the streets.  A totally unrealistic stunt, but really fun to watch!

Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) shows up to fist fight Dom.  I wonder what the testosterone level was like on the set that day?

Stay to the end of the credits.  Eva Mendes returns (in a totally unprofessional business outfit) to show Agent Hobbs that Dom’s girlfriend Letty is really alive!

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Vince is back, and living in Brazil. (Far left, Matt Schulze.) One of the team wont survive this movie.

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Santos and Leo are also back (from left Don Omar, Tego Calderon). But they run off with their share of the profit, and are never seen again in Furious-land.

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Both will be in future Furious movies, because Dom needs a new girlfriend, since his died in movie four, and Dom needs someone to fight. Elsa Pataky, Dwayne Johnson.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013 PG-13), directed by Justin Lin

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London and Spain.  Girl fist fights.  Boy fist fights.  London race girls in skimpy clothes.  The second F-word (totally unnecessary, Tyrese Gibson.)  A surprise team change.

Han hasn’t made it to Tokyo yet, so he is still on the team.  Brian and Mia have a baby boy, so Dom is an uncle.  To find Letty (his formerly dead girlfriend), Dom calls on his friends/family to help.

The team is tighter.  Most of the races and chases are at night, which make it difficult to follow the action.  A cool tank chase, and the longest runway in the world chase.

Letty has amnesia, and shoots Dom in the shoulder, which he simply shrugs off (at least sit down when you pull the bullet out of your own chest!)  If Letty is back, what about Dom’s Brazilian girlfriend?  She gives up too easily.

If Letty is alive, then maybe Han will actually survive Tokyo!  Watch through the closing credits, and you see the next movie bad guy walk away from Han’s burning car.

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Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is called “The Samoan Thor”, “Captain America”, and “The Hulk”. Riley (Gina Carano) can hold her own in any fight.  One does not survive the film.

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My favorite parts are when the team interacts together, and plans together. Not all survive the film.  From left: Sung Kang, Ludacris, Gal Gadot, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson.

Now I can go see Furious 7!  Which Furious movie is your favorite?

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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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