The Magnificent Seven: Then and Now


The Magnificent Seven in 1960.


Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen lead the Seven in 1960

The Magnificent Seven in 2016.  There is more variety in the appearance of the men.  Their personalities are quite individual, too.


A refreshing mix of skin tone in 2016

I haven’t seen the original, or even the Japanese movie that started it all, Seven Samurai (1954).


All three movies are about seven diverse men who band together to save a town against bad guys.  A lot of bad guys.  So many that the men need to be creative in how they fight, and use all the different talents that each man brings.

The 2016 trailer summarizes the men’s abilities, and gives a glimpse of the action in the movie.

The movie is good at giving a back story to most of the seven men, and not just the main stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt.

The movie is bad at keeping leading lady Haley Bennett covered up.



At least her dialogue and actions are true to character, and she doesn’t become some passive love interest.

A lot of people end up dead for a PG-13 movie, but they mostly just fall down dead.  There isn’t a lot of drawn out blood and guts and screams of agony.

The Magnificent Seven reminds me of another old movie where a small group of strangers join together to defend a town from bad guys.  Maybe you’ve seen Silverado (1985 PG-13).

What other movies have the good guys outnumbered?


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The Finest Hours: A Different Kind of Hero


The Finest Hours (2015 PG-13), directed by Craig Gillespie, tells the true story of a 1950’s Coast Guard rescue against all odds.

This movie is about heroes.  The people who sign up to serve their country in war and in peace, and risk their lives for others.  The women who wait.  The men who avoid panicking, and fight against the odds to keep their sinking ship intact until rescue.

The Finest Hours

 Holliday Grainger as Miriam and Beau Knapp as Mel Gouthro ©Disney Enterprises. CR: Claire Folger.

Yet the strongest person in the film is the fiance, the girl who barges in to tell the Coast Guard commander to bring her man back.  And also the Coast Guard widow, who packs her young kids in the car during a storm to take food to the community center for the survivors, if there are any.

The other heroes are unlikely heroes.

The Finest Hours

Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) and Tchuda Southerland (Josh Stewart) struggle to keep their ship, the SS Pendleton, from sinking.

Casey Affleck plays chief engineer Ray Sybert, an introvert who would rather tinker with his dials and engines than lead a crew. Yet he must, and reluctantly rises to the challenge of confronting much stronger personalities to do what must be done to save the ship.


Chris Pine plays Bernie Webber of the Coast Guard, a shy man who lives in the shadow of his big brother’s heroics. He leads a crew of four to almost certain death, knowing he is the only chance the stranded men have.  He can barely make eye contact, he is so shy.

Chris Pine is known for playing larger than life characters, so it is really fun to see him act out such a submissive character.


Zachary Quinto, Spock, and Chris Pine, Captain James T Kirk in Star Trek


Anne Hathaway, Princess Mia, and Chris Pine, Prince Nicholas, in a scene from the motion picture “Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.”  photo by Ron Batzdorff


Love that scene from Into the Woods!

Back to our movie….Watch “The Finest Hours.”  Enjoy the performances.  Marvel at the daring rescue. Envy the 1950’s dresses.  Root for the survivors as the ship sinks.

Bring a jacket to the theater…Watching that terrible blizzard and rough seas makes a person cold!

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Brooklyn: Life Lessons for Young Ladies


Brooklyn (2015 PG-13), directed by John Crowley, is a lovely romantic movie about an Irish girl in 1950’s New York City.  Enjoy the movie with your girlfriends or teenage daughters, and without realizing it, you will learn some life lessons.  Just close your eyes during the unnecessary sex scene.

Learn these four life lessons from this beautiful movie:

  • Homesickness is like most sicknesses.  It will pass.  Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) is young and without prospects for marriage or career in Ireland, so she heads to a new life in Brooklyn.  She feels alone and sad and doubts her decision.  The Catholic priest who facilitates her move has those wise words for her.  Feeling homesick will not last forever.

Even a bright green coat cannot hide Eilis’ nervousness upon arriving in New York.

  • When you are down, help someone else, and you will feel better.  The other girls at Eilis’ boarding house turn their noses up at serving the poor at the church Christmas dinner.  As Eilis serves lonely old Irish immigrant men, her own sorrow is blended with theirs.  When we help other people, we are momentarily distracted from our own problems, and we realize how blessed we truly are!

Eilis, second from right, is the only one from her boarding house who will help serve dinner to the poor at church.

  • There is more than one fish in the sea.  As you watch, notice all the young men who take the time to talk to Eilis.  Any of them could become her young man.  And then when she returns unexpectedly to Ireland, another man falls in love with her.  Do not despair – keep your eyes and your heart open!

The stranger next to you on the bus may be a rather nice young man (Emory Cohen).

  • If you need help, go to the church.  Father Blood (Jim Broadbent) finds Eilis a place to live and a place to work, and does even more when he realizes she needs more support.  The people around us who dedicate their lives to serving at churches are usually alert to help anyone in need, even today.

Look at how cheerful Eilis looks!  Is Brooklyn becoming her new home?

When she gets married and goes back to her boarding house, that is when you should go to get more popcorn.  When you get back to your seat, Eilis will be headed back to Ireland, and headed into the third part of the movie.

Life lessons for all of us, all in a lovely movie!

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The Bells of St. Mary’s: Christmas Story By Kids


The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945 NR) is not a Christmas movie.  Father O’Malley (Bing Crosby) is the new principal of the Catholic school in which Sister Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman) is a lead teacher.


They immediately clash on how to run a school and discipline students.  But watch how they clash.  This is 1945.  There is no back talk or angry words.  Both use their own ways to try to influence the other to see things their way.

Bing Crosby is made for this role, playing a persuasive and charming man of faith. Ingrid Bergman is luminous in her nun’s habit, loving the children and passionate about her faith.  Towards then end, when misunderstandings threaten their hard-earned friendship, she says so much just with her eyes.  Especially in the final scenes. Amazing actress!

This scene where the kids put on their own Christmas pageant is adorable!

Did you ever see a Christmas pageant like this at your church?

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Love Actually: Christmas Story for Adults


Love Actually (2003 R) is a great English comedy romance movie for Christmas.  Excellent movie!  But don’t watch with your kids!

Ten different stories of love take place together and separately over the month leading up to Christmas Eve.

***I started to list all the story lines, then deleted them.  The director (Richard Curtis) can tell the story better than I can write it here.  So, go watch the movie!***


I first saw the movie on an airplane.  Airplanes show movies that have been edited for offensive material.  One entire story line was missing because of nudity and implied sex.  There are some bad words, but with the British accent, most of them fly by me.    But for those two things I would hesitate watching with kids or teens.


It’s easy to get confused about the relationships, but that’s okay.  Don’t stress, and just sit back and enjoy.  If you must know, here is a good relationship recap.  But don’t read it until after you have watched the movie, because some of the relationship reveals are the kind that make you gasp, or grin.


As the stories unfold and you get involved with the characters, you will identify with someone.  Some characters you will think should just do something different or say something else.  But one or two characters will really touch your heart.


By the last 30 minutes I just can’t stop grinning!  I love how the problems and situations cascade and accelerate to the conclusion.  Not all stories have happy endings, but many do.

Fun movie!

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Star Wars is Everywhere

In theaters.


In costumes.


In lunch boxes.


In cookies.


In blog posts.


It is even referenced in other movies.  Here is a clip from Reign of Fire (2002 PG-13), in which Gerard Butler and Christian Bale entertain a group of kids in a future with no electricity.

Fun scene in a good movie!

Where are your favorite Star Wars references from TV and movies?


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Trading Places: Could Have Been A Family Christmas Tradition


Trading Places (1983 R) is a funny Christmas movie with a heartwarming message.  But it is not for kids.


Winthorpe (Dan Aykroyd) is a successful investor working for the brokerage firm of wealthy brothers Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche).  Randolph and Mortimer have a “nature versus nurture” debate.  Is Winthorpe successful because he is naturally brilliant, or because he has always been given opportunities to nurture success?


To test “nature versus nurture”, Randolph and Mortimer randomly choose panhandler Billie Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) to trade places with Winthorpe.  They manipulate to get Winthorpe accused of a crime, locked out of his home, fired from work, and abandoned by his snobby friends and fiancee.

Valentine grows successful.


Winthorpe grows desperate.


All this is handled in a very comedic way.  Very funny!  But still not for kids.

Why not?

Boobs.  Too many jiggling naked boobs.  And the f-word, unnecessary to the dialogue.


Why did director John Landis add things to keep families from enjoying this Christmas movie together?


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Paper Towns: Not Really for Parents


Can you like a movie when you disagree with the behavior of the characters?

In Paper Towns (2015 PG-13), directed by Jake Schreier, a group of high school seniors search for a friend who left clues to her whereabouts.


I like seeing the depth of the friendship between the boys (from right) Quentin (Nat Wolff), Radar (Justice Smith), and Ben (Austin Abrams).  They have been together since they were little, and have an easy rapport.  Good acting, good dialogue when they are together.  At one point they break out in song, and although I have no idea what they are singing, the fun they have while singing it makes me happy for them.

As a parent, I couldn’t stand the other parts of the movie.

The Girls


Just because the girls are pretty, the boys do bizarre things for them.  I had to lean over and whisper to my teenage daughters several times and tell them never to act like that.  Yes, you can see someone roll their eyes at you in a darkened theater.


The Parents


Does it tell you something when I cannot find any studio photos of the parents in the movie?


The girl everyone is searching for (Cara Delevingne) has run away over the years, just for the adventure of it all.  She always leaves clues to let people know she is okay.  Her parents (Susan Macke Miller and Tom Hillmann) have a brief scene with the police where they say she can just stay away if she wants, because they are tired of her leaving all the time.  I completely agree, but the audience is supposed to think they are uncaring.

The other parents are barely there, and only cause embarrassment for their teens.


Are you a parent, or a teen?  Do you have to be a teen to like the movie?

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Newsies: A Movie for Labor Day


Whatever your view on the current state of labor unions, you must agree that a century ago labor unions were essential in helping the little guy.

To celebrate Labor Day weekend, watch Newsies (1992, PG), a musical based on the 1899 news paper boy strike.


Yes, that is a young Christian Bale (with red scarf) as the star of this musical.

Watch the trailer below.  It conveys the drama and excitement of the movie quite well.

A generation of kids grew up watching Newsies.  They missed the great musicals of the 1950’s, such as Oklahoma and Singing in the Rain, but may have watched The Sound of Music with their parents on TV.

Newsies was their musical, in which kids just like them sang and danced and beat the grown ups.  These kids grew up, and ran dance studios, and had the next generation of kids performing to Newsies.

Wanna know where the cast from Newsies is today?  It’s all here.

What’s your favorite scene from Newsies?

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War Room: The Power of Prayer


Gather your church friends.  You know, the ones who raise their hands and say “Amen”.  Go see War Room together.

I did.  So did everyone else in our theater opening weekend.  We talked to the screen.  We burst into applause several times during the movie.  Some quoted scripture along with the actors.  Many had tears in their eyes.

War Room (2015 PG) is created by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick, brothers who have released many movies for a Christian audience.  Each one gets better, with stronger acting, better dialogue, and higher production values.


Elizabeth (Priscilla C. Shirer) argues so much with her husband that she forgets about her daughter (Alena Pitts).


Tony (T. C. Stallings) spends more time at work than with his family.

This family is on the brink of crisis, until Elizabeth meets Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie).  She guides Elizabeth on how to pray for her family.  Of course, it isn’t as simple as that, and the road to joy is not smooth.


Skip the trailer and just go see this powerful movie.

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