Tag Archives: movies

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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Gaslight: Has Anyone Tried to Make You Crazy Lately?


We were eating lunch in the staff room and one of us was quite frazzled because she could not find her keys that morning.  We all were sympathetic, giving advice, telling our own stories of keys lost and found, when one person said, “Your dog is probably Gaslighting you!”

Ha!  I get that reference!  Do you?

Gaslight (1944) is a suspenseful movie in which Charles Boyer slowly and systematically causes his wife Ingrid Bergman to believe she is loosing her mind.  He keeps her isolated from neighbors and old family friends, and takes jewelry from her hand bag but makes her think she took it without remembering.

Click here for an excellent current review of this classic movie.

I watched this movie with my teenaged daughters.  I hope that, if the situation arises, they will recognize signs of a controlling person before becoming attached to them.

Charles Boyer uses his proclaimed love for Ingrid Bergman to keep her from seeing other people.  He wants to extend the honeymoon by not hosting parties, as she wants.  He says he is concerned about her memory loss and doesn’t want noisy neighbors to cause embarrassment for her.  Actually, he wants total control over her, not because he loves her, but because he has a reason to drive her insane and put her in an institution.

Ingrid Bergman is gorgeous, and it is difficult to see her try to assert herself, just to be humiliated by her “loving” husband in front of the servants.  Fortunately, she does have someone who wants to help her, and when things seem at their worst, she has a way out by accepting help from others.

A good lesson to remember.


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ParaNorman: Horror for Middle Schoolers


Today I got to see the animated movie ParaNorman (2012 PG) with a group of middle schoolers.  I had never seen this stop-motion movie before , but remember it had gotten good reviews:  A misunderstood boy takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.

ParaNorman Uncle

We laughed and laughed at many of the parts!  Especially the scene where Norman must pry a book out of his dead uncle’s hands.

But this is also a frightening film.  A creeped-out boy prying a book out of his dead uncle’s hands?  A terrified kid standing up to a 200-year-old witch’s curse?  A bullied child who can see and talk to people and animals after they’ve died?

This clip is a good overview of all the freaky stuff in the movie:

What will give kids nightmares?  The part where Norman is hiding under the bed from the zombie, who’s ear falls off in front of Norman’s face?  Funny, but also a bit scary.


Kids like scary stories.  Goosebumps books and Scooby-Doo cartoons are popular.  But do we allow too much horror into kids’ lives?

When I was little I watched a movie while sleeping at a friend’s house. I think it had something to do with a time machine, but the thing that kept me awake and afraid was a scene where the scientist and the girl run from a burning building.  Probably not scary to an adult, but it made me want to be home.

What movies kept you up at night when you were younger?

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Teachers in the Movies


As a former high school teacher, I don’t like watching movies or TV shows that take place in high schools, because they typically get it all wrong!  I wonder if cops feel the same way when watching police films, or if lawyers feel annoyed watching courtroom dramas?

An example of a movie that gets teaching wrong, but still is a fun movie:

Here Comes the Boom (2012)  To raise money to prevent music and other extra classes from being cut from his high school, a biology teacher (Kevin James) begins to compete as a mixed-martial arts fighter, because even the losers get prize money.  At PG, it is safe to bring anyone to see this movie – your mother, your children, your Sunday school teacher – because there is very little bad language, the violence during the fights does not result in gushing blood or even much bruising, the kissing is brief, no alcohol or drugs, and all amoral behavior gets brought to justice, or the individuals see the error of their ways and fix things.  Fun movie!

But portraying teachers, they get many things wrong.  Biology teacher Scott Voss (Kevin James) is late to first period and gets caught climbing in through the window by Principal Betcher (Greg Germann), who gives him bus duty and takes away vacation days as a punishment.  Yes, bus duty can be a punishment in real life, but teachers do not get vacation days!  The days they don’t teach (winter and spring break, summer vacation) are days they don’t get paid for.

Henry Winkler plays the gentle band instructor (Marty Streb) who supports Kevin James in his quest to win money to save music at the school, but he doesn’t conduct correctly.  If you are a musician, just close your eyes during shots of him with the baton, because he gets the rest of the band teacher character right.

Kevin James relies on school nurse Bella Flores, played by Salma Hayek, to bandage him up at school, and she even comes to his home one evening to pull his shoulder back into it’s socket.  It’s a funny scene, but not realistic.  For one, how many schools still have a full-time nurse on staff?  And two, teachers have medical benefits, and wouldn’t need someone to treat their injuries in their spare time.  But, the shoulder scene is needed to move the characters along, so I’ll forgive that!

Are there any films that unrealistically portray your profession?  Does it matter?

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Baseball Wasn’t Always for Everyone

ImageIt’s Jackie Robinson’s birthday (1919-1972).  As an African-American, he broke the color barrier in major league baseball when he signed on to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

In his memory, we’re going to watch The Jackie Robinson Story this weekend!  Released in 1950, it stars Jackie Robinson as himself showing his start in the Negro Leagues, his relationship with his wife, and ending up in the major leagues, with help from Dodger president Branch Rickey.  I watched it a while ago, and don’t remember much of it, so I’m happy to watch it again with my daughters.

It’s too bad the new Jackie Robinson movie, 42, wont be released until April.  But, I suppose a sports movie wont have a very good box office opening on Super Bowl weekend.  42 stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, and Harrison Ford as Dodger president Branch Rickey.

What other baseball movies feature this segregation issue?   Off the top of my head, I came up with these:

A League of Their Own (1992).  During WWII, women’s baseball leagues fill in the gap left by pro baseball players heading off to war.  Women are happy to have the chance to prove that they can play ball, too.  In one scene, a ball is hit out of bounds.  Two African-American ladies in denim overalls and ball caps are there to toss it back to Geena Davis, who plays the pitcher.  The throw is strong and accurate, and Geena’s character acknowledges the talent of the girl.  It’s a small moment, not even credited on IMDB, but beautiful in how it makes the point that white girls aren’t the only ones who can play baseball.

The Perfect Game (2009).  In 1957, a poor little league team from Monterey, Mexico amazes everyone by winning the American Little League World Series.  A great family movie for anyone who likes stories of the underdog who comes out on top.  At one point the team is eating in a Texas diner at the same time as another team.  One boy on that team is African-American, and is not eating with his team, but off by himself.  The Mexican pitcher, played by 14-year-old Jansen Panettiere (little brother of Hayden), invites the outcast player to eat with him, and they compare Mexican and Southern ways to eat hot sauce.

The Sandlot (1993).  A 1960’s summer spent playing baseball with the neighborhood boys.  Fun movie, but has a bit more language than necessary for a kid-friendly film.  James Earl Jones plays the mysterious neighbor with the evil dog.  When Jones is finally seen, we discover he played in the Negro Leagues.

Can you think of any other baseball movies that depict African-American segregation?

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