Creativity Conference 2014: Joe Biden, “Scandal’s” President Fitzgerald Grant, 3D Printing, and a Minion!

Posted on May 3, 2014 at 4:17 pm

tony goldwyn morgan spurlock juju changIf you get invited to a conference on creativity featuring Vice President Joe Biden, 3D printers, President Fitzgerald Grant from “Scandal” (that’s actor/director Tony Goldwyn), a minion, and a chance to sit on the Iron Throne from “Game of Thrones,” I’m sure you agree with me that the answer is “Yes!”  The event was sponsored by the MPAA (the association of the movie studios) in partnership with Microsoft and ABC News.  MPAA CEO Chris Dodd told us that movie studios are technology companies that produce content and we got to see some great examples, with glimpses of upcoming films from Warner’s and Disney.

iron throneIt was tremendously exciting. I got to play with some cool new technology. The throne is more comfortable than it looks.  The minion was very cute.  The Vice President gave a stirring speech about the way that movies convey a sometimes raw but profound message to us and to the rest of the world.  They are “the face of American culture,” and more powerful than diplomacy.  He said that America’s unique and unprecedented renewal is due to our “overwhelming and constant stream of immigration” and the optimism and commitment to improving things that is a part of our culture.

The presentation by Avi Reichental of 3D systems was mind-blowing.  He told us of the grandfather he never met, a cobbler who died in the Holocaust.  He talked about what manufacturing was like in his grandfather’s time, the opportunity for individual creativity and innovation.  With his company’s 3D printers, the forces that have made manufacturing large, institutional, and moved overseas will become less important.  3D printing “democratizes” manufacturing and creates opportunities for individuals to create (and sell) anything they can imagine.  Reichental’s very colorful shoes and cool-looking watch were both made by 3D printers.

I especially enjoyed a panel discussion moderated by Juju Chang of “Nightline,” featuring Tony Goldwyn (who plays the President on “Scandal”), Kati London of Microsoft, Amy Powell of Paramount, and documentarian Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me,” “Inside Man”).  Goldwyn, also a producer and director, talked about how Twitter created an exceptionally close connection between “Scandal” and its fans and London told us how a multi-player online game was more effective than traditional PSAs in reaching middle schoolers.  It was a lively and illuminating morning and I’m looking forward to next year already.

joebiden

Related Tags:

 

Behind the Scenes

Decoding Annie Parker

Posted on May 1, 2014 at 6:00 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and some sexual content
Profanity: Very strong language, sexual references
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Serious illness with disturbing scenes of symptoms and treatment, very sad deaths
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 2, 2014
Rashida Jones and Samantha Morton in Decoding Annie Parker (courtesy of Dorado Media)

This is the true story of two women who share a goal but meet just once, for a few moments.  Oscar winner Helen Hunt plays scientist Dr. Mary-Claire King, whose pioneering research led to one of the most significant medical discoveries of the 2oth century, the BRCA1 genetic marker for early onset breast cancer.  And Samantha Morton plays Annie Parker, a young woman who lost her mother and sister to breast cancer and then, when she was diagnosed with it herself, became dedicated to learning everything she could about the disease.  An outstanding cast, a likeable narrator, and a thoughtful script co-authored by director Steven Bernstein take this out of the easy tears of the disease-of-the-week TV movie category.  It is an absorbing drama with a lot of respect for its characters and a welcome sense of humor.  “My life was a comedy,” a quote from the real Annie says as the movie begins.  “I just had to learn to laugh.”

Annie’s mother died of breast cancer when she was a child, and Annie and her sister (Marley Shelton as an adult) superstitiously believe — or pretend to believe — that Death sleeps in a locked room on the top floor of their house, and that their mother make the mistake of awakening it.  Their father dies when Annie is still in her teens, and we see her at the first of three funerals in the film, with fatuous remarks from the people attending and a skeezy funeral home employee hitting on her.  “A lot of women can’t be cool and in mourning at the same time, but you pull it off.”

A little lost, and overcome with ardor for her musician/pool cleaner boyfriend Paul (“Breaking Bad’s” Aaron Paul in a series of 70’s and 80’s hairdos that are both horribly ugly and fake-looking), Annie gets married.  They live in the house she grew up in and very soon they have a baby.  And then, the last member of her family, her sister Joan, gets breast cancer and dies, funeral number two, same fatuous remarks and skeezy guy.

And then Annie gets a lump in her breast.  It is cancer.  She has a radical mastectomy and removal of most of her lymph nodes under one arm, followed by chemotherapy.  She becomes determined to learn as much as she can about the disease, even building models of cancer and DNA.  And she becomes a warrior against cancer, checking her breasts and insisting everyone else check, too.  She even offers to check her husband for testicular cancer during an intimate moment.

Meanwhile, Dr. King is insisting that there is a genetic link and working to find it, despite a lack of support.  She is told it will take ten years for the computers available to her to analyze the data she is collecting from women who are in families with multiple cases of breast cancer.  But Bernstein wisely makes Annie Parker, rather than Dr. King, the focus of the film.  This adds warmth and drama to a story that would otherwise be a lot of people in lab coats getting turned down for grants and crunching data.  Parker makes an engaging guide to the years of struggle faced by both women, with a wry sense of humor and a steeliness of resolve that, endearingly, is as much a surprise to her as it is to everyone around her.  She is very funny quacking (really!) to get the attention of a bored doctor’s office receptionist (Rashida Jones), who later becomes her close friend and ally.  Morton is superb, showing us Parker’s vulnerability as well as her courage, and making us understand the scope and the human dimension of Dr. King’s work.  When they finally meet we see how in an important way they kept each other going.

Parent should know that this film has themes of cancer, illness, and loss, with sad deaths and some disturbing scenes of symptoms and treatment, sexual references and brief explicit situations, adultery, some very strong language, and drinking.

Family discussion: Why did Paul and Annie have such different reactions to illness? How did humor help Annie stay courageous? Read up on Dr. King and her opposition to patenting gene sequences.

If you like this, try: “50/50,” “Wit,” and “God Said Ha!”

Related Tags:

 

Based on a true story Drama Movies

Summer Movies 2014

Posted on May 1, 2014 at 8:00 am

godzilla-movie-posterHurry for summer movies!  Sequels!  Superheroes!  Cars!  Kisses!  YA books!  Gross-out comedies!  Quirky indies!

Summer movie season kicks off in a big way tomorrow with “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”  Other comic book superheroes coming soon to a theater near you include “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (which unites both casts from the previous films).  Next week, we’ll get the new “Godzilla,” starring Bryan Cranston.

how-to-train-your-dragon-2And summer means sequels.  I’m very excited about “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”  I’ve seen some footage already and it looks amazingly great.  They don’t want us to call “Transformers: Age of Extinction” a sequel!  It’s a reboot, with a new cast including Mark Wahlberg (but Stanley Tucci is back).   “Dawn of Planet of the Apes” is a both a reboot and a sequel, if you know what I mean. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is a sequel to the Frank Miller story, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, and Mickey Rourke.  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back for more pizza and action.  “Think Like a Man Too” takes the gang to Las Vegas.  For families with young children, “Planes: Fire and Rescue” is coming from Disney.  I’m always glad to see another “Step Up” movie — this one is “All In.”  Angelina Jolie stars as “Maleficent,” giving us another look at one of Disney’s scariest villains.  And “22 Jump Street” looks very funny in a totally NSFW way.

YA novels come to the screen with the much-anticipated “Fault in our Stars” (bring a box of tissues, maybe two) and “The Giver.”

Quirky indies include Jon Favreau, returning to a small-budget, intimate story after the “Iron Man” blockbusters with “Chef,” and Daniel Radcliffe, Adam Driver, and Zoe Kazan in “What If.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5zyC4mzh9U

It looks like a great year for sci-fi special effects films.  I’m especially looking forward to the Wachowskis’ “Jupiter Ascending” with Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum and Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in “Edge of Tomorrow.”  And we’re getting a second Hercules film this year, this one starring The Rock.

And Scarlett Johansson continues her extraordinary year with Luc Besson’s “Lucy.’

Off-the-wall gross-out comedies include Melissa McCarthy’s “Tammy” with Susan Sarandon (as her grandmother!), “Sex Tape” with Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz learning to their dismay what “the cloud” means, and Seth Rogan and Zac Efron as feuding “Neighbors.”  Adam Sandler reunites with his best co-star, Drew Barrymore, in “Blended,” the story of two single parents who have a disastrous date and then find themselves and their children sharing space on vacation on an African safari.  I’m guessing there will be animal poop.

One of the most intriguing films this summer is “Boyhood,” filmed over a 12 year period so that it could follow the story of a young boy as he goes through adolescence, from Richard Linklater of the “Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight” series.

We’ll also get some great documentaries this summer, led off by the brilliant film I saw last week at Ebertfest, “Life Itself.”  I can’t wait to see it again.

Related Tags:

 

Trailers, Previews, and Clips
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2020, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik