Tina Fey and Robert Carlock are the producers of “Great News,” from their “30 Rock” colleague Tracey Wigfield. It’s the story of a television news producer and her mother, who becomes an intern on her show. And it’s adorable. Here Wigfield and her real mother talk to Briga Heelan and Andrea Martin, who play versions of their real-life relationship on the show. The whole cast is terrific, including John Michael Higgins, Horatio Sanz and (yes) Nicole Ritchie.
Disney’s “The Descendants” was an immediate smash, with one of the biggest audiences ever for a cable movie on its premiere and over 100 million viewers since then. “High School Musical’s” Kenny Ortega was behind the smart and engaging story of the children of some of Disney’s most popular characters, including good guys like Belle and the Beast and villains like Cruella De Vil, Jafar, and Maleficent. The sequel will be available on the Disney-owned networks plus on-demand on the Disney Channel, ABC, Freeform and Lifetime apps, beginning Friday, July 21, at 10:00 p.m. EDT/7:00 p.m. PDT; and on Disney Channel, ABC, Freeform and Lifetime VOD beginning Saturday, July 22).
In “Descendants 2,” the story deepens as the Villain Kids (AKA “VKs”) – Mal, Evie, Carlos and Jay – continue to try to
find their place in idyllic Auradon. When the pressure to be royal becomes too much for Mal, she returns to her rotten roots on the Isle of the Lost where her archenemy Uma, the daughter of Ursula, has taken her spot as self-proclaimed queen of the run-down town. Uma, still resentful over not being selected by Ben to go to Auradon Prep with the other Villain Kids, stirs her pirate gang including Captain Hook’s son Harry and Gaston’s son Gil, to break the barrier between the Isle of the Lost and Auradon, and unleash all the villains imprisoned on the Isle, once and for all.
Stars include Dove Cameron (“Liv and Maddie”), Cameron Boyce (“Jessie”), Sofia Carson (Hollywood Records recording artist, “Adventures in Babysitting”), Booboo Stewart (“X-Men Days of Future Past”), and Mitchell Hope reprising the roles of Mal, Carlos, Jay, Evie and King Ben, respectively. Starring as the new villains are China Anne McClain (“A.N.T. Farm”) as Uma, the daughter of Ursula; Thomas Doherty (“The Lodge”) as Harry, son of Captain Hook; Dylan Playfair (“Some Assembly Required”) as Gil, son of Gaston; and Anna Cathcart (“Odd Squad”) as Dizzy, daughter of Cinderella’s evil stepsister Drizella and granddaughter of wicked stepmother Lady Tremaine. Also reprising their roles in this sequel are Brenna D’Amico as Jane, the daughter of Fairy Godmother; Melanie Paxson as Fairy Godmother; Dianne Doan as Lonnie, the daughter of Mulan; Jedidiah Goodacre as Chad, the son of Cinderella; Zachary Gibson as Doug, the son of Dopey; Keegan Connor Tracy as Belle and Dan Payne as Beast.
Writer/director Terry George, served time in prison during the time of The Troubles in Northern Ireland and has devoted his life to telling stories of courage in times of the direst periods of unrest and slaughter, including the Oscar-nominated “Hotel Rwanda” and “In the Name of the Father.” With “The Promise,” he tells an epic story of love and loss in wartime, with Oscar Isaac, channelling Yuri Azhivago as soulful Mikael Pogosian, a young Armenian medical student, Christian Bale as determined American journalist Chris Myers, and Charlotte LeBon (“The Walk”), lovely and stirring as Ana, an Armenian artist and governess and the woman they both love.
As it begins, Mikael has agreed to marry a girl in his village in exchange for a dowry that will pay for medical school in Constantinople (Istanbul), where he stays with his uncle’s family, including Ana, governance to his young cousins. In these early scenes, both in the village and the city, George immerses us in an ambiance of sophistication, culture, tolerance, and prosperity. Christians and Muslims, Turks and Armenians, mostly treat each other with respect and easy comfort, even affection.
But that changes quickly as World War I begins. The Ottoman Empire joins the Germans and begins ethnic cleansing, arresting and deporting the intellectuals, forcing able-bodied men into military service or slave labor, throwing everyone else out of their homes and sometimes outright murder. Mikael’s medical exemption from military service is revoked. He is sent to a labor camp but escapes and returns home to find everyone he knows in danger. Although he is by now very much in love with Ana, he goes through with the promised marriage. Meanwhile, Chris is trying to get the story out to the rest of the world and Ana is trying to protect and help her people. All three are swept up in the tumultuous events as people around them show cruelty they could never have imagined possible.
As devastating as the historic events of the film are, the most powerful moments for today’s audiences are the ones that evoke our current conflicts. The treatment of refugees, including an extraordinary rescue effort from France, is in sharp contrast to news footage of today’s refugees, stuck for years, even decades, in perilous limbo before they can find new home, underscored by a reference to the temporary destination for the Armenians evicted from their villages — Aleppo.
Parents should know that this film concerns war and genocide, with extended peril and violence and some graphic and disturbing images. Characters are injured and killed, including an execution, and there are very sad deaths. There is some strong language.
Family discussion: What does this story tell us about today’s treatment of refugees? About how quickly a country can shift its policies on diversity and inclusion? Is survival a form of revenge?
If you like this, try: “Nahapet,” “Ararat,” and “Map of Salvation”
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some nudity
Brief strong language
Peril and violence including WWI battles and attacks by indigenous people
Class, race, and culture issues a theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters:
April 21, 2017
Date Released to DVD:
July 10, 2017
From the early 19th to the early 20th century, the British Empire exemplified a spirit of adventure, devotion to duty, and confidence bordering on hubris that led to extraordinary achievements like the Oxford English Dictionary and the arrogant imposition of colonialism around the world. All of that is in this true story of Percy Fawcett, an officer in the British Army whose eight trips to South America in search of ancient ruins inspired characters in books by H. Rider Haggard and Arthur Conan-Doyle (The Lost World) (both friends of Fawcett’s) and in movies like “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Basically, if the hero wears khakis as he slashes through the jungle, he owes something to Percy Fawcett.
Writer/director James Gray based the screenplay on the book by David Gann and the letters of Fawcett and his wife, and shaped the story to make it more accessible, turning eight trips into three and reflecting a more contemporary understanding of race and gender. That is notable in Nina Fawcett’s attempt to insist that she should accompany her husband on an expedition and in the treatment of the natives, who are portrayed with dignity and agency, and treated as such by Fawcett.
He also helps us understand the pressures of the era that helped to motivate Fawcett’s journeys. The unlimited opportunities of the uncharted jungle were especially compelling. In addition to giving him the chance to earn money for his family, a major discovery would allow him to return to England in triumph and overcome the disgrace his father had brought to the family name. We first see him outracing his fellow officers, showing us his skill and determination. When he has the opportunity to go to Bolivia to map the country’s boundaries — to protect the British business interests in South America — he does not want to leave his family but he is eager to escape the restrictions of Edwardian social class. “He’s rather unfortunate in his choice of ancestors,” one character sneers.
On the mapping expedition he hears about a place where there are artifacts of a prehistoric civilization and he is determined to find it and come home in triumph. He teams up with the loyal and capable Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson, unrecognizable behind a thick beard).
On his second visit, he brings along a veteran explorer, James Murray (Angus Macfadyen), who had been with Shackleton on his expedition to Antarctica, which turns out to be a very bad decision. But it is also the final proof for Fawcett that class and reputation are not determinative. On the third trip, after Fawcett’s return to military service in WWI, he brings his once-estranged son (Spider-Man Tom Holland) and reaches a new understanding and reconciliation.
Gray ably conveys the curiosity and wonder of the journeys and the passions that impel the adventurers. Pattinson’s performance is especially thoughtful and Hunnam does well, especially in an impassioned speech to the skeptics at the Royal Geographical Society and in showing us how his journeys change his views of himself and his world, perhaps inspiring us to imagine our own.
Parents should know that this film includes extended peril and violence including wartime battle scenes, sad deaths, some graphic and disturbing images, native nudity, brief strong language.
Family discussion: Why did Percy keep returning to his search? What did he learn from his experience with Murray?
If you like this, try: “The Man Who Would be King,” “The Lost World,” “Mountains of the Moon,” and the books by H. Rider Haggard and Arthur Conan-Doyle inspired by Fawcett’s adventures