Fly Me to the Moon

Fly Me to the Moon

Posted on July 11, 2024 at 12:12 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some strong language and smoking
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol and smoking
Diversity Issues: Issues of perception, expectations, and treatment of women
Date Released to Theaters: July 12, 2024
Copyright 2024 Sony Pictures

Unless you care more about historical accuracy than a rollicking good story, I think you will really enjoy this movie, one of the most purely entertaining films of the year. And some of it is even true.

There are many places to get the real story of the moon landing. This has some of the story right, and some enhanced for dramatic, comedic, and romantic purposes, all of which are very well served.

Scarlett Johansson, who also produced, plays Kelly, an advertising executive who has the right combination for success in that field: she always understands her market/target/audience and she will say or do whatever it takes on its behalf. She can spin anything and that includes selling her own services.

She is approached by a mysterious man who says his name is Moe Berkus ( Woody Harrelson) and that he works for President Richard Nixon. John F. Kennedy promised an American man on the moon by the end of the decade and the end of the 60s is approaching. For the politicians, this is an essential achievement for the Cold War battle for supremacy of capitalism and democracy. If that sounds more like branding than public policy, you understand why, in the midst of some of the most divisive and troubled years of the 20th century, someone might decide that what NASA needed was an expert in marketing. After all, selling a product, whether breakfast cereal, car, or the space program, is about making the product real, immediate, personal, and aspirational. Kelly and her assistant arrive in Cocoa Beach, ready to sell the moon.

You could say the people in NASA were not happy about this, but perhaps a better term would be horrified. Their culture is about secrecy (national security), science, and control. The person in charge is Cole Davis (Channing Tatum) and he does his best to discourage Kelly. In other words, the ideal set-up for romantic sparks, and when it’s Tatum and Johansson, it’s more like fireworks. They are wonderful together.

The sharp, witty, and wise screenplay is by third-generation Hollywood writer Rose Gilroy (her grandfather was “The Subject Was Roses” screenwriter Frank Gilroy and her parents are Dan Gilroy of “Real Steel,” “Kong: Skull Island,” and “Nightcrawler” and Rene Russo). It skillfully balances the romantic comedy with the dramatic themes and the inherent tension in the goal everyone is working toward. Even if we know that indeed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin will indeed walk on the moon the question of public support, we get caught up in the surprising challenges along the way. Who could guess that having astronauts sell watches, cars, and underwear — and, of course, Tang — would make them so relatable Americans would start to root for them? What will they have do and which Senators will they have to persuade to get the funding they need? Is there a way to sell space not as a distraction but as an unassailable story of American heroes and know-how?

Cole and Kelly have real differences that give this film a welcome depth. Both on the personal and professional level, the issue of what the truth is and how and when to tell it is presented thoughtfully and with the complexity it deserves, but it is never pedantic or preachy. Jim Rash plays a temperamental commercial director Moe insists join the team to make a back-up for the broadcast. The stunning technological innovations from a group of engineers with an average age of 26, working to solve the biggest jigsaw puzzle in the history of the world, in a building tall enough to enclose four Statues of Liberty on each other’s shoulders.

And there is a wonderful black cat. Plus Johansson’s husband, Colin Jost, in a brief, funny cameo. This movie is romantic, funny, exciting, and meaningful, filled with joy, honoring the heroes of the voyage to the moon for their dedication, innovation, and courage. And it has heartwarming compassion for the vulnerability of its characters that resonates with us long after the movie is over.

Parents should know that this film has some strong language, references to criminal behavior and a shooting in self-defense. For historical accuracy, there is a lot of smoking and a character talks about the impact on his health.

Family discussion: Who changes more, Cole or Kelly? Who is currently in the International Space Station today? Would you like to go to the moon? Visit the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, where you can touch a real moon rock and see the NASA capsules.

If you like this, try: Other films about the Apollo 11 program, including “The Dish,” “Hidden Figures,” “First Man,” Tom Hanks’ excellent miniseries, “From the Earth to the Moon,” and the documentaries “Earthrise” and “Apollo 11”

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A Capital 4th 2024!

A Capital 4th 2024!

Posted on July 4, 2024 at 6:10 am

Don’t miss the fireworks over the Capitol Building in Washington DC tonight on PBS!  A Returning host Alfonso Ribeiro will be accompanied by an all-star lineup of broadway, pop, R&B and classical performances, with Smokey Robinson celebrating Motown’s 65th anniversary, the U.S. Army Chorus performing a Salute to American Heroes Past and Present, and The Color Purple’s Fantasia and Darren Criss of Glee

Copyright 2024 PBS
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Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot

Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot

Posted on July 3, 2024 at 9:00 am

Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving child abuse, some violence, language and brief suggestive material
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: References to addiction and forcing a child to smoke and drink
Violence/ Scariness: References to child abuse, depiction of spousal abuse, offscreen gunshots
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: July 4, 2024
Copyright 2024 Angel

The members of a church in a tiny Texas town called Possum Trot (population around 700) decided they would adopt every child available for adoption in the local foster care system. Led by Bishop W.C. Martin and his wife, Donna, known as the First Lady, 22 families adopted 77 children. The story was featured in People Magazine and on Oprah, and it is now a faith-based feature film, with footage at the end showing the real-life characters (the children in the story have grown up and many have children of their own), and with W.C. and Donna Martin urging the audience to take in the 100,000 children currently waiting to be adopted.

As you might expect, it is preachy. But it is genuinely inspiring to see faith put into action with open-hearted generosity and empathy. As you also might expect for a movie about children who have been abused finding unconditional love and home, it is also very touching. “Euphoria’s” Nika King is luminous as First Lady Donna, whose faith is unwavering. She is the heart of the film, and her scenes with the traumatized children she refuses to give up on are heartwarming.

The Martins and their church are the center of the small community, mostly middle-class Black families, though with around 15 percent living below the poverty line. Donna feels content and fully occupied as the mother of two children, one with special needs, and her work with the church. When her adored mother died, though, she was devastated. As she mourned the idea of adopting children from the foster system came to her and her husband, initially reluctant, became just as committed.

They developed a close friendship with Susan Ramsey (Elizabeth Mitchell), the social worker in charge of placing children in the foster system. At first, she believes that the Martins are not prepared for what they have ahead of them. But as she sees how patient and committed they are, she is persuaded to work with the members of the church.

She warns them, though, not to try to take Terri (Diaana Babnicova), an angry and disturbed 12-year-old who was horrifically abused by her drug-addicted mother. The First Lady insists. Terri tests the Martins more than they ever anticipated. But as the First Lady says, God does not promise you will be free of trouble, only that He will be there with you.

Angel Studios, joining here with ultra-conservative Daily Wire, tries hard to make faith-based movies that meet the highest standards of mainstream theatrical releases in production qualities: actors, screenplay, cinematography, music, editing. This is not a great film by any standard. It never allows its characters to question their faith or even lose patience under the most stressful conditions. It glosses over the challenges of raising severely traumatized children and the professional support they need to process abuse, abandonment, and betrayal. But it is a sincere, thoughtful effort that could get an audience beyond the core faith community.

Parents should know that this film portrays some scenes of domestic abuse and includes references to physical and emotional abuse include rape and murder of children.

Family discussion: Why did the Martins want to take the children no one else wanted? Why was it hard for Terri to trust them? What made her change her mind? What can you do to help?

If you like this, try: “Room for One More” with Cary Grant, also based on the true story of adoptive parents.

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Movies for July 4 2024!

Movies for July 4 2024!

Posted on July 3, 2024 at 7:40 am

Hamilton” is LIn-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster Broadway musical about Alexander Hamilton has the original Broadway cast.

Independence Day Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum star in one of the all-time great popcorn pleasures. Aliens attack the earth and it takes a quirky engineer, a plucky President, and a heroic military pilot to save the day. What does that have to do with the 4th of July? Listen to the President’s stirring pep talk.

The Patriot There are many films about the Civil War, but not many about the Revolutionary War. Mel Gibson stars in this uneven but stirring film about a farmer pulled into the rebellion.

There are excellent miniseries about our founding fathers, including Paul Giamatti as John Adams and Michael Douglas as Benjamin Franklin. Ken Burns’ excellent documentary series about Benjamin Franklin is streaming online, and the History Channel’s Bloody Struggle for Freedom tells the story of the Revolutionary War.

1776 I love this film, based on the Broadway musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with almost all of the stars from the acclaimed stage production, including William Daniels as the “obnoxious and disliked” John Adams, Ken Howard as a dashing Thomas Jefferson, and Howard Da Silva as Benjamin Franklin.

And don’t forget Schoolhouse Rock!

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Despicable Me 4

Despicable Me 4

Posted on July 2, 2024 at 7:44 am

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some action sequences and some rude humor
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Fantasy/comic peril and violence, no one badly hurt
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: July 3, 2024

The latest entry in the DCU (Despicable Cinematic Universe), which includes the Minions movies, continues the saga of the once-despicable Gru (Steve Carell) with the same level of visual invention and endearing characters, plus action that strikes a kid-friendly balance between exciting and silly.

Gru is now a loving father to his three adopted daughters and his new baby with his wife, Lucy (Kristen Wiig). And he is proudly working with the AVL (Anti-Villain League). As the movie begins, Gru attends a class of 1985 reunion at his boarding school alma mater, the Lycée Pas Bon (School of the Not Good). He is not there to catch up with old friends; he is there to capture one of the world’s worst bad guys, the French-accented Maxime de Mal (last name means “of Bad,” voiced by Will Ferrell). Maxime is dating the glamorous, Spanish-accented Valentina (Sofía Vergara), with a sleek ponytail, stiletto heels, and a fluffy lapdog. He is very competitive with Gru for a reason we will learn later. And he has a surprise for his fellow alumnae. He has figured out a way to turn himself into a semi-cockroach, as he tells us, the world’s most indestructible and unstoppable creature.

After quite a scuffle, Gru and the AVL capture Maxime. But he escapes from prison, vowing revenge. The AVL moves Gru and his family to a safe house in a community called Mayflower, assigning them all new identities and names to protect them, and bringing most of the minions to AVL headquarters. They create a lot of chaos and some of them test out a new serum and develop super-powers that they have some trouble adapting to.

The next door neighbors are snobbish Perry (Stephen Colbert), his honey-voiced wife Patsy (“SNL’s” Chloe Fineman), and their young daughter, Poppy (Joey King), an aspiring villain who quickly discovers Gru’s real identity and blackmails him into helping her with a daring heist. Meanwhile, Maxime and Valentina are coming after Gru’s family in a cockroach-shaped plane.

The storyline is cluttered, with a lot of characters and locations, but that means none of it is around long enough to get tedious. Still, it is a shame to give so little time to the girls in favor of the baby. As with the other films, number 4 (six if you count the two Minions movies) is filled with delightful visual jokes and details, including some for the parents, or perhaps the grandparents (Gru in Boy George attire, singing “Karma Chameleon,” a “Terminator 2” reference). Glimpsing some of the series’ earlier villains at the end is a reminder that Maxime is second-tier compared to Vector, Belle, and Scarlet, and, like “Kung Fu Panda 4,” it seems to be transitioning to a new central character for future entries in the series. That is a wise move. Carell is still terrific, but we could use a bit more despicability in the next chapter.

Parents should know that this movie has extended fantasy/comic action sequences with weapons and characters in peril, including an infant, that may be too intense for younger kids. The movie includes a lot of exaggerated bad behavior and some potty humor.

Family discussion: Why do some of these characters want to be bad and how are they bad in different ways? Why was Margo worried about making new friends? Was Agnes right not to lie about her name?

If you like this, try: the other movies in the “Despicable Me” series, including the two “Minions” films, and some songs by Culture Club and Tears for Fears

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