Honoring Those Who Have Served: Movies for Veteran’s Day 2019

Posted on November 10, 2019 at 5:00 pm

Veterans Day is a time for us to pay our respects to those who have served.

Copyright 2019 Warner Brothers

This holiday started as a day to reflect upon the heroism of those who died in our country’s service and was originally called Armistice Day. It fell on Nov. 11 because that is the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. However, in 1954, the holiday was changed to “Veterans Day” in order to account for all veterans in all wars.

We celebrate and honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

This year, Midway is in theaters to remind us of the immeasurable dedication and courage of our WWII military.

Some movies for families to watch about real-life US military:

WWI

They Shall Not Grow Old On the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, Peter Jackson used 21st century technology to make archival footage and audio feel contemporary, to make the experience of these men seem as though it happened to people we know.

WWII

Band of Brothers Historian Stephen Ambrose’s book was made into a stirring miniseries about “Easy” Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division, from jump training in the United States through its participation in major actions in Europe, up until the end of the war.

Korean War

M*A*S*H is a dark anti-war comedy based on the real-life experiences of an Army surgeon. It inspired the long-running television series.

Vietnam War

The Vietnam War The documentary from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick tells the story.

Persian Gulf War/Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Jarhead Jamie Foxx and Jake Gyllenhaal star in Sam Mendes’ film based on the memoir of Anthony Swofford’ about his experiences as a Marine Sniper in Gulf War I.

Restrepo is a documentary about U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, serving in a remote 15-man outpost, “Restrepo,” named after a platoon medic who was killed in action.

American Sniper Bradley Cooper stars as the late Chris Kyle, a top sniper who served four tours of duty in Iraq, and then was killed by a veteran he was trying to help after he got home.

The Messenger Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster play soldiers who have the hardest job of all, notifying families that someone they love has been killed.

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Midway

Posted on November 7, 2019 at 5:40 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of war violence and related images, language and smoking
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Smoking
Violence/ Scariness: War-related peril and violence, characters injured and killed, guns, bombs, aerial battles, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Portrayal of historic events reflects the era's attitudes
Date Released to Theaters: November 7, 2019
Copyright 2019 Summit Entertainment

The shocking attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December 1941 was not just a devastating loss, the “day that will live in infamy,” as President Roosevelt said. It was a humiliating failure of our intelligence operation. We were not prepared for war with Japan in terms of personnel, weapons, or planes. And we continued to suffer brutal defeats in the first months. If America could not start to win some battles, Japan would begin to invade our west coast.

Six months later, the three-day battle of Midway was a critically important victory for the United States. From June 3-6, 1942, American forces gave Japan its first significant defeat of the war, the result of strategy, tactics, better intelligence, and, most of all, the unimaginable dedication and honor of the Greatest Generation. This re-telling of the story has the bombast we expect from director Roland Emmerich, but the stirring story and appealing characters make it a worthy tribute for Veteran’s Day weekend.

Screenwriter Wes Tooke (television’s “Colony”) balances the big picture battles and tactical overlay with the stories of a small group of real-life heroes. At the heart of the story is Dick Best (Ed Skrein) as the cocky pilot who shuts off the engine before landing on an aircraft carrier, just for practice. His wife Anne (Mandy Moore) is as tough as he is. If this movie had been made in the 80’s, Best would have been played by Tom Cruise. If it had been made in the 40’s, it would have been Clark Gable. Skrein makes Best the quintessential American hero, cool under pressure, confident, a bit of a cowboy. Luke Kleintank plays Earle Dickenson, the first Naval pilot to be awarded three Navy Crosses. If this were made in the 1940’s, his character would be played by Spencer Tracy.

Roland Emmerich knows how to make the battle scenes tense and exciting. He shows us just how fragile and vulnerable the planes were; it feels like they’re up in the air in an orange crate. He shows us how all the pieces came together, including the quirky code-breaker Joseph Rochefort (Brennan Brown) and Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson), who had served in Japan, and whose warnings were ignored. Bull Halsey (Dennis Quaid) struggled with excruciatingly painful illness as he became America’s most acclaimed fighting admiral. Mandy Moore as Ann Best shows us the spirit of the home front. And Nick Jonas will break your heart as a machinist captured by the Japanese.

We look back at history and we cannot help taking it all for granted. Movies like this remind us how close we came to disaster and how many lives were lost to keep us safe.

Parents should know that this film includes WWII battle footage with bombs, explosions, fire, and guns. Characters are injured and killed.

Family discussion: Why is this film dedicated to the military on both sides of the Midway battle?  How were Best and Dickenson different and how were each one’s strengths reflected in their choices?

If you like this, try: Books: The Battle of Midway, by Craig L. Symonds, and The Flying Guns: Cockpit Record of a Naval Pilot from Pearl Harbor Through Midway, by Earle Dickenson, played by Luke Kleintank in the film. There is also a 1976 film starring Charlton Heston and Henry Fonda.

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JoJo Rabbit

Posted on October 24, 2019 at 5:46 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, violence, and language
Profanity: Strong and offensive language including anti-Semitic insults
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Intense and disturbing peril and violence including a child injured in an explosion, wartime violence, bombs. guns, tragic deaths
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: October 25, 2019
Copyright Fox Searchlight 2019

The first thing you need to know is that writer/director Taika Waititi does not play HItler in “JoJo Rabbit,” and it does not portray the real Adolf Hitler as a comic figure. Waititi plays a child’s imaginary version of Hitler. He has more in common with Chris O’Dowd’s imaginary friend character in his very funny and endearing Moone Boy. In both, the adult male figure is a child’s idea of what a man is, or what he would like to be when he grows up. In the case of Jojo Rabbit, the nickname for the 10-year-old Austrian boy at the center of the film, he is especially in need of a role model because of the uncertainty in his own life and the upheavals that are all around him. So it makes sense that he would respond by clinging to something that seems strong and structured and certain. And that is why when we first see him, he is looking in the mirror to admire himself in his Hitler Youth uniform, very excited to learn all about becoming an active member of the Nazi party. His imaginary friend represents what he would like to be, but JoJo is a child, so to us, his version of Hitler is ten-year-old’s fantasy. Which means he is very silly.

I tell you all this because for the first half hour or so of “JoJo Rabbit” you might think you’re watching some sort of “Springtime for Hitler,” from “The Producers.” But it turns out that while “JoJo Rabbit” does portray the Nazis in a heightened, satiric, silly manner, this is not an insensitive or superficial film. But by the end, it wants to pack a wallop, as it should, and it does.

JoJo (Roman Griffin Davis, in a knockout of a performance) lives with his mother, Rosie (a career-best Scarlett Johansson, warm and witty). His father is off in the war but has not been heard from for a long while. JoJo and his best friend Yorki (Archie Yates) go off to Hitler Youth camp, led by Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), assisted by Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson). The other boys laugh at him when he cannot bring himself to kill a rabbit (prompting his derisive nickname), and so to prove his courage, urged on by the imaginary Hitler, he takes a risk that leads to his being injured in an explosion, leaving scars on his face. He cannot return to school, so Rosie takes him to the Hitler Youth office and insists that Klenzdorf give him a job.

And then something happens that turns JoJo’s ideas about strength, courage, and power upside down. His ideas about Jews, too, though that takes a while. Waititi handles the tonal shift with great skill, and by the end of the film, the heightened tone blends seamlessly with the surreal absurdity of war, making the conclusion as meaningful to us as it is to the characters.

Parents should know that this movie is set in the last months of WWII and has wartime violence including guns and bombs, portrayal of virulent and systemic anti-Semitism. A child is injured in an explosion and a parent is murdered. Characters use strong language, drink alcohol, and smoke.

Family discussion: Why did JoJo imagine Hitler as an imaginary friend? What made him change his mind about Elsa? Why didn’t Elsa tell him what she knew about the letters?

If you like this, try: Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows from the same writer/director. You may also enjoy satiric takes on war like “Oh, What a Lovely War,” “M*A*S*H,” and “King of Hearts.”

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