Family Movies for the Homebound IV: Movies Based on Great Books

Posted on March 30, 2020 at 8:13 pm

Copyright MGM 1939
More wonderful movies for families to share — these are all based on books that are all-time classics.

The Secret Garden: Agnieszka Holland’s 1993 version of the classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett is my favorite, but the others are good, too. When I first read the book, I loved the heroine because she was so cross, a delightful change from all of the earnest girls in other books. When he parents die in India, Mary must go to the creepy, mysterious home of her absent uncle. The secret garden she discovers there is not even the most remarkable surprise. Also see: A Little Princess (1995 version)

Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: Stick with the first version of Roald Dahl’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, about the poor boy who finds a golden ticket in a chocolate bar and gets a tour of the candy factory, along with some other children who are spoiled and obnoxious. You will also enjoy some of the other movies basked on Dahl’s books, “James and the Giant Peach,” “The BFG,” and “Matilda.”

The Wizard of Oz: The most-loved family movie of all time is the Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Frank Morgan, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, and Jack Haley version of the story of the Kansas girl who is whisked away to a magical land in a tornado, meets a scarecrow, a tin man, a lion, and a witch, and learns that there’s no place like home. Every time you watch it, you’ll marvel at something new. Also see: “The Wiz” a remix starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson

The Chronicles of Narnia: Four children entered a wardrobe and found themselves in a magic land, gorgeously brought to life in a series of films.

Harry Potter: J.K. Rowling’s saga about the boy wizard is one of the most successful book adaptations of all time. Read them all and then see the films.

Also see: Family Movies for the Homebound I, II, and III (Chess).

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Family Movies for the Homebound: Part III — A Special List of Movies About Kids Playing Chess

Posted on March 28, 2020 at 6:53 pm

Copyright hugrakka 2008

If you have some extra time at home together, it’s a good time to teach kids to play chess. It teaches patience, sportsmanship, and strategy. As is often said, chess is a pool in which a mosquito may sip and an elephant may bathe. So even a young child can learn and even an experienced player can learn more. Plus there are some great movies about real-life children and teenage chess players.

Brooklyn Castle: P.S. 318 is a below-the-poverty-line inner city junior high school. And its students have won more national chess championships than any other in the country. So this is a touching and inspiring story of triumph and what can be accomplished in spite of the most daunting of obstacles if there is someone who believes in you. And it is a story of the joys of intellectual passion and a game that goes back centuries, even in an era of saturation in digital media. There is much of what you expect — gifted kids, dedicated teacher, tense anticipation, thrilling victories. The characters are endearing and their stories are stirring.

The Queen of Katwe: An illiterate girl from the slums of Uganda became an internationally ranked chess champion. So of course there is a Disney movie. But director Mira Nair has not made the usual feel-good underdog story. It is a wonderfully rich depiction of a family and a culture, as complex in its way as a master-level chess game with intricate moves by many pieces with different strengths and vulnerabilities.

The Dark Horse: It would be so easy — and so wrong — to make this true story of a Maori chess champion who struggles with mental illness as he teaches underprivileged kids into a safe, simple, saccharine, uplifting story. But writer/director James Napier Robertson, who himself played hundreds of chess games with real-life speed chess champion Genesis Potini, trusts his story and his audience enough to give us a film that is refreshingly messy, even grungy, and therefore much more powerful.

Endgame: “Modern Family’s” Rico Rodriguez stars in this story of the grandson of a chess champion who joins his school team as they prepare for the state finals.

Searching for Bobby Fischer: Based on the real-life story of chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin (real life chess player Max Pomeranc), this is a very thoughtful exploration of choices and parenting and what it means to have a full life, with a powerhouse cast including Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley, Laurence Fishburne, and Joe Mantegna, along with William H. Macy, David Paymer, and Laura Linney.

This blog post is dedicated to our wonderful son, who used to teach chess in the New York city schools.

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More Movies to Watch at Home: Recommendations from The Washington Post, AWFJ, and Rogerebert.com

Posted on March 24, 2020 at 10:57 am

Great recommendations for movies to watch at home from my friends and colleagues:

The Washington Post:

This is a great list, with Martin Scorsese’s quirky comedy “After Hours,” my favorite film of last year, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” and the under-seen documentary that is a powerful reminder of what connects all humans, “Life in a Day.”

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists:

This is a wildly varied assortment, reflecting the wide range of the AWFJ’s members. It includes Drew Barrymore’s roller derby film “Whip It,” the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary “RBG,” the zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead,” and Barbra Streisand’s Oscar-winning performance in “Funny Girl.”

Rogerebert.com editor Brian Tallerico has put together all of the resources for watching the films that Roger Ebert certified as “great.” Try “Diva,” “M,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday,” and “On the Waterfront.”

And the contributors to rogerebert.com have also suggested some of our favorites, including one of the craziest movies of all time, “Madame Satan,” which we showed here in Washington as a part of our pre-Code series.

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Movies for Memorial Day: 2019

Posted on May 25, 2019 at 11:09 pm

For Memorial Day, take a look at these documentaries about our military:

War of 1812

The History Channel Presents The War of 1812 The young country proved its commitment to independence with this war against Britain that gave us a President (Andrew Jackson), and our national anthem.

Civil War

The Civil War Ken Burns’ series for PBS is meticulously researched and compellingly presented.

WWI

The Last Voices of WWI – A Generation Lost The veterans of “the war to end all wars” tell their stories.

They Shall Not Grow Old  Director Peter Jackson has added color to footage of WWI soldiers that makes them seem no longer a part of the distant past but vibrant and present.

WWII

The World at War This classic is considered the definitive history and a landmark of television reporting.  It was created long enough after the war ended to have perspective but close enough in time to have access to the participants, with eyewitness accounts by civilians, enlisted men, officers, and politicians as well as historians.  The 30th anniversary DVD set issued in 2004 has three hours of new material and additional documentaries.

GI Jews  Fifty thousand Jewish American fought in WWII, often struggling with anti-Semitism in the military.  They look back on their experiences and how it affected their lives.

In Their Own Words: The Tuskegee Airmen The first African-American pilots of the US military faced bigotry at home and in the military, but fought with extraordinary skill and dedication.

Korean War

Korea, The Forgotten War It was the Cold War era, but a real war was being fought in Korea that embodied the geopolitical conflicts.  This documentary covers that story, from Inchon to Pork Chop Hill.

Vietnam War

Vietnam War: America’s Conflict Many documentaries cover the politics and the protests, and that is covered here, too, but this series focuses on the stories of the battles and the men who fought them.

Desert Storm

Hidden Wars of Desert Storm Interviews with General Norman Schwarzkopf, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, former UN Iraq Program Director Denis Halliday, former UNSCOM team-leader Scott Ritter and many others help tell the story of the American response to the invasion of Kuwait.

Afganistan/Iraq

Restrepo This is the award-winning story of one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military, covering the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The remote 15-man outpost was named after a platoon medic who was killed in action.

The War Tapes Three National Guardsmen (“citizen soldiers”) document their time in Iraq.

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Documentary Not specified War

The Hustle — The Third Version of the Con Job Comedy

Posted on February 15, 2019 at 8:00 am

Copyright 2019 MGM

“The Hustle” stars Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, and Tony Award winner Alex Sharp in the third version of the story of competing con artists on the Rivera.

The first one was “Bedtime Story,” starring Marlon Brando and David Niven.

The remake was the classic “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” with Steve Martin and Michael Caine, featured in my book 101 Must-See Movie Moments.

It became a Broadway musical.

And now, yet another gender switch — this time it is two con women, Hathaway and Wilson.

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