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The Sound of Music

Posted on November 8, 2010 at 8:00 am

A+
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: G
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Tension as the family escapes, Nazi threat
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 1965
Date Released to DVD: November 9, 2010
Amazon.com ASIN: B003VS0CX8

The Sound of Music is out in a gorgeous new 45th anniversary edition Blu-Ray/DVD combo. The beloved family musical is the fictionalized story of Maria von Trapp (Julie Andrews). It is an outstanding family film, filled with glorious music (“Do Re Me,” “My Favorite Things,” “Eidelweiss,” So Long, Farewell”), a real-life love story right out of Jane Eyre, a courageous moral choice, and a heart-stopping escape.

As a postulant, Maria is “not a credit to the Abbey.” While she means well, she is constantly in trouble. The wise Mother Abbess sends her away to be the governess for the seven children of a stern widower, Captain von Trapp. Obedient to their disciplinarian father, the children are uncooperative with Maria until she wins them over with her own high spirits, as well as her kindness. She also shares her love of music, and her joy in the beauty around them, and they become devoted to each other.

The Captain’s friend Max (Richard Hadyn) hears the children sing, and wants them to perform at the local festival. But the Captain refuses, thinking it is foolish and inappropriate. Meanwhile, the Captain is considering marriage to a titled and wealthy woman, and his oldest daughter, Leisel, is beginning a romance with Rolfe. And as the Nazis threaten control of Austria, the Captain knows that his military skill and experience will lead them to him. He knows that they will ask him to join them, and that they will not accept a negative answer.

Maria, realizing that she has fallen in love with the Captain, runs back to the Abbey. But the Mother Abbess counsels her to follow her heart, and she returns to the children. The Captain realizes that he loves Maria, and they are married in the Abbey. They return from their honeymoon to find that an invitation to join the Nazi navy is waiting.

Max has put the children on the festival program, hoping the Captain would relent. He forbids them to participate and makes plans to escape. But when the Nazis arrive to stop him, he explains that they are just on their way to perform at the festival. The Nazis escort them to the festival, where they win first prize, and use their encore number to camouflage their escape. On their way out of Austria, they are betrayed by Rolfe, now a Nazi, but protected by the nuns in the Abbey, and they leave for Switzerland, over Maria’s beloved mountains.

Discussion: A number of people in this movie must make important choices when they face challenges that are completely unexpected. Maria and the Captain both thought they had established what their lives would be like. Maria planned to be a nun, and to live in the Abbey all her life. The Captain expected to continue with the life he had, a loving but stern father to his children and a respected aristocrat and military leader. His family had always lived in Austria, and he expected his children and grandchildren would live there, too. Maria’s unexpected challenge comes from within herself. She is lucky to have the wise Mother Abbess to help her examine her heart to learn that she is better suited for a life outside the Abbey.

The Captain is used to being in control. It may be that his regimental approach to the children is as much prompted by a need to feel in greater control following the loss of his wife as it is by his military training. His original inclination to marry the Baroness seems to be led by his head rather than his heart; it feels more like an alliance than a romance. But he finds that he cannot resist Maria’s warm and loving heart.

Just as all of this is happening, every aspect of the life they had known in Austria is challenged by the Nazis. Unlike his friends, the Captain does not have the option of making a slight accommodation to the Nazis. He must fight for them, if he wants to keep his home. He gives up every material possession he has to get away, preserving freedom for himself and his family.

Everyone in Austria has to make a choice when the Nazis arrive. Rolfe becomes so committed to the Nazis that he is willing to betray the young woman he cared for. Even the nuns in the Abbey must make a choice. They decide to protect the Von Trapps and impede the Nazis, risking their own freedom. Children, especially young children, will need some background to understand what these choices involved and what the risks were. It is also worthwhile to discuss with them the sweet song that the Captain sings to Maria, telling her that he must have done something good in his past to deserve her love and the happiness she has given him.

Questions for Kids:

· Why does Maria have a problem fitting in at the Abbey?

· What does the Captain learn from Maria?

· The same people wrote the song about “My Favorite Things” and “Whistle a Happy Tune” in “The King and I.” How are they alike? (Think about when it is that Maria sings the song.) If you were going to write the song, what would be on your list of favorite things?

· What is the difference between the way the Captain, Max, and Rolfe react to the Nazis?

· What does the song, “Climb Every Mountain” mean?

Connections: Sister Sophia is played by Marni Nixon, a rare onscreen appearance by the off-screen singing voice from “My Fair Lady,” “West Side Story” and “The King and I.”

Activities: Kids who enjoy this movie can read more about the real-life family in one of the books written by Maria von Trapp, and can visit the Trapp family’s lodge in Stowe, Vermont. Find Austria, Germany, and Switzerland on a map but do not try to trace the family’s escape route. If they had climbed over the mountains they took in the movie, they would have ended up in Germany.

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Based on a book Based on a play Based on a true story Classic DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Family Issues For the Whole Family Musical
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List: Halloween Movie Tricks and Treats!

Posted on October 27, 2009 at 10:00 am

Halloween gives kids a thrilling opportunity to act out their dreams and pretend to be characters with great power. But it can also be scary and even overwhelming for the littlest trick-or-treaters. An introduction to the holiday with videos from trusted friends can help make them feel comfortable and excited about even the spookier aspects of the holiday.

Kids ages 3-5 will enjoy Barney’s Halloween Party, with a visit to the pumpkin farm, some ideas for Halloween party games and for making Halloween decorations at home, and some safety tips for trick-or-treating at night. They will also get a kick out of Richard Scarry’s The First Halloween Ever, which is Scarry, but not at all scary! Witches in Stitches, is about witches who find it very funny when they turn their sister into a jack o’lantern. And speaking of jack o’lanterns, Spookley the Square Pumpkin is sort of the Rudolph of pumpkins. The round pumpkins make fun of him for being different until a big storm comes and his unusual shape turns out to have some benefits.

Kids from 7-11 will enjoy the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the silly fun of What’s New Scooby-Doo, Vol. 3 – Halloween Boos and Clues. Try The Worst Witch and its sequel, about a young witch in training who keeps getting everything wrong. Kids will also enjoy Halloween Tree, an animated version of a story by science fiction author Ray Bradbury about four kids who are trying to save the life of their friend. Leonard Nimoy (Dr. Spock on the original “Star Trek”) provides the voice of the mysterious resident of a haunted house, who explains the origins of Halloween and challenges them to think about how they can help their sick friend. The loyalty and courage of the kids is very touching.

Older children will appreciate The Witches, based on the popular book by Roald Dahl and Hocus Pocus, with children battling three witches played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. And of course there is the deliciously ghoulish double feature The Addams Family and Addams Family Values based on the cartoons by Charles Addams.

The Nightmare Before Christmas has gorgeous music from Danny Elfman and stunningly imaginative visuals from Tim Burton in a story about a Halloween character who wonders what it would be like to be part of a happy holiday like Christmas. And don’t forget some old classics like “The Cat and the Canary” (a classic of horror/comedy) and the omnibus ghost story films “Dead of Night” (recommended by the New York Times’ A.O. Scott), and “The House that Dripped Blood.”

Happy Halloween!

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For Your Netflix Queue Holidays Lists Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families

Pinocchio

Posted on March 9, 2009 at 2:00 pm

A+
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating: G
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Children smoke cigars
Violence/ Scariness: Tense and scary scenes including characters being swallowed by a whale and apparent death
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: 1940
Date Released to DVD: January 30, 2017
Amazon.com ASIN: B01M105H8W

Copyright Disney 2017
Copyright Disney 2017
This week Disney is releasing a glorious new edition of its most most gorgeous, splendid, and fully realized of all of its hand-drawn animation classics before the use of photocopiers and computers. Every detail is brilliantly executed, from the intricate clocks in Geppetto’s workshop to the foam on the waves as the enormous whale Monstro thrashes the water. It also has one of Disney’s finest scores, featuring “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which has become the Disney theme song. “I’ve Got No Strings,” “Give a Little Whistle,” and “An Actor’s Life for Me” are also memorable. It is the classic story about the wooden puppet whose nose grows when he tells a lie and has to almost turn into a donkey before he can become a real boy, told with endless imagination and beauty, a must-see for all families.

This new edition has some great behind-the-scenes extras.

“Pinocchio” is a natural for the first discussions with kids about telling the truth (especially admitting a mistake) and not talking to strangers. Talk to them, too, about how to find their own conscience and listen to it as if it were Jiminy Cricket. The trip to Pleasure Island may also lead to a discussion of why things that feel like fun may be harmful, and the difference between fun and happiness.

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Animation Based on a book Classic Comedy Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Fantasy For all ages For the Whole Family For Your Netflix Queue Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families Musical

High Noon

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

Plot: Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) marries Amy (Grace Kelly) and turns in his badge. She is a Quaker, and he has promised her to hang up his gun and become a shopkeeper. But they get word that Frank Miller is coming to town on the noon train. Kane arrested Miller and sent him to jail, and Miller swore he would come back and kill him.

Will and Amy leave town quickly. But he cannot run away, and he turns around. He knows that they will never be safe; wherever they go, Miller will follow them. And he has a duty to the town. Their new marshal does not arrive until the next day.

Will seeks help from everyone, finally going to church, where services are in session. But he is turned down, over and over again. Amy says she will leave on the noon train. Will’s former deputy, Harvey (Lloyd Bridges) refuses to help, because he is resentful that Will did not recommend him as the new marshal. Will’s former girlfriend, Helen Ramirez (Katy Jurado), now Harvey’s girlfriend, will not help him, either. She sells her business and leaves town. Others say that it is not their problem, or tell him to run, for the town’s good as well as his own. The previous marshal, Will’s mentor, says he can’t use a gun any more. The one man who promised to help backs out when he finds out that no one else will join them. The only others who offer to help are a disabled man and a young boy. Will must face Miller and his three henchmen alone.

At noon, Frank Miller gets off the train. The four men come into town. Will is able to defeat them, with Amy’s unexpected help. As the townsfolk gather, Will throws his badge in the dust, and they drive away.

Discussion: This outstanding drama ticks by in real time, only 84 tense minutes long. Will gets the message about Frank Miller at 10:40, and we feel the same time pressure he does, as he tries to find someone to help him. We see and hear clocks throughout the movie, and as noon approaches, the clock looms larger and larger, the pendulum swinging like an executioner’s axe. In the brilliant score by Dimitri Tiomkin (sung by Tex Ritter) the sound of the beat suggests both the train’s approach and the passage of time.

This is like a grown-up “Little Red Hen” story. Will cannot find anyone to help him protect the town. Everyone seems to think it is someone else’s problem (or fault). Teenagers may be interested to know that many people consider this film an analogy for the political problems of the McCarthy era. It was written during the height of the Hollywood “red scare.” After completing this screenplay, the writer, an “unfriendly witness” before the House Un-American Activities Committee, was blacklisted. But this unforgettable drama of a man who will not run from his enemy, or his own fears, transcends all times and circumstances.

Questions for Kids:

· Everyone seems to have a different reason for not helping Will. How many can you identify? Which reasons seem the best to you? Which seem the worst? What makes Amy change her mind?

· Why does Will throw his badge in the dirt?

· Do you think the screenwriter chose the name “Will” for any special reason?

· How do you decide when to stay and fight and when to run? How do you evaluate the risks? What should the law be?

Connections: This movie was the first attempt at an “adult” Western, its stark black and white images a contrast to the gorgeous vistas in the Westerns of John Ford and Howard Hawks. It was included in the first list named to the National Film Registry, established by the Library of Congress to identify films that are “culturally, historically, or esthetically important.” It has had tremendous influence, and has inspired many imitations and variations. “Outland,” starring Sean Connery (and rated R) is a not-very-good attempt to transfer this plot to outer space. “Three O’Clock High” moves it to a high school, with a new student challenged by the school bully. Despite some directoral pyrotechnics, it is not very good, either. “The Principal” has another “High Noon”-style confrontation in a school, but this time it is the title character who must show his mettle. “The Baltimore Bullet” moves the confrontation to a pool hall.

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Classic Drama Western
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