New for Easter — Ice Age: The Great Egg-scapade

Posted on March 20, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Just in time for Easter — Scrat and his Ice Age friends have a new adventure with a hunt for an egg, Ice Age: The Great Egg-scapade. Just 20 minutes long, it is a delightful family treat.

Harried prehistoric bird mom Ethel entrusts her precious, soon-to-hatch egg to Sid. When she recommends him to her neighbors – Condor Mom, Cholly Bear and Gladys Glypto – business booms at his new egg-sitting service. However, dastardly pirate bunny Squint, who is seeking revenge on the ICE AGE gang, steals, camouflages and hides all the eggs. Once again, with Squint’s twin brother, Clint, assisting Manny, Diego and the rest of the gang come to the rescue and take off on a daring mission that turns into the world’s first Easter egg hunt.

I have a copy to give away! Send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with Egg in the subject line and tell me your favorite animated film. Don’t forget your address! (U.S. addresses only). I’ll pick a winner at random on March 29, 2017. Good luck!

Reminder: My policy on conflicts

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Animation New on DVD/Blu-Ray Series/Sequel Talking animals

Draft Day

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Copyright Lionsgate Films
Copyright Lionsgate Films

How do you choose?

That is a critical and daunting question for anyone. And a defining one, too. How can we take what we know now and figure out what we will need in the future?

In this film, set in the course of one taut, tick-tock of a day, Sonny Weaver, Jr. (Kevin Costner), manager of the Cleveland Browns football team, has to decide. Should he trade all his future draft picks to get this year’s number one? If he picks the one everyone else thinks is this year’s most valuable choice, will he have to forego the one only he believes to be the most valuable?

Weaver is under a lot of pressure. The team’s owner (Frank Langella) and coach (Denis Leary) have their own ideas about what Sonny should do.  His much younger girlfriend Ali (Jennifer Garner), who also works for the team, is pregnant. His mother (Ellen Burstyn) thinks that this day is the best time to spread the ashes of his late father on the training field.

If that sounds like it gets pretty soapy, you get the picture.  Really, this is the day to spread his father’s ashes?  Really, the 59-and-looks-it Costner is paired with the 41-and-looks-31 Garner?  And even though she works for the organization and lives and breathes football, this is the day she decides to tell him she’s pregnant?  Really?

Nevertheless, the mechanics of the arcane (to non-fans) system are fascinatingly put in place by screenwriters Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph and then played like a musical instrument by director Ivan Reitman.  As Sonny trades future picks back and forth with other managers who are doing the same kinds of now vs. future and salary cap vs. budget calculations, the plot pings back and forth like a pinball machine.  Like the “Moneyball” scene where Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill trade phone calls and players in a masterfully orchestrated round robin of bluff and strategy, this gives us a look at off-the-field maneuvers as suspenseful, as skillful, and as intense as anything we will see on the field.  Unlike “Moneyball,” this is not about the metrics.  Sonny is acting on old-fashioned judgment.  He knows that skill matters.  Everyone knows that.  But Sonny also knows that character matters, maybe more than anything else.

That’s true of movies, too, and Costner’s shaggy integrity is what makes him this movie’s MVP.

Parents should know that this film includes some strong language and crude references.

Family discussion: What does it mean to say the battle is won before it is fought? Should the draft rules be changed? Who should decide, the manager, owner, or coach, and why?

If you like this, try; “The Replacements,” “The Damned United,” “On any Sunday” and “North Dallas Forty”

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Drama Sports
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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Posted on October 27, 2009 at 8:00 am

This third in the Ice Age series is a bit sweeter and gentler than the first two, perhaps less ambitious in scope than the first but much more engaging than the second. The 3D animation is beautifully immersive and the story is exciting but so low-key that everyone, even the scary dinosaurs with the big teeth, ends up happy.

Again this is the story of woolly mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), sloth Sid (John Leguizamo), and saber tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary), now joined by Manny’s mate Ellie (Queen Latifah), who is about to have a baby. Everything seems settled and happy, but of course we would not have a story unless everything got unsettled pretty quickly. Diego is feeling left out and worried about getting older and less powerful, so he decides to leave the makeshift “tribe” they all think of as family. Sid finds three huge eggs and immediately adopts them, his nesting instinct so over the top that he insists he is their mother. The eggs hatch, and at first the little dino babies happily follow Sid around like ducklings, though they are not entirely on board with the idea of vegetarianism. But then their mommy dinosaur comes to get them, grabbing Sid along with her chicks, and pending childbirth or not, Sid, Manny, Ellie, and Diego go off to rescue him.

They end up in an underground portal to a place where the weather is temperate and the dinosaurs still rule. “I thought those guys were extinct,” one of our heroes comments. (Note that in real life the last Ice Age was about 20 thousand years ago and the last dinosaurs were about 65 million years ago, but what the heck, animals do not talk or build playgrounds, either.) There they meet up with an off-beat piratical weasel named Buck (Simon Pegg), who teaches them some survival skills and leads them to Sid. Along the way, they have a number of adventures, and yes, that baby decides to arrive at just the wrong place and time, but despite some chases, several falls, and one near-ingestion by a hungry plant, everyone ends up happy and healthy.

Children and their parents will enjoy the portrayals of family life. “You’re trying to childproof nature,” Ellie chides Manny as his approaching fatherhood brings literally home to him the dangers of the world. And they will enjoy Buck’s rakish antics and the traditional subplot about the prehistoric squirrel Scrat and his perpetual quest for the elusive acorn. This time, his biggest impediment is a long-lashed female, who outsmarts him at every turn.

Scrat’s romantic confusion is a lot of fun, but there is a sense that the folks behind this movie are not evolved enough to think of the female characters as anything other than wise and nurturing — and a little bossy. Ellie’s job in the movie is to be the grown-up; apparently even in pre-historic times the females were more, uh, evolved. Not as funny, however.

But the sweet nature of this film is engaging and the adorable characters designed by illustrator Peter de Seve make this movie both satisfying and fun. The squirrels’ tar pit dip, romantic tango, and post-romantic home-decorating session, Sid’s efforts to mother the adorable dinosaur babies, and a nimble balance of action and humor make this one of the best family films of the year.

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3D Action/Adventure Animation Comedy For the Whole Family Series/Sequel

The Sandlot

Posted on March 31, 2008 at 8:00 am

A+
Lowest Recommended Age: Preschool
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some language and kids chewing tobacco.
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Chewing tobacco
Violence/ Scariness: Mild peril, no one hurt
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: January 1, 1970

Happy Baseball Season! I am not sure why baseball has inspired more great movies than any other sport. There are wonderful choices for every age and interest, from musical (Damn Yankees) to fantasy (Angels in the Outfield — I prefer the original to the remake), from the most adult romance (Bull Durham) to the historical — and heartbreaking (Eight Men Out). And then there are the weepy classics: Field of Dreams and Bang The Drum Slowly.

This week, I’m recommending a great baseball film for families: “The Sandlot.” In the 1960s, a boy whose mother has just remarried moves to a new town and begins to make friends when he joins in a sandlot baseball game. The boy’s challenges include developing some baseball skills, trying to achieve a comfortable relationship with his new stepfather (Denis Leary), and finding a way to triumph over “The Beast” (a junkyard dog) and the bigger, tougher kids who challenge his friends to a game. All are well handled in this exceptionally perceptive story of growing up. NOTE: Some gross-out moments (which most kids will enjoy). And one of the boys pretends to be drowning to get a kiss from a beautiful lifeguard. Play ball!

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DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week

Ice Age: The Meltdown

Posted on March 25, 2006 at 2:06 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some mild language and innuendo.
Profanity: Some crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Tension, peril, characters killed, references to extinction
Diversity Issues: A metaphorical theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2006
Date Released to DVD: 2006
Amazon.com ASIN: B000GUJZ00

Once again, as in the first Ice Age, wooly mammoth Manny (voice of Ray Romano), sloth Sid (John Leguizamo), and saber tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary) set off on a journey. This time, they have to lead their friends out of the valley before the ice melts and it becomes flooded.

Along the way, Manny wonders if mammoths are about to become extinct because he seems to be the only one left, until he meets Ellie (Queen Latifah), a mammoth who thinks she is a possom. Sid meets up with some miniature sloths who think he is their Fire King. And all of the characters face predators and other obstacles as they try to beat the water to the edge of the valley. And every now and then we get to see the continuing saga of Scrat the prehistorical squirrel and his Sisyphus-like quest to get and keep an acorn.
Even by the low standards of sequels (it’s fair to expect at least a 30% drop-off in quality), this is a disappointment. There are brightly funny individual scenes, especially the “Fire King” encounter (though it seems to have been taken straight from one of the Hope and Crosby “Road” movies — or, come to think of it, all of them), but it doesn’t have the power or imagination of the original. Instead, itt has a cluttered plot with a formulaic mix of potty humor, mostly kid-appropriate scariness, and some encouraging lessons about responding to fear and the imprtance of family.

The primary relationship issues between the three leads were resolved the first time around and the new characters don’t add much interest or do much to propel the story. On the contrary, they serve as a distraction, especially the resolutely un-cute and un-cuddly mischievous possums. When their very un-possum-ish sister natters about her feelings as though she was in the middle of a Dr. Phil show instead of a life and death struggle to save members of her group, it is less likely to be amusing for children and their parents than annoying. A well-designed Busby Berkeley-style dance number to the Oliver! song “Food Glorious Food” is sung by vultures hoping that the characters we are rooting for don’t make it, so they can feast on the “putrid” meat.
This last example is a good indicator of the movie’s primary problem — an uncertain sense of its audience. A crowd old enough to recognize references that are 40 and 60 years old? A crowd old enough to find some dark humor in having vultures sing about how excited they are that animals we have just spent most of a movie with are going to die so they can eat them? As Ben Stein said so memorably in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Anyone? Anyone?”

 

Parents should know that the movie has some tense and scary moments with characters in frequent peril. Predatory fish with many very sharp teeth chase after the characters. At least one character is killed (offscreen and discreetly) and another has a near-death experience. There are discussions of possible extinction. Characters use some crude and insulting language (“idiot,” “moron,” “crap”) and there is some potty humor. An odd near-death visit to Heaven may be disturbing to some audience members.
Families who see this movie should talk about how we recognize and deal with our fears. Why were Ellie’s feelings hurt? How do you feel about the way Ellie and Manny resolved their argument about which way to go? Several characters in the movie were lonely. How can you tell, and what did they do about it? What does it mean to be “the gooey, sticky stuff that holds us together?” And they should talk about endandered species and efforts to protect them. Families might also want to learn more about wooly mammoths and other ice age animals.
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the original Ice Age as well as The Land Before Time and its sequels.

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