Paddington 2

Posted on January 11, 2018 at 5:04 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor
Profanity: Some mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Mild peril, no one hurt, reference to sad death
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 12, 2018
Date Released to DVD: April 22, 2018
Copyright Warner Brothers 2017

You know what we don’t see enough of in movies?  Whimsy.  Movies, especially movies for families, don’t trust the audience enough to step away from the dazzle and the pratfall.  As entertaining as that can be, it is a relief to see Paddington 2, a movie that trusts us enough to keep its tone gentle and, yes, whimsical.  And that makes it utterly beguiling.

There is a very brief refresher to introduce us to the backstory of the marmalade-loving Peruvian bear.  An Anglophile bear couple rescues a little cub and cancels their planned trip to London to raise him.  And then we catch up to Paddington.  His adoptive father has died and his adoptive mother, Aunt Lucy (voice of Imelda Staunton) has moved to an assisted living home in Peru.  Paddington, now living with the Brown family, is a cherished part of the neighborhood, always looking out for the members of the community.  Just one neighbor, cranky Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi), a nosy self-appointed community watchman, keeps insisting that Paddington should not be there.

When the local antique shop receives a one-of-a-kind pop-up book showing London’s most iconic locations, Paddington realizes that it is the perfect gift for Aunt Lucy, who always dreamed of London but never been able to visit.  We go inside the book in an enchanting animated sequence, moving in and out of the beautifully crafted pop-ups.  Paddington takes jobs as a barber’s assistant and a window washer to earn the money to buy the book for his aunt, but things do not go very well and there are some mild slapstick catastrophes.

And then Paddington catches a thief stealing the pop-up book and in trying to catch him appears to be the culprit himself.  He is sentenced to prison, where things do not go well until his optimism and generosity — and recipe for marmalade, endear him to everyone, even the hot-tempered chef (Brendan Gleeson).  Paddington likes to quote Aunt Lucy, who said, “If you’re kind and polite, the world will be right.”

Hugh Grant has found his very best role as Phoenix Buchanan, a formerly successful actor with a plummy accent reduced to dog food commercials (wearing a dog suit), and a master of disguise who knows that the pop-up-book has a secret message leading to a cache of jewels.  It is impossible to imagine whether he or costume designer Lindy Hemming had more fun with the sheer preposterousness of Buchanan’s pretensions and wildness of his various get-ups, even when he is not in costume.  There’s a Da Vinci code-like treasure hunt as Buchanan tries to solve the puzzle before the Browns can track down the real thief and exonerate Paddington.  Oh, and Mr. Brown needs to resolve a bit of a mid-life crisis, Mrs. Brown wants to swim the Channel, the Brown children need to learn a couple of lessons, and there’s even a bit of a romance.  Plus, Aunt Lucy’s birthday is coming!

The movie follows its own advice, with kindness and courtesy in its story and story-telling, and the result is as irresistible as a marmalade sandwich proffered by a bear in a red hat.

NOTE: Stay for the credits and a delightful musical number

Parents should know that there is some mild gross-out humor and some peril and violence (no one badly hurt).

Family discussion: How can you follow Aunt Lucy’s advice to look for the good in people, and to be kind and polite?  Who do you know who follows those rules?

If you like this, try: the first “Paddington” movie and the books

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DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Scene After the Credits

If You Miss Downton Abbey: More From Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern

Posted on March 14, 2015 at 3:43 pm

Copyright PBS 2015
Copyright PBS 2015

“Downton Abbey’s” season is ending and it will be months before we get new episodes. Now might be a good time to check out some of the other roles played by your favorite Downton-ites.

Maggie Smith (the Dowager Countess) may not have hit superstardom until she was in her 70’s, but before that she had a long and highly successful career that included two Oscars. In The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie she plays a fiercely independent but free-spirited teacher whose efforts to have her students live out her fantasies results in tragedy. In California Suite ensemble comedy from Neil Simon, she was heartbreaking as a movie star herself up for an Oscar, escorted by her husband, a man she loves and who loves her, but who is gay in an era where he could not be honest about it. I also love her in Room With a View as the spinster aunt who does not see much but who can tell everyone sees her as fussy and in the way, in The VIPs as the loyal secretary who saves the day for the boss she secretly loves, and in Travels With My Aunt, a wild story based on the book by Graham Greene.

Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley) has a central role in one of the cleverest comedies of all time, three plays known as The Norman Conquests. They all take place at the same time, one in the living room, one in the garden, and one in the dining, so an entrance in one of them is an exit in another. She co-starred with Helen Mirren in Calendar Girls (based on the true story of a group of middle-aged women who pose nude for a fundraising calendar) and with Maggie Smith in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel.

Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham) stars opposite a Peruvian bear in the popular 2015 release Paddington. You can also find him as Hugh Grant’s inept and awkward friend in Notting Hill, as the foolish Mr. Rushworth in Mansfield Park, and as the unfortunate M. Bovary in Madame Bovary.

Elizabeth McGovern (Countess of Grantham) appeared in the Oscar-winning Ordinary People as a high school student and romantic interest for the main character played by Timothy Hutton. She was touching and funny in Ragtime as real-life performer Evelyn Nesbit, whose wealthy young husband shot and killed her lover, the renowned architect Stanford White. In Clover she played the white widow of a black man, fighting his family for custody of his daughter.

Also: Allen Leech (Tom Branson) is in The Imitation Game Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes) is in Secrets and Lies, Richard E. Grant (Simon Ricker) is in Withnail and I and The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Lily James (Lady Rose) is in this week’s live action “Cinderella.”

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Actors For Your Netflix Queue

The Monuments Men

Posted on February 6, 2014 at 6:00 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some images of war violence and historical smoking
Profanity: Some mild language ("SOB," etc.)
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, references to drinking problem
Violence/ Scariness: Wartime violence, peril, guns, explosions, characters injured and killed, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: February 7, 2014
Date Released to DVD: May 19, 2014
Amazon.com ASIN: B00DL48CN4

monuments menMany years ago, my husband and I attended an art auction at which one item was a pencil drawing of a peaceful river setting, made by an Austrian art student in the early 20th century: Adolf Hitler.  The bidding opened at $10. There were no takers.  Hitler retained his appreciation for art as he became a dictator and the man responsible for the most devastating war in world history and the Holocaust that killed six million Jews and hundreds of thousands of Slavs, Romany, gays, and disabled people.  A part of his plan to take over the world and remake according to his dream of a Thousand Year Reich was to own the greatest art masterworks of all time, many to be displayed in a “Furher Museum” in his own honor.  He ordered his army to take art from Jewish collectors, from churches, and from museums, and he hid them until they could be retrieved at the end of the war.  When it appeared that he was going to lose the war, he ordered many of them to be destroyed.

In a little-known part of the Allied war effort, an international group of 345 art historians, scholars, curators, and architects served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section, to seek out the missing art treasures and, where possible, to prevent the battles going on in Europe from collateral damage of historic buildings and artworks.  Writer-director-star George Clooney has turned this story into an exciting and entertaining film, but by no means a great one.  At times it feels like “Oceans 11 Goes to War.”  In fact, Clooney not only gave himself the same line he has in “Oceans 11,” he gives it the same line reading. It is one thing to make a heist film set in Las Vegas cuddly, with a bunch of pretend adorable crooks.  It is another to try to make that work in the midst of a devastating real war, especially when every one of the clearly fictionalized and composite characters is always the essence of dignity, courage, honor, dedication, and dashing gallantry, quips included.

In this Hollywood-ized version, there are six primary operatives: Clooney plays the leader, Frank Stokes, who rounds up his non-dirty half-dozen, including recovering alcoholic Brit Donald Jeffries (“Downton Abbey’s” Hugh Bonneville), dashing Frenchman Jean Claude Clement (“The Artist’s” Jean Dujardin), MMoA curator James Granger (Damon), sculptor Walter Garfield (John Goodman), architect Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), and Preston Savitz (Christopher Guest regular Bob Balaban).  Cate Blanchett is sincere but misused as a French woman working for the Germans who are taking paintings from Paris so she can give information to the Resistance.

Clooney can do better (“Goodnight and Good Luck”) than this script, which feels like a Robert McKee formula special, all the beats and plot points laid out according to the formula.  As a result, it works.  The sad casualties are balanced with the sentimental pauses (a nice moment when a character gets a recorded message from home is clumsily juxtaposed with a soldier dying on a table in the medical tent) and the bro-banter.  But the breadth and brutality of the crimes and the humility and devotion of the heroes cannot help but move us and, I hope, inspire us to treasure the masterworks they saved and the heroes who saved them.

Parents should know that this film includes wartime peril and violence, with characters injured and killed, some graphic and disturbing images, sad deaths, explosions, shooting, land mine, constant smoking, some drinking and references to a drinking problem, and mild references to adultery.

Family discussion:  Should people risk their lives to save art?  Who should decide?

If you like this, try: “Is Paris Burning?” and The Train and the documentary about Nazi art theft, The Rape of Europa — and look into the history of some of your favorite artworks

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Based on a book Based on a true story Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Epic/Historical War

Up for a Bit of English Mystery?

Posted on January 29, 2013 at 8:00 am

British TV specialist Acorn has the first complete collection of Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime: The Tommy & Tuppence Mysteries starring James Warwick and Francesca Annis as the lively detective duo; Agatha Christie’s Poirot & Marple Fan Favorites Collection featuring 11 of the detectives’ most popular mysteries with guest stars Jessica Chastain (Golden Globe-winner for Zero Dark Thirty) as well as Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) in a Marple and Poirot mystery; and Wodehouse Playhouse Complete, featuring all three series of the uproarious BBC comedy starring Pauline Collins (“Shirley Valentine” and “Quartet”).

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