Miracles from Heaven

Posted on March 15, 2016 at 10:11 am

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic material, including accident and medical issues
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Serious illness and peril involving children, sad death (offscreen)
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: March 16, 2016
Date Released to DVD: July 11, 2016
Amazon.com ASIN: B01D1U6V58
Copyright Sony Pictures Entertainment 2016
Copyright Sony Pictures Entertainment 2016

Christy Wilson Beam’s book title says it all: Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl and Her Amazing Story of Healing. In the book, she tells the story of her daughter Annabel, critically ill with an incurable digestive disorder, who fell thirty feet from a tree branch. Incredibly, she was not injured. And even more incredibly, possibly even miraculously, she was cured.

All of this happens in the trailer, and the movie’s biggest challenge is that the entire story is not much more than that.

A happy, loving family is catapulted into crisis when their sweet-natured daughter becomes ill. It takes a long time to get the right diagnosis, and then it takes a long time to see the only doctor who may be able to help them. And then she gets sicker and sicker and the family is under more and more pressure. And then she climbs the tree and falls. The rest, despite the best efforts of the always-appealing Jennifer Garner, mostly seems like so much padding. So, so much padding.

Just to make sure we didn’t miss the title’s reminder of where miracles come from, we are told right at the beginning what a miracle is: not explainable by natural or scientific laws. And then we meet the Beam family, as adorable as the ray of sunlight of their name, living a life somewhere between a country song and a Hallmark commercial. Everyone is beautiful, loving, patient, and trusting in God. There are sun-dappled vistas and cute animals. They have a kindly preacher, played with warmth and good humor by John Carroll Lynch.

And then Annabel (a very sweet Kylie Rogers), the middle of their three daughters, gets sick. At first, doctors reassure them that it is a minor problem like lactose intolerance, but it turns out to be a major digestive disorder that distends her stomach and makes it impossible for her to eat.

They are told that there is just one doctor in Boston who may be able to help her, but he is so busy they cannot get an appointment. Desperate, Christy (Garner) brings Annabelle to Boston, goes to the doctor’s office, and begs for a chance to see him. While they wait, they meet a kind-hearted waitress (Queen Latifah in a role that verges on uncomfortably confined to quirky comic relief) who gives them a tour of the city (more padding), until they get a call that the doctor is available. Dr. Durko (an engaging Eugenio Derbez) has a great Patch Adams-style bedside manner, but his diagnosis is a heartbreaking one. Annabel is hospitalized, and shares a room with another very sick little girl, who is comforted by Annabel’s reassurance of God’s love and protection.

And then, back at home, Annabel climbs an old dead tree and falls 30 feet inside.

The most touching and inspiring part of the film is not the “miracle” cure of a fall that somehow caused no serious injuries and rebooted the part of Annabel’s brain that was not telling her digestive system how to work. It is when Christy thinks back and realizes how many miracles the family has experienced through kindness and compassion.

Parents should know that this film is about a very sick little girl and includes scenes of illness, with a sad (offscreen) death.

Family discussion: Why did some of the women in the congregation blame Christy? What tested the family’s faith most? Which moments of kindness meant the most to the family?

If you like this, try: “Heaven is for Real”

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Based on a book Based on a true story DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Illness, Medicine, and Health Care Spiritual films

Trailer: Miracles From Heaven

Posted on November 26, 2015 at 8:00 am

Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah star in “Miracles from Heaven,” based on Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl and Her Amazing Story of Healing by Christy Wilson Beam.

Annabel Beam spent most of her childhood in and out of hospitals with a rare and incurable digestive disorder that prevented her from living a normal, healthy life. One sunny day when she was able to go outside and play with her sisters, she fell three stories headfirst into an old, hollowed-out tree. Implausibly, she survived without a scratch. While unconscious inside the tree, with rescue workers struggling to get to her, she said that she had visited heaven. After being released from the hospital, she defied science and had inexplicably recovered from her chronic ailment. The movie will be in theaters for Easter 2016.

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Danny Collins

Posted on March 19, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, drug use and some nudity
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Tense family confrontations, illness
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: March 20, 2015
Date Released to DVD: June 29, 2015
Amazon.com ASIN: B00UZJO7UA
Copyright 2015 Big Indie Pictures
Copyright 2015 Big Indie Pictures

Movie stories often begin with the hero or heroine having everything and then losing it or having nothing and then finding it. But some of the best combine them both, as Writer/director Dan Fogelman (“Cars,” “Tangled,” “Crazy Stupid Love”) has with “Danny Collins,” a heartwarming story of a one time rock star (Al Pacino) who can fill a stadium with his baby boomer fans but has an empty life that even a hot young fiancee and constant partying cannot hide.

And then he discovers that 40 years ago, when he admitted in an interview that he was afraid of becoming successful because it might impair his integrity as an artist, John Lennon sent him a letter saying that it did not have to happen that way and encouraging him to call. The letter never reached him until four decades later, when Collins’ longtime manager and best friend (Christopher Plummer) found it from a collector and bought it as a surprise birthday gift. (This part of the story is inspired by a real-life musician in the UK who did find out 34 years after it was written that John Lennon had sent him a letter almost identical to the one in the film, as we see in the closing credits.)

The letter serves as a wake-up call, instantly connecting Danny to the musician he once was. He cancels his tour, breaks up with the fiancee, and orders his private plane to New Jersey, where he moves into a suburban hotel managed by Mary (a deliciously crisp Annette Bening). He buys a new piano and has it delivered to his hotel room so he can start composing. And he reaches out to the son he has never met (Bobby Cannavale), who lives in New Jersey with his pregnant wife (Jennifer Garner) and young daughter (the delightful Giselle Eisenberg).

It is a treat to see the flamboyant rock star being checked into the numbingly generic hotel by an agog college student (Melissa Benoist of “Whiplash” and the Supergirl TV series) as stunning a transition for him as if he was Alice through the Looking Glass. Pacino is not entirely convincing as a rock star on stage but his genially raffish charm is as endearing to us as it is to the civilians he charms along the way. The highlight of the film is what he calls his “patter” with Mary, a sparkling throwback to the kind of romantic banter that might have been tossed back and forth by Tracy and Hepburn.

Immune to his charm, at least at first, is his son, even after Danny performs some rock star magic to help the family. But that’s what movies are for — to let us see Danny overcome his son’s efforts not to give in, all to the tune of some of Lennon’s most moving songs. And to wonder what we might do differently if we got a long-lost letter from Lennon.

Note: Danny’s catchy song, “Hey Baby Doll” was written by INXS replacement frontman Ciaran Gribbin, selected in a competition with top Hollywood songwriters for a tune that could sound like a real hit from the 60’s.

Parents should know that this film includes rock star behavior including sexual references and nudity, drinking and drug use, and very strong language, as well as family issues including abandonment and illness.

Family discussion: Who would you most like to get a letter from and what would you want it to say? Why did getting the letter make Danny decide to change his life? How often do get to enjoy patter?

If you like this, try: “One Trick Pony” and “The Last Waltz”

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Comedy Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Family Issues Inspired by a true story Romance
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