Patriots Day

Posted on January 12, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Copyright 2016 CBS Films

Writer/director Peter Berg and actor/producer Mark Wahlberg have now made their third film in a row on the same theme: real life stories of everyday people showing exceptional courage and dedication in the direst and most tragic circumstances. “Lone Survivor” was the story of a disastrous Navy SEAL operation. “Deepwater Horizon” was the story of the BP oil rig explosion. Now “Patriots Day” is the story of law enforcement from the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon to the killing and capture of the brothers responsible.

In all three films, Berg takes a story we know — or think we do — and creates a gripping, tense drama centered on a man who exemplifies American values of decency and integrity and shows exceptional ability to rise to the occasion. Wahlberg is a perfect choice to play those roles, and here he gives grace and dignity to the role of Tommy Saunders, a composite character based on the Boston cops who were on the ground when the bombs exploded, oversaw triage to manage the crowd and oversee emergency services and then tracked down the people responsible in just 19 hours.

And as in the earlier films, Berg’s focus is not on the people making the big policy decisions but on the people who are dealing with the consequences. He begins a brief but vivid chance to get invested in some of the key players just before Boston’s annual Patriots Day race, including some of the participants who will later be injured and Saunders, unhappy about being assigned to the race and struggling with a bad knee. Everything is the usual benign chaos until suddenly it becomes terrifying and catastrophic as the bombs explode near the finish line and no one knows what happened, who caused it, or whether more attacks are coming, with an anxious score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, as Saunders and the other cops have to try to figure out what is going on, surrounded by severely injured people and panicked crowds — and, probably, somewhere, the bombers.

The minute-by-minute procedural section is engrossing, with territorial squabbles and conflicting priorities involving the police force and the FBI. The injured people may have crucial information the cops need right away but they also have injuries that need treatment right away, treatment that could make it difficult or impossible for them to talk or remember. The press insists on releasing photos of possible suspects despite law enforcement’s concerns that it could impair the investigation. And what do you do when a key witness insists on a lawyer, or decides to leave the police station? One of the most powerful scenes in the film is the interrogation by a hijab-wearing FBI agent of the wife of one of the suspects, an incendiary performance by “Supergirls” Melissa Benoist. The film does not take a position on the abandonment of Constitutional rights in an emergency with perhaps hundreds of life at stake; it just presents it as the immensely complex problem with no right answer that it is.

And then, with ultimate respect, it concludes with footage of some of the real heroes. That’s the crying part, as it should be.

Parents should know that the theme of the film is a real-life terrorist attack with many characters injured and killed and some graphic and disturbing images of bodies and wounds; also very strong language, some bigotry, and some drug use.

Family discussion; How did social media affect the way this attack was investigated? What does this movie have in common with the two other fact-based stories from the same director and star?

If you like this, try: “Lone Survivor” and “Deepwater Horizon”

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Based on a true story Drama

Kevin Bacon Tells You How to Give Two Gifts With One Purchase

Posted on December 4, 2013 at 8:00 am

Kevin Bacon’s adorable parody commercial has a lot of heart — and a great idea.   You can support local businesses and your own favorite charities.  Shift Your Shopping For Good involves hundreds of local, independent businesses, including dozens with online stores, banding together to give a portion of your purchases to literally any charity you choose from 11/30 thru #GivingTuesday (12/3). Find the perfect holiday gift at a great local shop and support a cause close to your heart at the same time.

Click here for a searchable list of businesses and additional details and click here to get your Kevin Bacon Approved Gift Tags!
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Advertising Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families Smile of the Week

The Original: ‘Footloose’ (1984)

Posted on October 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm

The original Footloose was one of the decade-defining movies of the 1980’s, with a sensational soundtrack that included the title song by Kenny Loggins, “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” (Deniece Williams), “Dancing in the Sheets” (Shalimar), and “Holding Out for a Hero” (Bonnie Tyler).

In this week’s remake, Blake Shelton covers the Kenny Loggins title tune, and Jana Kramer sings “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.”  The song I am most looking forward to hearing is new, though: Big & Rich sing “Fake ID” with Gretchen Wilson!

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For Your Netflix Queue Original Version

My Dog Skip

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

This is a good, old-fashioned boy and his dog movie, based on the memoir of Willie Morris, who grew up in 1940’s Mississippi, a small, sleepy town of “ten thousand souls and nothing to do.” It is lyrical and very touching, with many important issues for family discussion.

Willie (“Malcolm in the Middle’s” Frankie Muniz) feels like an outsider, bookish and unathletic. He does not have a single friend to invite to his 9th birthday party. But one of his birthday presents is a friend, a puppy he names Skip.

Willie’s “lively and talkative” mother (Diane Lane. luminous as always) gives him Skip over the objections of his “stern and overbearing” father (Kevin Bacon). One of the most interesting scenes in the movie for older kids is the parents’ debate. Willie’s mother says, “He is a responsible boy who needs a friend.” His father says that pets are “just a heartbreak waiting to happen.” Having lost his leg — and much of his sense of hope about life — in a war, he wants to protect Willie from loss as long as he can. But Mrs. Morris knows that loss is the price we pay for caring, and that what we gain from caring — and from loss — is well worth it.

Skip and Willie find “unconditional love on both our parts.” Skip is a good listener and a loyal companion. Together, the boy and dog explore an ever-widening world. Skip helps Willie develop confidence and make friends with other boys and with the prettiest girl in school. Willie grows up in the segregated South, but Skip makes friends without regard for color, and takes Willie along.

Some of the adventures Willie and Skip share are scary (like an all-night stay in a cemetery that turns into an encounter with moonshiners) or sad (Willie’s hero, a local sports star, returns from combat in WWII very bitter and humiliated). Willie learns about the world with Skip. He learns about himself, too. Angry and embarrassed at his poor performance in a baseball game, he hits Skip, who runs away, devastating Willie. Taking responsibility for his behavior and facing the consequences start him on the road to his adult self.

Families who see this movie will have a lot to talk about. Parents should give kids some background to help them understand WWII-era America, with ration books and scrap drives. Be sure to point out the evidence of segregation, including separate ticket booths and seating areas at the movie theater and an adult black man calling a white boy “sir.”

Talk about what makes bullies behave the way they do and how the skills that make a child successful are very different from the skills that make an adult successful. This is shown by Willie and by his althetic friend Dink, who went to war filled with bravado and returned badly shaken. Discuss the way Willie and his friends respond to Dink’s return, especially in connection with Willie’s comment as an adult that “loyalty and love are the best things of all, and surely the most lasting.” Ask kids what they think of the way Willie’s parents disagree about whether he should have Skip, and how parents want to protect their kids, sometimes maybe too much so.

The movie tells us that even as a grown-up, Willie thought of Skip every day. Ask kids what there is in their lives right now that helps them grow up, and what it is that they will think of when their “memories of the spirit linger on and sweeten long after memories of the brain have faded.”

Warning: spoilers ahead. Parents should know that there are a couple of strong words in the script, a deer is killed by hunters, a child tells a scary story, menacing bad guys threaten Willie and Skip, and Skip is badly injured. When Skip finally dies (of old age) it is still very sad. A four-year-old boy sitting near me was inconsolable and kept repeating, “Skip died?” all the way to the car.

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Action/Adventure Based on a book Based on a true story Drama Epic/Historical Family Issues For all ages For the Whole Family Inspired by a true story
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