Q&A With the Movie Mom

Q&A With the Movie Mom

Posted on December 19, 2010 at 8:00 am

Thanks for the great questions!#1 late 80’s early 90’s. Takes place in CA during WWII. Japanese submarine sailor gets washed on shore and gets cared for by a little boy.#2 late 80’s early 90’s. Little boy has a few ghost friends. I remember something to do with a bus. Also they sing Frankie Valli’s “Walk Like a Man” with the boy.Answer: The first is I’ll Remember April and the second is Heart and Souls with Robert Downey, Jr.My son checked out a movie at a local library about 6 months ago. It was about 3 dads helping their sons build the ultimate pine car derby from a block of pine wood. It becomes an all out competition between the dads and very funny entertaining because I did the same thing with my son. Can’t recall the name of the movie. I would like to purchase it.Answer: Our son raced in the Pinewood Derby, too! The movie is Down and Derby from 2005.Hi Nell, I’m trying to find the name of an 80s or 90s film i watched it when i was like 8 in the movie I think it was set in the future and I remember there being like a game show or something like that that people could watch and they would send a person down this chute (I think the people got this as punishment for crimes) and they would get out at the end of the chute in some sort of maze with levels wear they would have to work there way through with out being killed by other people and things I always thought it was something like blade slider that they called this death game in the movie but not to sure?? thanks for any help, bradAnswer: Sounds like The Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Years ago on TV I watched an old movie with the setting in the ’20s or ’30s. I don’t recall any of the actors or the title, but the opening scene was in a large city around Christmas time with an old open air limousine giving tours of the residential Christmas lights. One of these residence was owned by a wealthy man that went vacationing every December, and left his home empty. A hobo was aware of this practice, and found a way to gain entry to this house, and lived there while the family was on vacation. The hobo would wear the owners clothes and give away items from the house to the poor people of the community. A grown daughter of the owner came home early and found out what the hobo was doing, and was so moved by his kindness that she talked her father into starting that practice as a family tradition…or at least as I remember it…. Would you be able to identify that movie, or where I might find out more about it?Answer: That’s “It Happened on 5th Avenue” with Victor Moore, Don DeFore, and Gale Storm. Hello, I’ve always wanted to find the name of a movie I watched when I was a girl-late 60’s-early 70’s about a young boy who’s parents died. He goes to live with his uncle who has a shark in an indoor pool. The uncle is trying to kill the boy for his inheritance and the boy and a little girl who he befriends try to kill the uncle first with poisoned mushrooms. Any ideas on this movie’s name? Thank you!Answer: Believe it or not, it is called “Let’s Kill Uncle” (sometimes known as “Let’s Kill Uncle Before Uncle Kills Us”). Thanks for writing!I want to find the title of this one movie in which a career minded single woman finds herself married with children upon waking up after an accident. Please help, thanks.Answer: That is Me Myself I with Rachel Griffiths. Enjoy!I would like to know how to find a movie about a high school wrestling team. It is a comedy about a group of misfits who practice in the boiler room and their coach knows nothing about the sport. I would guess it was released in the early 80’s. I think the name of it is “Take Down.” Any ideas? Thanks!Answer: It is called “Take Down,” and stars Edward Hermann and Lorenzo Lamas. It’s not available on DVD but VHS copies show up on EBay. I am looking for a family Christmas movie I saw many years ago. It’s about a young boy with not long to live. His parents tell him he can have anything he wants for Christmas. He asks for a wolf so his family breaks into a zoo and takes two wolf cubs and they become very close to the dying boy. Answer: That movie is “The Christmas Tree” with William Holden. Looking for the title of this movie (saw it years ago, so will be as accurate as I can):*1920s or early 1930s*Black and White*About an elderly couple that is split up to go with their adult children because they can’t take care of each other any more – wife to son / husband to daughter (I think)…on different coasts…or at least miles apart*Adult kids end up being selfish, terrible people*Somehow the elderly couple escape their kids and meet up in New York and have one last dinner and dance at the Rainbow Room where they celebrated their wedding as well.*Last scene they are saying good bye at the train (kids have found them), never to see each other again*Total heart breaker…really good…I think it was a promoted as a “Christmas Movie”Really hoping you can help with this one.Answer: That lovely movie is Make Way for Tomorrow. Thanks for asking!Hi, I’m trying to find an old movie about a girl, maybe 10-12 yrs. old, whose parents find out she has, I believe, 7 days or 7 weeks to live. I think her dream was to become a ballet dancer so her parents take her to the NYC Ballet. If I remember correctly the girl has long red hair, or I may be making that up. There’s a scene where they take a train ride after the ballet, later the girl dies. I hope you can help. Thank you in advance.Answer: I believe you are thinking of “Six Weeks” with Mary Tyler Moore as the mother of a young girl who is dying — and who goes to the ballet and appears in the Nutcracker. I am trying to remember a name of a movie that I watched as a kid…I can remember the whole movie but not the name. It was based on a true story in the 50’s I believe. It was about a young girl that ran away from home because she was abused by her father. She saw an ad where they were looking for a girl to jump horses in a carnival. The horse would run up a ramp and she would have to jump on its back and them the horse would jump into a pool of water. The horse got spooked on one of the jumps and she hit the water with her eyes open leaving her blind.That should jog a memory if you have seen it.Answer: Yes! That’s Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken with Gabrielle Anwar. It is based on the true story of Sonora Webster Carver. Please help. I’ve been searching for this movie for 30 years. 1940ish film noir. It’s about a woman who kills her lover and his wife while they are sleeping. They have a child about 6 that witnesses the murder. The child has an Indian Chief doll that she calls “Cupid” and she tells the cops that “Cupid” killed her parents. The woman spends the remainder of the movie trying to kill the child. At the end, the woman has on a hat with a long feather that casts a shadow against the wall, the little girls screams “Cupid” as the shadow looks like her Indian doll, and the woman is caught. Excellent movie. Help me!Answer: That thriller is, appropriately enough, called “Shadow on the Wall.” It stars Ann Southern and Zachary Scott, with Gigi Perreau as the little girl. Enjoy!Looking for title of film I saw in 2000, no known actors, about a couple driving through the US desert. They get lost and end up in a town inhabited by dead wild west heroes and villains. Think they have to do a good deed to get to heaven. Good film, need to know the title. Cheers, JohnAnswer: I believe you are thinking of a 1999 made-for-television movie called “Purgatory,” with Sam Shepard, Eric Roberts, and Randy Quaid as Wild West characters who have to redeem themselves to get to heaven. Hope that’s it!I saw it when I was about 7 years old (22 now) If I recall correctly it was an 80’s British fantasy film, but it may have been late 70’s early 90’s. Live action. I believe it began in what was then, modern day England. There was a small boy who was unhappy with his home life. He lived with relatives or something. one night while walking about he stumbles upon an old corked wine bottle and opens it up. Out of the bottle comes a gigantic white head with a long beard that speaks to the boy about how his father is a king of some kind in another land. The boy grabs the floating heads beard and is whisked away to this enchanted land where he meets his father and another boy of his age. Then something bad happens… I recall the boys decked out in armor, hiding in a hole or something. That’s it. If you can help me you will have answered a question that has been beating me senseless for the last 15 years. What is the name of that film?Answer: That’s “The Land of Faraway.” It is sometimes called “Mio in the Land of Faraway.” Enjoy!I am trying to locate the name of a movie from the late 70’s or early 80’s. This movie took place (at least in part) in Venice, Italy. I remember a young couple who needed to ride the Gondolas as the bells were ringing and they needed to kiss while going under a certain bridge whilst a certain bell was ringing in order to establish true love or everlasting love or some such. No idea of actors or title or plot or anything. Only Venice, gondolas, bells and a kiss. I would be so happy if you could figure this out for me.Answer: That sweet movie is “A Little Romance” with Diane Lane. Enjoy!Hi Nell, I’m sorry to bother you but I’m trying to find the name and the movie itself if possible, it’s a Snow White and Seven Dwarf’s movie, but its not the cartoon, in this one its an older film and Snow White is taken in by the Dwarfs while young and raised by them, and the first time the Queen visits her, she sews her into a shirt so tight it smothers her until the dwarfs get home and cut her out of it, I’ve looked everywhere and all I ever get is the Disney movie, which disappoints me as I know there has to be other such movies even beside the one I’m hunting for, makes it very hard to locate. If you could help, I’d really appreciate it. Thank you, BonnieAnswer: Not a bother! I enjoy movie questions. You are thinking of a 1987 film starring Diana Rigg.Please help me with the title of this movie. The movies is about a single parent (mother) whose child (boy)is very gifted with an extremely high I.Q.. A psychiatrist (female) at a local university discovers that the child is very intelligent and she attempts to have the child taken away from the mother as she feels the child deserves a better home.Answer: That movie is “Little Man Tate,” starring and directed by Jodie Foster.I am trying to find an old American movie, probably from the 1960’s or 1950’s about a kid who lives in an isolated cabin in a forest with his parents, and his friendship with adeer’s cub. His brothers and sisters all died at childhood and his mother detached herself from her living child. In the end of the movie the father shoots the deer. Black and white movie.Answer: That lovely classic film is “The Yearling,” based on the beloved book by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It stars Jane Wyman and Gregory Peck and won an Oscar for cinematography.I hope that you can help me with this movie I am trying to find. The movie is a 1930’s 1940’s black and white film, it is about a man who is hired to impersonate a missing family member who is quite eccentric named Skylar to save the family inheritance.Answer: I love that movie! It’s “Miss Tatlock’s Millions” with John Lund. I am trying to recall a movie that came out in the late 50s or early 60s about a man who feared being buried alive. It was kind of hokey and I think it had Vincent Price in it.What can you tell me about it? Can you remind me how it ends?Answer: Vincent Price appeared in “The Oblong Box,” where characters are buried alive, but I think you are remembering “Premature Burial” with Ray Milland. Both are directed by Roger Corman. I hope that’s it!I’m trying to figure out a movie I saw a long time ago. All I can remember is it was in a different century, like the 1800s or something, and this young girl was in love withlike her music instructor or something and they passed letter to each other. Her father finds out and fires him. Then I think he goes out one night and the maids or whatevertake her to see the guy. Maybe they get caught, I don’t remember. I know this isn’t much to tell, but I hope you can help me out cause it’s driving me crazy!!Answer: That sounds like “Valmont” with Fairuza Balk and Henry Thomas. I hope that’s it! If not, try ‘”Dangerous Liaisons,” based on the same book, which has a similar scene.I am trying to find the name of a movie with a yellow lab and a little boy that get stuck in a storm and stranded with just their boat as shelter? The boy wears a red jacket I believe.Answer: I believe you are thinking of “Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog,” starring Jesse Bradford. Excellent movie.I am looking for a film that is kind of older and the man starring in it has a half scared face i believe from burns when he was younger, he lives in a big house alone and plays a piano. The towns people think he is evil or bad or something already but when a little girl continues to come to his house for piano lessons i believe, one day she injures herself and he saves her and surprisingly takes her to the town himself to save her and the towns people think and believe he is the one that hurt her on purpose and i believe the kill him but i am not for sure but i was wondering if you could help me remember the name of this movieAnswer: That sounds like Rigoletto: A Musical Fantasy Ringing of Truth and Filled With Mystery and Love, a 1993 video that was part of the excellent Feature Films for Families series.

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Iron Man 2

Posted on September 28, 2010 at 8:00 am

Let’s begin with a recap of Iron Man 1, not so much the plot (a man puts on an iron suit and beats the bad guys) as what it was that made it so successful, widely considered one of the best comic book adaptations ever.

First was Robert Downey, Jr. It’s almost impossible to remember now that at one time it was almost impossible to imagine that he would overcome his demons to become a star as big as his talent. “Iron Man” was the movie that established him as a major movie star in part because the role was perfectly designed for his slightly strung-out, self-deprecating surface and ferociously intelligent core. He was a surprise. And so was his character — Iron Man was not an established icon like Superman, Spider-Man, or Batman. The freshness added a lot to the movie’s appeal.

So did the mechanical special effects. Director Jon Favreau, previously best known as a director for “Swingers” and “Elf,” turned out to have the heart of a fan-boy. He minimized the computer effects. He got the details right and hit the sweet spot between dedication and irreverence.

In part 2, as often happens with sequels, pressure to repeat and the pressure make everything bigger can throw things off balance. We can’t be surprised the same way; this time we come in with expectations so high they’re almost impossible to clear. And so what we have is an entertaining summer movie that feels more like a bridge to Part 3 than a repeat of what was best about Part 1 with some organic additions. It’s missing the exuberance of the original. There was the audience’s in the pure fun of the film, based on Tony Stark’s in the physical exhilaration of flying, the mental exhilaration of finding a task to engage his mind and spirit so entirely, and the spiritual exhilaration of meaningful and sustaining engagement with the world.

A strong beginning shows Tony Stark (Downey) as something between an evangelist and a rock star, bragging that he has “privatized peace” and refusing to turn over to the US government the secret of his “weapon.” His suit may be made of metal, but his body is not and the same substance which is keeping him alive is poisoning his blood. Stark’s recklessness and impetuousness is escalating and his assurance that he can keep the world’s dangers under control increasingly sounds more than arrogant — it seems delusional. So this is not a good time for him to get some competition. Mickey Rourke shows up as a Russian with a grudge — and his own metal suit which comes with a deadly accessory. Shooting out from the wrists are electrified whips that can slice a car like a loaf of bread. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up as the leader of SHIELD, a collection of highly talented and trained operatives, to invite Stark to join. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) shows up as Stark’s weapons manufacturer rival. Don Cheadle takes over the role of Stark’s friend Lt. Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes. Garry Shandling shows up as a Senator who wants Stark to turn over his technology to the US government. Scarlett Johansson shows up as a very beautiful and capable new employee who turns out to have some additional talents and loyalties. Like Hit-Girl, she mows down a hallway-full of bad guys single-handedly. Her curls bounce enticingly and her catsuit fit is even moreseo.

That’s enough for about four movies, and so the movie sags under the weight of all of these characters and exposition before picking up for one last big action scene. Those who wait through all of the credits will get a glimpse of what is in store for the next film. I hope between now and then they remember that less is more.

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Action/Adventure Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Fantasy Series/Sequel

Sherlock Holmes

Posted on December 24, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material
Profanity: Some mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, sedation
Violence/ Scariness: Action violence, hanging, martial arts, guns, poison gas, and various Victorian weapons, explosions, some grotesque and grisly images including corpses
Diversity Issues: Strong, independent, capable (if criminal) woman
Date Released to Theaters: December 25, 2009

Perhaps even the great detective himself could not solve the mystery of why Sherlock Holmes holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for having been portrayed on screen than any other fictional character, with more than 75 actors in more than 200 movies. And it would be hard to find any movie and television detective who does not draw something from Holmes’ mastery of the power of observation (“Lie to Me,” “The Mentalist”). There is something endlessly fascinating about the idea that someone could look at us and see what others are hiding from us, and even about the idea that he could see what we are hiding, too.

So here we are again with another Sherlock Holmes, this one from Robert Downey, Jr. and director Guy Ritchie. And that means an edgier, grubbier, somewhat younger Holmes. While stage and screen versions of the stories have generally focused on Holmes as a sort of hyper-controlled super-brain with little emotion or physicality, this version expands on a reference in the original Arthur Conan Doyle texts to Holmes’ being adept at “baritsu,” a form of martial arts and has a two-fisted Holmes who fights bad guys and even mixes it up just for fun. It also focuses on the books’ notion that Holmes was good at detection because he was bad at everything else and that unless he was completely involved in a case he considered worth his attention he does not have any other way to interact with the world.

Dr. Watson, portrayed as a bit stuffy and more of a biographer than a partner for Holmes, in this version is played by the not-at-all-stuffy Jude Law as someone who struggles with his own demons (a gambling problem) and loves the adrenaline rush as well as the sense of justice and the fun of fighting along side his talented friend. But things are changing. He has met a woman he wants to marry and that means moving out of the flat on Baker Street he shares with Holmes and less time for crime-fighting.

Downey is always at his considerable best with a character who has some boundary issues and his Holmes is as taut as the violin strings he plucks between cases. His eyes are the most expressive on screen since Al Pacino, large, liquid, knowing. Downey conveys the almost compulsive, almost Aspergers aspects of the Holmes character. In one scene, he waits for Watson at a restaurant, unable to stop noticing the dark, the sad, the painful at the tables around him. He seems to drink it all in through his eyes, ears, and pores on his skin. And his need to understand and conquer the worst of humanity outside him seems connected to a struggle within himself — and between him and Irene Adler, for Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle wrote, “the woman.” Here she is deliciously played by Rachel McAdams, suiting his description of Irene as having “the face of the most beautiful of women, and the mind of the most resolute of men,” and fetching in bustle and boy-clothes.

Production designer Sarah Greenwood has done a magnificent job of creating Victorian London and part of the fun is seeing some of the now-iconic structures still under construction — always a handy place for a fight scene, too. Ritchie’s kinetic camerawork lends a muscular energy that keeps the story from feeling antique. And getting used to a young, energetic Holmes who can throw a punch is not as difficult as you might think.

But other parts of the movie do not work as well. Ritchie, whose best films celebrate the gritty underworld of big and small-time crooks, seems to be more comfortable for some of the mid-level thieves, arsonists, and hoodlums Holmes and Watson run into, and every time they leave the scene a little bit of the life of the film goes with them. Mark Strong is not given nearly enough to do as the villain (titled, of course) and the mystery is not clever enough to make the resolution satisfying. You don’t have to be a super-sleuth to see the holes in the plot. Downey is better detecting than he is trading odd couple banter with Law, but so would anyone. Who could have imagined that in a Sherlock Holmes movie the fight scenes replacing the deductions would ring truer than the dialogue replacing “Elementary, my dear Watson?”

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Action/Adventure Based on a book Crime Drama Movies -- format Remake Romance
The Soloist

The Soloist

Posted on August 4, 2009 at 8:00 am

All around Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.), everything seems to be broken or breaking. The newspaper is losing readers and laying off staff. His marriage to editor Mary Weston (Catherine Keener) is over. He is estranged from their son and lived amidst unpacked boxes. His eye is swollen shut and his face scraped raw from a bicycle accident. And he lives in a city with the highest homeless population in the country. When he meets a homeless man named Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) on the street, playing a violin with only two strings, Lopez sees him as material for the column, and then as a problem — unlike so many others — he could solve.

The real-life story of Lopez and Ayers, as documented in Lopez’s book
and on “60 Minutes,” has now become a feature film written by one of Hollywood’s most established screenwriters, Susannah Grant (“Erin Brockovich,” “In Her Shoes,” “Catch and Release”), directed by one of today’s most gifted directors, Joe Wright (the Kiera Knightly “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement”), and starring two of the biggest stars. Everyone is diligent and sincere but it never really decides what it wants to be. It is part social commentary, part personal growth, and large part one of those “I learned so much more from you than you did from me”/”none so blind as those who will not see” stories, making it seem that the agony of mental illness is all about helping the rest of us feel better about our lives. Both men are soloists in their own way, and both do learn that relationships can affect brain chemistry.

The detours into Ayers’ life before he became mentally ill are distracting rather than illuminating and the efforts to portray his distorted perceptions are superficial and unpersuasive. It never comes anywhere close to films like A Beautiful Mind in conveying mental disturbance. Foxx struggles but never makes us feel that his portrayal is more than a collection of tics and twitches. The far better chemistry and more interesting relationship is between Lopez and a sympathetic social worker, beautifully played by Nelsan Ellis. Wright’s striking visuals are arresting and Downey’s performance is always enthralling, fascinating, and utterly present. The inconsistency of the rest of the film, however, makes him more of a soloist than intended.

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Based on a book Based on a true story Drama

Tropic Thunder

Posted on November 18, 2008 at 6:07 pm

With constant coverage of every baby bump and trip to rehab, we all feel like show business insiders these days. And co-writer/director/star Ben Stiller makes the most of that with this pointed but ultimately sweet take on Hollywood excess.

The characters are brilliantly introduced via a stream of what at first appear to be pre-feature shorts, until we realize that they are hilarious and only slightly exaggerated parodies of a rap star’s soda commercial and trailers for movies featuring a fading action star (“Global Meltdown Part VI: Here we go again. Again.”), a tubby comic who plays all the parts in low comedies — very low (“The Fatties: Fart 2”) and wants to do drama but is battling a substance abuse problem, and a Serious Actor from Australia who throws himself completely into every role (a trailer for “Satan’s Alley” about the forbidden love of a pair of friars) and has had a controversial medical procedure to darken his skin to play an African-American. They are Alpa Chino (say it aloud) (Brandon T. Jackson), Tugg Speedman (Stiller), Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), and Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.). And they are joined by newcomer Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel) in a huge career-building Viet Nam War epic, based on the true story of “Four Leaf” Tayback (Nick Nolte) and directed by first-timer Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan).

Everything, of course, goes very, very wrong. When they’re a month behind after five days of shooting and the studio executive (a very funny performance by a major star I won’t reveal) is very colorfully threatening to do many very bad and painful things, Cockburn decides to go commando, so to speak, and take the actors out into the jungle like it was “The Blair Witch Project.” And that is when things really go wrong and the actors get mixed up in some real fighting they think is part of the movie.

Stiller is great at nailing the way that the actors and the people back in Hollywood have such a permeable sense of reality that they buy into whatever is happening at the moment. That may be the way to get an Oscar, but it makes it difficult to deal with actual reality when it occurs. The overlay of these pampered stars (Speedman’s agent is frantic about the failure to provide his client with TIVO) playing tough guys (and they are not the only ones pretending to be tough) is very funny and the inside humor (“I stay in character until the DVD commentary”) is choice. A movie about a fake movie has the truest laughs of the summer.

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Action/Adventure Comedy War
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