Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Posted on June 23, 2016 at 5:22 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including violent content, and for some language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drug reference
Violence/ Scariness: Extended action-style peril and violence, some injuries
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: June 24, 2016

Copyright 2016 Piki Films
Copyright 2016 Piki Films
Writer-director Taika Waititi brings the same wild imagination and subversive wit to “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” that he did to the vampire comedy “What We Do in the Shadows.” Based on the book by New Zealand favorite Barry Crump, it is the story of “a real bad egg,” a boy named Ricky (Julian Dennison) who has been in an endless series of foster homes and finally comes to live out in the wilderness with the warmhearted Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and silent, reserved Hec (Sam Neill). Just when Ricky begins to feel at home, a tragic loss has him running away into the bush, followed by Hec, and then followed by the social worker (Rachel House) and the cops.

Waititi’s films have a lively energy that provides a delicious counterpoint to the understated comedy. The story is told with wry chapter titles, beginning with “A Real Bad Egg.” Ricky is described as “a bit of a handful” with a history that includes “disobedience, spitting, running away…and that’s just the stuff we know about.” But we can see that this chubby kid who says he intends to grow up to be a drug dealer and rap star and get killed in a drive-by wants to be part of a family, even though he does not know exactly how. Bella has just the combination of bluntness and generosity of spirit to make Ricky begin to feel welcome. He’s not looking for cuddles and compliments. There is a bracing reality to Bella that begins to help him thaw. She kills a pig with a knife and says, “There’s dinner, sorted. Want to help me gut it?” He gets a dog and comes up with three possible names: Psycho, Megatron, or Tupac. This is a place where those names are just fine.

On the run, he is back to trusting no one but himself. He says he lives in Rickytown, population: Ricky. Hec tells him it’s time to get back to Realitytown. But that trip has to wait when Hec is injured and they have to stay in “Broken Foot Camp” until he is well enough to walk. And that gives them a chance to get to know each other, and become enough of a team to take on some of the challenges they meet along the way.

They meet some delightfully quirky characters, including three hunters who mistake Hec a child molester (an attempt at humor that does not work at all well), a paranoid hermit known as Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby), and a girl on a horse who brings Ricky home, where her father asks him if he can take a selfie. Waititi’s affection for the independent spirits of the people who live in the wilderness make us, like Ricky, glad to spend time with them.

(NOTE: look for writer/director Waititi in a small role as a clergyman)

Parents should know that this film includes extended peril and some violence including guns, with characters injured, a sad death, themes of abandonment, references to molestation, a drug reference, and some strong language.

Family discussion: When did Ricky and Hec begin to trust each other? When were they in the greatest danger?

If you like this, try: “Big Game” and “The Dish”

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Action/Adventure Based on a book Movies -- format Stories About Kids

Exclusive Clip from “The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box”

Posted on December 17, 2013 at 11:20 am

Michael Sheen, Lena Headey, Sam Neill, Ioan Gruffudd, and Aneurin Barnard star in this film based on Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box by G.P. Taylor.  It’s about a fearless hero’s quest through a fantastical realm of steam-powered wonders and sinister magic.  Seventeen-year-old Mariah Mundi’s life is turned upside down when his parents vanish and his younger brother is kidnapped.  Following a trail of clues to the darkly majestic Prince Regent Hotel, Mariah discovers a hidden realm of child-stealing monsters, deadly secrets and a long-lost artifact that grants limitless wealth – but also devastating supernatural power.  With the fate of his world and his family at stake, Mariah will risk everything to unravel the Curse of the Midas Box!

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Jurassic Park 3D

Posted on April 4, 2013 at 6:00 pm

A
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense science fiction terror
Profanity: Brief strong language (s-word, SOB)
Alcohol/ Drugs: Smoking, drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Intense and sometimes graphic peril and violence featuring children and adults, adult characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: April 5, 2013
Date Released to DVD: April 22, 2013
Amazon.com ASIN: B00B4804KS

Back in 1993, what was astonishing in “Jurassic Park” was the special effects that seemed to bring dinosaurs back to life.  Two decades later, rediscovering Steven Spielberg’s mastery of cinematic storytelling is the best reason to go see it again.

It is back in theaters with the best 3D conversion I’ve seen, avoiding the cheesy Viewmaster effect too often the result of adding 3D effects after a movie has already been filmed.  Other than a couple of shots where the foreground is distractingly blurred, the effects are immersive and organic, and the dinosaurs-jumping-toward-you moments are sparing and effective.

My favorite moment in the film has always been when the characters are trying to outrace the charging T-Rex in a jeep.  All of a sudden, we see a toothy dinosaur coming at them fast and angry in the side rear-view mirror.  It takes a moment for the words on the mirror to register: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”  Spielberg has found a way to make us laugh and ramp up the tension at the same time.  And it is even more compelling in 3D.

The movie holds up remarkably well, other than the computers and walkie-talkies used by the characters, which will seem to today’s audiences almost as prehistoric as the dinosaurs.  On the other hand, its then-state-of-the-art special effects, a combination of mechanical creations and computer images, are still as immediately believable as the high-techiest creatures on screen today.  

Spielberg has gone on to weightier and more prestigious projects, but this thrill ride of a popcorn pleasure is one of his best and a masterpiece of the genre.  It shows his unparalleled gifts for pacing and for the visual language of movies, and his ability to make us invest in the characters.  That is what makes all the special effects pack an emotional wallop.  He conveys more with ripples in a glass of water — or a sneeze — than most filmmakers can with 15 pages of dialogue.

The story, based on a book by the late Michael Crichton, begins with hubris, the sin of pride so great that a man places himself with the gods and thus sets the stage for his downfall.  John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) is a vastly wealthy man who dreams of extracting dinosaur and plant DNA that has been trapped for millions of years in amber and using it to reboot species of flora and fauna that have not been seen on earth.  Spielberg grounds the story with a strong moral core that lets us enjoy the catastrophic destruction ahead without any inconvenient pangs of conscience.

Spielberg also makes sure we have someone to root for, lining up our loyalties with a quick introduction to characters we can both identify with and admire.  Laura Dern and Sam Neill play experts in paleolithic animals and plants. They are (1) interested in science, not money (except to pursue more science), and (2) in love.  That’s all we need to know.  But just to make sure, he adds in a couple of children (Hammond is their grandfather), who not only get our automatic protective instincts going but give Neill’s character a chance to grow.  At the beginning, he does not like children.  At the end — spoiler alert — he does.

Go to see “Jurassic Park” in 3D.  Go to take your kids who were not born when it was released.  Go to see it the way it should be seen, on a big screen in a theater filled with happily terrified fans.  Go to see Samuel L. Jackson before he was SAMUEL L. JACKSON. And for a young female computer whiz who could grow up to be Sheryl Sandberg.  But most of all, go for the resoundingly satisfying delight of watching pure Spielberg movie magic.

Parents should know that this movie has non-stop peril, with characters injured and killed and some graphic scenes of injury, including a severed limb, brief strong language (s-word, SOB), drinking and smoking

Family discussion: How many different controls were in place to prevent the dinosaurs from hurting anyone and how did each one fail?  What have been the biggest changes in science and technology since this movie was made? Learn about current experiments with gene splicing of animals by reading Frankenstein’s Cat by Emily Anthes

If you like this, try: your local museum to see dinosaur fossils and Spielberg’s “Jaws” and “Duel”

 

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3D Action/Adventure Based on a book DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Science-Fiction Series/Sequel Thriller
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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Posted on September 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Zack Snyder tries to do for feathers what he did for abs and biceps in “300” in this 3D animated adventure based on three books from the 15-book series of Ga’hoole novels by Kathryn Lansky. Every snowflake, feather, and talon is vivid, arresting, and (apparently) literally in your face, but the story is not as clear. the striking visuals do not make up for a muddled story with too many characters and a plot that seems to be pulled together from the usual Joseph Campbell/George Lucas/J.R.R. Tolkien box of plots and characters.
Two owl brothers, Soren (a likable Jim Sturgess) and Kludd, not quite ready to fly, fall out of the nest and are captured and flown to the headquarters of Metal Beak (Joel Edgerton) and his wife (acidly voiced by Helen Mirren), where kidnapped owlets are assigned to be soldiers or drones. Look at those names again — any question about which one is going to have the heart, I mean force, I mean gizzard to lead the rebel forces and which one is going to buy into the whole “we’re the pure and the strong so we get to oppress everyone else” side of things?
Wait, you say — but where are the colorful sidekicks? Right over here, where we have a lute-playing warrior-poet and a snake nanny and a future-predicting echidna (an egg-laying spiked mammal that looks sort of like a porcupine) and more. Well, then, you add, there must also be a wise mentor. Step this way, and meet Ezylryb (voiced with asperity by Geoffrey Rush). There are storms and battles and betrayals and a secret weapon made from blue flecks pecked out by owls turned “moon-blinked” (think zombie) from coughed up owl pellets (undigested bits of mouse, we are helpfully told).
Those not familiar with the book will find it hard to follow, especially because of the strong accents of many of the Aussie voice actors. Those who are looking for what they enjoyed in the books may miss the narrator’s voice. There is some impressive sound and fury, but it does not signify much. “Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not real,” says the father owl. But, as this and too many other movies show, just because you do see something, even in sharpest 3D, doesn’t mean it is.

(more…)

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3D Action/Adventure Animation Based on a book Drama Fantasy For the Whole Family Talking animals

Bicentennial Man

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Think of it as Pinocchio played by C3PO from “Star Wars.” Robin Williams plays “Andrew Martin,” a robot who wants to be human, in this adaptation of a story and book by Isaac Asimov.

In “the not too distant future,” a robot is delivered to the magnificent home of the Martins. He steps out of the box and asks, “Are you one’s family?” When the little girl (Hallie Kate Eisenberg from the Pepsi commercials) mispronounces “android” as “Andrew,” that becomes his name. When the other daughter is cruel to Andrew, her father (Sam Neill) tells the family that “as a matter of principle, he will be treated as if he were a person.” Although the family elects not to activate the “personality chip,” they see that there is something special about Andrew’s wiring, a spark of consciousness, creativity, and yearning. Mr. Martin promises to help Andrew become all that he can.

This is fine when he is teaching Andrew about history, biology, and even humor, and when he wants to be adapted so that he can show more expression in his face, but less fine when Andrew wants freedom. And he is uncomfortable with his growing affection for Andrew: “You can’t invest your feelings in a machine.” Martin’s understanding daughter, “Little Miss,” (Embeth Davditz) does not hesitate to care deeply for Andrew, and remains close to him all her life.

As Andrew lives on past the lives of his original family, he stays close to their descendants, especially “Little Miss’s” look-alike granddaughter, Portia. He uses the latest technology to provide himself with skin, hair, a neural sytem, a digestive system, and finally, to become fully human, mortality. Just like Woody in “Toy Story 2,” Andrew has a choice between pristine immortality and a limited, uncertain, but deeply engaged existence.

This movie gives families a good opportunity to talk about what makes us human. Why did Andrew’s makers want to remove what made him special? Why did Andrew want to find others like himself? What do you think made him different? When do you think he became human? When he created something? When he wanted freedom? When he felt love? When he allowed himself to grow old and die? Why did he stop referring to himself as “one?”

Why didn’t some people in the family like Andrew? Why didn’t Andrew like Portia at first? Why did he want to be with her, when he didn’t like her? Do you think that’s what life will be like in the future? What would it be like to have a robot in our house?

Talk about the origins of the names “Portia” and “Galatea.” Portia was the heroine of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” who makes the famous plea about the quality of mercy to Shylock. Andrew’s plea to be declared a human, though, is more reminiscient of Shylock’s entreaty for equality: “Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?” Galatea is the name of the mythical statue whose sculptor fell in love with her. A kind goddess granted her life, so that they could be together.

Parents should know that there is some mild profanity and sexual references that include a “facts of life” discussion, Andrew’s adaptation so that he can have sex (but not children), a post-sex conversation in bed, and one of the most romantic descriptions of the sex act ever written. There are also ill-behaved and surly children whose behavior is not curtailed by the family.

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Based on a book Family Issues Fantasy For the Whole Family Science-Fiction
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