Opening This Month: July 2016

Posted on July 1, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Happy July! And welcome to the height of the summer movie season. Today, we kick off the 4th of July weekend with two big movies, Steven Spielberg’s “The BFG,” based on the book by Roald Dahl and starring Oscar-winner Mark Rylance.

And a new version of the classic story with “The Legend of Tarzan,” starring Alexander Skarsgård, Christoph Waltz, and Margot Robbie.

Some of the other highlights of July 2016 at the movies:

July 8

“The Secret Life of Pets” answers the question we all wonder about. What do our dogs, cats, fish, bunnies, reptiles, and other pets do all day while we’re away from home? Voice talent includes Louis CK, Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, and Eric Stonestreet.

“Life, Animated” is a heartwarming documentary based on the best-selling book about Owen Suskind, a young man with autism whose love for animated films helped him learn how to communicate with his family.

“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” stars Anna Kendrick, Zac Efron, Adam Devine, and Aubrey Plaza in a wild, raunchy comedy about two brothers who advertise on Craigslist for dates to take to their sister’s wedding.

July 15

“Ghostbusters” Who ya gonna call? In this reboot, it’s Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, and Kristen Wiig, with Chris Hemsworth as their administrative assistant.

July 22

“Star Trek Beyond” There are a couple of intriguing new names in the credits of this latest in the beloved series. Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, co-wrote the script. And Justin Linn of the “Fast/Furious” films, takes over as director.

“Ice Age: Collision Course” Pegg stars in this film, too, along with fellow returning cast members Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Keke Palmer, Queen Latifah, and Jennifer Lopez.

July 29

“Jason Bourne” Matt Damon is back as Bourne. I just hope there’s one of those scenes where the CIA boss says he’s in his office and Bourne is all, “No, because then I’d be looking at you.”

“Bad Moms” Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn decide to stop trying to be perfect moms like that meanie Christina Applegate.

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Opening This Month


Posted on June 30, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Brief scene with drunken characters
Violence/ Scariness: Extended fantasy-style violence, reference to off-screen violence, including death of children, but no characters injured
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: July 1, 2016
Date Released to DVD: November 28, 2016 ASIN: B01G4N5Q0A
Copyright 2016 Disney
Copyright 2016 Disney

Steven Spielberg. the director who, with his partners, named their movie studio Dreamworks, understands that movies are like a guided dream. Roald Dahl’s story is about a Big Friendly Giant who collects, selects, edits, and delivers dreams to make people happy and conveys messages that are beyond the capacity of verbal human interaction. Clearly, this story connects with Spielberg profoundly, and it shows.

At 3 am one night in 1983, a girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is the only one awake in the horrible London orphanage where she lives. We can see right away that she is brave and smart, even fierce, as she threatens to call the cops on some drunken revelers making noise in the street. But then she witnesses a disturbance of another kind. Someone very, very large, as tall as her building, is walking quietly — no, stealthily — through the streets.

And then an enormous hand reaches silently and carefully into the window of the room filled with sleeping girls and the very awake Sophie, and grabs her, quilt and all. It is a giant.

He knows how to stay hidden. We see him employ some clever camouflage that keeps the Londoners from seeing him, and then takes off for Giant country, far, far away, but a matter of moments if you’ve got giant legs to leap with. Sophie is terrified. She is sure that the giant wants to eat her. But he does not eat children, he tells her, in his funny, corkscrew, word-twisting language. He has only taken her because she saw him, and he cannot risk her telling anyone about him. He has taken her to keep her from giving away his secret, which means she will have to stay with him forever.

Sophie is determined to run away. But that night, in the crow’s nest of a ship that is one of the many curios crowding his home, she dreams that she escapes, only to be captured and eaten by some even bigger giants. Through this dream, she begins to understand what her giant, soon to be known as the BFG, can’t explain any other way. She cannot be safe if she leaves his house. The other giants, who are as big to him as he is to Sophie, are uncivilized brutes and bullies. They eat “human beans,” including children (a bit less grisly than in the book, but still creepy).

The BFG, whose huge ears listen to everything, even the quietest whisperings of the heart, collects dreams. Sophie goes with him to the place where dreams grow, and she helps him deliver the happiest possible dreams to a young boy and his family. The lonely little girl and the lonely giant get to know one another, and become friends. But the other giants can smell her, and they won’t leave the BFG and Sophie alone. They have to come up with a plan to get rid of the child-eating giants forever. It will involve dreams. And corgis.

This is a slighter story than Dahl’s richly imagined Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach, with much of its humor coming from the BFG’s mangled words and his affection for his favorite beverage, Frobscottle, a fizzy green drink with bubbles that float down, rather than up. The noisy and powerfully butt-lifting physical consequence of this downward gas is what the BFG calls a whizpopple. And there is also an extended scene with the BFG trying to fit into the “bean”-sized world, sitting on a bench on top of a piano and using a rake as a fork.

That almost doesn’t matter, given Spielberg’s gorgeously imagined world and the performances of Mark Rylance as the BFG and Barnhill as Sophie. Rylance, whose last collaboration with Spielberg won him an Oscar for “Bridge of Spies,” is transformed via motion capture into the BFG, and does not lose an atom of his ability to express the BFG’s melancholy, isolation, gentleness, and integrity.

Spielberg has always been superb in casting, especially with children. Barnhill’s performance would be remarkable if she were interacting in a built, rather than virtual world. Given that in much of the movie she was probably looking at a tennis ball hanging in front of a green screen, it is truly astonishing. She so clearly believes in what we see around her and to her character’s friendship with the BFG that we believe in it, too. Next-level special effects help, too, with utterly seamless interaction between the digital and practical effects and gorgeous, wonderfully intricate production design that makes the BFG’s home both cozy and strange. The setting for retrieving the dreams is enchanting, though the visualization of the dreams themselves is not up to the level of the rest of the design. But the friendship between the BFG and Sophie is real magic.

Parents should know that this film includes extended fantasy peril and some violence (no characters hurt), references to children being eaten by giants, and some potty humor.

Family discussion: What dream would you most like to have? Why wasn’t the BFG like the other giants?

If you like this, try: Roald Dahl books and movies including “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Matilda,” and “James and the Giant Peach”

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Where You’ve Seen Them Before — “The BFG”

Posted on June 29, 2016 at 3:55 pm

“The BFG” stands for Big Friendly Giant, and it is a new movie from Steven Spielberg, based on the book by Roald Dahl.
There are no big-name stars in the film, but there are some familiar faces, with some of the world’s best character actors. After you’ve seen “BFG,” try some of their other films.

The cast includes Mark Rylance in the title role, and while he did win an Oscar earlier this year for his performance as a Soviet agent in Spielberg’s last film, “Bridge of Spies,” he’s better known for his three-time Tony Award-winning theater work than for movies or television.

You’ve seen him, though, if you watched “Wolf Hall,” where he played Thomas Cromwell.

And here he is as Richard III:

The wonderful Penelope Wilton plays an important role I won’t spoil here. She is best known for “Downton Abbey.”

I first became a fan after seeing her in the brilliant “Norman Conquests,” three intertwined plays by Alan Ayckbourn.

Rafe Spall plays a footman. He was in “The Big Short,” “What If,” and “Life of Pi,” co-starred with Wilton in “Shaun of the Dead,” and he stars in the new series “Roadies.” His father, Timothy Spall, played Peter Pettigrew in the “Harry Potter” films and has appeared in many other plays and films, including the upcoming “Denial.”

Rebecca Hall, who plays a lady in waiting, is also from a show business family. Her father, Peter Hall, is a distinguished director and founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her films include “Frost/Nixon,” “Iron Man 3,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

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Actors For Your Netflix Queue Where You’ve Seen Them Before

Roald Dahl — Movies and Television

Posted on June 27, 2016 at 8:00 am

Roald Dahl was a prolific author whose books included wildly popular children’s stories like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the creepy short stories that inspired some of the best-remembered episodes of “The Alfred Hitchcock Show,” including “Lamb to the Slaughter,” with one of the great murder weapons in the history of murder stories. This week, the latest Dahl adaptation comes to screen, Steven Spielberg’s “The BFG.”

Stephanie Merry has a terrific piece in the Washington Post about the films based on Dahl’s children’s books, from Fantastic Mr. Fox to Anjelica Huston’s title role in The Witches.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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