Wonder Woman—it’s about time but it was worth the wait!
I grew up watching Wonder Woman. Whether it was the Super Friends cartoon on Saturday morning (where she had that fantastic invisible jet) or the live action Lynda Carter version on TV, I was completely hooked. I even had my very own Wonder Woman bathing suit (though it never occurred to me at the time that I couldn’t fill out the suit quite like Lynda could!) So I was thrilled to hear that Hollywood was finally making a movie about my favorite childhood superhero. We first met Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice where she had a relatively small role. This time around, we get her full origin story and it’s quite a tale. Read More →
Directed by: Stella Meghie
Run time: 1 hour 36 minutes
After thirteen heart-wrenching hours of watching dysfunctional teenagers in the series 13 Reasons Why, I needed a palate cleanser! While they don’t make movies like the ones John Hughes made back in my day (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), there will always be a market for teen coming of age films. One story that always promises drama is a teen love story threatened by illness. Based on the best-selling YA book, Everything Everything tells the tale of Maddy (Amandla Stenberg), a girl who has lived almost all of her 18 years inside her home due to a disease that compromises her immune system. Her only human contact is with her physician mother Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), her nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera) and occasionally Carla’s daughter Rosa. Maddy keeps herself busy by reading, surfing the internet and taking an online architecture course as she lives within the four walls of her safe house.
Maddy seems resigned to her fate until new neighbors move in next door. The family includes the quite handsome Olly Bright (Nick Robinson) who takes a liking to the mysterious girl in the window. Olly is persistent in his attempts to befriend Maddy, and before you know it, the two are texting and flirting regularly. With the help of her sympathetic nurse, Maddy and Olly eventually meet in person without her overprotective mother’s knowledge. When Pauline does learn of the meeting she quickly puts an end to their flirtation by firing the nurse and taking away Maddy’s cell phone. But parental interference can’t stop true love (just ask Romeo and Juliet!) and before you know it Maddy has decided to fulfill her dream of seeing the ocean by traveling to Hawaii with her beloved. Nothing like jumping in all the way with this gal! Read More →
We asked our awesome Smarty Movie Reviewer, Heather, to watch and review the hot new Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why.” Some of your tweens and teens might already be watching and talking about the show, a series based on the 2007 bestseller book by Jay Asher. The series illustrates a 17-year-old girl who commits suicide and leaves behind her 13 reasons why she went through with the act. Along with suicide, the show addresses underage drinking and sexual assault.
Every parent should watch this series if you have a tween or teen in your household so you can determine if your child can handle the content. Regardless of if you allow your child to watch it or not, you still should, so you can be involved in these tough conversations. From 7th grade and older, this series is a hot topic among teens and their peers are watching it. And trust us, they are definitely all talking about it.
If your child wants to watch it or is already watching it, here are some talking points put together by the SAVE and JED Foundations that we found helpful. Our friends over at Southeast Psych’s ShrinkTank also penned this great article on whether or not the show clearly depicts teen culture today and this article on the unintended consequences of warnings about 13 Reasons Why.
Enjoy the review and let us know your thoughts in the Comments below! ~ The CSP Team
The new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has gotten a tremendous amount of press coverage lately. Some people feel that a show that depicts teen suicide should never air as it could encourage copycats to make the same terrible decision. Others feel that showing realistic teen angst and the consequences of not listening to warning signs can only help in preventing deadly outcomes. I highly doubt that my psych major in college grants me the wisdom to tell you whether or not to watch this show, but I did watch all thirteen episodes of this series so I can at least give you some insight as to what to expect if you do watch or share with you enough details so you don’t have to.
I usually enjoy a good mystery. Our family especially loves to play the game Clue—where you realize that Miss Scarlet killed someone in the library with a wrench or something like that. The fun part is that we don’t know who died and we really don’t care—we just want to unravel the mystery. In advertising 13 Reasons Why, Netflix highlights that it is based on the bestselling mystery novel by Jay Asher. Unfortunately for us, we know right from the beginning who is going to die and we spend thirteen hours getting to know Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) before watching it happen. Because of this, you will spend each hour feeling a little sick, anxious and very uncomfortable as the story progresses to the agonizing end.
Remember those ABC After-School specials? Add them all together and you have a framework for 13 Reasons Why. Pretty much every teenage taboo subject is discussed in these thirteen episodes. Rape, drug and alcohol abuse, bullying, cutting, guns, drunk driving—it’s all in there. So is the bad language—do high school kids really swear that much and are they actually allowed to curse in front of their teachers? I guess that’s the least disturbing of the list of appalling things that go on in this high school. Read More →
I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend Joanna Reule. Since my love of movies has been pretty established at this point, I have a great story about the power of film. Many people are touched by important stories, but Joanna went one step further and took action when she was inspired. Here’s her terrific story:
I am married to Dave and we have four adorable and rambunctious children. We have lived in Charlotte for our whole 13 years of marriage. Disclaimer- he is the most wonderful man on the planet, and would probably be a monk and/or canonized saint if I hadn’t seduced him with my charm and wit, after we met at UNC Chapel Hill while volunteering for Young Life… is ‘seduce’ too strong of word to use in article about homemade bone broth and alongside a reference to volunteering for a Christian organization? You tell me. Either way, I think you get my point, I basically hit the marriage jackpot with one lucky pull.
And without Dave believing in me and Brave Bone Broth, this whole thing wouldn’t have happened, hence the disclaimer.
Tell me how a night at the movies sparked your amazing new idea:
After an inconspicuous girls night to go see the movie “Lion” (and escaping putting all four kids to bed!), I came home a sobbing wreck with a broken heart. As I tried to tell my poor, confused husband what had just happened to me, I could barely put it into words. Read More →
Beauty and the Beast
Directed by: Bill Condon
Run Time: 2 hours 9 minutes
Disney is continuing their recent tradition of turning classic cartoons into live action films with the release of Beauty and the Beast. Considering how much money this film has already raked in at the box office, you have probably already seen the film. In case you were one of the few families who didn’t crowd into the theaters last weekend, allow me to tell you a little bit about the story.
Based on the 1991 animated feature, Beauty and the Beast tells the classic tale of a vain and selfish prince (Dan Stevens) who is cursed by an enchantress to live as a horrible beast unless he can find true love. When crazy old Maurice (Kevin Kline) becomes imprisoned by the beast, daughter Belle (Emma Watson) comes to his rescue and takes her father’s place as a prisoner in the castle. Over time, Belle learns that there is more to Beast than meets the eye and you surely know what happens next!
Before I delve into details of the new film, let me take a moment to remind you of the perfection of the 1991 version—a film so adored that it was the first full length animated feature to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture—pretty impressive! I first saw this film in college and since my daughter was born I’ve seen it countless times. It is by far my favorite Disney film and Belle has always been my favorite princess. I know all of the songs by heart and can recite large amounts of dialogue—heck our first family dog was named Belle! So my daughter and I were giddy with excitement to see the newest version—especially since it featured “Hermione Granger”—my daughter’s favorite Harry Potter character along with an absolutely stellar cast. Read More →
It’s that time of year—the Academy Awards! Oh how I love awards season and the Oscars are the biggest and brightest show of them all! I can’t wait to see the stars, the dresses and the big winners! There really are some terrific films nominated this year. If you want to do some last minute binge watching to get ready for the big day, here are the nominees for Best Picture.
One of my favorite films of 2016, Arrival is anything but some mindless sci-fi action flick. When twelve alien spaceships appear on Earth and spread around the globe, there is worldwide fear and confusion—why are the aliens here and what are their intentions? Linguistics professor Louise Banks (the always amazing Amy Adams) is brought in to advise the military on how to communicate with the aliens. Louise is joined by physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) as they meet the squid-like creatures (dubbed heptapods) and begin the difficult job of creating a common language. At the same time, experts in other countries are using other strategies to communicate, and tensions increase when China and Russia have differing views on the heptapods’ motives. Ok—I am betting that you might be rolling your eyes at this point thinking that you would never be interested in this film but I can’t tell you much more of the plot without ruining it for you. Just give it a chance—it’s out on DVD and it’s a brilliant film. In my humble opinion, Amy Adams was completely robbed of an Oscar nomination as she is my pick for Best Actress of the year. I watched this movie with my 13 year old space loving son and we had the most amazing conversation afterwards—it’s a movie that you will be thinking about for weeks and you’ll want to analyze and discuss with anyone and everyone who has seen it. Read More →
Winner of 7 Golden Globe Awards and nominated for 14 Academy Awards…..
I love a good musical. You take something already pretty fantastic—an exciting story unfolding on the screen—and then you add beautiful songs and gorgeous choreography to the mix. Are you kidding me? Yes please! Unfortunately, times have changed and the popularity of musicals has declined. Studios now produce edgier films for a more jaded audience who can’t fathom why a character would suddenly burst into song or bust out some fancy dance moves when the mood strikes. Lucky for us, director Damien Chazelle has pulled off an amazing feat by once again showing audiences how great musicals can be.
Our story begins in a snarl of Los Angeles traffic with an enormous song and dance routine where commuters exit their cars and perform the catchy song “Another Day of Sun” while jumping on cars and twirling around in an eye-popping single camera take. At the end of the song, the camera focuses on Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress who is distracted as she practices lines for an upcoming audition. An irritated Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) throws her a death stare as he angrily passes her car, and Mia flips him the bird. You know right away that something big is in store for these two. Their next encounter is equally awkward when Mia ends up accidentally walking in on musician Sebastian playing the piano at a nightclub. Although he’s instructed to play cheesy Christmas tunes, Sebastian can’t reign in his love of jazz and he instead plays a beautiful original piece that leaves Mia breathless. Sebastian is fired, and he angrily walks away while rebuffing Mia’s attempt at a compliment. She’s pretty miffed at this. The third meeting is the charm though as Mia seeks revenge on Sebastian when she spots him at a party. Sebastian is obviously embarrassed to be performing in an ‘80s cover band (especially given his hideous costume) but Mia makes it even worse by requesting a Flock of Seagulls song that is painful for Sebastian the serious musician to perform. The spark between the two is evident and confirmed as they leave the party and perform the beautiful song “A Lovely Night” while dancing before a brilliant sunset. Sigh! Read More →
When there is a snowless snow day and you’re going a little stir crazy in your house, a family movie outing always tops my list of fun activities. So when we realized school was cancelled, I asked my kids if they would like to see Hidden Figures. My 11 year old daughter had seen the previews and was all in. My teen son, who has loved all things space since as long as I can remember, hesitated. While he loved the idea of a film about NASA, he was worried that a movie about three women would inevitably involve romance and “girly things.” I assured him that just because the movie had three female leads, it did not have to be all about hearts and flowers so off we went. While I had to later admit that there was a small side plot about a blooming romance and a couple of kisses here and there, this is thankfully not a love story.
Hidden Figures tells the true story of three talented African-American women who worked on NASA’s first missions to space. The story mainly focuses on Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), a gifted math whiz whose skills propel her to work on calculating John Glenn’s launch into orbit. Katherine endures many struggles as the only black female working with all white men during the stressful time of the space race against Russia in the 1960’s segregated south. From having to walk long distances to find a colored restroom, to not being able to drink from the same pot of coffee, Katherine does not let anything stop her as she works tirelessly to put the first man into space. Helping her along the way is Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer in another terrific performance) who works as a supervisor to the black women at NASA even though she is repeatedly refused that title. Dorothy wisely realizes that her job as a “human computer” will become obsolete once the newly purchased IBM computers are up and running so she teaches herself how to program the computers to ensure job security. We also meet Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) who has the talents of an engineer but is unable to be promoted as she lacks the course credits that are only offered at an all white school.
This movie is a terrific introduction to teaching kids the hardships that the African-American community has faced in our country. It’s one thing to read about these shameful parts of our history, but seeing it actually happen to these characters so blatantly on screen really resonated with my kids and facilitated a great conversation afterward. These three ladies show great courage and perseverance as they work to succeed. They don’t just complain about their situation—they improve it. That is definitely a great lesson for kids to hear!
So whether you want to enlighten your kids, or you just want to enjoy seeing some women kicking butt and taking names, Hidden Figures is a great opportunity to do so. Enjoy!
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Run Time: 2 hours 7 minutes
One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is having great family holiday traditions. I think it’s so important for kids to have certain things to look forward to each year. Among our many traditions, we always make time to watch several Christmas movies together every year. You really can’t beat snuggling on the couch in your PJs with some popcorn, hot chocolate and a great holiday film. There are also some movies that I watch without the kids late at night while wrapping presents. I’m listing some of my favorites, I’d love to know what your family enjoys!
This film is always at the top of my Christmas list. Directed by the legendary Frank Capra, this is the quintessential Christmas classic. George Bailey (the flawless Jimmy Stewart) has an encounter with an angel who shows him what life would be like if he never existed. We have only started watching this as a family in the past few years and it was definitely a hit. There are a few scenes that are intense—Mr. Gower almost poisoning someone in grief and George almost doing himself in—but it really is a fantastic movie about gratitude, family and generosity.
You can’t not laugh at this ridiculous but fantastic and unique story. Buddy (Will Ferrell) lives with his elf family at the North Pole and doesn’t feel like he really fits in. He doesn’t fit in because it turns out he isn’t an elf at all. As a baby, Buddy the orphan crawled into Santa’s bag ended up in the North Pole. Buddy was then raised by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) and learned the ways of Santa’s helpers. When Buddy finds out the truth about his past, he sets off to reunite with his real father Walter in New York City (James Caan) who just happens to be on the naughty list. Buddy is so loving and endearing that you can’t help but root for him as he navigates the big city and works to win over his father. My kids love watching a grown man run around Manhattan in tights acting completely ludicrous. Plus Ed Asner’s Santa is flawless and I dare you not to sing when everyone breaks into “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Read More →
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Run Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes
I practically jumped out of my seat when I first saw the trailer for Allied. It’s rare these days for Hollywood to produce a mature romantic thriller. I’m also a huge fan of movies set in the 1940’s and especially World War II stories. Plus, whether you were team Jen or the now defunct team Angelina, Brad Pitt is still easy on the eyes so it sounded like a win-win situation!
The year is 1942, and Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Pitt) parachutes into French Morocco on a mission to kill a high-ranking German official. He enters the city of Casablanca to meet his new co-conspirator Marianne (Marion Cotillard), a beautiful French resistance fighter who has used her beguiling charm to befriend several prominent Nazi supporters. Marianne has fabricated a marriage to Max as cover for their secret mission and the two strangers gamely pose as lovers as they plot their assignment. Of course, when you look as beautiful as they do and you live together in close quarters, your emotions might get the best of you. If your mission is extremely dangerous (and you probably won’t survive through the night) you might do a little canoodling in a car during a sandstorm. No judgement! Read More →