Thursday, June 26, 2014

Movies You Should See Even if You're NOT Stuck on a Plane for Fourteen Hours

Last month, we went to France (you can find posts about the trip here). I had grand plans about all the things I was going to accomplish on the flight. Reading, writing, embroidering, catching up on sleep, etc. I did a tiny bit of the first, and some of the last, but mostly, I just watched movies. If my children have taught me anything, it's that tiny seat back movie screens will cure what ails ya on a long flight.


But, the good news is that I really enjoyed all the movies. Wait, no, I really recommend all the movies. One I did not enjoy. But I think I should have watched it, and I think perhaps you should too.

So, whether or not you find yourself encased for hours upon end in an aluminum tube traveling through the air at 600 miles per hour, here are some movies to consider.


1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller is great as Walter Mitty, a nondescript desk-jobber whose heroic daydreams inspire an actual adventure.

It turns out to be an excellent example of a movie that is true to the spirit of its source material, but is pretty much completely different in every other way. The plot is completely unlike that of the short story upon which it is based (which I also like), but it's a great translation of Thurber's concept into modern times.

The visuals are a stunning mix of on location panoramas and clever computer generated shots. My favorite is Walter's imagined superhero-style street flight with the jerk consultant sent to transition Walter out of his job.

He's a truly unique protagonist, and easy to root for. No gore, no language, no funny business. There is a moral issue with his love interest, who has an estranged husband. But maybe he'll die? Or their marriage wasn't valid? Yeah, let's hope for that second one. It's rated PG and I think would be appropriate for middle schoolers and up. I don't think my kids younger than that would find much to care about in it.

Anyway, I loved it. As did Iris at A Country Girl's Daybook. And SHE even figured out how to make Walter Mitty's Mom's Clementine Cake. It looks really tasty.



2. The Book Thief

I watched this movie a second time on the airplane and still liked it. I can't speak to how it compares with the book upon which it is based, because I still haven't read it.

But, I loved the acting and the characters really resonated with me. They felt really real and believable and un-idealized. Their reactions to the complicated and tragic world events of WWII in Germany felt true to me.

We see the regular people of one German town, some of whom are terrible, most of whom just go about their lives, and some of whom are really heroic in small and meaningful ways.

I loved the portrayal of the husband and wife who take in Liesel, he is henpecked, she's a bit of a shrew, and yet, they do love and support each other. No language, very little blood or even violence, especially considering its setting, no love scenes, some sadness. The cinematography is really beautiful.

It's rated PG-13. I would also let my middle schoolers watch this one, but there are deaths in it that would make them pretty sad.


3. Twelve Years a Slave

Whew. This movie.

This is the one that I can't say I enjoyed, but am really glad I watched.

It's based on a book as well, the autobiographical story of a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The inhumanity and degradation is really hard to watch. I have found that sort of thing really not worth the discomfort it causes me to watch in some TV shows, but I thought it was worth every flinch here.

I spent last summer reading a lot about George Washington and other founding fathers, and about their ownership of slaves. I had kind of managed to convince myself that, obviously, slavery was wrong, but that there were still good people who owned slaves and that there was a way to treat them compassionately, if a slave owner chose to do that.

Watching this movie really showed me otherwise. It showed how every single person involved in slavery is necessarily dehumanized. One character is a good man who refuses to acknowledge the truth about the slave he owns. He sees that Solomon is clearly an educated man, but in the end values his investment more than doing the right thing. There is a psychopath who requires not only labor, but also entertainment from his slaves, and who uses the words of the Bible to further his own interests. There are overseers who are as broken as the men they must subjugate. There are wives who must spend their lives pretending like all of this is okay and normal. And that's just the white people.

We also see what the institution of slavery did to the slaves themselves. Solomon loses his physical freedom, but he also loses the emotional and moral freedom to stand up for what is right and what he knows he believes. We see black men and women who have abandoned morality for creature comforts or a bit of prestige. It is truly heartbreaking and stomach turning to watch. But, really, it's worth it. I think everyone should know.

Really the only heroic characters in the whole movie are another kidnapped man who tries to stand up for a woman who's going to be sexually assaulted, and he gets murdered, and . . . your friendly neighborhood Brad Pitt, who shows up in what's basically a glorified cameo to tell us that, and pay attention now children, slavery is WRONG and we should not do it. Gee, thanks Brad Pitt.

But, really, a great and important and well-done movie that you should make yourself watch even though it contains violence and nudity and sex because it wouldn't be as powerful or as true without those things. I would let older teens watch it, I think. So that they would know.


4. The Blind Side

Somehow I missed this movie when it came out, but, wow, I thought it was great.

Sandra Bullock really IS amazing as the sassy, non-nonsense Tennessee mom who ends up adopting a gentle giant of an abused, abandoned high schooler.

It has a great message of love and family.

It's rated PG-13. The overall story has a very positive message, but it includes some heavy subject matter like drug-use and racism, so again I think I'd reserve it for older teens.


5. The Lego Movie

I had seen this one already (and reviewed it here), but I watched it again and loved it even more.

It's just exactly my sense of humor.

I especially appreciated the Batman-as-jerk-boyfriend subplot on my second viewing. Really, the whole thing is just so clever and well-done.

It's PG. All my kids have seen it, but I think it's best appreciated by the six and over crowd. It's an intense action movie with a pretty complicated plot.


6. The Monuments Men

All the famous people are in this movie. Except Brad Pitt, I guess. C'mon Brad Pitt, don't you also want to explain to us how it's bad to destroy art?

Anyway, this movie was great to watch as we headed to France, where part of our trip was devoted to the beaches at Normandy and other WWII sites. But I think I would've enjoyed it even in my own living room, as kind of a cross between Oceans 11 and Saving Private Ryan.

It explores the question of whether beauty and culture are worth preserving in a time of war, even at the expense of human lives.

George Clooney's character says modern Western society is founded on Catholic art. Which it IS, of course. I just never expected to hear it from George Clooney.

The characters are flawed and interesting and endearing, and the story is compelling. The violence and gore and language is minimal, considering that it's a war movie. And there's no funny business. It's rated PG-13, but I'd save it for older teens.


7. Annie

When I was a girl, Frozen was called Annie.

When MY mom threatened to duct tape my mouth shut if I didn't stop singing those songs over and over again, they were songs from Annie.

So, maybe it was shortsighted to suggest that my girls watch Annie on the plane. But they loved it, and it was all nostalgic for me. And at least there's now a little more variety in the constant musical numbers around here.

There are some moments of peril that worried Anita, and some very confusing magical powers (hey, it's sounding more like Frozen all the time!), and bad guys do bad stuff, but what else would you expect from bad guys? It's rated PG. I thought it was fine for four year olds.

Have you seen any of these? What did you think? What other movies should be on my list for this summer?

And . . . Happy Feasts of the Sacred Heart (Friday) and the Immaculate Heart (Saturday).



The feast of the Sacred Heart is a solemnity . . . on a Friday, so, live it up people:



Check out Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.

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26 comments:

  1. I always love your movie reviews. Thanks for these! I can't let one nit go, though: Leigh Anne Touey is a Tennessee mom, or an Ole Miss mom, but never a Texas mom. The movie (and real life story on which it's based) takes place in Memphis. It was filmed in Atlanta, though--a source of much consternation for my Memphis-native husband when we went to see it while living in Indiana and desperate for a taste of home. ;)

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    1. Oh my goodness, I can't believe I did that. My MOM is from Memphis. My grandmother still lives there. How embarrassing. I'll fix it right now! Thanks :)

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  2. I have not seen the Lego Movie, though my son and husband have and they loved it. Maybe someday? I also have not seen The Book Theif, I kinda wanted to read the book first? Maybe I will just go see it?
    On 12 Years A Slave- I wanted to read the book first, but I didn't. It was so hard to watch but I am so glad I did. It just makes your stomach turn.

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  3. We're half way through the Lego movie and are really enjoying it. Another hard movie, but totally worth it and along the same lines is Amistad.

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  4. Ok, I am so behind on my movie watching! I have seen The Blind Side and Annie, guess I need to catch up. Thanks for the reviews!

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  5. When I first skimmed this I thought it said "Movies you should NOT see," and then I saw Walter Mitty and almost had a stroke. Whatzamatta fo' you!? But don't worry, I'm okay now. This is a great list. WM (of course) and The Book Thief are among my favorites.
    Country Girl's Daybook

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  6. I was disappointed with 12Years A Slave. Solomon Northrup seemed to spend the entire movie compromising with evil or surviving by sheer luck, no heroism (as you noted) or sacrifice. And he basically was saved by a deus ex machina in the form of a very enlightened Brad Pitt.

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    1. I guess I'm just curious about what you expected from it...

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    2. The lack of heroism was what was so compelling to me. I was left with this certainty that slavery is an institution in which it is almost impossible to be human, let alone heroic. St. Felicity notwithstanding.

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    3. I guess I'd rather see a movie about humanity (including a virtue such as courage) transcending the dehumanizing institution of slavery. I'm the kind of person who needs a hero in the story, though. The man who was stabbed for trying to protect the rape victim was indeed heroic, as you mentioned, and I would have found the movie more compelling if the protagonist had been as well.

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    4. I'm totally with you on the wanting a hero thing. But this was a true story. It makes me wonder how any of us would fare in his situation. It made me really uncomfortable. But I am glad I saw it.

      I'm not trying to badger you. I think that we totally agree on how we felt while watching the movie. I just think it was worth it. To know.

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    5. Agreed :) now, got to swing by Redbox for The Book Thief. I read the book, can't wait to see it on screen!

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  7. I fell asleep watching Monuments Men and then I didn't care enough about it to finish it in the morning.

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    1. I think it was just the right timing for me, we went to Normandy, I've been watching Foyle's War, I I'm mentally living half in this world and half in WWII. So I'm sure that helped me like it.

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    2. I napped through part of it, quick cat-nap. But, I liked the parts that I was awake for.

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  8. I've always enjoyed Annie, but haven't seen it in way too long. The Blind Side is one of my family's top favorites, so naturally now I'm itching to go watch it again! I was extremely impressed with The Book Thief. I'm typically a hardcore skeptic when it comes to books turned into movies, and as I really, REALLY enjoyed the book, I put off and avoided watching the movie. But, I'm so glad I finally watched it! I would still recommend reading the book first, but I would also say: book lovers - get thyself to a movie rental joint, grab a bucket of popcorn, and breathe easy.

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  9. I'm sure many have told you the same but I highly recommend reading The Book Thief! I haven't seen the movie yet (it's on my list) but I loved the book when I read it back in college. It's cleverly written, but not to the point of distracting from the plot, and it sounds like the movie has the same good qualities I liked about the book - real, believable characters in a very unique and important part of history. I've re-resolved to see the movie now after your review!

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  10. Kendra, you really should read the Book Thieft. We read for our teen book club a while ago, wat b4 the movie. I won't say more about the book, but I think you would enjoy it. It's also a quick read.

    Enjoy Chicago!

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  11. I loved The Monuments Men so much that I didn't even regret spending thirteen dollars to go see it.

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  12. Thanks for the reviews! I've seen some of these, but the others are going in my queue!

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    1. I just read your post on Flannery O'Connor, and thank you for that, too! I was struggling with reading her stories for the same reasons. I guess that means I'll steer clear of Breaking Bad as well :)

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  13. Annie... Haha! I have crystal-clear memories of my Mom threatening me with duct tape if I wouldn't stop singing those songs. It's A Hard-Knock Life! You're never fully dressed without a smile... *sigh* I'm going to have to buy that for my kiddos now.

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  14. wow you certainly got through the movies on the plane! I always think it would be nice just to knit on the plane as I never get a lot of knitting time.
    I haven't seen all the new ones but oh do I love the blind side. Every time it's on tv and it's on a couple of times a year I sit and watch it and still love it. My hubby loves it too. It's one of those movies that makes you just feel so good after watching:)

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  15. "When I was a girl, Frozen was called Annie".
    So much truth in this statement. I'm cracking up.
    We travel 17 hours back and forth to India several times a year with our three kids and I've never gotten particularly good at watching movies during the trip. Let's just say, there are a number of interruptions. You've given me hope though! Emirates has a great selection of movies, so maybe on our next trip back!

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  16. Love this list!! The LEGO movie was awesome!! All parents of kids who have a big imagination shoudl watch this movie - with them! So great - and LOVED the ending!!

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