Saturday, April 25, 2009


7 Grand Masters, starring Jack Long and Lee Yi Min, is a classic kung-fu movie, with amazing choreography and kung-fu talent. Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, et al, are nowhere to be found, but aficionados of the genre will tell you this is one for your list.

It’s also very family friendly, which is a bit of a challenge with martial arts films... It’s nothing but razor-sharp karate chops, back flips, somersaults and juggled knives (oh, and hilarious sound effects; you never heard so much slapping and whooshing in your life!).

The great thing for the kids is that there is little talking, it’s pretty much all action, and there’s also oodles of honor and integrity, mostly displayed by all those challenged by the aging master. He’s on a journey to confirm that he is, indeed, the best, before he will allow a banner claiming the honor to be posted at his school. (How’s that for integrity?)

The only warning I can muster here is that there is a hanger-on, a wannabe, following the master and his posse who wants so desperately to become a student, and he’s treated rather nastily ... some very mean spirited stuff goes on before they accept him. In fact (the other caveat), in one scene they are eating a roasted animal around a campfire and they give him a piece, prompting him to spit, “This tastes like ass,” and they laugh uproariously and confirm that, yes, indeed, he is eating the least appealing part of the thing.

Other than that, it’s tons of action, and tons of fun and really safe for the kids.

Here's a rather long trailer, but you only need to see a minute or two to whet your appetite.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Russell Crowe's Robin Hood

That's a good look. Crowe allegedly lost over 40 pounds for the role, after beefing up for Body of Lies, and then keeping some of it on for State of Play. Ridley Scott's Robin Hood is just beginning filming now, with a release date set for May, 2010. (Cate Blanchett co-stars.)

Again, I hope the kiddies get to see and enjoy an updated Robin Hood. I know I sound like a broken record, but really well-made PG movies should not be so hard to come by ...

Monday, April 20, 2009

"Horse Boy" Documentary

If autism touches your life, you may be especially interested in this documentary, which will be released in the fall along with a book. I just read an article about it, and was so intrigued, I felt I should pass it on. (Web site and film trailer below.)

Journalist Rupert Isaacson and his wife Kristin know autism all too well. Their young son, Rowan, was diagnosed in 2004 when he was two years old. When Rupert noticed that his son had a strange affect on his beloved quarterhorse, Betsy (she displayed "submissive" body language and behavior in Rowan's presence), and that Betsy also had a very interesting and positive effect on Rowan (immensely soothing, with the boy's physical "stims" and gestures silenced, and a voice found), a window was flung open, allowing new perspectives, ideas and hope into the Isaacson household.

As a journalist, Isaacson was accustomed to visiting exotic locales, and not long after the diagnosis, Rupert was called to Africa. Kristin and Rowan joined him for part of the trip, and after another startling discovery, involving tribal elders and shamans taking Rowan into rituals and ceremonies in an attempt, essentially, to "heal" the young boy, the surprised parents noticed a change in Rowan's behavior. Rowan's symptoms eased and seemed to be reversing.

The Isaacsons decided to embark on a true journey of a lifetime, and this journey is the focus of Horse Boy. Combining the possibilities of shamanistic healing with the calming effect of horses, the family set out -- on horseback -- across the Steppe of Mongolia to the forests of Siberia, visiting healers and shamans all along the way.

The film is their story.

"Horse Boy" is showing at select festivals and events in spring and summer, but will receive a proper release in the fall.

For now, you can visit the web site for more info, and/or watch the trailer below.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

This Week's Classic Kids' Movie

Oh, where to start?

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953) is the only feature film written by the famed children’s author Dr. Seuss (aka Theodor Seuss Geisel). It was rather a bomb at the box office, so I guess that’s why Geisel didn’t pursue a film career. (According to Wikipedia, Geisel regarded the finished film as a "debaculous fiasco.") It’s too bad, because the writing (both songs and dialog) is pretty brilliant, which should be no surprise considering the lyrical nature of Dr. Seuss books.

Besides the music, there are so many weird things to love about The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. As you may have gathered, it is a musical (the score was nominated for an Oscar), which unfolds in a live action, surrealist setting, with animated visuals integrated fairly seamlessly. It’s produced by the great filmmaker Stanley Kramer (Judgment at Nuremberg , On the Beach, The Defiant Ones, to name a few), which is just weird. There is plenty of vibrant, eye-candy whimsy, such as roller-skating, twin men who share a long, gray beard, and a fantastic scene where our hero Bart climbs a very, very high Seuss-ian ladder to nowhere (I kept thinking, “Oh! The places we will go!”). The color is magnificent (blazing Technicolor!), and the sets ... well, suffice to say, The 5,000 Fingers... visuals are not far from what a minimalist Wizard of Oz might look like. They’re stunning.

“If kids had their way, there’d hardly
be any parents born at all!”

Like the Wizard of Oz, this is all merely a dream, but it’s made quite clear from the beginning (I’m not spoiling anything here). Little Bart is an unwilling piano student who lives in fear of the didactic and dictatorial piano teacher Dr. Terwilliker (played deliciously by Hans Conried), and most of the film depicts Bart’s nightmare, caught in a web of Terwilliker evil.

I can see why hipsters might put The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T on their favorite film lists. It’s a slightly more uneven, underdog version of Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory or Oz, and it is a bit more ... twisted than those films.

Here’s the warning for parents of young kids:

Of course, the idea of being pursued and imprisoned by an evil anything/anyone might bother young ‘uns, and that’s a theme throughout. Once Bart and his accomplice, the father figure/plumber August Zabladowski, are caught by Terwilliker in his compound, they are taken onto an elevator, where a shirtless, black-masked henchman/operator calls out the floors (in song):

“First floor dungeon! Asssorted simple tortures ... molten lead, chopping blocks and hot ... boil-ing .... oooil!

“Second floor dungeon! Jewlery department .... leg chains, ankle chains, neck chains, thumb screws, nooses of the very .... fiiine - est ... rope!

There they are shown how non-piano playing musicians are treated: a drummer is imprisoned inside a huge drum, which Dr. Terwilliker explains is pounded all day and all night, forever. The prisoner's silhouette begs to be released as the visitors come to the cell, and the drummer ceases his torturous task for a moment.

But of course, it’s all played out as a dream, and it ends on a happy note. The references to torture and dungeons are the only caveats in what is now a really offbeat family movie (and maybe I’m going overboard here ... how quickly we forget what a seven- or nine-year old mind might be like when our kid is suddenly a sassy tweener!). I think mom and dad will dig it, and so will most kids. It’s a real treat for the eyes, and the ears. I’m tempted to go out and find the soundtrack now.

And I hate musicals.

(Another note from Wikipedia: "The Simpsons" villain Sideshow Bob takes his last name "Terwilliger" from this film.)

Ok, here are a couple of trailers. The first is one of the memorable musical scenes; I noticed son K singing along by song's end -- you can't help yourself. Evil Dr. T is preparing for his big, 500-boy (5,000 fingers) piano symphony debut.

The second is the dungeon elevator scene, so you can see for yourself if it might be ok for your own kids. But don't let that scene alone deter you! Maybe you could fast forward through it ...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Movie News

Has anyone heard about this Gooby film coming out? I just stumbled into it ... seems it will be in limited release, starting Friday, April 17. Maybe it’s great for younger kids, but it looks a bit (a bit?) cornball to me:

Monterey Media (Gooby’s distributor) is also behind a movie called Bracelet of Bordeaux (“Family approved!”) that came out last year, so you might want to check it out as well if Gooby does it for you.

Who doesn’t love Michael Caine?!

He’s got a film coming out this week, Is Anybody There, and it looks like quite an emotional story about aging, and about youth. This could be great for the over-13 set in the house, a really mature and challenging topic that might have younger folks thinking about the value of the older and wiser among us.

"Set in 1980s seaside England, this is the story of Edward, an unusual ten year old boy growing up in an old people's home run by his parents. Whilst his mother struggles to keep the family business afloat, and his father copes with the onset of mid-life crisis, Edward is busy tape-recording the elderly residents to try and discover what happens when they die...” (From IMDB)

(MPAA: Rated PG-13 for language including sexual references, and some disturbing images.)

Another one that you might enjoy with older kids, coming out next week, on the 24th, is The Soloist, with Robert Downey, Jr.


In "The Soloist," an emotionally soaring drama about the redemptive power of music, journalist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) discovers Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a former classical music prodigy, playing his violin on the streets of L.A. As Lopez endeavors to help the homeless man find his way back, a unique friendship is formed, one that transforms both their lives.

(MPAA: rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some drug use and language.)

And, of course, Disney's Earth comes out next week too. See a movie, plant a tree!

It's been widely reported this week that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will be moved up from the Friday, July 17 release date to Wednesday, July 15. Apparently Wednesdays are the new “blockbuster” release dates for films. Is this because it gives them a couple of extra days of buzz before weekend box office tallies start? Dunno. But mark your calendars appropriately if you’ve been waiting.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Robert Rodriquez has made some great grown-up films (all on the dark, gritty and artful side), but he’s also pretty effective with the kiddie set (Spy Kids). He’s back, with a new film called Shorts, a story about a kid and a magic rock (releasing in August):

I’ve always liked Sam Rockwell. Maybe his new movie, Moon, will help propel him to the top of the actors’ heap. I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, but this looks pretty riveting. A three-year stint alone on the moon for astronaut Sam Bell, played by Rockwell, is about to come to an end... until a bizarre series of events occur.

Speaking of sci-fi, Tron, from 1982, is a movie I managed to avoid (told you I wasn’t big on this stuff), but I’ve recently put it on our Netflix list for K. It’s rated PG, and sounds like it’s right up K’s alley:

Programmer Kevin Flynn's (Jeff Bridges) video games are stolen, and with help from his friends, he tries to hack the Master Control Program to prove CEO Ed Dillinger (David Warner) ripped him off. But the MCP pulls Flynn into its world, where enslaved programs fight on the "game grid." An amazing mix of Alice in Wonderland, Star Wars, Ben-Hur and German expressionism. (--Netflix)

I may finally see this film! Fans of Tron are probably thrilled to hear there is a sequel planned for 2011, and original star Jeff Bridges has reportedly signed on.

In more semi-kid-related movie news, Ridley Scott is directing a Robin Hood epic for 2010 release! Now, this could be fun. It will star Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe, with Vanessa Redgrave and William Hurt. Of course, as usual, I fear it will be a PG-13 or an R movie when all is said and done. I’m 110% certain this could be a great movie with a PG rating. Bets, anyone?

Awright, back to grown-up stuff:

Directed by Ang Lee, and starring Emil Hirsch, Eugene Levy and Dimetri Martin, Taking Woodstock looks like it could be a real charmer.

Small indie movies typically have short lives in the theaters, so here’s a little plug for Sugar, which may be playing near you; try to catch it before it leaves! It looks like a great human story, and if you are a baseball fan, it’s probably a great baseball movie, too.

Sugar follows the story of Miguel Santos, a.k.a. Sugar, a ball player from the Dominican Republic, who gets a break and makes it to the U.S. minor league system.

Monday, April 13, 2009


You may know that son K enjoys watching ‘50s horror and sci-fi movies with us (dad started feeding him Godzilla at a steady clip starting around age seven). The other night we settled in to watch a movie tagged as one of Andy Warhol’s favorites, but many, many user reviews on Netflix complained of the movie’s endless talking. No action, they said, just talk, talk, talk.

I kept my mouth shut. Not only did K stick with it (it’s only 80 minutes long), but he loved Creation of the Humanoids, and was highly annoyed at the abrupt ending.

“Did they run out of film, or what?” he complained.

I really wasn’t going to write this one up, but I just changed my mind. I won’t go on about it in detail, but here’s what you need to know:

It is a talker. No real action. There are about six or seven scenes (K counted), and very little in set design (although husband D and I found it extremely beautiful in its simplicity).

There are zero special effects.

There is very little violence, no racy language or other small-kid offenders (it may just bore them to death).

It shares a certain aesthetic with Plan Nine From Outer Space.

The director may or may not have intended a subtext about equality and race. Or maybe about technology and fear. Or maybe intended no subtext at all.

It’s a bizarrely fascinating, Saturday-night-pass-the-popcorn kind of movie, and we had a lot of fun with it.

Here’s the 1962 trailer:

Note: on Netflix, it comes only as part of a “Drive-in Double Feature,” with War Between the Planets, for which I can't vouch, but husband D says: "It has some of the most amusingly amature sets ever captured on celluloid ... and it ends with a nice big explosion."

I'm not sure that's a recommendation.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Weekly Classic Kids' Movie

I haven’t yet done a Kids’ Classic of the Week that was a thumbs down. Until now.

Listen, Where the Red Fern Grows (1974) might have been a fine novel, and perhaps a fine movie back in 1974, but I just can’t recommend it in 2009.

The story of a boy and his “coon hounds” takes place in 1930’s Ozark Mountains in Oklahoma. I will say this: I know it’s unfair to say it feels like an extended Waltons special, but it does (I’d rather watch The Waltons, a wonderful TV series, again), and I couldn’t shake it. (It doesn’t help that Beverly Garland, the mom, kept reminding me of Michael Learned’s Mother Walton).

Beyond squirming (me, not son K, who walked in and out of the movie three times) through scenes such as chopping down huge, beautiful trees just to catch a raccoon (really? is that what they did?), or a mountain lion vs. dog fight (that was real, staged for the cameras), the movie felt flat, slow (sloooow) and incredibly dated. Some of these things just don’t hold up well. You can’t argue.

Long stretches of the kid running through beautiful Ozark mountains and meadows, with Andy Williams crooning in the background (yes, Andy Williams; I know some of you don’t even know who he is. I’ll wait while you run over to Wikipedia), and lingering close-ups of a perennially troubled mom take up about half the film, with “coon hunts” and unpleasant, bullying kids taking up another half. There you have it, pretty much.

I won’t talk about the boom mic being seen in shots, or the surprise violence (a kid gets killed, the aforementioned animal brawl, mean boys, sad as heck ending), or the plentiful God talk (pretty much every bit of drama is explained away by God’s intent). I’ll just say, you could do better in the classic kids’ movie department.

I think a lot of these old “family” films really just don’t hold up. Take a look at this trailer for The Yearling (1946), which I had on my list to check out. I think I’ll leave it to you to research this one. Let me know what you think.

If you’re really in the mood for an old classic this weekend, try National Velvet (1944, Liz Taylor, Mickey Rooney). I know the ending is pretty sad, so if you want to wait for me to review it, and tell you just how tragic it might be, I’ll do it soon. It’s on my “instant view” Netflix list; it's a film I've always wanted to see.

Favorite Film Characters Meme (Part II)

Wrapping up the "ten favorite film characters" meme, for which I was tagged by Culture Snob: I’m presenting the whole list in one place here, the last five are new today. (And these are ten OF my favorites, and not in any particular order!) (I know, I know, typical Libra...):

1. Scarlet O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) from Gone With the Wind (1939)

2. Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) from Reservoir Dogs (1992)

3. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) in in 1963's To Kill A Mockingbird

4. Maude (Ruth Gordon) in Harold and Maude, 1971

"... Play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room."

5. Alvy Singer (Woody Allen), in Annie Hall, 1977

6. Randy 'The Ram' Robinson (Mickey Rourke) in The Wrestler, 2008

7. Tommy DeVito, Goodfellas, 1990, played by Joe Pesci

8. Ron Burgundy, Anchorman, played by Will Farrell, 2004

9. Wall-E.

10. Klaus Kinski’s
Don Lope de Aguirre, in Aquirre, Wrath of God, 1972

I came into this world in the form of a human, but the sun, the stars, the wind, fire, deserts, forests, mountains, skies, oceans, and clouds were trapped inside me.” -- Klaus Kinski

More favorites, just as loved as the others: Chaplin’s Little Tramp; Layne in River’s Edge, played by Crispin Glover; Brad Pitt’s Mickey in Snatch; Ray Eddy, played by Melissa Leo in Frozen River; Robert Ford, played by Casey Affleck, in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; Uma Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill; Diane Keaton as Annie Hall.

I'd love to hear about some of your favorites!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

YOUR Favorites?

Husband D is giving me grief for not including the Joseph Cotton character, Holly Martins, from The Third Man, in my "favorite film characters" meme.

I said, "That's your list." Duh.

But it reminded me that I -- rudely -- forgot to invite you to play along (did it need to be said?)? Who are some of your all time favorites?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tag: The Character Meme

Ok, this meme was started over at FilmSquish, a site husband D will surely love.

I'm working on eight more for my list of ten favorite film characters. Ugh. Tough one. (First two below.)

Here are the five sites I'm tagging to join in:

Film Father
Moon in the Gutter

Have fun!

Favorite Film Characters Meme

Ok, call me lame!

But between nasty head colds, work and family time, I just haven’t been so focused on the blog, and I didn’t even check my KidsFlix email account until Monday night, when I saw that I’d been tagged by Culture Snob to name my 10 favorite film characters.

Ten? Favorites? Listen, I’m the kind of person that can’t even name a favorite film or book of all time (I can, however, name my favorite album, my Desert Island Disc, if pressed; I’ll save it for another time, but maybe give you a hint. Yeah, a hint. If you guess, I’ll burn it for you and send you a copy. Lemme think on this for a minute.). I have lots of favorites, and distilling my favorite film characters into a mere 10 might be impossible.

So, I’m going to steal an idea from 10 Movies to See Before You Die, and roll ‘em out slowly. I might not even get to ten! Ha. Are memes made to be broken?

Culture Snob tagged me (thank you, oh Snobby one) as one of the newer members of LAMB (The Large Association of Movie Blogs), a great place to find film blogs of all kinds. In the “Q&A” we newbies participate in, we had to name three of our favorite movies, which I was able to do since it’s a small number of the 20 or 50 I might consider true favorites. So, I’ll start by naming two characters from two of my favorite films.

1. Scarlet O’Hara, from Gone With the Wind
I saw this film as a kid, in an old rep theater we were lucky enough to have in town at the time, and the impression the film made on me cannot be understated. I think I dreamed about it for weeks afterwards. Much of it had to do with Scarlett O’Hara (full name: Katie Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler), the plucky and sassy heroine who thinks, for an agonizing two hours’ worth of screen time, that she’s in love with the weak and wussy Ashley Wilkes, when all along it’s clearly the arrogant and handsome Rhett Butler she needs in her life. He’s her only possible match.

Along with the complex romantic storyline, the film is, of course, filled with numerous history lessons, told in glorious, melodramatic technicolor. I haven’t had the pleasure yet of watching this with K, but hope to do it soon. (Let this serve as a recommended Kids’ Classic, while we’re at it!)

Scarlett’s courage, determination, craftiness and fire (it’s in her eyes) left an indelible impression on me, and on legions of moviegoers (and maybe young girls?). We’re not supposed to base our choices here on the actor or our love for them or their methods, etc., and I can say without hesitation that this fictional character, Scarlett O’Hara, a 100-pound, spoiled rotten, Southern Belle, lives on and looms as large as any screen character in film history.

2. Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs
Back in 1992, we hadn’t quite seen a film like Reservoir Dogs. Some of Scorsese’s works come close, but there was something ultra cool about Reservoir Dogs that captured our attention. It was named "Greatest Independent Film of all Time" by the British film mag, Empire.

There are a handful of fascinating and memorable characters in the film, and it’s difficult for me to choose between Mr. Blonde, played by Michael Madsen, and Mr. Pink, played by Steve Buscemi. So, deciding quickly here before this turns to an all day debate, I’m going with ... Michael Madsen’s Mr. Blonde.

If you haven’t seen the film, I’ll just say right up front that Mr. Blonde is very suave, very cool, and very handsome. He’s sexy in a dark way -- “quietly menacing” is how it might be put in a bodice ripper -- except this guy is truly psychopathic and sadistic.

He’s the ultimate “bad boy” that we chix are supposed to love. Hmmm.

Now, ask husband D if I’m one for lots of graphic violence and sadistic themes in movies. He’ll tell you I am not. In fact, I don’t even bother with horror films because 98% of the time there is someone being tortured, physically or psychologically, and I really can’t take that. The gore isn’t so much a problem as it is the other stuff. Bah. Life is short. I don’t need to spend 28% of my lifetime squirming in my chair. (Don’t ask me where I got 28%.)

So why Mr. Blonde? Why am I choosing the guy who plays out the most awful, disturbing scene in the film? I can not tell you precisely why. Maybe I am just a sucker for a handsome bad boy, and that’s all it is. Maybe it was the way he moved, dancing around the hostage he was terrifying at every turn, or the way he spoke as if he were simply styling the guy’s hair, or giving him skin care advice. Maybe it was Mr. Blonde’s sheer craziness, his being so removed from what he was actually doing that he conveyed some sort of mystery and otherworldliness.

Maybe it was that his character was clearly one of the signs that Quentin Tarantino was going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Ok, that’s all for now.

UPDATE: Jump here for the complete list.

In thinking over the hints I might leave you for my musical D.I.D., I’ve come up with a couple:

1. It’s a ‘70s record.
2. It was punk before punk was invented.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

This Week's Classic Kids' Movie

I vacillated a bit on this one, but overall give it a thumbs up, and even have no qualms about putting it in the “classic kids’ movie” category. I do this because in some ways it’s the perfect kids’ movie, for the younger set in particular, and even with its blemishes and bumps it will stand the test of time.

Purists take issue with the “documentary” label given to Winged Migration (it was even nominated for an Oscar in 2001 in that category), since the filmmakers used birds trained (“imprinted”) from birth, so that they would fly undisturbed by equipment and crew, and since it was filmed over a period of four years and thus does not truly “document” a natural migration. There are also some segments that are CGI-enhanced.

That said: I’m no purist, and when you’re searching for something thoughtful, quiet, and artful for younger kids, something like watching birds being birds (several species are here, including geese, storks, and pelicans) -- from various angles and distances (both air and land/sea), up close and with unfettered views -- can be magical and very rewarding. I remember taking K to a theater to see this, he grumbled a bit thinking it was going to be boring (he was about eight years old, as headstrong as he is now), but he was entranced for the hour and a half.

The cinematography is stunning, and the whole “birds’ eye view” concept is what makes the film so special. Much of the film takes place right alongside birds as they are flying, and seeing them in motion where they can really be studied is a rare opportunity. There is very little dialogue, and occasional dramatic bits keep the viewer from dozing off or losing focus. These dramatic scenes might bother some smaller children, as they depict the perils and dangers of the real world (again, purists may ask, “Were these scenes set up? Are they real? Were any birds harmed for the purpose of the film?”): geese pick at polluted puddles of water, birds appear to be shot out of the sky by hunters, another bird gets stuck in industrial sludge. You get the drift.

Without being overtly preachy, this truly beautiful cinematic adventure manages to convey the importance of our role in keeping the earth safe and hospitable for all creatures, which is a good message for kids of any age.

More cool documentaries here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Disney's EARTH

If you've seen the trailer in theaters for Disney's Earth, to be released on Earth Day (April 22), you might be thinking, "Hmmm, some of those shots look familiar." I was surprised to read that the film is basically comprised of "Planet Earth" segments (reviewed elsewhere on KidsFlix) and not only was it originally done with Patrick Stewart narrating (and I believe released in Europe last year), but his voice was replaced with that of the formidable James Earl Jones for the U.S. release.

Ok, should that matter? I'm not sure. If folks fork over $10 a head for movie tickets and $20 on popcorn and treats, and settle in for some bigger-than-life shots of nature at its best, and then feel like they're at home watching a re-run of something they can't quite put their finger on ... then maybe it matters.

This is the first feature-length nature documentary from Disney's new production banner, Disneynature, so we'll see what follows. Maybe this is the kick-off release; if so, it's hard to argue with the quality of the product. Also, Disney will plant a tree for every ticket sold opening week.
That alone makes it worth going (ok, that and the three animal families we follow for a year: African elephants, polar bears and humpback whales. Excellent selection!). The New York Times reports:

“Disney’s goal is to ensure that it plants trees in areas that conservationists have identified as important hot spots of biodiversity. Disney will oversee the planting of the trees in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, which is considered the most endangered rain forest in the world. Today, only 7 percent of the Atlantic Forest remains. Disney is committed to ensuring the trees are planted and cared for to provide the greatest long term benefit for the planet.”

The Times goes on to say that based on opening week ticket sales for Disney's March of the Penguins, they could be looking at a half million or so tickets/trees.

Here's a trailer lifted from YouTube. You can go to
Apple Trailers for a true HD, super-duper pretty version of it. Wow. Also, visit this Disney site for more images, downloads, games and educational material related to the film.

What else is new?


This is a tough one.

This one will require a box of tissues, extra hugs, and maybe a dose of something lighthearted on the telly before you all trot off to your rooms or to bed or to clean the kitchen. Maybe a "Friends" re-run or a little "VHI's One-Hit Wonders of the '80s" will do the trick.

Paper Clips is a stunningly powerful documentary about a group of 8th grade students in tiny Whitwell, TN, who embark on a journey to understand the Holocaust, but end up questioning so much more. Not only do the students emerge changed from the experience, but it touches an entire community as well.

Tiny Whitwell, TN (outside Chattanooga, and about 100 miles from where the KKK was founded) has a couple of stoplights, virtually zero Jews and Catholics, and might epitomize to some much of the southern United States: homogenized, predominantly fundamentalist Christian, and wrapped in a history of ethnic and racial discrimination and intolerance. (Whitwell is also about 45 miles from the Rhea County Courthouse, where, in 1925, a teacher was convicted for teaching evolution during the "Scopes Monkey Trial.”)

When eighth grade students at Whitwell Middle School, back in 1998, began studying the Holocaust, a student planted the seed for the project, by saying, “What is six million? I've never seen six million.” The idea to collect six million of something (something related to the Holocaust, principal Linda Hooper insisted) led to the paper clip, which was "invented" (seems debatable, according to Wikipedia) by a Norwegian Jew; Norwegians wore them on their lapels during WWII as a protest against Hitler and his policies.

The Paper Clips Project got underway slowly, and after nearly stalling out late in 1999 (with 1.5 million clips donated), was saved by mainstream media coverage that was largely due to the efforts of a German couple living in the U.S., working as White House correspondents. Once the spotlight shined on Whitwell, the paper clips came by the millions. Well after the project met its completion, the paper clips would still trickle in, from all corners of the world. At last count, some over 30 million had been received.

There are many heroes in this story: the German couple, who came to the rescue several times and also answered an early question by students, “What are German people like? What do they look like? How could they have done this?”; the principal, assistant principal and teachers involved in the project who had incredible vision and patience; the entire community of Whitwell, who came to together in building a beautiful memorial; the Holocaust survivors who came to Whitwell to tell their stories; and of course the students, who worked tirelessly over a number of years to see the project through to the end.

Of course, the real heroes may be those who sent the paper clips; without the paper clips, this story would be something different. Not only did celebrities, regular people, and presidents (both Bushes and Clinton) send paperclips, but so did Germans, and of course, many, many Jewish people, both Holocaust survivors and relatives of the victims, all with heartbreaking stories.

The multiple award-winning Paper Clips should become a staple in middle school curriculum. Until that happens, a family viewing, with plenty of discussion, breaks for tissue replenishment, hugs, and sweet snacks for levity, will not only serve as a great history lesson and some quality family time, but it’ll bring the love.

I guarantee it.

(Note: This film is officially rated G, but I strongly recommend it for older kids who have a grasp of Holocaust history, and for parents who have more backbone than I, as I pretty much blubbered my way through the whole thing.)