November 17, 2010

Win a copy of Opposite Day on DVD!

YOU COULD WIN one of two copies of the new family comedy Opposite Day (rated G), now available on DVD!

About the Movie:
Nine-year-old Sammy and his eight-year-old sister Carla go on vacation with their grandparents when their overworked parents are unable to take them. On the first night of their mountain vacation, Sammy makes a childlike wish: "I wish kids ruled the world." Little did he know what was about to happen! Cast includes Rico Rodriguez (Modern Family), Pauly Shore (Biodome), French Stewart (3rd Rock from the Sun), and Dick Van Patten (Eight is Enough).

How to Enter:
Comment on this post by November 30, 2010. I will then pick two comments at random and post the winners on December 1. (Winners will then have to e-mail me their mailing addresses to receive their prizes.)

  • You must have a link to your e-mail address on your Blogger profile page. If not, you must provide your e-mail address in your comment.
  • Prizes are available to United States mailing addresses only. (International readers can enter if they have a friend in the States who can accept their prizes by mail.)
Official trailer:

Good luck!

November 10, 2010

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (2010)

SO YOU THINK you have some crazy or outrageous people in your family?

Well, if you want to feel like your blood relatives maybe aren’t so bad – and perhaps feel better about yourself as well – come with me to Boone County, West Virginia…


Co-produced by Jackass’ Johnny Knoxville, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia follows the extended, rowdy White family – led by matriarch Mamie and her brother Jesco (who was the subject of his own documentary, The Dancing Outlaw, in 1991). For one year, director Julien Nitzberg follows White family members with names like Bertie Mae, Sue Bob, mother and son Bo and Derek (yep, Bo-Derek), Brandon Poe, Annie Mae, Mousie, Poney, and Little Man. Half of the family are in early graves, while the other half live for the moment – drinkin’, smokin', snortin’, and cussin’ their way through each day.


It could be easy to dismiss The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia as a car-crash TV in the form of an 88-minute movie – especially when witnessing the Whites shooting guns in their backyard, giving each other homemade tattoos, and blatantly abusing both legal and illegal drugs (Derek demonstrates “the Boone County mating call” by shaking a prescription bottle). The final straw for many viewers will probably be the visit to new mom Kirk, who’s snorting crushed pills in her hospital room hours after giving birth to her daughter (the father is her cousin’s former boyfriend).

However, things turn somber when 84-year-old Bertie Mae (Mamie’s mom) suffers a stroke, and – shocker! – Child Protective Services takes away Kirk’s baby. [Side note: You know the Whites are trouble when they’re so familiar with Child Protective Services that they refer to it in shorthand (“CPS”).] And how does Kirk cope with losing her baby? She gets drunk and snorts crushed pills at the local bar with Annie Mae and Sue Bob.

Between scenes, director Nitzberg and editor Ben Daughtrey make the fades to black last a few seconds longer than the usual motion picture – making you anticipate, and possibly dread, what outrageous escapade the Whites will be involved with next. And with every one of those fades to black, I had to take a deep breath – sometimes to prepare for what was coming, other times because I forgot to breathe while watching what had just transpired.

An hour of the Whites’ outrageous antics is plenty, something Nitzberg probably understands. Because after the first 60 minutes of Wonderful Whites, he uses the last half hour to focus on some of the repercussions of their behavior – including crushing consequences for Brandon Poe and Kirk – as well as a death in the family.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia is equal parts fascinating, repulsive, and depressing. It’s also a hard film to shake, which is a testament to Nitzberg and, for better or for worse, the Whites themselves. This is the best documentary I’ve seen since Man on Wire, which went on to win the 2009 Academy Award. I hope Wonderful Whites is eligible for a 2011 nomination. Nitzberg – and to an extent, the White family – deserve it.


Is it suitable for your kids?
With The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, you’ll be fascinated as a moviegoer but also appalled if you’re a parent. There’s extensive profanity (sometimes in front of children, and sometimes by the children), rampant drug use, male and female nudity, and bloody crime scene photos of poor souls who crossed the Whites.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
She may be repulsed by what she sees in The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, but that’s part of the power of this film. I’d recommend she watch it – if anything (like I mentioned at the beginning), it’ll make her feel better about her own family tree.

Believe it or not, their family tree actually forks.
(Click to view larger image)

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia
* Director: Julien Nitzberg
* Stars: The wild and wonderful White family, Hank Williams III
* MPAA Rating: N/A

Buy The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia from >>
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November 2, 2010

The Secret of Kells (2009)

THE SECRET OF KELLS came out of nowhere at the 2010 Academy Awards, filling in the fifth spot in the nominees for Best Animated Feature Film. For it to be in the same company with major releases such as Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and The Frog, and Up was truly unexpected. (Up took home the Oscar.)

Last month, The Secret of Kells was released on DVD and Blu-Ray, giving us all the chance to catch up with this Oscar underdog…


In medieval Ireland, a young apprentice named Brendan (Evan McGuire) lives in a remote town, under the thumb of his uncle Cellach (Brendan Gleeson) who works non-stop fortifying the town’s walls from an impending attack from marauding Vikings.

But then Brother Aidan (Mick Lally), a celebrated illuminator, arrives carrying a magical but unfinished book full of secret wisdom and powers. To help complete the book, Brendan has to overcome his deepest fears through a dangerous quest that takes him into the neighboring forest where mythical creatures hide – and where Cellach says he is forbidden to go. It’s there Brendan meets Aisling (Christen Mooney), a mysterious young girl who helps him on his quest. But with the Vikings closing in, will Brendan's determination and artistic vision light the way through the potentially dark days that lay ahead?


A large part of The Secret of Kells’ buzz that made it an Oscar contender was its unique, artistic animation, and it’s true: The film’s animation is visually arresting, with an accompanying score by Bruno Coulais that perfectly fits the scenery and action. And while artsy, it remains accessible, with character action that you could find in any Disney classic.

Furthermore, despite Kells being perceived as a dark-horse, anti-Disney feature, there are several aspects to its story that are decidedly Disney-esque:
  • a young child seeking adventure (Brendan)
  • an enabling, avuncular friend (Brother Aidan)
  • an unbelieving parental figure (Brendan’s uncle)
  • a fellow adventurer of the opposite sex (Aisling)
  • an animal sidekick (Brother Aidan’s cat, Pangur Ban)
  • the importance of imagination
Then again, The Secret of Kells is more somber than most Disney fare. And it’s this somber tone that makes Kells feel longer than its 75-minute running time (though not in a completely bad way), concluding with an anti-climactic yet poetic ending.

It would seem that The Secret of Kells landed that fifth spot in the animated Oscar race due to its unique story and animation. But while Kells is good, it’s not great. And since I’ve seen Up, I can confidently say the Academy made the right choice.


What did Dash think?
Dash was completely captured by The Secret of Kells, barely uttering a word through the whole film. Though summing it up afterward, he declared, “It wasn’t the best movie, but it was a good movie” and “The ending was kind of weird.”

Will your kids like it?
Both Dash and little brother Jack-Jack watched The Secret of Kells intently and seemed to enjoy it, though repeat viewings are doubtful. I think most kids would be sucked in to the visual treat of the animation and the literally magical friendship between Brendan and Aisling.

However, there are some parts of The Secret of Kells that may be frightening to very young children (though four-old Jack-Jack seemed unfazed by them). Keep in mind that the following are all done very artistically, not gratuitously, and many in abstract form:
* A pack of wolves in the forest is quite menacing
* It’s implied that someone is killed by a Viking’s bow and arrow off-screen
* The Vikings are a scary sight – lumbering, inhuman shapes that tower over the people of Brendan’s town
* The Vikings shoot Brendan’s uncle with an arrow, and stab him once out of frame
* During the Viking attack, an overcrowded scaffold walkway collapses, showing silhouettes of people falling
* At the end of the attack, the skies are covered in red and fire
* The wolves attack the Vikings, killing several of them off-screen

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
I think she’d appreciate the visual craftsmanship put into the film, and the friendship formed between Brendan and Aisling. As for the rest…?

The inspiration for Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair.”

The Secret of Kells
* Director: Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey
* Screenwriter: Fabrice Ziolkowski
* Stars: Evan McGuire, Brendan Gleeson, Mick Lally, Christen Mooney
* MPAA Rating: N/A

Buy The Secret of Kells from (DVD) >>
Buy The Secret of Kells from (Blu-Ray) >>
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