I know we’re checking out Free Birds, which opens today, this weekend. Hang on to your nuggets! (See the movie trailer at the end of this post.)
“These days, it’s no easy task to find a movie suitable for the entire family, whether on the big screen or at home. You scan the online theater listings and see lots of movies being pitched to your kids, but many of the promos out there can send up a red flag to parents of little ones. And at home, you’ve already watched the titles on your shelf a dozen times and the sea of Netflix choices is just overwhelming—who has time to read reviews before deciding, much less make sense of all those content warnings? But you also don’t want to start a movie and be surprised halfway through by an inappropriate scene or a startling moment of violence.
Given that we all have different taste and tolerance levels, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how to make that choice for family movie night, but here are some suggestions that might help.
1. Choose a sports movie. You might be surprised to find that many excellent sports-themed films are rated G or PG, have a positive message that can prompt conversation, and cover a wide variety of competitive events, from high school basketball (Hoosiers) to women’s college basketball (The Mighty Macs) to baseball (The Rookie) to football (Invincible) to swimming (Pride) to surfing (Soul Surfer) to golf (The Greatest Game Ever Played) to hockey (Miracle) to horse racing (Secretariat)—and even spelling (Akeelah and the Bee) and chess (Searching for Bobby Fischer).
2. Choose a G or PG-rated live-action film. For families with older children, don’t discount G and PG films in favor of the PG-13 rating. Hollywood believes teenagers, the most hotly pursued demographic, won’t go to a movie unless it carries at least a PG-13 rating, which explains why so few Gs and PGs are out there. But every year some slip through and many are worth watching as a family. Recent examples include The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Big Miracle, We Bought a Zoo, Hugo, Dolphin Tale and Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.
3. Choose a box-office hit you enjoyed with your parents when you were young. Whether you are a child of the ’80s or the ’90s, you are bound to have films lodged up there in your memory that bring up warm feelings just thinking about them, so share them with your kids: Mr. Holland’s Opus, Groundhog Day, Rudy, Cool Runnings, Father of the Bride—give it some thought or browse through the rental list and you’ll come up with your own favorites.
4. Watch a vintage classic from the black-and-white era. Who’s going to sit still for black and white these days, you ask? Ease into it with an old comedy and you may be surprised that, after awhile, you have forgotten that it’s monochrome. Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine is a guaranteed laugh-getter–even for the very young–in their film The Naughty Nineties. Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is funny and charming with an uplifting theme. The Marx Brothers’ anti-war film Duck Soup is a riot. Cary Grant’s double-takes in Arsenic and Old Lace are priceless. Buster Keaton’s silent Civil War farce The General is unbeatable. And there are many more.
5. Choose to have fun. Watching movies together should be a joyous experience, one that creates the same kind of warm memories you have of watching beloved films with your parents. So pop some corn or roast some hot dogs, hunker down in the TV room together, turn off your phones and have fun.
Chris Hicks, author of Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind?, has been writing about movies for the Deseret News for more than thirty years. He was the full-time movie critic for 20 years and also reviewed movies on KSL television and radio for thirteen years. Chris then became the editor of the newspaper’s features department. Now retired, he continues to write a weekly column and DVD reviews for the Deseret News.
I’ve had two summer obsessions–and it wouldn’t be fair or nice to keep them all to myself. These are books turned into TV shows that I can’t get enough of. They are so brilliant that they won’t let me sleep or even bother to watch my kids. (I exaggerate, but just a little.) I’ll just be honest, I also love how sexy these stories are.
I kept hearing about Orange is the New Blackfrom friends and in news stories online. I wasn’t too excited about it, but I thought I’d check it out since I have a Netflix account for my kids. Besides, did you see True Blood this season? It was barely watchable. Summer TV was a vast wasteland of bore. That was, until I binge-watched OITNB. It’s about Piper Chapman, a seemingly nice girl with a nice fiance who all of a sudden gets a call from the Feds. Her secret is that 10 years ago, she carried a suitcase full of drug money for her flashy, intriguing and sexually satisfying girlfriend who imported heroin. For her indiscretion, Chapman pleads guilty and must serve 15 months in minimum security federal prison. The main character is such a delightfully complicated mess on the show that I dare you not to watch. But even better are all of the supporting actresses–the women in prison with their own imaginative stories. Her fiance, played by Jason Biggs, dutifully visits her while her ex-drug-dealer-girlfriend (Laura Prepon) taunts her in their shared prison quarters.
Even better, I found out that the basis of the story is real. Orange is the New Black was a memoir first, written by the real Piper whose last name is Kerman. The book is fantastic, too, but it’s not nearly as dramatic. Kerman got herself together in real life. Her alter-ego Chapman has a very long way to go. I can’t believe I have to wait another year for season two.
My husband is jealous of my love of The White Queen–both the book by Phillipa Gregory and the TV show on Starz. I voraciously read it in two days, and then I sat down to watch the first three episodes on demand. OMG, if you are into crazy English history–war, blood, romance, plots, witches–you will believe you’ve hit the jackpot. The show follows the same arc as the book. The mostly true story is about the beautiful common woman Elizabeth Woodville who entrances the young King Edward during The War of the Roses in the 1400s. She reigns as queen and must constantly woo and scheme to keep her royal position and her head. The story is told through the eyes of women and suggests that they played more of a role in medieval politics than they’re often given credit for.
The White Queen book is part of a series, and I’m already onto The Red Queen. It’s every bit as addictive and good. I don’t know if Starz plans to follow Gregory’s brilliant writings into a second season, but I certainly hope that they do.
When a preschool teacher told Kristine Barnett that her autistic son would never read–so she shouldn’t bother teaching him–she pulled him out of class. Ever since then, she’s been completely devoted to Jacob. They found out that his IQ is higher than Einstein’s, and by age 9, he was working on an original theory in astrophysics that may put him in line for a Nobel Prize someday. Kristine’s book, The Spark: A Mother’s Journey of Nurturing Genius is a testament to her love for and belief in her son who’s potential could’ve gone untapped. Today, Jacob is a teenager and taking graduate level classes. You might have seen him on YouTube or TV. Keep on eye on this book–it’s even been optioned for a movie.
Below, Kristine talks about her extraordinary son and popular book.
KK: In three sentences, how would you describe what your book is about? KB: The Spark is an inspirational memoir that narrates my journey with her remarkable child who was once locked in the silent world of autism and later, despite all odds, emerged to become one of the world’s youngest astrophysics researchers. Through love and perseverance, me and my son Jacob led an entire community of autistic children to achieve remarkable results that would surprise experts and help to redefine what the autism label means. Beyond this, the story points the way to unlocking the untapped potential or spark that perhaps lies deep within all of us!
KK: How old was your son when doctors told you he would never learn? How old was he when you knew differently?
KB: When Jacob was 3 years old, his special education teacher told us that he would never need to learn the alphabet. Against the advice of everyone including my own husband, I pulled him out of special ed and began to work with him on my own. Through play and typical childhood childhood experiences as well as focusing on what he could do, rather than his shortcomings, I began to see results. I had never given up on Jacob’s potential to learn although I knew he faced tremendous challenges. Sometimes it seemed like I was the only one who could see that he was working on something remarkable deep within his silent world. Within six months of taking Jacob out of special education preschool, he was in fact reading without any formal instruction! Later that year at a trip to a local planetarium, Jacob surprised us all by answering college level astronomy questions about the relationship between the mass of the moons of Mars and the gravitational pull of the planet!
KK: What advice do you have for parents of special needs children who are getting less than positive news from their doctors? KB: Raising a special needs child is one of the hardest things a parent could ever imagine facing. In spite of the overwhelming diagnosis that I was given for Jacob, I never gave up hope. I refused to let myself focus merely on his challenges or to let any label define his potential. Do not forget to focus on your child’s strengths and to celebrate the things that they are drawn to and inspired by. These could be the very things that can lead them to reach the ultimate potential that they have inside of them.
KK: Can you tell us how old your son is now and a little bit about what he has accomplished?
KB: Jacob is now 14, and he is a research scientist in the field of quantum physics. He is the youngest person to ever be published in Physical Review A, a prestigious scientific journal. He takes graduate level classes in mathematics and physics, tutors undergraduate students and has expanded his research to multiple areas including chaotic laser physics, quantum friction and integrable systems. At age 12, Jacob made a YouTube video on calculus that went viral and had over 2 million views. It was seen in every country around the world. He was invited at 13 to New York to give a Tedxteen talk at the Scholastic Auditorium on Broadway that is now the eleventh most watched Tedx talk of all time. This was a remarkable achievement for a boy who was told he would never speak. Jacob has been on CBS News, 60 Minutes and on the Glenn Beck Show on Fox.
You’re seeing The Great Gatsby this weekend, right? It’s Mother’s Day, so you should be taken on a golden horse-drawn carriage if you wish. You should eat all of the Milk Duds you please and stay out way past your kids’ bedtime. This is what I might do considering how much I love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic book that comes out with my boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio tomorrow.
If you can’t make it–or even if you can–check out these Gatsy-inspired cupcakes. Book Expo America’s Book Bliss and The Huff Post Books teamed up to make these book-inspired desserts. I’m going to suggest The Great Gatsby at my next book club–but only if we agree to serve these chocolate yummies.