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November 03, 2011

Bears, Cars, Dinosaurs And Punks: Four Movies For Your Consideration

The-other-f-wordFULL DISCLOSURE: I'm totally lagging on reviewing the following four flicks that were sent to me for such purposes by powerful people who expect that they'll receive timely coverage in return. However, since three of the four movies were already in theaters, I don't feel too bad.

Hey! Tomorrow's Friday! Weekend! Whoop! And since many of you will apparently be housebound with your kids, here are three recent Blu-ray releases and one new theatrical release that may or may not be worth your or your kids' precious time.

Two of this summer's big kiddie flicks, Cars 2 and Winnie The Pooh, are now out on glorious Blu-ray. I managed to miss both when they were in the theaters, and for my sins I'm sure the kids will force me to watch them until my eyes burn out. Both are surprising, in opposite ways. Winnie The Pooh is simply lovely, a true movie for children: coming in at about 60 minutes, it's the perfect length, the hand-drawn animation is warm and comforting, and the way the A.A. Milne story literally comes to life on the screen, with words serving as part of the background, is clever and endearing. Disney proves that there is still a place for traditional animation, and Winnie The Pooh is a classic that can stand proudly next to the studio's most famous offerings.

Cars 2 was a surprise of the unpleasant sort. I still think that the original is, along with Monsters Inc., the least essential of Pixar's movies. But I won't fault its inherent sweetness; less concerned with appealing to grown-ups, Cars was at heart a really nice little movie about the value of friendship and selflessness. Cars 2 is about explosions. Pixar raises the computer animation bar yet again, but the movie - in which Mater (who takes center stage) and Lightning McQueen become involved in a spy caper - is a loud, cynical attempt to snag the 8 to 10 year old boy niche. 

For the grown-ups, two very different movies about fatherhood: recently released on Blu-ray, Terrence Mallick's The Tree of Life is visually stunning, wrapping a story about a relationship between a father (Brad Pitt) and his son (played as a kid by Hunter McCracken and an adult by Sean Penn) in amazing, eons-spanning imagery. It's slow, sometimes maddeningly obtuse, and ultimately rewarding. 

Some interesting real-life fathers - former punk rockers and guys connected with the punk scene - are the subject of the new documentary The Other F Word. Director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins profiles Pennywise lead singer Jim Lindberg (whose book Punk Rock Dad got a nod of approval from us a few years back), Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea (whose confession that his daughter's birth inspired him to change his rock star ways is the film's most moving sequence), Blink-182's Mark Hoppus, and other famous punker dads. Watching the film reminded me of the times I spent in the mosh pit; if the movie's subjects sometimes seem a bit surprised that they now have kids of their own, well, most of us know the feeling. First previewed at SXSW earlier this year, the film opened in New York yesterday and in Los Angeles tomorrow.


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