Tag Archives: new movies

My own little movie list

Lizabeth called the other night as she was preparing to fly home from college for the holidays, sharing that she had just one final decision to make before getting on the plane — which movies to purchase for the five-hour flight.

Turns out she chose three of them, including one on my short list of “must see” movies for families who like to do films with friends and family members visiting during the holidays. It’s “Dolphin Tale,” a 2011 film still playing at just a few Valley theaters.

“Dolphin Tale” is based on a true story. It recounts the adventures of a wounded dolphin named Winter and a wounded veteran, follows the developing friendship of two tweens and offers a touching glimpse into the heart of a mother learning to let go as her son pursues his rather unconventional dreams.

I have my own little list of movies to watch during the holidays, including one my grown son loved enough to see twice when it was in theaters. It’s “Up!,” a 2009 computer-animated film featuring Ed Asner voicing a grumpy old widower whose house floats away as a young boy he’s just met stands helpless on the front porch.

When I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ll revisit the 2011 “Winnie the Pooh” film. It’s a lovely homage to literature, and reminds me of all the Pooh paraphernalia that filled Christopher’s room when he was young. Also “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” a 1982 film I first saw with my mom without knowing I’d lose to cancer the following decade.

Lizabeth is already planning to watch the final “Harry Potter” movie with me while she’s home. I somehow managed to miss the movie theater run, so it’ll be my first experience with 2011 movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.” We’ve been watching these movies together since she was ten years old.

I’m also determined to finally see “The Help,” a 2011 film that’s still showing in a small number of Valley theaters. It stars one of my favorite actresses, Viola Davis — and actress Emma Stone, who once performed at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix.

I’ve got a whole other list for new movies. It’s topped by two Spielberg titles — “The Advenures of Tin Tin” (opening today, Dec. 21) and “War Horse” (opening Sun, Dec. 25) — but also includes “Carnage” and “The Artist” (both films open Fri, Dec. 23). Two of the four are based on Broadway plays, which doubles the fun factor.

If you’ve got a new or classic movie to recommend for families who like to share films this time of year, please comment below to let our readers know.

– Lynn

Note: If you share my fondness for Winnie the Pooh, you’ll be happy to know that Valley Youth Theatre is performing “A Winnie The Pooh Christmas Tail” at VYT in Phoenix through Fri, Dec. 23. Click here for details.

Coming up: Musings on 2012 movie fare

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The orphan boy in the new Scorsese-directed picture titled “Hugo” was the invention of accidental author Brian Selznick, who fully expected to do theater design work until the popularity of his books, including “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” caused him to shift gears.

Shifting gears, stolen time and secrets unlocked by the heart figure prominently in Selznik’s tale — which also features an orphaned girl. Hugo (Asa Butterfield) lives in a hidden portion of the Paris train station, while Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretze) lives with a couple she calls Mama Jeanne (Helen McCrory) and Pappa Georges (Ben Kingsley).

Hugo adores movies, but Isabelle lives for books — often shared with her by a man named Rene Tabard (Michael Stuhlbearg). Georges is convinced that he’s been robbed somehow, while his wife does her best to keep what little they have left safe and secure. Music by Howard Shore makes clear the tenuousness of her mission.

Other couples, all seemingly mismatched somehow, populate this movie — which features screenplay by John Logan. A staunch station conductor (Sasha Baron Cohen) obsessed with sending errant children to jail seeks the heart of a demure flower seller named Lisette (Emily Mortimer). An older man named Monsier Frick (Richard Griffiths) who lacks animal magnetism pursues a woman named Emilie (Frances de la Tour) who sits each day with her dog at a train station cafe.

But two other characters, neither of them human, sit at the center of Hugo’s world. An automaton, or self-operating machine (created by Dick George), who sits at a desk with quill in hand. And the fictional man on the moon. As the movie unfolds, like a delicate piece of origami art undone step by step, their role in creating and stirring memories grows more clear.

Most of the movie’s characters have been profoundly touched by tragedy, but the intersection of their lives begins fixing what’s broken. “Hugo” is at once a mystery, an adventure tale and a testament to the healing power of humanity — appreciated most fully by teen and adult audiences.

It’s also a love letter of sorts to masters of film and the art of storytelling. Author Selznick notes that Georges Méliès (Pappa Georges in the movie) was a famous filmmaker who worked from the 1890s through the 1920s. “He made the world’s first science fiction movie,” says Selznick. “It was really magical and strange.” It’s high praise, and no less true of the movie “Hugo.”

– Lynn

Note: Brian Selznick’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” earned a Caldecott Medal. Click here to read Selznick’s acceptance speech, which recounts his journey from childhood to children’s author and describes the origins of the boy named Hugo.

Coming up: Showing too much leg, A movie sneak peek from NYC

Neanderthals making nice?

Cast of Arizona Theatre Company production of God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza

There’s a point in the play “God of Carnage” where things take a decided turn, but making it that far into the Arizona Theatre Company production, which I saw on opening night, took some doing. I found myself thinking, “I can’t take any more of these plays about people whining on pristine sofas.”

Soon slurs, swearing and something best left unnamed before the uninitiated start spewing forth — and the story develops at a quickening pace. Still, theater afficianonado Alan Handelsman, who was part of the first class of ASU Gammage Goer reviewers, felt “there was something missing” in the opening night performance.

Handelsman and his wife Anita saw the play a couple of years ago in New York City, and he’s got a clear preference for the NYC version’s vibe — feeling it had more “energy, commitment, rhythm, flow, surprise, pacing, abandon, arc and continuity.” Even simple prop choices, he recalls, gave the NYC production “a much greater sense of impending danger.”

Clockwise: Joey Parsons, Bob Sorenson, Amy Resnick and Benjamin Evett in the ATC production of God of Carnage

The Arizona Theatre Company production was good, says Handelsman, but not great. Despite being surrounded at the Herberger Theater Center by people laughing loud and proud, I’m afraid I have to concur. “God of Carnage” felt a bit of a letdown — perhaps because I went into it expecting so much. “God of Carnage” won the 2009 Tony Award for best play.

Other people whose opinions I respect felt differently. I saw Frances Smith Cohen, artistic director for Center Dance Ensemble, and her daughter Rachel Cohen in the theater foyer after the show, and both praised its artistry. Rachel loved “the writing and directing” and Frances “the contrast in characters.” My own theater baby Lizabeth, who has studied dance with both, would likely take their side.

We talked via “Skype” after I got home from the theater Saturday night, and Lizabeth was shocked when I shared my tepid response to the show. She saw “God of Carnage” in Chicago last year while touring colleges with my husband James. Both remember it being fabulously funny.

Lizabeth described it as “well written and well acted” — and shared that she loved watching the different characters evolve during the course of the story. Seems she was amused by just how “quickly the adults became the children.”

“God of Carnage” centers on two couples’ attempts at a civilized conversation after their sons spar on a playground. “You just don’t expect it to go as far as it does,” reflects Lizabeth. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen dad laugh that much,” she recalls. “He totally let loose.”

“Maybe.” she says, “it was his way of letting off steam after all the things that happened when we were little.” Seems she’s observed that the things we sometimes took too much to heart as young parents now fall into more perspective. “You used to take it all so seriously,” she told me. “You guys have learned to let go since then.”

The journey from kindergarden to college does effect profound changes. But the parents in “God of Carnage” have survived only grade school, and the perils of middle school are proving a bit more daunting. After meeting to discuss one boy’s use of a stick and another’s missing teeth, they demonstrate that words are perhaps the worst weapons of all.

The parents who seem so perfectly civilized to begin with soon dissolve into shreiking narcissism and nihilism, something that feels more believable once alcohol enters the picture. I hate to think any of us could trade “nice” for “Neanderthal” so quickly in its absence.

Handelsman, a highly-trained hypnotherapist, says the play reveals “how many different layers humans live in” — showing “the difference between the person we show, and the person we are, and the person we may be afraid we are.” Confronted with the final image in this production, we realize that humans haven’t evolved nearly as far as they imagine.

– Lynn

Note: This original production, directed by Rick Lombardo, is a co-production of Arizona Theatre Company and San Jose Repertory Theatre (which performs it next spring). Yasmina Reza has teamed with Roman Polanski to write the screenplay for a movie titled “Carnage,” directed by Polanski and scheduled for mid-December release. It stars Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly. Click here to learn about another opportunity to see the play performed live. Please note that “God of Carnage” contains “mature content.”

Coming up: Advice for young filmmakers, Handelsman shares his “Wicked” ways, Holiday shopping “arts and culture” style, The fine “Art” of Yasmina Reza

Photos: Tim Fuller for Arizona Theatre Company

Occupy Bella

Wedding scene from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I

As “Occupy Wall Street” protestors were facing off with their opponents on Thursday, “Twilight” fans were lining up in equally impressive numbers for the epic battle of team Edward versus team Jacob.

I began to think of the latest “Twilight” tale in terms of “Occupy Bella” while discussing the “Breaking Dawn” plotline with my oldest daughter Jennifer the other day. She’s taken issue with all those people butting into Bella’s business.

I’d been awakened in the wee hours the night before by our younger daughter Lizabeth, whose dorm in NYC was under the flight path of all those lovely helicopters flying to and fro as the city cleared both tents and campers from Zuccotti Park.

It’s rarely comforting to hear such noise overhead, or in the streets, when you live only blocks from the World Trade Center. And parents tend to assume the worst when phones ring just hours before dawn breaks.

Some might say that “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I” is the story of Bella’s occupation by her baby. But the baby isn’t the problem. Instead, it’s the friends and family around her – who each try to force their own beliefs onto Bella. They erect barriers, and she tears them down.

But first, of course, she’s got to walk down the aisle. As Bella goes bridal, there are plenty of moments we can all relate to – wistful parents, pre-ceremony jitters, tacky toasts and a handful of guests who are hardly on their best behavior. One-liners abound, most of them quite funny.

The wedding ceremony, like the nightmare of red rose petals falling from the sky that precedes it, is breathtaking. It’s held outdoors amidst trees dripping branches laced with white blossoms. Bella’s gown, designed by Carolina Herrera, is sure to launch a bevy of Bella-inspired bridal wear.

Wedding scene from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I

Bella’s honeymoon with Edward is more complicated than most, despite taking place in a setting so swanky that it makes your average day spa look lackluster. Their lavish honeymoon digs, full of lush plants and opulent décor, open up onto the beach. A silvery full moon shines down on deep blue waters as the couple laps up waves, and each other, unfettered by clothing.

There’s sex and blood and bruising that makes the film’s PG-13 rating feel a bit of a stretch. Vampires, it seems, have unusual strength – and so do their offspring. There’s nothing pretty about Bella’s pregnancy, labor or delivery – except for the finished product. And all the glorious scenes of mountains, forests and rivers that surround it.

I’m not particularly wedded to the “Twilight” story arc, but found myself mesmerized by the visual feast of this film — which was shot in Rio, Baton Rouge and British Columbia. The photography is clean and crisp. The editing feels precise. And the directing seems more focused than in previous “Twilight” films. Music and sound ebb and flow as romance and revenge do their delicate dance.

Previous films have seen Bella preoccupied with self. But there’s considerably less brooding in “Breaking Dawn” – on both Bella and Edward’s part. Less whining means more time for other things, which makes both characters more interesting this time around. But one thing still eats at me.

Why is Jacob still hanging around? For younger viewers, there’s a simple answer — because he’s good at stripping shirts off his bulging biceps as he mounts his motorcycle or morphs into wolf mode. But let’s face it, no newlywed husband wants a man who pines for his bride getting too cozy in her presence.

Unless, of course, it’s the lesser of two or more evils. I suppose the fifth and final film in “The Twilight Saga” series will settle the rest of my burning questions. I just hope that Bella, who’s been occupied too often by the wishes of others, goes into it with her eyes wide open.

– Lynn

Note: Click here for information on “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I” from Summit Entertainment, and here to visit the official movie website.

Coming up: Once upon a “War Horse”

“Glee” in 3-D: An affirmation tale

After several seasons of watching “Glee,” a Fox television series about life at a high school boasting both a giddy glee choir and a fierce football team, I was eager to see the “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie” when we got passes to a Tuesday night screening in Scottsdale.

After feeling disappointed many years ago by a live “American Idol” concert in downtown Phoenix (I was mother to a pre-tween at the time), I didn’t expect much going into “Glee 3D.” But the movie, being shown in theaters for just two weeks beginning Aug 12, was surprisingly fun.

I found myself wishing I had the movie’s soundtrack as Lizabeth and I drove a rental car from the airport in Las Vegas to our hotel in Cedar City, Utah where we’re staying during our annual pilgrimage to the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

I expected lively concert tunes, choreography with an aerobics class feel and lots of screaming concert fans. All there. But the  movie also features backstage conversations with cast members. Think Lea Michele sharing Barbra Streisand musings in “Rachel” mode.

The movie is rated PG, perhaps because of a few revealing costumes peppered with things like feathers and other furry stuff I can’t quite name. Prepare for a couple of crotch grabs too, as “Artie” (Kevin McHale) and the gang whip out the gold sequins for a cover of Michael Jackson’s “PYT.”

Still, the concert is good clean fun. Many of the costumes have a flirty 50s vibe, and the shoes—especially those sported by “Kurt” (Chris Colfer) – are a real kick. I was impressed that “Rachel” spent most of her time in silver flats instead of the stilettos sported by much of today’s sophomore class.

The best fashion piece, however, was a grey wool skirt with black piping worn by “Holly Holliday” (Gwyneth Paltrow) – who performs a single song. Still, it was a tiny wanna-be-Warbler, known to many for his You Tube performances, who stole the show. Think preppy blazer and tie falling to the knees.

The vocal talents of lead cast members are well-established, but I didn’t know others would perform sing so well in a concert setting. “Mercedes” (Amber Riley), and plenty of others, rocked the house. And Kleenex was in order when “Kurt” went solo.

A couple of cast members failed to truly shine in the singing department, but consider the source on this one. I can barely breathe and sing at the same time, let alone gyrate for a full 90 minutes.

The choreography builds as the concert goes along, so don’t fret if you find yourself a bit bored with early numbers. I remember being one of those lovely long-haired dancers once, and it’s clear lots of folks in the concert audience do too.

The camera often panned to middle-aged folks enjoying songs first released when they were youth. Sadly, it’s my generation that gave the world Rick Springfield and “Jessie’s Girl.”

There was plenty of swooning in the audience, and the movie theater, when particular cast members did their thing. Think “Brittany” (Heather Morris), who’s more dancer than singer. And “Blaine” (Darren Criss), one of several “Warblers” (a competing glee choir from an all boys prep school) on the television series.

There are plenty of concerts on film, but “Glee 3D” is more than that. It’s an anthem of acceptance. While performing a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” cast members wore white T-shirts with big black letters describing a trait they’ve come to accept. Nose. Four Eyes. Can’t Sing. Likes Boys. Bad Attitude.OCD.

Scenes of concert and crowd are interspersed with snippets of everyday youth discussing differences that present very real challenges. A teen girl with Aspergers syndrome talks of overcoming social anxieties. A gay teen tells the gripping story of his journey from shame to serenity. And a teen of short stature shares her dream of attending prom.

As we waited in line to board an airplane the day after seeing “Glee 3D,” Lizabeth shared that a friend posted something on Facebook about her plans to see a screening that evening. “Don’t judge,” the friend posted on her Facebook page.

Not to worry. Unless, of course, you show up at the theater with a giant red foam finger marked “Glee.”

– Lynn

Note: Don’t mistake the giant on-screen Slushie-fest and rolling credits for the film’s finale. There’s more, so stay seated (unless, of course, you want to get up and dance).

Coming up: “Glee” connections to Broadway, A playful production of “Romeo and Juliet”

Sarah’s Key

Sarah's Key follows the lives of two families connected by history

The movie “Sarah’s Key” opens in 2009 Paris as a couple and their teen daughter Zoe settle on an apartment they plan to live in once renovations are completed.

But it quickly flashes back to an earlier time when a Jewish family living in the apartment hears a loud series of knocks on the door. Soon a mother and her daughter, Sarah, are hauled away with others wearing yellow “Juden” patches.

A choice Sarah makes in 1942 stays with her for a lifetime

A neighbor looks on through an open window, screaming that “they had it coming to them.” Another screams a response across the courtyard — warning that they’ll be coming for her next. It’s 1942.

Before leaving the apartment, Sarah settles her younger brother into a hidden closet, telling him to wait there until she returns. As she’s herded away, Sarah clutches the closet’s key in her tightly clenched fist.

Many of the movie's messages come from characters Sarah encounters

Sarah’s parents scold her for leaving him behind, unaware that they’ll soon meet a dangerous fate. As families are loaded for transport, the streets are full of chaos. It’s filmed so viewers feel they’re in the middle of it all, and it’s terrifying.

As scenes move back and forth between past and present, we see journalists discussing story ideas during an editorial meeting. One, Zoe’s mother, wants to write about French authorities rounding up Jewish citizens — something the younger journalists know little about.

A journalist named Julia goes in search of Sarah

The journalist, Julia, learns that the apartment handed down from her husband’s parents was once home to Sarah and her family — leading her to question their morality and to search for Sarah’s fate.

Sarah and her parents were first taken to a giant arena with no access to bathrooms, food or water. There they meet a woman who gives Sarah some advice — Think of yourself, only yourself.

Eventually they’re loaded onto trains, where they meet an old man wearing a large ring. He tells them it contains poison. “Nobody,” he says, “can choose when I die.”

At a transit camp, men are separated from women. Girls over 12 stay with their mothers. Younger children are herded to a separate area. It’s the last time members of Sarah’s family see each other, and it’s gut-wrenching.

Julia plots her own future while contemplating lives of those who lived in the past

We eventually learn what happens to Sarah, her parents and her brother. And we watch Julia comes to terms with this, and many other discoveries — about herself, about those she loves, about her own dreams for the future.

“Sarah’s Key” is a beautiful, thoughtful and sensitive film that tackles the impact of the Holocaust on individuals and families without being heavy-handed. It’s as hopeful as it is bleak, and it’ll leave you wondering how you might have handled similar circumstances.

“We’re all a product of our history,” says one character to another near the end of the film. “Go on son, don’t be afraid.”

– Lynn

Note: The movie “Sarah’s Key” is based on a historical novel by the same name, authored by Tatiana de Rosnay. (Shakespeare fans can check Fathom events for Valley theaters showing “Henry IV-Part 1″ on Aug 1 as part of Shakespeare’s Globe London Cinema Series.)

Coming up: Review of “Baby!” at Arizona Broadway Theatre

“Winnie the Pooh” meets “Avenue Q”

A scene from Walt Disney Picture's Winnie the Pooh--which is full of playful letters and words

Lizabeth suggested at about 12:45pm Saturday afternoon that we hit a 1pm showing of Disney’s new “Winnie the Pooh” film, which gave us little time to transition from Eeyore to Tigger mode. But we made it, and enjoyed every second of nostalgia nirvana in the short 73 minute film.

“Winnie the Pooh” is a literature lover’s dream — filled with images of books, letters and punctuation marks that come alive (as muses, not monsters), and scenes of Pooh characters bouncing, stumbling and flying through the pages of a “Winnie the Pooh” storybook.

Tigger doesn’t text or tweet. Kanga and Roo get letters the old-fashioned way — in their mailbox. Friends work together to solve problems. They’re creative. They cheer each other on. And they accept one another, foibles and all. Pull out the Pooh books before heading to the theater — you’ll want to extend the movie magic with a few good reads when you get home.

Robert Lopez wrote music and lyrics for both Avenue Q and Winnie the Pooh

“Winnie the Pooh” is a lovely musical jaunt, full of classical music in various tempos and styles. The movie features an original score by Henry Jackman and original songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, a married couple with impressive joint and individual credits.

Lizabeth spotted Robert Lopez’s name in the credits — because she’s familiar with his work on “The Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q.” The couple share music and lyric credits for seven songs in the film. Anderson-Lopez voices Kanga and Playbill.com reports that Lopez makes the rumbling sound for Pooh’s tummy. It’s a gift, I suppose.

A careful review of the movie’s credits – which roll as some of the movie’s funniest antics unfold — reveals plenty of familiar names. There’s Zooey Deschanel, who contributes an original song and vocal performance for the film. And Craig Ferguson (the voice of Owl) of late-night fame.

Also actors who’ve voiced characters for Toy Story 3, Phineas & Ferb and SpongeBob SquarePants. Most endearing is the voice of Christopher Robin. It’s that of Jack Boulter, and it’s his first-ever voiceover role. I may have to enjoy the movie a second time just to relish all the voiceover talent — including narration by John Cleese, co-founder of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

A single line in the credits reads “Dan Read-In Memorium” — in honor of a longtime background and visual development artist for Disney Animation films who died in May of 2010 after battling melanoma. I read that donations to local SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) chapters were requested in lieu of flowers.

Film credits mention “caffeination by Carlos Benavides” and thank three museums, including Britain’s Victoria and Albert Museum, where film directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall studied original “Winnie the Pooh” illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard. The original stuffed animals that inspired Milne’s stories for his son Christopher Robin Milne are housed at the New York Public Library.

Disney's Winnie the Pooh opens with pages from this 1961 book by A.A. Milne

Children and their grown-ups giggled throughout the film as Tigger pounced atop a downtrodden Eeyore, Owl recited his lengthy memoir, Roo braved the forrest in his tea cup helmet, Rabbit found comfort in a checklist and Pooh raced to escape angry bees. There were no angry birds back in author A.A. Milne’s day (1882-1956).

When characters ponder knotting a rope to rescue friends who’ve fallen into a pit, Eeyore suggest that “it’s all for naught.” Later he’s convinced that “we’re all gonna die.” Roo offers a deadpan “Send the pig” (Lizabeth’s favorite line) when scary noises loom, and Tigger spends a lot of time saying “it’s gonna be great.” Pooh dreams of honey, meeting frustrations with a simple “Oh, bother!”

Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh” website offers a “100 Acre Wood Personality quiz” for those of you who’ve yet to identify with a particular character, and there are plenty of games, activities and facts for younger “Pooh” fans. As other folks flock to Harry Potter’s Forbidden Forrest, I’m perfectly content to linger in the 100 Acre Wood.

– Lynn

Note: Lizabeth found a cool “10 Questions” interview of Robert Lopez by Belinda Luscombe of TIME Magazine in which he talks about his “personal connection with Pooh.” Click here to watch the video from TIME.com.

Coming up: Pardon my Pygmalion

A final wave of the wand

Budding movie reviewer Lizabeth Trimble (right) with friends at an advanced screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at a Harkins Theatre in Scottsdale this week

My youngest daughter, who’ll enter college this fall, still remembers the day she picked up that very first “Harry Potter” book. Her older brother left his copy on a table two houses ago, and once Lizabeth picked it up and started reading, she read until she finished it — never wanting to put the book down.

I wish this time turner could send us back to the day Lizabeth first discovered Harry Potter

“I was eight years old when the first movie came out,” she recalled after seeing the final film in the “Harry Potter” series with friends. She wore a “time turner” necklace to the show after deciding it would be too sad to take her Hedwig stuffed animal along. One of her friends sported a “Muggle” T-shirt and wand.

Lizabeth shared with her dad that she’d cried through most of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.” But that’s not necessarily a bad thing in her book. Seems she was especially impressed that a friend prone to giggling controlled the urge to laugh at Lizabeth’s sentimentality. The characters in “Harry Potter” aren’t real people, of course, but they feel real to the generation who grew up with them.

Like Hedwig, the ones we love and lose live on in our hearts forever

One of three friends who saw the film with Lizabeth has never read the books. She mentioned to Lizabeth that she prefers “Deathly Hallows” part two over part one — saying this film has more action and “is more fast paced.” Lizabeth added that the first part of “Deathly Hallows, Part 2″ flies by with remarkable speed, a bit like the fictional golden snitch used during Quidditch games at Hogwarts.

Lizabeth mentioned that there were five and six year olds in the theater for “Deathly Hallows, Part 2″ but said they had a hard time sitting still. She feels the film is “too scary” for young children given all the blood, dead bodies and such. Death scenes in this film are “gross,” she tells me. Think cracking bodies, shriveling bodies. Plus lots of fire and the image of a dead child. Best to save this movie for those who grew up with the “Harry Potter” series. They’re just the right age for it.

Once she’d seen “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2″ I had to ask Lizabeth the one burning question that has plagued me throughout the series — “Is Snape good or bad?” I get the same answer every time. “I’m not going to tell you!” He’s the one character whose motives I can’t quite get ahold of.

Memories of Harry Potter moments will be with this generation for a lifetime

But she did share that “there are lots of messages in this movie.” Loyalty. Stepping up to the challenges. People are always there with you, even when they are gone. Bravery. Do what’s right even when you’re scared to do it. Friendship. When I asked Lizabeth how the film made her feel, she offered a single word: “Nostalgic.”

Lizabeth says that seeing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2″ gave her a sense of “closure.” Still, she describes feeling “torn” about the “Harry Potter” series ending. “I want it to continue,” reflects Lizabeth, “but it was time for it to end.”

“It ended in a good spot,” she says — crediting “Harry Potter” creator and author J.K. Rowling with “giving fans everything they needed.” I only hope she’ll feel the same way about us as she heads to NYC in September. Before too long, her father and I will give a final wave of our own. And then, she’ll be off to make her own magic.

– Lynn

Coming up: Outdoor concert fare, Road trip: Utah Shakespeare Festival, Kids who “Glee,” Teachers who “MIM”

Happy birthday Paris!

An engaged but mismatched couple (played by Rachel McAdams and Owen Wilson) stroll a street in Paris soon after arriving there with her parents

Paris celebrated its 2,000th birthday on July 8, 1951 — making Friday birthday number 2,060 for the city Woody Allen first fell in love with during filming of “What’s New Pusssycat?” Allen was screenwriter and actor for the 1965 film.

He’s written and directed a new film titled “Midnight in Paris,” an opening night selection for this year’s Cannes Film Festival that was released May 20 in L.A. and New York. It’s playing now in movie theaters throughout the Valley.

Owen Wilson is one of many stellar actors in the latest film written and directed by Woody Allen

I saw the film this week at Harkins Camelview 5 Theatre in Scottsdale. I’ve never been a Woody Allen fan, but wanted to see the film described as his “valentine to the City of Light.” Seems Allen considers Paris “equal to New York as the great city of the world.”

On that we agree. I traveled many times to Paris as a college senior studying in Germany, and loved every minute spent at eclectic sidewalk cafes and majestic art museums.

I’m eager to read David McCullough’s latest work, “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.” Author Stacy Schiff, who reviewed the work for The New York Times, says it “explores the intellectual legacy that France settled on its 19th-century visitors” — long before the era when “freedom fries” replaced French fries on some American menus.

Reading Madeline books in a fun way to enjoy imaginary trips to Paris with your children

My children were first introduced to Paris via the books of Ludwig Bemelmans, author and illustrator of several “Madeline” titles, which follow the adventures of 12 French school girls. Bemelmans was born in 1898 in the Austrian Triol, but came to America in 1914. He lived in New York until his death in 1963. The “Madeline” movie released in 1998 could have been titled “Mischief in Paris.”

“Midnight in Paris” stars Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni (first lady of France), Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen  and Owen Wilson.

It’s a romantic comedy tackling “the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better.”

As a Denver native and Arizona transplant who sometimes longs to live in New York or San Francisco, I need reminding more than most that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. There’s just more of it.

The film opens as a young couple arrives in Paris. The woman has marriage and moving to Malibu on her mind. The man, a successful Hollywood screenwriter, is working on a novel and dreams of living in Paris — where he loves to walk in the rain.

Midnight in Paris considers whether the grass really is greener on the other side

For several nights, the writer strolls alone to a special spot where he’s transported at the stroke of midnight to 1920s Paris, encountering all sorts of writers and artists, including Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Period music, much of it by Cole Porter, plays throughout most of the film — which also features plenty of famous sites, from the Eiffel Tower to Moulin Rouge. It’s a movie best appreciated by those who love the literary — though artists, history buffs and philosophical souls will also “get it” more than most.

Now I have a real dilemma on my hands. New York or Paris?

– Lynn

Coming up: Tips for introducing children to opera, Valley arts organizations find new homes, Musings on “The Tree of Life,” Ode to hairspray

Update: Click here to learn about the PBS American Masters presentation of “Woody Allen: A Documentary” written and directed by Robert Weide. 11/21/11

Cars 2: Conspiracy theory?

I hadn’t even realized a “Cars 2” was in the the making until political pundits got hot under the collar this week alleging some sort of conspiracy by the movie’s makers to push alternative energy sources.

The last time cars were of any great concern at our house, my son (now in college) was a toddler taken with Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go” book — plus all manner of construction trucks, real or playground version.

So naturally I had to see what all the fuss was about. I saw “Cars 2″ with Christopher — and a theater packed with kids from toddler to tween age — at Harkins Shea 14 Friday morning.

A little boy named Alex, there with his father (or very young grandfather), sat nearby — naming each “Cars 2″ character as it appeared, often adding an adorable “zoom” sound like a real car engine.

It was his first movie experience, and he came dressed for success. Think khaki pants, crisp white T-shirt and plaid hat with a brim all the way around. He looked to be about preschool age, and had trouble negotiating the theater seat until he got his hands on a booster seat.

Both Alex and his grown-up laughed heartily throughout, and it was great fun to hear their reactions to the movie’s many plot turns and action-adventure sequences. Reviewers have claimed the film is plodding and predictable, but I really enjoyed it.

Christopher offered two observations as we walked out of the theater after the credits rolled. First, that it seemed much more violent than the first “Cars” movie — with more guns, bombs, fires, explosions and such (though no one really gets hurt). And second, that the storyline about oil versus alternative fuels felt unnecessary.

We didn’t feel like we were watching a message movie. “Cars 2″ is a great visual romp. No more, no less. I’m not the least bit interested in cars or racing, but I loved seeing all the different makes, models and colors of cars. I’ve owned more than a few of the cars deemed “lemons” in the film.

The beauty of “Cars 2″ is its settings — a small American town, a large metropolis in Japan and three European cities. Plus all the landmarks you’d expect to see, but with an automotive twist. “Big Ben” in London, for example, becomes “Big Bentley.”

I loved the attention to detail. The pope (a car) inside his pope-mobile. The truck raking sand in a Japanese rock garden. The tiara on the British monarch car. Also the many depictions of arts and culture — live theater, musicians, museums and more. The credits even thank the orchestra for making the music sound so good.

Your kids might enjoy learning some of the easy foreign language vocabulary used in the film. It never hurts to know how to say “thank you” or “excuse me” when traveling, and the movie’s world travels vibe might motivate young kids to try their hand at some new words from other countries. (This assumes, of course, that they know the importance of good manners in English too.)

If there’s a message in this movie, it’s not that oil is evil. It’s that friendship is good, and that friends accept one another “dents” and all. I suppose it might be offensive to those who insist a rigorous “rugged individualist” approach should prevail. But I’m guessing most parents who see the film with their kids will welcome the themes of loyalty, acceptance and forgiveness.

– Lynn

Coming up: Family fun with Changing Hands, What a difference a summer makes