JANE (2017)

November 16th, 2017 · Movies

Review By KRISTIN WALD

Jane Goodall made her name 50 years ago through painstakingly observing chimpanzees in Gombe, and has recently been traveling all over the world promoting responsible stewardship of the earth and all of its inhabitants. “JANE,” from director Brett Morgen, is a wonderful new documentary that tells the story of how a young, untrained animal lover became one of the world’s most powerful advocates for chimpanzees and baboons, and conservation. (The trailer is online here.) It is a documentary well worth seeing for its story as well as its stunning imagery. Children sensitive to the range of nature’s realities and those under the age of eight may be upset by some scenes.

The footage used includes scenes from over 100 hours of newly rediscovered film from National Geographic photographer and filmmaker Hugo van Lawick, who became Jane Goodall’s husband after spending time in Gombe documenting her early work. It is intimate and beautiful, and it shows a casual, human, and even silly side to the work Jane Goodall did with chimpanzees. Her patience and love for the chimpanzees she followed, her disillusionment and horror at discovering the warlike aspects of chimp culture, and her sorrow at losses in the chimpanzee community she loves mirror the personal joys, separations, and frustrations involving her family and life choices.

The voiceovers in the film are a combination of new interviews with the filmmaker and audio from Jane Goodall’s audiobooks. Edited together with the original footage, the film becomes a smooth story arc that lets viewers feel they’ve really gotten to know this iconic figure, even as they feel inspired by Goodall’s minor and monumental achievements. It is the new interview material, however, that brings us some particular humor and touching moments as Jane Goodall tweaks past researchers’ techniques and admits to emotional pain regarding her son and first marriage. It is also when we hear her turmoil and sorrow regarding a polio outbreak in the chimpanzee community and the deaths of two of her most closely followed chimps.

All in all, “JANE” is a joy to watch for those who know her work, and it will also serve as a comprehensive introduction to her work for those who don’t yet know it well. The end of the film promotes Jane Goodall’s goal of encouraging and fostering the next generation in showing compassion for all living things, cultures, and the environment. In a few scenes, sensitive children will be disturbed by animals attacking each other and in one particularly gory scene, eating each other. There is also a brief scene of chimpanzees mating. The language is gentle, save for one instance at the beginning where a colloquial term for excrement is used. Highly recommended for children ages 8 and up.

Rated PG.

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Bee Movie (2007)

September 6th, 2017 · Movies

Girl holding a movie camera - stock image to accompany movie reviewReview By JENNIFER KALI

“Bee Movie” was a big hit for family movie night. Written by Jerry Seinfeld, who also voices the lead bee, this movie is funny and entertaining for the entire family. It was enjoyed by the kids (ages 3 and 8) and the adults in our family.

Barry the Bee (Seinfeld) finds out that humans are stealing honey from hard working bees and sues the government. There is a settlement that results in only the sale of “bee-approved” honey being allowed. My 8-year-old said, “Aw, bee-approved. I like that.” There is even a scene at the end in which a cow is asking Barry the Bee for advice on how to keep humans from stealing her milk.

Common Sense Media recommends this movie for ages 5+. I agree that older kids will understand the plot better, and also understand more of the jokes, but the movie is cute enough for younger kids as well. My three-year-old now says this is his favorite movie. Highly recommended for your next movie night. We were able to watch it on Netflix.

Rated PG.

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Dolphin Tale (2011)

September 4th, 2017 · Movies

Girl holding a movie camera - stock image to accompany movie reviewReview By JENNIFER KALI

My kids, ages 3 and 8, are obsessed with “Dolphin Tale.” I reviewed the junior novel based on the screenplay recently, and the plot is exactly the same. But the movie, with real people (Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., and Morgan Freeman) and actually featuring Winter the dolphin, has won the hearts of both of my kids who watch it once a week on Nerflix.

I highly recommend this movie. Common Sense Media recommends it for age 7+ but I think it’s fun for all ages, adults included.

Rated PG.

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Mighty Jack and the Goblin King

July 21st, 2017 · Books

Review By KRISTIN WALD

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King from Ben Hatke is a testament to adventurous storytelling and rich imagery. Opening with the same rush of action as the first book in the series, this second part of the adventure separates the friends and allows each character to find strength and courage on their own. The story picks up immediately after Maddie, Jack’s younger sister, disappears into a portal, and the pace never lets up. The dangers are more developed, the injuries more severe, and there is one mention of “The A Word” (Ass) in the text, but Mighty Jack and the Goblin King will thrill children ages 7-14 through multiple readings.

9781626722668

This second installment of the Mighty Jack series has focused the action to highlight Lilly even more. Her character expands and evolves dramatically during the story. When her ability to assist in Maddie’s rescue is diminished due to injuries, Lilly insists that Jack leave her behind. Soon after, she refuses to tuck herself into the fairy tale role of the maiden, and later she rejects Jack’s attempts to save her out of loyalty to new friends. Basically, Lilly experiences the search for identity and values that usually takes an entire journey through adolescence and beyond. Astute fans will go back to examine the title after reading.

The graphic novel makes references to classics of all kinds. Some readers will notice that the damsel in distress trope is turned on its head, others will be reminded of bogey men who unravel into creepy pests, and just about everyone will enjoy the appearance of a Magic 8 Ball. Bonus: Fans of Hatke’s other works will be particularly ecstatic to reach the end of the story.

As in the first Mighty Jack installment, each character gets hero moments. The continued growth of each character is highlighted by these heroic moments. Jack, who has always been a wonderful big brother, further develops his protective selflessness with strength and a touch of headstrong arrogance, which he works to overcome throughout. Maddie, who is helplessly carried away and caged throughout much of the story, gets her heroic moments as well.

The evocative and occasionally eerie illustrations convey movement and emotion beautifully. Lilly’s determination comes through in her stance and face, and Jack’s concern and stubborn courage are clear. The world Hatke creates is filled with otherworldly and familiar imagery that is at once gorgeous and overwhelming. Jack and Lilly meet various inhabitants in their adventures, and the consistent thread is that kindnesses are returned; it’s a true Pay it Forward parable.

Human children are fodder in this story, hearkening back to the basic fears of fairy tales. Maddie was kidnapped in order to feed a machine that powers the Giants’ world. The Goblin King wonders if he should eat or marry Lilly (she decides on a third choice). And all the children get bounced around, cracked against rocks, and battered in fights throughout the story. Even so, the gore is at a minimum; bloody scenes and displayed bruises are the worst of it.

While the character of the Goblin King is at once comical and frightening, the Giants come off as brutal and the rats are plentiful and menacing. However, the variety of creative characters in the Mighty Jack world balance the horror with loyalty, kindness, and humor. Mighty Jack and the Goblin King will make a fantastic addition to your graphic novel collection.

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