How the Movie ‘Hidden Figures’ Sheds Light on Women in STEM to Give Young Girls More Role Models

Hidden Figures One Sheet

Based on the book of the same name, the movie Hidden Figures has grown from a small-budget, limited-release film to one that has expanded release and is receiving critical acclaim. The book, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, written by Margot Lee Shetterly, brings to light several of the key African-American women who worked as ‘calculators’, and then mathematicians, at what is now NASA. Long before computers, people did the work of calculators. During their time, beginning in the 1940s, these young African-American women not only dealt with the sexism of the day but also were constantly reminded that ‘they’ were different. Regardless of the caliber of their work, it was several decades of being ‘colored’ and treated as third-class citizens that each of them had to contend with to do jobs where they could use their talents and pursue work that allowed them not only to contribute the space-race but also contribute to their self-satisfaction.

Although it was first released in select cities, I knew I wanted to see the movie and take BabyGirl to see it too. For decades young black girls never knew that there was a foundation in math and science careers set for them by the women portrayed in the movie and many others like them. As a bi-racial child, it is important to me that BabyGirl learn about her African-American history. Equally important is to teach her that while she’s grown up being told girls can do anything they set their mind to, sexism still may play a role. It’s easier to find stories of women who’ve overcome sexism in the workplace to become successful. But to have a story where even if they could overcome the sexism, the color of their skin was a constant reminder that they were ‘less than’ when it came to the type of work being done for the space program.

The theater was mostly empty, with BabyGirl significantly bringing down the average age. The movie moves along quickly and keeps you engaged. If you’ve never experienced racism first hand, there are a few uncomfortable situations that are even still pertinent today. The sexism can be brushed aside as something ‘of the time’. I think most of us are accustomed to women’s roles in the 50s and 60s. The music, the costumes, and the historical accuracy are so well done that you’re not distracted by something that doesn’t fit. The writers deserve a lot of credit for these because they could have easily left us trying to reconcile things on our own. Instead, they give us a truth that is closer to their reality and not one that we need to construct.

Now open nationwide, it’s very easy to encourage everyone to go see Hidden Figures. The reasons, though, are multi-faceted. It’s a story to encourage girls in STEM education. It’s a story that shows young black girls that despite thinking the path was only recently created this is a trail that was blazed a generation ago and has much deeper roots. It’s a story to remind us that thinking big and doing what seems impossible is a foundation of this country – for all people.

I think everyone who sees it can find their connection. As a parent, I feel connected to Katherine Johnson’s parents who were strong advocates for their gifted daughter. As a girl who loved math but felt pushed out by ‘the boys’, I know how difficult it must have been for these women to do this back in their time. As an American I see that we have come a long way, but still have room to improve.

Any time we have the opportunity to tell the stories of people whose stories were ignored, we need to do it. To think that major advances or events happened with only certain people perpetuates the misinformation that we’ve become conditioned to accept as fact. Today we have a platform to tell these stories. But we also have the responsibility to ensure that similar stories of today are told in real-time.

We can’t continue to tell stories like this as history. Girls of all color deserve to see themselves in women who are, every day, ensuring that this trail not only becomes smoother but also goes farther. In 2018, we will have the first African-American crew member on the International Space Station. Jeanette Epps, Ph.D., may not have set out to be the first but by telling her story in real-time we’re not left wondering if there is a place for girls in math and science.

History helps shape the future. Without stories like these kids, girls especially, grow up thinking they don’t belong. However, we can’t rely on history. Especially not when today we have amazing women of all color doing exceptional work in math and science, breaking down barriers that are remnants of an era we need to put behind us.

This isn’t just a story about black women who pushed “the system”. It’s a story about Jim Crow laws, feminism, self-respect, perseverance, love, and history. It’s all of these that are woven together to create a screenplay and bring to life the story of just three of the women who did the impossible. And helped their country do the impossible at the same time.

We need these movies. They give us hope and perspective, two things we need our children to have so they can go out on their journeys to do great things. And at the same time they show us that sometimes by just doing your job the way you think it should be done, you can make history.


Alice Through the Looking Glass is Over the Top but Still Entertaining

Alice Through The Looking Glass PosterPhoto Credit: Disney

You cannot change the past. It always was. It always will be.
Although I dare say, you might learn something from it. ~ Time

Alice Through the Looking Glass (PG) is this summer’s sequel to Tim Burton’s 2010 colorful and spectacular remake of Louis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”. With all the familiar inhabitants of Wonderland (or Underland if you’re a local), we see the calm and thoughtful White Queen, Mirana, (Anne Hathaway), the perpetually infuriated Red Queen, Iracebeth, (Helena Bonham Carter), the childlike Hatter (Johnny Depp), the morphing Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry), and the caterpillar which became a butterfly in the 2010 movie (voiced by the late Alan Rickman), Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to help her friend Hatter find his family, who he thinks may still be alive.

During Alice’s adventure, we’re introduced to Time (played by Sacha Baron Cohen). A steampunk character who controls time, he brings a great deal of humor to a movie that could have been too uptight. Since Hatter does not have as big a role, it was nice to have another character bring a few laughs even if they were puns that seemed to try too hard. In her reprised role as the Red Queen, Carter gives the villainess a humanity and history that seems to soften her. As the quasi-girlfriend of Time, Red Queen allows us to see her history and understand why she also wants to go back in time.

Alice plays two storylines, with her life in London not really getting enough treatment to make us care. And while I have never seen Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, I’m not sure there really is a need to understand that story to appreciate this new adventure. We know Alice is now a sea captain and while she was gone her mother made poor financial decisions. While this story gives us something to start with since Alice lives in our world, I think it’s there solely to connect to the end since Alice can’t stay in Wonderland forever so we need to know what she’s going to do.

Nonetheless, even with the bumpy plot, the visuals and pace keep you engaged. Part live action and part computer animation, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a feast for the eyes. Whether it’s the adorable robot-like helpers in the lair of Time, the heart-shaped world of the Red Queen, or the colorful Wonderland there’s always something to catch your attention. You can’t help but love the little soldiers working for Time. And, Time, himself, while dressed in black, has a colorful personality that keeps you hoping for the best.

I can see the movie getting mixed reviews. If you’re a Tim Burton fan you’ll love the movie. If you’re a purist when it comes to the retelling of classics, you’ll likely hate it. The movie bears little resemblance to Carroll’s novel, other than the characters. I think teens will enjoy the movie because it incorporates familiar characters and is entertaining. From a music perspective, there’s Pink with ‘Just Like Fire’, which just about everyone will love. And, of course, the fantastic Danny Elfman, adds the additional musical dimension to the show to keep you connected.

Overall, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a good movie. Not a great movie and not better than Burton’s Alice. It’s entertaining, visually appealing, funny, and, overall, a lovely story. It’s a nice way to step away from reality for a moment, enjoy a colorful film, and be entertained for about two hours. Oscar worthy, I doubt. Unless you’re talking about the makeup and costumes, those are pretty spectacular.


Could Big Hero 6 Create A STEMGirl Revolution?

Big Hero 6 Girls

Admittedly, I’m not up on all things Marvel Comics. Other than watching a few of the cartoons growing up, Guardians of the Galaxy was the first mainstream Marvel movie I went to see. Even the, when I went to the Guardians of the Galaxy screening I took my friend with me because she was more familiar with the franchise and would be able to explain things I didn’t get.

When the Big Hero 6 movie marketing started it was all focused on the lead character, Hiro, and the robot Baymax. And while it’s great to finally see a positive male Asian lead character, that was pretty much a given with the Big Hero 6 story. The same with Baymax. Afterall, this is a Disney movie. Which is why I didn’t go to the screening. I really wasn’t in the mood to see a superhero movie about men (even if they are really boys) saving the world from imminent destruction. Even if it had a soft, lovable, squishy robot turned killing machine, turned lovable robot.

Then the movie came out and I read a great article by Bob Yamtich about Big Hero 6 and giftedness. And I figured it was worth researching more. Everything focused on Hiro and his band of superheroes. But there are girls in the movie. Girl superheroes. Smart girl superheroes. Science-minded, brilliant girls! Characters that really can be role models for young STEMGirls like BabyGirl.

From my research, both Honey Lemon and GoGo Tomago are very different in the comic version. The writers didn’t have to make them equal in the movie. But they did. I’d like to believe it was a conscious effort to create both women as equals with respect to their male counterparts.

This might be the first kid-focused movie to have strong women scientist characters BabyGirl can relate to. Girls across the country have few, if any, STEM role models in movies. But Big Hero 6 changed that. Honey Lemon was a very talkative college co-ed with a love for chemistry. But she is also feminine and smart, described in the press materials as an “effusive brainiac”. GoGo Tomago is described as “tough, athletic and loyal to the bone, but not much of a conversationalist.

So what was it that brought these two characters to the big screen? I’ve not read anything about their character development or why the writers and developers chose to change-up these characters from their original. I realize much of their original back story wouldn’t work given that the Big Hero 6 movie is set in the fictional town of San Fransokyo at the local University. Since the characters themselves are kids, much of the original story had to be re-written.

Long before Frozen hit the big screen, this movie was moving forward in development so we can’t even say that Big Hero 6 needed something for girls to like coming off the blockbuster hit. Somewhere, someone realized that maybe the girls in the movie could be equally as capable, smart, and awesome as their male counterparts. And for that I’m thankful.

Whether there was anything consciously done to create these STEMGirls I really don’t know. What I do know is that if they keep this up more young girls will see that staying with science, technology, engineering, and math are cool. That they, too, can create things and be superheroes.

For now, though, I’ll let everyone else focus on Hiro and Baymax while I talk about Honey and GoGo. Because, just as people talk about how Hiro and Baymax really come to life in this movie, I’ll be talking about how these two female scientists not only came to life but also helped stoke the flame that burns inside a new generation of girls who believe being smart is cool and amazing.

Have you seen Big Hero 6? If not, do you think you’re going to see it now?


Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Review – Two Perspectives

Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Poster

Disclosure: I was invited to a press screening of Guardians of the Galaxy and agreed to write a review. Given that I have never seen a Marvel movie as an adult, I brought along my best friend since she’d have some clue what was going on. This review is from two perspectives – someone who knows the franchise and someone who does not.

The following review is from my friend who goes by Aunt Zoni on this blog.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie about a ragtag group of unlikely superheroes who save the galaxy from an evil bad guy. It’s also a movie about a group of reluctant friends who find common ground in their pain and loss, and save each other. The fact that both of these stories are woven together in a skillful blend of thrilling action, sly humor, amazing special effects, and a fantastic soundtrack, is likely to make this movie a huge summer hit.

The movie opens in 1988, where we find our hero, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), as a young boy whose mother is dying. As he runs away from the hospital in his grief, he’s whisked away by a spaceship, and we are off and running, with a jump to 26 years in the future. Peter has adopted the name Star-Lord, and has become a “Ravager”, making his way around the galaxy collecting artifacts, and selling them to interested buyers. He retrieves an item known as “The Orb”, which puts him in the crosshairs of the bad guy, Ronan, and his henchmen.

Star-Lord’s misadventures find him imprisoned with Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a genetically modified, walking raccoon; Rocket’s sidekick/bodyguard Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a giant tree being of limited vocabulary; Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the unwillingly adopted daughter of the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin); and Drax the Destroyer (David Bautista), a man whose only goal in life is avenging the deaths of his family against Ronan. These unlikely allies band together to escape their prison, and eventually, to become heroes and save the day.

All of our heroes are dealing with loss, abandonment, emotional pain, alienation, and loneliness. As they work together to stop Ronan’s evil plans, they find companionship and support, and form a family. It’s unusual to find these themes in your typical sci-fi shoot ‘em up, but this movie is anything but typical, and the emotional aspects of the film are handled well by the cast and writer/director James Gunn.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film are the 1970s and 1980s music and pop culture references found throughout. Peter’s ties to Earth, his mother, and childhood, are maintained via a cassette mix tape, which he plays on his Walkman and the rockin’ stereo system in his spaceship, and which provides the unusual and amusing soundtrack for the film. You’ll definitely want to buy the soundtrack album by the end of the movie.

Guardians of the Galaxy is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and fans of the Marvel films will find several references to tie the movie into the larger universe of the Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Avengers movies. Whether Star-Lord and his merry band will show up in a crossover with any of the other Marvel films remains to be seen, but it seems likely, given the clues we see.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun, humorous, and surprisingly emotional film, that kids will probably enjoy for its irreverent humor and complex characters. It’s probably best for older kids who can handle the intense, sometimes violent action, and mild amount of profanity. There isn’t much gore to speak of, but there is a lot of gunfire, and many characters in peril. It’s definitely a film that will have you talking about the characters and their journey after leaving the theater, and probably wishing to see it again.

That’s a pretty impressive reviews from Aunt Zoni, yes? So, are you going to go see Guardians of the Galaxy?

As a newbie to this movie franchise, I was very impressed with the movie. I had no clue going in what the movie was about. All I knew is that it took place in an alternate universe, which, honestly, means nothing to me other than maybe I shouldn’t go to this movie. While I had no prior knowledge of the characters or the story, I followed along easily, laughed at the appropriate parts, and walked away connected to the characters. For parents who need to go with their kids, you’ll likely enjoy it quite well. If you’re tagging along just to hang out with your friends or partner, keep an open mind and just go with it.

The screening was in 3D, but the movie will also be available in 2D. Action movie, alternative universe, and 3D would have made me skip this movie. But that wasn’t an option. I think the 3D effects were well-done and appropriately incorporated into the movie. There were very few random things just flying at you for the sake of 3D.

And I can’t do a review without mentioning the music. I’m connected to the 70s and 80s through music. It’s what I grew up with and, ultimately, what connected me to this movie. Without any real understanding or interest in the movie going it, hearing familiar music from the first moments was something that drew me in. I figured it couldn’t be all that bad with cool music from my childhood. And I was right! Music is such a universal language and it’s what drew me in to their alternative universe and kept me interested.

Sure, there’s the adorable Groot and the spicy-tongued, sarcastic Rocket. And those two really do a lot to steal the show. But it was the music that left me feeling connected to Star-Lord and his mixed-tape band of friends. If you’re into the movie franchise, you’ll be very pleased with how the story and characters are treated. If you’re like me and have no real connection to the movie and are thinking of ways to feign illness so you don’t have to go I suggest you go along. I’m confident you’ll enjoy it. I think I surprised Aunt Zoni by how much I really did like the movie. So, go! See Guardians of the Galaxy. If nothing else, you’ll love Groot!


Guardians of the Galaxy website and mobile site

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Running Time: 121 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Release Date: August 1, 2014
Written by: Nicole Perlman and James Gunn
Directed by: James Gunn
Themes: loss, family, friendship, sacrifice for the greater good, found families, good vs evil


Disney’s Frozen Movie Review

 Disney Frozen Poster

Disney’s Frozen movie

As we left the screening of Disney’s Frozen, BabyGirl was telling me what she liked most about the movie. And then she said “It was a very formula Disney movie”. Can’t argue with her, as Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen is a very formula movie. Done in typical Disney style, it’s a storyline we’re familiar with and visuals we’ve come to expect. But it’s so beautifully done! And the introductory short, Disney’s Get A Horse, harkens back to Steamboat Willy and pairs it with modern animation to make it both current and nostalgic that even young kids who have no idea how Mickey Mouse first became real will love it.

In the fictional town of Arendelle, a young princess named Elsa is found to have special powers. In one moment her life is changed when those powers injure her sister Anna. Being a Disney film, her parents, the king and queen, don’t feature heavily in the movie (sorry, won’t spoil this part for you). The story focuses on the relationship between the sisters.

While we’re often given stories of true love, this one presents itself with a slight twist (again, won’t spoil it for you). This movie has wonderful music, as both Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel voice the sisters Anna and Elsa, respectively. The animators created both princesses to be flawless in looks and movement, but didn’t forget that this is supposed to be a comedy.

Yes, this is a comedy. So while there are a few dramatic moments in the movie, we’re treated to a story where the two main characters, Anna and her new friend Kristoff (played by Jonathan Groff) are given dialogue that keeps you entertained. Kristoff’s best friend, his reindeer Sven, is given a wonderful personality that is keeps the story moving.

Stealing the show, though, is Olaf, a snowman created by Elsa early in the movie and voiced by Josh Gad. If you’re familiar with Disney movies, let’s just say Olaf and Donkey from Shrek would battle it out for the best lines. Olaf will likely emerge as the favorite character from the movie. To create Olaf, Disney had to first create new software so it can create an animated character that could do what the character was imagined to do.

The new software created wasn’t limited to Olaf. Animators wanted to improve on the braids they’d created in Tangled and Rapunzel so Frozen’s creative team set to work developing a computer program that would allow them to create realistic hair for Elsa. It paid off, because the realism greatly adds to the movie’s flow and helps to make you feel more connected to her as a person and not just a caricature.

Overall, Frozen is likely to be one of Disney’s biggest hits. The story, the characters, the imagery they all flow so well and draw you in. You have so much empathy for Elsa you can’t help but love her. Anna’s love for her sister, and everyone she come in contact with, is beautiful and we’re drawn in to her genuine goodness. And it’s a story that doesn’t apologize but instead helps a strong female character come to love her unique powers and in that love realizes that true love is found in your own heart first and isn’t limited to a romantic love.

This isn’t just a movie we’ll see go to DVD or BluRay. I imagine we’ll soon see Disney’s Frozen on Broadway, a la The Lion King, because the music ranks right up there. I’m sure some will disagree with me on this because the music does have a bit of a “high school glee club” feel. But when you have Idina Menzel hitting an out of the park homerun on “Let It Go”, well, really, on every song, and Kristen Bell pulling you in with “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing songs from Frozen.

Is it a must-see? Definitely! Are there some scary parts? Yes, the snow monster is dreadful and a bit too much but it’s short-lived. Will it make you cry? Absolutely, it’s Disney!


If you’ve seen the movie but want more, or if you haven’t seen the movie and would like to have some fun before download these free coloring pages from Disney’s Frozen.

You can also play games, download posters and wallpaper directly from the Disney’s Frozen website. And don’t forget to enter the Disney’s Frozen sweepstakes for a chance to win and Adventure’s By Disney trip.

MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 102 minutes
Images from Walt Disney Pictures used with permission.


Review: Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me 2

Disclosure: I was provided two tickets to an advance screening of this movie. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Why write a review of Despicable Me 2 when (1) people will see it regardless of this review and (2) there are professional reviews that range from a “despicable” 1-star to a gushing 5. So what is it? An absolute “must see” because it’s a great story and so well done or a “don’t waste your money” because it completely misses the mark? For me it was neither. For my daughter, probably a 4.

I didn’t see Despicable Me when it first hit the big screen. And, lucky for me, it didn’t matter because that story line (which I have now seen) isn’t all that important. That’ll bode well for the adults who didn’t see the prior movie but who takes the kids. If you didn’t see the first movie, it won’t matter. All you have to know is that Gru is a villain-turned-good-guy and those adorable yellow things are called Minion. Yes, minion. As in, “I don’t need to do it, I’ll have my minion do it for me.”.

Kids will love the movie. Shown in 3D, the animation is top-notch and the story is easy to follow. For most kids who go to see it, they’ll be familiar with the story but it won’t matter that this one doesn’t flow from it related back to it very much. Adults will appreciate the animation and the sweet, but very predictable, storyline.


5 Reasons Adults Will Like Despicable Me 2

1. The story is predictable, but still engaging. Some kid-focused movies tend to dumb down their plots or focus on trite and over-written stories. While the plot is one we’ve seen before, that’s what makes it good. The writers have taken a plot suitable for an adult good guy vs. bad guy movie and make it kid friendly without making it adult unfriendly.

2. The 3D effects are better integrated. Like recent 3D blockbusters, the technology is better integrated into the story rather than just being there for the kids to ooh and aah over. I felt more part of the movie than the movie coming at me.

3. The voice cast is top-notch. With those adorable Minion vying for your attention (and often winning), Steve Carell makes Gru come alive. The characters aren’t just speaking, they have well-developed personalities that make them feel less animated and more real. Kristin Wiig gave Lucy a voice and personality that many adults could relate to and likely find someone we know that could easily be Lucy.

4. The jokes are both appropriate and funny. One of the challenges with kid-oriented movies is that often there are two sets of funny lines. There are those for the kids that tend to border on the annoying and ridiculous, and the other set for the adults which are references to things kids don’t get but still ask about or double-entendres that, again, cause parents to have to explain things they many not wish. Despicable Me 2, keeps the funny and jokes to things that most kids can relate to and that adults won’t feel are groan-worthy.

5. The Minions steal the show – Batman had Robin. But Gru has Minions! Robin wasn’t nearly as adorable, sweet, or funny. These little yellow creatures may not speak but you know exactly what they’re communicating. And they break out in to song! Songs most adults can identify and relate to. One particular song “I Swear” was a country hit, then covered by not one, but 2, R&B/Pop bands. It’s a beautiful ballad, and, hilariously instead of “I swear” it sounds like they’re saying “underwear”.

It’s easy to see that Despicable Me 2 will be a summer blockbuster and the movie will do very well. It’s fun, entertaining, and has a sweet story that both kids and adults will appreciate. Despicable Me 2 opens nationwide on July 3rd, and is presented in Real D 3D.


Review: The Help Movie

all images courtesy of Disney/Dreamworks

This past weekend while in San Diego, Disney and Dreamworks Pictures offered me the opportunity to see a screening of The Help movie. I’d heard the movie was terrific. I wanted to take my mother-in-law to see it when it opened so taking in the screening would help me to convince her, if need be.

Let me begin by saying the only thing that could have made this experience better would have been a giant box of tissues on my seat. If you haven’t read the book, you’ll definitely need a few extra tissues. If you’ve read the book, you already know.

If you recall a bit of your high school history, you’ll remember that black people living in the south in the 1960s were second class citizens. Life for blacks was very separate from that of whites. While not legally slavery, it may as well have been.

The Help movie is based on the best selling book by Kathryn Stockett. And while the movie deviates some from the book, the general feel is not lost. The movie features a star-studded cast that meshes well and portrays their characters flawlessly with a true sense of believability. To see Cicely Tyson walk in, you know you’re seeing her best. Sissy Spacek is a scene stealer portraying Missus Walters. She has terrific lines, lovely period costumes and a time-honored cigarette dangling from her fingers.

There are several pivotal characters, some of which make you want to hug them because you just adore them and others you want to narrow your eyes and say ‘you should know better’. Emma Stone is very believable as Skeeter Phelan, a young woman fresh out of college who see that black women have a compelling story and wants to capture it. Viola Davis connects you deeply with Aibelline Clark, a black maid who has raised many white children and struggles emotionally with the killing of her own son. Her best friend, Minny, played by Octavia Spencer, is both funny and cautious.

I’m a child of the 1970s, and while the Civil Rights movement had made great strides since the 1960s, I still saw this concept of separate but equal. There were no separate bathrooms or entrances, but the tension when black people were around was often too much. I grew up around black people and heard many first hand accounts of what life was like in the south during the mid-1900s.

This movie made me recall the stories from my mother’s best friend, Julia, who grew up during this time period. It made me think of my grandparent’s neighbor, whom my grandmother referred to as her sister and brother, who were born in the 1920s and both marched on Washington. I saw my mother-in-law who was a young girl during this time period and lived in the south.

It’s a beautiful movie that is funny, heartwarming, and heart wrenching at the same time. It’s a glimpse into a world that often gets sanitized because it’s not easy to watch. But the movie stays true to the period, even though it is very uncomfortable at times. The movie is a reminder of both how far we’ve come since the 1960s and how much we still need to go.

I can see this movie cleaning up at the awards ceremonies. It’s just that good. The attention to details really pays off as you are transported back to a time when black people were treated as less than. This is a must see film that both men and women will appreciate. It is filled with emotions (hence the need for plenty of tissues) and there are clear protagonists to root for as well as antagonists that make you so angry but you sympathize for them and their small minds

Go see the movie! Take plenty of tissues with you, too. This movie can easily be included with Roots and The Color Purple in its far-reaching impact on our culture.

The Help movie will be in theaters beginning Wednesday, August 10, 2011. Don’t pass up the opportunity to see it. The big screen really helps to showcase the larger than life characters that you will both love and hate.

Change begins with a whisper. So true!

Are you eager to see the movie? Did you read the book? When you see it, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Disclosure: I was provided a complementary screening as well as a goody bag with a paper fan, a book mark and a canister of ‘The Help’ branded tea bags. I was not required to write abou this movie, nor has this post been reviewed by a third party. These are my opinions and thoughts and I’m writing this because the story is just that terrific!


Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2 Movie poster image

On Saturday, I took BabyGirl to see a screening of Kung Fu Panda 2, in Real 3D. We had seen Kung Fu Panda in IMAX when it came out in 2008 and it was just an adorable movie with a terrific message. As a parent you can only say that good will win over evil so many times. Kids seem to relate to the cuddly images on screen and get the message loud and clear.

Dreamworks hit it out of the park, again, with Kung Fun Panda 2. Reprising their original roles, the Furious Five and Po, returned to voice their respective characters, keeping their personalities, quirks and humor. Although there was a lot more action in this movie, we still got to experience the best of each of the characters. There wasn’t as much time devoted to them individually, as with the first movie, but enough to keep us engaged. This time around, Po’s dad, the goose Mr. Ping, had some of the best lines in the movie!

Seeing it in 3D was interesting. I don’t think it added all that much to the movie. I’d much rather see it in IMAX and forego the 3D. There wasn’t all that much that made me feel part of the movie. Sure, there were some ooooh and ahhh moments when things would come out at the audience. But for the most part, had they not the movie would have been just the same.

This time around, the story focuses on Po, who is now a Kung Fu master, needing to save the Valley of Peace from the evil White Peacock Lord Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman). A majority of the movie focused on Lord Shen and his issues and plan of destruction. Po has one brief interaction with Master Shifu and is told about inner peace. It was all of about 2 minutes. And from that brief discussion we’re to understand that only if Po can find inner peace will he be able to save his people. I think the movie really could have spent more time on that with some fun exchanges with Po, the Furious Five and Master Shifu.

Instead, we are given more destruction, darkness and Lord Shen, who is just plain evil. Unlike the last movie that was colorful and full of laughter and jokes, this sequel is much darker. The message is the same, that good will triumph over evil, but how the story is told is much different.

Overall, it’s a rather predictable movie. The 3D doesn’t add very much, although the traditional Chinese landscapes take advantage of the dimensional aspect of the film. If you or the kids haven’t seen or don’t remember Kung Fu Panda, not to worry. It’s not imperative to have seen the prior movie.

Kung Fu Panda 2 opens in theaters across the nation on May 26, 2011. I’m certain it will be the number one movie its opening weekend. It is a fun movie. BabyGirl laughed out loud quite a few times and overall liked the movie very well. It’s a movie that will appeal to kids and parents alike.


BabyGirl and I attended the screening as guests of Dreamworks and Klout, and as guests we were provided with access to the movie free of charge and prior to it opening to the public. I was not further compensated nor was I required to write this review. All opinions are mine and my review was not edited by a third party.


Movie Review: HOP

HOP Movie

On Saturday morning, BabyGirl and I headed to the movie theater to see HOP, a live-action/CGI-animation movie. Yes, Jewish girls heading to see what is basically a movie about Easter. But really, who doesn’t like a cute animated bunny with a British accent? And a funny as all get out chicken? Who speaks Spanglish.

The movie stars E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand), the teenage son of Mr. Bunny (voiced by Hugh Laurie), who on the eve of having to take over the family business – making all the Easter candy in the world – leaves, suitably, Easter Island, for Hollywood to pursue his dream of becoming a drummer. Upon arrival, he encounters Fred, played by James Marsden. E.B. feins injury and convinces Fred to let him stay with him. Fred is himself disenchanted with his father’s expectations for him and so the two new friends embark on a series of hilarious yet heartwarming adventures.

The movie hops along (pun intended!) quite nicely. It has good music to help keep the pace moving. Music that will appeal to children but also keep the adults from snoozing. In addition, Fred’s father (played by Gary Cole) has some hilarious lines that most parents will appreciate.

The show stealer, to me, was Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria). Carlos is a chick who is the second in command at the easter candy factory. When E.B. runs away, Carlos uses it as his chance to take over. So he stages a coup. Between the voice, the snarky lines and the silliness of the whole situation the parents were laughing as much as the kids.

There is one scene in the movie where E.B. plays drums to the song Dynamite. Leave it to the Jewish kid to wonder why the Easter Bunny is playing a Hanukkah Song. At least she knew the song. Most kids didn’t.

Being that the movie is about Easter, we probably would not have seen it without this opportunity. I’m glad we did because the story line about the struggle to live your dreams but also please  your parents is a universal theme. I doubt kids will pick up on it, but from a parents perspective it gives you pause to see that within each of us is something great. The movie is not heavy nor a game changer. It’s fun, light-hearted, has great music and is 90-minutes of family time.

Go see the movie!

This post is linked to Mingle Monday on Add A Pinch!

We attended the screening as guests of Universal and Klout, and as guests we were provided with access to the movie free of charge and prior to it opening to the public. We were first in line too so we got prime seats. YAY!


Waiting For Superman

On Tuesday, BabyGirl and I attended a special screening of the documentary Waiting For Superman. WOW! What an amazing film. I’ve been following the buzz about it for several months and watched the trailer back in May some time. I’d heard the buzz from Sundance. I had high expectations and I was not disappointed.

The other day I wrote about two teachers that made a difference in my life. When I wrote that post I didn’t know I’d be seeing this film. I wrote it because I’d heard about Waiting for Superman and wanted to put my perspective on what good teachers can do.

The documentary by Davis Guggenheim, the Academy Award®-winning director of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, is a first hand glimpse into the public education system in the U.S. and how it is affecting our children. Guggenheim profiles five beautiful children and the educational dreams they and their families have for the future. He also talks to change-makers in the educational system. People who are so passionate about good education that they left ‘the system’ to make radical changes in the charter school segment of the public schools.

I cried. Not only for all the kids who get the short end of the stick year after year, but also because one person truly can make a difference. People like Geoffrey Canada, Bill Strickland, and Michelle Rhee. People who are strange in their belief that kids deserve quality teachers.

I was angry, mad and frustrated. Not only because I know how ridiculous the school district/central office setup is but at the power the teachers unions wield in keeping our kids down. I’m not a fan of unions and I’m not here to debate their value and place. But when a collective bargaining group has so much power that horrible teachers can’t be terminated EVER, there’s a problem. The dollar costs of their ineptitude are staggering but the long-term impact on our children, our economy, our justice system and our education system are unacceptable!

I was overjoyed. And I felt their sadness. I had a lump in my throat at the end of the film. I won’t tell you why because I don’t want to give anything away. Suffice it to say, it was very moving and I felt very invested in what was going to happen to these kids.

So why would I want to see this movie if I am a homeschooler? Why would I speak out and support public education? Because I was a product of it. Because I’ve sat through classes with teachers who shouldn’t be teaching pet training, much less kids! And because I pay taxes and I deserve to know the truth and speak up for the reform I think should happen.

I just so happen to live in a state with an abysmal educational record. That’s not saying much given the craptastic state of most public schools in the US. I also have a choice. I can choose to homeschool. CycleGuy and I made the decision for me to homeschool BabyGirl. Like those who choose private school, homeschooling can be a huge financial sacrifice. But I guarantee you, I can do more with $9,000 (the average expenditure per child in public school) than any school district. Most of us could. Yet year after year, we give carte blanche to total strangers to teach our youth. And daily we secretly pray that they don’t screw these kids up.

If public education was a business, it would be bankrupt. Well, actually it is. Maybe not financial, but on nearly every other front it is. But it’s like most things when human capital is the key factor. Customer service is non-existent in the public school system. And we’ve accepted the kick in the teeth year after year.

We’ve accepted, as the norm, that kids won’t graduate from high school, that reading significantly below grade level is OK, that math knowledge is optional if it’s too hard. We stopped asking questions of the educational leadership long ago. And we’ve looked the other way and made and/or accepted excuses of poor teachers.

Maybe this film with be a wake up call. Education is not only for the privileged. Education is important not only for the individua but also for our country. We can’t continue to fall behind.

What can you do?

1. Go see the film – Waiting For Superman is in limited release so check their site for a theater near you.

2. Buy your movie ticket online and get at $15 Gift Code to give to a classroom of your choice on Donors Choose.

3. Don’t settle – your kids may be getting a good education but these are still YOUR tax dollars. Speak up and demand better. Take Action!

Disclosure: BabyGirl and I were provided admission to the screening courtesy of Savvy Source. We were also each given a $15 Gift Card to donate to the project of our choosing at Donors Choose. The views and opinions contained herein are mine and I was not required to blog or state any position or opinion in exchange for attending the screening. I’m writing about it because every child is worth it!