The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid(PG Movie).  Directed by Harald Zwart. Sony Pictures, 2010. 140 minutes. $19.94

Plot: Twelve year old Dre Parker lives in Detroit, and then one day he and his mom get on a plane, and all of a sudden he is living in Bejing.  Dre’s mom has a new job in China, and he finds himself in an unfamiliar land, knowing neither the language nor the customs.  His first foray to the playground results in his finding a new friend, Mei, and being beaten up by her friend, Cheng.  Cheng does not think that Mei and Dre should be friends, and Cheng’s continued bullying of Dre make Dre’s life difficult and unhappy.  Dre decides that he needed to learn martial arts to be able to defend himself from Cheng and Cheng’s gang.  Eventually, the maintenance man, Mr. Han, becomes Dre’s Kung Fu master and they train together intensely for a tournament in which Dre has been entered.  This movie is a remake of a movie of the same name from 1984.

Review: Entertaining and exciting, this movie has a lot of great martial arts scenes as well as beautiful views of Beijing and the surrounding Chinese countryside.  Jaden Smith as Dre is cute and witty, vulnerable and brave.  Jackie Chan as Mr. Han is understated and serious, caring and strong.  Dre’s friendship with Mei, played by actress Wenwen Han, is sweet and the two support each other.  The kiss between Dre and Mei seems out of place, given their young age, and I suspect it could be the least popular part of the movie for the many young tween boys who would likely enjoy everything else about this film.  A great film for boys and girls and the whole family, the Karate Kid has positive messages including: never give up, find your inner strength, work hard and respect yourself and others.

Genre(s): Realistic Fiction, Family

Viewing/Interest Level: 9-12 years

Available in: DVD; Blu-ray

Subjects: friendship, kung-fu, dreams, inner strength, bullying

Selected Award: 2010 Kids’ Choice Awards Favorite Movie

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The Spy Next Door

The Spy Next Door (PG Movie).  Directed by Brian Levant. Lionsgate, 2010. 94 minutes. $14.98

Plot: In this family comedy Jackie Chan plays Bob Ho, a Chinese spy helping the CIA with a case.  Ho is dating woman next door, a single mother of three, who doesn’t know that he is a spy.  To the kids, he seems like a boring guy, and they vow to keep him away from their mother.  But, Bob is determined for the kids to kids to like him, so he can marry their mother and the five of them can settle down as a family.  He takes on the role of babysitter to the three kids when their mother has to go tend to her injured father.  Bob is planning to retire from being a spy, but things take a turn when it seems there is a mole in the CIA, and Bob get called in, one day into his retirement, to help out.  He is in the position of managing the kids and his search for a Russian spy.  With some great fight scenes that feature Chan’s talent as a a highly skilled martial artist, this film combines elements of comedy with action and adventure to entertain the whole family.

Review: Sometimes silly, sometimes goofy, this action comedy is light on plot, but, contains enough silliness and great martial arts scenes to make it enjoyable.  Jackie Chan plays a seemingly stiff and awkward “normal” guy who is really a top-secret spy.  The fight scenes are almost comical, like a cartoon, no blood is spilled and with Chan jumping around demonstrating his agility and finesse, the bad guys don’t stand a chance.  The stereotypical Russian spies as bad guys are disappointing, but not surprising given that the plot of this movie is fairly basic and predictable.  Even with that, though, I enjoyed watching Chan as both potential step father being challenged by his girlfriend’s three kids on the one hand and being a highly competent and sought after spy on the other.

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Adventure, Family

Viewing/Interest Level: 8-12 years

Available in: DVD; Blu-ray

Subjects: spies, honesty, love, family


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Movie

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (PG Movie).  Directed by Chris Columbus. Warner Bros., 2001. 152 minutes. $19.98

Plot: Following along the lines of the book of the same name, eleven year old Harry Potter is living with his cruel and neglectful aunt, uncle, and cousin when he receives a letter telling him he has been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Prior to this Harry had not known he was a wizard.  And, as it turns out, Harry’s famous in the wizarding world for not succumbing to an attack by the evil wizard Voldemort.  Once at Hogwarts, Harry, along with his best friends, Ron and Hermoine, get enmeshed in the mystery of the sorcerer’s stone, a magical crystal with the power of immortality.  With encounters with an angry troll, a three headed dog, and a baby dragon, the three friends show a great deal of resourcefulness, determination, and bravery, but danger seems to lurk around every corner.  Will they be able to save the sorcerer’s stone from the evil wizard searching for it?  Will they get through their first year of Hogwarts alive?

Review: Exciting and entertaining, this movie stays amazingly true to the book upon which it is based.  The characters are well developed and intriguing, with a cast of talented actors.  The special effects are well done, if not perfect.  There is a need to suspend disbelief anyway, so why not forget they’re special effects and sit back and enjoy?  The scenery is beautiful and once immersed in the magic of the movie, most viewers will not want to come back to real (I mean, muggle) life.

Genre(s): Fantasy, Adventure, Family, Mystery

Viewing/Interest Level: 8+ years

Available in: DVD; Blu-ray; Wide Screen, Full Screen, and Ultimate Editions

Subjects: magic, wizardry, spells, growing up, coming of age, family, friendship

Series Information: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first movie in an eight movie series, movies two through eight are: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (to be released later in 2011)


Good Luck Charlie: Appy Days

Good Luck Charlie: Appy Days (March 13, 2011), TV Program. Producer: It’s a Laugh Productions and Disney Channel Original Productions for the Disney Channel.  Actors: Bridget Mendler, Jason Dolley, Bradley Steven Perry, Mia Talerico, Leigh-Allyn Baker, Eric Allan Kramer, Raven Goodwin.  Series dates: 2010 – present.

Plot Summary:  Good Luck Charlie is the story of the Duncan family.  The Duncan’s are parents Amy and Bob, teenagers P.J. and Teddy, 10-year-old Gabe, and new addition, baby Charlie.  The program is a comedy about life for each family member and how it is affected by Charlie’s presence.  This particular episode centered around Teddy and her best friend, Ivy, and their use of a cell phone App that allowed them to fake phone calls in order to trick their mothers into allowing them to attend a senior’s party.  Also in this episode, oldest child, P.J. finds out that his father praises all his children to his co-worker and that his father considers him, “nice,” which P.J. takes as an insult, as compared to his father’s descriptions of the other 3 kids.  Will Teddy and Ivy make it to the party?  Will the duped moms find out the truth?

Review: Good Luck Charlie is a cute family comedy, with likable characters and realistic, if somewhat superficial, storylines.  Part of Teddy’s role is as videographer and narrator of videos made of and for Charlie in which Teddy speaks to the Charlie of the future.  This provides a vehicle for some commentary and reflection at times, as well as adds a fun perspective.

Genre(s): Comedy, Family

Viewing/Interest Level: 8 – 13 years

Available in: Cable TV Disney Channel and online at http://tv.disney.go.com/disneychannel/goodluckcharlie/

Similar Programs: That’s So Raven, The Wizards of Waverly Place, iCarly

Subjects: friendship, perfectionism, jobs


iCarly: iSell Penny-Tees

iCarly, Episode # 74, iSell Penny-Tees (October 2, 2010), TV Program. Producer: Dan Schneider for the Nickelodeon.  Actors: Miranda Cosgrove, Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Kress, Jerry Trainor, Noah Munck.  Series dates: 2007 – present.

Plot Summary: The premise of iCarly is that the main character, Carly Shay has her own online video show that she creates with her two best friends, Sam and Freddie.  Sam is her co-host and Freddie produces, directs and does all the technical work for the show.  Gibby, another friend, is also featured in the program performing odd stunts.  Carly’s older brother, Spencer, cares for her while their dad is away on military duty.  Carly was a tween when the program started in 2007 and is now a young teen.  In the iSell Penny-Tees episode, Carly and Sam realize that they can make money by selling “penny-tees” to the iCarly show fans.  The tees are basic tee –shirts with quirky sayings on them.  The photo to the right has an example of a penny tee on the mannequin with Carly on the left and Sam on the right.  Carly and Sam had heretofore made the penny tees themselves, but when orders start rolling in, they realize they need help to fill them Sam creates a sweatshop-like factory in the basement, while Carly and Freddie create a fun and supportive work environment for a group of fourth graders from a neighborhood school.  Who can get the fourth grade workers to produce more shirts?  Will the workers protest their harsh conditions or will they do anything to make a buck?  Will the iCarly show be able to fulfill ALL of the penny tee orders?

Review: This program is cute.  The plot was simple, without much depth and fairly predictable, but it was presented without a heavy hand and was funny and entertaining.  Carly is goofy, but clearly confident, smart and kind, a strong female character of the ones available on tween TV, and not a bad role model.  Sam is also a strong female character, though her behavior on the show and references to her visits to juvenile hall suggest she is not necessarily a great role model, though she is talented on the iCarly show and seems dedicated to the show.  Freddie is nice, smart, technologically savvy, and a great team member.  Spencer is a shallow character, a young man in his 20’s, interested in the superficial qualities of women.  In this particular show he is shown kissing his latest love interest, a stereotypically beautiful blonde woman, with whom he is unable to communicate, as she only speaks Uzbek and he only English.  An interactive website for the program parallels the interaction that fictional fans of the fictional iCarly show engage with, so tweens have the ability to do more than simply watch the program.  This particular show presented brief lessons about labor conditions for workers, leadership, the power of numbers, and entrepreneurialism.

Genre(s): Comedy, Family

Viewing/Interest Level: 8 – 13 years

Available in: Cable TV Nickelodeon, DVD, online at http://www.nick.com/shows/icarly

Similar Programs: That’s So Raven, The Wizards of Waverly Place, Good Luck Charlie, Hannah Montana

Subjects: Internet, online social networking, friendship, team work, labor rights, ethics, leadership, business skills, entrepreneurialism


Hannah Montana: Got to Get Her Out of My House

Hannah Montana, Episode # 83, Got to Get Her Out of my House (January 10, 2010), TV Program. Produced by: It’s a Laugh Productions, Michael Poryes Productions, and the Disney Channel for the Disney Channel.  Actors,Miley Cyrus, Emily Osment, Mitchel Musso, Jason Earles, Billy Ray Cyrus.  Series dates: 2006 – 2011.

Plot Summary: The premise of the Hannah Montana series is that main character, Miley Stewart, leads a double-life as a school girl by day and famous pop star, Hannah Montana, at night.  Miley’s hair is brown, and she wears a blonde wig when she is Hannah Montana.  This episode is about Miley’s best friend, Lilly, who is trying to work to earn money to buy a car with her boyfriend.  Lilly knows about Miley’s secret life.  Lilly’s perfectionism causes her to lose her job at a local sandwich shop, and she ends up becoming the housekeeper at Miley’s house.  Miley’s dad is thrilled with Lilly’s perfectionism with her housekeeping duties, but soon her rigid ways become more than Miley and her brother, Jackson, can bear.  How will they get Lilly out of their house without hurting her feelings?  Will Lilly earn enough money to buy the car she wants?

Review: OK, I have to admit that I could not stand this program.  Maybe I picked the wrong episode, but I found the plot irritatingly vacant of any substance.  The acting was way overdone.  This was the first episode of Hannah Montana that I had seen.  Before this, I had only seen a spoof of the fictional “Miley Cyrus Show” on Saturday Night Live.  When I saw the spoof I assumed (incorrectly) that the actress who was portraying Miley Cyrus was going over the top with exaggerated facial expressions and ridiculously over emphasized words in her speech.  But, it turns out that Miley Cyrus playing Miley Stewart is really that much of an over actor.  In fact I have a new appreciation for the SNL actress who portrays Miley Cyrus.  I am far from my tween years, and, maybe, I would very well have watched and liked this program if it been on when I was the target age, but I just can’t seem to find anything redeeming about this particular episode.  I know it’s supposed to be funny and over the top, but it just seemed cheesy.  I found it inane, predictable, totally unrealistic, simplistic, and parts of it, when Miley and Jackson pretend to be mobsters, were offensive and ill conceived.  I plan to watch another episode to see if I can “get it,” because right now, I just don’t.

Genre(s): Comedy

Viewing/Interest Level: 8 – 13 years

Available in: Cable TV Disney Channel, DVD, online at http://disney.go.com/videos/#/videos/&content=1085765

Similar Programs: That’s So Raven, The Wizards of Waverly Place, iCarly

Subjects: friendship, perfectionism, jobs