Posts Tagged ‘film review’

Flackett, J. (Director), Levin, Mark. (Director), Bell, A.E. (Producer). (2008).  Nim’s Island. [Motion picture]. United States: 20th Century Fox.Genre: AdventureInterest Level: 3-6Subjects: Islands, Survival, Sea Lions, Iguanas, Sa Turtles, Fathers and daughters, Friendship, Authors, ImaginationLanguage: EnglishSubtitles: English, SpanishRated: PGRunning Time: 96 minutes

Flackett, J. (Director), Levin, Mark. (Director), Bell, A.E. (Producer). (2008). Nim’s Island. [Motion picture]. United States: 20th Century Fox.
Genre: Adventure
Interest Level: 3-6
Subjects: Islands, Survival, Sea Lions, Iguanas, Sa Turtles, Fathers and daughters, Friendship, Authors, Imagination
Language: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Rated: PG
Running Time: 96 minutes

“Everything I know about the world I learned from my friends. Anything else I need to know I just open a book.” Nim Rusoe

Nim is an 11-year-old funny, energetic, adventurous, and self-sufficient little girl with a vivid imagination. Nim’s father, Jack Rusoe, relocates the two of them to a remote and secret island in the South Pacific after the death of his wife Emily, an oceanographer who died at sea. Jack is a marine biologist who writes articles for National Geographic. He spends his days in search of oceanic discoveries while Nim enjoys her adventures with her friends; Selkie, the sea-lion, a giant lizard, Fred, Galileo the pelican, and a sea turtle she names Chicca. Nim, an avid reader of adventure novels, lives out her fantasies based on the tales of the hero in her favorite books by novelist Alex Rover. Nim visualizes the author as a courageous and larger than life hero, much like the main character in the books. Nim emulates this adventurer in her day-to-day island activities along with her friends, often holding imaginative conversations with him when needing a boost of courage. Nim’s father sets out one day on a scientific boat trip in search of a new species of plankton he plans to call protozoa nim. He intends to take Nim along, but she tells him that she must stay behind to look after the hatching of Chicca’s eggs so she can protect them from dying. He agrees to this since he will only be gone for two nights and they will be able to communicate using the satellite phone.

While her father is away, Nim, reads an email her father receives from Alex Rover, the author, inquiring about an island volcano she’d read about in one of Jack’s National Geographic articles. She is in search of an exciting ending to her most recent novel, and believes this to be an interesting possibility. Unlike the heroic character she writes about, however, Alexandra “Alex” Rover is a neurotic and agoraphobic petite woman, afraid of everything! Alexandra hasn’t been able to leave her apartment in San Francisco in almost five months. An email exchange follows, between Alexandra and Nim, with Nim first pretending she is her father’s assistant. After three days without her father returning from his trip at sea, Nim tells Alex that she is really an 11 year old girl alone on an island, worried that her father may be in grave danger, or worse yet, dead. Nim is unaware that Jack has encountered a monsoon, that has left him shipwrecked, trying to repair the boat in order to get back. Nim goes on to tell Alex that she is also suffering from a huge cut on her leg that has begun to infect, and she implores Alex Rover to come help her. Alexandra, struggling with her agoraphobia, argues with the main character of her novels, who she also engages in conversations with. She tries to convince him, and herself, that she can’t possibly rescue Nim if she can’t even leave her own apartment! “Be the hero of your own life’s story,” he tells her, “trust is the secret to adventure,” and so she sets out to rescue Nim. Her journey to the South Pacific ends in disaster by the time she reaches the remote island, and upon meeting the little girl, leaves Nim devastated by the truth, that the hero who had come to rescue her, is the very one who needs saving the most. Together, Nim and Alexandra discover they are braver than they knew they could be, and also discover that it’s more important to be the hero of someone else’s story than the hero of your own.

Nim’s Island is a delightfully touching, action-adventure movie based off of Wendy Orr’s book with the same title. Nim’s Island tells a story of courage and hope, and of overcoming one’s fears through the adventures of the story’s main characters. Nim Rusoe is played by Abigail Breslin, Gerard Butler plays both Nim’s father, Jack Rusoe, and Alexandra’s main character in her books, Alex Rover. And, Jodie Foster plays Alexandra Rover. This movie is a feel good tale to be enjoyed by all ages and genders alike filled with humor, an enjoyable cast, and beautiful island scenery. If other are curious what else is in store for Nim, they may want to read the book Nim’s Island and the sequel Nim at Sea. Other movies with characters finding their own strengths and courage with some aspect of fantasy or even the unexplained may enjoy Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium about a magical toy store, or the supposed truth behind the Loch Ness Monster in The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep.


Cunningham, D.L. (Director), Siegel, A. (Producer), LeBoff, J. (Producer), Platt, M. (Producer), Schmidt, R. (Producer). (2007). The seeker: The dark is rising [Motion picture]. United States: 20th Century Fox.
Interest Level: 5-8
Genre: Fantasy
Subjects: Good and evil, time travel, signs and symbols, book adaptation
Language: English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Rated: PG
Running Time: 99 minutes

“This warrior is a boy.”

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising is based on the young adult novel The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper and stars Alexander Ludwig most recently known for his roles as Cato in The Hunger Games and Seth in Race to Witch Mountain. The story follows Will Staton, the seventh son of a seventh son immediately after his fourteenth birthday in which he learns he is the most important person in the fight between the light and the dark as the Old Ones introduce him to his destiny with only five days to search for six signs hidden in space and time by one of his ancestors. These six signs will give either the Rider of the Dark the power to rule the world, or the Light the power to vanquish the Dark, and it is entirely up to Will to find the power to believe in himself so he can save the world.

Will Staton (Alexander Ludwig) the protagonist is assisted in his search for the signs by the Old Ones. The Old Ones that protect and guide him include Merriman Lyon (Ian McShane), Miss Greythorne (Frances Conroy), Dawson (James Cosmo), Old George (Jim Piddock), and Will’s girl crush from his school, Maggie Barnes (Amelia Warner). And the Rider (Christopher Eccleston) of the Dark, the antagonist is disguised as the village doctor.

Though the film was not as popular with many fans of The Dark is Rising Sequence from the 1970’s due to significant differences in characters and plot, the movie is undoubtedly enjoyable due to the suspense, action, popular cast, and visual effects. Those who enjoyed the films Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Inkheart both based of the books with the same title, or the television series Legend of the Seeker based off of the adult fantasy series, The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind should easily find The Seeker: The Dark is Rising highly entertaining.

Kenan, G. (Director). (2009). City of Ember [Motion picture]. United States: 20th Century Fox.
Interest Level: 5-8
Genre: Action & Adventure, Kids & Family, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Language: English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Rated: PG
Running Time: 94 minutes

“What if there is an exit from Ember?” – Doon Harrow

Everyone is literally afraid of the darkness in the movie City of Ember based on the first book of the Books of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. They live in fear of the lights extinguishing as the generator fails. The city was created by the Builders, a team of scientists and engineers that hoped that building an underground city to escape “the end of the world” mankind would survive and future generations may be able to live in an environment not knowing of the devastation on the Earth’s surface. As time goes on in the city of Ember beyond the Builders’ desired 200 year plan, the generator begins to fail, the food is running low, and the city’s structure is collapsing. Ember has already ran out of time and the box with directions to exit the city is lost after the seventh Mayor and when found it’s purpose is unknown, the fate of Ember is left to two teenagers, Lina and Doon to save themselves and all of mankind.

As Lina and her friend Doon piece together the puzzle of how to escape from what’s left of the scraps of directions by the Builders, they gather whatever information they can as they begin working in the community after their completion of school. Lina is a messenger and Doon a pipeworks technician, and the two highly inquisitive and observant friends discover clues on wall, floors, and two plastic keys, one in Lina’s possession and the other in the Mayor’s. Together, knowing that leaving their city is against the law, they still plan their escape. The path begins with the technician lockers (rafts in disguise) in the Pipeworks to the Generator room where the water meets with the river and ends at a staircase leading to the Earth’s surface.

As Lina and Doon escape from the generator room to the outside of Ember it may seem reminiscent to some of an amusement park log ride. I am glad to know that matches will remain enough in tack to still ignite 200 years after a nuclear holocaust… Maybe the theory about Twinkies needs to be reconsidered. On the Earth’s surface, the two are initially despondent as they see only darkness, unaware of the difference between night and day growing up underground with only artificial lighting. When the sun rises, Lina discovers the sky is blue as she imagined in her drawings and together they discover a crack in the Earth from which they can see Ember and send a message tied to a rock to all the other inhabitants with directions how to leave.

The characters include; Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronana), descendant of the seventh mayor of Ember who found a box with directions from the Builders how to exit the city. Poppy (Amy and Catherine Quinn) is the little sister of Lina. Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway), closest friend to Lina Mayfleet, conspires to escape Ember. Loris “Barrow” Harrow (Tim Robbins), Doon’s father and close friend of Lina’s father that died in their attempt to escape Ember many years prior. Sul (Martin Landau) a narcoleptic loony pipeworks technician that’s in charge of training Doon, and Clary (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), a greenhouse worker and friend to Lina’s father end up being Lina’s and Doon’s greatest aids in their escape to the Earth’s surface. And, Ember’s current Mayor, Mayor Cole (Bill Murray) hides the impending doom of the city from its inhabitants as he hoards food and plans his own escape.

City of Ember was rated a 6.4 by IMDb and a 53% by Rotten Tomatoes, yet a review by Teen Ink states that the movie was “quite impressive”. The city itself appears similar to the overly crowded and filthy living during the 19th century British industrial Revolution as seen in films based off of the work of Charles Dickens such as Oliver Twist (2005) or the PBS Masterpiece Classic, The Tales of Charles Dickens. Thought the first part of the movie may seem a little dull, the overall story, set design, action in the second half, and actors/actresses makes this a film appealing to those of all ages, particularly tweens since DuPrau’s Books of Ember are considered middle-grade novels. The quest to save the lives of others and following clues may remind older viewers of the movie The Goonies or a more recent film such as The Forbidden Kingdom.

Hara, T. (Producer), & Takahata, I. (Director). (2012). Grave of the fireflies [Motion picture]. United States: Studio Ghibli Productions
Interest Level: YA
Genre: Historical Fiction
Subjects: World War II, Japan, Orphans, Siblings, Homelessness, Survival, Death, Grief
Format: Animated
Language: English, Japanese
Subtitles: English
Rated: Not Rated
Run Time: 89 minutes

A powerful antiwar film about two siblings who face despair as the war and their lives come to an end.

Grave of the Fireflies by Isao Takahata is a historical fiction war animation which succeeds at eliciting emotions from its viewers. The animation is stunning and forces its viewer to reflect on the importance of family and the non-combatant victims of war. Grave of the Fireflies was originally made in 1988. It is a coming of age story due to necessity of a young boy (approx. 12-14 years-old) that cares for and protects his little sister (approx. 4-6 years-old) in war stricken Japan. Regardless of all the loss, tragedy, and despair due to the horrors of war, this animation tests the love and loyalty of family.

The movie begins with the death of a young boy as his spirit which then joins another; a young girl that we come to learn is his sister.  The movie flashbacks to their home village that is attacked by fire bombs near the end of WWII. Teenage Seita and his younger sister Setsuko literally run for their lives as they view mass destruction, death, and hysteria. Now homeless and left on their own while their father is away serving in the Imperial Navy, these two find themselves unsure how they will survive and utterly frightened in their newly shattered world. Seita and Setsuko initially stay with their aunt who only adds to their misery as result of her lack of compassion and hatred for the children as their guardian due to the time commitments and financial responsibilities that she’s now been burdened with. Sieta decides that he and his sister will leave, fend for themselves, and make residence in a cave by a stream. Due to their ages and lack of funds, their meager resources are quickly exhausted. Seita resorts to stealing food for the sake of his sister, Setsuko, who eventually still dies from malnutrition and is buried by her brother in an unmarked grave. Sieta, now in the crowded railway station where the movie first began, broken hearted and his spirit broken, he collapses and dies.

Grave of the Fireflies is not for the faint of heart, but nonetheless an excellent historical fiction film. This animation is very sad and depressing as the viewer watches the siblings lose their parent, their home, attempt to live independently, the brother’s devotion and sole purpose in life entirely focused on keeping his fragile sister alive while the war still rages and food become more and more scarce. As the two children live on their own in a cave, the viewer will wonder if their hope is that of a child with some innocence still salvageable and not yet stripped from the war, or an impressive sense of hope and will for survival that helps maintain their spirits high regardless of the horrors surrounding them. The viewers will observe that one of their highlights are the nightly fireflies which are symbolic in their dark reality. Interestingly, Takahata combines the present and the past in this late WWII historical fiction animated story with the imagery beginning and ending in the train station. This is very poignant and emotional for the viewer to learn of the event that led to the young boy’s death. Initially knowing that the protagonist dies and then following the preceding events leading to his death suggests that children who, like Seika and Setsuko, die needlessly in wars they neither fought nor understood. The film is unrated and not suitable for young children and should be cautiously chosen if being shown to early tweens due to the violence and emotionally intense material. The message of Grave of the Fireflies is simple; innocent civilians suffer as much as or more than the combatants, and triumphs as it displays the bounds of the human spirit amidst brutal and horrifying experiences.

Films such as Grave of the Fireflies may easily be used for WWII related course curriculum. The film was originally produced as a motion picture in Japan in 1988, is based on the novel by Akiyuki Nosaka, and has even been made into a live feature film with the same title. This film is as moving, unforgettable, and emotional as the film The Boy in the Striped Pajamas based off of the book by John Boyne or the novel The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.