Media Monday: Lars and the Real Girl

I first watched this movie several years ago when a writing instructor recommended it for its story structure.

L&RGThen I bought it.

Then a few days ago, we had cinephile friends from out of town visiting and were searching Netflix for something we could all watch. I asked if they’d seen Lars and the Real Girl yet. They hadn’t.

Search over. I put it in the player and it was enjoyed by all. Except for Stud Muffin, who prefers that his movies include firearms and explosions, but even he appreciated its whimsy.

It’s the story of a young man (Lars), who slips into a delusion and believes that a blow-up sex doll is his new girlfriend Bianca.

Lars’s brother Gus and sister-in-law Karen are understandably taken aback.

They suggest that Bianca sees the local doctor because she’s “not well,” according to Lars. The doctor “examines” Bianca but also questions Lars. The doctor tells Lars’s family that they should go along with the delusion, that Bianca is filling a need in Lars. Gus and Karen ask their church friends to join them in pretending Bianca is real.

During Bianca’s weekly treatments, the doctor also visits with Lars, casually asking him questions about himself as well as Bianca.

Lars’s backstory unfolds slowly (death of a parent, depression of the other, brother who left home).

The townsfolk and Lars’s co-workers take Bianca to their hearts, treating her not only as if she’s real but as if she’s a beloved member of the community. She’s even voted onto the school board.

The resolution of the story is heartwarming and absolutely true to Lars’s character and nature.

It’s a charming movie that deserves more fans. Check it out.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated movie?

Media Monday: Unknown

I’ve long been a Liam Neeson fan, but it was his 2008 movie TAKEN that moved him into Stud Muffin’s viewfinder. We both thought TAKEN was outstanding and although TAKEN 2 didn’t quite measure up, it was still pretty good. Except for the whole narrowing down the location with explosions thing. I didn’t buy that at all. 

Anyway, I read good reviews for UNKNOWN, Neeson’s 2011 release, and it finally popped to the top of our Netflix queue earlier this week.



It had all the elements we love in a Liam Neeson action adventure:

  • Intrigue

  • A layered plot

  • A clear objective

  • Liam scowling

It’s hard to really critique this one without spoiling the twists along the way.

But I’ll try.

The major twist involved a character  a circumstance  an assassination a killer who

Nope, can’t do it.

So, I’ll just say that the twist didn’t quite work for me because of the careful groundwork laid by the writers, director, and actors. There wasn’t enough foreshadowing or hints.

I get that they wanted the twist to remain a deep secret, but in this case, it was too deep. Even an askance glance would have done it.

Other than my own private quibble, UNKNOWN is a great way to spend an evening with a howling storm outside and a glass of wine and popcorn inside.

Media Monday: The Way Way Back

Utterly charming. I loved this one!

The Way Way Back

Duncan and his single mom are spending the summer at his mom’s new boyfriend’s beach house with him and his daughter.

The boyfriend, played by Steve Carell, is Trent and he’s a bully and a womanizer and a master manipulator. He’s the worst kind of abuser because he cloaks his verbal and emotional manipulation as “help.”

Duncan drifts to the local water park and strikes up a friendship with the manager. He soon leads a secret life as an employee at Water Wiz and begins to make friends.

Perfectly cast and acted, The Way Way Back is a special slice-of-life movie.

I loved how Duncan and Owen, the water park manager, developed a friendship. Owen may have been afraid to live his own life or make a change, but he saw truth clearly and wasn’t afraid to defend his friends.

Highly recommended!

Media Monday: Seabiscuit & Secretariat

When Secretariat was released in 2010, comparisons to 2003’s Seabiscuit were inevitable.

Media Monday: Secretariat

Both are:

  • “Based on a true story”
  • About a championship horse
  • Winning against vast odds (literal odds as well as figurative)
  • An owner full of conviction facing multiple obstacles



It’s been several years since I read Seabiscuit and watched the movie, but I remember it quite fondly. We just saw Secretariat recently and I was interested to judge for myself how successfully it showed life in high-stakes horse racing.

Media Monday: Seabiscuit

Both stories capture that world, in my humble opinion. Although, since I don’t hang around racing stables (or even non-racing stables), race courses, or betting parlors, I’m probably not the best judge of that criteria.

Secretariat seemed a bit more contrived to me, perhaps heightening the conflicts between Penny Chenery Tweedy and her trainer, or Penny and her husband, or Penny and her brother.

In a head-to-head contest, I have to give it to Seabiscuit by a nose.

Media Monday: The Genius of Roald Dahl

While channel surfing last week with the grand-daughters, we caught the beginning of the 1971 movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory which was based on Dahl’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I don’t know why the producers felt the name change was necessary.

wwcfCharlie is clearly the protagonist. He’s the character with the most to lose, he’s the one who changes throughout the story. charlie

But I digress.

The movie holds up well, even after forty years.

I was impressed with how presciently Dahl created the other Golden Ticket winners.

There’s a couch potato who watches hours of television every day. mike





augustusThere’s an overeater, an obese child on his way to an unhealthy life as a adult.



There’s a selfish and spoiled brat whose parents indulged her every whim.

violet                                             veruca_salt

Actually, there’s two of those, both girls.

The movie was released in 1971 but the book it’s based on was published in 1964. That’s fifty years ago. Five. Oh. 50.


Fast forward to today.

                                                What are the concerns about kids in 2014?

  • Childhood obesity.
  • Too much time playing/watching electronics, and not enough playing.
  • Child-centric parenting that produces perpetual children instead of self-reliant adults.

I stand by my original premise: Roald Dahl was a genius.

Actually though, a deeper analysis reveals a bigger truth:

The cultural and societal mores Dahl observed in the early 1960s would logically lead to children just like Violet, Mike, Augustus, and Veruca.

We’re reaping the practices we began to sow in the middle of the last century.

The way back is still possible.

  • Raise children to recognize personal responsibility.
  • Read to them.
  • Encourage imaginative play.

Especially introduce them to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.