IMAGINE THAT (not yet rated,
PG): Evan (Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls) lives the hectic life
of a financial advisor to the rich and
prosperous in Denver. Whitefeather
(Thomas Haden Church, Sideways), supposedly
a Native American, makes
counter-proposals couched in spiritual
clichés delivered with smarmy eloquence.
Evan shares custody of his young
daughter, Olivia (Yara Shahidi), with
his former wife. He searches for a
way to reach Olivia, who escapes
into an imaginary kingdom of
three princesses and a queen.
When the child says things that
seem to relate to the stock market,
Evan pays attention and advises
his clients accordingly. His reputation
grows and Whitefeather
becomes more competitive.
When the company’s chairman
(Ronny Cox) decides to retire, the
owner (Martin Sheen, The West
Wing) asks Evan and Whitefeather
to submit complex plans so he
can choose a new chairman. Evan
must decide between his daughter and
This film shows what happens when
a father takes the time to stop and
really listen to his child. Olivia helps
Evan rediscover his own inner world.
Eddie Murphy plays his role just right.
He is funny without being goofy. The
moment where he realizes just how precious
Olivia is to him is very moving.
Yara Shahidi’s performance is excellent
for such a young child. And
Thomas Haden Church’s Whitefeather
is funny: His artifice contrasts humorously
with Evan’s search for authenticity.
Director Karey Kirkpatrick (Over the
Hedge) told me in an interview that the
inspiration for his life’s work is Christopher
Vogler’s book The Writer’s Journey:
Mythic Structure for Writers. “The movies
I have done deal with big archetypical
characters that are representative and
allegorical,” said Kirkpatrick. “Most stories
are about conquering your fear of
dying. For Evan to lose his connection
to his daughter is to lose his soul, and
all for things that don’t really matter.
After all, no one says on their deathbed
that they wish they had spent less time
with their children.”
Imagine That is a gift to fathers of all
ages, everywhere: It’s never too late to
be the dad you always wanted to be.
Gentle comedy that will appeal to families
because they can watch it together.
DEPARTURES (OKURIBITO) (not yet rated)
won the 2009 Academy Award for Best
Foreign Language Film and the first jury
award for SIGNIS (World Catholic Association
for Communications). In this
film, Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki,
1996 version of Shall We Dance?) loses his
dream job as a cellist in a small Tokyo
symphony orchestra. Daigo and his wife,
Mika (Ryoko Hirosue), return to his
hometown of Hirano and move into a
flat above a rundown pub.
Searching for a new job, Daigo sees
an ad in the local paper headed by the
word departures and happily imagines
himself as a travel agent. He is interviewed
and hired by Sasaki (Tsutomu
Yamazaki) to help prepare bodies
of deceased people in the traditional
Daigo is too embarrassed to tell
his wife about his new position.
But when he modestly prepares
corpses in full view of the mourners,
as is the tradition, Daigo is
truly reverent to the dead and
kind to the family members.
In learning to respect the dead,
Daigo discovers the meaning of
life. Above all, he learns empathy,
which transforms him into a
This is the first film from director
Yojiro Takita that I have seen: If
Departures reflects its maker, then this
surprising and moving film is a work of
a master’s hand. To date, it’s one of my
favorite films of the year.
In a country with so little land for
burial that cremation is mandated for
everyone, Japanese burial customs are a
revelation. Filled with grace and life; themes
of compassion, death and dying, honesty,
reverence, respect, marriage, family, and
fathers and sons are blended together with
a soft and beautiful soundtrack.
AMERICAN VIOLET (Not yet rated, PG-13): Dee Roberts (Nicole Beharie) is a
young mother of four who lives in the
town projects in Melody, Texas. She is
arrested for selling drugs in a school
zone—one of many African-Americans
rounded up in a raid that’s carried out
with military precision.
Dee insists she is innocent. But Calvin Beckett (Michael O’Keefe, Frozen
River), the racist district attorney, wants
her to take a plea bargain and avoid
prison. If Dee does so, however, she
will be convicted as a felon, lose public
housing, the right to vote and public
Dee refuses to take a plea. Her
mother, Alma (Alfre Woodard, Take the
Lead), posts bail for Dee but doesn’t
hold out any hope because she knows
how the system works.
The ACLU suspects racism as the
motivation for the raid and sends an
attorney named David Cohen (Tim
Blake Nelson, Hoot). He tells Dee that
the ACLU will defend her if she will
stand up to Beckett and the system.
The acting is excellent, especially by
newcomer Nicole Beharie as Dee. It is
also refreshing to see Will Patton in a
truly sympathetic role as a local attorney
who signs on with the ACLU to
assist in Dee’s case.
American Violet is a fictionalized
David-and-Goliath drama based on a
true story that took place in Hearne,
Texas, in 2000. It is directed by Tim
Disney (son of Roy E. Disney), who
produced the Gabriel Award-winning
documentary The Price of Sugar (2007).
Once again, Tim and screenwriter Bill
Haney have teamed up to make a powerful
statement by revealing the human
face of racial injustice and the workings
of a legal system that runs hidden
below the surface, out of sight to anyone
who is not looking.
The film turns on two key facts: The
more drug convictions a county/state
hands down, the more money it
receives from the federal government.
Also, in 2000, a Texas grand jury could
hand down an indictment based on
the word of a single informant.
American Violet says there are 2.3 million
prisoners in this country and 85
percent of them took a plea bargain.
The United States has the largest prison
population in the world, and Texas has
the largest in the country.
This film challenges the social, political
and religious status quo. Thoughtful
viewers will want to know more
and ask, “What can I do?” Domestic
and police violence, problem language,
Unusuals (Wednesdays, ABC)
and Southland (Thursdays,
NBC) are mid-season freshmen that
follow the same basic premise: the
inside and personal stories of cops and
detectives. The Unusuals is set in New
York City and Southland (where else?) in
Of the two, I like The Unusuals more,
starring Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia)
and Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker). It
spins the drama with weakness, humanity
and dedication, and is quirky enough
to claim some originality.
Southland, with Ben McKenzie (The
O.C.), Michael Cudlitz (Band of Brothers)
and Regina King (Ray) is very earnest
and takes itself more seriously. It has a
reality-show flavor, even bleeping out
I read recently that there are more
than 50 cop shows on television at any
given time (including cable). The question
is: Why? Mature themes; problem
sex, violence and language.