Instant Video Spotlight: Movies About Quirky Kids & Teens, Making Their Way

Wes Anderson’s funny, heartwarming and thorougly enjoyable Moonrise Kingdom (PG-13, 4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent and $14.99 to buy) is today’s must-see new release for anyone who has ever been, or known, a quirky kid. Amazon reviewer Donna Anastasi says:

Set in 1965, Moonrise Kingdom is a stylized coming of age film that delivers on its promise to bring the viewer of any age back to the intensity of just-entering-adolescence love. That alone makes this an extraordinary film. In addition, the music and imagery are beautifully orchestrated to delight the senses. The casting, characters, and acting are superb. It is rare to have a film that puts together this much talent and then taps it to the fullest.

Heavy hitters include the brilliant Edward Norton (for once watching his language and holding his temper) as an anal but dedicated troop leader, Bill Murray who in stark contrast to the young stars in this film, fails to find any joy whatsoever in his work in the law profession, wealth, family or beautiful surroundings. His dissatisfied wife (Frances McDormand who was the psychiatrist in Norton’s first film Primal Fear), is also an attorney (the lawyer banter are some of the funniest lines in the film). Bruce Willis (who plays very well with child stars as he has a bit of child still left in him) is the bachelor, island cop who goes head-to-head with the chilling Tilda Swinton (white witch from Narnia) known only as “Social Services,” as she callously plans to put “the boy” in juvenile refuge to undergo shock therapy as needed.

Despite the exceptionally strong adult cast, the two main child stars Sam and Suzy not only keep pace, but outshine the grownups with their unfailing loyalty and unconditional love for each other, both express an unthinking complete giving of themselves to one other. The film captures beautifully in the persons of these two intriguing social outcasts the experience of moving from being trapped in isolation into discovering and developing a union with another. I love how the two of them are so adult and wise in one way and still very much children, with childlike reasoning and priorities, e.g., Suzy runs away and packs a suitcase full of books and her kitten but not a change of clothes…

Wes Anderson spins a simple, sweet story – yet the viewer never knows exactly where it is headed. Throughout, the film is subtly hilarious. In trademark Anderson fashion, the lines are delivered in an almost deadpan way with all the characters completely oblivious to the irony and ridiculousness of the situation, dialog, and even their lives and themselves. I highly recommend purchasing this movie; it’s one you’ll want to watch again and again and share with other people.

Powder (PG-13, 4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $1.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy). Amazon reviewer Libretio says:

Every so often, a movie comes out of nowhere which touches you so deeply, on so many levels, that it stays in your heart forever. POWDER is such a movie.

The premise is deceptively simple: Following the death of his last remaining adult guardian on their isolated farm, a young albino man nicknamed ‘Powder’ (Sean Patrick Flanery) is taken into the custody of local authorities. But his genius IQ and ability to harness electricity – leading to spectacular displays of apparently ‘magical’ behavior – arouses the suspicions of frightened townsfolk, and while he’s able to change some people’s lives for the better (and how!), others are too consumed by hatred to accept this strange, unique outsider. Thus, the stage is set for potential tragedy…

Writer-director Victor Salva (also responsible for the superb RITES OF PASSAGE, 1998) has constructed a modern parable which works both as a simple entertainment and as a powerful meditation on the nature of Good and Evil. Episodic in structure, the narrative pitches Powder’s strange appearance and gentle manner against some of the worst aspects of the human condition – bigotry, mistrust, cruelty – and though Salva makes a brave attempt to portray these shameful characteristics in various shades of grey, his script acknowledges that some people are defined by their hatred and cannot easily be changed. That said, whilst the film doesn’t flinch from the rough stuff, it’s ultimately a joyous celebration of the human spirit: Though evil flourishes, goodness prevails.

The Boy Who Could Fly (PG, 4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy). Amazon Hall of Fame / Top 1000 Reviewer Brian E. Erland says:

Mrs. Michaelson (Bonnie Bedelia) and her two children Milly (Lucy Deakins) and Louis (Fred Savage) have just moved into a new neighborhood following the recent death of their husband/Father. They hope to begin a new life and make new friends as the try to deal with the grief of their loss.

While trying to deal with her own personal grief, Milly finds an unexpected friend in Eric (Jay Underwood) the strange boy next store who never speaks and stands on the roof of his house with arms spread as though he were an airplane getting ready to take flight.

After a little investigation she discovers that Eric lost both parents in a plane crash and hasn’t spoken or communicated with anyone since. Milly decides to break through the wall he has built around himself and lead him back to wholeness. As you might have guessed by now feelings other than just friendship soon develop between the two disinfranchised teenagers.

‘The Boy Who Could’ is an absolutely wonderful tale of hope, belief and the healing power of love. Lucy Deakins is one of the most charming and beautiful young women I’ve ever seen on film and was absolutely perfect for this role. The entire cast is excellent as well, especially Fred Savage as the little brother.

October Sky (PG, 4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy) – Jake Gyllenhaal and Laura Dern star in this inspiring true story about a teenager living in a West Virginia mining town who dares to reach for the stars after seeing the Sputnik satellite.

One Amazon reviewer says:

October Sky is a great movie based on the true story. It is an example of the American Dream. Our children can become what they want, if they are willing to work for it. These boys were not “given” anything, they earned it, with hard work. This movie is also about the precarious relationships between children and their parents; with love and respect toward each other, even in disagreement. Finally, it’s also about friendship. I recommend this movie to anyone.

Whip It! (PG-13, 4/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy) – After years of indulging the ambitious dreams of her Texas mom by competing in beauty pageants, a sixteen year old misfit secretly joins the roller derby and discovers self-confidence, romance, and a new identity as a phenomenal league star.

Amazon reviewer Karen Joan says:

WHIP IT is the story of Bliss, a seventeen-year-old diner waitress in a backwater town near Austin, Texas. Bliss is basically a good girl, doing everything her overbearing mother asks, including competing in (and often winning) beauty pageants. But Bliss really wants to make more of her life, and to find her own path. When she finds a flyer advertising a Roller Derby match in Austin, she and her best friend sneak out to the big city and have an adventure. Something about the Roller Derby and the women who compete strike a chord in Bliss, and one of the teams invites her to try out. Before she quite knows what is happening, Bliss makes the team and becomes a Hurl Scout. Bliss then has many life decisions to make, each of which has significant consequences. Can Bliss find the path that will make her truly happy?

Ellen Page is delightful and dead on as Bliss. I really like the heart and soul that Ellen puts into her characters. The rest of the cast is excellent and equally talented (including director Drew Barrymore, Marcia Gay Harden, and Kristen Wiig), but Ellen Page truly carries this film. WHIP IT is well paced, slow and thoughtful where appropriate, yet full of excitement and great action at the Roller Derby. And I always like the messages from Ms. Barrymore’s films…girls can do anything. Something I definitely want to instill in my 12 ½ year old.

WHIP IT is a unique combination of sports action, teen coming of age, and family genres that works and works really well. It was great evening together for my entire family, and a movie we are still talking about. WHIP IT is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Penelope (PG, 4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy) – A modern romantic tale about a young aristocratic heiress born under a curse that can only be broken when she finds true love with “one who will love her faithfully.”

One Amazon reviewer says:

What a sweet, sweet story that is actually okay for kids to watch! As it is an obvious plot – fairly predictable – I won’t go into too much detail about the story. It’s not an ugly duckling story as some reviewers have said but more like a reversed Beauty and the Beast. There’s a curse put upon a family and because of this curse, Penelope, our heroine, is born with a snout and the only way to break the curse is for her to find someone to marry her. And thus begins her family’s journey to find the right man for this cursed girl.

…Oh, how beautifully this story was presented. The production team created this whole world that doesn’t quite fit in any time period – a victorian gothic married with the twenty-first century… all the colours and the quirky and quaint setting were a sight to behold. I’d want to live on that set if it was real! 😀

There were no weak links in the whole cast. Christina Ricci played Penelope beautifully. She is supposedly the female beast but her beauty shines through remarkably – and sometimes, she was too beautiful to be the ‘beast’ of the movie, even with the snout! 😉 …The story revolves around the character Penelope and how she overcomes and braves the hurdles of life. The movie stands to send out a message. There is a romantic story to it but it’s definitely not the central plot. All in all a great feel good movie and, yes, an excellent chick flick for all ages!


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