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Yesterday - Blu-ray Disc

Yesterday tells the story of a mysterious, worldwide blackout, and a young musician who is the only person alive to remembers the songs of The Beatles afterward.

Rated PG-13, for for suggestive language and content.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Viewer Appeal: Teens and Adults.

First, I must admit I’m no fan of The Beatles, nor of their deified status among Baby Boomers who claim to have experienced them firsthand. HOWEVER, my indifference for the Four-Chord Wonders is more than eclipsed by my unashamed fandom for Yesterday screenwriter, Richard Curtis. He’s the only filmmaker to place a whopping three titles in my personal “Top 10 Movies of All Time” list (Notting HillLove ActuallyAbout Time). So while I was tempted to skip Yesterday because of it’s Beatles connection, I couldn’t resist making time for a new Richard Curtis’ movie. As expected, that Curtis touch made all the difference. ​

Here’s the story of Yesterday:

Jack Malik (played by newcomer Himesh Patel) is a struggling young musician on the verge of giving up his career aspirations, ready to go back to a job teaching music to kids. His manager/roadie/driver/ biggest-fan/best-friend-since-childhood, Ellie (Lily James) convinces him to stick with it just a bit longer. Then … while riding his bicycle home after another lackluster performance, a bus careens into young Jack at the same moment when a worldwide power-outage spreads across planet Earth for 12 full seconds. When the poor lad wakes up in the hospital (with Ellie there to care for him, of course): “Everyone in the world has forgotten The Beatles. Everyone except Jack.”​

Our hero finally figures out that he’s the only one who remembers songs like “Yesterday,” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and “Eleanor Rigby,” and the rest. See, every time he plays a Beatles’ song people think he wrote it, and are appropriately awed. So, armed with the catalog of any song he can remember by John, Paul, George, and Ringo, he quickly becomes the most successful singer/songwriter in the world. But with fame and fortune finally in his lap, why is Jack still so unhappy? ​

It takes only one simple “what if?”

As usual with a Richard Curtis movie, it takes only one simple “what if?” to spin a full-bodied story of curiosity, warmth, and surprise. I can’t tell you how many times (six maybe, seven?) I thought I knew what was going to happen next, only to be pleasantly surprised by the, um, surprise that happened next. When a filmmaker can do that to a jaded movie-watcher like me several time over the course of 116 minutes, that gets my attention. Additionally,  Curtis is a master at bringing uniquely-flawed, yet irresistibly lovable characters onto the screen. People feel like real people, even in the most absurd circumstances – a feat that few filmmakers can accomplish with consistency. ​

Drafting newcomer Himesh Patel to play Jack was a stroke of genius by director Danny Boyle. Tasked with not only acting the part, but actually singing and playing the world’s most famous playlist of songs, it would’ve been easy for another actor to be “Brad Pitt playing Jack” or some other onscreen personality simply wearing makeup. But Patel’s general anonymity combined with his significant talent allows us to see only Jack Malik evolving before our eyes, never “Famous Actor pretending to be Jack Malik.” That kind of movie moment is rare, and welcome. ​

The Real Star of Yesterday

The real star of Yesterday, though, is the girl-next-door Ellie as embodied by the lovely Lily James. At times fierce, at others beautifully vulnerable, she’s a constant pillar in this film, lighting up the screen every time she flashes a shy, adoring smile toward her lifelong crush. It’s safe to say that this film centers on Jack Malik, but the story is about Ellie. ​

So, even though I’m a guy who kinda hates The Beatles, I was still impressed by Richard Curtis. Once again, he’s crafted a beautifully-written, heartwarming story for people who love romantic comedies – and each other. Enjoy this one on a “Date Night”  and then, if it seems appropriate, share it with your teen children for a “Family Movie Night” as well.​

Bonus features on the Blu-ray edition of Yesterday are plenty, and include: ​

  • Alternate Opening
  • Alternate Ending
  • Deleted Scenes
    • Corden & Roxanne – Includes deleted performance by Himesh Patel of “Something”
    • Late for School
    • Nutters Italian Ice Cream
    • Sortisimus
    • Moscow Audience
    • Alexa
    • A Gonk
    • W Hotel
    • Jack Calls Ellie
    • Hilary in the Mirror
    • Nick and Carol
    • Hazel’s Selfie
  • Gag Reel
  • Live at Abbey Road Studios – Watch Himesh Patel perform “Yesterday”, “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, and “Let it Be” at Abbey Road Studios.
    • “Yesterday”
    • “I Want To Hold Your Hand”
    • “Let it Be”
  • Ed Sheeran: From Stadium to Screen – Acting in his first major role, Ed Sheeran reflects on his experiences making the movie.
  • Agent of Comedy: Kate McKinnon – Kate McKinnon shares how eager she was to play the role of “Debra Hammer” while the cast and crew reflect on the fun and energy that the queen of improvisational comedy brought to the set.
  • A Talented Duo – Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle, two of the most successful British filmmakers, team up for the first time.
  • Playing for Real – The re-interpreting of the Beatles songs was a huge undertaking for newcomer Himesh Patel. Learn how he spent months learning to play the songs perfectly as the production decided to take the more challenging route of recording the musical numbers live on set.
  • Soul Mates – Beyond the music and the laughs, the film is, of course, a love story. This piece looks at the relationship between Jack & Ellie and the actors playing them.
  • A Conversation with Richard & Ed – Long-term friends Richard Curtis and Ed Sheeran have a funny and informal chat about the making of YESTERDAY.
  • Feature Commentary with Director Danny Boyle and Writer/Producer Richard Curtis

Let’s Talk About It …

  • If you were to summarize the main message of Yesterday into one sentence, what would it be?
  • What makes creative art (like music, books, images, and more) so meaningful to people? Explain.
  • In your opinion, did Jack “steal” The Beatles’ songs, or did he honor their forgotten legacy? Defend your answer.

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Fox Home Entertainment

Fox Home Entertainment

Rating: PG-13

Reason for the Rating: Sexual material and language.

Plot Summary: A young man recounts his love affair with a quirky and wonderful woman, telling their story in out-of-order flashbacks and memories.

NerdFans Recommends: (500) Days of Summer is creatively constructed and alive with emotion. It’s warm and thoughtful. It’s a film you’ll want to see, and maybe see again with your teenagers.

(500) Days of Summer is not your typical love story. Thankfully, so.

Don’t expect a love-starved woman or a leading man who sweeps every woman in the audience off her feet. This is a movie for those of us who like the adventure of life and love, and the occasional film that takes a different course.

(500) Days of Summer is told from the viewpoint of Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who falls in love with Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) the first day she shows up as an administrative assistant for his boss. Summer is the girl-next-door. She’s cute, sweet, and a little quirky. Okay, she’s a lot quirky, but in a good way. Except that she doesn’t believe in love. Which is a problem for Tom. Summer wants to enjoy the experience, have a great time, without the encumbrance of commitment and the emotion of love. Love just leads to hurt feelings, she figures, and who wants that?

Well, Tom wants that. And he wants it with Summer.

Caught up in the glory of infatuation, Tom sees just how perfect she is.

Comfortable with herself, she isn’t judgmental. Which means he can explore his dreams and share them with her, something he’s never done before. How could anyone be more perfect than Summer? If he could just change that one troublesome thing about her not looking for a commitment!

You know, there are movies that tell a story, and then there are movies that weave a tapestry. They draw you in, and catch you with the feeling and angst of the characters. This is one such movie.

Director Marc Webb uses many different means of keeping the audience captivated.

From a storyline that jumps from middle to beginning, to end to middle, a musical number, and even some black and white, (500) Days of Summer isn’t a movie you walk away from and forget. It’s not predictable. You won’t find yourself saying, “That was just like the movie she was in last year.” It is a creative film that takes a small look at the journey of love, loss, and those horrible days afterward. And that makes it a movie most of us can relate to (unless you were one of those rare people who married your high-school sweetheart), with a character we all understand.

While Tom and Summer certainly don’t agree on love, they each grow from their relationship. They are changed by the tension, the desire, and the experience of their connection, but is it going to be one that keeps them together? Difficult relationships are miserable, but they are usually the ones that change us, and make us “grow up,” and this is no less true for Tom.

Bonus Features:

The Blu-ray Disc version of this DVD includes deleted and extended scenes, a making-of featurette, interviews with the stars, audition tapes, music video, and more. Additionally, the Blu-ray version includes a second disc with a transferable “digital copy” of the film for viewing on your computer and portable media players (such as iPod or Playstation).

Let’s Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:

• How have you been changed by the love of another person? Explain?

• What dreams have you laid aside for something more practical?

• Jesus is the ultimate lover of our souls. How do you think he’d relate to Summer? To Tom? To you?


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Fox Searchlight Pictures

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Rating: R

Reason for the Rating: Violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality.

Plot Summary: At the height of slavery in America, a free black man is kidnapped from New York State and sold as a slave in Louisiana.

NerdFans Recommends: Some scenes in this film are difficult to watch. Parents will likely want to exercise caution before allowing children to see this movie … But this is a culturally relevant film worth seeing and discussing with teens.

Imagine waking one morning to find yourself shackled in a strange room.

Your last memories are of an entertaining evening with new friends, yet you have no memory of how you ended up in chains, in a bare room, where people are beating you. You are now a prisoner by law, and suddenly a slave.

This was the experience of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man in the early 1840’s. Married with two children, Solomon is coerced into leaving his home in New York for Washington D.C to accept a short-term job offer. What he doesn’t know, is that the two men with whom he’s travelling are slave traders, sent to kidnap black men and women to sell into slavery.

12 Years A Slave is a disturbing and heart-wrenching story on several levels.

As humans we are angered by the injustice and harm inflicted on others, and as parents our hearts are unraveled for the families who endured being torn from each other with no sympathy from their captors. While the film focuses on Solomon, it also tells the story of other slaves he meets along the way: Eliza (Adepero Oduye), a mother who is sold without her children, and Patsy (Lupita Nyong’o), a slave girl who is so abused by her master and mistress that she wants to die. The characters are as deep as the ocean, and you’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel the pain resonating from them.

Solomon is an amazing character and Chiwetel Ejiofor brings him to life with seeming effortlessness. While he’s forced to give up his legal name and assume the name “Pratt,” Solomon doesn’t forget who he is. He is determined to not simply survive, but to also live. He tries to maintain his dignity among the masters who want to own him, and finds himself being punished for it. So when he, by the grace of God, meets Bass (Brad Pitt), a Canadian abolitionist, Solomon risks his life by asking for help. And after 12 long years he is reunited with his family.

Director Steve McQueen in no way glosses over the horrific experiences of slaves,

While 12 Years A Slave has a happy ending, it’s terribly difficult to watch. McQueen shows graphic whippings, beatings, hangings, and other horrendous and humiliating doings. This story of slavery is really no different from others we’ve seen, and why should it be?

The names and faces of the “overseers” or “masters” here are different, but their characters are the same. Cruel. Full of hatred. Willing to use slaves for their own personal gain and gratification, but unable to see them as humans. It’s a fact of history that slaves were generally abused and misused by those in authority over them. As one overseer admits, when all you do is flog and misuse others, you can’t escape the guilt. So you either give into it, or find a way to medicate it. Regardless of the time period, the effects of sin never change.

I found it interesting to watch this movie just after Super Bowl weekend.

Interesting, because that was a weekend chosen to illuminate the issue of sex trafficking. While it’s easy to watch a movie like 12 Years A Slave and compartmentalize this issue as something that happened in our country’s history, the fact remains that it is still occurring. It simply looks different than it did 150 years ago.

As you can imagine, 12 Years a Slave is not a movie for children. While the topic is relevant for today, as well as a good history lesson, parents need to be aware that the movie contains scenes that are difficult to watch, and are graphic in nature. There’s a good reason this movie has been nominated for nine Oscars and won the Golden Globe for Best Drama. It’s a movie who’s story will grip you and its characters will move you. It’s a movie worth your time.

Let’s Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:

• Many slave owners and overseers were keeping slaves based on what they believed or had been taught from society. What is something you believe in based on social values?

• While talking with Edwin Epps, Bass says, “Laws change. Social systems crumble. Universal truths are constant. It is a fact, it is a plain fact that what is true and right is true and right for all.” How does this argument point to God?

• Understanding someone else’s pain is difficult to do, as made plain by Mistress Ford’s comment to Eliza, “Something to eat and some rest; your children will soon enough be forgotten.” When has someone spoken meaningful words of comfort to you during a difficult time?


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