Cinefile: Recommended diversions

'Mary Poppins' is better than you remember it being.

hannah brown 88 (photo credit: )
hannah brown 88
(photo credit: )
The news is just breaking of eight dead in Haifa as I write this column, so obviously my thoughts are with the citizens of both the north and south, as well as soldiers and their families. Movies are not the first thing on most people's minds right now, but given that many will likely find themselves stuck in safe rooms and shelters, those with access to DVD/video players may want to rent or download some films. Remember that while many of us tend to glue ourselves to news stations, you can stay well informed by listening to the headlines a few times a day. For those who love movies, there is no escape like watching a great film, and everybody needs to enjoy themselves a little these days. So here are a few suggestions that the entire family can enjoy: If you have kids, you probably have a collection of favorite videos, likely including Pixar hits like the Toy Story films, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. Madagascar, last year's animated hit, is now out on DVD in Hebrew. While it's no masterpiece, my kids loved it. The Sponge Bob movie is also out in Hebrew. Other recent DVD releases in Hebrew that may be suitable for older children include the silly soap opera Days of Love, starring pop diva Maya Buskilla - which your teenage girls may enjoy if they like telenovelas - and the latest version of King Kong, which is also silly but fun (and long, which may help if you have a lot of time to fill). Two high-quality Israeli films have just been released on DVD: Gidi Dar's story of a former criminal turned ultra-Orthodox, Ushpizin, and Eran Ricklis's look at a young Druse woman set to marry her Syrian cousin, The Syrian Bride. Both of these are films teens can enjoy, although they are aimed at adults. The same is true for Joseph Cedar's Campfire, the story of a widow planning to move to the West Bank, which has been out on DVD for a while and has several strong teen characters. But if you want to get away from seeing any movie set in the Middle East, and don't need Hebrew translations, there are even more choices. Two recent documentaries on nature are so innovative and brilliantly filmed they can't be compared to the basic nature films many of us grew up with. The Big Blue, which is about ocean life, and March of the Penguins (also known as The Emperor's Journey), the winner of this year's Oscar for Best Documentary, are both compulsively watchable. Mary Poppins is another movie that a family can watch together, and trust me, it's even better than you remember it. Another musical that is so brilliantly made it overcomes the clich objection that "it's silly to see everyone suddenly breaking into song" is Singin' in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly, which is a look at the early days of talkies and features some great tap dancing. Of course, there's always The Wizard of Oz, but remember: Although "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" may be the moment that sticks in your mind, parts of the film may terrify young children. This could be the time to introduce your kids to some other classics. If you're thinking about the Marx Brothers, then Duck Soup is the best, because it has the most Marx Brothers and the least straight story. With all these new princess movies coming out, why not give your girls a chance to see the greatest princess-commoner romance of all time, Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck at the peak of their beauty and charm? And for teens who are used to seeing action movies with astronomical body counts, why not give them a look at a couple of Alfred Hitchcock classics? A great choice is Rear Window, which stars Jimmy Stewart as a tough-guy photographer laid up with a broken leg who thinks his neighbor has committed a murder. It has humor and suspense, Grace Kelly plays the love interest, and it's in color. Parents who want to check out how much sex, violence, etc. there is in a particular film can always go to the Web site www. Here's hoping you find some films that make your days a bit calmer.