The Movie Diary

Breaking the spell

By Dom Cioffi

So, as I outlined in last week’s column, prior to the start of the summer break, my wife and I made the decision to send our teenage son to a 30-day camp meant to enrich lives and motivate young men to become confident adults. While a great kid in most respects, we could see our son slipping into a pattern of lethargy when it came to school and hard work in general.

Personally, I blame video games and cell phones and the numbing effect they have on children, my son included. Even with the restrictions I’ve instituted, I could still see the power they were wielded in his life. The idea of freeing him from these distractions for a month was a big part of the appeal.

The program is conducted at a private school military academy for the entire month of July. And while the structure is based on the military model, it is far from a true military experience.

The first part of the day is spent in the classroom with courses on proper study habits and test taking tips (techniques that my son desperately needs to incorporate). The second half of the day focuses on outdoor activities like basketball and fishing. On the weekends, the cadets take field trips to do things like whitewater rafting and scuba diving.

We dropped him off a week ago; admittedly a tough moment since he’s rarely been out of our guard for more than a few days since he was born. This was going to be a test, not only for him, but for his mother and I as well.

He handled the drop-off well. One thing about our son, he loves being around other children. You could leave him locked in a closet and as long as there was another kid with him, he’d be fine.

We felt good after we left. The facilities were nice and the staff seemed genuinely interested in helping the kids out. Subsequently, my wife and I drove home with a feeling of contentment and went about our week.

Admittedly, it was very strange not to have him around. While the verbal arguments totally dissipated, so did the sounds of him running through the house, playing the drums, and blasting his music while showering.
It was quiet… maybe too quiet.

I combated the deafly quiet environment by golfing excessively; my wife did the same with tennis. I suddenly didn’t mind working a little late and found I was in no rush to get anything done at home. When I drive by baseball fields filled with kids practicing, I now take a deep, melancholy breath.

Last week, on the morning of the Fourth of July, my phone rang as I was throwing together some breakfast. I looked at the number and noticed it was coming from the town where the military academy was located. My first thought was, “Please don’t be a problem with my son.”

I answered the phone and heard the voice on the other end state, “Hello, Mr. Cioffi. We have a small problem with your son.”

I quickly responded, “Is he okay?”

The gentleman said that he was fine. He then told me that he was the head of the IT department. Immediately my heart dropped. My mind raced to the conclusion that somehow my son had been caught playing video games and was in trouble.

The gentleman then stated, “Your son won’t be able to use his laptop anymore.”

Again my mind raced. “I knew it!” I said to myself. “Those damn video games will be the death of him.”

The voice then stated that the new laptop I had just bought my son for this camp had a fatal hard drive crash and was now unusable.

Without realize that I was talking out loud, I blurted out, “Oh, thank God!”

There was a moment of silence and then the voice said, “Excuse me?” I apologized and explained that I thought he was heading down a different path.

By the end of that day a staff member had returned the laptop to Best Buy and swapped it out for another. Once again, I was impressed with the organization and felt confident that our son was in the right spot.

In this week’s film, “The First Purge,” we revisit the popular dystopian horror franchise to see how the idea of mass lawlessness was first conceived and how quickly people realized that being in the right spot during the Purge could be the difference between life and death.

The concept for the Purge films is both disturbing and intriguing. For one 12-hour period all crime in America is legal while all emergency services are suspended. The idea is that by letting people purge their anger, they will remain more calm for the rest of the year.

Check this one if the other Purge films tweaked your curiosity. While the premise for the start of the original Purge is interesting, this film – like the others in the series – still devolved into basic horror without many intellectual challenges.

A suppressive “C” for “The First Purge.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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