Sunday, March 19, 2017

Beauty and the Beast brings animation magic to life

Movie Title:
  Beauty and the Beast

Grade:  A-

Rating:  PG, 129 minutes

In a Nutshell:  In this lovely Disney re-telling of a tale as old as time, Emma Watson shows us she can sing, dance, and cast a delightful spell on audiences, even when she isn’t playing Hermione Granger.  

Bill Condon (who also directed Dreamgirls and one of the Twilight movies) sticks fairly close to the source material, but adds a few new songs and some new jokes to freshen up the story.

While I enjoyed this new version, I have to admit the 1991 Disney animation did it better.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Do not be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within.
  • “Don’t be afraid.” - Beast
  • Be kind and fearless

Things I liked:
  • There are some beautiful set pieces and landscapes that put the make-believe French village and castle in the magic zone. 
  • Josh Gad is Disney awesomeness and looks quite comfortable in another musical.
  • It’s better in 3D, but not necessary.  (I saw it in both.)
  • I love Dan Stevens’ blue eyes.
  • I’ve always loved Kevin Kline in anything he does, so I thought his little solo was very touching. “How does a moment last forever?”  Love.  Celine Dion sings it again at the end of the movie.  More love.  Did you know she won a Grammy for a song she sang with the 1991 animated movie?
  • Audra McDonald clearly has the best pipes out of all the singers in the movie.  Did you know she is married to Will Swenson (I thought he was hilarious in Sons of Provo)
  • I loved the Beast’s eye makeup in the beginning.
  • I thought the tomato soup and rolls that Belle and the Beast ate for lunch looked delicious.  Yeah, of course I would notice the food.
  • As an author, I love that books played a prominent role in the movie.  Belle explains that books allow you to escape.  Yes!  (So do movies.)
  • Did you notice Belle’s modern earring that she wore on one ear at the ball?
  • I thought Belle and the Beast looked good together at the end, like they matched.
  • I loved how the rolling credits showed the cast at the end of the movie.
  • Emma Thompson is magical in everything she does.

Things I didn’t like:
  • While I thought the live action remake of Cinderella with Lily James and Cate Blanchett was absolutely fantastic, this new version of Beauty and the Beast is just ok.
  • In this new adaptation, the Beast has a magical book that allows you to teleport anywhere.  Awesome, right?  So then, why is the magic mirror still needed?
  • While I enjoyed Emma Watson, I’m just wondering why Anna Kendrick wasn’t cast as Belle.  She has a much, much better voice.
  • Why is Belle’s skirt always pulled up on the right side?
  • It feels like a stage play at times.
  • Sometimes the camera moves too fast.  I wanted to see more things slower.
  • I wanted the famous ballroom dance scene to be breathtaking, like in the newest Cinderella, but it was underwhelming.

Interesting lines:
  • “She hasn’t made a fool of herself just to gain my favor.  What would you call that?” – Gaston (Luke Evans)
“Dignity.” – Le Fou
  • “Your library makes our small corner of the world feel big.” – Belle
  • “People say a lot of things in anger.  It is our option to listen to them.” – Mrs. Pott
  • “Can anybody be happy if they’re not free?” – Belle

Funny lines:
  • “It’s never going to happen, ladies.” – Le Fou (Josh Gad)

Tips for parents: 

  • There is a scene with LeFou, Gaston’s sidekick, that has been labeled a “gay moment." Because of it, the movie has already been banned in Malaysia and restricted to viewers over the age of 16 in Russia.  In my opinion, that moment has been blown out of proportion.  In fact, I was able to identify what could be called 3 "gay moments."  I completely understand why parents feel betrayed by Disney, who they look to for "safe" family-friendly entertainment; however, over the years, more and more Disney films have contained potentially offensive material. What are parents to do?  Talk with your children about what you value and why, while teaching them to love others.
  • Young girls will notice that only the boys were allowed to go to school and read.  Talk to your daughters about that.  Point out how smart, independent, and capable Belle was because she read and sought knowledge.
  • No profanity.  Thank you Disney!
  • There are some scenes that might frighten young children, particularly with scary wolves and fighting.

Check out this cool video that BYU's Vocal Point just made with Lexi Walker to honor the wonderful music of Beauty and the Beast! The male dancer in the scene "Tale as Old as Time" was dating my niece. They were both on the award-winning BYU Ballroom dance team together! He's a really great guy.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Shack gets polar opposite reviews of A and F

Movie Title:  The Shack

Grade:  B

Rating: PG-13, 132 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Based on the best-selling New York Times novel by Canadian author William P. Young, this lovely film can heal your heart if you let it.  Lose the cynicism at the door and just allow yourself to feel the love. 

It’s filled with beautiful symbolism and metaphors, yet movie critic haters have given it an extremely low score of F on Rotten Tomatoes.  Christians and fans, however, have given it an A rating on CinemaScore.  You be the judge.  (You being the judge is a strong theme in the movie.)

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Pain has a way of twisting us up inside and making us do the unthinkable.” – Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington)
  • There is no quick fix to problems. 
  • “Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.” – Sarayu (Sumire Matsubara)
  • Forgiveness, hope, love, faith, patience
  • “Everything bares consequences.” – God
  • “You’re not stuck because you can’t; you’re stuck because you won’t.” – God
  • “With every act of kindness, the universe changes for the better.” – Jesus (Aviv Alush)
  • “What do I do?” – Mack when he was a kid
“Talk to God.  He’s always listening.” – family friend/Papa

Things I liked:
  • I love how God is revealed how the character can best accept him/her.
  • Beautiful imagery of baptism when he goes under the waterfall.
  • Lovely scenery and images.
  • The colorful image of the father and son together, forgiving each other was touching.
  • I loved the image of Jesus and Mack running across the water together.
  • I was impressed with Nan Phillips, the wife, (played by Radha Mitchell) who never blamed her husband once.  What an incredible example of forgiveness and understanding she was.
  • Octavia Spencer makes a wonderful God.  Her award-winning movie Hidden Figures is still playing in some theaters.  I also thought it was interesting to show God as a wise, old Indian father, played by Graham Greene. 
  • How many of you still think of the movie Avatar whenever you see Sam Worthington?  Did you know Disney’s newest attraction Avatarland opens in May 2017!  My friend, who has the dream job of a Disney Imagineer has been working on this project for months!  I'm so excited to see it!
  • Amelie Eve is adorable as Missy Phillips.
  • Singer Tim McGraw has been showing up in Christian films quite a bit recently.  Good for him.
  • I thought casting Aviv Alush as Jesus and Sumire Matsubara as Sarayu (Spirit) were fascinating choices.
  • When Mack asks, “Which one of you is God”? all three characters say, “I am.”  I liked that portrayal of three personages with a singular purpose.  I also love that he spends time with each one as a friend.
  • The way the central problem in the story is resolved is a biblical one that may seem too simple, yet is very powerful: trust in God, even when you can’t see or understand what God is doing.
  • SPOILER: There is a lot of abstract philosophysing, but Mack is able to apply the principles and put into practice what he has learned.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The story jumps back and forth in time a lot in the beginning.
  • I think almost every parent has experienced that terrible feeling when you can’t find your child, even if it’s just for a few minutes in the grocery store when your toddler dashes down a different aisle.  The experience in this movie will touch every parent’s heart.
  • There are few bad editing moments.
  • For some who are currently experiencing grief in their lives, this can be a healing experience or one that is still too painfully raw.
  • Most of the music is super cheesy.
  • SPOILER: He never has to atone for his own sin of killing his father.
  • SPOILER:  A dream?  Really?  Isn’t that the worst cop-out ever?  I didn’t read the book, but I’m told the author didn’t stoop that low.

  • Interesting lines:
  • “If God’s always with us, why does he care if we’re late to church?” – Missy Phillips
“God cares, because your mom cares.” – Nan Phillips  (great answer)
  • “Son, when all you see is your pain, you lose sight of me.” – God
  • “Why would you keep working on me?” – Mack
“Cuz that’s what love does.” – God
  • “Don’t forget – we love each other.” – Nan
  • “Dreams are especially important.  They’re a way of opening a window and letting the bad air out.” – God
  • “You misunderstand the mystery.” – God
  • “Love always leaves a mark.” – God
  • “I don’t need to punish people; sin is its own punishment.” – God
  • “When a star twinkles, a prayer is heard in heaven.” – Mack
“Wow, Papa sure is busy.” – Missy
  • “Religion is too much work.” - Jesus
  • “You want the promise of a pain-free life.  There isn’t one.” – Wisdom

Funny lines:
  • “I always pictured you with a white beard.” – Mack
“I think that’s Santa.” – God
  • “Honey, you have no idea how much I’m doing right now!” – God
  • “Do you like Neil Young?  I’m especially fond of him.” – God
  • “Serei can be very persuasive.” – Jesus
“If only I were smart enough to understand a word she says.” - Mack

Tips for parents: 
  • The film addresses child abuse, abduction, murder, domestic violence, alcoholism, hypocrisy, religion, Christianity and other heavy subjects.
  •  Mack says, "OMG!", but God immediately forgives him; otherwise, no profanity in this movie.  Yay! 


Table 19 will make you relive your worst wedding reception

Movie Title:  Table 19

Grade:  C-

Rating:  PG-13, 1 hour 27 minutes

In a Nutshell:  First, let me announce that my oldest son just got engaged!  Woohoo!  I sure hope his reception is nothing like the one in this movie.

This rom-com makes you feel like you’re trapped at a really awful reception with really awful people...and you don't even get to eat cake to make up for it.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Forgiveness
  • “People do weird things at weddings.” – Huck (Thomas Cocquerel)
  • Persistence, self-respect
  • Don't judge other people 

Things I liked:
  • I always like watching Anna Kendrick.  The director could have easily worked in a singing number for her at the reception, which would have made the film a little less awful.
  • Good for Stephen Merchant for having two movies in theaters right now!  In this film, he plays his typical nerdy character, but in Logan, he plays a very different albino character.
  • Guys, take note: learn how to dance.  Most of us women dream of being swept off our feet, literally.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The cast showed promise, but the dialogue and plot just couldn’t benefit.  The premise was also a good idea, but it just didn't go anywhere.
  • Lisa Kudrow and Jerry Kepp have no chemistry together.  I hated watching them fight and bicker for the majority of the movie.
  • Teddy and Eloise didn't seem to match at all.  Odd casting, I thought. It didn't seem believable that they had dated.  Notice his geeked-out moves during the dance scene.  ha ha
  • Put a beanie on the baby at the end of the movie!  The parents are wearing coats in the winter cold, but the baby needs to be more bundled up!
  • People can be so rude.  I wouldn’t want to spend time with most of those people at this wedding.

Funny lines:
  • “You children are such a disappointment!” –  Nanny Jo Flanagan (June Squibb), as she talks to the adults at Table 19.
  • “Junior prom is a horror show.”  - Renzo Revolori's mom on the phone
  • “What kind of a nanny are you?!” – Bina Kepp (Lisa Kudrow) after she sees the nanny do drugs
“Retired.” – Nanny Jo

Tips for parents: 
  • Profanity
  • Pre-marital relations.  
  • The Nanny does drugs and offers them to other people.
  •  Bad behavior all around.
  • Eloise (Anna Kendrick) expected a kiss after only one dance with a guy she just met?  Seriously?  Talk to your daughters about reality vs. soap opera behavior.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tim Timmerman could earn a cult following

Movie Title:   Tim Timmerman, Hope of America

Grade:  B+

Rating:  PG-13, 94 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Brought to us from the clever peeps at VidAngel Studios, Picture Picture, and Purdie Distribution, this quirky film will take you back to high school in the 1990’s and make you laugh out loud.

Considering it only opened in Utah theaters (to sell-out crowds, mind you!), it has already earned a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Director Cameron Sawyer presents a fun family flick that is loosely based on his own life.  Test-screening audiences have described the film as Ferris Bueller's Day Off meets Napoleon Dynamite.  That actually does describe it pretty well!  I love both of those silly celluloids!  If the filmmakers of Tim Timmerman continue to win awards and fill seats in theaters, this movie could earn itself a cult following.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Knowledge is power, dude.” – Garrett Stubbs
  • “Time heals all wounds.” – Bill Clinton 
  • Actions have consequences.
  • Friendship, loyalty
  • Persistence, focused determination
  • Service

Things I liked:
  • Eddie Perino is fantastic as the charming slacker Tim Timmerman.  Even though Tim Timmerman has a lot of flaws, he is adorable and extremely likeable.  I'd like to see Eddie Perino in more films.  You may have discovered him in Disney XD's "Lab Rats."
  • Chelsea Maidhof is lovely as Sydney Anderson.  She and Eddie Perino find an innocent chemistry together that is so charming.
  • I love that the movie features a deaf girl.  You get to learn how the Telecommunications Relay Service works.  The first time I had to make a phone call with that service, I was so confused!  I thought it was so endearing when Tim strikes up a friendly relationship with the TRS operator, like he did with everyone.
  • The Assassins League running gag of the guy with the toy pellet gun chasing Tim around was awesome and hilarious.  I wish my high school had that when I was a teenager!
  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the girl who sings a patriotic song in one of the scenes Aaliyah Rose?  She recently got a three-chair turn from the judges on The Voice!
  • Keep watching until after the rolling credits at the end for a funny glimpse at what happens one year later.  I love it when movies include that.
  • The movie’s website includes a list of the characters, along with their favorite bands, foods, and hobbies.  Hilarious.
  • "Save Tim Timmerman campaign" ala Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  ha ha

Things I didn’t like:
  • I didn’t like how Tim smugly uses people, but I was impressed by his focused ambition.
  • There is some reckless, dangerous, and even illegal behavior that parents won’t want their kids getting any crazy ideas from.
  • Inappropriate flirting of a female teacher to a male student.
  • I would have liked to see them do something more with the theme "Hope of America" since that was in the film's title.  There's actually an award called "Hope of America" for service and leadership organizations.
  • Wait, wasn't Tim Timmerman a real guy who played baseball?
  • There's a slam on Salt Lake Community College.

Things that really take you back in time to the 1990’s:
  • Pagers
  • Instamatic camera
  • Cassette tape
  • Walkman CD
  • President Clinton
  • Tab
  • Boom box
  • Girl overalls
  • Flannel

Funny lines:
  • “Fetch!” – Tim Timmerman
  • “Did you guys see that white suit?  Crisp!” – Garrett Stubbs

Tips for parents: 
  • You’ll want to talk to your kids about how they should NOT ride on top of a moving car, leave a dead animal in the hall at school, etc.
  • Teens make out in a van.
  • Other than the few items I listed above in things I didn’t like, this film is very family-friendly.
  • Point out to your kids how Tim prevents his friends from smoking marijuana.  Nice job Tim!  (Just don't put their joint in your pocket.)
  • Thank you for the lack of profanity!


Logan's Rated R surprises superhero fans

Movie Title:   Logan

Grade:  B

Rating:   R, 135 minutes

In a Nutshell:  This is NOT your typical Marvel superhero movie.  For starters, it’s Rated R with tons of bloody violence, trampy girls, and an aging Wolverine wearing reading glasses.

It's the first Rated R movie to feature Wolverine and is a very dark, brutal movie.  It has some thoughtful reflection peppered in between the explosive action sequences.

One of the best things about seeing Logan in theaters is the Deadpool short right before the movie starts.  Hilarious.

Uplifting theme: 
  •  Love, friendship, loyalty
  •  Don't judge people. 
Things I liked:
  • I love love love Hugh Jackman.  He can truly do it all.  I hated seeing him drunk and lost though.
  • Patrick Stewart is awesome too.  I didn't like seeing him old and helpless though.
  • Boyd Holbrook does a great job as the bad guy.
  • I always get a kick out of Stephen Merchant, but the character he plays in this movie is nothing like you've ever seen him play before.  Kudos to him for having two movies in theaters right now!  (He plays his typical nerdy self in Table 19.)  
  • It was funny to watch Wolverine read comics about himself.
  •  Some of the characters watch the movie Shane.  It's one of my dad's favorite movies, so I noticed it!
  • Logan's license plate said "wer112".  ha ha

Things I didn’t like:
·        Some Spanish without subtitles.
·       I didn’t like seeing Charles Xavier as a helpless old coot.
·       There’s lots of shaking and loud noises that make the mutants 
         go crazy, which is super annoying to sit through.
·       I didn’t enjoy watching a little girl be super violent.  Dafne 
         Keen did a great job though.
·       It's sad to see Wolverine tired, old, cranky, and mean.
*        I'm not an X-Men comic book junkie by any means, but there
          is a character that's not in the comic books.  It looks like the
          screenwriters just made it up.

Interesting lines:
  • From the song in the movie: “I hurt myself today to see if I could still feel.  I focused on the pain, the only thing that’s real.”
  • “You know, Logan, this is what life looks like: a home with people who love each other.  You should take a moment to feel it.” – Dr. Xavier
  • "I always know who you are.  It's just sometimes I don't recognize you." - Dr. Xavier

  • Tips for parents: 
  • Tons of profanity, including LOTS of F-bombs.
  • TONS of bloody, gory, violent fighting.
  • You might not want your children to see this gritty version of Wolverine.
  • The theater near my house posted this warning to parents:  


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Kong Skull Island showcases a new scary Kong and other imaginative monsters

Movie Title:   Kong: Skull Island

Grade:  B

Rating:   PG-13, 118 minutes

In a Nutshell:  This is an entertaining re-imagining of the King Kong story and takes place where John Goodman’s character describes as “The place where myth and science meet.”  

In its debut weekend, Kong: Skull Island took in about $61 million in domestic theaters.  Warner Bros. head of domestic distribution, said, “The world of mouth is really kicking in,” adding that the weekend earnings “far exceeded everyone’s expectations.” 

It's a fun popcorn movie if you're looking for lots of thick action with thin characters.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Respect nature.
  • “The world is bigger than this.” – Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) 
Things I liked:
  • The entertaining cast includes Samuel L. Jackson (who made the audience laugh every time he appeared on screen), John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, and Tian Jing (whose movie The Great Wall is still playing in theaters.)
  • The special effects are pretty amazing.  There are some pretty impressive and beautiful shots.
  • Kong is the perfect blend of super scary and endearing.
  • Some of the monsters are very imaginative with impressive action sequences.
  • Here’s to indie directors who are given the opportunity to direct big name franchises.
  • Keep watching after the rolling credits for another scene.
  • There are a few interesting transitions.
  • 3D enhances the images, but isn’t necessary to be entertained.

Things I didn’t like:
  • When Kong started to break that other monster’s mouth, I thought for sure it was going to be an ode to the original King Kong, but I was disappointed when Kong couldn’t actually crack it open like in the original movie.
  • Most of the humans are pretty bland with very little character development.  The only interesting characters with a back story and internal motivation are Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly.
  • Quite a few scenes look like they’re filmed with a green screen.
  • Not all of the humor lands well.
  • Check out Tom Hiddleston.  In every single frame, he’s flexing his muscles and standing in a macho hero pose.

Funny lines:
  • “I call ‘em skull crawlers.” – Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly)
“I’ve never said that out loud before.  Now that I’ve said it, it sounds stupid.  You call ‘em whatever you want.” – Hank Marlow
  • “Hold on to your butts!” – Preston Packard (Haven’t we heard Samuel L. Jackson say this like a thousand times?)
  • “I should be sitting at a desk.” – Victor Nieves (John Ortiz)
  • “You’re a good group of guys.  We’re all gonna die.  You shouldn’t have come here.” – Hank Marlow
  • “Mark my words.  There will never be a more screwed up time in Washington.” – Bill Randa (talking about the Vietnam period.  Aw, he should see us now!”  ha ha
  • “I AM the calvalry!” – Preston Packard

Things that really take you back in time to the 1970’s:
  • Nixon bobblehead
  • Great soundtrack
  • Slide projector
  • Brie Larson’s hairdo and clothes
  • Snoopy
  • Green rotary telephones
  • Life magazine

Stupid lines:
  • “There’s something going on here, something no one is talking about.” – Mason Weaver (Brie Larson)
  • “It’s time to show Kong that man is king!” – Preston Packard

Interesting lines:
  • The camera is way more dangerous than a gun.” – Preston Packard
  • “The right photos can change opinions.” – Mason Weaver
  • “Men go to war in search of something, Mr. Conrad.  If you had found it, you’d be home by now.” – Bill Randa

Tips for parents: 
  • It’s extremely violent with a lot of gruesome deaths.  There is a lot of brutal hand-to-hand combat scenes among humans and animals.
  • 1 F-bomb and some other profanity.
  • Some of the monsters are pretty scary and vicious.


Monday, February 27, 2017

A Dog's Purpose is manipulative, but you'll still cry

Movie Title:   A Dog's Purpose (DVD)

Grade:  C+

Rating:  PG, 120 minutes

In a Nutshell:   This sugary-sweet family flick feels like a Hallmark card that blends reincarnation with one dog’s discovery about what his purpose is.  We could all learn a lesson from him. 

Life lessons learned from a dog:
Have fun. Obviously.
Whenever possible, find someone to save and save them.
Lick the ones you love. 
Don’t get all sad-faced about what happened and scrunchy-faced about what could; just be here now.  Be. Here. Now.

Things I liked:
Josh Gad’s voice is unmistakable and awesome.
Britt Robertson seems to be in every family-friendly movie lately.  She’s adorable and so doggone likable.
Other likable cast members include Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, KJ Apa, and Jon Ortiz.
•   It's a film version of W. Bruce Cameron's best-selling novel in 2010.
* If you've ever lived with a dog, you'll be able to relate to many of the
moments in the movie.

Things I didn’t like:
It’s manipulative for sure, but you’ll still cry.
Children will enjoy it, but a lot of adults will mostly tolerate it on their kids’ behalf.
The trailer pretty much tells you the whole story.
You’ll feel sad about the times you didn’t play with your dog.
There are quite a few sad death scenes.
There are some dogs on the movie poster that are never shown in the movie.  For example, the dog never becomes a pug.

PETA and TMZ have created a lot of stink about animals that may have been harmed in the making of this movie, but those involved in the film say their reports are inaccurate and misleading.
The dog reports on what he sees happening from a dog’s perspective, which is often amusing, but not funny enough to evoke actual laughter from the audience.

Interesting lines:
“If I can get you licking and loving, I’ve served my purpose.” - dog    (This line is in the trailer, but not in the actual movie.)
“Life’s a mystery.” - Ethan

Funny lines: 
“I got a name. My name is Bailey, Bailey, Bailey, Bailey.” – Bailey

Tips for parents:   
Young children will probably like it, although the reincarnation aspect of the story will be confusing for them.  You’ll need to decide if you’re going to affirm that as true doctrine or instead, teach the principle of resurrection.
* You see Bailey die over and over again.
*  There are some dark story lines that include a gunshot death (with blood), domestic fights, drunkenness, kidnapping, a prank that burns a house down, and people who don't treat dogs well.
*  Clean language.
*  Kissing.