Saturday, November 11, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express features star-studded cast

Rating: PG-13, 1 hour 54 minutes

In a Nutshell:  With an incredible A-list cast, this is a well-made, stylish “Who-dunnit” mystery directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars as the Belgium inspector Hercule Poirot.  

It’s extremely picturesque and beautiful, yet slowly fizzles with a disappointing reveal of who the murderer is.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “We seek the truth from within, not without.” – Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh)
  • “Sometimes the law of man is not enough.” – Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz)
  • “poison of deep grief”, healing, peace
  • Revenge 
  • Right vs. wrong and everything in between
  • Truth

Things I liked:
  • The period pieces and costumes of the 1930’s are beautiful.
  • You don’t often see movies that take their time telling the story.  Both the time period and the style of movie-making seemed old-fashioned.  It was shot in 65 mm and really immerses you in the various environments.  The sets are incredible.
  • The all-star cast includes the talented Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leslie Odom Jr., Daisy Ridley and Derek Jacobi.  Kenneth Branagh was absolutely outstanding. You might wonder how old Judi Dench is…She was born in 1934, making her 82 years old.
  • There was some humor, although the tone was a bit inconsistent, beginning with a very light feel and then remaining mostly dark for the rest of the film.
  • There were some really great camera sequences.  One scene was shot from above the characters as they talked.  Another scene was shot from outside the train as it scanned the people walking down the hall through the windows.  You really feel the movement of the train and feel like you're on one.
  • There is a reference to a murder on the Nile, possibly a sneak peek into a sequel, but definitely a reference to another one of Agatha Christie's books called Agatha Christie's Poirot: Death on the Nile.  Speaking of the author, Agatha Christie's Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express was her best-selling novel.
  • The movie begins at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem with some gorgeous vistas and a funny sequence.  One of these days, I'm going there.
  • There are some beautiful vistas in Istanbul.  One of these days, I’m going there too. 
  • Michelle Pfeiffer sings "Never Forget", which was co-written by director/actor Kenneth Branagh. Wow, he was really busy with this film.
  • The photo of Katherine, Hercule Poirot's lost love, is actually Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh's real ex-wife.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Some say it grinds to a halt, rather than get more intense.  Yeah, it's true.  The ending is anti-climatic.
  • In the 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express, the star-studded ensemble had equal moments of importance; whereas this version doesn't have much character arc and kind of fizzles.  A lot of movie critics are comparing it to the movie Clue which was able to develop characters much better.
  • Daisy Ridley’s character is way too young for her character, who should be much older.
  • Sergei Polunin is a famous ballet dancer in real life, but we don’t get to see him dance at all!  Instead, we get to see him beat up some people.
  • All of the actors were great, but felt underutilized.  So much talent wasted.
  • I heard a lady sitting near me say, “That mustache has to go!” Hercule Poirot’s double-decker mustache is ridiculous, but his mustache mask is even worse.  Ha ha   When the 1974 movie of Murder on the Orient Express  Agatha Christie was still alive and she commented on how much she didn't like Albert Finney's mustache on his Hercule Poirot's character.

Interesting lines:
  • “Romance never goes unpunished.” – Hercule Poirot
  • “To a man with a hammer, everything is a nail.” – Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley’s character is actually quoting Mark Twain.)
  • “There is right.  There is wrong.  There is nothing in between.” – Hercule Poirot  (He learns about grey areas.)
  • “Vice is where the devil finds his darlings.” – Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz) 

Funny lines:
  • “Did we die?” – Hercule Poirot 

Tips for parents: 
  • Young children may get bored, as it’s a “talking” movie that unfolds slowly.
  • There are some subtitles when two people speak German.
  • French is spoken, but there are no subtitles.



Daddy's Home 2 mixes laughter with love

Movie Title:    Daddy's Home 2

Grade:  B

Rating: PG-13,  1 hour, 40 minutes

In a Nutshell: “We’re back with more daddies!” says Will Ferrell’s character, easily the tag-line for this movie.

It's a funny sequel that also has some touching, cheesy moments, which will put you in the Christmas spirit and inspire you to celebrate your own crazy, dysfunctional family.

A lot of movie critics really hated this, but I thought it was really entertaining for a light night at the movies.  It addresses the complicated issue of step-parenting in a lighthearted way.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Divorce doesn’t end the relationship.  My parents were divorced when I was a little girl, but they continually have to associate with each other because of their children.  Instead of competing for their kids' love, parents and step-parents should be glad that there are more parents around who can love and support their children.  It's never perfect, but it's better than hating each other, which hurts the kids and puts them in a difficult situation.
  • “You’re the only one who can ruin Christmas.” – Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell)
  • Family comes in all shapes and sizes.
  • Love, patience and forgiveness.

Things I liked:
  • The leading men were very entertaining and had great chemistry together.  They are all equally talented at comedy as they are in at drama.  Wait, have we ever seen Will Ferrell in a serious drama?
  • The cabin where they stayed was awesome!  I stayed in an AirBnB home in Arizona that had the same awesome shower.
  • Mark Wahlberg did a great job. There’s an interesting article that reveals Wahlberg hopes that God will forgive him for his past mistakes and movies.  While Mel Gibson plays Mark Wahlberg's dad, he is only 15 years older.  Surprising, right?
  • I thought it was funny when Mel Gibson’s character demands that his grandchildren call him “El Padre.”  My dad decided he wanted his grandchildren to call him “Sir”, so now they call him “GrampSir.”  Ha ha
  • The “Be a man” bowling scene was funny and touching at the same time.  I have 4 sons, so my husband gave that speech many times to our boys that Mel Gibson’s character gave to the cute Dylan (Owen Vaccaro).
  • The band “Chicago” is mentioned in a funny way and you also hear their music later from Chicago IX - Chicago's Greatest Hits.  I went to one of their concerts back in the day.
  • There’s a really cool copper mug that several people hold and drink out of.  I looked on Amazon to see if I could find it and I did.  It’s called Moscow Mule Hammered Copper 18 Ounce Drinking Mug, Set of 4.
  • I thought the movie “Missile Tow” sounded awesome!  Ha ha  It’s the pretend movie that the families watch at a theater, featuring Liam Neeson.  Linda Cardellin’s characters says of the movie, “It has kids in it.  How dirty can it be?”  That was a big poke at the movie Daddy's Home 2 itself.  The answer?  The presence of kids definitely doesn’t mean the movie is clean or appropriate for kids to watch.
  • All of the characters sing!  They don’t all have great voices, but it’s still really fun to see and hear them sing.
  • John Cena has a much bigger role in this movie than he did in the first Daddy's Home.   If you’re a fan (who isn’t?), you’ll be happy to know that he voices the main character in the movie FERDINAND that arrives in movie theaters next month.  Rumor has it that the next movie in this franchise will revolve around him.
  • The audience I sat with loved the surprise cameo at the end of the movie.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The trailer showed lines that didn’t actually appear in the movie.
  • It definitely helps to have seen the first Daddy's Home movie.  You’ll understand more jokes and the character development better.  There are references to things that happened in the first movie.
  • Some of the jokes fall flat.
  • Mel Gibson's character is a real jerk.  He's not really funny, but just laughs at his own jokes.  Speaking of Mel's laugh, it sounds really raspy like he has been smoking all of his life.
  • It often feels like a goofy sit-com with a laugh track and carefully placed music to tell you how to feel.

Funny lines:
  • “I got some gender-neutral flashcards!” –Brad Whitaker
  • “The thermostat is a sacred covenant.” – Brad Whitaker   (That’s so true.  When my sisters and I were growing up, we had a constant battle with our dad about the temperature in the house.  We would dial the temperature up to the high 70's and he would knock it back down to the 60’s.
  • “It looks as if he’s been chiseled out of Gibralter itself.” – Will Ferrell’s character describing Mel Gibson’s character.

Tips for parents: 
  • There is a funny scene when Will Ferrell and John Lithgow play car games during a long ride to a cabin in the snow and drive everyone else nuts with their enthusiasm.  What car games do you play with your family?  Here’s a list you can use with your kids to make the time go faster in the car and be more enjoyable.  
  • You see Will Ferrell’s back side in his underwear with an uncovered cheek.
  • There is a lot of man-on-man kissing (father/son), as well as talk of French kissing, and a gay moment where a boy wants to kiss another boy.
  • Inappropriate sexual innuendos.
  • Megan (adorable Scarlett Estevez) lifts up her shirt to look like her sexy step-mom.  Later, she swears several times and shoots a gun.
  • Some sexist comments.
  • Two of the little girls get drunk.
  • Didi Costine’s character was such a bratty little girl.  She was either on her cell phone the entire time or saying snotty things to people.  If you have a daughter, talk to her about some of those behaviors that can make a pretty girl become ugly.
  • Andrea Anders has a very short part as a principal who tries to unsuccessfully convince the parents to put down their cell phones and iPads.  I laughed out loud, because it’s so true.
  • Mel Gibson's character is a womanizer.



Monday, November 6, 2017

A Bad Moms Christmas is just bad

Grade: F

Rating: R, 1 hour 44 minutes of torture

In a Nutshell:  It’s bad. There are moms.  And it’s Christmas.

I’m a mom, but CLEARLY I’m not the target audience for this trashy attempt at a comedy.

“Christmas is, by far, the most stressful time of year for moms,” explains Mila Kunis’ character.  Yep.  While that’s very true, that’s no excuse for the horrible behavior these irresponsible, obnoxious, rude moms engage in.  Yes, extreme absurdity has long been a formula for comedy, but 80% of the jokes in this sequel are super raunchy, and the other 10% are simply not funny.

There’s no talk about the true meaning of Christmas.  None of the women in this film seem to even know anything about Christ or what kind of behavior He expects from His followers.
Uplifting theme: 
  • Mother/Daughter relationships
  • Family is most important.

Things I liked:
  • Kenny G! 
  • Christine Baranski is such a critical, evil mother.  She’s great in all of her movies and even sings a little in this one.
  • Surprise cameo

Things I didn’t like:
  • The writing is terrible. None of the characters are capable of uttering a sentence without some kind of profanity in it.
  • Lots of fighting.  Why is that funny?
  • Kristen Bell is so talented.  Why would she ever want to be in such an awful movie?  Oh yeah….money.
  • Kathryn Hahn’s character is so foul.  Her role was the stand-out in the first Bad Moms movie, so they really went over-the-top with her in this one.
  • Everyone is so critical of everyone else.
  • I hate listening to kids scream and cry in movies.
  • Lots of slow-motion musical montages.
  • These moms sure have a lot of spare time to hang out with each other and get drunk a lot.
  • Instead of the “feel good” song at the end, a dirty Santa does a strip tease in front of the entire family.
  • Mila Kunis manages to push out a tear in what is supposed to be the big emotional scene of the movie, but the dialogue was uninspired and droll.

Interesting Lines:
  • “It’s like a giant stress ball from Christmas to New Years.” – Amy (Mila Kunis)
  • “Trust me.   Some day she will thank me in an inspirational speech in some large, public venue.” – Amy's mother (Christine Baranski)   I laughed out loud at that line, because I think every mother secretly has the same wish. 

Tips for parents: 
  • About 45,362 F-bombs.  Even an adorable little girl uses it. Other profanity and extremely crude language. 
  • LOTS and LOTS of talk of sex, as well as imitating sex with clothes on.
  • Moms smoke marijuana.
  • Women kissing women.
  • The moms commit various crimes.
  • A bunch of Santa Clauses strip on a stage.
  • Nude man on a waxing table (private parts hidden). 



Saturday, November 4, 2017

Thor hammers into our hearts with entertaining humor and action

Movie Title:
  Thor: Ragnarok

Grade:  A

Rating: PG-13, 130 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Count them…17!  Thor: Ragnarok is the 17th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  New Zealand director Taika Waititi directs this super colorful, funny superhero movie presented by Walt Disney Pictures.  He also voices the lovable character Korg.

It’s fresh and fun family entertainment that makes us love Thor even more.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Brother’s keeper
  • Forgiveness
  • People are more important than places.
  • Teamwork, unity
  • Love, service to others
  • “A wise king must never seek out war, but must always be ready for it.” – Thor
  • “I choose to run towards my problems and not away, because that’s what heroes do.” - Thor

Things I liked:
  • Chris Hemsworth is awesome, but everyone else in the cast also steals the show.  It’s a collection of fantastic actors who each contribute unique, entertaining characters to the story.
  • Tom Hiddleston is a better Loki we’re learning to love.
  • I have adored the talented, beautiful Cate Blanchett for many years.  How is it that she never ages, but I do?  She makes a fantastic villain.
  • Anthony Hopkins is always epic.
  • Awwww, Benedict Cumberbatch.  Doctor Strange has an amusing visit with Thor.
  • Mark Ruffalo spends more time being The Incredible Hulk, but Hulk is really endearing in this film.
  • Jeff Goldblum is hilarious.  I love him in everything he does.
  • Fun surprise cameo towards the very beginning of the movie.  No spoilers!
  • It appears that Marvel has finally learned that audiences love fun, funny, irreverent, out-of-the box thinking superhero movies.  Ever since the first Guardians of the Galaxy (Plus Bonus Features)thrilled audiences, superhero movies have lightened up a lot more, don’t you think?
  • Female fans get to see Chris Hemsworth with his shirt off.  Wow, those arms are the size of tree trunks!  For those who love his long, golden locks, you’re in for a surprise.
  • I love that Marvel puts Stan Lee in every movie. I always look forward to seeing what funny line they give him.
  • Stay until the end of the first set of credits to see more.  Then, stay until the very, very end of all the credits to see another funny scene with the Grandmaster.
  • In an interview, Taika Waititi said that 80% of the movie was improvised.  What?  That’s crazy and amazing!
  • Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song really rocks the final battle scene.
  • The Gladiator scene with Thor and Hulk in the arena was extremely entertaining.
  • Some new creatures and characters fill the Marvel Universe with even more creativity and fantasy.
  • Energizing soundtrack: Thor: Ragnarok 

Things I didn’t like:
·    Some fake video-game looking fight scenes.
  • Some of the jokes don’t quite get the reaction I’m sure the director hoped they would.
  • It helps to have seen Thor and  Thor: The Dark World and know the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  You'll enjoy the movie more.

Funny lines:
  • “Yes!  We know each other!  He’s a friend from work.” – Thor talking about when he first sees Hulk in the arena
  • "I have been falling for 30 minutes!" - Loki

Tips for parents: 
  • Superhero violence and destruction.
  • You see the naked backside of Hulk.
  • Some profanity
  • Young children may be frightened by a big, fiery monster



Friday, November 3, 2017

Only the Brave serves up emotional tribute piping hot

Movie Title: 
Only The Brave  

Grade:  A-

Rating:  PG-13, 2 hours 14 minutes

In a Nutshell: Based on a true story and an article written in GQ Magazine, this is a timely film that spotlights true heroes who fight fires.  More specifically, it honors the real men called the Granite Mountain Hotshots in Arizona. 

Uplifting theme: 
  • The motto of the Granite Mountain Hotshots is "Esse quam videri," which means "To be, rather than to seem."
  •  Brotherhood, unity, loyalty
  •  Courage
  • Family
  • Second chances and forgiveness
  • "Doing something that's never been done before takes time." - Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges)

Things I liked:
  • Wow, how did they film some of those scenes?  The fire looks very real.  Great job.
  • You get to see pictures of the actual men who served in the Granite Mountain Hotshots team at the end of the movie.
  •  Jennifer Connelly makes a gorgeous cowgirl and gives the best stand-out performance in the movie.  Her emotional range was stellar.  She spent time with the real Amanda Marsh to prepare for her role in the film.
  • Jeff Bridges sings in a band called "Steinbrink and the Rusty Pistol" in a bar scene!
  •  I thought it was interesting that the famous travel empire, Conde Nast, was involved with this film. You see some beautiful Arizona landscapes. 
  • In terms of emotion and exciting fire action, Only The Bravereminded me of the 1991 movie Backdraft, which I loved.
  • Congrats to Miles Teller for having two movies in theaters at the same time!  He's currently also starring in Thank You for Your Service 
  • I liked Dierks Bentley's featured song Hold The Light (From "Only The Brave") [feat. S. Carey] 

Things I didn’t like:
  • There are several other movies also titled “Only the Brave”, but they are not related to this movie. Seems like they could have picked another title, right?
  • There were some scenes that were annoyingly dark, as in, I couldn't see the expressions on people's faces when they were talking in a dark room.  I'm sure it was an artistic choice, but it still bugged me.
  • Sometimes you can't quite hear the dialogue, because there are so many other sounds going on.
  • I like Jeff Bridges, but lately he only plays the same old character in all of his movies. This is the first time he and Josh Brolin have worked together in a film since True Grit, another fantastic movie where Jeff Bridges plays the same kind of character. Don't get me wrong...he does it very well!
  • Lots of spitting.  ha ha

Tips for parents: 
  • Some profanity, trash talk, and  1 F-bomb.
  • Someone gets a rattlesnake bite.
  • Drug use
  • Talk of sex
  • Lots of dangerous fire and perilous situations
  • People die.
  • Wounded horse.



Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Thank you for your service presents sobering reality for American veterans

Grade:   B

Rating: R, 108 minutes

In a Nutshell:   I was curious about this film, because I have proudly shouted the titled words to soldiers passing by in the airport or wherever I see them in uniform. 

As a mother of a son in the Army, this movie was sobering, frustrating, and even infuriating.

While we have seen this subject matter done before in other movies, it’s still worth reminding the American public that our vets deserve much better than they’re currently getting.  They need support when they return from war and they should not be afraid to ask for help when they desperately need it.

I taught at a local college for 5 years where I had many vets in my classes.  Some did great, but many of them really struggled and, honestly, some were messed up.  They all deserve thanks from a grateful nation, but even better, they need practical help.

Although the movie didn’t mention it, you should check out the 22 Day Pushup Challenge that raises awareness for veterans suffering with PTSD.  A friend of mine recently participated.  On Day 1, he couldn’t even do a single push-up.  He finished strong on Day 22.  The movie DID mention that 20 vets commit suicide every day.  The actual number is now 22.  It’s a sobering, real problem that deserves our public outrage and action.

I would have liked to see a call to action at the end of the movie, like a web site or phone number where we could go to have our voice heard.  Allow me to give you that call to action.   Contribute to organizations that offer support to vetsWrite to your legislators today.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “You live.  That’s how you honor him.” – Amanda Doster (Amy Schumer)
  • "Every day I wake up, I'm grateful." - Michael Adam Emory (Scott Haze)

Things I liked:
  • It appears to be very realistic.
  • I was surprised to see comedienne Amy Schumer in it, especially playing a very serious wife of a fallen soldier.  I was super impressed to learn that she donated all of the money she earned for her role in the movie to several army war vet foundations.
  • The cast did a very good job and features Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Beulah Koale, Scott Haze, Joe Cole.
  • I liked the way the movie doesn't tell you exactly what happened to this unit in Iraq all at once, but fills in the puzzle pieces as the film unfolds.
  • Shania Twain sings the feature song Soldier.  I've always been such a fan of her music and think she's gorgeous.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Sooooo much profanity. 
  • It kind of makes vets look like a bunch of rednecks.
  • While the Veterans Administration does a lot of good, this film is a scathing condemnation of the ridiculous red tape that exists in the government organization that should be there for our vets.  Incompetent bureaucracy gets in the way of providing timely support.
  • I felt more angry than tearful.

Interesting lines:
  • “You don’t see the bomb unless they want you to.  You sense it.” – Adam Schumann (Miles Teller)
  • “We’re having a baby.” – Solo (Beulah Koale)
“That’s great!  You’ll have a new unit.” –   Linda Sanders (Allison King)

Tips for parents: 
  • Very bloody and gory.  People die.
  • TONS of profanity, including TONS of F-bombs.
  • Sex scene (clothes on) and talk of sexual acts.
  • Racial slurs, including the “N” word.
  • Full nudity of the back side of a lady.
  • Bloody, vicious dog fight.
  • Drug use and other illegal activities
  • Violent war scenes
  • It’s pretty depressing.

If you enjoyed this movie, you'll also like: 

The Hurt Locker



Sunday, October 29, 2017

Birth of the Dragon is old-school awesome

Movie Title: 
Birth of the Dragon

Grade:   B-

Rating: PG-13, 91 minutes

In a nutshell:  I love China, San Francisco, Kung Fu, and Bruce Lee.  Put all of those things together and you get this entertaining movie directed by George Nolfi, who also directed the fun movie The Adjustment Bureau

While Birth of the Dragon is a fictional origin film, it's based on an event that supposedly occurred. 

It's an imagining of what may have inspired Bruce Lee to develop his unique style of martial arts.

Uplifting theme:

  • “Kung Fu is not a game, gentlemen.  It is not a religion.  It is about who lives and who dies.” – Bruce Lee (Philip Ng)
  • “Kung Fu is about self-discipline and self-discovery.” – Wong Jack Man (Yu Xia)
  • “Kung Fu does not reside in the fists, but it resides in the soul.” – Wong Jack Man
  • Balance and harmony

Things I liked:
  • Serious old-school Kung Fu fighting.
  • 1 inch punch.  Ha ha
  • A good amount of humor.
  • Great stunts and action.  I have a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, but I was always pretty clumsy and awkward, especially compared to all of the actors and stuntmen in this movie!
  • I loved the flowing movement of Wong Jack Man's golden robes.  Besides it looking cool, it represented his inner dance for balance in his life.  I've been to China twice and love their philosophy of chi and harmony in all things.
  • If you liked this, you might like watching the old Enter the Dragon (1973) 

Things I didn’t like:
  • The movie makes Bruce Lee look really cocky.  In reality, Bruce Lee inspired millions.  One of his famous quotes is, "Real living is living for others."  The Bruce Lee Foundation was created in 2002 by his wife and daughter.  Every year they donate money and help students with scholarships.
  • I can’t stand fake flying in martial arts movies.
  • Steve McKee (Billy Magnussen) has a much larger role in the film than he probably should, considering this movie is supposed to be about Bruce Lee.  In fact, there are some Asians who are completely offended that it's a white guy who seems to be at the center of the story and, ultimately, saves the day.  They have a valid point.  While it's not supposed to be a biopic, we watch this movie because we want to learn more about Bruce Lee and watch him kick a$$, instead of see some white guy who has a crush on a Chinese girl.

Interesting lines:

  • “Now you have begun to exceed your limits.” –  Wong Jack Man
“What limits?” – Bruce Lee
  • “I was going to be a star, but I’d rather be a legend.” – Bruce Lee

Tips for parents: 
  • Some profanity.
  • Lots of fighting!  (Duh!)
  • Discussion of prostitution.
  • If you have a child who is taking some kind of martial arts lessons, you can point out the lessons learned in this movie about when to fight and how to do it with honor.