Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Great news for Star Wars fans!

Great news for Star Wars Trilogy Episodes IV-VI (Blu-ray + DVD) fans!

The official Star Wars website by Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Co. just announced who some special cast members will be for the "Star Wars: Episode VII" movie that will begin filming soon.   Fans will be pleased to see original stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford!  The cast will include fresh faces, as well as a return of some of our favorites.

Star Trek director J.J. Abrams will lead the film's setting to take place 30 years after 1983's Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi    We'll also see Peter Mayhew back as the lovable rug, Chewbacca, as well as Kenny Baker in the role of R2D2.

The talented John Williams will score the music, as he created the original trilogy's famous themes.  I heard him speak on a radio show when he shared a story about a conversation he had with director Steven Spielberg.  Williams had just watched the raw footage of Schindler's List to help him prepare the music for it.  He was extremely touched and said to Spielberg "This movie is fantastic and so powerful.  You're going to need a better composer to score it."   Spielberg responded "I know.  But all of the good composers are dead." 

With such talent working on this new new installment in the Star Wars franchise, it should be a hit!  My sons used to watch Star Wars every Friday night when they were little.  They would fall asleep in front of the TV with smiles on their faces.   I can't wait to see this new episode!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Heaven is for Real movie is simple and inspiring

Movie Title:   Heaven Is for Real
PG, 1 hour 40 minutes

Grade:   B

In a Nutshell:  This is a simple movie with a simple message, and yet it is very powerful.  Perfectly timed for Easter, this faith-building film is based on the New York Times best-selling book Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo, the father of a boy who saw heaven during a hospital operation when he was only four years old.

I heard a recent interview with the “real” Colton and his dad on the radio.  Colton is now a teenager.  He continues to share his simple message that heaven IS for real. 

I thought it was interesting that Colton’s parents (in real life) had such a hard time believing their son, especially considering Todd Burpo was a pastor and his wife was a believer.  I suppose it’s easy to believe IN Jesus Christ, but harder to believe Jesus.  What this film does well is get Christians to really think through what they believe, rather than try to convince non-Christians to believe.

Uplifting theme:   
  • Heaven is real.
  • God is real.
  • We live after this life.
  • When Todd Burpo gave his final sermon at the end of the movie at church, the notes that he used were only a few bullet points: “Only faith heals wounds” and “God is love.”

Things I liked:
  • I’ve always loved Thomas Haden Church ever since he was a young actor in the old TV show WINGS - Seasons 1 & 2
  • Greg Kinnear always gives a solid, charming performance.
  • The Burpo’s friend, Nancy Rawling, had a beautiful indoor garden filled with flowers and lovely plants.  Nancy is played by Margo Martindale, who always does a great job as a believable character.  I loved the conversation Nancy and Todd had at the cemetery about their sons.  It was truly touching and profound.
  • Connor Corum, who played the young Colton Burpo, did a fantastic job and was absolutely adorable.  He has a bright future in Hollywood.
  • I loved the scene when Colton casually mentions to his mother that he saw his unborn sister in heaven.  Tears streamed down the mothers face, as well as mine.  I had several miscarriages and shared the pain and sorrow that Sonja Burpo felt.  My heart ached for my little unborn babies.  After my first miscarriage, I found a book that really helped my heart to heal.  The author (Sarah Hinze) and I are now Facebook friends!  It’s called Life Before Life : A Collection of Mothers’ Experiences With Their Pre-born Children. Since then, Sarah has written several other books about life before life that are very inspiring.  I have read many life after life books based on people’s near death experiences, but Sarah’s books take us on a journey in the opposite direction that provide insights that teach us that this mortal life is only a part of the whole story. 
  • The movie is about what Colton saw in heaven, but it also illustrates how precious this time on earth is.

Things I didn’t like:
  • I was proud of the child actors for holding that tarantula, but I certainly wouldn’t do that for a sticker!  EEK!
  • I think British actress Kelly Reilly is so beautiful and feminine, but her singing voice didn’t add anything, unless director Randall Wallace was going for a home-towny feel for the church with small talent, but big heart.
  • David Blaustein from ABC News Radio recently said about the movie “The earnest performances aren’t enough to elevate the vanilla narrative from a faith-based film that will only preach to the choir.”  While I tend to agree, the movie still made me cry and reflect on the wonder of life and death.

Inspiring lines:
  • “If heaven is for real, wouldn’t we all live different lives?” – Todd Burpo
  • Did Colton go to heaven?  Yes.  He saw the heaven Jesus wanted him to see.” – Todd Burpo
  • “God crushed my pride and opened my heart to love and all I have to do.  The one thing love requires is to let others know they’re not alone.”  - Todd Burpo
  • “You don’t have to save the world, Todd.  I believe that’s already been done.” – Nancy Rawling
  • Todd Burpo (played by Greg Kinnear) explains to his son that some people might be afraid of what Colton said he saw in heaven.  “What are they afraid of?” asks the innocent Colton.  His dad replies “That there might be a heaven or that there might not be.”
  • Colton’s sister punched a kid at school who was making fun of her brother .  Her parents encouraged her to be more Christian and “turn the other cheek.”  Cassie says “I DID turn his other cheek when I hit him.”

Things to look for:
  • Every time there is a scene that takes place in the church, blue is a prominent color.  Of course, the wall behind the podium is blue, but so is the pastor’s shirt, the children’s choir bows, and many of the other people’s clothing.  I suppose director Randall Wallace wanted to use blue to depict a calming, heavenly color.
  • I loved the cool birdhouse in their yard and the view from their home in the heartland of Nebraska.

Things we learn about heaven through Colton’s experience:
  • "Jesus has a horse."
  • Angels have a sense of humor and laugh.
  • "In heaven, everybody’s young"
  • "Nobody wears glasses in heaven."
  • People are always singing in heaven.
  • You feel love and peace.

Tips for parents:  This movie is very family-friendly and a safe place to begin a discussion about death with your children.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Transcendence weighs humanity vs. technology

Movie Title:   Transcendence
PG-13, 1 hour 59 minutes

Grade:  B

In a Nutshell:  This was a really interesting movie about awareness: both computers’ ability to become self-aware, as well as humans’ struggle to truly understand what’s inside each other’s hearts. 

Dr. Will Castor (Johnny Depp) explains in the beginning of the movie at a technology conference: “For one hundred and thirty thousand years, our capacity to reason has remained unchanged.  The combined intellect of the neuroscientists, mathematicians and engineers pales in comparison to the most basic A. I.  Once online, a sentient machine will quickly overcome the limits of biology; in a short time, its analytic power will become greater than the collective intelligence of every person born in the history of the world.  Some scientists refer to this as the Singularity.  I call it Transcendence.”

The film addresses the haunting “unavoidable collision between mankind and technology.” The overall feeling of the movie is, ironically, a bit artificial, but I still enjoyed it.  This is the first directorial effort from Wally Pfister, who is receiving some negative reviews for a few of the film’s clunky issues, but his cinematography experience (The Dark Knight trilogy) shows through and elevates the movie.

Uplifting theme:  The movie tries to preach two simultaneous, yet opposing messages:  Humanity is more important than technology; technology can help us heal the world.  What role should artificial intelligence play in our lives?

Things I liked:
  • I adore Paul Bettany in any movie and who can’t say the same thing about Johnny Depp?   My kids laugh that Morgan Freeman is in every movie ever made; sure enough, he’s in this one too. 
  • I loved the small twist at the end.  (No spoiler alert) The entire spark that sets off this artificial intelligence conundrum is the perfect love between two imperfect humans.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Some of the scenes are ridiculous with plenty of holes and uninspiring dialogue.

Things to notice:
  • Preppers will get a kick out of seeing the items listed as being in demand on the store door after all the power goes off the grid. Non-preppers should ask themselves what might happen if there were an EMP or some other trigger that knocked all of our power out and sent us back to the stone age.  What would you do?  How would you live?  What would you value?
  • Someone hangs a computer motherboard of sorts on to a dream catcher.

Interesting lines:
  • An audience member listening to Dr. Castor’s presentation asks him “You want to create a god?  Your own god?”   Dr. Castor answers “That’s a very good question.  Isn’t that what man has always done?”
  • “I don’t want to change the world.  I just want to understand it.”  - Dr. Castor
  • They’re short on logic, but there’s no shortage of irony.”  - Dr. Castor
  • “The internet was supposed to make the world a smaller place.  It feels smaller without it.”  - Max
  • “Artificial intelligence is an unnatural abomination and threat to humanity.” – R.I.F.T.
  • Evelyn asks her husband “Where are you going?”  He answers “Everywhere.”
  • Dr. Caster says to Evelyn “I can upload you.  I can protect you from them.”  A suspicious Evelyn replies: “I’m not afraid of…them.”
  • Evelyn worries about one of her employees who has become “transcended” and asks the anti-technology fanatics who beat him up “What did you do?”  Max responds “We gave him back his mortality.”
  • “Human emotion…it can contain illogical conflict.”  - Max

Tips for parents:   
Any parent who has watched their kids get sucked into their cell phones or other electronic devices will question how well technology is serving humanity.  The film has very little bad language, but some violence.  Young children may get bored, but older children could be guided into an interesting conversation about the role technology should play in their lives.  Check out this movie clip to get you started.

Another movie your kids and you might enjoy on this topic is:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rio 2 movie review from a tired mom

Movie Title:  Rio 2
G, 1 hour 41 minutes

Grade:   C+

In a Nutshell:   Forgettable.  Young children will be entertained, although the 4 year old sitting behind me kept asking his mother “Can we go home?”  That’s a not a good sign coming from the target audience. 

  • Birds of a feather flock together?
  • Humans are evil and destroy the planet.  (I’m getting really tired of hearing that from every movie I see lately.)
  • Brazil is always ready for a party.

Things I liked:
  • The colors are bright and fun, like watching a box of Fruit Loops explode on the big screen.
  • I loved all the Brazilian tropical fruits, nuts, plants, and local products on display.
  • The animation of the water in the Amazon River looked terrific.
  • The only scene that made me laugh out loud was the talent show audition scene. 
  • I thought all of the hats Nico tried on were cute.  I’m assuming Jamie Foxx’s character had a larger role in the first Rio?  I never saw it.
  • Jesse Eisenberg is capable of playing smooth geniuses (The Social Network and Now You See Me ), as well as unconfident underdogs.
  • Beautiful aerial views of Brazil.  I loved the montage of paper pop-up maps as they traveled through the landscapes and cities.  It makes me want to plan a trip to the country.
  • The feathers on all of the birds’ heads were well designed and allowed the characters to distinguish their personalities one from the other.  The beaks also had impressive detail.
  • There is a sleepy sloth who sings super fast rap.  Have you ever heard a sloth squeak in real life?  Totally adorable.
  • I thought the Capoeira turtles were hilarious.  Check out this video about Brazilian Capoeira.

Things I didn’t like:
  • I never saw the first Rio .  There is a quick flashback from the first movie to let you know why the cockatiel has a grudge against Blu, but I still felt like I was missing something…like why the first one was popular.  There are minor characters in this movie that were obviously carried over from the first, but since I hadn’t seen the first one, I didn’t feel a bond with them.  Their roles are not that strong in the sequel and didn’t add much to the story. 
  • Many of the actors were underutilized, especially the terrific singing talents of Kristen Chenowith, Jamie Fox, Anne Hathaway, and  There were several songs, but most of them were too short for children to fall in love with or know how to sing them at home (like everyone is STILL doing with the soundtrack from Frozen .)  I couldn’t understand the lyrics in the “big” musical number sung by all the birds, making it even more difficult for the audience to leave the theater repeating them.  Kristen Chenoweth’s song was quite operatic, something a little girl is probably not going to be able to duplicate very well.  Her character’s little frog mouth had cute vibrato while she was singing though and I could hear children in the audience repeating her occasional funny lines.  This little lethal lover is sure to be the standout of the movie with children who beg for movie merchandising.   Bruno Mars sings, but it lasts less than 30 seconds as well.  With all this voice and singing talent, why didn’t director Carlos Saldanha really take advantage of it?
  • Monkeys are usually scene stealers, but in this movie they’re not even cute.
  • I can’t stand all that disgusting drool on the dog.  Why would anyone want a dog that salivates that much all over anything?  The animation was good though.
  • The anteater’s tongue was pretty gross.  Cleverly used throughout the movie, but still gross.

Inspiring lines:
  • “Happy wife.  Happy life.”    True.  The movie shows the sacrifices Blu is willing to make for his family.  Jewel, his "significant other", scolds him for being selfish, but she doesn't sacrifice a single thing for him in this movie.  It goes both ways to have a happy life.

Funny lines:
    • “We’ll attack at the midnight hour, because it’s more evil.”  - Nigel
    • We are going to the Amazon…yay!  (Blu)   Pedro says “Like the website?”
    • “Wow.  Nigel es muy macho.”  - Gabi
    • “I’ll be pooping on your party pronto.” – Nigel
    • “It’s a spoon and a fork.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.” – Blu   “Put down the spork.”  - Tiago
    • “I love it when you get all dark and brooding.”  - Gabi

Tips for parents:  There isn’t as much adult humor to keep you entertained, as other animated films out there right now, such as Mr. Peabody and Sherman, but you can always get a nap out of it.   I almost dozed off a few times, but maybe I was just tired? There are a couple of jokes about poo, but otherwise, the language is perfectly clean.  Thankfully, nobody flips the bird in this film. Your children will be preached to about environmentalism.  The “camera” zooms in on this “No entrance” sign, which most children won’t understand.  “No entrar” means no entrance in Portuguese.  Now you can tell your kids and they'll think you're super smart.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

God's Not Dead mixes logic with heart

Movie Title:   God's Not Dead
PG, 1 hour 35 minutes

Grade:   B-

In a Nutshell:  Christians will enjoy it.  Atheists will be annoyed by it, hate it, and loudly argue how offended they are by it.  A question raised in the film that I’ve often asked myself is: Why isn’t it enough for atheists to simply not believe what religious people do?  Why do they have to also tear down and destroy others’ faith?

Is this piece good filmmaking?  No, not really.  It kind of felt like a made-for-TV special.  It’s overly melodramatic and certainly stacks the deck in its favor, but believers will have their heart strengthened and leave the theater filling renewed and encouraged to share their faith. 

Uplifting theme:  God lives!  I loved the challenge at the end of the movie that said “Join the movement.  Text everyone you know:God's Not Dead  The audience I sat with clapped when they saw those words.  In fact, the lights in the theater were raised before the movie was over, allowing viewers to do just that…text their witness. Sweet.  I love seeing technology used for good.

Things I liked:
  • I’ve always loved Kevin Sorbo ever since he brought the fun TV series Hercules The Legendary Journeys - Seasons 1-6 Bundle to life in the 1990’s.
  • It was nice to see Christians portrayed as logically-thinking, good people, rather than as the fanatic buffoons Hollywood usually paints them to be in the movies.
  • I’m always impressed with Hollywood actors are willing to show their faith in movies like this.  Dean Cain stepped up to the plate.
  • I thought it was nice that they included a side-story that depicted the price some Muslims are paying to accept Christianity.
  • Reverend Jude didn’t just talk about his faith; he showed it when he was willing to load up a car that didn’t work and then pray that it would work.  It seemed like a gimmicky miracle, but that actually happened to my son!
  • On opening night, this film was completely sold out by a local church group.  I would like Hollywood to take notice that the Christian community is more than eager to support positive and family-friendly movies that promote good values.  Is that asking too much?  Now, if all the Christian movie-makers could work on making films that aren’t too cheesy and embarrassing, that would be terrific!

Things I didn’t like:
  • The contrived Spartacus moment felt more forced than inspiring.  I did, however, think the sweet Asian student’s spontaneous leap of faith was sweet and sincere.
  • After the recent Duck Dynasty: Season 3 controversy, I thought it was interesting that Willie Robertson from that reality show was featured as a suitable spokesperson in the movie during the big, evangelical concert.
  • The background scene music during the movie was pretty sappy.  The gospel rock band at the end however, The Newsboys, were pretty good.
  • SPOILER ALERT: I thought making that “certain character” die at the end was lame.  I would have preferred to see him live his newly found faith than simply claim deathbed repentance.
  • The non-Christians in the film are portrayed as monstrous villains.  I know there are jerks out there, but it was too over-the-top for a film that was supposed to be presenting a logical case on even ground.

Inspiring lines:
  • To the wrong person, you’ll never have any worth.  But to the right person, you’ll mean everything.”  - Pastor Dave
  • “Nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked by world-famous scientists.”  - Dr. John Lennox from the book God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway?
  • “It’s easy to dismiss what you don’t understand or what you don’t want to understand.”  - Josh Wheaton
  • “I’m leaving you” said Mina (Cory Oliver) to her boyfriend, Professor Radisson.  He arrogantly declared “I won’t allow it.”  She wisely teaches him “It’s not your choice.”  I wish all girls who are treated badly by men would remember that.  She put him in his place earlier when he was treating her poorly in front of dinner guests and she said “Now if you’ll excuse me…it’s time for the help to depart.”  Girls, you NEVER have to be treated like garbage.  I hope you know that.
  • Professor Radisson asks “If God is all good and all-powerful, why does he allow evil?”  The truth taught by Josh is explained in two words “Free will.”
  • “How can you hate someone you say doesn’t exist?” asks Josh Wheaton to Professor Radisson when he admits he hates God for letting his beloved mother die when he was only a young boy.
  • “So, where do YOU find your hope?”  - The British guy in the rock band Newsboys.
  • “God is good all the time.  And all the time, God is good.”  - Pastor Dave
  • “Gnothi seauton” – Socrates   (Know Thyself)

Tips for parents:  Young children may be bored, as there is not a lot of action.  The philosophical discussions may go over their heads, but the points made in the movie are definitely worth a family dinner conversation.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a superhero movie MARVEL

Grade:   A-

In a Nutshell:   
A great marvel!  This mile-a-minute action flick is the second installment in the Captain America franchise and a terrific stand-alone story that is compelling and complex.  Sequels are notorious for not being as good, but this gritty one is winning high praises from Marvel fans and newbies alike.  It’s a smart political thriller that makes you feel like you just saw a real movie.  It’s brave enough to tackle serious issues such as national security, government surveillance and the price of freedom.

Marvel is really doing it right, pumping out one fun flick after another.  The Amazing Spider-Man , X-Men: Days of Future Past , and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Cosmic Avengers hit the big screen in just weeks!  It’s a little bit helpful to have seen the first Captain America film, but if not, don’t worry…you’ll catch on quickly.

Uplifting theme:  Wouldn’t it be great if American patriotism were cool again?

Things I liked:
  • The Winter Soldier is an interesting villain.
  • Three Days of the Condor [HD] star Robert Redford reminds us how cool those 1970s espionage movies were.
  • I love clever banter between fun characters.  Scarlett Johansson plays Natasha Romanoff who steals scenes with Rogers (Captain America), played by the impressively buff Chris Evans.  You’ll most likely see a trailer before this movie that features Scarlett Johansson in the upcoming film that looks like it has some good potential: Lucy
  • I love Sam Wilson’s evolution into a superhero with the aid of his uber-awesome jet-powered wings.
  • The opening scene with Chris Evans in an Under Armour shirt…wow.  My kids gross out whenever I talk about male actors like that, but hey, I’m not dead.
  • Scenes where everyone points a gun at everyone else in a stand-off always crack me up.
  • I’m glad we get to see the man behind the mask.  The Winter Soldier’s mask gets knocked off fairly early in the film and we learn more about him as the film develops.
  • The CGI was great and believable. 
  • I thought the slow-motion scene toward the end was great.
  • I thought the list of things Captain America made of things he needed to catch up on was pretty cute.  It included Tai food, Disco, Moon landing, and Marvin Gaye.
  • I LOVED the finale of How I Met Your Mother: The Complete Series , so I enjoyed seeing Cobie Smulders again.
  • I love it when Stan Lee makes his cameo performance.  His big line in this installment of his Marvel character movies is “Oh man!  I am so fired.”  Ha ha
  • I loved watching a middle-aged woman in a dress suit kick bad-guy butt.

Things I didn’t like:
  • It didn’t have as much humor as The Avengers or Iron Man movies.
  • Some people may criticize the movie for being unrealistic.  Well, duh…it’s a superhero movie.
(PHOTO ON LEFT:  One of our pastry students at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School, where I teach, designed a special sugar structure to celebrate Captain America!  Everything in her design is edible!)

Funny lines:
  • Nick Fury says “We’re gonna neutralize a lot of threats before they even happen.”  Captain America replies “I thought the punishment came after the crime.”
  • Natasha asks “Hey fellas, either one of you know where the Smithsonian is?   I’m here to pick up a fossil.”  Captain America says “That’s hilarious” as he gets in her car.
  • Falcon yells “How do we know the good guys from the bad guys?”  Captain America yells back as they run towards danger “If they’re shooting at you, they’re bad!”
  • Natasha asks “You doing anything fun Saturday night?”  Captain America answers “Well, all the guys in my barbershop quartet are dead…so, no, not really.”
  • Captain America says “You don’t have to come with me.”  Falcon replies “I know.  When do we start?”
  • Falcon says to the Cap “You know you’re a lot heavier than you look.”  Captain America chirps back “I had a big breakfast.”
  • A soldier on a plane that Captain America jumps out of says to another soldier “Was he wearing a parachute?”  “No, no he wasn’t.”
  • “Secure the engine room.  Then find me a date.”  - Captain America
  • “You’re wrong about me.  I do share.  I’m nice like that.” – Agent Nick Fury
  • “I do what he does, just slower.”  - Falcon, referring to Captain America.

Did you know?
  • The Avengers was almost a rated R movie.   Some of the violence was a bit too much, so the directors had to tone it down and resubmit it.  There is LOT of violence in Captain America: The Winter Soldier [HD] , but they tried hard to not get an R rating so that kids could watch it.  Parents, be prepared for lots of shooting, explosions, and collateral damage.
  • Robert Downey Jr. has already convinced us how cool he is, but he took it up another notch when he invited 20 kids to join him at his house to watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier [HD] .  He posted this note on his Facebook page “What better way to spend my birthday than recognizing the cosmic miracle of Captain America 2 opening the same day.”  Nice.
  • Agent Nick Fury trades in his eye patch for a set of cool shades.  You even get to see what’s underneath his patch.
  • If you’re currently watching the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, see this movie first, and then continue watching the TV series.
  • Keep watching after the credits roll for a teaser.
  • If you liked the Trouble Man song from the movie, check out the entire Marvin Gaye album:

Tips for parents:  Try having a conversation with your kids about which is more important: freedom or security.  I liked the line Captain America said “Soldiers trust each other.  That’s what makes it an Army.”  Have your kids write some letters of encouragement to some soldiers who are willing to give their lives to protect our country and you.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ender's Game now out on DVD for fun family movie night

Movie Title:  Ender's Game
PG-13, 1 hour 53 minutes

Grade: A-

In a Nutshell:  This sci-fi tween thriller deserved to be made into a film, as the book has been popular with kids since 1985.  Congrats to Orson Scott Card for making it on to the big screen!  Most of the source book fans have been very pleased with the movie adaptation, although they admit that a few interesting aspects were rushed or necessarily left out because of the time constraints. The battle scenes feel like you’re watching someone play a video game, but the special effects are pretty amazing.  You’ll feel like a 12 year old kid again and wish you could float around in the battle simulator.

Things I liked:   
  • I love Harrison Ford, even if I have to see him as a grumpy, aging man. 
  • I’ve also adored Ben Kingsley ever since he won an Oscar for Best Actor in Gandhi many years ago.  The design on his face was very cool and supposed to represent a way to speak for the dead.  His father was a Maori.  I have a friend whose ancestry is Maori.  He plays the ukulele and sings songs in Maori for his students.
  • You feel like you get your money’s worth because the film is long, but moves quickly.  
  • I thought Ender’s squeaky, pubescent voice was perfect because it constantly reminds you that he is still just a boy.  Asa Butterfield does a terrific job.  I loved him in Hugo.  Ben Kingsley was in that movie as well.  It was simply stunning in 3D.
  • I liked the cadets’ white casual wear and would like one for myself to wear at home when I’m just kicking around.
  • I hadn’t read the book, so I had no idea what was going to happen.  I love twists.
  •  The zero gravity room looks super fun!  I went Indoor Skydiving in Las Vegas recently and had a blast…literally!  A giant fan blasts air at you so that you float.  I highly recommend it!  This is a picture of my husband, son, and I after our indoor skydiving experience, which is probably the closest we'll ever get to a zero gravity feeling:   

Things I didn’t like:
  • So, it only takes 3 adults to run that entire spaceship? 
  • I was surprised at the amateur-looking credits at the end of the movie.
  • It takes itself a little bit too seriously and could have been improved with more peppering of humor.

Uplifting theme:
  • The way we win matters.
  • “Let us train our soldiers so they can be gifted at war AND peace.”

Funny lines:
  • “This is basic rocket science, people!”  - teacher
  • “Game over.” - Ender

Interesting lines:
*  When you truly understand your enemy, you love them.”

Things to look for:
  • The button on the back of their necks that is used to monitor them reminded me of The Matrix .
  • Hailee Steinfeld plays a character whose name is Petra.   Petra means rock in Latin.  She becomes Ender’s rock throughout their experience in the training experience in the International Fleet.

Tips for parents: There is a lot of violence, some bullying, and a repeated use of the word “A**hole” in Spanish by a character named Bonzo.  There is no other profanity, other than mean name-calling by bullies.  There are some interesting moral dilemmas that could provide interesting dinner conversations for your family.

If your tween loved the movie, you can find the box set of the book series here: