Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lucy combines bang bang with Big Bang

Movie Title:  Lucy

Grade:  B+
PG-13 in the U.S.A. or R in Europe

In a Nutshell:   The evolutionary Big Bang theory meets Bang Bang.  As long as you remember that this is a summer popcorn movie and not a documentary, you’ll be fine.  Audiences proved they were more interested in brains than brawn, as Lucy outsold Hercules in box offices around the U.S.A. on opening night.   

Surprisingly, this action thriller is filled with comedic moments.  There are also a lot of bloody, violent ones.  Fans of this spring’s Transcendence movie will enjoy this flick in similar fashion, as both combine elements of science, philosophy, and flying bullets.

Uplifting theme: 

The lights fade and you hear Lucy explain “Life was given to us a billion years ago.  What have we done with it?”  At the end she says “Life was given to us a billion years ago.  Now you know what to do with it.”  (You have to watch the movie to find out and even then, it's not exactly clear…)

Things I liked:
  • Scarlett Johansson does a great job effortlessly serving up bullets to the head with cold sass.  Scarlett is great at releasing tears without her voice breaking up or her nose turning red like when I cry.  Not a pretty site (me, not Scarlett).
  • I love little details like Lucy’s chipped fingernail polish in the beginning to show how her life was messy and trashy. 
  • With a glass of Champagne, Lucy toasts “to knowledge!”  I feel the same way, except with a Virgin Pina Colada in my hand.
  • I loved it when Lucy’s eyes changed colors and shimmered.
  • 2 Michelangelo/finger of God moments.  You’ll see.
  • Who doesn’t love Morgan Freeman?  A friend of mine recently pointed out how President Obama has gone from a Denzel Washington hero to a Morgan Freeman character during his two terms in office.  Interpret that however you want.

Things I didn’t like:
  • It’s never explained why the other “mules” went straight to the airport, but Lucy was beat up and thrown in jail in Taipei.  Did I miss something?
  • I thought it was interesting that the more knowledge Lucy gains, the more robotic and less human she becomes.  I’d like to think that with greater wisdom comes greater compassion and understanding for others…
  • Suspend your disbelief and don’t think too logically.   
  • Many viewers were surprised by the turn the movie makes in the end.  

Did you know?
  • Ever wonder how old Morgan Freeman is?  He’s 77!  A recent video went viral of Morgan Freeman sucking helium with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show.  Hilarious.   
  • The only living being that uses its brain better than us is the dolphin:  20%.
  • The drug featured in the film is called CPH4.  They say that pregnant women create it in their 6th week of pregnancy, but in very tiny amounts.
  • The first thing Lucy does when her brain capacity is enhanced is get free of her captors, eat a bunch of food, and then stock up on weapons.  Hmmm….is there a message there?

Interesting lines:
  • “With movement, interesting things begin to happen.”  - Professor Norman
  • “Humans are more concerned with having than being.”  - Professor Norman
  • “For primitive beings like us, the soul purpose is time.” – Professor Norman explains that when the conditions are good, man is in a state of reproduction, but when conditions are not good, self-sufficiency is the key objective.  Later he says, “It’s up to us to take action to go from evolution to revolution.”
  • “We never really die.”  - Lucy says as she nears 100% brain capacity. 
  • “Time gives legitimacy its existence.”  - Lucy
  • “Ignorance brings chaos, not knowledge.”  - Lucy

Funny lines:
  • “Did you know that the first woman’s name was Lucy?”  - Richard    (The camera then zooms in on a pre-historic ape trying to drink water out of a pond.)
  • “Hablo poco espanol.”  - Lucy
  • “If you lost the key, you don’t have to chop off my hand; you can just cut the chain.” – Lucy
  • “It’s not dangerous.”  - a bad guy says to Lucy while the tough body guards all around him crouch in fear behind bomb shields.

Tips for parents:  There are images of animals mating and giving birth, as well as some sexual innuendo.  There is a lot of violence with a variety of weapons, blood spurts and puddles, and destructive car crashes.

Interesting facts about your brain:

1. The belief that humans only use 10% of their brains is incorrect. Each part of the brain has a specific function and the average person uses all the various parts of the brain.

2. The brain is the fattiest part of your body by about 60%. 

3. We think about 70,000 thoughts a day.  

4. Most people dream about 4-7 dreams a night. Fifty percent of those dreams are forgotten in the first minutes after waking.  

5. The brain creates 23 watt of electricity while awake, enough to light a light bulb. 

6. The human brain has more 'wrinkles' and crevices than those of other animals. In this way, the brain gets more surface space, while staying at around the same size, and it is part of the reason for our increased intelligence.

Other brainy movies you might like:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Planes: Fire and Rescue doesn't reach movie altitude

Movie Title:  Planes: Fire & Rescue
PG, 1 hour 24 minutes

Grade:  C+

In a Nutshell:  You know when you make a Xerox copy of another actual Xerox copy and the quality gets worse each time?  That’s kind of this movie. The first Planes movie was a spinoff of the successful Cars franchise, but landed with a thud.  So what’s a movie studio to do?  Make a sequel!  No doubt the merchandising for little boys will be big.

For a movie about airplanes, it just doesn’t quite reach the altitude we all wish it did.
If your kids loved the first Planes, then go for it; you’re in for more of the same.  If you and your kids were bored out of your minds the first time around, skip this one.  You can read my movie review from the first Planes movie here.  Go watch Frozen again.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Heroism
  • Friendship
  • Responsibility

Things I liked:
  • Every animated film is better with the awesome voice talents of Patrick Warburton. Seriously.  Put him in everything.
  •  The scenery was beautiful as “we” flew over deserts, mountains, and meadows.
  • It’s better than the first Planes , but that still doesn’t make it an actual good movie.
  • It’s definitely geared towards the tots.   
  • It’s always fun to hear the lovable voice of John Ratzenberger.

Things I didn’t like:
  • There were quite a few sexual innuendos intended to entertain parents, such as “How’d you like to rub tires?” and “We wore off the treads on our honeymoon” and “Yeah, they’re real.”    Not classy.
  • I love Modern Family’s Julie Bowen and was happy to hear her voice the character of Dipper.  Unfortunately, I didn’t like Dipper at all.  She’s an airplane who constantly throws herself at Dusty for some cheap laughs.  Great role model for little girls, eh?
  • I’m kinda tired of the obligatory fart jokes in lil tyke flicks.
  • I got a little dizzy with some of the aerial dips and tricks.
  • The most emotional scene was one with two old RV’s who expressed their love for each other.  Sweet, right?  Well, yeah, except their loving words were spoken in between inappropriate sexual innuendos and winks towards the parents. 

Did you notice?

Funny lines:
  • “It’s a mysterious mystery.” – little bulldozer
  • “This is so exciting, I’m going to overheat.” – random car in a group scene

Tips for parents:   I thought some of the fire scenes were scary and could frighten little ones.  Otherwise, the movie is mostly harmless fun.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dwayne Johnson makes for a great, Herculean rock

Movie Title:   Hercules
PG-13, 2 hours

Grade:  B

In a Nutshell:   The Rock. Man, that guy is huge…like a Herculean rock.  Dwayne Johnson proudly proclaimed in a recent interview “I was born to place this role.”  He definitely makes for an impressive and believable demigod.

The movie begins, “You think you know the truth about him?  You know nothing.”  Yeah, except that we JUST finished watching The Legend Of Hercules a few months ago in the theater, although  that version was terrible.  (Read my movie review of that one here.)  

Timed perfectly for ComiCon, this version of the legendary man of strength includes a lot of bloodied, grimy, and determined bad guys full of testosterone, as well as a frequent yelling of the enraged “AAAH!” before battle scenes.  There is enough humor and action to keep you engaged, but it’s not as epic as I had hoped for.  It vacillates between wanting to be a tongue-in-cheek retelling of mythology and an attempt at seriously recreating the legend.

If you love the idea of Dwayne Johnson fighting in a leather skirt, you’ll definitely enjoy this action flick.  If you’re looking for deep insights into the Greek man of myth, you probably won’t find it here.   After all of the versions I’ve seen, I think the old Disney animation of Hercules is still the best!

Uplifting theme: 
  • “You have it within yourself to write your own legacy.”  - Hercules
  • “You don’t need to be a demigod to be a hero.  You only have to believe you’re a hero.”  - Amphiaraus

Things I liked:
  • The trailer features some amazing feats of strength, so I figured they were probably the best the movie had to offer.  The good news is that there is a lot more where that’s coming from.  The bad news is that you don’t get to see any more cool, mythical monsters after the first 10 minutes of the film.
  • It doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a sense of humor.
  • The 3D version enhanced some of the scenes, but not in a gimmicky way.
  • The aerial views during battles were cool and even helpful to see what was going on.
  • There is a classic Mulan montage as the local farmers train to become a fearsome army of skilled soldiers.
  • The lion CGI was amazing and I love the lion “helmet” souvenir Hercules wears throughout the movie.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Lots of bloody bodies and charred corpses.  Realistic, but ICK.
  • It cracked me up when baby Hercules’ pudgy little arm reaches up towards a painting of Zeus in the beginning of the movie.  Pretty cheesy.  It actually made me laugh out loud.
  • I know there was some CGI involved, but I always feel bad for the horses in battle scenes, especially when they fall down or get hurt. 
  • While the actress Ingrid Bolso Berdal is lovely and talented, I would have cast a taller, more buff fighter to play the Amazon woman Atalanta.
  • Hercules utters the one F-bomb in the movie.  Gee, thanks…great role model for our kids.
  • My 14 year old son and his friends liked it, but they thought it ended too soon.  Their complaint was that there were only a couple of really good battle scenes and then it was over.
  • It would have been kind of fun to see the retired professional wrestler actually get down and wrestle a bad guy in the film.

Did you know?
  • It took three hours every day in make-up to transform Dwayne Johnson into the mighty Hercules with long locks and a beard.  His beard was made from Yak’s hairy balls.  Ick.  He couldn’t have just grown his own beard?  They mostly covered up his large shoulder/chest tattoo with make-up and leather.
  • Did you notice the classic Samson & Delilah moment when Hercules knocks down the pillars and walls of the temple?  I’m surprised they haven’t ever done a remake for that old classic movie.  I loved it as a little girl.
  • Norwegian-born Ingrid Bolso Berdal studied jazz singing in college.   You most recently saw her in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters as one of the witches.
  • Hercules was actually born a twin.  His brother Iphicles is never mentioned in the film.

Interesting lines:
  • “The king of this land has offered me gold to dispose of you.  You can leave or die.  I get paid either way.”  - Hercules
  • “How we see ourselves doesn’t matter.  How others see us is what’s important.”  - Amphiaraus    (Maybe I wrote that line wrong?  Shouldn’t that be the other way around?)
  • “Kingdoms are won by armies, but empires are built with alliances.”  - Lord Cotys

Funny lines:
  • “A pair of breasts is more persuasive than gold.”  - Atalanta
“Yeah, but gold doesn’t age.”  - Sitacles

  • “I hope the enemy has a sense of humor.” – Autolycus
  • “If you’re lucky, you’ll go to Hades where all the fun people are.” – Autolycus
  • “Don’t just stand there…kill someone!”  - Autolycus

Tips for parents:  Lots and lots of blood, violence, profanity, sexual innuendo.  Hercules’ gorgeous wife (Russian model Irina Shayk) is not in very many scenes, but when she is, you see a lot of her…if you know what I mean…she strips off a light cloak, revealing her entire back side.  Hercules’ beautiful, young mother wears a practically see-through dress in the beginning of the movie.  No wonder Hera was so jealous of Alcmene.  Shame on Zeus.

Other versions of Hercules you might enjoy are:


Friday, July 18, 2014

The next Captain America will be black

In an explanation posted on its website under the headline, “It’s time for an all-new Captain America,” Marvel announced that the next Captain America will be black. 

The change comes after the retirement of Captain America’s longtime alter ego, Steve Rogers. He will hand the persona off to his friend Sam Wilson, who is the identity behind Falcon. 

 The news comes a day after Marvel announced another major change when it revealed that Thor would be reintroduced as a woman. The changes to the characters will be limited to the comic-book pages, and not yet on the big screen.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes provides action and drama

PG-13, 2 hours 10 minutes

Grade:  B+/A-

In a Nutshell:   
When I was young I went to a Planet Of The Apes Movie Marathon with my friends.  We got a kick out of the furry franchise, featuring the talents of Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell.  We knew the apes looked cheesy, but we still liked it.  Well, the apes sure don't look cheesy in this newest edition.  In fact, they're pretty doggone amazing.

This action-packed edition is a sequel to the successful 2011 reboot Rise Of The Planet of the Apes and showcases some truly amazing CGI.  Planet of the Apes purists will get to see some of their favorite parts: apes riding horses while toting AR15s, explosions, and plenty of human-ape conflict.

The dystopian genre has been extremely popular these past few years and, I must admit, it was interesting to imagine what my old stopping grounds, San Francisco, would look like after a deadly pandemic hits the area, wiping out most of the human race.  The setting and mood in this film are exceptional.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Trust.
  • Power.  The humans were trying to get power…electricity to run their colony of survivors.  The apes were also trying to get power…control over humans.
  • Both sides, apes and humans, include those who see a future built on respect for the other, as well as those who are filled with hatred and prejudice. You’ll find yourself cheering for both sides.

Things I liked:
  • Those eyes!  Those penetrating eyes!  Outstanding CGI showcases super detailed facial expressions on the apes.  The monkeys were extremely realistic, although some of their movements were a little too human.  There were a couple of times when some apes fought each other and it looked more like a professional wrestling match in the WWE.   
  • The tears and subtle expressions on the apes' faces were so impressive.  In fact, those who shed tears in the movie (apes AND humans) do so in such a genuine way that it's not overdone.
  • You get to see an adorable baby chimpanzee.  Adorable.
  • I thought the “head hug” between (NO SPOILER ALERT) the ape and the man was very sweet.  It reminded me of the movie 10,000 B.C.
  • I’ve always thought Keri Russell was so lovely.  I want a pair of her boots to tromp around in the woods.
  • Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke do a good job and the uber-talented Andy Serkis supplies the meaningful voice behind Caesar, the leader of the apes.
  • In the Mark Walberg edition of Planet Of The Apes , the apes almost had magical powers that enabled them to fly and jump to an absurd degree.  This film's apes are more realistic and believable. 

Things I didn’t like:
  • I know they have to make distinctions between the apes so that we can tell them apart, but I thought the hippie, beaded headband that Caesar’s wife wore was just silly.  There was also some other ape that always hung out with the wife who wore a completely bizarre face mask with dangles covering almost the entire face.
  • Why do they always put the dumb Bubbas in charge of the guns?
  • There were some inconsistencies in the story.  For example, Malcolm said about the apes, “They don’t need power; that’s their strength.”  However, when we go into the apes’ headquarter camp at night, they have hanging lamps.  It made for a pretty lighting effect, but was illogical.  Why would the apes need lamps?
  • The movie takes itself a little too seriously.  There were a few, mildly humorous moments, but it could have used a few more.

Did you notice?

Interesting lines:
  • “Fear makes others follow.”  - Caesar’s son
  • “Trust.”  - Caesar
  • “I see how much like them we are.” – Caesar
  • “Ape not kill ape.” – Caesar
  • “He saw things no kid should ever see and I’m not letting us go back to that.”  - Malcom 
  • “What are you doing?”  
“Saving the human race.”  - Dreyfus
  • “Home.  Family.  Future.”  - Caesar

Tips for parents:  Some profanity, 1 F-bomb, and lots of violence.  If you have kids who are learning sign language at school, they may enjoy watching the apes “talk.”  There are a lot of captions throughout the entire movie to help you understand what the apes are saying.  

If you haven’t seen earlier versions of the Planet of the Apes franchise, check out some of these:

Friday, July 4, 2014

America: Imagine a World Without Her movie review

PG-13, 1 hour 43 minutes

Grade:  B+

In a Nutshell:   Timed perfectly for the 4th of July weekend, this documentary-style film asks the question: “What would the world look like if America did not exist?”   As the movie begins, you see a blacksmith hammering steel letters to spell out the word “America”.  The movie then goes on to illustrate how America was literally forged out of fire to become the great nation it is today.

Worried about the future where this country is headed, polarizing director and writer Dinesh D’Souza picks up where 2016 Obama's America left off, explaining that “Seeing these predictions come true makes me scared for America.”  D’Souza presents several indictments that are currently being made against America and then offers evidence that disproves the false claims.

Liberals have already declared this movie to be full of idiotic jingoism and D’Souza’s attempt at payback for being indicted in New York on charges that he violated campaign finance laws (he pled not guilty and was released on bail).  Conservatives believe D'Souza was targeted for his attack on Obama and praise both films for their thoughtful presentation of ideas.  Towards the end of the movie, D’Souza is seen in handcuffs, issuing a warning to all Americans to fight for the freedoms and liberty that have made this country great.

If you’re interested in learning more about it, go to

Uplifting theme:  The movie starts out with a quote by famous French statesman, Alexis de Tocqueville who toured colonial America to find out why it was such a success: “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”  The questions hang in the air: "Are we still good?  Are we still great?"

Things I liked:
  • D’Souza tries to present both sides of each issue fairly, giving equal time for both.
  • There are some powerful images that should leave you in awe of the miracle that America was ever created. A single sniper's shot to George Washington during the Revolutionary War could have ended everything before it even started.  George Washington is one of my biggest heroes ever and is featured in the beginning of the film.  He was willing to put his life on the line for an America that didn’t exist yet. He could have easily been king of this new country and establish his own royal lineage, but instead, he insisted on a new government that would make his descendents as socially equal as anyone.  Where ARE his descendents?  Great question, right? 
  • D’Souza also tries to present the important question “What would the world be like if America recedes in importance?” Is she now? How can we prevent it?
  • It’s not a sequel to 2016 Obama's America where Obama is painted as a villain who hates capitalist America, but a film with a hero, not D’Souza, but America itself.
  • D’Souza tries to show that the principles of 1776 which founded this country still work.

Things I didn’t like:
  • A lot of issues were unaddressed, but then again, the film would have been much longer.
  • Some of the reenactments could have been better.  A few were used over and over again, but from different angles.
  • I thought some of the people D’Souza chose to interview were odd choices, but it was still interesting to hear their view points on various issues.
  • The film could have been much grander and greater, but feels like a TV Special.
Interesting lines:
  • “America is an idea.  It was the first country to claw itself out of darkness and put it on paper.”  - Bono
  • “The Revolutionary War was the struggle for the creation of America.  The Civil War was the struggle for the preservation of America.  WWII was the struggle for the protection of America.”  - D’Souza
  • “Capitalism works through the consent of the people.”  - D’Souza
  • “The wealth of America isn’t stolen; it’s created.” – D’Souza
  • “America isn’t the problem; it’s the answer.”  - D’Souza
  • “I chose this country. This country does something truly unique – it allows you to write the script of your life.”  - D’Souza
  • “Obama didn’t create this movement; it created him.”  D’Souza

Tips for parents:  Young children will be very bored.  It plays like a History Channel documentary.  Some violence.  If you have older children who are interested in some of the material presented, check out the following books and videos which were mentioned in the movie:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Earth to Echo doesn't quite repeat the charm of E.T.

Movie Title:  Earth To Echo
PG, 1 hour 29 minutes

Grade:  C

In a Nutshell:  This tween flick feels like an attempt at remaking E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial or even Super 8 with The Goonies (1985) , but not as magical and charming as any of those.  Relativity producers could learn a lesson from Spielberg.  Even the ad imitates the beloved E.T. movie poster.

The film takes some misfit kids on a scavenger hunt to help an extraterrestrial find the pieces he needs to rebuild his spaceship and return home.  While that’s not exactly an original script, it’ll feel fresh to little ones who haven’t yet experienced the better movies I just mentioned.

The movie is shot from the homemade perspective of one of the boys who is using his camcorder, so much of it is shaky and may cause motion sickness.   Remember Cloverfield ?  (That made me so dizzy I thought I was going to throw up.)  Sony HD cams get the spotlight on product placement in this flick.

Uplifting theme:  
  • “Having a friend light years away taught us that distance is just a state of mind.” – Tuck
  • Kids can do anything.  In the beginning of the movie, Tuck shakes his head in dismay and says “you have no power to stop ‘cuz you’re just a kid.” By the end, he and his friends feel empowered to do anything.

Things I liked:
  • They did a good job using technology to address how kids today spend their lives.  They follow a map that appears on their combined smartphones, and then they do Google searches for things like “weird barf shapes on my phone.”   
  • Echo is pretty doggone cute. 
  • There are some cool special effects, like when Echo makes an oncoming truck disassemble in air so that the kids aren't hurt.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The acting was really terrible.  I really wanted to fall in love with the kids, but it just felt like they were auditioning for a school play.
  • How convenient that the alien understands English.
  • The kids steal their older brother’s car and take it for a joy ride without a license or training.  Thanks for putting that idea into millions of pre-teens’ heads.
  • Of course, the kids in the movie are smarter than the bumbling, idiot adults. 
  • The kids are unhappy because they’re being forced out of their homes so that a freeway could be built in the area.  They rant and rave as if that’s completely inhumane, but in reality, their parents are being paid for their properties.
  • Tuck states “Our whole lives we’ve been invisible…the good kids.  Not anymore.”  Again, thanks for putting that great idea out there for kids to emulate.
  • The kids cheer wildly in the predictable ending “We did that!”  Um no, Echo did.

Interesting lines:
  • Tuck tells his bros that he kissed a cute girl.  When they find out he really didn’t, he explains “It’s aspirational thinking…you’re thinking one thing and living it the next.”  Hmmm…has he been reading the book The Secret ?

Funny lines:
  • “I need an Advil.”  - Mudge
  • “Did your phone barf?” – Tuck
  • “I think mannequins are hot.”  - Mudge
  • Why don’t you just play with your super rich friends and eat steak or something.”  - Alex
  • The kids go into a bar and one of them says “Look old!”

Tips for parents:   Young kids will probably enjoy this movie, especially if they’ve never seen E.T.  They love to watch other kids become heroes and do things adults think they can’t do….or defy them to do.  The language is clean and the script is mostly harmless.

Now, if you want to introduce your kids to some classics, help them discover the following:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Don't bother thinking like a man too

Movie Title:  Think Like A Man Too
PG-13, 1 hour 46 minutes

Grade:  D for dumb

In a Nutshell:  This movie is ridiculous and not in the “ha ha” kind of way.  It’s a raucous romp in Sin City while hypocritically preaching that the ultimate happiness is fidelity in marriage at the upcoming wedding of one of the featured couples. It’s an excuse to misbehave in the style of The Hangover or Last VegasYou can read my movie review of Last Vegas here.  Surprisingly, it's Rated PG-13 too.

Kevin Hart’s loud, whiny and frantic narration is annoying and it feels like the audience just paid for a cast party after their last movie.  There are plenty of clich├ęd moments from Tom Cruise’s Risky Business scene where Kevin Hart slides across the floor in a white button-up shirt, to a montage of the token white girl trying on different outfits a la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman , to the ladies’ lip-sync music video for Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison  The token white guy in the movie is a nerd who wears a fanny pack.

It’s a shame that this talented and very good-looking cast didn’t have more substance to work with. There is nothing fresh and new, offering you plenty of eye exercises as you roll them for almost 2 hours.

Things I liked:
  • Ummm…..not much.

Stupid lines:
  • A slutty girl at the hotel pool asks “Are you in a relationship or something?  So am I.  This is Vegas, baby.  Lighten up.”    (Seriously?  Do people think that’s actually funny?)
  • “Never say never in Vegas.”  - Kristen    (Seriously?  As if that’s actually good advice?)
  • “Absence makes the heart and other organs grow fonder.”  - Cedric  
  • “Tomorrow you can go back to the miserable and sexless existence that is marriage.”  - Cedric

Funny lines:
  • The old, British butler states “I think we’re soul brothers from different mothers.”  An alarmed Kevin Hart says “I don’t think it’s like that.”

Tips for parents: This is not a family film and not really worth your time either.  It’s loaded with everything you imagine happens in Vegas.  Hey, I live in Vegas, so I’m not slamming my city.  I’m just sayin….not a family film.

The first film of this franchise is much better: