Friday, February 27, 2015

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I'm super excited about this fun relationship book I wrote with my son.  It uses baseball terminology to help guys understand how women think.  Perfect for single guys looking for Mrs. Right, as well as married guys hoping to score points with their sweetheart.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Black or White addresses racism on both sides


Movie: Black or White

PG-13, 2 hours 1 minute

Grade: B

In a Nutshell:  Inspired by true events, Academy Award winner Kevin Costner produced this heartbreaking and heart warming film that attempts to cross black and white barriers to understanding and accepting one another.

Uplifting Theme:
·         Unfortunately, race is still an issue in this country.  Kevin Costner plays a hard-drinking and newly widowed grandfather, trying to raise his mixed race granddaughter.  Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer plays Rowena Spencer (Grandma WeeWee).   Rowena says “But you don’t want her down here, do you Elliott…here with the black folks…?”  Elliott brushes her off and says “Don’t start with that.  What is it with you? Why do you always have to go there?” She spits back “What is it with you that you don’t want to admit that there’s a ‘there’ there?”

Things I liked:
·         There are some funny moments like when Kevin Costner tries to brush his granddaughter’s black hair.  Frazzled, he asks “This is every day?”  There are also a lot of funny/awkward moments, like when Grandma WeeWeePee tries to kiss Kevin Costner or give him "some love" with a hug.
·         The evolving relationship between Elliott Anderson and his granddaughter, Heloise, is very sweet.  It’s cute how they tap their heart with their fingers when they say goodbye to each other.
·         The math tutor (“Johnny Quest sidekick”)  played by Mpho Koaho is adorable.  I love how he has written papers on so many different subjects and is always there to support Elliott.
·         Jillian Estel (Eloise) does a great job and is adorable.

Things I didn’t like:
·         I don’t care what color you are…if you’re doing drugs, I don’t want you around my kids.  It bugged me that Rowena and her brother sued Elliott, claiming he didn’t want Eloise around her biological father because he was black, as if his drug use, prison time, and dangerous lifestyle had nothing to do with it.
·         Some of the characters in the story are ridiculously stereotyped on both sides.
          


Funny lines:
·         “I’m no good at math; I’m a lawyer.  Do you know what we’re good at?” - Elliott
“What?” – Heloise
“Nothing…….it’s a little joke.” – Elliott
  “Duvan, tell me the truth. What planet are you really from?  OK? I’m not going to report you.  I just would like to know.” - Elliott

Interesting lines:
·         “She’s not black.  Alright, she’s half black. She’s also half white.  What does that have to do with anything anyway?  That’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever said.” – Elliott
·         “I don’t watch much television.  I’m afraid for me it is not a nourishing form of entertainment.” – Duvan

          
Tips for Parents:
·         Language, including the “N” word and 1 F-bomb, drinking, drug use, and a couple of fights.
*    Custody battles often cause emotional hurt for both parents and children.  Because of the complicated nature of race and custody, this film would be boring and inappropriate for young children.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

McFarland USA will warm your heart and inspire your feet

Movie:  McFarland, USA

PG, 2 hours 9 minutes

Grade: A

In a Nutshell: While this underdog story isn’t unique, the newest Disney film has a lot of heart and shows how to do the proven formula for inspiring sports films right.  Like the sign says that the town’s kids hold up to cheer on the cross country team, “McFarland es mas macho.”  I especially love inspiring movies about true stories when, at the end, they show the real people the film was based on and where they are today.

Hollywood cranks out movies about football and baseball, but rarely do you see high school cross country featured. My two oldest sons ran cross country when they were in high school in San Diego.  I remember cheering them on and eagerly waiting for the judges to score the races and announce the winners.  It’s an admirable sport whose athletes impress me with their tenacity and calm endurance.  You’ll be even more in awe when you see what this coach and team were able to accomplish in real life.

Maybe I was in a sentimental mood, but I got teary-eyed several times in this movie.  If you don't feel anything during this movie, you need to run until you cry.

Uplifting Theme:
·       You’ll be introduced to the small town of McFarland, USA , “the fruit bowl of California” and you’ll look at the plentiful produce in your grocery store differently.  Hopefully, you’ll look at Mexican Americans, especially “pickers”, in a different way too.

·        Like all good sports movies, this one includes lessons on sportsmanship, dedication, humility, hard work, persistence, and vision.

Things I liked:
·         Kevin Costner seemed to disappear from the big screen for awhile, but now he’s starring in two movies currently playing in theaters: McFarland USA and Black or White.  He does a great job in both.
·         I always appreciate the details in movies.  This movie painted a broad brushstroke of Mexican American cliches, while also providing details like yard chickens, tortas,  quinceanera parades, and dusty car windows to give you more of a flavor of the culture and town.
·         The Star Spangled Banner montage reminded me that America is the home of the brave and how truly brave those who leave their own countries to work this land are.  
      The boys on the team are charismatic, which makes for a good story, but the fact that they are real people is awesome.
               
Things I didn’t like:
·         While I love Maria Bello’s biceps, she looks pretty beat up in this film.  Maybe that was intentional?
       The script doesn't address illegal migrant workers. 

Funny lines:
·         “Nobody can hold a grudge like a teenage girl.” – Cheryl White (Maria Bello)
·         “Nice shorts dude.” – cocky runner on a different team, making fun of the McFarland team outfit
“You play golf?” – Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts)
“Yeah.” – cocky runner
“This ain’t golf.” – Thomas smirks as he runs ahead of the other player
·         “You go slow, right?” – Jim White (Kevin Costner) to Javi (Rigo Sanchez) who is driving his daughter in a Quinciniera parade
“”It’s the only way to we go…low and slow” - Javi
·         “We certainly don’t want a fire in this place.  It could cost tens of dollars in damage.” – McFarland High School janitor
·         “Where’s Danny?  He’s slower than 911 to a Mexican’s house.” – Jose Cardenas (Johnny Ortiz)
·         “You think I’m picking on you, Diaz?  Go faster and I’ll pick on someone else.” – Coach White
·         “Congrats, White. They’re treating you like a picker.” - Johnny Sameniego (Hector Duran)

Inspiring lines:
·         “We don’t practice to lose.” – David Diaz (Rafael Martinez)
·         “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight.  It’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Johnny 
“It depends on the dog.” – Coach White
“Now we know what we didn’t  know.  Let’s hit it again.” - Coach White


Tips for Parents:  This movie can provide a great opportunity to talk to your kids about sports, determination, cultural differences, prejudices, expectations, bullying, and working hard.

Other inspiring Disney sports movies I think you'll enjoy!

                    

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Project Almanac features "found footage" of time travel

Movie:  Project Almanac

PG-13, 2 hours

Grade: C

In a Nutshell:   The movie uses “found footage” as its film style, which can be slightly annoying.   The camera work is so shaky that it’s more irritating than clever.  Its dizzying effect reminds me of the movie Cloverfield .

The story features a high school senior who gets accepted into M.I.T. and discovers a time travel machine in his father’s basement.   Pre-Teens will get a kick out of the flick, especially if they have never seen Back to the Future or Chronicle , which do it better.  You might wish time travel were real so you could get your money back for your high-priced theater ticket, but the movie is perfect to play at a sleepover when kids are only half-watching it.

Uplifting Theme:
·         If you could travel back in time, what would you do with that power?
*    During a concert, attendees can write with chalk on big boards to answer the question: "Before the world ends..."   What would YOU write?
·          
Things I liked:
·         When I was in college, I dated a guy who attended MIT.  It was fascinating to watch the games he and his genius frat brothers played in their spare time.
·         I thought it was funny that the characters mentioned the movies Timecop , The Terminator ,  Looper , and the entire Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) [Blu-ray] movies while discussing time travel.
The cast is young, energetic, and fairly charismatic.

Things I didn’t like:
·         Everyone talks on top of everyone, which often makes it difficult to hear what they’re saying.
·         The CGI is decent, but not the best I’ve ever seen.
·         The science is a bit shaky, just like the camera work.

Funny lines:
·        “I didn’t have time to study.  I’ve been building a time-machine.” – David Raskin (Jonny Weston)
·         Full disclosure, guys.  There’s a slight chance that oxygen and nitrogen naturally found in the air could catalize." - David
“What does that mean?” – Quinn Goldger (Sam Lerner)
“We might explode.” – David
·         “You guys, we invented friggen time travel.  We should sell this thing to Richard Branson for like a zillion dollars.” - Adam Le (Allen Evangelista)
·         “It’s like a second chance machine.” – Adam
·         “I’m going to hire Kim Kardashian to have my baby.” – Quinn
·          
Tips for Parents:
·         Some teenage trash talk, profanity, and pre-marital sex.

·         Lots of teenager girls in skimpy outfits with some sexual innuendo.

   

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Jupiter Ascending is visually impressive with a messy script


PG-13, 2 hours 5 minutes

Grade: A- for visually amazing
              C- for story and dialogue

In a Nutshell:  Wow.  Talk about sensory overload.  The special effects are amaze balls. I went with some friends to see this in 3D at a Galaxy DFX theater which enhances the sound and offers those awesome reclining chairs.  One of the ladies I sat with said she had to close her eyes several times because she couldn’t take it all in.  I wonder if you get a free vomit bag with your ticket when you watch this in those Dbox motion chairs.

This fantasy adventure feels like a visit to the cantina scene in Star Wars with crazy aliens coming together to fight over power and the ownership of planet Earth.  One of the scenes looks like it actually could have been filmed on Star Wars’ Naboo. The script is messy, but the costumes, set design, make-up, and CGI are extremely creative and impressive, surely eating up most of the reported 175 million dollar budget.  The Wachowski brothers (one of them is now female) brought us the epic The Matrix magic, but have now created a story that mere earthlings can’t quite comprehend.  Even still, it’s an entertaining ride if you don’t mind the odd moments.

Uplifting Theme:
·         “It’s not what you do.  It’s what you are.” – Stinger Apini (Sean Bean)
·         What would you do with your time if you had an endless amount of it? What price would you be willing to pay to get more time?
·         There is an awkward exploration of capitalism, greed, and morality.




Things I liked:
·         If you like action, this movie includes the non-stop variety.
·         I LOVE LOVE the hover boots that make Channing Tatum look like he’s ice skating through air.  I hope I can buy a pair on Amazon soon.
·         Beautiful aerial views of Chicago.
·         There is a somewhat humorous attempt at explaining crop circles and dinosaurs.  I always wanted to know the scoop on those two things.  Now I know.
·         I loved the see-through floor on Balem Abrasax’s space ship.
·         I didn’t know Tuppence Middleton was so pretty when I first saw her in The Imitation Game.  Her character as Kalique Abrasax in Jupiter Ascending looked obviously fake in the beginning, so I was glad when we got to see her true beauty later on. 
·         There was so much to see that I would like to study some of the images frame by frame.
·         The gay robotic bureaucrat scene was odd, disturbing and funny at the same time.

Things I didn’t like:
·         Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones who falls in love with Caine in less than 30 seconds.  It’s embarrassing how quickly she throws herself at him.  Caine, by the way, is played by a blonde Channing Tatum.  He goes shirtless for a longer than necessary and the blonde scruff makes you wince just a little bit.  Two good-looking people should create sparks, but their romantic dialogue falls flat.
·         One of the guys I watched the movie with noted that the musical score by Michael Giacchino was too overpowering.  That could have been because we were in a sound-enhanced screening, so it’s hard to know if others will experience the same effect.
·         There were some attempts at humor, but not nearly enough successful ones.  Want to see a sci-fi fantasy flick that will make you laugh out loud a LOT?   Guardians of the Galaxy!
·         Mila Kunis’emotional range as Jupiter Jones is pretty small in this movie. Even after her entire world is shaken, all she can muster is a “Holy Crap.”  Years ago I took a jungle tour of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.  The tour guide’s name was Jupiter.  He explained to us that it was because he was so “far out.”
·         I adored Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and hope he wins an Oscar to go with his Golden Globe for it, but his performance in this film was odd and vacillates between monotone whispers and screaming, with nothing in between.
·         The elephant man alien appears out of place in what should be serious dramatic moments.
·         SPOILER ALERT: There is an icky Soylent Green moment.
·         Why were there so many bald women in this movie?
·         There is so much going on in the action sequences that it’s often hard to figure out exactly what’s going on.

Interesting lines:
·         “Technically speaking, I’m an alien, and from an immigration perspective, I’m an illegal one.” – Jupiter
·         “Off the record, I will tell you that you are a man of rare courage and I pray that your aim is true.” – Diomika Tsing (Nikki Amuka-Bird)

Lines that make you sneer:
·         Men do not like smart women.” – Jupiter’s uncle
·         “My mom says true love is just a fairy tale for little girls.” – Jupiter
·         “I will never complain about the DMV again.” – Jupiter
·         “I am not your mother.” – Jupiter
“No, my mother never cleaned a toilet in her life.” – Balem Abrasax

Tips for Parents:
·         Some profanity, but no F-bombs.
·         You see the naked backside of a female and male in two different scenes, as well as a girl in her tiny underwear.  (She has amazing abs.)
·         There is a short orgy scene, but you don’t see details, other than faces.

·         There are sexual innuendos, lots of violence (some bloody), and evil motives.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Seventh Son movie hits screens after a year of delays

Movie:  The Seventh Son

PG-13, 2 hours

Grade:  C+

In a Nutshell:   This heroic fantasy epic produced by Legendary Pictures hit movie theaters in France last month after almost a year’s worth of delays, but its United States release isn’t until February 6.  It feels like a mash-up of every underdog apprentice who fights dragons and witches story you’ve ever seen.   It’s fairly entertaining, but not truly memorable.

Uplifting Theme:
·         Loyalty vs. betrayal
·         If you dump your witch girlfriend, you’ll  have you-know-what to pay for later.

Things I liked:
·         There is a lot of morphing from various creatures into other creatures.
·         Oscar-nominated Julianne Moore spends most of her time in front of a green screen and is often overpowered by all the CGI going on around her as the powerful Mother Malkin.
·         There’s a nice little twist towards the end.  I love twists, although this one didn’t surprise me.
·         Much of the movie is filmed in front of a green screen, although there are some beautiful landscapes captured in British Columbia.
·         Some of the shape-shifting was cool.
·         There is some humor that allows the film to not take itself so seriously.

Things I didn’t like:
·         Jeff Bridges growls like a crusty, old pirate with a drunken accent that’s often indecipherable.  What’s with his billy-goat underbite? Now that I think about it, that’s about the only character he has played during the past several years.
·         The animal monsters look obviously computer generated.
·         The door is open for a sequel.  Do we want to see more of this?
·         Spoiler Alert: Soft-porn Game of Thrones fans will be sad to see their beloved Kit Harington not last long in this film.

Funny lines:
·         “I wonder what monsters dream about.”  - Tom Ward  (Ben Barnes)
“Probably humans.” – Alice
·          “Luck is fine.  Gold is finer.” – Master Gregory
·         “You must never have more than one sip of this a day.” – Master Gregory
“Why not?” – Tom Ward
“Because it is mine.” – Master Gregory
·         “Remember what I taught you?  Ignore it.” – Master Gregory
·         “You don’t die easy, do you?” – Master Gregory
·         “That is disgusting.  So, what does that kill?”  Tom Ward
“Cowardice.”  - Master Gregory
·         “You live in a world where legend and nightmares are real.” – Master Gregory
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Tips for Parents:

·         Intense fantasy violence, some frightening images, some strong language.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Superbowl Sunday Special movie review: When the Game Stands Tall

In honor of Super Bowl Sunday, I thought I'd post a movie review about gridiron glory:


Movie Title:   When the Game Stands Tall

PG, 1 hour 55 minutes

Grade:  B

  • In a Nutshell:  Inspired by a true football story and the book with the same title, viewers are reminded that there are more important things in life than winning some game.  I always love it when movies based on true stories include footage from the real people at the end of the film.  A clip of the real “Coach Lad” plays while the credits are rolling at the end, which explains the movie’s main idea.  He says “Growing up is painful.  It’s not easy. But that’s what our program is about, in case you haven’t figured it out. It ain’t about the football.  It ain’t about scoring touchdowns.  And it ain’t about the winning streak.  It’s about a program moving you in a direction that will assist you and help you grow up…so when you take your place out in the world and out in society and out in our community you can be depended on.”

Uplifting theme:
  • There’s no “I” in team.
  • It’s not about how you fall, but how you get back up that matters.
  • Coach Lad always reminded the players that he didn’t expect them to play perfectly, but to give a perfect effort.

Things I liked:
  • I was impressed with the coaches who had each of the players write down training goals and game goals on “Commitment Cards.”  They reviewed them together before each game so that the teammates could help each other.  What a great idea for success.
  • I loved Jim Caviezel in The Count Of Monte Cristo  In this role as Coach Ladouceur , it sometimes feels like he’s still playing Jesus in his most acclaimed role in The Passion Of The Christ Definitive Edition .
  • The movie briefly spotlights a teen couple who take a “purity pledge” to save themselves for marriage.
  • It was refreshing to see a coach and players freely talk about prayer and divine purpose, although critics say Coach Lad's pre-game pep-talks sound more like Christian sermons.  It's entirely appropriate, I think, since the players attend a Catholic school.  Besides, some high schools’ religion is football!
  • I thought it was significant that the movie showed an obsessed dad (overacting Clancy Brown) who was really hard on his quarterback son (The Hunger Games Alexander Ludwig), saying “I want that record!”  When he became abusive, the coach warned “He’s not going to get it with a broken rib.”  Later, the dad yells to the coach’s wife (Laura Dern), “Your husband is costing my son his record!” to which she wisely, and softly says “My husband is turning your son into a man.  You’re the only person who doesn’t see it.” While raising 4 sons, I saw a lot of obnoxious parents act like jerks towards their kids and their coaches.  I thought the movie did a pretty good job pointing out that there are more important things than “the game.”  Sports can do a great job helping kids develop truly important qualities like sportsmanship, dedication, discipline, teamwork, etc.  Those characteristics are much more important than any score.

Things I didn’t like:
  • I’ve always liked three-time Golden Globe winner Laura Dern ever since I first saw her in Jurassic Park .  She has a certain rasp to her voice, but in this movie, her voice sounds even more hoarse and I wondered if she was fighting a cold the entire time.  She was recently nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress in Wild .
  • Some may not be interested in the crunching violence of football.  Hey, this is a football movie.
  • It’s pretty formulaic and predictable with clich├ęd characters written with very broad brush stokes, but it’s still inspiring.
  • It's a good football movie, but it's not the greatest.  See my list below for other football flicks that I thought did it better.

Interesting lines:
  •  “Love means you can count on me in good times and bad.” – Coach Ladouceur
  • “Juniors, did you hear that?  That is a perfect commitment card: big goals that stretch his abilities, but are doable when giving the perfect effort.” - Coach Ladouceur
  • “We’re not asking you to be perfect on every play.  What we are asking of you and what you should be asking of each other is to give a perfect effort from snap to whistle.”  - Coach Ladouceur
  • “Family isn’t just blood relatives.  It’s anyone who loves you unconditionally.” – Coach Ladouceur
  •  “Don’t let a game define who you are.  Let the way you live your lives do that.” – Assistant Coach Teddy Eidson (Michael Chiklis)
  • “It’s not about the record.  It’s about the team.” – player

Funny lines:
  • Do you know why they call me Buster?”   - football player on the Long Beach Poly team
     “Cuz you’re stupid enough to let them?” – De La Salle High School Spartan player

Tips for parents:    
  • I appreciated the many situations where the players and coaches could have used profanity, but softened their words with substitutes like“heck”, etc.
  • This is a safe movie that the whole family can watch together.  It includes many teachable moments that can spark good family discussion.
Did you know?
  • De La Salle High didn’t win again until their 4th game, when they played Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, CA.  They didn’t even play Long Beach Poly that season, as depicted in the movie.
  • Film producer David Zelon loves inspiring sports comeback movies, such as Soul Surfer , which he previously produced.
  • The entire movie was shot in only 41 days in New Orleans.
  • Laura Dern's parents are actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern.


If you liked this game, here are some other football “feel-good” movies that I think you may enjoy even more: